Good broadband news for some, but at least 30% of Connect8 won’t get superfast

BT slideWe have been told for over a year that the public subsidy to BT for modern broadband wouldn’t come to the Connect8 area.  In many meetings, phone calls, chats, emails etc it has been made clear that our patch is not a priority, is difficult to reach and has too low a population density to fund from the public purse.  Only Christmas Common would get a new cabinet and even that was in doubt.  Now it seems that has changed.

In the last few days we have started to get sight of substantial Oxfordshire County Council, SODC, BT, central government and other investment coming to the area.  This first manifested itself in the planning notification for the unheralded Lower Greenfield Cabinet.  Further enquiries with OCC and a meeting with BT have revealed a partially worked up plan to bring modern broadband to about 70% of the houses in the postcodes covered by Connect8.  See the BT slide above – there is some confusion over postcodes/place names – we have handed over a better list and await a response.  We are now seeing other planning notices coming in, even in the Stonor Valley, over near Nuffield/Park Corner etc.

OCC inform us that substantial savings have been found in the so-called Phase1 rollout and Phase2 planning and this money can be deployed now.  And the Connect8 patch is now a priority.  BT Openreach are now in full flow planning where to deploy cabinets and other infrastructure to serve superfast broadband down phone lines at a cost (to the public purse and BT) of about £1,100 per house.   This is estimated to reach 70% of the postcodes/houses in our patch by end 2017.  That last 30% will be too expensive to reach on current plans – for instance just too far even from the new cabinets or with knackered phone lines.

This is the list of postcodes they are working to but it is important to remember that your postcode in its entirety could being the 30% (not that each of these postcodes will get 70%).  We have handed over a better list but if you are not on here somewhere leave a comment on this article or get in touch:

Stonor

RG9 6HB

RG9 6HE

Pishill

RG9 6HJ

RG9 6HH

RG9 6HR

RG9 6HS

Swyncombe and some of Pishill with Stonor

RG9 6ED

RG9 6EE

RG9 6EG

RG9 6EJ

RG9 6EL

RG9 6EJ

RG9 6EN

RG9 6EP

RG9 6EQ

RG9 6ER

RG9 6ES

RG9 6ET

 

Park Corner

RG9 6DT

RG9 6DS

RG9 6DR

RG9 6DX

RG9 6DP

RG9 6HL

RG9 5RS

RG9 5SG

RG9 5RR

RG9 5SE

 

Little Stoke OX10

OX10 9HH

OX10 6AX

OX10 6AZ

OX10 6AU

OX10 7AY

 

Howe Hill

OX49 5HA

OX49 5HB

OX49 5EY

OX49 5EZ

OX10 5HE

 

Greenfield

OX49 5HJ

OX49 5HG

Christmas Common

OX49 5HN

OX49 5HL

 

Pyrton

OX49 5HF

OX49 5AP

OX49 5AN

OX49 5AR

OX49 5DA

 

Shirburn

OX49 5DR

OX49 5DL

OX49 5DJ

OX49 5DH

OX49 5DN

OX49 5DW

There are important caveats to this – we won’t know the speeds people can get until the infrastructure is in.  Also we won’t know who is in the 70% and who isn’t for a while nor quite where they see the boundaries of our patch.  The (woeful) postcode checker on the Better Broadband for Oxfordshire site reflects this plan, but don’t go looking for cabinet details on the corresponding cabinet map for a while.  BT say they should have a detailed plan, still with caveats by June and we have invited them to address a Connect8 community meeting them (they have accepted).  There might be an outline plan in March, but with heavy caveats.  One can’t read too much at present into the plans coming in for cabinets – the phasing of the BDUK and BT planning process is quite complicated and it won’t make sense on the ground for a while.

Also we don’t know how budget will be allocated when the inevitable engineering problems are hit installing/clearing ducting, actually testing, making sure the existing lines are fit for purpose etc etc. What will be done if these issue push a particular piece of kit over budget etc etc. does that post code just get chopped.  So don’t count on anything at all until you are sitting at home online at 25Mb/s.

Overall this is undoubtedly good news for those who end up being ‘in’ and eventually connected at superfast speeds, whoever/whenever you are.  We have gone from probably 10% getting superfast from BT to a theoretical 70%.   We don’t know whether this is as a result of our campaigning, the kindness of politicians and bureaucrats or the threat of a credible competing infrastructure to BT via the Village Networks proposal of December 2015.   The BT and OCC officers we have spoken to were sincere, helpful and in good faith.  But I can’t quite get to the bottom of it yet.  Even I am not deeply cynical enough to think that the imminent visit of Parliament’s Select Committee can drive such action, before anyone suggests it.

