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Living in a broadband notspot
Wednesday 27 May 2009 06:45:02 by Sebastien Lahtinen

I couldn't imagine what life would be like if I didn't have access to broadband. The nearest I come to this is when I'm on holiday abroad in a far away place where the best I can get is GPRS. Even then I need to get a pre-pay SIM card as roaming charges abroad are ridiculously high. I can manage this for a few days, but after this I struggle. I can't upload photos, send or receive file attachments or use many of the interactive tools like Google Maps.

So, what would it be like to live in an area where broadband was not available?

There are still people in the UK suffering this very problem, and that's the reason we've launched a broadband notspot site for those who can't get broadband, or those who can only attain very low speeds.

One of the people that inspired us to do this was Terrie Jones. She lives in the Hambleden Valley between the M4 and M40 motorways around 10-14 miles away from each of High Wycombe,  Maidenhead and Reading. She explains that every time she speaks to her phone company, they try to sell her a broadband service even though she tells them of her problems getting broadband, and each time the order fails. Residents in the villages are resorting to a very expensive wireless broadband service, a lifeline to the modern Internet but which comes at a steep price.

"I feel that paying £51.75 per month for simply broadband is extortionate, but I know that other people are paying £8K for fibre to the home. [Someone] I know has given this up and moved his business to Henley because for a quarter of this price he gets office accommodation, broadband, telephone etc."

Terrie Jones, a resident in the Hambleden Valley, Buckinghamshire

Residents in such areas struggle to keep up with modern life from filing PAYE/VAT returns, online banking not to mention often being excluded from social media which is becoming an increasingly important part in every day life. Even simple tasks like booking a holiday are more expensive if you don't do so online.

Hambleden suffers from the problem that its telephone lines are routed via the Henley-on-Thames exchange which is quite a fair way away, beyond the reach of current generation broadband. At present, residents are able to subscribe to a wireless broadband service, a lifeline which is not available in every other broadband not-spot, but this comes at a premium cost.

Managing Expectations: Digital Britain Report

The Digital Britain Report due out next month is likely to recommend a Universal Service Obligation which will guarantee everyone in the UK can receive a 2Mbps broadband service by 2012 and we hope that it will also take into consideration a number of issues not highlighted sufficiently in the Interim report:

  1. Those without any broadband service must be the first priority.
  2. Areas with speeds below 2Mbps should be a secondary priority; resources should be directed at those with the slowest speeds.
  3. Including a minimum upstream speed commitment of 128 Kbps.
  4. Considering the issue of latency and access to the modern world of VoIP if high-latency solutions are being considered..
  5. And finally, very important - commitment to regular review of the USO speeds.

"The speed for universal service needs to move with the technology, so no system should be put in place that is inflexible and no actions (like removing telephone substations! as in Hambleden) without ensuring that this would not impact in the future any further telecommunications developments"

Terrie Jones, a resident in the Hambleden Valley, Buckinghamshire

The Campaign

If you can't get broadband or you are getting sustained speeds below 2Mbps because of your geographical location (i.e. not because you choose to subscribe to a slower service, because you suffer occasional slow-downs or your ISP is limiting you due to excessive use), please register on Broadband Notspot.

We will use the data gathered to help inform the debate on broadband coverage and, if possible, help users to work together to get everyone in the UK connected. Also, you can discuss your broadband coverage problem on our notspot forum.

Comments

Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
The only way to build is in a futureproof way, which means using fibre instead of copper. This will deliver a robust connection of whatever speed the customer needs and can afford to pay for. We are digging in our own fibre and hope one day to join a fat pipe, that's if the govt make the telcos deliver to rural areas! http://www.youtube.com/user/wennetvideo
the Carter report is similar to what Marie Antoinette said when the peasants were starving. 'Let them eat Cake' sounds like '2Mbit is our USO for 2012' - history repeats itself, the suits don't understand.
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
Samknows is going a similar project - are the 2 connected?
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
"other people are paying £8K fibre to the home". That's quite a good price, actually. It'd be easily affordable if they got them selves organised and made it fibre to the /village/.

Taking a wild guess at 100 houses served they could probably bring it down to £80 a property. Call it £100 to allow for some routine equipment.

Bloody bargain in my opinion.
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
Wow. Clearly I haven't drunk enough tea yet. My typung is orribal :)
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
The two projects are not connected, beyond both being in the UK, and lookinig at broadband.

We are building up the data based on what the people say, SamKnows is based on BT checker. We feel this means it will reflect better the wants and desires of the public.

One wonders why a UK wide system was not created as part of the original Lord Carter review.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
@Andrew"One wonders why a UK wide system was not created as part of the original Lord Carter review."
no need to wonder, The Carter team listened to the BT/Ofcom suits protecting their investment rather than to the people.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
Also worth noting is there should be no minimum USO, the connection to everyone should be futureproof or money will be wasted patching up the old legacy phone network. Investment in fibre now will pay dividends. fibre 68p metre. digging £2.70 metre. end user kit £70. Splitters £100. We put three connections in for under £3k spread over a kilometre
Posted by herdwick over 8 years ago
"One wonders why a UK wide system was not created as part of the original Lord Carter review." - such a system is likely to be the first part of the implementation of a USO, once someone has the contract to do it. Surveys like this have been done before and will be done again from scratch.
Posted by herdwick over 8 years ago
"digging £2.70 metre" - not a real cost in the commercial world. Watching your video the number of vehicles and hangers on would cost way more than that at commercial rates rather than mates rates or borrowing farm labour / equipment.

