Colton Superfast Broadband Why it's important and how we can get it......Mike Postle (mike@postle.co)

Implications for Colton Parish

The major centres of population (!!) now have access to fast broadband either Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) or, in the case of Lakeside/Finsthwaite fibre to the premises (FTTP). This leaves three not spots: The area around Rusland connected to the Satterthwaite exchange, most of Colton hamlet [Crying face !] and Nibthwaite.

 

At the moment, I’m working with the Community Fibre Partnership scheme and the Parish council to see how we could progress the first two areas using CFPs in combination with the Gigabit Voucher Scheme. When all the information is to hand, we’ll consult all of you who may be affected to see if the schemes are feasible.  Nibthwaite may solve itself with new connections planned in the Blawith area. In the meantime, if you want further information on CFPs or going down the 4G route for an immediate fast connection, drop me an e-mail.

 

 

So - What’s to be done?

With mobile data prices coming down and increasing coverage, 4G home broadband is a realistic and immediate possibility for many rural areas. Coverage in Cumbria is better than most people realise and can be checked on the Ofcom site: https://checker.ofcom.org.uk/mobile-coverage In our parish most of our fibre broadband not spots can be reached by a mobile signal from either EE or Three.

 

You will need a 4G router and probably an antenna installed on the outside of the house. At the moment only EE offers a bespoke 4G home broadband package – see https://business.ee.co.uk/mobile-broadband/4g-home-broadband/ otherwise it’s a relatively easy DIY job – which will offer more flexibility and the equipment could be purchased for less than £200. Do this and your speeds will be comparable with those areas getting fibre to the cabinet. This is an immediately available option.

 

The second option is to consider a Community Fibre Partnership (CFP) where the community gets together and approach a provider about the cost of delivering better broadband. Much of the cost of this can be covered by the Gigabit Voucher Scheme provided certain conditions are met, notably that it must be a full fibre scheme (FTTP) and everyone in it has to take a service which delivers at least 100 mb/s for a year (min).

 

A third option – using satellite Broadband – has been around a while now. There are disadvantages of cost, data caps and time delays but this may the only way to go for very isolated areas with no 4G signal.

 

If you get less than 2 Mb/s currently, you can still apply for a voucher under the better Broadband Scheme for up to £350 to improve your speed BUT you’ll have to be quick as the scheme will close at the end of the year.  See http://www.connectingcumbria.org/BDUK-Better-Broadband.asp

 

A Long Silence

I haven’t added to this blog for a while simply because I haven’t had much definitive news to communicate. However, the situation is becoming clearer now and, like the proverbial number 10 busses, several will come along at the same time now. So here goes:

 

We are at about 93% superfast (95% above 10 mb/s) coverage in the County compared to the national average of 96% superfast (97% above 10 mb/s) . Some districts are much less than this and, unsurprisingly it’s the outlying rural areas which are missing out. However, the take up in Cumbria is nearly 52% currently: much higher than the less than 40% national average. Take up is important as the County gets a share of the profits (‘Gain Share’) from Openreach as we hit certain thresholds.

 

Connecting Cumbria is well into delivering contract 2 and the monies for projects are allocated now. There is an additional sum of £3.9m from Gain Share etc for future projects. The bad news is that the plan submitted to BDUK (the national Body responsible) has been rejected as a consequence of the Government’s push towards full fibre to the premises. Back to the drawing board – Connecting Cumbria is reviewing what it can do with the money in the light of the changing rules. It is therefore unlikely that any of this money will start to be spent on projects until 2020 at the earliest.

 

So - If you haven’t got an upgraded connection by now, you are very unlikely to get one via Connecting Cumbria until 2020 at the earliest.

 

In my next post I’ll outline some ideas on what can be done if you have missed out.

 

Oxen Park now Live

I received formal notification that cabinet 4 in Oxen Park is now live. Actually, it looks as if it has been connected for some time and the checker has indicated that superfast broadband has been available before now. If you want to check what’s available to you, use this link and enter your phone number.
 
It is to be hoped that as many people as possible will take advantage of the new facility as this helps finance further installations in the County through the ‘gain share’ programme whereby BT puts more money into the pot as take-up increases. Usual reminder that getting superfast is not automatic: you need to ask for it through an internet service provider. It’s worth shopping around, asking a number of ISPs as, even if you eventually stick with the same ISP, you will have something to bargain with. Experience up and down the County, shows that the cost of upgrading is usually very little more (on occasions less) than you are currently paying.
 
A useful leaflet on choosing a broadband supplier was made available at the February meeting in the Carthouse. Anyone wanting a copy, just e-mail me please.
 
The ADSL service in Oxen Park has been one of the worst in terms of speed and reliability in the Parish so switching to connections via this new cabinet should improve speeds dramatically. The reliability issues may or may not be solved by switching – but I’m optimistic that they will see some improvement. (Wires on poles over wet fields are never ideal!).