We shall still carry on however with the Village Networks scheme – which, if we can get over some technical snags will deliver faster and provides insurance for those of us who aren’t confident in the down the phone wire technology working for their property.  We have discussed all the above with Village Networks and they are happy still to proceed.

More as we get it, as they say.

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 , , , , | 12 Comments

Unexpected new cabinet proposed for Lower Greenfield – a gift horse?

cabinet lower greenfield

BT Openreach are planning an unexpected new fibre broadband cabinet for Lower Greefield outside Greenfield Manor – but we don’t know how it is being funded or when it will go live.  This cabinet has not been in any published OCC or BT plans (and still isn’t) so we presume it is the result of Connect8 campaigning.  Our thanks go to whoever sorted this out – our elected representatives, Ed Vaizey or behind the scenes magic at BT.  If it works this could bring superfast speeds to Howe Hill, Greenfield, Lower Greenfield and Britwell Hill. This is good news, even if the local phone lines that will distribute broadband from the cabinet are themselves are so knackered that it might not work – like upping the pressure on a leaky garden hose.  This is all great for Connect8 including the radio solution we are working on.  But at the risk of looking a gift horse in the mouth we retain a healthy scepticism about when and what this cabinet will deliver.

So what is going on here?

Peter Richardson’s diligence unearthed the planning notification (it doesn’t need planning permission as it is telecommunications equipment).  After some confusion, the original letter had the wrong location, outside the Christmas barn at Greenfield the location has been pinned down to outside Greenfield Manor.

In all public plans hitherto, the most we were getting from OCC/BT Openreach was a modern replacement for (the completely full) ‘Cabinet 2‘ at Christmas Common maybe next year – far too far away to benefit Lower Greenfield, Howe Hill, Britwell Hill.

Oxfordshire County Council BDUK – the people who give public money to BT to build cabinets in Oxfordshire – didn’t seem to know abut this new Lower Greenfield cabinet when Peter asked them.  So this cabinet may be planned but not yet funded – generally BT Openreach charge about £40k for one of these we understand.

We don’t know where the fibre will come from to feed the internet into this new cabinet. There appears to be an underground junction box at this point.  BT Openreach will have to either flush out the existing ducting or dig a very long trench from Christmas Common or string it along some poles.  Digging is astronomically expensive when BT does it – BT Openreach tried to charge me £54,763.37 ‘excess construction costs’ in 2013 for digging 2.5km of fibre to West Cottage (I demurred, the price also did not include VAT).

The phone lines in the area are knackered and ill suited to carrying VDSL superfast signals.  The whistling, cracking, popping and general low volumes on the voice lines are symptoms of damaged lines after years of neglected maintenance in our harsh local weather.  I have three lines and two have not been working at all for weeks on voice, let alone broadband. There is also a shortage of new line pairs from Cabinet 2 at Christmas Common which is full. This doesn’t help good quality broadband and will diminish the theoretical figures for reach of superfast services.

If the Lower Greenfield cabinet was plugged into good bits of copper then in theory, using this chart of how speeds fall as distance increases then ‘upper’ Howe Hill at 900 metres would get 30m/bs (if this is where they are fed from – there is some confusion), Greenfield at 690metres some 35Mb/s, the properties around the chicken farms on Britwell Hill at about 1.3km would get about 22mb/s and me stuck out at the end of the line at Britwell Hill 2km away about 18Mb/s.  All theoretical, but even is diminished by line problems, much better than the proverbial slap in the face with a wet fish.

If this cabinet goes ahead it’s great for the wireless option for Connect8 as it brings fibre closer to the Britwell Hill masts which we can then relay on to people by radio, bypassing the problems with local phone lines and Heineken-like reaching the parts other technologies can’t reach.

Suddenly Cookley Green would be in range of fibre only 1.45km from a cabinet.  But it isn’t.  In the crazy world of BT you aren’t allowed to switch exchanges – Cookley Green is fed from Nettlebed and must remain so.  Or to put it another way another big slug of public money has to be spent to help Cookley Green because of a BT internal policy.  This will be happening thousands of times across the country as the edges of ‘exchange areas’ are filled in, without being able to hold hands across boundaries.

We have also heard of a new cabinet at the turn from the A4130 up to Huntercombe End and are checking to see whether this is new or already in plan and what impact it might have – more later.

Posted in Britwell Hill, Christmas Common, Cookley Green, Greenfield, Howe Hill, Swyncombe | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Happy New Year from Connect8

At the risk of adding to the burden of seasonal round robins here’s a quick update from us at Connect8.

