Fibre broadband works

I’m very aware of the impact of fibre roll-out on our community, so I wanted to share what I know.

The telecoms market is extremely competitive and there are a number of statutory authorities operating across North Somerset helping to meet ambitious UK targets for the deployment of fibre networks – i.e. 15m premises to have full fibre broadband by 2025, and nationwide coverage by 2033.

This is critical infrastructure. Access to affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband is essential to full participation in modern life. It is not a luxury; it’s a lifeline – as we have experienced during the pandemic.

As we all know, there has been a very intensive programme of works on-going in our area – first Truespeed and Gigaclear, and currently Virgin Media. I think this work will be continuing for a while yet.

I’m often asked, but North Somerset Council (NSC) has very limited control over utility companies who wish to install or maintain their apparatus on the public highway as they have a legal right of access.

However, NSC does hold quarterly meetings with the utility companies. This is known as the Highway Authority and Utilities Committee (HAUC). In advance of these meetings NSC will ask ‘works promoters’ to share their major work programmes in order to identify potential clashes and to seek collaboration where this is feasible. This has been a challenge on some occasions, but I can assure you has definitely helped – e.g. to prevent roads being dug up at locations where the council is looking to resurface.

In addition, all work promoters (including the council highways dept) have to book road space before undertaking works. This is published online here .

Current and future roadworks – North Somerset Council

NSC continually asks companies to communicate timely and effectively with residents but is reliant on them to act professionally.

NSC undertakes what are known as sample inspections, which are carried out on 30% of a utility company’s work programme. This is written into law and is detailed here .

NSC can require contractors to rectify shoddy work by issuing what are known as defects. (Some ‘scarring’ of pavements and verges can look unsightly, but will ‘weather’ over time – but should definitely not be left in a dangerous state). 

I believe there are three key issues:

The broadband providers should be informing residents (and councillors!) of their plans. This does not happen consistently and appears not to be happening at all with Virgin. This is not acceptable. I will write to the company and asked for communication to improve.

There is also an increasing clutter of boxes of different shapes, colours and sizes often in clusters in different locations. While the boxes are essential, I am exploring how the utility companies might consult on the optimal location of the boxes.

If you feel the reinstatement of a pavement does not meet the necessary standard, you should share photos and locations with your ward councillor(s) so that the council can investigate and if necessary require contractors to rectify.

4th October 2022

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash