Now connecting people in Stonor and Pishill at around 30Mb/s, other local communities coming soon

white-pond-1Village Networks are now offering connections in Stonor and Pishill.  You can see a screen shot here of an actual test result at 29Mb/s in Stonor.  To get connected, see this link for details.  Remember this is independent of BT, nothing to do with your phone line.  For businesses or anyone who wants to pay a premium, much faster speeds can be delivered.  The monthly cost is the same as BT’s ‘Infinity’ service.  You should be able to run a mobile signal booster over one of these if you don’t have a mobile signal and, with the right kit can even give up your BT phone line.

Next up, in a few weeks will be Russell’s Water, Cookley Green, North End, Britwell Hill, Howe Hill, Maidensgrove, Swyncombe and Turville Heath. These all depend on us getting an aerial on the police masts at Britwell Hill, which the police have finally agreed, and in some cases a local ‘node’ in the community to relay the signal from the masts.  We’ll publish an update when Britwell Hill mast goes live and we can start work on other communities.  If you have any questions, get in touch via Village Networks or  contact Peter Richardson, Ian Beecher-Jones or me at Connect8. Happy to help – our frequently asked questions might have the answer.

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Big turn out for Connect8 in Pishill and Stonor

Paul firth talks to local people about village networks

Over thirty people turned out at The Crown Inn on a freezing night to discuss bringing Village Networks fast broadband to Pishill and Stonor.  Paul Firth and Roger Carey from Village Networks explained how they could bring wireless broadband to houses in Pishill by putting a small antenna up on the ridge in the vineyard.  It was a complex install – involving laying some fibre and power to the antenna that would cost £9,000.  If the community could find this money, then subject to survey, residents could get up to 30Mb/s broadband at the same price as BTInfinity.  The service could be running within weeks. More details on the service are here.  Someone from the community was needed to co-ordinate fund raising – there was much discussion afterwards as to who that might be.  Connect8 would be happy to be a vehicle to hold money, if someone was to come forward to organise on the ground.

In Stonor the service is already running from an antenna in Stonor deer park and a node will be installed on the barn at the Henley end of the village shortly.  The first customer to be connected from White Pond Farm was at the meeting and reported a good steady service at 29Mb/s not affected even by recent severe weather.

There is a good window for Pishill right now, VN are waiting to get an antenna on the police masts at Britwell Hill (the signal for Pishill will come from Stonor to an antenna, not Britwell) .  After that is turned on, VN will be busy connecting other communities.

To enquire or sign up use the contact details here. There’s a detailed set of questions and answers here.

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First wireless broadband connections for Connect8 ……

white-pond-1  Long awaited but now underway!white-pond-speedtest

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It’s underway ….

The starting point for the Wireless Broadband service in conjunction with Village Networks was to find a source of fibre in our area.

We found that at Stonor Park and by courtesy of the Hon. William Stonor and his father Lord Camoys, we have today been busy laying fibre cable from the house to a hilltop site where we will transmit to the Thames Valley Police masts at Britwell Hill

img_0081  the-mast-site-team

First in line for connection will be Stonor and Pishill but and then via Britwell Hill TVP masts toRussells Water, Cookley Green and Maidensgrove to follow and in other directions where BT coverage is not an option

Its taken two years, loads of meetings and head scrathching but we’re underway

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First bit of new local broadband network goes live – can you help?

Good news for local broadband – the first bit of the Village Networks broadband for our hills and valleys has gone live.  We hope to deliver a 20mbs service to people in Stonor around the end of November and Russells Water and Britwell Hill in December.  I explain how below in a construction update.  We now need some help from local people.

Are you an accountant?
We have two offers to cash flow the start up phase so work can go ahead.  We have set up a company limited by guarantee ‘Connecteight Limited’ (the structure often used by sports etc clubs for non-profit endeavours) to receive funds.  We are seeking help from a local accountant on the best way to manage this, VAT etc.  One of those things that is easy if you are expert, but baffling if not.  We can pay someone but wondered if there was a volunteer from the local population.  Please drop me a line
Construction update

Further to my blog post of 27 September  SODC have confirmed that the little pole in the deer park does not need planning permission and Historic England have said that’s ok with them.  The fibre to Stonor Park has now been turned on (‘lit’ as they say) and fibre and power will be run up the hill in w/c 7 November.   From the deer park pole Village Networks plan to send the signal down into Stonor Village to a prominent building and then relay it along the village from there to individual houses.  If you have such a building (a barn say or tall house with a decent view along the village), please get in touch.
We are waiting for the final paperwork from the police to put equipment onto their Britwell Hill antennas, from where Village Networks will relay the signal to local communities.

