Why register now?

It is important to let Box Broadband know your level of interest now for several reasons.

  • The roll-out will be demand driven and routes will follow advance orders, to ensure the network is commercially viable and thus sustainable in the long term.
  • Further funding has been promised subject to projected connection numbers; a poor take-up at this stage may well cause the project to stall in a few months.
  • The fibre must cross private land, so Box need contact details for all cooperative landowners.
  • In some cases it may not be feasible to go back and extend the network later.
  • Ensuring your property has access to the network will increase its value and give you or a buyer the option to connect later.
  • Those ordering a service in advance will get a special installation deal.

Click here to register or phone Box Broadband Ltd on 0330 113 0180.

Posted in Community Fibre, FAQ | Leave a comment

Box Broadband Announce Start Date

Box Broadband have now confirmed that they intend to start ground works on 24th April. This initial work by Boxcom will be the installation of duct and fibre optic cabling in fields and tracks. Once the long haul routes are complete, the head-end cabinet will be installed and connected. The first postcodes to get symmetric Gigabit pure fibre to the premises (FTTP) service availability will be announced based on progress, and depending on factors such as demand, Council permits, way-leaves, and efficient network design. The plans published on the Box Broadband web site should be updated as the project progresses. Subsequent coverage will be confirmed during the network construction, which will be demand driven, i.e. areas with highest demand will be connected first.

If you have not already done so, remember to register your intention to order the service on the Ewhurst, Ellens Green and Walliswood page. This form now asks you to select a service speed (50, 200 or 1000 Mbps) which will help Box with planning, but does not commit you at this stage. Also consider organising a local campaign in your street to ensure everyone is aware of the benefits, increasing demand, and get the service sooner.

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Funding Our Community Project

Box Broadband will need additional funding to complete our community FTTP network. Please do contact Chris Box on 0330 113 0180, or through their web site at www.boxbroadband.co.uk, if you can help to facilitate access to any source of funding, large or small. You can also request further details of the Community Funding Scheme.

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Boxcom Testimonials

I have received two independent references for Boxcom’s work on past Gigaclear FTTP deployments. These come from key people in the two projects, who are both ex colleagues of a Ewhurst parishioner.

Appleton and Eaton Broadband Group:

“Boxcom had a great team of engineers. Work was done on budget and on time. I heard no complaints during the project and most comments were of praise. The FTTP service was literally life changing; terrific Mbps speeds download and upload, reliable performance and cost effective. I can make high quality video calls, and having switched to an internet telephony service (VOIP), I have a better quality telephone service that costs me less.”
Graham Rose

Underriver, Godden Green and Wildernesse Estate Group:

“Gigaclear contracted all ground works to Boxcom; Chris Box the owner was very good. To lay the fibre, Boxcom had to dig a long run from the fence to our house. That was done in double quick time by a small and efficient team of ex Ghurkha soldiers. The fibre here is superb; BLAZING fast speeds and great telephony (with the surreal ability to answer one’s landline whilst being anywhere in the world.)”
Graham H

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Box Activity

Boxcom vans and staff are working in the area this week. Today they have delivered flyers to premises on their Phase 1 routes and have taken the opportunity to speak to anyone encountered along the way. Chris Box is meeting landowners regarding wayleaves for cross country fibre cable laying. They will be back later in the week, and are happy to make appointments to meet those with questions. Chris has also offered to host another drop in, perhaps in the Ellens Green Memorial Hall. Will anyone keen to help Box organise this please let me know.

The flyer is designed to identify all those intending to order the service if and when it is available. To support this process there is a new web page at www.boxbroadband.co.uk/ewhurst . Due to the pace of progress, the page is still being developed. I understand that it can already be used to confirm intention to order, by clicking on the “I want to register my interest” button and then entering the preferred package in the comments box.

Meanwhile, everyone who registered a valid email address with Box, but did not provide a full name and address or phone number, should now have received an email from Box requesting these details to be submitted using the improved “Register my interest” button at www.boxbroadband.co.uk. Please note that the postcode lookup issues on the early version of the web page have now been resolved. I would assume that there is no need to re-register here if you are confirming using the “Ewhurst” page as in the previous paragraph, so this probably relates more to those not in Phase 1.

Also please note the new Box Broadband telephone number: 0330 113 0180

Link to Box Broadband Phase 1 Flyer

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Box Broadband Project Status

Box Broadband Ltd is now very close to announcing the start of their network build, subject to confirmation of funding. They have been very busy in planning, dealing with local authorities, web site development (more pages coming soon), exploring funding options, recruiting, setting up support services such as call handling, and much more. The proposed product range has been reviewed as a result of our feedback; please see the new pricing at www.boxbroadband.co.uk.

