E-com clash with Bucks County Council over permits to build fibre networks

E-com laying fibre cables in the countryside
E-com laying fibre cables in the countryside

Local businesses looking to build fibre optic infrastructure are finding it increasingly difficult due to new procedures put in place by Bucks County Council.

“The new procedures, brought in in the wake of the sale of Aylesbury Vale Broadband (AVB), essentially double the cost of installing the fibre” claims Chris Wilkie, managing director of E-com, a local business currently building a broadband network in Whitchurch.

E-com claims that they are being asked to put up a large financial bond before the county council will issue a Streetworks license allowing work to continue.

“This was not the case when AVB were building their network” claimed Wilkie.

“It is hamstringing small businesses who now have to stump up these large amounts of money”.

“We understand that the county council had their fingers burned by AV Broadband but their knee-jerk response is completely inappropriate and intended to discourage small businesses such as mine from developing our infrastructure.”

It is understood that money is being requested to be held in security against anything going wrong with the work but that the council intend to hold on to the funds for ‘no less than two years’ and that this is on top of the £3 per metre the county council already charges to complete their paperwork, one of the highest charges in the UK for such work.

It was revealed that Whitchurch Combined School is one of those affected by the new policy.

After an appeal by the school for help, E-com agreed to provide a free connection for the pupils to use.

However fibre is unable to reach them due to being on the other side of the road.

Headteacher Rachel Pickup said: “Our poor internet speed at school hinders the learning in every classroom and has a massive impact on each child in our school.

“Our poor internet speed at school hinders the learning in every classroom and has a massive impact on each child in our school.

“The teachers work hard to produce and find excellent resources to enhance learning and then when they deliver the lesson, the resource will not work due to our internet.

“The speed is so slow that we struggle to upload photographs onto our website and teachers have had to take them home to upload them using their home internet.”

The county council said in response that the legislation was not introduced as a direct consequence of working with AVB.

Mark Shaw said: “The requirement for a bond for work on the highway is a long standing practice that has been extended to cover the increasing amount of work undertaken across the county by private providers.

“The application of the bond is relatively new and reflects the number of relatively small companies now seeking to install ducts and the like to provide broadband services to those settlements that BT Openreach have determined unsustainable.

“The bond was not introduced as a direct consequence of working with AVB.

“Although Electronic Communities Ltd (E-com) is offering to connect Whitchurch Combined School to fibre broadband free of charge as a benefit to the local community, its work in the area is part of its overall commercial business of connecting local homes and businesses.

“The licence and bond requirements for E-com are the same for any business in a similar situation, and the terms are not affected by any previous licences granted in the same area to Aylesbury Vale Broadband.”