UPDATE B4RN Anger as BDUK Supported BT FTTP Encroach on Dolphinholme - ISPreview UK
The largely community funded and built B4RN (Broadband 4 Rural North) project, which has been rolling out a 1000Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH/P) broadband network in parts of rural Lancashire (England, UK), has vented frustration at BT after the operator began deploying its own FTTP service in one of their areas by using public money.

Reports that BT were planning to roll-out their 330Mbps capable FTTP service in the village of Dolphinholme, which B4RN included in the expected coverage postcodes that they sent to Lancashire County Council (LCC) and the RCBF sometime ago, first surfaced last summer after a local community meeting was held and weve also mentioned it before (here).

At the time LCC advised the community that there was no need for B4RNs development in the area because its 62.5m state aid fuelled Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project, which aims to hook-up 97% of local premises to superfast broadband (25Mbps+) by the end of 2014 2015 (here), would instead bring BTs ultra-fast fibre optic FTTP solution to local premises.

The development caused surprise among B4RN and its supporters, not least because the organisation believed that it had an agreement with LLC that the BDUK supported project would not overbuild them; though the specifics and strength of this agreement remain unclear. Indeed state aid rules prevent overbuilding of an existing superfast broadband network (stops money being wasted), although technically B4RN have yet to complete their coverage of the village.

Since then the situation in Dolphinholme has quietly cropped up several times, usually as an example of BTs alleged anti-competitive behaviour, during various meetings and debates, yet until now very little actual development from BT has been seen.

But recently locals have begun to spot new telegraph cables, street cabinets and chambers being built around the village by BT contractors. Meanwhile B4RNs activity is already said to be well under way, with the village cabinet installed and digging in progress or completed in much of the area.
A Spokesperson for Openreach (BT) told ISPreview.co.uk:

BT is currently planning to roll out FTTP to Dolphinholme as part of our partnership with Lancashire County Council to extend fibre to 97 per cent of premises by the end of 2015 using a mix of fibre technologies.

Our fibre roll-out in the area should come as no surprise as our plans have been in the public domain for several months. We have been fully transparent whilst the council also provided BR4N with a map of our deployment plans for the area in October 2012.

BT and Lancashire Council included the village in the plans for jointly funded fibre access following an Open Market Review process conducted by the council. All interested parties had the opportunity to participate by submitting their commercial deployment plans and the review concluded that Dophinholme was not due to be covered by commercially funded fibre broadband. BTs roll out in the area complies with state aid rules
It wouldnt be the first time that BT have been viewed as muscling in on an area where another operator is busy building or planning to build some form of alternative network (just ask Gigaclear and various other altnets or community schemes), often after previously showing little or no interest in doing so. But in the past this has usually been done via their own commercial investment and not public money.

Its also interesting to note that BT are using similar FTTP/H technology to B4RN in Dolphinholme, instead of the more common and cost effective but slower FTTC service, which is a difficult fact to shake off as mere coincidence.

We have asked B4RN whether they also specifically submitted any plans for Dolphinholme under the Open Market Review process, which is important for helping to define which locations should be included in the BDUK intervention area, although its no secret that the village has been on B4RNs roadmap for a while and LCC do appear to have been generally aware of this.

ISPreview.co.uk further understands that BDUK itself is now investigating the issue, although so far theyve historically tended to support BTs approach. We will post an official comment from B4RN as soon as it arrives. On the upside it looks like the people of Dolphinholme will soon have two choices for true fibre optic broadband access, which in the UK remains very rare.

UPDATE 4:18pm

Now we have B4RNs full reaction.
A B4RN Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

B4RNs plans to build an FTTH network in Dolphinholme long preceded any published plans by BT to roll-out a competing FTTP network in the same area. Only once a substantial amount of work had been completed by B4RN did BT become active in the area. Given that the whole area is in the last 10% which BT publicly declared could not get fast broadband without substantial state subsidy we assumed that it could only go ahead as part of the Lancashire SFBB project.

It is surprising to see the statement from BT confirming that the Dolphinholme deployment is part of our partnership with Lancashire County Council as this brings the subject of overbuild into play.

However, whilst this is very interesting, it does not detract from B4RNs activity in Dolphinholme. The B4RN deployment is well advanced in the village and the community are extremely engaged and supportive of the project. Deployment will continue as planned and the village will be live in due course. B4RN also recognises that the village is somewhat unique in the fact that it has a choice of two FTTP providers which has to be a good thing for the lucky residents
Separately B4RN were keen to stress that Dolphinholme had been part of their plans ever since 2011, which does indeed long precede BTs involvement, and that the data reflecting this was given to LCC as part of their Open Market Review. We expect that this will not be the last story ISPr writes about the village.