Box plan to start the build in Ellens Green; this is closest to the connection point with existing available fibre. The first cabinet planned will cover Ellens Green, southern Ewhurst (as far as Lower Breache Road), and Walliswood. The second will cover northern and eastern Ewhurst, including Pitch Hill and Forest Green, and the third will cover central and western Ewhurst. The extent of coverage away from the main routes will have to depend on the number of connections ordered and available funding. Box analysis indicates that the southern area network can be built quickly and is most likely to achieve the required level of initial take-up, thus providing the best showcase for their services. We believe that as soon as members of our community are enjoying pure fibre broadband, demand in other areas will strengthen and further funding will become available. This should allow the Ewhurst project to complete sooner, rapidly followed by expansion into adjacent communities, and thus securing long term commercial viability.

Everyone who registered their interest at www.boxbroadband.co.uk should be contacted by the company by the end of March, and their coverage status confirmed. If not already covered, Box should indicate what is needed to achieve a viable network extension in that area. I will publish a further update to confirm, as soon as I am told this process is complete, to check those who might not be properly registered (e.g. a mistyped email address).

Posted in Community Fibre | 2 Comments

Box Broadband Project Funding

Box Broadband is now seeking to fund part of the network build from local community investment. A number of people have already expressed an interest in contributing, and we believe that ownership of a share in the fibre network will reinforce the project’s community spirit. A local investment scheme can also provide more favourable terms than commercial sources, which all contributes to encouraging take-up and expansion, and thus long term viability. If the response is good, work can start on construction very soon. The company is working hard to finalise this community funding scheme and hope to launch in the next few days. I will publish further details when available.

Box are still working on other funding sources, but at the moment these appear to be more likely to bear fruit after the first stage is completed, or even later. For example, some sources are only interested in existing infrastructure assets; others are looking for much larger projects. The original plan, for a government loan, would simply have taken too long to get through all the red tape, with no guarantee of success at the end. It also requires members of the parish to set up and run a suitable company, such as a Community Interest Company (CIC); will any volunteers please step forward!

Posted in Community Fibre | 1 Comment

Links to Recent Questions and Answers

Why have you shown the wrong speed for my postcode?

My friend says your article in the last “Ewhurst & Ellens Green News” was well worth a read, but I missed it; where can I get it?

Is the SCC Gainshare deployment good value for money?

Will the Gainshare deployment be FTTC and not FTTP?

How does the Gainshare deployment impact Box Broadband?

My upload speed is way lower than the download speed; is this a problem?

Where can I order BT’s “FTTP on Demand” product?

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Status change for Openreach “FTTP on Demand” product

“FTTP on Demand” is now showing as “available” for all Ewhurst cabinets, and I expect for all Cranleigh cabinets which currently support FTTC. This was already the case for Oakwood Hill and many other exchanges. However, I have not heard of anyone in Surrey successfully getting a quote for the service, let alone installation. As far as I know, BT are the only ISP claiming to offer the product in Surrey at present, and only to “business” customers. However, those who have enquired have been directed to the “lease line” or “private fibre/FTTP” product, with BT sales people apparently believing it to be the same thing. If anyone with a BT business line would care to try for a quote, please let me know. Whilst the “FTTP on Demand” service would be cheaper than “lease line/private fibre/private FTTP”, it remains far more expensive than the symmetric FTTP service planned by Box Broadband. Much more information, including wholesale price guide, can be found in the comments below the launch article.

Posted in FTTP On Demand | 3 Comments

Superfast Surrey – Gainshare deployment

Surrey County Council (SCC) have finally announced the areas to be covered by their “Gainshare deployment” (previously “phase 2″) i.e. the further work by BT Openreach, paid for with the refund due under the SCC/BT/BDUK contract, following the high levels of “fibre broadband” take-up from the original deployment. The announcement essentially takes the form of a list of 796 postcodes which should benefit, split into two delivery stages, and an indication whether all premises in the postcode should benefit.

I have compiled a shorter list of the relevant postcodes in our area of interest, in a more easily understood format. This includes the Parish postcodes which SCC have previously identified as still requiring improvement, plus those representing entries in my “register of interest in faster broadband”, including some in the immediately surrounding area. The column “EB Register” shows the number of entries in my register.

