We 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 – email@example.com
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.