back to article Ex-UK comms minister's constituents plagued by wonky broadband over ... wireless radio link?

A village in former communications minister Ed Vaizey's Parliamentary constituency is suffering ongoing internet outages despite once being the darling of Britain's superfast broadband rollout. The "hard to reach" village of Fernham in Oxfordshire has been served by fibre broadband since 2015, as news site cable.co.uk reported …

  1. MikeGH

    As the consumer failed to realize they aren't openreach's customer...

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "As the consumer failed to realize they aren't openreach's customer..."

      As some ISPs fail to realise too - they actually tell people to complain to Openreach.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Openreach treats everyone equally ........

        "As some ISPs fail to realise too - they actually tell people to complain to Openreach."

        The ISP's do *know* very well !!!

        It is a standard response if you are a 'difficult' customer [read: have a real problem that if not scripted for]. !!!

        It is a way to get you to go away and waste your time.

        Openreach will only engage with their 'customers' [ISP's etc] under very specific conditions, which means not only you BUT the ISP also has problems dealing with them.

        This is Openreach of old and I have no evidence that anything has changed since they were 'Spun off' from BT.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: Openreach treats everyone equally ........

          First rule of complaining:

          - The only people you have any business complaining to are the people you're paying money to, or the organisation responsible for legally regulating those people.

          I *DO NOT CARE* that OpenReach have a problem. That's your issue, because you chose them as a supplier of goods/services. I'm paying *you* money to provide a stated service, who you choose to subcontract to do that is none of my business. If they don't perform to your standards, it's up to YOU to complain to them, not me. You hold THOUSANDS of customers with them, you hold a lot more weight than me anyway. I do not have a single business relationship with OpenReach, of course they won't talk to me (if you don't have an account number with them directly, you almost certainly don't have a relationship).

          I'll happily work WITH your subcontractor to diagnose the issue, arrange repair, etc. but I'm not going to be organising that except via you and your direct referral of THEM to ME.

          I had this once with a phone ordered from Three. No phone arrived. Waited the obvious 28 days to see if anything happened. Nothing, not even a slip through the door. They said I had to contact Royal Mail. Er... no... not my problem. I paid you to deliver a phone. You failed to do so. Game over. If you want to chase it up, you have the dispatch numbers and accounts, you can do it your end - because YOU paid money to Royal Mail, I didn't. I'm not going to do your job for you and likely can't. Maybe if you didn't send the phone by unregistered second-class parcel service, then you'd be able to track it? (Or, hey, realise that doing so comes with the risk that occasionally you might have to send out a replacement phone?) Your choice of service provider is your problem. All I care about is that I don't have a phone, that I paid *you* for. That one exploded into their threats of a lawsuit (never happened, never does) before I wrote them a snotty letter and recouped the DD cost from my bank forcibly (they phoned 10 seconds later to tell me off, but strangely never did anything about it!).

          Talking of legal, it's the same thinking... if you had a MASSIVE dispute over the account/service, would YOU be taking Openreach to court? No. You'd be taking the people you paid money to to court. If they then choose to take Openreach to court for not fulfilling their contract, then that's up to them but it's of no interest to me.

          Your grievance is with the people you paid for the service. Nobody else unless you're pulling in industry regulators. And Openreach aren't the regulator. Ofcom would be.

          P.S. If your suppliers are that terrible that you're losing customers... time to find a different subcontractor to provide the expected levels of service to your customers!

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Re: Openreach treats everyone equally ........

            Wow Lee , I'll have to show your post to my brother - he's an amatuer complainer but not in your league!

            good advice there!

            re that P.S.

            Do ISPs have any choice of subcontractor / supplier? can they ditch Openreach?

            1. DJ Smiley

              Re: Openreach treats everyone equally ........

              Not easily (read cheaply).

          2. anothercynic Silver badge

            Re: Openreach treats everyone equally ........

            Lee is quite accurate in that description. That's how I've started handling certain organisations in this country who are trying to fob me off when it comes to service delivery:

            No. That's not *my* problem. That's *your* problem. *YOU* solve it. If *you* can't solve it, perhaps I should involve your CEO, who *will* instruct you to solve it. And if *they* can't be bothered, I will demand my money back and go to a supplier who *can* supply me with what I need.