Ewhurst Broadband Postcode Analysis
Postcode Speed (SCC data April 2016) EB Register Entries SCC Gainshare deployment
GU6 7DH Under 15 Mbps    
GU6 7DL Under 15 Mbps    
GU6 7DP 15 – 29 Mbps    
GU6 7DR 15 – 29 Mbps    
GU6 7DT 15 – 29 Mbps    
GU6 7HG 15 – 29 Mbps    
GU6 7NG Under 15 Mbps    
GU6 7NH Under 15 Mbps 2  
GU6 7NJ Under 15 Mbps    
GU6 7NL Under 15 Mbps    
GU6 7NN Under 15 Mbps 4  
GU6 7NP Under 15 Mbps 5  
GU6 7NR Under 15 Mbps 3  
GU6 7NS Under 15 Mbps    
GU6 7NT Under 15 Mbps    
GU6 7NW Under 15 Mbps 1  
GU6 7PE 30+ Mbps 1  
GU6 7PF 15 – 29 Mbps 4  
GU6 7PJ 15 – 29 Mbps 1  
GU6 7PL 15 – 29 Mbps 3  
GU6 7PN 15 – 29 Mbps 4  
GU6 7PP Under 15 Mbps 2  
GU6 7PT 15 – 29 Mbps    
GU6 7PU 15 – 29 Mbps 1  
GU6 7PW 15 – 29 Mbps    
GU6 7PX Under 15 Mbps 4  
GU6 7PY 15 – 29 Mbps    
GU6 7PZ 15 – 29 Mbps 1  
GU6 7QB 30+ Mbps 2  
GU6 7QF 15 – 29 Mbps 1  
GU6 7QG 15 – 29 Mbps    
GU6 7QH 15 – 29 Mbps 2  
GU6 7QJ 15 – 29 Mbps    
GU6 7QL 15 – 29 Mbps    
GU6 7QW 15 – 29 Mbps 1  
GU6 7QY Under 15 Mbps    
GU6 7RR 30+ Mbps 1  
GU6 7RT Under 15 Mbps 1  
GU6 7SA 15 – 29 Mbps 1  
GU6 7SE 15 – 29 Mbps    
GU6 7SG 30+ Mbps 1  
GU6 7SJ Under 15 Mbps 1 Some by March 2019
GU6 7SL 15 – 29 Mbps 1  
GU6 7SN Under 15 Mbps 2 Some by March 2019
GU6 7SP Under 15 Mbps    
GU6 7SQ Under 15 Mbps 5  
GU6 7SR Under 15 Mbps 3  
GU6 7SW Under 15 Mbps 10 Some by March 2019
GU6 7UN Under 15 Mbps    
GU6 8EE Under 15 Mbps    
GU6 8EG Under 15 Mbps 1  
RH12 3AB Under 15 Mbps 1  
RH12 3AP Under 15 Mbps 2 Some by March 2019
RH12 3AR Under 15 Mbps 2 Some by March 2019
RH12 3AS Under 15 Mbps 2 Some by March 2019
RH12 3AT 15 – 29 Mbps (incorrect) 2  
RH12 3AW Under 15 Mbps 1 Some by March 2019
RH5 5RJ 15 – 29 Mbps    
RH5 5RL 15 – 29 Mbps 4  
RH5 6NS Under 15 Mbps    
RH5 6NT Under 15 Mbps    
RH5 6NU Under 15 Mbps    
RH5 6NX Under 15 Mbps    

So, only 7 of our postcodes should be improved, out of my list of 63 wanting a better service. These 7 are all in phase 2, and in none of them will all the premises benefit. There is no indication as to how many individuals will benefit, or which. The target for those which do is 24 Mbps. Some postcodes may be dropped later if they turn out to be more expensive than expected. More detail can be found via the links below.

Superfast Surrey FAQ

Gainshare Deployment announcement

Full list of Gainshare Deployment postcodes

Gainshare Deployment Map

Posted in SCC Broadband Project | 6 Comments

Box Broadband Ultrafast Proposals

Firstly, a massive THANK YOU to all those who took time out to attend one of the sessions on Tuesday. The Box team surprised me by presenting costs based on a “commercial” funding model, which they had previously thought unrealistic. This is a very much simpler scheme from our point of view, as I understand it, eliminating the need for us to become involved in fund raising, Government red tape, company formation and accounting etc. However, to make it viable, Box needs a high level of take-up in the area to be covered (essentially the Parish plus some immediate neighbours). The proposals were enthusiastically received by the audience at the two afternoon sessions I attended. Those who commented felt that the monthly fee was realistic for the service being offered.