Thames Water's (regulated) charges for laying pipe range from £34/metre in unmade ground to £153/m in a road.
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
@cyberdoyle:Another reason why the report doesn't mention it is that the rights holders still don't see the value in free flow of copyright material.

As for fibre - I'm not sure about your figures (sounds low but I haven't a clue really) but you're right nonetheless. The USO could and should have been used to kick start fibre. At leasting specifying a road map for-say-the next ten years.

Maybe it will. Oink, oink, flap, flap.
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
cyberdoyle - where were you digging for £2.70/m?
Posted by Essex over 8 years ago
Wish Virgin would quote for our Village ranges from 4km to 5.5km from exchanges with ore green boxes than a goverment warhouse of Greem fireengines. This village has 5,000 residents.Ther are many villages in the Dengie between South woodhame ferrers and Southminster. There is a viable opportunity for someone like Virgin if only they would consult us. a swas said £8,000 pounds is bargain to have cable installed. BT is rubbish and shortsighted hence the problems we have to day. Another failed 'British' Plc
Posted by Essex over 8 years ago
And now the version on a better line... I Wish Virgin would quote for our Village ranges from 4km to 5.5km from exchanges with more green boxes than a goverment warehouse of Green fire engines. This village has 5,000 residents.There are many villages in the Dengie between South Woodham Ferrers and Southminster. There is a viable opportunity for someone like Virgin if only they would consult us. Sounds like £8,000 pounds is bargain to have cable installed. BT is rubbish and short sighted hence the problems we have to day. Another failed 'British' Plc
Posted by blackislegirl over 8 years ago
The limits of the Virgin network give a good idea of viability of fixed network build. The Scottish Governent took a sensible approach to notspot resolution with their recent procurement of satellite and wireless BB from a niche provider. It will not ever be practical or ecomomic (imho ) to have all premises in the UK connected at over 2Mb/s on a fixed network. Not everyone is connected to mains drainage or electricity. Many people cannot get digital freeview or even Sky (due to satellite line-of-sight issues.) I think that eventaully people will have to accept what is viable or else move!
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
we were digging in lancashire, and that is the standard rate the contractor charges, not mates rate. Actual bloody fact. £2.70 a metre to bury armoured cable. We can also hire a machine to dig under roads and rivers and gardens, up to 300 metres at a stretch, but that is £30 a metre. All cheaper than bt quote (£120 a metre)Our problem is now connecting to a fat pipe, bt want £76.000.00 to bring pipe to nearest village.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
o and herdwick - they were not hangers on, they were industry specialists who wanted to see a community JFDI.
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
You got ONTs for 70 quid cyberdoyle? What did the OLTs cost per port?
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
So it's burying armoured cable not duct? I suspect BT and VM etc. would not do that.
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
Cyberdoyle - how are you managing your end users?
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
@Somerset we used armoured cable through fields with moleplough, but used ducting through the bluebell wood and peeps gardens. the end user kits to connect two new homes and to light the feed altogether cost £460. The ducting cost £1 a metre. The end users are managed in the same way they were when they were on a wireless connection. Fibre replaced the wireless when the trees grew too big and blocked the signal.http://www.youtube.com/user/wennetvideo
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
Well done! Did you need an Ofcom licence or do you bypass public land? How is the internet connection done?
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
we did it all on private land, just neighbours helping each other. The internet is fed in via a wireless link from a mast across the valley. You can just see it on the video, and the antenna on the big silo building where the fibre joins the network.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
the truth is coming out, 3 million homes with most actually not in rural areas and yes that carter report was just following ofcom/BT motions, it puts just about no obligation onto BT and may actually allow them to withdraw service from its worse areas. If it was 2mbit by end of 2010 and 10mbit by 2012 then it would have been alot more respectable but wait 10mbit on mobile internet? hence the 2mbit.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
the mobile companies are gonna make a fortune out of us just like they have done with the phones. If we don't get a proper infrastructure in soon it will be too late to play catch up.
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
@chrysalis:Yeah. We'll have to wait until it's published of course but if it effectively said "2Mb throughput 24/7/365 by end of 2009, FTTh by end of 2015" I'd consider it a good report. Unfortunately I highly doubt it'll say that and if it did I'm sure they'd offset it with some rights related drivel.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
andruec what is garuantueed, they wont do anything to upset BT and the other major players, corporates are looked after first on this kind of thing. The mobile companies will be kept sweet with subsidies and their new signups that will follow.
Posted by amforbes over 8 years ago
I agree with cyberdoyle 1, fiber optic is the only way to be future proof. Bundling more and more copper lines together is delaying the inevitable the government are pushing for two megabit minimum service I don't know how they are going to manage that with copper phone lines and a company who gives "Living in the past" a whole new meaning.
Posted by simond over 8 years ago
Why break a tradition that's been in place ever since the end of the Victorian period? Successive governments that have had zero forethought but would rather spend £1bn on a millenium White Elephant ie the Dome. And £20bn+ on an olypics that every country was glad they didn't get.

