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Digital minister's constituents want a share of extra BT broadband cash

Tuesday, August 11th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Villagers in digital minister Ed Vaizey’s constituency have called for a share of the £129m being reinvested by BT in superfast broadband to go to their local area.

Locals in Fernham, Oxfordshire, have been campaigning for months to get upgraded to superfast broadband, after struggling with speeds as low as 0.26Mbps, as well as landline problems including crossed lines and static.

They set up campaign group Fernham Broadband after being told there was no plan to bring superfast broadband to the village.

BT previously said Fernham is served by an exchange-only line making providing superfast speeds difficult, but was looking at using different technology, thought to be 'wireless to the cabinet' which uses a microwave radio link rather than fibre to connect the exchange to the cabinet.

But following the company’s recent announcement that it is making up to £129m available to local authorities to reinvest in superfast projects Paul Phillipson, from the village, said he was urging Wantage and Didcot MP Mr Vaizey to make sure part of it was allocated to help get fibre to the area.

The extra cash is the result of a clause in the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) contracts that says if take-up is better than BT’s original business case of 20%, the funding it has received should be returned or reinvested into further coverage.

Since the announcement, both Norfolk and Cumbria have been named as places to benefit from a share of the £129m.

'Inferior to fibre'

Mr Phillipson previously said that despite a green roadside fibre cabinet being installed in February, he had been told Fernham was “under review” because bringing fibre to the village would be too expensive.

He told Cable.co.uk: “I'm hoping to convince Ed Vaizey and Better Broadband for Oxfordshire to spend some [of the £129m] on 1.4 miles of fibre for us in Fernham.

“We are currently offered wireless to the cabinet, which is inferior, to fibre even though there are two fibre BT lines with fibre cabinets 1.4 miles in one direction and 2.9 miles in the other.”

Mr Phillipson said he had been told by Oxfordshire’s BT team that the provision of broadband would not address issues residents have experienced with crossed lines and noise on their phone line.

“So unless residents can afford premium broadband and then subscribe to a Voice over IP service nothing will change,” he said. “Crossed lines and noise will continue as the copper cable rots in the ground.

“I will buy Infinity and subscribe to a VoIP service so I can have cheap, secure phone conversations. The question then will be why do I have to pay for a BT line that doesn't work?”

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