Andrew Lock has very kindly taken the trouble to write the following in depth report for those who could not attend.

Box Broadband Limited is a new company specifically set up to develop this FTTP network, whereas the parent company, Box Synergy have already installed 100 networks, passed 30,000 potential customers, mainly in the Oxfordshire area, and have converted 7000 to customers. Their presentation focussed on the need to get confirmed interest from the potential 900 households in Ewhurst & Ellens Green of about one third, or 300 households. The incentive for reaching this pre-build commitment would be free installation and fibre router representing a cost saving of c£285. Customers signing up after the network has been constructed are unlikely to be offered this subsidised access as it will require recalling a moling team and connection engineers to the area which is less efficient.

The key take-away from the presentation is that unlike existing asymmetrical broadband provided by Openreach, this would be 100 Mbps minimum both down and up. There is nothing like this provided by BT Fibre to cabinet nor is there ever likely to be as the copper to the home has physical limitations. The benefit of a symmetrical connection is that services like phone calls, Skype, Cloud storage and uploading large files will be superior as they will not be jittery, for example. Indeed such is the upload speed, it would be possible to host your own website from your house/business premises, without the need to pay a hosting company. Fibre to the home/premise (FTTH/FTTP) will allow users to ditch their BT Openreach copper connections, saving the compulsory line rental element of the current broadband services available in Ewhurst, and your existing phone number can be “ported” to an internet phone service referred to a Voice over IP (VoIP). Box have good experience of the Vonage service which even allows your calls to be routed to wherever you are in the world.

The cost is dependent on initial take-up but could be in the region of £56.60/month for the first two years for a 100 Mbps connection which compares well with BT once the old copper line rental is dispensed with, and of course that speed is both up & down so is not directly comparable. Ultimately it would be possible to connect at substantially higher speeds and an illustrative cost of £76.50/month for 1 Gbps circuit was mooted.

Initial scoping of the project suggests Box will install three cabinets to connect to, after which it will hook up with their “back-haul” (ultra high speed connection to Telehouse East in London, via Crawley). Ewhurst’s proximity to Crawley makes our village an attractive starting point to roll-out similar networks across the south east as there is currently no competition (for symmetric FTTH/P) in rural areas. Box will be approaching other towns and villages in the south east and commercially will be driven to start where demand is greatest. For this reason it is important that residents and businesses demonstrate their collective enthusiasm for a 21st century network, as this presents a unique opportunity to leapfrog other rural and even urban areas as BT continues its policy of sweating their 20th century asset of copper (or indeed aluminium in some locations).

It was pointed out that even where residents were happy with their current connection, the availability of fibre to the home would increase the attractiveness of properties in the area to buyers from outside the area, as good quality broadband is now becoming an essential prerequisite to even consider a property. With so few rural properties having access to this sort of connection it would set Ewhurst apart. In fact Box’s experience is that even where businesses have paid Openreach for their own private fibre connections often costing ten’s of thousands of pounds to install, they are migrating to Box solutions when they become available as the monthly rental costs are substantially lower.

Questions were asked about a) proximity to the highway where the main fibre would be installed. Box explained that only isolated households down very long driveways would need to negotiate an additional cost to cover the moling work involved in laying an underground fibre exclusively for that property. b) laying the fibre. It is preferable to bury fibre near the highway, or across fields, rather than share BT’s poles as this has proved unreliable and bureaucratic. Surrey County Council has an obligation to assist new contractors by allowing access to the verges along highways, and modern surveying and utility plans ensure that disruption to existing services is minimised.

Afterwards, informally, I discussed a tiered pricing model according to need, as it was apparent that those in the centre of the village already enjoyed acceptable connections but there were a cohort of outliers for whom the benefits could justify either a contribution to the initial infrastructure or a higher service change. Once the responses have been analysed Chris Box would be in a better position to develop a pricing model that worked for everybody.

Many thanks to Andrew for that excellent summary.

Please register your interest in the project on the fledgling Box Broadband web site, which will be fully developed over time, at www.boxbroadband.co.uk.

