A Faster Parish:UPDATE

Tell us what you think about broadband in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire!

A survey looking at the availability of broadband in the two counties is being undertaken by independent researchers at the Royal Agricultural University (RAU). The survey is part of the ‘Evaluation of the impact of superfast fibre broadband in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire’ and is due to be published in 2017.
The responses will directly feed into to the Fastershire project and the results will also help demonstrate the level of demand in communities that are yet to benefit from the Fastershire rollout and help raise their profile for better broadband with potential suppliers.
The survey will be live until the end of November and takes around 5 minutes to complete, with questions relating to how residents and businesses currently use broadband and internet services and where better broadband services are required.
To complete the survey, please visit, www.broadband-feedback.com.
Regards
Fastershire Broadband Project

A Faster Parish:UPDATE (April Mercury)

Thank you very much to everyone who has contributed to our broadband survey so far. As promised last month, some highlights of the results are below.

broadband charts
Much Marcle, Rushall & Kynaston, How Caple, Sollers Hope & Yatton, Dymock, Kempley and Old Gore are represented in the survey response.

If you have not had a chance to contribute and would like to, please use the link below or charliefinnigan@gmail.com for a copy. Your responses are invaluable in providing a compelling picture of the need and demand for faster broadband in our local area, and will be heavily drawn on in our dealings with the next phase of the Fastershire process. The survey has also thrown up a number of problems that individual respondents are facing, together with the desirability of some general guidance on certain broadband related issues. We have started to examine these and will both contact relevant respondents individually as well as publishing any useful general guidance as we proceed.
In the meantime, there is a great deal of general information on the Fastershire website: www.fastershire.com

A Faster Parish:UPDATE MARCH 2016

A very big “thank you” to all those who have completed the Broadband Survey. Your answers are enormously helpful and if there are any yet to come please get them in very quickly, otherwise they will miss the analysis. Click on broadband survey to fill it in online – it will only take a few minutes.

The collation of answers is well underway and the full analysis will take place during March. We will publish the results online and in the Mercury (hopefully the April edition); the results will also form part of our case in due course to be included in the next phase of Fastershire.

As we proceed we will keep you abreast of developments and also try to shed further light on the intricacies of broadband service!

A Faster Parish: Survey (February Mercury)

Our survey on your current broadband service in the area is now live!

If you live in the locality we would love to hear your perspective before the end of February.
Click on broadband survey to fill it in online – it will only take a few minutes.

Alternatively paper copies are available in the Mercury and from the Much Marcle Post Office & Stores.

Thanks, We will share the results in early March.

A Faster Parish: The Broadband Technologies (January Mercury)

As mentioned below in ‘A Faster Parish:Our Broadband Future’ there are several competing broadband technologies, details of which are set out below.

With our large parishes, and such dispersed properties, it is virtually certain that no one technology will be in a position to enhance broadband performance for everyone. Wireless and fibre seem to offer the greatest benefit on a community basis, while 4G and satellite are probably the options for those who fall outside any future wireless or fibre coverage. Views on this would be welcomed –
charliefinnigan@gmail.com or contribute to the Faster Parish Facebook page.

As of now Fastershire is believed to be aiming for a greater fibre coverage and we believe that we should concentrate our efforts into getting our parishes included in that programme. The more our households register their interest in faster broadband the better our chances. So please register. There will be an opportunity in the New Year to provide more detail of your broadband shortcomings by means of a survey which will also be part of our case to be included in the programme.

Reference notes:
• “Standard” broadband speeds: speeds vary considerably depending on many factors, but as an indicator the average for the UK is 23 Mbps download, 5 Mbps upload, with rural areas faring worst.
• Data caps: many packages – in whichever technology – limit how much data you can transmit and receive in a month. Caps are generally available from the provider.
• Data usage: for reference, a local family of 4 (including 2 teenagers) has a monthly broadband usage of 185GB. This involves streaming TV, video and films, but not online gaming. For them, fibre would be the only affordable option.
• The contract for the next Fastershire rollout phase for the area covering our parishes is expected to be based on the financial model used in Gloucestershire which suggests that approximately 65% of those premises not currently able to access high speed internet will be covered.

1. 4G
Example Provider: O2

4G is the latest high speed network offered by mobile carriers. In our parishes we are scheduled for a 4G upgrade on all networks by Autumn 2016. However, there may be delays to implementation and the degree of upgrade may also depend on the geographical signal pattern (i.e. areas with 3G access may well move to 4G access, but areas currently restricted to GPRS may only achieve 3G). The true picture will only become clear after implementation.

To take advantage of this technology, you will need a 4G router – a device similar to the current standard style router used to access the internet, but containing a 4G SIM. These 4G routers provide high speed mobile internet access with download speeds up to 50-100Mbps and significantly faster upload speeds than standard broadband. They cost around £100 but may be included in a package bought from a mobile provider.

• Costs: Connection/setup: approx. £40. Data contracts: approx. £20-25 for 25GB per month.
• Pros: reasonable value, short term contracts available, easy setup, good data speeds.
• Cons: coverage patchy, data caps low, stated speeds inconsistent.

2. Satellite
Example Provider: Rock Satellite Services

This approach requires the installation of a satellite dish of around 1.2m in diameter at each property, which transmits to a local satellite receiver located at the provider’s offices. As a land-based point-to-point system this approach does not involve satellites high in orbit, avoiding any significant delay in data transmission. Speeds of up to 22Mbps download and 6Mbps upload can be expected. Contracts are flexible, for example 30 day rolling agreements.

• Costs: Equipment cost: approx. £350. Installation fee: approx. £150 (if within 40miles of Hereford City centre). Connection fee approx. £30. Data contracts: approx. £50 for 25GB per month.
• Pros: quick setup, proven technology, guaranteed high speed access, local support, short contracts.
• Cons: expensive setup and operating costs, low cap for data volumes, expensive to upgrade.