            Magically, things start happening when you start getting grumpy and point to the appropriate consumer legislation that confirms your position...

  2. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Heat and wooden poles don't mix

    Promises of warp speed service were clearly open to misinterpretation.

  3. Christian Berger Silver badge

    A microwave link to populated areas?

    I mean I can understand using a microwave link to connect a lonely hut somewhere on a mountain, but seriously if you have more than 10 people you're likely to run into capacity problems with microwave links, let alone reliability issues.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: A microwave link to populated areas?

      I was called in to help someone with microwave link problems. The installers seem not to have realised that intervening trees grow. Raising the receiver helped but I give it a couple of years before the problems start again.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A microwave link to populated areas?

        "I was called in to help someone with microwave link problems. The installers seem not to have realised that intervening trees grow. Raising the receiver helped but I give it a couple of years before the problems start again."

        Not just microwaves. There's a power cable near us that runs above a hedge. The hedge is now a very strange shape, with a chunk cut out of it to avoid fouling the cable. Three men and a cherry picker machine needed to prune the hedge at intervals. Oh, and a chainsaw, of course.

        1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

          Re: A microwave link to populated areas?

          @AC - power cable, chainsaw, cherry picker, three men... are you sure this isn't an old slapstick movie? Does one if them have a moustache and cigar?

    2. Donn Bly

      Re: A microwave link to populated areas?

      if you have more than 10 people you're likely to run into capacity problems with microwave links, let alone reliability issues.

      Properly spec'd and installed, a microwave link is reliable and you aren't going to have capacity issues. Remember "Microwave Link" and "WiFi" are not the same thing. Carrier grade equipment isn't cheap for a reason and that even at the low end there are plenty of gigabit+ options.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: A microwave link to populated areas?

        A microwave link can be reliable and give Gbps speeds.

        Though here the annual Comreg licence might be €10,000 p.a.!

        A decent microwave link might replace 15km or even 25km (high site to high site or pylons).

        Wooden poles and less than 2km silly, especially rural, where you can use a dedicated machine to bury in a ditch, put it on Electric or phone poles, feed it inside a water main or sewer. You can even put it on the HV grid distribution cables.

        This sounds like a really cheap link that you can buy on the internet to link two roof tops a few blocks away in a city.

        Disgraceful short termism. Though NI is worse than England and Ireland is among worst in Europe outside city areas. Most fibre has been installed purely cherry picking and to compete with UPC/Virgin Media (TV, phone and 250Mbps cheaper than the DSL copper, typically 3Mbps to 22Mbps).

    3. jockmcthingiemibobb

      Re: A microwave link to populated areas?

      Sorry but it's not economically viable to run fiber to every hamlet out in the sticks. Properly specced and installed microwave links are more reliable than fiber.....no stupid contractors cutting through cables.

    4. Mayday Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: A microwave link to populated areas?

      This reminds me of something I had to deal with a (long) while ago.

      Customer complains of dropouts to a building the other side of the road served by a microwave service of some sort. Local council etc would not allow a cable or similar to go across the street and microwave at the time was a good option. Upon investigation it seemed that the dropouts occurred rather regularly (to the point of predictability and the same times each hour) and for a minute or so. Went outside with the customer when the next drop was due. Lo and behold a bus came and stopped at the bus stop and blocked the signal for the duration as passengers got on and off. "There's your outage Mr Customer" :) Higher pole at each end fixed the problem.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: A microwave link to populated areas?

        I once had a problem at our Delhi office, which would randomly lose connectivity to a 64k satellite link (it was many many years ago). After trying everything I could on the actual hardware, I had the bright idea of sitting outside in the sunshine... turned out the problem was caused by a vulture which had taken to perching on the rod supporting the LNB of the dish, pushing it out of the focus point.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: A microwave link to populated areas?

          "vulture which had taken to perching on the rod "

          and the solution?

          Vulture stew?

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: A microwave link to populated areas?

            >> Vulture stew?

            Not even as high-tech as that... the LNB was mounted on a bent bar with a bit of a dogleg in it, so there was a slanty-uppy bit and a flattish bit where the vulture perched. Turned the whole mounting round so the slanty bit was still slanty but the vulture perch became almost vertical...

    5. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: A microwave link to populated areas?

      "if you have more than 10 people you're likely to run into capacity problems with microwave links"

      Fernham is a tiny village of about 30 houses halfway between Oxford and Swindon, and is a few km away from the nearest (really quite small) town. It pretty much is the Oxfordshire equivalent of a lonely hut on a mountain. The problem here doesn't seem to be the appropriateness of the connection method, but simply the competence in setting it up and running it.

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: A microwave link to populated areas?

        Oh COME ON! It's not like Fernham is in the middle of nowhere. It is 2 miles from Shrivenham *and* Watchfield, where Cranfield Uni has a campus! And Faringdon is not that far away either. That is *NOT* in the middle of nowhere. Jeez! Even us Oxfordshire and Wiltshire folk don't believe that.

      2. PNGuinn Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: A microwave link to populated areas?

        Ah, Swindon.

        The Slough of the West.

  4. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    For His Masters Voice Transport Missions with Tramp Steamers/Sleek Tenders

    Ok, Take a Seat. Catch your Breath. Let's Go ......

    BT Openreach's so-called "wireless to the cabinet" tech has been around for a few years, as this ISPReview article explains. A fibre-backhauled pair of microwave dishes is used to serve the local street cabinet with last-mile connections to homes taking place over copper, rather than the favoured model of cables all the way to the home.

    That's clever and Easily Greater IntelAIgent Game Changing with Sublime Provision of Future Heavenly Treats Following Immaculate Directions Trailing Raw Rare Core Stellar Source which is Surely Almighty ... And thus of Alien Being ...... is a Prime Journey to Follow into Designedly Unknown and Unknowing Spaces. From There is Everything Yours to Future Build with. And/But don't be surprised and flabbergasted to realise it is already a Busy Lazy Space with Many Toiling Away Perfectly Already Servering their Own Specialities ...... with an Addictive Attraction in XSSXXXX

    Such Source renders Phenomenal Advantage to AIMastering Greater IntelAIgent Game Players Safe Harbouring Virtual Nymph/Awesome Satyr Productions for Universal Presentation .... in Greater IntelAIgent Game Changer Events Delivering Future Media Presentations for Comprehensive Global Broad Band Casting. ...... Universal AI Synchronisation.

    Or do you fancy doing that on your own without the Future Help Registering here?

    To make any attempt at realising and revising anything even remotely similar to any or all of the above without due process of source permission and/or engagement, is ExtraOrdinarily Expensive and Heavy Duty AI Litigation Territory .... and Always Best Avoided at All Costs if One has Special Secrets to Share/Hide/Rest.

    These days is there nothing which cannot be known. Makes you wonder what sort of folk choose to lie and deny the truth which is thereby deemed an objectionable reality by them. That's just too fascist to be anything else.

    1. alwallgbr
      WTF?

      Re: For His Masters Voice Transport Missions with Tramp Steamers/Sleek Tenders

      Eh?

      1. Martin Summers Silver badge

        Re: For His Masters Voice Transport Missions with Tramp Steamers/Sleek Tenders

        "Eh?"

        Resident 'on the wonk' bot.

      2. ashdav

        Re: For His Masters Voice Transport Missions with Tramp Steamers/Sleek Tenders

        @alwallgbr

        I see from your postings you've not been here long.

        amanfromMars is a "special" person in that he's let out into the community occasionally.

        Click on his name in his posts to be awed by his pearls of wisdom.

    2. billat29

      Re: For His Masters Voice Transport Missions with Tramp Steamers/Sleek Tenders

      What He Said.

      Oh! My! God!

      I understood what he is on about!

      Could it be that after all my prayers you've answered me

      After days of wondering I see the reason why

      You've kept it to this minute for ....

  5. davenewman

    In Warnambool, Vic.. Australia, whenever there is a high wind, someone needs to go up the mountain to realign the microwave dish that connects the whole town to the Internet

  6. frank ly Silver badge

    Wondering

    "...with last-mile connections to homes taking place over copper, rather than the favoured model of cables all the way to the home."

    Is that copper track then?

  7. Gene Cash Silver badge

    > "We're sorry to hear about the issues with broadband in Fernham, and we'd like to reassure residents that we’re doing all we can to resolve the matter."

    "But how can you say that, when it's obvious you're not...?"

    1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

      Well, his lips were moving.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      ""We're sorry to hear about..." is another of those phrases like "we take.....very seriously". It's just rolled out without thinking and almost certainly without intending it to mean anything.