Spending it on a telecommunications infrasture is a bad idea, very bad. God I love this country.
Posted by Bryanm over 8 years ago
I too live in the Hambleden Valley - but unlike Terri, I cannot get a wireless (3G)connection! I pay £15 per month (plus line rental) for dial-up that sometimes reaches the heady heights of 40kbps! I don't see us getting FTTH in any sensible timeframe so we will be relying on some form of wireless for USO - but given the current 3G coverage in the Valley, I'm not at all optimistic about that either!
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Low qualify fibre is no answer, early fibre is allready rotting in the ground.

Certainly in urban areas infill is important, for rural areas WiMAX should be the technology of choice.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
Disagree Dawn, we don't want low quality fibre we want top quality fibre. Cheaper and easier than wimax. Wimax has issues, it is great for fast fix but that's all.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
Im kind of split on the whole fibre thing. On the one hand it will be great for us all to have even higher speeds and better services, on the other hand i have to ask who is going to pay for it? Technically speaking it isnt needed and everyone could (if BT spent the money) have decent speeds and reliabilty using current copper wire tech (Most speed issues are due to distance from the exchange and not down to it being old hat tech).
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
It has been mentioned more than once the government may help financially to roll out fibre to the whole country, which while nice, i personally want to know who is going to be placed in charge of the technology once it is in place. I do not see why my taxes should be used to aid in a further BT monopoly (OR ANY other company monopoly, before the BT fans start on me). Theres plenty of better things at this moment in time to spend millions on. I also agree about WIMAX, its a load of carp, you will get faster speed but at times it will not work at all due to something as minor as the weather.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
I also personally dont want to see my taxes spent on a half cocked fibre service where those put in charge limit speeds, charge us some of the most expensive prices for fibre in Europe and allow thereselfs and their share holders to reap the rewards of a rubbish limited service funded with my money. If the government fund it they should be allowed to dictate to whoever runs the service and what is expected from it, if they fail to do so then the government should pass the contract to someone else.
Posted by JamesBird over 8 years ago
This notspot website runs like a dog for me, and eventually crashes my browser.
I can't even enter my details!
Absolutely awful, I'm not very impressed.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Fine Carpet, what company other than BT is willing to take it on? Virgin isn't, and...nobody else can, as things stand.

BT's doing FTTC. If you want FTTH, get out there and campaign for BT to be funded for it. Simple as that. And as things stand, the government should be funding it with ZERO strings, given how badly they screw over BT - it's not a fair market for them.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"BT's doing FTTC. If you want FTTH, get out there and campaign for BT to be funded for it. Simple as that. And as things stand, the government should be funding it with ZERO strings, given how badly they screw over BT - it's not a fair market for them."

I take it before you wrote this you didnt see the latest news story about the crap uprates their FTTC will offer? Actually ive changd my mind completely now, NOBODY should be having their taxes used to provide a so called fibre service that offers slower uprates than a company that give 2.5Mb uprates on the normal copper network.
Posted by Zarjaz over 8 years ago

It's all about choices. If broadband is so important, then perhaps they should think about moving. I am damn sure for the price of their des/res in Hambleden, they could get something very reasonable somewhere where they can get the BB they crave. How about Turville, just up the road, or Marlow, Henley, Wargrave, the list goes on, all just as 'nice' but all with better coverage.
Posted by Zarjaz over 8 years ago
Option 2, the locals band together and raise funds to get the old exchange, (its still there) re-opened, why not go the whole hog and do a Kingston, run the whole shebang. The locals aren't short of a bob or two.

Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
Well said Zarjaz, none of us, our taxes or public money in any way should be used to fund a private company (BT) and private individuals that suffer slow speeds.... If they want it that bad make them pay for it, the local country bum isnt going to give me free local beer in their local pub so why the heck should we give them money for better broadband?
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
its the peasants money that goes into the tax pot too you know, and the fibre that feeds the exchanges runs through the countryside. how about we move the exchanges into the rural areas, and let carpetburn have the low speeds? Or see how he likes living in a notspot, crapspot or slowspot?
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
wow, and 6 months later we are no further down the road, except that the USO has turned into a USC, and BT are waiting with hands outstretched to implement BET (copper cabal patch up job) and replicating fibre in areas already covered with Virgin.
So nobody is learning, and nobody is doing what is needed. O well. We will just keep laying fibre ourselves. JFDI is sadly lacking in digitalbritain management.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
in case anyone isn't aware what BET is, here is the info http://media140.org/?p=252
Apparently according to the Telegraph today the BT chairman is trying it out, cos he couldn't get broadband in his village.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/6686406/BT-criticised-over-broadband-access-for-chairman.html ROFL. he is more than welcome to it. The rest of us want next gen, ubiquitous broadband that works. Not obsolete copper patch ups.
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