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Updated guide - How to obtain a better service when superfast broadband isn't available to you

Monday 9th April, 2018

Updated guide - How to obtain a better service when superfast broadband isn't available to you

Despite significant investment some areas of Worcestershire aren't currently included in the Superfast Worcestershire roll-out plans. This guide to alternative solutions potentially outlines options to obtaining a better service.

Since 2013 Worcestershire County Council (through its Superfast Broadband partnerships with BT, BDUK & Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership through the Government's Growth Deal) has extended the availability of faster broadband to over 90% of Worcestershire premises and we're going further. By the end of 2019, 96% of premises will be able to access 'superfast' speeds.

Superfast Worcestershire continues its drive to cover as much of Worcestershire with fibre based broadband as possible, and around 3,000 more households will benefit from a £3.7 million expansion (announced in March 2017). Work is scheduled to commence in autumn 2017 and will take until December 2018 to complete. 

Additionally, in November 2017, the next phase of the deployment 'Phase 3' was announced. Phase 3 is a £6.2million expansion that will connect  a further 5,300 premises to superfast and ultrafast broadband. Funding was received from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), BT Group and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Work is underway until 2019.

 

1.  The first thing to do is to check whether fibre is actually available in your area. You can do this by entering your landline telephone number or postcode into the checker on our website at www.superfastworcestershire.com or using BT's DSL Checker at www.dslchecker.bt.com. Future deployment can also be checked on WCC's checker available here.    

If fibre broadband is available, you will need to check your current broadband contract and either upgrade with your current provider (an option for people who have weeks or months left on their current contracts), or switch broadband to a different provider of their choice. Please remember to do your research and place the order with your chosen provider.

If you would like more information on whether fibre roll out will be coming to you via the Superfast Worcestershire partnership please check the cabinet status page at www.superfastworcestershire.com/cabinet-status (please note, you will need to know your exchange area and cabinet number, both can be found by checking how you are connected to the network via the above checkers). If still unsure, please don't hesitate to contact us at superfast@worcestershire.gov.uk

2.  If you are some distance from the upgraded cabinet then you may achieve better, but not 'superfast' speeds. This is because the broadband signal degrades rapidly over a copper connection. Most providers make no distinction in their product so while you will see an advert for up to 38Mbps it is important to recognise the personal estimate given once you have entered your address or telephone number. BT may not offer you their Infinity service but you may consider their Unlimited Faster Broadband product: http://tinyurl.com/km55s4z. This should be offered to any BT customer who calls to order fibre, but though connected to a fibre enabled cabinet is too far away to be able to receive ‘BT Infinity’. Typically, a customer may order it, if it offers a usable increase in download speeds.  Please note that this is the same technology but with different product naming to emphasise that you should not expect superfast speeds.

3.  If you aren't covered under Superfast Worcestershire's current or upcoming plans, you may want to consider alternative internet service providers (ISPs) operating in Worcestershire, and providing their own infrastructure on a commercial basis. Suppliers like BT (www.communityfibre.bt.com), Virgin Media (http://tinyurl.com/pk4cm3j) and Gigaclear (www.gigaclear.com/) continue with their national demand led campaigns.

BT's 'Community Fibre Partnerships' encourages communities to work with them to 'part-fund' a solution, which could be made up of any of the following solutions e.g. Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC), Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) and network re-arrangement, including new fibre cabinets to deal with long lines or exchange only lines and Fibre to the Remote Node (FTTRN), which, simply put is like a 'small cabinet' on a pole or in the ground, much closer to properties (please also see section 8 below - for more information).

Virgin's 'Supercharging Local Communities' and 'Cable My Street' are calling upon residents and businesses to influence the decision on where they deploy next by registering demand on their website. To date, Virgin announced their intention to extend their network to: Lickey, Catshill and Upper and Lower Marlbook as part of Virgin Media's Project Lightning rollout.

Gigaclear's commercial model is 100% fibre to the premise (FTTP) and is demand led i.e. the opportunity is promoted within the community and if demand is present fibre to the premises is deployed.

It is also worth investigating whether a wireless provider can provide coverage, e.g. Worcester based Airband (https://home.airband.co/), or if they could extend coverage into your area. Airband are already covering large parts of Worcestershire, e.g. 14 rural Parishes (Little Witley, Bockleton, Kyre, Hanley, Rochford, Eastham, Lindridge, Mamble, Bayton, Tibberton, Crowle, part of Hanbury, Stock and Bradley and Feckenham), delivered as part of Worcestershire County Council's Community Pathfinder Project. Martley Web Mesh (www.facebook.com/martley.web.mesh/) is another locally based wireless provider.