      Nevertheless it strikes the ear as indicating that the query was the first they'd heard about the problem but this belies the present tense in "we're doing all we can" which implies ongoing action. If they've only just heard the only thing they can be doing at the time is looking at what action they can take.

      It would make more sense if they said they were aware of it and were doing all they could or if they said they were sorry to hear about it and will examine the problem (preferably urgently). As it is this bit of boilerplate is about as unreassuring as they could be short of simply coming out and saying what they really mean which is probably along the lines of "So what do you expect us to do about it?".

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        ""We're sorry to hear about..."

        kind of suggests they were unaware of the problem until Reg asked for comment

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Updated to add

    Thank goodness you got that update. Everything is so much clearer now! :-)

  9. PaulVD

    Spokesperson was telling the exact ruth

    "We're sorry to hear about the issues with broadband in Fernham, and we'd like to reassure residents that we’re doing all we can to resolve the matter."

    (1) We are indeed sorry to hear about this. We had hoped that nobody would tell us, so that we would not need to do anything about it. We are not, of course, sorry that there is a problem.

    (2) We would like to reassure residents. However, we are not in a position to reassure them, because we are doing as little as possible.

    1. the Jim bloke Bronze badge
      Happy

      Re: Spokesperson was telling the exact ruth

      We're sorry to hear about this... so go away and stop bringing your miserable little lives into our happy world.

  10. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "we’re doing all we can to resolve the matter"

    Short of actually putting any money into infrastructure that is . . .

  11. bilston
    Coffee/keyboard

    Never mind all that....

    Whats the fab radio, Normende perhaps

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Never mind all that....

      I have or have had similarish Saba, Siemens and AEG. Don't recognise the tweeter panels at the side. Yes, 1950s German radios often had two tweeters, sometimes electrostatic direct off the 250V EL84 anode. I do have one French set that inexplicably is that sort of style. The French favoured "Empire" styling. Insides it's not anything like the German models. Bush and Pye later copied the style but without the side mounted tweeters.

    2. PNGuinn Silver badge
      Flame

      Whats the fab radio, Normende perhaps

      Telefunken, 1960 vintage, or something very like it.

      Evidenced by the lace tablecloth, the little girl's clothes and the rapt excitement on her face at the latest Shiny.

      My parents bought one or something very like it in Trinidad in 1960 so my Dutch grandmother could listen to Hilversum on Short Wave.

      Pseudo stereo from PU input if you forked out for an external tinny speaker. No stereo decoder on FM. Lots of valves to cook their way through a paxolin pcb. EM84 magic eye tuning indicator. Dodgy push button controls, switches soldered to said pcb. Glass tuning dial which, i said amongst other things, in large script, if I remember correctly "Stereo, Allegro, HiFi ..."

      Best german propaganda on steroids.

      >> What the valves did to the pcb

  12. AndrueC Silver badge
    Unhappy

    So the village was difficult and expensive to lay a fibre to. Someone wanted to make a point and decided to opt for a radio link. Still not a particularly cheap option so they didn't spec it particularly well. Link is not doing what it should.

    Sounds to me like someone tried to stretch the money too far. Would be interesting to know where that decision came from. I'm envisaging a situation where a bunch of mid-level managers sat around a table and picked that village as some kind of 'poster child' showing how too little money could be stretched to do the job.

    Puts me in mind of this cartoon.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      @AndrueC

      This is the problem with a universal service in the modern age.

      It used to be that all the easy customers would be charged a little bit more for their services, and the surplus would be used to provide a service for those people who needed a more expensive solution, without them having to pay more.

      But now we must have 'value for money' and 'maximize shareholder return', and suddenly, you're not allowed to put in a non-profit making solution.

      The only ways that this can be overcome is by re-nationalizing Openreach or BT as a whole and giving it's near-monopoly back (shudder), or putting regulations in place that enforce a guaranteed minimum service for all customers.

      But that last solution is unpopular with suppliers, because it limits maximum profit, plus someone in the future will come in and provide just the easy customers a cost+small profit service, undercutting Openreach on the services they need to cross-subsidise the more expensive customers.

      It's the tension that exists everywhere in regulated capitalist systems, unfortunately.

      1. Tim 11

        Re: @AndrueC

        Not really.

