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Milton Keynes residents still waiting for superfast broadband after five years

Wednesday, February 25th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Residents of a Milton Keynes housing estate have been waiting five years for superfast broadband.

Claridge Park, home to around 600 people, is one of four areas in the town not to be included in the rollout of superfast broadband as part of the government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.

The estate was built in 2010 by developers Crest Nicholson and the first residents moved in shortly afterwards.

“We were told at the time that it would ‘take a while’ for superfast broadband to become available but that BT [Openreach] were in the area laying the infrastructure,” resident Mike McDaid told Cable.co.uk.

“We took up a contract with BT for broadband awaiting the arrival of the faster service.”

As more and more houses became occupied, residents noticed a steady deterioration in broadband speeds.

“It became evident after some months there were approximately 600 new dwellings located on three new adjoining estates that were struggling with a relatively slow broadband connection,” said Mr McDaid.

By this time local councillors John Bint and Catriona Morris (pictured) had become involved in the dialogue between BT and the community.

“We switched our contract to Sky in 2012 for a combined broadband/phone/TV service,” said Mr McDaid.

“Various newsletters continued to arrive from our tireless councillors with indications that discussions were still ongoing with BT but that no firm commitment to a date had been received.

“The phrases ‘in time for the Olympics’ (2012), ‘by the end of the year’ (2013), and ‘sometime in the near future’ (2014) all came and went.”

Mr McDaid contacted Sky on several occasions about slow broadband, and was told each time that the fault lay with BT as it is responsible for the network.

“This year we have experienced several lengthy periods with no broadband signal at all, which resulted in another call to Sky, a new router and a reduction in our monthly payments, but no information about an increase to the broadband speed.”

'Deeply frustrating'

Cllr John Bint told Cable.co.uk that Claridge Park “fell through a crack” in the BDUK process and should have been included in Milton Keynes Council’s ‘intervention area’ – a safety net for areas not included in the rollout.

Cllr Catriona Morris, who lives in the area, added: “It’s deeply frustrating that many hundreds of residents are still without a modern broadband connection in this most modern of all ‘cities’.

“We are working closely with BT Openreach to find a solution as quickly as possible. We know they’ll get a rapid payback if they install a fibre service here, because nearby their fibre cabinets have quickly sold out.”

A spokesperson for Milton Keynes Council said Claridge Park and other areas were not included in the original BDUK project plan because they were already covered by BT’s commercial rollout plans.

Openreach had made plans to install fibre to the premises – fibre cables connecting the exchange to each home, not just a street cabinet – in the areas last year but the plans were withdrawn and the homes included in the second part of the BDUK rollout, known as the Superfast Extension Programme.

A tender for this programme by BT is expected to be returned to the council in April.

Only when the council has decided whether to accept the BT tender proposal will it be able to announce which areas have made it into the actual rollout, the spokesperson added. Those that don’t will have to wait for other sources of funding to become available.

The Superfast Extension Programme is set to run from late 2015 to late 2017.

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