The Broadband Plan - what to expect
Bottom of the league!
The latest survey by parliament shows our constituency AND our village dragging well behind the rest of the county. Two images of the results:
Our MP, Andrew Griffith, has said he is really 'on board' for trying to improve this. On 4th August 2020 I emailed him with these pictures taken from his own government's survey and asked what he is doing about it. I also copied the images to WSCC Broadband to see if they had any comment. I will publish any responses when I get them. The Parish Council do not appear to have even noticed!
Fibre Broadband - the Budget
Advanced 'leak' on Wednesday's Budget is that £5billion is to be allocated to fibre, primarily for 'rural areas'. The less-than-good-news is that it is anticipated that Local Authorities may be handling the project, as with the BDUK cabinet roll-out AND MAY BE EXPECTED TO MATCH FUND................ so, stand-by for a big hike in Council Tax? Also some doubt about those customers already receiving a 'decent' (if somewhat too slow) speed from the FTTC cabinets) and whether they will be 'upgraded' or considered 'satisfactory' - watch this space.
Further news that the spat between mobile operators appears to have subsided and we can 'expect' an improvement in 2/3/4g coverage in rural areas with new 'mast sharing' deals
The slow progress of fibre
There are signs that it is getting closer, but very slowly. Brighton, Chichester and Horsham are now planned for Gigabit fibre
The 'Broadband USO' - that's 'Universal Service Obligation'!!
From March 20th 2020, all those who currently receive less than 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds from 'an affordable connection' will have the right to REQUEST a better service. NOTE the capital letters there - you are not 'guaranteed' one and it could take up to 12 months to sort and it must cost less than £3400 for your property. There is more information at ISP Review which will link you to the OFCOM Q&A page.
A group of residents around Harbolets Road who have had appalling broadband for a long time have already taken Openreach and BT to task for their predicament.
The government have now expanded the voucher scheme to include those on less than 100Mbps instead of the previous 30Mbps - that means everyone on FTTC!
Boris's "£5billion for fibre"
There is now doubt whether this is for fibre or fibre AND 5g and is being judged as a damp squib by industry commentators and probably just conference/election grabbing spin. It is reckoned to be not nearly enough to get full fibre to the rural areas, and 5g is a waste of space for all but urban areas due to poor distance and environmental considerations - to get the speeds you need to be more or less be in sight of the mast. Since many rural areas cannot even manage a decent 2g (voice/text) service, a 'distant' prospect....
Don't go getting TOO excited just yet! - THE PARISH COUNCIL AUGUST NEWSLETTER
We are waiting to see where the breathless 'Fibre is coming' announcement in the August PC Bulletin originated. I suspect an over-reaction to some Openreach propaganda, but you never know!
We also now know that fibre on the poles is being run south from the junction along Broadford Bridge Road which should eventually open some sort of option to residents there - the fibre run appears to finish with the last telegraph pole about 1/2 mile north of the Queen's Head. I have myself now observed the 'Caution Overhead Fibre' or 'Caution Fibre Above' yellow plates on the poles on this road, which is the clue. There is also a 'mysterious' short run of fibre on poles eastwards from the Harbolets/Broadford Bridge junction to a few properties. and fibre is slowly making its way up Southlands Road to ease the dreadful broadband speeds at the Village Nursery and in East Street. Here are three of the things you need to watch out for in case they sprout from 'every pole' in West Chiltington:
What does this mean for you if you are seeking better broadband?
What this means for the rest of the village, however, is uncertain at present, except, of course, you will all have seen Boris's magic announcement of 'Fibre for every home' by 2025!? The latest information I have is that there are major obstacles in the way and I know most of the communications industry has written to Boris to point out the things that will need doing to achieve this, including opening access to all property to allow digging of fibre, removing the need for the existing 'wayleave' process, and major changes to the way fibre is taxed.
B4RN powers on
The 'community dig' fibre scheme B4RN, which is mainly active in the north-west of England, goes from strength to strength as it passes £3million on its latest crowd-funding scheme. B4RN. It just shows what conmmunities can achieve.
