2nd October update – digging well underway, and we’re looking for contractors

Over the summer and since the last update, Roger has made sure that good progress was made… digging started and several kilometres of cable are now in the ground between the LEWFA project and Rathmell. As I write, we’re expecting an imminent visit from B4RN’s technicians to have a look at details such as power supply up at Rathmell Reading Room, where our central cabinet will be located.

wanted: mole plough contractors

But we’re also slightly victims of our (or B4RN’s) success, because our mole plough contractors have been too busy to dig for RW(G)BB in recent weeks.

We’re putting out a call for other people who would be willing and able to mole plough to get in touch with us. B4RN experience / accreditation is an advantage because there’s immediate work for anyone who can jump straight in and knows the specifics of the project. We think training can be arranged for contractors who mole plough but not yet for B4RN, so please get in touch if you’re interested in the work!

We’re now on …[eyeroll]… Facebook

Well, it probably had to happen eventually. RW(G)BB is now on Facebook – like us, share us, use that “angry face” reaction, messenger us, scatter your metadata to the universe: https://www.facebook.com/rwgbb/

Seriously (or rather, equally seriously), we hope being on FB will make some of the increasingly important community aspects of our project easier for local residents to follow and manage.

(“Easier than popping round and asking the neighbour?” you ask. Good question. Good question.)

RWBB first dig training meeting – 16th May 2018

On Wednesday 16th May, we held our first meeting since reaching the initial funding target and being given the go-ahead by B4RN. The purpose of the meeting was for B4RN’s experts to give basic training to our own dig team. A mole plough is on its way to us, and the digging of our own network could even start before the end of May!

questions, decisions
instructions
planning and building the network for easy maintenance
how to keep everything clean and free of kinks so fibre-blowing is fast and painless, and the importance of accurate labelling of each duct’s destination.
cutting and capping duct to keep it clean

progress update 1st January 2018

To paraphrase Roger’s informative email of the 28th December…

Routes

Signed wayleave agreements are now in place for nearly all of the initial Route 1 from Armitstead Hall, Lawkland down to the centre of Rathmell (as well as many of the local property spurs on that route and around central Rathmell).

A slight change has been made to this initial route which will shorten its path, but that has involved a few ‘new’ landowners, and a few more wayleaves to get in the next 2 to 3 weeks.

Progress on other routes will be able to be made once this initial connection to LEWFA’s network is finalised.

Costing / investment

B4RN are trying to get a costing to us by the middle of January.

They will also tell us how much initial investment we would need to have in place in order to begin digging. The initial amount needs to be enough to purchase our cabinet and the ducting / cabling for Route 1, and to cover the cost of digging (although not all digging costs need to come out of the budget, because some of our landowners are willing to dig in return for B4RN shares).

As soon as we have our last Route 1 wayleave signed up and our investment target in place, we will make the call for investment to begin.

Call for volunteers

Once wayleaves and investment are in place, the digging can begin and the rest of us in the community can play more of a part. Please let Roger know if you are willing to help with any (or all) of the following phases of work:

  1. Digging
    We will be talking with landowners/farmers over the winter to get a rough plan for digging. We aim to start digging in April / May (which should coincide with the fields being available for the work too). We’ll need people to help with the digging itself, and with the supplying of tea / sandwiches / cake to the diggers. 
  2. Garden digging
    Once the line reaches each property, the property owner is responsible for getting the line from the boundary (e.g. the garden wall) to the house. Not everyone can do this digging by themselves, of course, so if you are willing to help those who can’t, please let Roger know.
  3. Getting the line into each house
    Once the line has reached the property itself, the project team takes responsibility for drilling through property walls and getting the line into each house, as well as for mounting the external and internal termination boxes. We also need volunteers for this phase; appropriate training will be provided.
  4. Local co-ordinators
    When we reach the stage where individual properties can be connected, it will be done in clusters, with all properties served by the same local access point (i.e. the nearest manhole on the route) done on the same day, which requires some coordination between neighbours. Around each manhole / access point, we will be looking for a local coordinator to go between the project team and neighbours to set a date for the cluster’s connections to be made (and make sure everyone is in!).

Please let Roger know if you are willing to volunteer.

 

Public Meeting – 2nd August 2017, 7.30pm at The Plough

A public meeting was held at The Plough in Wigglesworth on Wednesday 2nd August at 7:30pm… B4RN’s Community Liaison & Planning Coordinator, David Ryall, defined the spectrum of public meetings he had attended as ranging from “7 people, and a dog, who fell asleep” at the low end, up to “standing room only, and it was a big room” at the top end.

We’re pleased to say that our own public meeting was up towards the top end of the spectrum, with about 20 people left standing at the back after all the seats had been filled, some people overspilling into the bar area and calling for speakers to shout for the benefit of those at the back, and a few people even standing outside looking in through the open windows, until the rain became torrential.

