July 2016 - Superfast Broadband is Here - Now What?

With cabinets 9 and 17 now accepting “superfast” fibre broadband orders, there are a number of things you can do to ensure a smooth and successful migration from your current service. The fibre enablement of our cabinets does not, and will not, improve existing broadband services. To benefit, you’ll need to purchase a new superfast (or equivalent) package from your preferred Internet Service Provider (ISP).

The old-style broadband signals still need to find their way up and over the hill, from BT’s Brimscombe telephone exchange, sharing something like 7km of copper wire, per telephone line, with analogue voice and other signals. The journey through the copper wires degrades and attenuates the signals to “next to nothing” by the time they reach the broadband routers in our homes, hence the poor bandwidth and continuity of service we’ve suffered - until now.

This is a very good time to get the ISPs competing for your custom, so do some research, talk to folk who have already ordered, and see if you can get a really great deal by playing off one against the others…

The work that’s been undertaken (at significant cost to all those from our community who pledged and donated to BCBAG fund for the upgrade) provides an alternative fibre-optic path for digital communications directly from the exchange to the new green boxes (that have been installed adjacent to the original cabinets 9 and 17). Within the new boxes, the fibre digital signals are recombined with the analogue telephone signals for the last leg of the journey into our homes, thus significantly improving the quality of the signal.

Once inside your property, the combined telephone and broadband signals arrive, over a twisted-pair of wires, at the “NTE5 residential telephone socket”. BT Openreach advise that your broadband router should be plugged directly into this socket because the internal telephone extension cabling, within most households, is not appropriate to support very high frequency broadband signals.

If you don’t already have one, it’s advisable to purchase an “Interstitial Faceplate vDSL Filter & I-Plate” that is designed to plug into a standard NTE5. Sitting between the BT’s main housing and the Customer's Connection Unit, it provides filtering for all connected telephone extensions and can be installed without having to disconnect any previously installed extension wiring. Router connection is provided by a shuttered RJ45 socket on the front of the unit. This all sounds very “techy” but is in fact very easy to do. A search for “vdsl faceplate” on Amazon brings up several good value options, and all good electrical suppliers should be able to provide similar. It’s also possible to purchase original Openreach equipment directly from BT. If you choose not to use an interstitial faceplate, you’ll need to continue using micro-filters to isolate the router and filter each of your connected telephone extensions.

If your NTE5 socket is located, for example, in an inaccessible corner of the hallway, away from a power socket, or you’d just like to install your router in a different location, maybe a home office, then there are things that you can do to overcome the limitations of your internal extension cabling.

Superfast broadband uses very high frequencies which are vulnerable to radio frequency (RF) interference. RF interference is generated by just about every electrical device you can think of from fridge/freezer motors to Christmas tree lights and the electrical wiring in your house. Static build-up and discharge, thunder storms, taxi radios, mobile phones, headphones and “fitbits” all add to the RF soup that can adversely impact broadband performance. The combined telephone and broadband signals are delivered over a pair of wires that act like long antennas or aerials which constantly receive and pick-up the RF interference from all around them. This interference can be “cancelled-out” by twisting the pair of wires over which the signals are passed. Standard internal extension wiring is twisted enough to cancel out and protect the lower frequencies needed to transmit analogue telephone voice conversations, but a much tighter degree of twist is needed to protect and transmit the much higher frequencies needed by superfast broadband. For this purpose, Category-5 cabling can be used, for extending the router connection by up to 30 meters within your property. It is possible to book an Openreach engineer to install a “Cat-5” extension or relocate the NTE5 socket, but expense can be spared if you choose to install the extension yourself.

The interstitial faceplate (described above) has an RJ45 socket on the front of the unit. The central 2 connections, pins 4 and 5, provide the broadband signal, and should be connected to a single twisted-pair of wires in the Cat-5 cable (e.g.: use the brown with white bands and its companion white with brown bands). Alternatively, provision is made for connection of the router via an internal 2 way IDC connector (usually labelled A and B). The router should be connected to the same twisted pair using an RJ11 plug (again using the central pair of pins).

There are many searchable resources online, including YouTube videos that will help to guide you through this kind of installation, and the BCBAG community are always ready help with advice, so just e-mail us and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction.

*** STOP PRESS ***

October 2015

We are delighted to share the news that due to the community spirit and generosity of those who have honoured their financial pledges, the Bussage and Chalford Broadband Action Group (BCBAG) have placed a contract with BTOpenreach for the upgrade of cabinets 17 and 9.

We have made a down payment of 50% of the price of the upgrade, which secures a delivery date of July 2016. The BCBAG team will continue to work with the remaining people who have pledged, but not yet paid, to secure the funding they promised to our fighting fund.

For the households that have not yet pledged or contributed, we still need your help to get over the finishing line. Around 40% of affected households have already generously contributed. This has been done “through gritted teeth”. After all, we all feel that BT should have upgraded the service free of charge and / or Fastershire should have stepped in and paid. Unfortunately they won't. BCBAG have been fighting these organisations on your behalf for over a year now and they will not budge. The only way to secure high speed broadband is to fund it ourselves.

Once we have secured the full amount of funding, we will try to negotiate with BTOpenreach to pull the upgrade date forward, in exchange for making the final payment.

After many years of putting up with a sub-standard broadband experience, we are on the verge of being able to enjoy high speed fibre broadband, but we will not stop there. Please be assured that even though we are self-funding, BCBAG Ltd. will continue to pressurise the relevant bodies to try and reclaim our community payment, although the success of this cannot be guaranteed.

