North Yorkshire family firm's superfast broadband nightmare

A successful family firm's fibre optic nightmare is turning the spotlight on the limitations of North Yorkshire's multi-million pound drive to create superfast rural broadband.

Fibre optic rural broadband problems - Green-tech chairman Richard Kay with sales director Ian Rotherham, Rachel Kay MD.
Fibre optic rural broadband problems - Green-tech chairman Richard Kay with sales director Ian Rotherham, Rachel Kay MD.

Award-winning landscape and forestry supplier Green-tech Ltd has been waiting for proper broadband ever since it moved into its new premises at Arkendale near Knaresborough last year.

The cause of its distress?

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A simple 1,800 metres of cable or, rather, the lack of it.

Run by husband-and-wife team Richard and Rachel Kay, Green-tech says it first ordered fibre optic broadband from BT more than a year ago.

All these months later, the company is still have having to use a temporary, slower satellite system it arranged independently at its headquarters at Rabbit Hill Business Park.

Richard Kay, chairman of Green-tech which celebrated its 20th birthday in 2014, said the whole situation was very frustrating.

He said: “We have been actively pursuing BT since last August for a completion date. Significant stages in the installation seem to be put back with very little reasoning provided.”

A spokesman for BT apologised for the length of time it was taking but said claims they had been dragging their heels were completely unfounded.

In addition, BT engineers had faced major logistical problems in laying the cable.

The problems were also compounded by what BT says has been the need to approach North Yorkshire County Council to authorise traffic management requests to enable the work to be done.

But Green-tech’s IT manager Richard Wall said the installation delays were making it more difficult to deal with customers.

He said: “Satellite broadband is slow and expensive. We also have tenants on the business park who are complaining to us about how poor the broadband is.”

But a spokesman for BT said that Green-tech’s broadband order is not part of the wider Openreach fibre roll-out across North Yorkshire but is a private circuit ordered specifically for that business.

And BT claimed Green-tech Ltd’s decision to swap to Talk Talk as a provider and cancel a previous order had meant they had had to ‘start again’ last August.

But Green-tech’s chairman says this simplifies what actually happened.

He said: “The order we placed in February 2015 was changed to a higher specification which did result in the service provider being changed but we did not cancel the order.

“In any case, it is still seven months now since the alleged ‘cancellation’.”

Green-tech even took the matter to Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jone who, they say, tried hard to help on their behalf.

Richard Kay said: “Because we’re not a direct customer of BT, we don’t seem to get priority.

“Talk Talk are governed by what BT Openreach can do but BT don’t seem to communicate effectively what’s going on. BT Openreach is effectively a monopoly.”

In the meantime, BT say they have submitted another traffic management request to install underground tubing along the A168.

Even if that does go-ahead, it will be the middle of next month before any physical progress is made towards resolving this lengthy and complicated saga.

Recent years have seen major efforts to improve broadband speeds via the Superfast North Yorkshire project helmed by North Yorkshire County Council’s own purpose-built company NYnet in partnership with BT.

But, in the complex world of communications companies structures and responsibilties, the plight of Green-tech highlights the practical difficulties involved in bringing fast, fibre optic broadband to the county’s smaller more rural areas, despite budgets running to millions of pounds provided by the Government, North Yorkshire County Council, the European Union and BT itself.