Rural broadband ISP Gigaclear has been fined £10,339.17 in Somerset UK after it admitted that some of its work, which involved deploying a new 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network around the small market town of Wellington, had failed to comply with the 1991 New Road and Street Works Act.
The 1991 act was created to help protect the structure of the street and the apparatus in it, as well as to ensure safety (workers and residents) and to minimise the inconvenience for people using a street (particularly those with a disability).
According to a brief report in the Somerset Gazette, the ISP was fined £6,667 with £2,102.17 costs (plus a £170 victim surcharge) for unspecified issues with work that took place in the town on 3rd October 2018. On top of that they were also fined £1,400 for carrying out street works along Sampford Road, albeit without giving the appropriate advance warning.
Sadly the report contains very little detail and we have separately asked Gigaclear for a comment. We should point out that they’re by no means the first broadband network builder to be fined under the 1991 act. Both Cityfibre (here) and Virgin Media (here) have in the recent past faced much bigger penalties for conducting similar work.
Update on Gigaclear’s Rollout Progress in Somerset
Separately the Somerset County Council this week held a full meeting that included an update on the still-stuck-in-limbo rollout plan for Gigaclear’s FTTP broadband contract in the region, which forms part of the wider state aid supported Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) project.
Sadly little has changed since our last update in March 2019 (here) and the provider’s Phase 2 contract “remains in an uncertain position.” Apparently Gigaclear are “continuing to work on providing a robust and credible proposal” to take these contracts forward, but this is said to be a “time-consuming exercise and exact details have not yet been finalised.” Meanwhile the operator is continuing the rollout at their own risk.
Gigaclear is continuing to develop acceptable plans for each contract area backed by fully costed analysis of the network delivery options. CDS and BDUK require key reassurances particularly regarding capacity and acceleration of deployment. In response, Gigaclear is investigating further options to improve its operations in Devon and Somerset in light of the significant delays the company has incurred.
One of the consequences of the delays is that exact details about which communities will be in the next phase of the roll-out have yet to be confirmed. Gigaclear states it will provide updated information for the public and stakeholders about its roll-out timetable on its website.
In the meantime, Gigaclear is continuing to build full fibre networks to 31 community areas in Devon, Somerset and BaNES/ North Somerset for CDS providing ultrafast broadband speeds to 6,000 homes and businesses. In addition, the company is also continuing its commercial build which will serve a further 6,000 premises.
As part of that meeting, and somewhat in keeping with today’s fine for failing to give appropriate advance warning of their street works, the council’s report also noted how members were “still concerned” that communications is a problem. “People need to be kept updated and whilst there has been some improvement with communicating with parishes, this is often sporadic. More details about roadworks and roll-out is needed. It was agreed to feed these comments back to Gigaclear,” said the report.