BB Infrastructure and ISPs
For many people in Rotherhithe, broadband means slow and unstable service. It’s not a problem we suffer alone as many parts of the country lag far behind the advertised speeds of the main providers. Most people are aware that due to distance from the exchange, many rural areas face poor broadband service but why is twenty-first century Rotherhithe landed with the same problem? The first thing is to understand that broadband provision is like a tree with a trunk and branches. The primary supplier – BT Openreach – delivers the infrastructure or the trunk behind the scenes whilst your ISP – TalkTalk, Sky or BT – provide you with a service to your home or business (or the branches). BT Openreach are responsible for the wiring and cables that get the internet to your premises and your ISP takes over from there and deals directly with you the customer. Our problem in Rotherhithe – as in the rural areas too – is with the infrastructure. It is just not up to the job.
The issue we face in Rotherhithe is not unique. Many docks hosted large warehouses in the past where goods were loaded and offloaded from the river. As a result the population of Rotherhithe was spread out mostly in a narrow ribbon around the banks of the Thames. Few people lived in Rotherhithe in those days; most of the working population came in daily from Bermondsey and wider afield. Back then, the decision was made not to fit street-level green boxes to serve hundreds of premises and to make the telephone wires easily accessible. Instead the copper wiring fitted in Rotherhithe makes its way directly to the local exchange in Bermondsey, over a mile away. As the signal deteriorates over distance in copper wiring, the lines to Rotherhithe suffer significant speed restriction, intermittent faults and associated problems. Under the demands of our growing use of the internet, they are just not fit for purpose today.
BT, Virgin and Hyperoptic
In most areas, BT Openreach are able to fit fibre optic cabling to the green cabinet and then run
the resulting faster service to your premises using copper wire. However in Rotherhithe with no
green boxes to make this possible, BT Openreach have no plans to install fibre optic cable (or
fibre) to the area. If they were to agree to install fibre, their provision would reach a maximum of
under 100 Mbps which whilst it is great speeds for most current domestic demands will all too soon
be out-of-date as more is required of such services in coming years.
Virgin does supply a small part of Rotherhithe with broadband infrastructure – around Elephant Lane – and also have the contract to ensure speedy broadband for all the schools in the area. However they too have no plans at present to extend this service to a wider area. The other supplier making waves locally is Hyperoptic who have fitted fibre to the premises for several blocks of flats in Rotherhithe. They are able to deliver up to
1Gbps speeds both ways if you want those speeds and at a competitive price. However, once again, they have no plans to fit fibre for family homes at street level.
How then can we find a solution to this impasse?
A small group of frustrated residents have been
looking into solutions and we are proposing doing
it ourselves! We think that a community-owned
and -managed enterprise would be best placed
not only to deliver a solution for the twenty-first
century but could also create jobs, build
community relations and do it quicker and
cheaper than BT or their competitors. We have
launched a Broadband Blueprint for Rotherhithe
outlining our solution and inviting investors and
volunteers to join us.
Become part of the solution
This proposal requires lots of people to come behind it in many ways. If you have experienced poor
broadband services in the Rotherhithe area, then we are working so you can get a modern, robust
and cheap solution. We are specifically looking for volunteers with community, legal or marketing
experience to help complete the next phase, a feasibility study. Please get in touch if you have any
of these skills and a few hours to offer. If you are interested in knowing more about the project and
keeping up with developments, then visit our website and sign up for updates. If you want to see
investment flow into this adventure in community infrastructure, then please let your councillor
know you think they should back the Blueprint with Southwark money. We all have a part to play
and we need your support today. Please join in and become part of the solution.
Mark Parker | Rotherhithe Broadband Group | convener