Read my article for Ewhurst & Ellens Green News

Posted in Community Fibre | 2 Comments

Tuesday Ultrafast Event Times Extended

To help our commuters, Box Broadband have kindly agreed to keep the doors open until at least 8.30 pm, and to re-run their Ultrafast Broadband presentation for late arrivals, if requested. The event at the EYSC (on the central recreation ground, down Broomers Lane near the village shop), will be manned by Box Broadband staff from 2 pm to 8.30 pm. Planned presentation times are now 2.30, 4.30, 7 and 8 pm (if required), and their staff will be available to explain the proposals and answer questions throughout the afternoon and evening. Staff on hand will include an engineer and the Managing Director. Tea and coffee will be provided. I plan to be there for the opening at 2 pm, and for the 4.30 session, and as much of the afternoon as possible. Parish Councillors will also be present at various times.

About 900 flyers were delivered in and around Ewhurst and Ellens Green, but the delivery people are not familiar with the area, so apologies if you or your neighbours were missed. Please do encourage others to attend if you can.

This exciting new opportunity is only possible due to a new government initiative, encouraging “Altnets” to provide a pure fibre optic feed directly into homes and businesses, entirely separate from BT’s network. The £1bn Digital Infrastructure Fund sounds large, but only part will be used in this way, and I expect that relatively few rural communities will be able to benefit. I think that we may need to act fast and demonstrate great enthusiasm. Please drop-in to the EYSC event on Tuesday if you can, between 2 pm and 8.30 pm.

Ewhurst connection speeds currently vary between 1 and 76 Mbps download (upload speeds are much slower) depending on the location, and are often erratic or unreliable. The service still relies on the copper phone lines, which severely limits future speed increases and reliability. Pure fibre to the premises (FTTP) from Box will provide a minimum of 100 Mbps, down and up, to premises in any location, at a similar cost to equivalent services, with up to 1000 Mbps being potentially available at extra cost, and supporting much higher speeds as needed in future. This differs from the BT Community Fibre scheme in several ways, but probably the most compelling benefit is not having to raise the “gap funding”.

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Community Broadband Drop-in & Talk on 24th January

The event will be presented by Box Broadband Limited at the EYSC, from 2pm to 8.30pm.

This new company has been set up by Chris Box, MD for the well-established rural FTTP installation firm Boxcom Synergy Limited.

We are lucky to have this rare opportunity to talk directly to people from a front-line fibre laying outfit, and to hear how they believe the new government funding can be used to finally bring world class “ultrafast” broadband to this community. Viability will partly be judged by attendance and interest at this meeting, so please do come and support us.

Flyers advertising the event were delivered by hand to many homes yesterday, but bad weather intervened and the remainder should receive theirs over the next few days. In the meantime, please click here to view the flyer online for further details.

So where is the EYSC anyway? Shown in red on the map below, access is from Broomers Lane, which is very narrow, but the building is wheel-chair friendly. If possible, please park nearby (e.g. Village Hall Car Park) and walk down Broomers Lane.

EYSC map

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Exciting New Opportunity – Open Public Meeting

My long search for a credible alternative provider of pure fibre broadband to the Surrey Hills area has finally delivered. This company has been installing symmetric gigabit FTTP (widely acknowledged as the ideal solution) very successfully for several years. A new central government funding initiative, specifically targeted at alternative FTTP projects, means that they can now realistically consider areas like ours.

I’m posting this whilst some details are still under wraps, because the service provider has agreed to explain it all to us, at a public meeting in the EYSC on Tuesday 24th January 2017, open from 2 pm to 8.30 pm. They have proposed informal sessions starting at 2.30 pm, 4.30 pm and 7 pm, with a presentation followed by time to answer any questions we have. At all other times their staff will be available to explain the proposals and answer questions

I apologise for the very short notice; I sincerely believe that demand for this will almost immediately use up available resources, so I felt we could not risk missing the boat.

Link to Government pledge regarding pure fibre optic broadband

Link to Digital Minister support for FTTP/H future of gigabit broadband

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SCC Cabinet Report

This Surrey County Council report, dated 13th December, appears to have been written to get formal approval from Cabinet for the “claw back” funds to be used for further broadband improvements. It provides some insight into where we are in the process, bearing in mind that we should have known by now which communities are to benefit (see April 2016 articles and the last SFS newsletter).

“BT have indicated that the new programme could commence in Q1 2017/18 (April 2017) and would be completed in Q3 2018/19 (December 2018).”