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Broadband running by Xmas…..

connect8 phase one mapWe are preparing to start work on Connect8  broadband for local people and Village Networks will have it running in several locations by Xmas.  Here’s the plan, subject to one or two caveats:

Stonor Park has an unused optical fibre connection to the Internet.  Village Networks are ‘relighting’ this to provide a 1Gb connection to the Internet, known as ‘backhaul’.  This is sufficient to provide excellent broadband to Stonor House and offices and the local community.  We are grateful to William Stonor and his team for alerting us to this fibre.

By kind permission of William Stonor and family VN will send a broadband signal to the top of a hill in the deer park overlooking Stonor where they will locate a 1.8 metre (5’11”) high scaffold pole or fence post amidst a clump of saplings (approximately here) with a pair of small aerials.  From there the signal will be sent into Stonor village and up to the Thames Valley Police radio masts at Britwell Hill.

From Britwell Hill the signal can be transmitted to local communities (here’s our earlier now slightly dated article on how it works).  Each community or clump of houses will have a central ‘node’ that can see the Britwell Hill masts and then relays the signal by radio around local houses.  A node is about the size of a dinner plate (now using Mimosa kit, which can be painted).  Russell’s Water is lining up to be the first node with energetic support from Ian Beecher-Jones, others who want to get going should let us know.

The subscriber tariff will begin at £40/month inc VAT for up to 24 Mbs download /2Mbps upload unlimited service. Business subscribers: up to 24/12 unlimited, 24hr on-site support, £75/month. Made-to-measure service for higher bandwidths where available, priced to suit.  BT Superfast unlimited is £38.99 a month including line rental.  There isn’t a line rental with the Village Networks product and you can run your phone over it, ditching the BT line.  It should also be possible to run a mobile device like Vodafone Suresignal over the broadband to improve radically your mobile reception.

We hope to get installation in each household subsidised by a voucher from the government (BDUK) and are wading through their process.  For those currently struggling on regular DSL this service will be like night and day.  The expense is well worthwhile when one considers the time and frustration saved and the number of expensive journeys reduced through better online connection.

We are working through three steps to get work started:

  • checking that the small pole does not need planning permission.  In our view it is a de-minimis, practically invisible item of telecommunications infrastructure of great community value.  We have the support of the local parish council and are talking to SODC case officers.
  • frequency clearance with OFCOM for Britwell Hill and final paper work with TVP.  TVP have been tremendously helpful but their process is long winded and we hope we can get this wrapped up quickly.
  • fund raising.  The combination of radio technology, Stonor Park making a contribution in kind, TVP helping us out and a local small business makes this a very inexpensive way of putting in broadband.  We are setting up a company limited by guarantee (the structure often used by sports clubs, local community ventures) to raise and hold funds then disburse them to Village Networks.   This is the approach used successfully in Hambleden for community broadband.  Our first target is to raise £10,000 to get the early work done at Stonor and Britwell Hill.  I shall write more on fundraising but  please drop me a line with any offers –

For some of course, BT is coming over the next couple of years with backing from OCC, albeit with all the uncertainties and caveats that came out at the Russell’s Water village hall meeting.   And not everyone will get BT superfast in the end, we think. Here’s a chance though to get a good service quickly working with local people and over which we have some control, supported  by local engineers from Aylesbury.  And of course it’s exactly what Norman Tebbit had in mind when he privatised BT – one local competitor that keeps everyone on their toes.

A bit like Strictly, this project has slow, slow, quick, quick, slow phases.  We are now in a quick, quick phase and shall be writing more in the near future.  We are always looking for volunteers – even if it is just to post leaflets, spread the word or professional services support.

Posted in Britwell Hill, Britwell Salome, Christmas Common, Cookley Green, Cuxham, Greenfield, Howe Hill, Little Stoke, Maidensgrove, Northend, Park Corner, Pishill with Stonor, Pyrton, Russells Water, Swyncombe, Turville Heath | Tagged , | Leave a comment

BT superfast community meeting read out

About 72 people attended the meeting in Russell’s Water village hall last week to hear from BT and Oxfordshire County Council on their plans for broadband roll out.  I am grateful to Craig, Mark and Stacey for coming along and doing their best to update us.  And to Ian and the village hall team.