The spread of 'GFast' to exchanges by BT has now reached 422 exchanges with 6,969 cabinets converted. NB It only improves speeds for those relatively near to a cabinet and I suspect will be a l - o - n - g time coming to us.
BT dragging their feet
25.02.2019: BT vetoes plan to fix rural mobile 'not spots'.
GFast getting closer
Something like 28 cabinets in Horsham are being 'GFast enabled'. GFast is an attempt by BT to boost speeds, and can deliver over 100Mbps and in theory up to over 300Mbps. HOWEVER, it really only works for premises within about 400 yards of a cabinet and requires a 'GFast pod' to be fitted to a cabinet. Personally I don't think it will arrive here. In any case it is a poor substitute for full fibre. The rapid deployment of full fibre schemes such as the Gigaclear and B4RN is how it should be done.
Government 'Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme'
Up to £3000 available to SMEs to offset the cost of a fibre feed. Nearby residents can claim up to £500 if they join in the fibre feed. More information at Voucher. If you want it, find yourself a nearby SME that needs a 1Gbps feed and get other residents to join the scheme.
Broadband - new policy review
Announced 23rd July 2018 is the news of the government review into future broadband provision, known as the 'Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR)' and it would appear that the pace of change is hotting up. Primarily the move will be ultimately to drop ALL copper telephone lines, transferring normal 'voice' communications to fibre broadband based. This is a massive undertaking and will, of course, require back-up power provision for all users. An interesting and progressive review, which raises significant doubts over implementation for reasons of cost and commercial interests. The key points are:
CityFibre to challenge the ASA 'fibre advertising' rules
One of the 'pure' fibre providing companies, CityFibre, has won high-court agreement (June 2018) to challenge the rules which allow BT to advertise what we have in the village as 'Fibre Broadband' - which it is not, as it comes to your house via the rotting old telephone lines in the ground and on poles. They are claiming that ONLY optic fibre DIRECT into a property should be allowed to describe itself as 'fibre', and all others, like BT, should be called 'hybrid' or 'partial' fibre. I wish them well - a ruling (hopefully) which is long overdue.
The General Election and Broadband - 29th Nov 2017 - don't believe what you were told!
Only the Liberal Party are promisimg anything like High Speed Broadband in their manifesto. The Conservatives' manifesto offered 'everyone' at least 10Mbps by 2020 - hardly 'high speed' and certainly not enough NOW let alone 2020! The Labour Party appear to have NO committment to any particular speed in their 'final' (ie not leaked) manifesto while the Liberal Party offer 'at least 30Mbps for everyone' by 2022. Bear in mind that by 2022, 30 will probably be considered 'slow'. All rather depressing, and the prospects for mobile coverage not much more cheering. Now the 'pledge', as with many pledges, looks to be a whiff of electoral smoke.
Progress report from WSCC
From the 'Better Connected' site, this from the County with a little more detail on the plans for use of the claw back from public funding of the BDUK roll-out.
NB For those Twitter lovers, Openreach have now launched their own page at Openreach where you should be able to find answers to some of your questions.
A new technology - worth looking at
The first two happy customers!
Backed by a large nationwide telecoms company, a company called 'NotSpot' is claiming to give broadband coverage in areas where other networks cannot cover. I have spoken to them today (21 Oct 2016). The technology is new and looks to be clever, and the system goes by the name of 'Mastband'. The service is eligible for the County installation grants - more at grants. The company have an on-line enquiry form at Notspot or you can ring them direct at 03333223434.
Two properties in the area have just (today, 16 Nov 2016) been connected by 'Notspot' and both report good download speeds of around 20Mbps which puts their previous unreliable satellite and 800Kbps telephone line connections into a cocked hat! Excellent News!
They have an installation fee of £450 (leaving you with a probable £100 charge) which is refundable under certain conditions. You can see part of the installation T&C here. They tell me that their mapping system will give a very accurate prediction of the likely speeds you will receive and they have very few 'failures' of quoted speeds.
Just announced that EE will be progressively rolling out 4G 800MHz coverage starting 1/12/16. At present I understand that NotSpot are using the 1800 and 2600MHz frequencies. If the 800 is added, it has a much better penetration of things like trees.