So, we can now expect to be informed who will benefit before the proposed start of work in April. Link to the full report: SCC Report December 2016

Posted in SCC Broadband Project | Leave a comment

BT Community Fibre Application Submitted

Our application for the BT Community Fibre Programme was submitted on 12/12/16 and was acknowledged on 14/12/16. It included 66 registered broadband connection records which I believe to be eligible; 9 records were excluded because “superfast” broadband is already available, and 1 person who replied did not wish to be included. The acknowledgement stated that BT “will get back to you shortly with a likely design date”; I am unsure what the “design date” represents in this context. The map below shows the approximate distribution of those connections below 25 Mbps as at 23/11/16; each red dot represents a number of premises grouped by postcode, where some postcodes have been merged if in close proximity. The number in the dot represents the number of eligible records at that time. The seven in central Ewhurst are noteworthy; the cable routes must be rather indirect, and possibly the wires or connections are in poor condition. It is possible that some could be levered into the “superfast” category by modifications to the internal wiring or equipment.

Below 25Mbps mapsdata.co.uk

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Community Fibre Registration Progress

I have so far received 66 replies to my invitation to register for the BT Community Fibre Programme. Of these, 61 can be included in our application, and the premises concerned are distributed as follows:

Community Fibre Registration Summary by Road
Road Village Entries
Barhatch Lane Cranleigh 2
Coneyhurst Lane Ewhurst 8
Cranleigh Road Ewhurst 1
Furzen Lane Ellens Green 4
Holmbury Road Ewhurst 1
Horsham Lane Ewhurst 9
Horsham Road Ellens Green 2
Horsham Road Walliswood 4
Lower Breache Road Ewhurst 5
Mapledrakes Road Ewhurst 1
Moon Hall Road Ewhurst 5
North Breache Lane Ewhurst 2
Ockley Road Ewhurst 1
Peaslake Road Ewhurst 2
Pitch Hill Ewhurst 3
Rectory Close Ewhurst 1
Shere Road Ewhurst 1
Somersbury Lane Ellens Green 1
Somersbury Lane Ewhurst 3
The Avenue Ewhurst 1
The Glebe Ewhurst 1
The Street Ewhurst 2
Wykehurst Lane Ewhurst 1
Community Fibre Registration Summary by Postcode
Postcode Entries
GU6 7NH 2
GU6 7NN 3
GU6 7NP 5
GU6 7NR 2
GU6 7PF 1
GU6 7PJ 1
GU6 7PL 3
GU6 7PN 3
GU6 7PP 2
GU6 7PU 1
GU6 7PX 2
GU6 7PZ 1
GU6 7QH 1
GU6 7QW 1
GU6 7SA 1
GU6 7SJ 1
GU6 7SL 1
GU6 7SN 2
GU6 7SQ 5
GU6 7SR 3
GU6 7SW 9
RH12 3AP 1
RH12 3AR 2
RH12 3AS 2
RH12 3AT 1
RH12 3AW 1
RH5 5RL 4

It is clear that the properties are spread over a large area, and some roads have only one entry. BT has said that they will probably divide the area up, and I expect they will focus on the roads with the greatest demand. BT has also advised that our application should include all interested parties, so I recommend further distribution of the invitation, especially in roads with a low response to date. We have found this to be most effective when someone asks their neighbours to register in person, since many are wary of sending their contact details to a stranger. It is also important to say that this initial application does not commit us to anything and will not affect the SCC review; each registration will help us to get reasonable proposals by demonstrating the demand in each road.

The printable A4 version of the invitation has been updated to reflect the new FTTP products from BT Openreach. The fastest speed available will soon be 1,000 Mbps download and 220 Mbps upload. Please download the updated invitation here and use it to encourage others to register. Remember to let me know, so that I can delay sending our application until all responses are in.

The most recent newsletter from Superfast Surrey confirms various details about the BT scheme and related matters. There’s nothing new, but it’s a useful resource for reference, and is available here. It does suggest that Virgin may be able to provide a quote for improvements, but to date the company has declined my requests. I shall try again.

The Government recently published comprehensive guidance for community led broadband schemes here.

In a recent MSE poll, 40% said they would never buy a property which did not have access to high speed broadband, even at a big discount; details here.

Whilst the BT application only applies to those unable to get “superfast” broadband, there may soon be other potential FTTP suppliers. The situation is rapidly developing, so I am also keen to hear from those who already have a “superfast” service, but would like “ultrafast”, or who would be interested in an alternative solution.

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Community Fibre Invitation to Register

I have been looking at the BT Community Fibre Programme as a potential way to improve broadband performance for those of us too far from our cabinet to achieve “superfast” speeds. The programme is open to “communities” below the BT “superfast” threshold (24 Mbps) where there are no plans already in place. It uses the “gap funding” model, where BT contribute the “commercially viable” cost and the community raise the remaining funding.