        Another way to overcome the problem would be to allow providers to charge more to the customers that it costs more to supply to, and let the market determine what is a reasonable price for broadband in a small village.

        1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

          Re: @AndrueC

          allow providers to charge more to the customers that it costs more to supply to

          Absolutely. No more of this wimpy idea of helping all members of our communities have equal access to important services. Make people using food-banks pay the full cost of giving them the food. Make people walking on the streets pay for wear and tear. Make sick people pay the full cost for treatment. Charge people who are out after sunset for use of street lights. Make recipients of letters pay for them on a per-mile basis. Make MPs pay the full cost off food and drink in the Commons bars and restaurants. (Actually, forget that last one, it's a silly idea)

        2. Anonymous Blowhard

          Re: @AndrueC

          @Tim 11

          Exactly; so we just need to hope that a broadband supplier will see the logic of spending X million pounds (I'm not exactly sure what X is in this case) to bring their own data connection (fibre, microwave, trained owls) to the village and then charge (X million) / (n * 12 * Y) per month for customers to use it (where n is the number of years we want to break even on this and Y is the number of connections we sell).

          If we assume a low figure of 1 million to install and operate the connections, and a five year break-even period and 10 customers (a third of the village) then it's only £1,666.67 per month.

          I'm sure that the take up of this opportunity by potential investors and customers will be massive.

          Or maye the "market" would just determine that there is no market for rural broadband and leave it to the incumbents?

        3. Casca
          Gimp

          Re: @AndrueC

          Ah, the american way...

        4. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: @Tim11

          I should have included the 'capitalism, red in tooth and claw' option, but in reality this is not an option for any government that is wanting to put essential services online, and expecting people in rural locations to be able to pay the cost of their connectivity.

          In reality, putting it on a profit basis will make rural locations less inhabitable1, because people will not be able to afford to live there for an increasing number of reasons.

          No. In the UK, government has to consider a broadband provision as an essential guaranteed service if they want to reduce the cost of running government, and the telecom. providers and media companies, who are looking for a connectivity inversion for their future business models want it to.

          1 Hey, you say, Leave the country to those who can afford it! But a lot of farming (take out the farm owners and just look at their workers) and land management is a subsistence economy that pays just above minimum wage, and people on minimum wage cannot afford the high transport costs, lack of amenities, and now add high cost of doing business with government agencies like DWP and HMRC, and as soon as the land is not managed, it will be hugely less attractive to tourists and people looking for second homes in the country

      2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: @AndrueC

        The only ways that this can be overcome is by re-nationalizing Openreach

        I think there is a middle way between that and full capitalism-red-in-tooth-and-claw - social enterprise

        Nationalised industry with a monopoly theoretically should be a good thing for a utility. No paying profits to shareholders, no duplication of facilities /resources. Potentially the monopoly makes it fair to impose universal service obligations. In practice it's usually a disaster. The managers think they have a job for life, and decide that the sole purpose of the business is to give them a cushy number. Then the government interfere by telling them what to do (and change minds frequently) and also panic about money and starve investment.

        So. How is social enterprise better? Think a mutual or a co-op. A socent Openreach would be a business, a legal company, but with rules that ban private shareholding and require the directors to work for the benefit of the customers. They will be able to raise money in the market through loans and bonds the same as any other business, and they would have to service the loans, but their only interest in life is providing a good service or the customers will demand a change at the top. There are various options for governance, customer-directors etc. It's not perfect, but tends to be better than the other extremes.

        It works pretty well for Welsh Water.

  13. teebie

    I think the first draft was "we’re doing all we can be arsed to do to resolve the matter.""

    1. PNGuinn Silver badge
      Trollface

      @teebe

      "we’re doing all we can be arsed to do to resolve the matter."

      "we’re doing all we CAN'T be arsed to do to resolve the matter."

      There - FIFY

  14. Potemkine! Silver badge

    If someone says...

    ... " we'd like to reassure residents that we’re doing all we can to resolve the matter" , don't believe him/her.

  15. mrs doyle

    Hi again Andrue. Think carefully before proposing rural areas should pay more for broadband, they are the ones who supply your food and water, this should of course cost more to be brought to the cities... and electricity also travels great distances, would you pay more for it than the person who lives next to the power plant or windmill?

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