Fibre for Kensington – Update after the Public meeting on 04 December 2017

Fibre for Kensington – Update after the Public meeting on 04 December 2017

Councillors Carlos and Neuren called for a public meeting in Observatory after residents in Observatory complained of new poles being put up that no-one seemed to know about or have agreed to. On investigation, Councillor Carlos found that Vodacom was installing poles in Observatory as part of their aerial fibre roll-out.

Scroll down to the end of this post to see what the events of that meeting will mean for Kensington.

  1. Observatory, which has approximately 300 households compared to nearly 5000 in Kensington, already has Vumatel aerial fibre, which was installed by Vumatel after public consultation with the residents of Observatory.
    1. Vumatel used existing CoJ street poles and in some cases, put up their own poles for the fibre cable to hang from.
    2. Vumatel’s fibre network is an open-access network that allows for roughly 23 registered Internet Service Providers to market fibre-to-the-home products to residents.
  2. Vodacom did not send a representative to the meeting, but rather a representative from the contracting company that is actually putting up the poles. This representative said the following:
    1. Vodacom wants to put up their own poles to run aerial cables on. These poles will be “strategically placed”.
    2. Vodacom cannot share infrastructure i.e. poles with Vumatel or any other infrastructure provider. Any Infrastructure provider that comes into an area will have to put up their own poles.
    3. Vodacom’s fibre network will not be open-access, so will be limited to only Vodacom to use as an Internet Service Provider (ISP)
    4. There is “a telecommunications law” that states that residents have no right to object to any infrastructure provider putting up poles “wherever they want”.
      1. This means that if Vodacom, MTN, Cell-C. Telkom or any other fibre provider come into an area, residents could end up with more than 5 poles installed outside their houses with no recourse for objection whatsoever. (according to the contractor representative)
      2. The contractor representative did not specify which law or clause allows them to act without consideration for the residents they impact on.
    5. The contractor representative was only there to tell the community of Observatory what Vodacom is doing, regardless of their objections.
    6. Only Observatory has been identified by Vodacom for aerial fibre. There is no mention of Kensington in this plan. More on this at the end of this post.
  3. After mass objection to what the contractor representative had to say, Councillor Carlos called for a vote and the overwhelming majority of attendees voted against another service provider putting up poles all over the suburb when Vumatel has already done this.
    1. Councillor Carlos has submitted a letter to Johannesburg Roads agency objecting to any more poles being put up in Observatory and requesting that JRA withdraw any way-leaves granted to Vodacom for this.

What does this mean for Kensington?

  1. It appears that the big fibre providers (Vodacom, MTN, Cell-C, Telkom Openserve) have adopted a model of following Vumatel into suburbs. Vodacom seems to think that it is worth the investment of building a network in a suburb of 300 houses because Vumatel is there already, as opposed to coming into Kensington and creating a network for nearly 5000 houses.
  2. The KRRA is still waiting for formal communication from Vumatel that they will be coming to Kensington as they stated in their meeting with the KRRA on 27 November 2017.
    1. Once we get this confirmation, we will again run the campaign to get residents to “show interest”.
    2. We’ll need 30% of Kensington to show interest. The last campaign, which ended in June 2017, only got the interest level of 10% of Kensington’s households.
    3. Vumatel has offered to assist with marketing to increase the level of interest in Kensington.
    4. Vumatel is targeting aerial fibre installation in Kensington by the end of February 2018.
  3. Despite repeated requests, Fibre Stream has not provided any update on their way-leave application to start trenching.
    1. It is growing more unlikely that Fibre Stream will be able to get way-leaves granted to dig trenches for fibre in Kensington, and if they do, it will be long after Vumatel has brought aerial fibre into Kensington.
  4. Once Vumatel comes to Kensington, they will trigger an influx of other fibre providers wanting to put up poles outside your homes.
    1. Some Observatory residents showed pictures of their houses surrounded by poles on all sides.
    2. This practice of multiple fibre poles will negatively affect the aesthetics of the area around your homes. (It’s very ugly)
    3. We can expect the fibre providers that follow after Vumatel to come into Kensington and begin putting up poles without public consultation because of “a telecommunications law” that, according to the contractor representative at the Observatory public meeting, allows them to do so.
  5. The KRRA, working with councillors Carlos and Neuren, will look at how to prepare a means for residents to object to multiple poles being put up around Kensington’s households.
  6. The KRRA’s stance is that, while competition for fibre-to-the-home is a good thing for consumers, that competition should be at the level of internet service providers (ISP’s) that are registered to use the infrastructure (poles or trenched network) of a fibre provider already installed in Kensington, not at the level of infrastructure providers.
    1. It would be preferred to have a single fibre infrastructure provider roll out an open-access network, that has multiple affiliated ISP’s, in Kensington as opposed to 5 or more different infrastructure providers coming in and offering either the same ISP’s as Vumatel or putting up poles for only their network ISP’s. i.e. Vodacom poles for Vodacom ISP, MTN poles for MTN ISP, etc.
    2. Vumatel’s network will bring roughly 23 ISP’s to Kensington.
    3. Any other fibre infrastructure provider that comes in after fibre has been installed in Kensington would need to bring a significantly different product offering otherwise they would just be duplicating what Vumatel is doing, in the process making Kensington, its heritage properties and streets look unsightly.