We are delighted that Village Networks (who provide broadband in Hambleden Valley) have come up with a multi­stage plan that could bring broadband to hundreds of local homes using radio signals from the Britwell Hill police masts. In the same way that TV, satellite, 3G and 4G mobile phones use radio signals so can broadband. The service would be more or less indistinguishable from BT ‘superfast’ ADSL. It’s affordable and do­able, if we can clear a couple of obstacles. Stage one would reach the homes below, which receive radio signals in a direct line from the mast.  The green zones should be fine, the red ones probable (click map to get to full size).

connect8 phase one map

Stage 2, which could be implemented quickly thereafter would bring in the ‘deeper’ sections of the Stonor valley, by relaying the signal from Britwell Hill back up the valley.

The full proposal is here

But we still have two obstacles to overcome:

Unexpected radio signal congestion on the police masts – we are trying to find a frequency slot that doesn’t cause interference with the police. Think of this as like driving around a shopping centre carpark in the sales looking for a free space…..

Getting the internet to the Britwell Hill masts for onward distribution to us (known as ‘backhaul’). Village Networks are in talks with RAF Benson to see if we can get a radio link from there – the Government is keen that taxpayers can use public infrastructure to help broadband.

We’ll let you know when we make progress on these. If we can’t get this to work, then we’ll find another route!

We continue to enjoy excellent support from our SODC Cllr Anna Badcock, OCC Cllr Steve Harrod and ourMP John Howell and Ed Vaizey the Minister, as well as from officers in the police and armed services.

We have been talking to the staff of the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), who have expressed an interest in visiting us to take evidence as part of their inquiry into ‘superfast connectivity’. If anything comes of that we’ll let you know, and it may well take place in February.

Finally we maintain our contact with the OCC Better Broadband team as part of our drive to ensure that fibre is enabled at Cuxham, Britwell Salome and Christmas Common and virtually all around us.   This contact has been reinforced following the personal intervention of Bill Murphy the head of BT OpenReach – a meeting has been set up for late January with the new Partnership Director for the SE to discuss all the points above as we remain convinced that it will take a combination of fibre and radio to give us the 100% coverage we are looking for.

Peter Richardson

Connect8 Co-ordinator

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 | 4 Comments

Proposal for Connect8 Phase One from Village Networks

Just before Xmas Connect8 received a proposal from Village Networks to use the Britwell Hill police radio masts to deliver broadband using radio waves to hundreds of local properties.  The proposal is here

Connect8 Phase I Proposal – short

For ease of handling we have taken out the pictures of technical kit which made the file too large.

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 | Leave a comment

Connect8 meet Ed Vaizey

At a  meeting arranged by Henley MP John Howell, the Minister for Telecoms certainly now knows about the work of Connect8 in the quest for fast broadband in a large part of South Oxfordshire following some strong representations made by our members.

The briefing document we submitted can be viewed  here Ed Vaizey Connect8 summary

He pledged assistance in our use of the two masts:

Britwell Masts 1     Christmas Common Mast1

Watch this space as negotiations proceed!

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 | Leave a comment

BT must get their act together…

The pressure for superfast broadband is mounting and BT have some seriously challenging policy decisions to make if they are to preserve the future of Openreach

These articles are interesting:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34256790

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-34324046

Connect8 maintain close contact with the Oxfordshire County Council Better Broadband team but remain frustrated by a total lack of response from BT in requests for accurate information as to the existing telecom infrastructure in the area we cover

 

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Our team has been busy – a broadband solution in sight?

IMG_1831

It has become increasingly clear that many of the premises in our Connect8 area will only get a fast internet service through the use of radio technology but the nearer the fibre source the better.

For radio to work, we need to establish clear lines of sight using high points and relay locations that are not subject to 360 degrees tree coverage – we used a cherry picker to establish the basis of a scheme and the optimum starting point.

This month (September) is the opportunity to evaluate all the information we have to subsequently get cracking.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

BBC TV news covers Connect8

The BBC gave us a video clip of their piece as iPlayer expires after a while

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Superfast fibre arrives in Watlington

The five cabinets in Watlington are enabled as are those in Nettlebed – the the two towns are just six miles apart and with many places between – it cannot be that difficult to get fibre further so the communities that are missing out can enjoy faster speeds!

Speeds in Watlington have recently been recorded as below:

watlingtonbroadbandspeeds (1)

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A 4G initiative from an enterprising farmer

If all else fails, this could be the answer providing you can get 4G!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3200291/Farmer-sick-poor-internet-signal-built-DIY-mast.html

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