Mr Ryall gave a down-to-earth (excuse the pun) and informative presentation about Broadband for the Rural North, and how we might expect our own B4RN dig to go. He answered questions ably and entertainingly, and there was more excitement after the meeting than one might reasonably have expected for anything involving putting miles and miles of orange duct under the ground and digging up your own garden, and paying money for the privilege. Perhaps it was the anticipation of both 1Gbps download and upload speed AND cups of tea and pieces of cake that did it? Or maybe it really was the sense of promise at a community alternative to a faceless corporation, a potentially good return on investment, and raised house prices, as various people mentioned.

The meeting was an excellent opportunity to find out more about B4RN from Mr Ryall, and from members of the neighbouring LEWFA and Clapham B4RN projects who attended and gave their own answers to residents’ questions.

Thank you to all who organised, spoke, asked, answered or just attended, and to the Plough for hosting the meeting.

Village meetings

We held meetings in both villages to explore these issues in an open Q&A type forum. Also (very kindly) present were members of the Lawkland-Eldroth-Wharfe-Feizor-Austwick (LEWFA) B4RN project, who shared their experience of funding, planning and installing the B4RN broadband solution. The meetings were:

Wigglesworth
Wigglesworth Community Centre
Wednesday 2nd November 7:30pm
Rathmell
Rathmell Reading Room
Thursday 3rd November 7:30pm

Resident Update – October

Firstly a big thanks to all of you who have responded to the online form. You should have had an email back from us if your response was successfully received. If you want to be included, or you believe you responded but have not had an email, please submit a response through http://rwbb.org.uk/need-it/ or email us via rwbb@googlegroups.com.

As of 20th October we have had the following responses

Want faster Broadband Willing to invest in B4RN Willing to pay BT
62 53 43

BT Openreach solution

We have a 15 week lead time between us submitting a list of interested properties to BT and getting a price back from BT. With this in mind we are looking to get our list of properties together by 15-Nov-2016.

BT Works in Wigglesworth

As some of you may be aware BT Openreach were pulling cable through Wigglesworth in July with manhole fencing saying ‘ Fibre Broadband is here. Order now’. We have checked with Superfast North Yorkshire, who are working with BT and are jointly responsible for the rollout of Fibre Broadband in our area, they have stated that this installation was what is termed a spine cable and whilst this is part of the infrastructure required for faster broadband ‘it will not have an impact on broadband in Wigglesworth’ in the near future. There are still no plans that we are aware of for either Wigglesworth or Rathmell to be included in any Superfast North Yorkshire rollout. In a letter dated 30.06.2016 the Chief Executive of NYNet stated that properties in Wigglesworth were not included in phase 2 of the current rollout which ends in June 2017. The phase 3 contract is likely to be awarded in early 2017 and will run until around 2019. The Chief Executive stated in the same letter that they were unable to say whether properties in Wigglesworth would be included in Phase 3 (which will achieve 95% broadband coverage in North Yorkshire and not 100%). The letter suggested that residents in Wigglesworth may wish to consider the B4RN option.

Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN) solution

We will be contacting people who have indicated they would be willing to invest to get an idea of what level of investment they would be prepared to make. This would only be an indication of an amount, and does not require any commitment at this point in time.

If we are confident we can reach a level of investment (without actually taking anyone’s money) which meets B4RN’s threshold they will begin a detailed planning process. That process will be based on the list of interested properties that we provide to them, and they will give back to us their best estimate of what the cost of the project will be. If we decide to proceed with B4RN we would then liaise with landowners on the prospective routes. Alongside this we would also start to gather actual investment to cover the project cost.
If we have sufficient investment in we would be looking to start digging ducting in ~May 2017

Get your interest in early

It is in the best interests of all involved that any properties that might eventually want to get connected to either of the candidate solutions to register their interest as early as possible.

We need to get the list of interested properties to BT Openreach as soon as we can as there is a 15 week lead time for them to come back to us with a price. If a property is not on that list there is no guarantee that the work that BT Openreach would quote for will cover that property and there may be significant delays if we try to add additional properties onto the list at a later stage.

We also need to provide a property list to B4RN to get a detailed costing and adding properties in later may well lead to delays and possibly increased costs to the project which we would want to avoid.

Village Meetings

We are holding meetings in both villages to explore these issues in an open Q&A type forum. We are looking to get attendees from the Lawkland-Eldroth-Wharfe-Feizor-Austwick (LEWFA) B4RN project to share their experience of funding, planning and installing the B4RN broadband solution. The meetings will be a great opportunity to have your questions answered, please do come along and have your say.