Once again, our thanks go to all those community minded households that have contributed so far!

The board of BCBAG Ltd.

Contact BCBAG if you have any queries.

Useful links:

Our Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/bcbag.uk

Parish Letter: PDF

We are not alone! Here are some links to other community funded schemes and projects. We wish them all good luck:

August 2015

We have now received a new offer from BT reducing the cost of upgrading cabinets 9 and 17 from £32,236 to £23,240 inc VAT.

We need to act NOW!

BCBAG has been negotiating with BT and Fastershire for the last 18 months and we believe that this proposal from BT is the best arrangement we are likely to receive. If we can sign now the cabinets will be upgraded by July next year.

Details of the background of how we find ourselves in this situation and the other options we have examined are summarised in this document: High Speed Broadband for Bussage & Chalford Hill.

BCBAG has created a limited company amongst the action group members called BCBAG Ltd. This will allow those of you with VAT registered companies to request a VAT receipt. Perhaps this will also allow you to pledge slightly more. The Directors of BCBAG Ltd are: Anthony Pilkington, Mike Kuklenko, Cliff Duke, Mark Bareham, Monique Hannay, Roger Burleigh, Peter Rolls, Paul Severs and Adrian Fern.

Pledged money will be paid to Chalford Parish Council in a sub account.

Please pay in your pledges now, as we need the full amount (£23, 240) before we can sign the contract with BT.

We are still short of the target amount but if everyone is able to increase their pledge by perhaps £20 we should reach our target. If we exceed the target of raising £23,240 we will refund any surplus.

Please make payment of your contribution by cheque, payable to “Chalford Parish Council”. Cheques can be handed in as follows, accompanied by the payment form below. Please indicate if you will require an electronic receipt on the form:

  1. Chalford Parish Council office at 50 Geralds Way, opposite Tesco Express, during their normal office hours, or post it in the letter box.
  2. Bookcheck Ltd, Midway, Chalford, 08:45 – 17:00 Monday-Thursday, 08:45 – 14:45 Friday

If you have forgotten what you pledged or have any questions please contact us at: superfast@bcbag.uk

Also if your situation has changed and you cannot make a pledge anymore, please can you let us know so that we can update our records.

Regarding Superfast Broadband for all of Bussage and Chalford Hill.

October 2014

Dear resident of Bussage / Chalford Hill,

Why have I received this letter?

BT has provided the parish council with information that suggests your household is connected to either telephone Cabinet 17 or 9. This means that you currently have no access to superfast broadband. As well as impacting your ability to join the Internet revolution, this could also have a significant impact on the value of your house should you wish to sell it.

Who sent me the letter?

We are a group of residents who, with the support and backing of Chalford Parish Council, are interested in improving access to decent broadband to all of Chalford Hill and Bussage.

What is happening?

You may be aware of neighbours and friends who have been able to receive greatly improved internet speeds of up to 55 or even 60 Mbps over the last year through BT Infinity or other ISP providers. About a year ago BT Openreach upgraded most of the telephone/broadband cabinets in the area to fibre connections. This enables far greater speeds than old fashioned copper cables.

Unfortunately there are two cabinets left unchanged because BT decided their upgrade was not commercially viable. These cabinets are cabinet 17 (Bussage, top of Old Neighbourhood) and cabinet 9 (located near Sawyers). Due to the distance between these cabinets and the exchange at Brimscombe their speeds are very poor over the copper cables, the average speed for residents on cabinet 17 being 0.6-0.9 Mbps. As stated above, BT has provided the parish council with information that suggests you are connected to one of these two cabinets.

Why is this important?

As more and more devices in the home connect to the internet, the speed of the line is critical. Think of a modern home with smartphones, tablets, computers and televisions all connected to the internet. Current download speeds of 2-3MB can barely cope today. In the years to come, as demands increase with more and more devices internet connected this problem will get worse and worse.

In addition, lack of superfast broadband is already significantly impacting house prices. Buyers are increasingly checking broadband speeds before buying properties, and a recent report in the Daily Telegraph states that homes without superfast broadband will fall in value by up to 20% compared to comparable homes that have it. See: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/broadband/10671273/Slow-broadband-wipes-20-off-house-prices.html

What can we do about it?

Individually, numerous local residents as well as the Parish Council, County Councillors and Neil Carmichael (MP for Stroud) have taken up communications with BT, Openreach NGA (right to the top) and Fastershire (Government funding for rural broadband) to challenge the decision not to upgrade the cabinets in question. Unfortunately, due to various factors, we seem to be left only with two ways to go: Wait for at least another three years for the chance to be considered for funding in a new round of government investment, or pay our own way.

How much would it cost?

We have obtained a quote from Openreach for the upgrade of the two cabinets together. As there are about 370 households affected, if every household contributed the same amount it would come to £80 per home. We obviously hope as many as possible will agree to contribute. If only 70% come on board the price per household would rise to £100 each or to £160 each with 50% Participation. We hope that businesses or people who work from home and need decent broadband will contribute more and deduct it from their tax. If we are successful we could see the new cabinets in place in 9 months’ time and this will not impact on your choice of ISP provider. Please note that connection and service cost will be as normal and this is a one-off payment.

We would like you to pledge your support to help fund this project and maintain both our households’ ability to enjoy the internet revolution and also to ensure that we are not impacted with future buyer’s reticence to move to an area where this vital service is missing.

Please contact us with your name, email, address and how much you are able to contribute. We can then pull together and DO THIS THING!