What is Connect8?
We are a grass roots, non-partisan community campaign to bring fast broadband to our part of the South Chilterns. We are now working on bringing fibre broadband direct to people’s homes funded by government vouchers. In the past we have worked successfullly with BT and OCC on their green cabinets and with Village Networks to provide a genuine broadband choice, independent of phone lines for people who can’t or don’t want to be connected to BT’s service.
Where do you cover?
In 2019 we are working on a fibre service from the green cabinet at Greenfields via the top of Howe Hill along Britwell Hil to Britwell Hill Farm. This service is possible because Britwell Hill Farm paid for their own fibre to be laid out to them. Openreach put in some spare capacity and we can now offer a service to people passed by or close to that fibre route at vastly reduced cost. Government vouchers will make up the capital cost. We are updating the website slowly to reflect this new project.
The Village Networks service is live in parts of Stonor, Pishill and environs (waiting on location for node in Stonor village). Russell’s Water node is installed and operational and so is Britwell Hill.
Cookley Green. Greenfield, Christmas Common and some of Howe Hill are now covered by BT as is the Oxfordshire bit of North End. Maidensgrove is likely to be covered by BT, but Maidensgrove common might be too far away. Some 4G options exist there.
Given the mess that Connected Counties is in in Bucks we are planning with Village Networks how to connect some of Turville Heath and they can serve North End common.
How does the Village Networks broadband work?
The internet is sent to a small box on the outside of your house using wireless signals from a local transmitter. It doesn’t use your phone line. To subribe or enquire please go direct to Village Networks.
My phone line is terrible and has stopped me getting decent broadband despite switching providers, will this work for me?
Yes. The Village Networks service has nothing to do with your phone line. It uses radio communications from new transmitters in the Stonor/Britwell Hill area. We’ll need to do a simple survey to see if your property can receive the signal.
How fast is it?
The standard service provides between 15 Mbps and 30 Mbps download and up to 2 Mbps upload. Higher speeds are available by arrangement, at a higher cost. The ‘ping’ time is very good at around 20ms.
How much does it cost per month?
The same as BT’s Infinity product, £40.00 a month including VAT.
I only pay £15 a month for regular broadband now? Surely that will improve when BT upgrade? I’ll wait until then.
No it won’t. The only people who will see a substantial improvement to their broadband when BT upgrade their green cabinets are those who subscribe to the BT Infinity product at £39.99 a month. If you have low cost, awful broadband now, it will stay awful when BT upgrade unless you pay more, sorry.
Is there an installation cost?
Yes, a nice local man comes along and screws a small box to the roof of your house. A typical installation costs around £220. Vouchers from the Government can subsidise this. Some communities are being subsidised by local people to offset this cost for people who can’t afford it.
How do vouchers work?
Oxfordshire County Council run a government-backed voucher scheme to subsidise the cost of connecting to a new broadband networks in areas with poor connections. In this case, the install costs. We shall provide more information when we have it.
How does my community get connected?
Village Netowrks fits a ‘node’ onto a prominent house or structure. This is the size of a dinner plate. The node relays the broadband signal around the community to other houses. The community has to raise money to install a node – about £2,000. In several communities people have come forward to do this for the benefit of others – donating both the roof top for the node (a barn in one case) and the cash.
What might stop me getting connected?
Your property needs to be able to see one of the nodes we shall locate in the community or the Britwell Hill radio masts or the Stonor Deer Park mast. The signal won’t go through heavy tree cover or a hill. It’s not entirely straightforward so don’t despair if you can’t see either. Some properties we can connect by cable from the nearest property that can connect, in some cases the signal sneaks through. Village Networks need to do a simple survey for you.
Will it improve my mobile phone signal?
Not on its own, but the mobile phone boosters provided by the mobile companies that plug into broadband like the Vodafone Suresignal or ee Signalbox should work over the Village Networks product.But our experience of these gadgets on any network is that they can be a bit temperamental. If you have an old one of these, buy a new one, the latest models are much better. We understand that ee mobile coverage should improve substantially locally in the next year or so. Your smartphone might also have ‘wifi calling’ and make calls quite happily over Village Networks wifi.
I like technical things, how does it work again?
It’s near line of sight 5Ghz radio signal, using Mimosa kit. The system is based on 1 Gb/s fibre backhaul in the stables offices at Stonor Park. A fibre and power cable are mole-ploughed up to an antenna in Stonor Deer Park on the hill (our thanks to William Stonor and family). The signal travels from there to Britwell Hill police masts, where it is distributed to nodes in local communities. The nodes relay and manage the traffic and bandwidths (it’s far more effective to run five properties through a node than to run each direct to the mast). Some nodes and a few individual properties connect direct to the Stonor antenna and some properties direct to Britwell Hill where there isn’t sufficient population density to provide a node.
Can I give up my BT phone line?
Yes, that’s possible. Village Networks offer a voice service over the broadband network at a small additional cost, you can even keep your existing home phone number. Or, if you can get a mobile signal booster working just give up on a landline. BT, Sky and others all try and keep people hooked by bundling their sports packages with phone and broadband so bear that in mind. If there is a major local power cut, you might lose service. BT has a huge battery installation at its exchanges that keep power going.
Can you help me find out when my BT green cabinet will go live or if i shall be covered?
Yes. We have a constant dialogue with Oxfordshire County Council who have contracted BT to provide a broadband service mainly using DSL down phone lines. We help unblock local cabinet issues and keep a track on when they are due to be installed and go live. Please drop us a line and we shall see if we can help.
How are you structured and funded?
Connect8 is a volunteer campaign running across eight or more parishes and two counties. Village Networks in a local small business with whom Connect8 has worked to develop a local broadband product. Connect8 also raises money to subsidise the Village Networks equipment. Like a local sports club or village hall raising money, we have set up a non-profit corporate vehicle with a bank account Connecteight Limited (a company limited by guarantee) to hold and transfer funds. Funds come from local people. Connect8 the campaign has an open, informal governance structure – a group meets in a local pub, get in touch if you’d like to come. Connecteight Limited has three of those people as Directors.
Can I help?
Yes, yes, yes. We are always looking for new volunteers in a variety of roles – simply helping spread the word, organising clumps of houses to subscribe together, helping organise access for surveys, professional skills such as accountancy, marketing etc, people who might want to become directors or members of the company, potential donors or fundraisers. Please get in touch.