3. Wireless
Example Provider: Airband

Fixed Wireless Broadband (FWB), also known as Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), offers high speed internet access through radio signal rather than cable connections. While the technology is different, it can be thought of as similar to satellite. FWB utilises transmission masts or poles housing radio transmitters which communicate with radio receivers around the size of a 1L milk carton at customers’ premises. The receiver connects to an internal router via a fibre optic cable.

FWB is a community solution, requiring 35-50 users to make it viable in a new area. It also requires a line of sight to the mast radio transmitter to access the service. The Kempley community opted for this approach with the supplier Airband.

• Costs: Equipment cost (router): approx. £50-100. Installation fee: approx. £150. Data contracts: pricing depends on the coverage area but up to 20Mbps, 40GB usage £22 per month, 100GB usage £35 per month. 2 year contract & cancellation fees apply (80% charge for remaining contract time).
• Pros: community solution, reasonably quick setup once sufficient sign up, guaranteed bandwidth, local support.
• Cons: expensive, long contracts, low data caps, geographically variable (hills get in the way!), only 65% coverage (see reference notes above).

4. Fibre
Example Provider: Gigaclear

Gigaclear would install additional fibre networks underground to reach properties not covered by the main BT rollout. Fibre optic cabling would run from the Gigaclear cabinet throughout the community, providing connection points (an underground pot similar to a water metre pot) for every property, not just those that sign up. The only infrastructure visible above ground would be a green cabinet (sited somewhere central) and the underground connection point lids.

• Costs: installation fee: £100 including installation kit (1Gbps Wireless-n router, fibre connection cables up to 50m, and ancillaries). Longer cable kits incur a small additional fee. Data contracts: approximately £40-48 per month for up to 50Mbps up and down load (very similar to current BT Infinity Superfast* charges, but with much higher promised up and down speeds)**.

*BT Infinity Superfast Broadband: currently available to premises close to the new green cabinets in our parishes.
**Gigaclear: projected costs following a Gigaclear installation.

• Pros: community solution, future-proof (capable of very high download/upload speeds), reasonable costs, easy setup, local support, possible to use for data and voice so no need for a BT line.
• Cons: only 65% coverage (see reference notes above)

A Faster Parish:Our Broadband Future (December Mercury)

Background
• In 2011 the government set a target for 90% coverage for high speed internet access to be completed by May 2015. This initiative was funded to the level of £1.2 billion.
• In May of this year the National Audit Office concluded this target had been comprehensively missed.
• This did not stop the government setting a new target with the aim of achieving 99% access to high speed internet by 2018 with additional funding of £250 million.
• High speed internet access is rated at 30mbits/second. Many,if not most, rural broadband speeds are between 0.5mbit/second & 4mbits/second.
• In Herefordshire & Gloucestershire, funding has been routed through the Fastershire initiative, which contracted BT to upgrade all telephone exchanges with fibre optic cable, ensuring the availability of high speed internet access to all properties within around 300m of the cabinets via existing copper wiring.
• Some additional properties are also connected directly to the cabinet using fibre optic cable to achieve BT’s target quota of high speed broadband access within each area.

Faster Broadband: Where we are now?
• Phase one of the Fastershire work is nearing completion, and is likely to be completed by January next year in Herefordshire as a whole. Work is already mostly completed in the parishes of Much Marcle & Sollers Hope, although BT are struggling to complete some of the direct fibre-to-the-premise upgrades.
• If you have not done so, you can check whether you have the potential to upgrade to faster broadband by visiting www.fastershire.com
• Unfortunately, the geographical dispersion of properties in the local area means that a significant percentage of properties in Much Marcle & Sollers Hope are not in a position – literally – to benefit from this initial upgrade (too far from the cabinet for fibre optic to deliver higher speeds).
• Local conversations and feedback, particularly those related to the Neighbourhood Development Plan, indicate that slow broadband speeds remain a significant frustration within the local area.

Faster Broadband: Where to from here?
• A small group, Faster Parish, has been formed to attempt to produce a way forward for the parishes of Much Marcle and How Caple, Sollers Hope and Yatton. There are a number of potential solutions:
• The next stage of broadband deployment by Fastershire in 2016
• Wireless solutions such as implemented in Kempley
• Satellite solutions
• Mobile Data using the latest 4G transmission speeds
• Bidding for the final Fastershire phase, starting 2017, for businesses not covered in previous phases
• The next round of Fastershire funding is to be used to contract a smaller and more nimble supplier than BT to ‘hoover up’ properties which were not addressed in the first phase. This currently represents the most promising option for faster broadband, offering the greatest coverage for the lowest cost and the shortest timescale.
• Our parishes are included in this next stage within a large area of South Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, but there is no guarantee we will be selected. Procurement work is due to start in Spring 2016 with definite answers as to which premises will be covered by Autumn 2016.
• One key action to influence our chance of selection is to demonstrate strong local community demand for faster broadband to Fastershire and the bidding teams.

How you can get involved?
• Fill in the Fastershire interest page to help show demand for faster broadband in our local area
• Contribute your experiences, opinions and ideas on our Facebook page (search Faster Parish on Facebook, or click here . We are keen to hear what slow broadband speeds prevent you from doing, and what faster broadband would unlock.
• Visit this page or check the Mercury to keep up to date with developments on the project.
• If you would like a copy of this article to share more widely or have any queries please contact the Faster Parish team by emailing charliefinnigan@gmail.com or calling him on 07764 346 725.

Next month: the pros and cons of competing faster broadband technologies & timeline for the Fastershire initiative.

The Faster Parish team is Alex & Carol Leigh, John Finnigan and Charlie Finnigan.