County is responsible for highways in Eastbourne, not Lightning Fibre or borough

From: David Prosser Carew Road, Eastbourne

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 10:42 am

You have received some correspondence over the past few months about the disruption caused by the deployment of Lightning and City Fibre (LF and CF). Frankly, I am very surprised there has not been more.

I am no Luddite and have enthusiastically signed up to our local provider Lightning Fibre and, apart from a few initial issues, the service has been excellent.

However, I think we should also be looking at the role of East Sussex County Council (ESCC) in all of this and in particular its commercial interests. ESCC is responsible for our highways, not Eastbourne Borough Council.

Roadworks at Eldon and Willingdon Road junction (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-210616-082544001

I will not bore readers with a very long list of all of the issues but – via my local counsellor Pat Rodohan – I have tabled a number of questions which ESCC has not answered. I appreciate that local authorities are suffering from the decade-long central government policy of austerity but we should really understand the following:

1/ In the summer of 2020, ESCC sponsored substantial pavement refurbishment work in Carew Road. What was the cost of this restorative work which has now been largely been undone by LF and CF? I understand that Virgin Fibre are in the wings to dig up our pavements again to lay their fibre network and so this will be four sets of pavement work in a year. And what transpires is that a lot of ubiquitous black tarmac gets laid – poorly.

2/ What does ESCC permit cost to carry out this fibre laying work?

3/ How much has ESCC received in total for these permits from Lightning Fibre (LF) and City Fibre (CF)? A manager from LF advised that ESCC was making a fortune from the sale of permits – if this is untrue why can’t ESCC give the actual figure?

4/ ESCC advises that no profit is made from permits, that they are cost neutral and fund the salaries of the network management team. This sounds disingenuous, bureaucracy funded by selling of permits for a team which then seems to do little to proactively police or monitor the quality of work permitted by the permit.

5/ Could this revenue not support other hard pressed-local services or infrastructure?

6/ How did ESCC decide to allow CF to compete with LF (a local Sussex firm rather than a nationwide operation). Is it basically a free-for-all in return for permits to subsidise a passive network management team? It certainly seems to be – ESCC did not answer my question about the business case for allowing multiple providers in Eastbourne when the appetite for full fibre was untested.

7/ While LF had the courtesy to knock on my door and advise work was forthcoming, there has been absolutely no formal prior warning of these works sent to me. The only way I find out that I need to move my car etc is the barriers appearing first thing in the morning accompanied up by the chorus of an angle grinder.

8/ Surely ESCC has an over-arching role in communicating and policing all this in return for the revenue it generates. This all seems to be a cash cow for them, regardless of the disruption it causes to local residents.