It’s fair to say many people found it quite confusing.  There’s a general sense that BT, with OCC money is doing something, but for the majority it is unclear as to what and when. A few people went away clearer that eventually they will get something, others far from clear. A good number of people discovered that not only did they not know what speeds they might get and when, but nor did BT.

What did we learn?
Planning for BT broadband is only at a high level in our area and they haven’t yet got to the detail of which houses. Coverage is supposed to hit 70% of our houses (post code list here).

In many cases we shall only know which specific houses within a postcode area will get better or superfast broadband AFTER BT have done all the work and the resident runs a speed test.

Right now, the best way to check when your house will get connected is to go to the broadband post code checker map on the Better Broadband Oxfordshire website. This is only accurate however to partial postcodes – it doesn’t yet drill down to your specific post code.  If you enter your post code LEAVING OFF the last letter, that’s as accurate as it gets. In rural areas with long line lengths this isn’t terribly helpful – eg RG9 6H covers the whole of the Stonor Valley, where there will clearly be differing timing and outcomes.

Timings are uncertain unless a specific short term date is given. Detailed forward planning is published six months ahead of the date it will happen. Check the post code checker every quarter, noting caveats above.

BT work is scheduled to be complete by end December 2017. Having worked myself on many projects I am always sceptical of ‘end of calendar year’ deadlines. This sort of roll-out is staff dependent and you lose many on any roster over Xmas. I’d expect this to over run – although that it better than it being cut off at year end if unfinished.

The green cabinets we see being notified through planning and starting to pop up only partially inform coverage and we don’t have a full picture yet (see six month planning cycles above). Some houses are not connected to cabinets at all but direct to the exchange (known as a DEL line) so they won’t benefit from cabinets near them which might be serving other communities.  Conversely just because a cabinet isn’t planned for your area yet doesn’t mean you won’t get superfast – some rearranging of lines might go on or a new cabinet that could help instead. There are other structures (cabinets etc) being planned that have not yet come forward through the planning system – see this list presented at the meeting which BT/OCC are mapping.

OCC and BT are working on a better map that explains inconsistencies in the current situation – eg Stonor village is listed in OCC’s white list of postcodes as not due for coverage, yet it will have two cabinets. We expect to hear from them shortly as this list of new structures is decoded so we can grasp it. I have mapped the ‘white’ postcodes that OCC does not forecast the current wave of BT investment reaching or as i understand it less than 50% of the houses there will get it – map – the circles map I circulated at the meeting is here.

People corresponding with Craig Bower the OCC programme manager seem to have had good results. Even if it only confirms the murk.

Elsewhere, in Bucks Rick Scannell of North End has learned that they have rectified their problems and now have a plan which is slowly emerging into the public domain. I have asked Bucks for all the Connect8 postcodes and will publish that here.

Connect8 is working with Village Networks on a wireless broadband project to fill in the gaps left by BT and give people who want it a choice. Following the BT meeting we are optimistic about launching this later in 2016 providing 10-20 Mb/s. We shall have more news on this in the next few weeks as our planning firms up.   We have put the folk from Little Stoke in touch with Countryside Broadband who run a similar service in that direction.

Posted in Britwell Hill, Britwell Salome, Christmas Common, Cookley Green, Cuxham, Greenfield, Howe Hill, Little Stoke, Maidensgrove, Northend, Park Corner, Pishill with Stonor, Pyrton, Russells Water, Swyncombe, Turville Heath, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Christmas Common in summer…..

Christmas Common Cabinet 1

At last it has arrived! The long awaited cabinet is just awaiting connection and subsequent enabling and we can feel pleased to have achieved this significant milestone.

We await feedback on what benefits are felt and fast broadband will give our settlements a real boost in connectivity and a real plus in terms of sustainability – important factors in all respects for business and home users and property values

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Broadband update – approaching a complete solution?