4.  Ethernet / Leased (private) lines for Businesses - are private fibre connections often requested for businesses, without access to the FTTC or FTTP networks. Occasionally, businesses choose Ethernet / Lease lines due to their business / service requirements; noting they can be costly options.

5.  'Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme' run by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is another alternative for those not in the current deployment plan and with speeds below 2Mbps. The scheme provides eligible households with a voucher worth approximately £350 towards the initial installation and equipment costs. Please note, 4G and satellite packages may come with a limited monthly usage allowance.

It is also worth noting that subsidy payments can be grouped together with other residents/businesses in your community, to explore and pursue e.g. a Community Fibre Partnership option with BT. An example of how this has been done elsewhere can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/zw73xkb.

6.  Other alternative solutions for those that can't get an adequate broadband service delivered via a phone line could be mobile broadband, which is increasingly becoming a viable option. This doesn't need you to connect a computer to a mobile phone. You will be given a 'plug in device' known as a "Dongle" which you plug into your computer.

Depending on your location, the mobile provider should confirm your potential connection speed, as this technology works on mobile phone signals.  You can also check how strong your signal should be (inside and outside) by visiting the OFCOM Mobile coverage and fixed broadband checker at http://maps.ofcom.org.uk/check-coverage/. It is worth noting that mobile packages often come with a limited usage allowance.

7.  A community could look to develop and fund their own fibre or wireless based initiatives, through options such as Community Shares - Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) / Community Share Companies or Self build like arrangements such as B4RN http://b4rn.org.uk/ - who also raised money through community shares. Other examples include Alston Moor www.cybermoor.org and Herefordshire Community Networks http://www.hereford-cic.net/.

8. Furthermore, two new schemes can help Worcestershire homes and businesses get connected (announced in January 2018):

This scheme shares the costs of deploying the new fibre based network between the County Council, Openreach and local residents wanting to upgrade. Known as a Local Body Partnership Scheme (LBP), it aims to bring high-speed broadband to more of the county’s smallest, remote communities not yet earmarked for any public or private sector roll-outs, by sharing the infrastructure and installation costs. The County Council has initially set aside £500,000 to support communities through the scheme.

Vouchers up to the value of £1,500 will be allocated to eligible businesses that aren’t in our (or commercial) roll-out plans, and want to upgrade to superfast or ultrafast speeds. The scheme will assist businesses to meet up to half of the costs of installing a fibre broadband connection to their premises and is funded through the European Regional Development Fund.

9. In addition to the above schemes that allow communities and businesses to take control of their future broadband provision, Worcestershire County Council is seeking additional funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The County Council is committed to taking coverage further by also investing any elements of underspend or other funds arising from earlier contracts to extend superfast broadband infrastructure further into Worcestershire.

10. The Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme – Gigabit vouchers can be used by small businesses and the local communities surrounding them to contribute to the installation cost of a gigabit capable connection. Businesses can claim up to £3,000 against the cost of connection either individually or as part of a group project. Residents can benefit from the scheme as part of a group project which also includes businesses and can claim for a voucher of up to a value of £500. Visit https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/ for more information and eligibility criteria for both businesses and residents. A list of suppliers on the scheme is also available.

11.Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband - The UK Government is introducing a Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband as part of its commitment in the UK Digital Strategy (March 2017) to ensure that the UK has world-class digital connectivity and inclusion.

The UK Government has decided to implement a regulatory approach by 2020. Under this framework, the USO will be demand-led. This means that consumers will have a right to request a connection. A universal service provider will then be obliged to build all reasonable requests up to cost threshold (£3,400 proposed). Ofcom will implement the USO using a mix of technologies that meet the minimum specifications. Satellite connections are unlikely to fulfil the additional quality parameters but will probably be the only option for some consumers (approx. 0.2% nationwide).

Worcestershire County Council continues to extend superfast broadband service to as many Worcestershire premises. The proposed USO will not impact on the programme's current and future aspirations of becoming a 'Connected County' but will provide a safety net for those outside of the current scope.

12. Fibre on Demand – Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) on Demand enables you to order Generic Ethernet Access over Fibre to the Premises in speeds up to 1Gbps for customers who are within a Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) exchange area and are served by a FTTC enabled cabinet. List of suppliers offering Fibre on Demand service: