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Gigaclear work in Charlbury

Richard Fairhurst (for Charlbury Town Council) and Liz Leffman (county & district councillor) met – electronically – with broadband company Gigaclear to find out what their upcoming street works will involve. The following notes were written up by Richard after the meeting on 18th June.

What is it? Gigaclear is a company that provides ‘Fibre to the Premises’ (FTTP) broadband - i.e. where the fibre-optic cable continues into your house. Existing broadband in Charlbury is ‘Fibre to the Cabinet’, where the fibre-optic cable goes to a cabinet on the street, but the connection to your house is via the standard copper phone cable. In theory, FTTP can be up to 15 times faster than the broadband currently available in Charlbury.

Why Charlbury? Gigaclear has a subsidised contract with West Oxfordshire District Council to provide broadband to rural areas that would not otherwise get it. However, the Charlbury work is not part of this. Instead, Gigaclear are installing their cables as a commercial, unsubsidised project in Charlbury, believing that there’s enough demand in the town to make it worthwhile.

What are they installing? Gigaclear will be installing three “access cabinets” at locations around Charlbury (Five Ways, the town end of DItchley Road, and Grammar School Hill). These are the main hubs for the broadband. They then install a number of smaller “customer cabinets” (or CDC cabinets) around the town, which take the connection closer to people’s homes. Gigaclear say they aim not to obstruct footpaths, views or driveways with these. Finally, “points of termination” are installed underground outside those houses which sign up for the broadband.

Does this mean digging up roads? Yes – roads, pavements and (by preference) verges. This will mean road closures as the work progresses; these will be organised through the County Council’s standard Temporary Traffic Regulation Order process. Access for residents will be maintained during road closures. Gigaclear say they aim to notify affected residents five days before work starts on a particular road.

Will they be digging up private land too? In some places, Gigaclear will be writing to a small number of private landowners asking for permission to run cables under their land, where they think this offers a better route than the highway. They will ask the landowner to sign a permission form called a ‘Network Access Agreement’.

How long will the work last? The work is due to start in July, and finish in December with all roads and pavements put back in good order. Verges may be reinstated later, in the spring, due to the challenges of working in rainy weather. Gigaclear say that work will be completed “to Highways Authorities and Utilities Committee standards”. Once the cables are installed, they have a projected lifespan of at least 50 years. The ducting being installed by Gigaclear includes several empty channels to enable future cables to be installed without digging up the roads again.

How much will the broadband cost? Gigaclear say they currently offer monthly tariffs of between £39 and £79 depending on speed, but that there are also regular special offers. If the house is less than 100m from the main fibre and there are no extra complications, installation is free; otherwise, there may be a charge but this can often be covered by a Government voucher. There is a one-off connection fee of £25.

How can I contact Gigaclear? For issues connected to cable works, you can contact Gigaclear’s Oxford office on 01865 591137, or email Gigaclear will be writing to Charlbury residents this week with more details about their plans; they have already written separately to affected landowners seeking permission to install across their land.

What role does Charlbury Town Council have? We have no statutory control over this, other than one minor case where we own a small plot of land under which Gigaclear want to lay cables. However, we met with Gigaclear in mid-June (town council chairman Richard Fairhurst, together with district & county councillor Liz Leffman) to find out more about their plans.

We have stressed to them the importance of minimising disruption; of reinstating everything in good order; and of not obstructing Charlbury’s narrow pavements with the cabinets. We have asked them to communicate regularly with Charlbury residents; to be receptive to concerns and to actively monitor the community’s views; and to give as much notice as possible of their works.

Richard Fairhurst · Thu 18 Jun 2020, 19:54 · Link

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