The community can opt for Fibre To The Premises (FTTP), which currently supports 40, 80, 110, 220 and 330 Mbps connections, and which provides the same fibre broadband service speeds to every home covered, whatever the line length. The 40 and 80 Mbps FTTP services typically cost the same as their Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) equivalents, but unlike FTTC you actually get the speed you pay for. Alternatively the community can choose additional FTTC cabinets (or possibly “mini cabinets”), which aim to reduce copper line lengths to the point where everyone gets at least 24 Mbps (and up to 78 Mbps). With either fibre broadband option you can choose your ISP and package in the usual way.

The next step is to compile a list of residents who are currently “below 24 Mbps” and wish to improve their broadband service to “superfast” speed. There is no commitment at this stage; BT just need the information to define the area(s) to be covered, cross check with their own and Surrey County Council (SCC) plans to ensure no overlap, and to work out the ball park costs to the community. The community then decides whether to launch a Community Fibre Partnership (choosing FTTP or FTTC) or not. If we do not continue, then we still have the hope that SCC will include some or all of us in their next phase, but in that scenario we will not have any influence over the choice of FTTP or FTTC.

If the Community project goes ahead, then of course the new service will be available to everyone in the area(s) covered, whether they register interest now or not, and whether they contribute to fund raising or not. However, if you do not register interest at this initial stage then there is a chance that your area may not be covered as a result. Even if you do not anticipate ever needing better broadband performance yourself, remember that the available broadband speed now has a significant impact on property value and saleability.

To register your interest, BT are asking for the following details:

Please use the contact form to let me know you wish to be included. I will only use these details for our attempt to improve our local fibre broadband service and to keep you informed. Whilst the BT Community Fibre Programme only applies to homes where a 24+ Mbps fibre broadband service is not already available, I will be pleased to receive details of any others interested in local FTTP, so that I can keep you informed of future developments.

Posted in Community Fibre | 6 Comments

Is Ewhurst OK for High Speed Broadband?

This was a question posed to me recently, with another, much simpler:

  • What is the location of BT boxes able to connect to high speed fibre?
  • Is every location in Ewhurst OK for HIGH speed broadband?

It’s still a very confusing situation; I hope my replies helped clear things up, and perhaps others may find them useful…

Cabinet locations for Ewhurst, with photos and coverage, can be seen on the cabinet status pages at www.ewhurst-broadband.org.uk/?page_id=3460. Note that the Ellens Green cabinet is not included here because it is on the Rudgwick exchange and so could not be covered by the same project (see instead www.ewhurst-broadband.org.uk/?p=3861).

Anyone within around 1 km of their cabinet (line length) should now have “affordable” access to “superfast” performance (over 24 Mbps). For those very near their cabinet, with cable lengths within about 150 m, the fastest available service is currently up to 80 Mbps. Quite a few could get this in central Ewhurst, but most opt for the cheaper 38 Mbps packages, and this speed is available over a much larger area, up to around 500 m.

This means that perhaps 10% of Ewhurst premises are denied access to “superfast broadband”, along with probably most of Ellens Green. This compares to 4% across the whole of Surrey (see labs.thinkbroadband.com/local/index.php?area=E10000030)

Openreach are trialing various methods for improvements to FTTC performance and “reach”, but have not announced when or where they plan to deploy these. In any case they are stop gap measures; since many copper line lengths will need to be reduced much further at some date. There have already been incremental improvements since FTTC was first installed here, and one such earlier this year appears to have resolved most of the problems we were having with “availability” on long lines. But these have only improved download speeds marginally, and upload speeds not at all.

The (non-binding) 2 Mbps download Universal Service Commitment (USC) is now in force. If someone cannot get this speed from any “affordable” fixed line service, they can apply for a voucher for satellite installation (£400). However, I am in contact with one resident on Pitch Hill who was also unable to get a reliable satellite service. There are likely to be a few others still not achieving the USC, but they have not yet contacted me. 2 Mbps services are barely adequate to access online Government services and to communicate by email, but not usually adequate for video streaming or transferring very large files, for example, and can really only be used by one person or device at a time.

Of course, the universal 2 Mbps USC is a far cry from the promised whole of Surrey “superfast” availability. SCC do have a “phase 2” project in planning stages, see superfastsurrey.org.uk/superfast-surrey-state-aid-public-consultation and www.ewhurst-broadband.org.uk/?p=3962 but they are already saying that available funds will not be adequate to achieve their original goal.

