Friday, 9 October 2015

Superfast Cornwall - But Superslow Perranuthnoe?

Superfast Cornwall received £53m from the European Regional Development Fund and, in partnership with Cornwall County Council and BT, fibre broadband has been rolling out in a 2011-2015 programme.  Perranuthnoe is lucky as we are now covered and counted among the premises served – the job is done.  Or is it?

We live and work from our Perranuthnoe home and have had serious problems with our ‘superfast’ fibre broadband since we installed it in 2012 (often 1-4mbps download and failing completely) and routine problems with our ‘crackly’ phone line.  After a year of engineers’ visits and reports, we have just been told that BT will do nothing. We think that there will be others in the village with a similar problem.  This message is to find out if this is the case and then to consider a community effort to solve the problem for us all. Alternatively, we are considering satellite broadband.

The Facts

The facts, from our 12 month records of notes and phone calls from Openreach engineers and our ISP (Zen Internet – terrific people), are that: from the fibre cabinet at Perran Cross on the main road (opposite the Dynasty restaurant) ‘there is 970m of aluminium cable to the cable box (Cab1/5) at the Victoria Arms – at Dynasty (ie Perran Cross) there is a full strength signal and at the pub the tester can hardly measure it; it is like 1940s cable and its absolute rubbish…. it needs to be upgraded”; “there are 2 cables that run to the scp, there is a 50pair copper cable and a 50 pair aluminium cable, if customers are on the aluminium, max sync speeds are 10 and 15mbps whereas the copper are almost full speeds… there are no spares or stops down there” (paraphrased, records kept).

In early July we had traffic lights along the road into the village. The Openreach contractors told us that they were locating the original (clay) conduits carrying the cables to the cabinet by the pub, building access manholes and installing new plastic pipe conduits (see photos), to allow new cable to be installed easily.  They thought that it might be to bring fibre cable into the village (the ultimate ‘superfast’!). Our ISP was told that we would be switched to a copper line in early September.  After a year of effort, our ISP has now been firmly told that “Openreach would not be looking to change out the aluminium as there is a cost implication and this would not be cost effective for 1 customer. There would have to be a number of customers affected before they would look at undertaking any work”.

Our summary (and we are amateurs not experts!) is that:
  • there are 2 cables from Perran Cross to the Victoria in new conduit, with new access manholes;
  • one (newish?) cable has 50 copper pairs providing many in the village with relatively fast and reliable broadband; there are no spare copper cables;
  • the second (old) cable has 50 aluminium pairs supplying others in the village; this cable cannot be used for reliable superfast broadband;
  • we need either to live with the aluminium cable or seek a collective solution;
  • with the new manholes and conduit, removing and installing new cables should be straightforward;
  • a 50pair copper cable could replace the 50pair aluminium cable; all premises in the village would then have good telephone connections and relatively fast and reliable broadband (or be reasonably ‘future proofed’, if they do not have broadband now); there may be a need for additional cable to cope with growth.
Now that the conduit is upgraded, could we even have fibre links from the Perran Cross to the Victoria? This would give us almost ‘city superfast broadband’ (we would still have the short pubpremises link), as even copper is regarded as bad for broadband speed (but much better than aluminium).  What are the technical and policy issues involved in achieving this serious ‘future-proofing’ for Perranuthnoe?
What Can You Do?
We would first be grateful to hear from anyone that has a similar problem with their phone (crackle) and/or broadband (unreliable/slow) and second if they or anyone else is interested in taking this issue forward. The key point is that we are now counted as “served” with fibre access to the village, and those of us with aluminium cable will not be adequately served in the foreseeable future if we do not take collective action.
Please email us at by October 31st, so that we can see what the numbers are.  If there is a quorum and interest, we could perhaps meet and consider a proposal for action.  Our preliminary thoughts would be to put a strong petition to all or some of: our MP (Derek Thomas), Cornwall County Council Chairman (John Wood), BT CEO (Gavin Patterson), and Openreach CEO (Joe Garner), possibly with radio/TV/print media coverage.
Jane and David Grey,
Carn Perran
(01736 710031)

    photographs of the manholes and conduits going in


  1. Hi Jane and David
    We had terrible ADSL (2-3Mbps and regularly dropped) when we first moved here last year. After several frustrating months we switched from TalkTalk to BT as it provided "one throat to choke" and I just stayed on their case. In the end an engineer from London came down and told me pretty much what you said above. BUT he did switch us to a much better line (probably from AL to CU) and lo, we now have a very stable 17-20 Mbps download/ 4mbs upload. I pay for a higher speed but tbh am satisfied now.
    The engineer said he'd switched our AL cable to a customer without broadband, so there's somebody in the village now can't get data...
    I stopped and asked the hole diggers if this meant our new cable was imminent and they said yes.
    I agree, putting a new CU cable from PerranX to the Victoria box would be cheap. Fibre may be more complex as the box is already rammed and I can't imaging there would be room for a fibre switch etc.
    Hope that helps, let me know if you want it emailing...