Extra Cabinets for the exchange
Sadly no sign of any respite for Harbolets, but a new cabinet has 'gone live' up the Coolham Road which should enable a service to reach Goose Green.
Satellite versus other schemes
I have covered satellite broadband before, but will repeat:
The monthly cost can be expensive if you aim to use a lot of broadband, ie if you aim to watch movies etc. Once you exceed the smallish 'allowance', the costs rapidly escalate.
A wireless system still offers a better option, providing you can receive the signal. The delay I mentioned above is minimal on a wireless system.
If any of you are not sure how much 'bandwidth' you would need, an example from my 'Christmas' - two teenage grandchildren visited from 'up north' and got a Playstation for Christmas. Christmas day was spent 'setting it up' which meant a significant amount of downloads, and all 3 grandchildren, plus parents, ran IPads and mobiles on my system. My usage went up from around 800MB per day to almost 10 GB per day! The 'standard' satellite package appears to be about 10GB per MONTH for around £25 pm as far as I can see. Be warned!
Furthermore, as part of the UK government's response to the EU broadband survey I told you all about, OfCom have published this:
Think carefully before you embark on a low bandwidth contract!
All those of you who are not being offered an FTTC connection on our exchange beware! This item in the Telegraph confirms the fears that it looks as if satellite is to be the 'solution' to providing you with the 2Mb minimum. Beware the 'latency' the article talks of, rendering satellite a poor option for VOIP use and pretty-well useless for all those 'shoot'em-up' games I know you play. As the article says, IF this was short-term solution to await 'fixing' the problem, not too bad, but it looks as if it is for the long term. In terms of monthly costs for a less-than-ideal service, satellite compares badly with the proposed wireless scheme (see below) which should offer not only better speeds but minimal latency and far better download limits. SO, if 'tempted' by any voucher offer from WSCC for satellite DO talk to anyone who has it already. The system is known to grind to a low speed during busy periods, and this can only worsen if a flood of new connections arrives.
UPDATE (10/6/2015): A significant breach of the BT/Government cosy 'arrangements' - 1Gbps broadband in Gloucestershire from Gigaclear - more please!
Right on cue! UPDATE (25/6/2015): Second Gigaclear County contract in Essex
It is catching! UPDATE (27/6/2015): Devon and Somerset councils have apparently decided not to sign with BT for phase 2 project to help take superfast broadband coverage to 95% - which provider will get this contract?
West Sussex, however, has elected to pay BT for Phase 2 work
I have 'archived' all the previous entries on West Chiltington broadband, including information on the cabinets and how to check your speeds (also see below). If you wish to re-visit this, see Archive.
Now that we have been 'served' by the BDUK scheme, MOST of the village has access to reasonable, if not really 'superfast' in the true meaning of the term. BDUK are re-funding County Councils now to allow the next stage of the project to proceed which is to try to take FTTC (at 24Mbps+) to 95% of the UK by 2017 in 'Phase 2' and to 'beyond 95%' in 'Phase 3'. all somewhat vague, and as usual West Chiltington will inevitably find itself somewhere in the missing %. With our 'Phase 1 complete, we have significant areas which are too far from the green cabinets to really benefit from the faster broadband, and of course for businesses that need a high upload speed for data etc the existing provision is not adequate. One of those businesses that is really poorly served by the scheme is the Village Nurseries, run by Peter Manfield. Peter has been a staunch advocate and supporter of the projects for a long time, and from his exchanges with WSCC it would appear that he and the others in similar circumstances may well be 'offered' vouchers to find some improvement and that the County may well be falling back on 'Satellite' as the solution which many elsewhere have found inadequate.
"Beware Greeks bearing gifts" as they used to say - but this time beware BT bearing all sorts of 'promises'/'hints' etc about 'improvements' to long-line broadband. There is very little flesh on the BT bones about it all, and DO remember that BT are now reckoned to be in a moderate panic at the thought that Openreach may be 'taken away from them' and set up as an independent company and may well be firing grapeshot at us all in the hope they can destroy that option AND the initiatives of other providers. I STRONGLY recommend that NO-ONE delays seeking other means of faster broadband on the basis of 'it's coming from BT soon'. It may never come!