Digital Presentation and Workshop

Just organised – a (free!) digital event for the Oxen Park area to be run by Connecting Cumbria’s Phil Ruston. Phil ran a couple of very successful sessions about 16 months ago – one in Finsthwaite and one in Greenodd when those areas were fibre broadband enabled. Topics to be covered will include an update on what is happening in the area, how the internet is and will continue to change the way we do things and the benefits to business and to the home of a fast broadband connection.  Above all, it is an opportunity to ask Phil those questions which you’ve always wanted to ask!
 
The event is scheduled for Friday 2nd February 2018 and will take place in the Carthouse, Oxen Park. Kick off at 7 pm. If you want coffee/a drink beforehand there’s the Manor across the road... and Phil & I may end up there after the session for more informal discussion......
 
If you live elsewhere in the Parish and didn’t manage to get to either of the previous sessions, you’ll be welcome to participate in this one.
 
Meanwhile, the road works in Colton are all part of getting the fibre to Oxen Park – it’s creeping closer!!
 
 
 
 

Oxen Park Power Plan Approved

A quick update from Connecting Cumbria about the cabinet in Oxen Park. It will not have passed Oxen Park residents by that the promised cabinet has not materialised....... yet. It is coming I am assured and the good news is that the plan to supply the necessary power to it has now been approved by ENW. The uncertainty now is that to supply the power a road closure is needed (we seem to have had a fair few of these recently) and they are waiting for the formalities to complete.
 
For those of you in this neck of the woods (Colton) like myself, I’m promised an update in the immediate future. Almost certainly any cost effective long term solution will rely on tapping into the fibre being laid to Oxen Park. Watch this space.....
  

Oxen Park Update

Connecting Cumbria inform me that they plan to stand the cabinet in Oxen Park this month and that Openreach are still working with Electricity North West to try to reduce the power costs. Hopefully the haggling will be quick and successful from our point of view. When you see a green box appearing near the Manor House pub, let me know: it could be an excuse for a celebration!!
 
Meanwhile in this part of Colton, we battle on but it’s looking like 2018 before we get a half decent connection. Wish us luck!!

Update: The Bigger picture

I’m playing catch-up here as, although the year started slowly (well at least as far as Broadband is concerned), the pace of events seems to be picking up. So here goes:
 
1) The Digital Economy Act, which became law in April, enabled the creation of a new broadband universal service obligation (USO) giving every household and business the right to request a broadband connection of 10 Mbs minimum speed. There is now a consultation going on (closing date 9th Oct) prior to possible secondary legislation bring a scheme in by 2020. See https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/broadband-universal-service-obligation-consultation-on-design
 
2) Meanwhile BT have made a conditional offer to do the job with minimum 10 Mbs download and 1 Mbs upload speeds by 2022 for 99% of premises in the Country without further public funding provided USO  regulations are not progressed. Where’s the money coming from? Well customer bills of course......
 
The Government is now working with BT to help it develop its proposal which would be legally binding if accepted. However there are mutterings that a deal is being done behind closed doors. 
 
BT are indicating that they would use a range of technologies to get this coverage – with Fixed Wireless Access featuring as well as Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and to the premises (FTTP).
 
3) So which way to go? It’s sparked some lively debate with hub coordinators but I think it’s fair to say that with a number of caveats and assurances, the consensus of opinion is that we are likely to get quicker action with less paperwork if BT is mandated to get on with it. Have a look on the web and see what you think.
 
4) Turning now to closer to home. Phase 1 of Connecting Cumbria has now been completed – having exceeded the targets it was set. There have been just short of 3,000 SF connections added under phase 2 to date but there are now more obstacles being encountered. The target is 11,000 premises by the end of the 2018/19 financial year – Oxen Park being in that mix – getting to 98% fibre connected of which 94% will be over 24 Mbs (SFBB).
 
 
 

Updates - and a reminder

First of all – a Happy New Year to everyone. Let’s hope we continue to make good progress in getting SFBB to our Parish.
 
I’ve been advised that the final hurdle for Oxen Park has been surmounted and that the fibre cabinet is poised for installation. However we’ve still not got a final date for when the work will be done.
 
For those of us in Colton Hamlet, the news is that the gain share modelling has been completed and the results are with BDUK – the Government Body which is responsible for approvals. Again there’s a ‘however’. This time it’s the fact that we don’t yet know where the fibre structures are, which have been modelled, so we don’t know if our part of the world is included. Fingers etc crossed!
 
Finally a reminder. Those of you who have access to SFBB need to contact your ISP to get it. I understand that about 10% of the newly connected Finsthwaite/Newby Bridge properties are connected to FTTP now. The County average is running at about 30% so hopefully we can move towards that figure fairly quickly. Apart from encouraging the use of a far better service (at little or no extra cost), a good take-up benefits everyone through the ‘gain share’ mechanism which gives money back to Connecting Cumbria to extend SFBB rural coverage.

Bouth missing!

Oh dear – I forgot to say anything about Bouth in my last posting. Actually it’s a bit of good news that I missed out. The good folks of Bouth are now served from a cabinet in the village and the FTTC arrangement  seems to be delivering Superfast speeds or thereabouts. According to my correspondent, who lives about a quarter of a mile from the cabinet, the copper wire to his home is delivering about 24 Mb/s download and about 6 Mb/s upload. Not too sure how the extremities of the village are going on – perhaps someone might like to let me know.......