  2. As anyone who reads my blog will know, I have been fighting with TalkTalk and BT for a better upload speed for well over a year now. My Download is around 11Mbps but my Upload speed (which is the more important to me) is only around 0.25- 0.33Mbps on a good day ! therefore I struggle to upload my photos and have to edit them to a smaller size just to get them away at all.
    I had countless visits earlier in the year from the TalkTalk engineer followed by the BT engineers who all told me that until they had a line to switch me to it would never be any better. I would add that my neighours all get vastly better speeds than me - so it would appear to be our line !
    We were also rather pleased when it appeared that BT were making preparations to put some sort of new cable into the village by installing the new manholes - but since then nothing !
    My complaint remains open, but it will take yet more calls to India to start the whole thing off again and I just can't face it since no-one has ever offered to switch us to a line that doesn't use broadband/fibre optic.
    In the meantime O struggle on - hoping that perhaps we can give BT a push to improve the service to the village. Sue (Illawarra)

  3. Hi this is Karen down at Trenow Cove. I am a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to technology and don't understand most of it. All I know is that the net is very slow- sometimes I have no signal at all. I have a business line and have just run a test- Download they tell me is 13.84mbps with a max achievable as 14.81? Upload is 0.47 with an IP profile of 10. If someone can do something great and if I am required to do something to help this process just tell me what to do. 01736 711975. Thanks

  4. As a former resident of Perranuthnoe I am all too aware of the difficulties in getting a reasonable broadband service in the village. From my battles with Plusnet/Openreach I recall that the village is definitely divided in to the "haves" and "have nots". The Haves being on the copper lines and the Nots on the aluminium ones.
    This piggy backing that seems to be occurring whereby Openreach actually feed your data through someone else's phone line who doesn't need a broadband connection seems a little risky to me. Surely a tactic that is not sustainable. I believe Openreach ran out of viable lines into the village years ago.
    The troubles you are having are no longer related to the new Superfast Cornwall rollout of fibre broadband being available to all in the county; this is down to sub-standard infrastructure and I really believe that a group effort (I think there may be in excess of a dozen or more villagers) targeted through OffCom would start to reap results.
    Openreach are hiding behind the fact that everyone chooses different Service Providers and are assuming you will not all group together to get the basic speeds you should be receiving.
    This is Sale of Goods Act material and I believe you would have good reason to notify Trading Standards - mainly because what you are being told you will get speed-wise is NOT what you are actually getting.
    I will happily lend my support despite being outside the village community now.
    Mark T

  5. Apologies for delay in replying to your helpful comments in response to our posting...operator error I think, or perhaps a BT gremlin! We have also received a couple of emails so we will put all the information together and then discuss how to move forward.
    I note that there was an interesting letter in last week's Cornishman from Jon Reynolds, BT South West Regional Director.
    Regards, Jane Grey

  6. Dear All
    We think - and hope- that there is good news for everyone who has posted on this site or has emailed us regarding 'Perranuthnoe superslow fibre broadband'.
    On 21 October there were 2 BT Openreach vans in the village, with manhole covers being lifted. We spoke to the engineers, who were from the 'copper team' in St Austell and were very helpful. They had a 'job card' to investigate the copper/aluminium cable story and to replace any aluminium cable between Perran Cross and the cabinet opposite the pub. There is apparently a recent 100-pair copper cable (installed in 2013?), which connects most people in the village, and the engineers were uncertain about the extent of aluminium cable (the manholes had a lot of mud in them, with the aluminium cable possibly hidden). In addition, the cabinet box near the pub is in a bad state.
    The team was back yesterday, this time with an additional job card to replace the box, which will be done by a contractor as the first step. The cable replacement will require traffic management (lights?) for a couple of days, and this is being organised. They then hope to replace the aluminium cable.
    With the necessary BT authorisations and the ST Austell 'copper team' on the case it looks like we should see the work done in November - let's keep our fingers crossed! We will keep an eye out and post any news on action.

    1. Jane and David Grey19/11/15 10:41 am

      Work is starting today (hopefully) on fixing our village broadband/phone problems! An engineering contractor along with BT Openreach 'copper team' staff will be replacing the cable box opposite The Victoria Inn. The aluminium cables will be inspected, hopefully leading to replacement of the old aluminium with new copper cable. We have recently had serious problems with unreliable 'super fast' broadband - so we are certainly looking forward to the problem being solved for us all. Fingers crossed! We will report on progress.