The Scottish Borders Rural Area Network (RAN) was one of a number of DTI funded pilot projects that have been developed under the auspices of the DTI Fund – Innovative Uses of Broadband.
The main objective of the RAN pilot project was to extend geographic coverage of broadband availability to towns in the Scottish Borders which were regarded as poor investment opportunities by the incumbent supplier (BT).
With the change in market conditions and the fact that BT now operate in all SBRB areas there is now no requirement to continue with the intervention by Scottish Enterprise Borders and its subsidiary company SBRB Ltd.
SBRB Ltd requires that a report is compiled to recommend a strategy to communicate the project exit plan to all parties involved as appropriate to ensure that concise and consistent information is timeously delivered.
Agreement from THUS plc who deliver the core network has been agreed informally. A project change control note will be drawn up by legal counsel to formalise this contractual agreement.
There are currently 120 customers (home and business users) subscribed to the RAN service each receiving a service from one of 4 ISP’s (Scotland Online, Abel Internet, Lumison and Demon).
As part of the early exit from the pilot project the board of SBRB Ltd have agreed that a compensatory payment will be made to the Internet Service Provider to cover the cost of migrating the customer to the ADSL network and the cost of an ADSL modem or router. The compensatory payment has been agreed as ï¿½100 per home use customer and ï¿½120 per business use customer. The ISP’s are required to sign a legal agreement in order to take advantage of this offer. It is anticipated that this offer will be seen as an incentive to the ISP’s to ensure smooth migration takes place.
2 Terms of Reference
On 22nd March 2005 the Board of Scottish Borders Rural Broadband instructed Mandy Whyte – Project Executive, to create a communications strategy to inform all parties involved in the pilot project of the impending exit from the project.
This strategy was written following consultation with the following people:
* Brian Hilferty, Project Manager Scottish Enterprise Borders
* Hugh Tasker, Chairman, Scottish Borders Rural Broadband
* David Gass, Chief Executive, Scottish Borders Rural Broadband
* Frank O’Donnell, Director, Scottish Borders Rural Broadband
* Internet Service Providers, Scotland Online, Abel Internet, Demon and Lumison
* THUS Plc, Network Delivery, Scottish Borders Rural Broadband
Information was also gathered from Scottish Enterprise Borders the Parent company of Scottish Borders Rural Broadband.
The communication strategy has 9 Stages.
4.1 Stage 1
Initially a meeting of SBRB Board will be called. At this meeting a series of actions will be explained for agreement. Following the Board meeting a meeting with THUS plc to explain the formal exit proposals will be held.
4.2 Stage 2
A meeting with THUS plc will be held to facilitate agreement for early exit.
4.3 Stage 3
A meeting with the Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) will be arranged specifically to get agreement from that an early exit is acceptable. In the first instance this will occur through an informal meeting to gauge reaction.
4.4 Stage 4
Following meetings with the ISP’s a letter will be drafted to formalise the exit proposals seeking agreement from both parties. The exit proposal letter will also detail the plan to migrate existing customers from the RAN onto the ADSL network using their current ISP. At this stage the ISP will also be required to sign the legal agreement allowing them to claim the incentive offered for migrating customers. The ISP’s have the sole relationship with their customers and therefore no direct communication from SBRB Ltd to the RAN customers is expected.
Work closely with ISP’s by means of weekly meetings. Supply ISP’s with FAQ’s and information letter in order for them to communicate the changes effectively to their customers.
It is anticipated that the exit from the project may be unpopular with Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) and their customers if misunderstandings arise. An important part of the communication of the exit from the project will be explaining to ISP’s and customers how they can receive alternative broadband services in a seamless manner whilst retaining their current email address and hosting arrangements.
4.5 Stage 5
Commence migration of customers onto the ADSL network. Each of the ISP’s to liaise with SBRB executives to inform the company of progress on a weekly basis. The ISP is required to submit a weekly spreadsheet to SBRB executives in order for incentive payments to be made.
4.6 Stage 6
With migration of customers complete removal of the base station equipment from RAN sites to commence. This stage will involve close communication with ISP’s, THUS and their agents.
4.7 Stage 7
Migrated customers to receive a questionnaire via their ISP on our behalf to determine individual experiences of the change from a wireless broadband service to a landline service.
4.8 Stage 8
Stage 8 is aimed at resolving any concerns raised by customers and may involve face to face meetings with ISP’s and customers directly affected by the exit of the pilot project.
4.9 Stage 9
Evaluation of pilot project, communications and exit strategy.
The communication strategy proposed has been designed to ensure that all of the parties involved are aware of the project exit plans. It is crucial that we have buy in from the ISP’s in order for there to be minimal impact on the customer experience. At all stages reputational risk must be considered.
It is important that SBRB executives are made aware of any problems as and when they arise. The exit from the pilot project should not leave any customer without a broadband service. Therefore close communications with all parties must be adhered to in order for:
* Early identification of customers who may be beyond the reach of landline ADSL services
* Swift resolution for customers who are beyond the reach of ADSL services in order that alternative solutions can be deployed.
The combination of explanatory letters, media statements, meetings and individual letters will ensure that:
a) clear information is available to all once project exit is agreed
b) information is communicated according to project exit plan
c) any adversely affected customers will have the opportunity to respond
d) the migration strategy is delivered according to the closing down of base stations and project timeline
It is recommended that the Board agree to implement the communications strategy outlined in this report with a start date of 22nd April 2005. This will allow the project team to complete migration and close down of the project in line with the project exit plan.
7 Sources and Acknowledgments
Thanks to all contributors who provided assistance and comments.
8 Appendix A
9 Appendix B
Appendix A – Letter to all Internet Service Providers
27 April 2005
CUSTOMER MIGRATION AGREEMENT
Scottish Borders Rural Broadband Ltd have agreed as part of the exit strategy from the fixed wireless broadband pilot project to meet the cost (to the extent undernoted) of connecting existing SBRB customers to the ADSL network and covering the cost of provision of an ADSL modem or router. This agreement comes into effect from 11th April 2005.
SBRB Ltd will reimburse each ISP who retains and migrates an existing fixed wireless customer to their ADSL product. SBRB will pay ï¿½100 to cover connection and modem costs for home users and ï¿½120 to cover connection and router costs for business users.
As part of this agreement SBRB Ltd will release you from your contractual obligations to us in terms of the fixed wireless service and expect that you as the ISP will not hold your customers to their annual contract.
We plan to close down the final base station in October 2005 and would hope that this offer will encourage the swift migration of customers to ADSL well in advance of this date.
Please note that the Earlston telephone exchange has an ADSL ‘ready for service’ date of 27th July 2005.
I hope this agreement is to your satisfaction and would request that you supply us with details of each customer as they terminate the wireless service and move to your ADSL product. This information is required for audit purposes.
Please sign and date the acceptance docquet attached to the accompanying copy of this letter and return it to Mandy Whyte to indicate your acceptance of the foregoing.
Should you require further assistance or information please contact Mandy Whyte or Brian Hilferty.