We are fast approaching a complete local solution for high speed broadband.  On Tuesday BT will present in Russell’s Water village hall on the extent and timing of their plans for super fast broadband down the phone line.  It’s a 1930 start – all welcome, presentation and questions, I shall chair it with Peter. Their work is primarily subsidised by Oxfordshire County Council.  BT are contracted to reach 70% of local homes. On Tuesday we hope to hear more on which homes precisely and when.  We can now see plans for BT green cabinets in Stonor (x2), Maidensgrove (see second half of document at link), Lower Greenfield, Greenfield Farm, Christmas Common, Swyncombe, PyrtonHowe Road and Park Corner.  Broadly speaking customers should start being connected this Autumn, continuing to the end of 2017.

BT declaring the 70% that they will connect using subsidy creates the space for Village Networks to target the remaining 30% using radio technology at 20-30 Mb/s.  Thanks to local people we have now found a source of high speed connection to the internet (backhaul) at Stonor Park by reactivating an optical fibre and have another option for backhaul from Thame.  Thames Valley Police have now agreed in principle for Village Networks to use their masts on Britwell Hill as a distribution point. Broadly speaking if you are more than one kilometre from a cabinet the Village Networks solution should work better for you, because it uses radio not copper lines. You can have a phone on the Village Networks system using Vonage.  The service should start in the last quarter of 2016.  The Village Networks solution, subject to some testing should serve our communities that are over the border in Bucks at North End and Turville Heath.  Village Networks will not get a BDUK state subsidy and we hope to raise money for this locally.  We anticipate that the amount required will be about £25,000.

After Tuesday’s meeting we’ll do some sort of write-up for this website and I shall write further articles here with more detail.  Village Networks will do some planning with the new BT information and firm up their proposal.  VN will be at the Tuesday meeting in listening mode if you want to talk with them.

We remain grateful to the many people putting so much effort into bringing broadband to our communities, not least our elected representatives and their officials and police officers and staff.

Posted in Britwell Hill, Britwell Salome, Christmas Common, Cookley Green, Cuxham, Greenfield, Howe Hill, Little Stoke, Maidensgrove, Northend, Park Corner, Pishill with Stonor, Pyrton, Russells Water, Swyncombe, Turville Heath | 1 Comment

OFCOM report – some help but let’s keep ploughing on

Ofcom has reported today on a range of BT issues.  There are  couple of things that may be helpful to us, but it is hard to tell and they will take a year or two to implement.

  1. Ofcom is belatedly asking Openreach to allow other companies to use Openreach’s telegraph poles and ducts to lay fibre that competes with BT.  As part of this Ofcom is asking Openreach to produce a database of where and in what condition the ducts and poles are in.  Superficially this might be helpful to us in the Connect8 area as it is impossible to buy modern services here over BT’s clapped out wires.  So if you are prepared to pay then it might now be possible to get some fibre over the last mile or two or three.  Also we know that BT doesn’t know the state or even precise location of many local wires, ducts etc. It might make things more amenable to people like Gigaclear. As Ofcom says ‘Inevitably, this kind of investment is most viable in denser urban areas and other places with strong demand for new services. ‘  this could be useful for people with deep pockets or businesses who aren’t reached by the plans BT and OCC are drawing up which should bring fibre cabinets nearer to us, from which we could ten run services.
  2. Service standards for Openreach – many local people suffer very poor line quality and basic DSL performance.  Introducing service standards might help this, tied in with delivering 10Mb/s as a new universal services.  Locally services are around 0.5Mb/s to 2Mb/s in part because the kit is knackered and the distances too long.  so improved service standards should help.  As OFCOM say ‘we will seek to ensure that, if things do go wrong, consumers and small businesses receive automatic compensation for any loss of or reduction in service. This will provide a significant incentive for providers to improve service and fix faults quickly.’ The plans being drawn up by Openreach and the County Council should improve this but not for everyone.
  3. OFCOM draw attention to a review I hadn’t heard of that will be of interest locally ‘our review of the small market where local loop unbundling of BT’s copper cables
    is not economically viable and superfast broadband is not yet available – the
    Wholesale Broadband Access Market Review; ‘ Basically this is for exchanges like Turville where you are stuck with BT – I shall put a submission in on this.

Much of the media coverage will be on OFCOM not separating out BT and Openreach – I am relaxed about this – it would have led to years of court battles and wouldn’t have helped us an inch.  We just carry on working with Village Networks on their proposal for a radio based local solution and also with OCC and BT on their plans for subsidised VDSL locally.

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