People power brings superfast fibre broadband to Putney
Tuesday 27th February, 2018
There are some things you have to accept when you live in London. Rush hour pandemonium, coffee shop confusion and eye-watering prices for a start. But it’s balanced by bucket loads of culture on the doorstep, global cuisine on every street and fantastic broadband coverage. So when residents on one Putney road discovered they’d been left behind in the superfast roll-out they couldn’t understand why – and decided to take action.
Local resident and broadband campaigner John Kingdon explains: “It was so frustrating. Nearby streets could get superfast fibre broadband. But not us. Apparently it wasn’t commercially viable to upgrade our cabinet so we weren’t part of the roll-out plans.”
“There were some private companies who could have set up a dedicated network connection, but that was an expensive and restrictive route. It would have tied us into one supplier forever. It became pretty clear that if you want to talk about communications infrastructure, you talk to Openreach.”
John Kingdon, local resident and broadband campaigner.
Seeking professional help
With most of the information on extending fibre focused on rural communities in far-flung corners of the country, it seemed for a long time that this little pocket of Putney would fall between the cracks.
“I consider myself techy but how to get help is not well publicised or easy to understand. I filled in forms online but the stock responses didn’t really answer my specific questions or deal with our situation. The key was getting through to speak to someone directly. Then things became clear and really began to move.”
With an Openreach Community Fibre Partnership advisor on board, John was able to get the answers he needed. And then the hard work started. John had to find out who was affected, and how much it might cost to get fibre in. Initial estimates suggested a figure of about £30,000 as the average needed to get a fibre infrastructure installed. With just 44 homes in the street, that meant quite a big investment for each household – and no guarantee that everyone would be on board.
“The first thing I did was to knock on doors. After 20 years on the street, I was getting to know some of the neighbours for the first time! The response was positive – younger households in particular were very keen – but everyone had lots of questions.”
With support galvanised, Openreach arranged for an engineer to survey the current set up and provide more details on a proposed solution. This was when thing really started to look up.
“The engineers were able to devise a solution to get fibre to the street for just £7,300,” explains John, “so now it was all system go.”
Getting everyone on board
The biggest challenge has been organising the residents and getting a commitment. But a series of letters, meeting and online surveys confirmed that the vast majority – 39 out of 44 – were willing to contribute to get fibre in place.
Now, with the contract signed and planning in progress, John and his fellow residents are itching to get the work done. It takes a minimum of nine months from contract to connection but John is sure it’ll be worth the wait.
“It will be absolutely and completely life-changing to people on the street to have a direct fibre broadband connection. We’re going to see a massive increase in upload and download speeds. People will be able to shop around for the best deals from a whole host of suppliers – so we’ll be getting a vastly improved, more reliable service for the same price we pay now for a patchy slow connection.
“We’ll be able to balance work and play, not fight each other for time online and going forward there’s a whole new world of opportunities; more remote working, more flexible working, new ways to stream media content and mirror all the network storage in the house.”
John Kingdon, Local resident and broadband campaigner
“More and more will be cloud-based in the future and soon we’ll be able to tap into things that are just not possible now. I may even get those family photos backed up at long last.”