The promised Universal Service Obligation (USO) is now likely to be delayed, since new legislation is required. It was planned to introduce a 10 Mbps USO by 2020. There are many in the Parish without access to an affordable 10 Mbps service, let alone “superfast”. My own connection is around 10 Mbps, and is currently adequate for our household of 2 adults, although our domestic usage is modest compared to others. It is now barely adequate for my business requirements, and does restrict what I can do somewhat. The 0.5 Mbps upload speed is the main problem. Certainly it will become increasingly inadequate well before 2020.

Currently Ewhurst is probably slightly worse off than average in Surrey. This is partly because our FTTC was installed on a “commercial” basis (because of the high demand we demonstrated when applying for the grant), whereas other similar villages were installed as part of the SCC/BDUK funded project, and thus additional funds were available. This extra cash was partly used to provide some FTTP e.g. Alfold including Knowle Lane. In other parts of the UK, BDUK funded projects are still in progress. Even once complete, premises in rural areas will still be far worse off on average than urban areas. Also note that the onus is on the subscriber to seek out their best available service, and to resolve any internal wiring issues, and that the older and slower ADSL services are now much cheaper than “superfast” services.

Openreach will now work with communities who wish to fund certain improvements themselves. One Surrey community has privately funded their own FTTC cabinets. These are two entirely new cabinets to serve an area over 2 km from the existing BT cabinets, a community of 118 premises. Openreach have charged rural communities up to £60,000 (including VAT which may be refunded) to install each new cabinet. See www.gu8superfast.co.uk/?page_id=226. The long lines in our Parish are widely dispersed, so additional cabinets may not be cost effective here. Openreach have been trialing “mini cabinets” for some time, but I do not know if these are yet available for “gap funded” community projects. Also, “native” FTTP seems to have been excluded from these projects for commercial reasons. [Edit 27/09/16 by DN: A BT representative has since indicated that FTTP is now an option. Together with the interest generated by this article, this resulted in my invitation for the community scheme being posted today.]

The Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme, developed by the government to support the 2 Mbps USC, has recently been revised to include a number of additional Satellite and Wireless providers (see superfastsurrey.org.uk/revised-better-broadband-subsidy-scheme).

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Brexit and broadband

Superfast Surrey have stated that the Brexit vote will not have any immediate impact on their next phase, and the BDUK process is likely to continue for the next couple of years at least. Once their “NGA white” or “target white” areas have been approved by BDUK, BT will model further deployments in these areas, and the existing 10 year contractual targets will be changed to reflect what is thought to be possible with the additional funding and claw-back. It is hoped to reach this stage later in the year.

Superfast Surrey have also now admitted that FTTP-on-Demand may not actually be available in Surrey, and have modified their advice accordingly. We are told that offering the service is a commercial decision which cannot be influenced by local government. On this basis, it is unclear why the service is apparently available to order in Wales but not England.

Meanwhile, Openreach and their contractors are still being seen laying more fibre around the county. However, it is not clear how much of this will be extending their GEA network and how much is “private”. Some will be for community funded FTTC, such as the Hydestile project, and some for delayed “commercial” cabinets such as Cranleigh PCP2. Very usefully in this context, I see that ThinkBroadBand (TBB) are now plotting native FTTP coverage:
  • search for a postcode using the search box on the map
  • hover over the little tile icon (above the search box)
  • select “Openreach Native FTTP Postcodes”

Note that FTTC availability in Ewhurst improved very slightly earlier this year. I helped one neighbour where Openreach had attempted but failed to install “fibre” service last year, yet were able to provide this service more recently, improving download speeds from 1 Mbps to 6 Mbps. This availability update also seems to have resolved many of the “condemned” lines, where the service was denied for no good reason, due to an “internal system fault”.

If you have a long line, and have had FTTC for some time, you may be able to improve performance slightly by updating your modem. My 3 year old model was swapped recently during a fault investigation, and although the old modem was found not be faulty, the new one is faster. Until the swap, I had to choose between favoring download, using the old Huawei modem, or faster upload, using the old ECI model. Now the new ECI modem simultaneously matches the maximum speeds I previously recorded for both upload and download. Sadly I do not have a new Huawei to compare, but in any case Openreach recommend using ECI modems in Ewhurst, to match our cabinet equipment. Note that combined modem/routers from other manufacturers are now being supplied as standard, or you can source your own in some cases. At present we are not aware of any modem performing better than the separate ECI or Huawei models supplied by Openreach, but if you have something different, it is probably best to leave it alone.

The satellite voucher scheme has been running for a while now, but in case you missed it, click here for details.

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