The meetings will be as follows and all are welcome – especially those who are undecided:

Wigglesworth
Wigglesworth Community Centre
Wednesday 2nd November 7:30pm
Rathmell
Rathmell Reading Room
Thursday 3rd November 7:30pm

meeting with LEWFA – 25th June

LEWFA welcomed a group of us on the 25th June, and talked us through their experiences so far with their B4RN project, which was started in 2015 and was, when we met them, a little over a month into the digging and laying of the fibre optic cables for their community broadband network.

The meeting was extremely helpful, and painted a realistic and positive picture of the organisation, investment, determination and effort required to carry out a community project of this type.

Key points:

  • LEWFA expect the whole project to take 2 years, from start to finish.
  • They identified three key ongoing tasks and allocated each one to a member of the LEWFA team, so that the workload would be manageable. The tasks were:
    1. promotion of the project and communication of progress within the community
    2. route and network planning
    3. fundraising and finance
  • All three of those tasks, running in parallel, were essential to get the project with B4RN started: local enthusiasm was raised and gauged by talking to households and neighbours about the idea; those interested were then asked how much they might roughly be willing to invest in the project (for more on why this community investment is key to all B4RN projects, see here); an initial network map covering all properties in the 5 villages allowed B4RN to calculate an approximate cost for the LEWFA project, to check that the cost wasn’t likely to be in excess of what the community was prepared to pay for it.
  • Money was only asked for when LEWFA were sure that the cost was within the community’s reach. When enough money had come in for LEWFA to be sure that the project would be successfully funded, they gave the go-ahead and work started in earnest… ie, material was ordered and digging started.
  • Members of the community signed up for smaller / shorter roles in the project, such as talking to landowners to agree wayleaves for the cable to go under their fields, or co-ordinating the digging with landowners, farmers, contractors and volunteers, or helping on dig days (whether with preparation, digging under walls, feeding cable through the mole plough and so on… or with sandwiches, tea and moral support).
  • Almost all landowners in the LEWFA area have been extremely supportive of the project, and getting their permission for cable to run under their land has been relatively straightforward, with few exceptions. This is a key factor in the success (and in limiting the cost) of a B4RN project; landowners need to see and be sympathetic to the benefits of bringing broadband to their wider community, since they aren’t paid for cable crossing their land (though they can be “paid” for digging in the cables themselves).

In summary, LEWFA were enthusiastic about their project, and happy with their experience with B4RN so far. Their advice and experience (which they were very willing to share with us, and which we were very grateful to receive) gave those of us from Rathmell and Wigglesworth considerable hope that a similar project could work well in our villages.

Thanks again to LEWFA for their hospitality and openness.

mobile (4G) internet

To paraphrase this article, using the mobile (4G) network to bring broadband to rural communities feels like it should be an easier answer than laying miles of cable, but along with the advantages, there are a number of drawbacks. From the Broadbandchoices article:

Pros of 4G over home broadband
  • Packages are often far more flexible – 30-day contracts abound that can be cancelled whenever you want.
  • Speeds can be pretty darn fast, sometimes faster than home broadband connections.
  • A mobile broadband device is portable, so you can take it wherever you take your laptop or tablet.
  • It eliminates the need to pay for home broadband, line rental, and a mobile plan – using 4G for your home connection could potentially cut out some bills completely.
Cons of 4G over home broadband
  • Mobile broadband, whether from a hotspot or your smartphone, usually has far stricter download limits than even the cheapest of home connections.
  • Tethering from a mobile isn’t always possible. Not all smartphones have it as a feature, some networks don’t allow it, and some have narrow download limits for tethering. An unlimited data plan from Three, for instance, has a separate Personal Hotspot allowance of 12GB.
  • It’s more expensive than similar home broadband packages… which often give you unlimited downloads, comparable speeds, and extras like internet security or TV.
  • It’s less reliable. A lot of things can get in the way of a wireless signal, and if it goes down or starts being slow, there’s very little you can do about it.
  • Those fast speeds have also been known to be pretty inconsistent.
  • 4G can reach good speeds (40+ Mb), but fixed line broadband can reach much higher ones – up to 1Gb with fibre optic cable.

For those reasons among others, key members of the Rathmell / Wigglesworth group are of the opinion that 4G is unlikely to be the best solution for our villages.

BT Openreach – community fibre partnerships

BT Openreach have connected 95% of the UK to fast broadband… but we’re in the remaining 5%. Their Community Fibre Partnership scheme is a way for a community to pay the difference between what BT will invest and what a broadband project actually costs.

If this project came to fruition the properties that it covers should be able to take up products like BT Infinity with typical speeds in the range of 20Mbps-50Mbps .  Please note unlike the B4RN option we are investigating this will not by default cover all the community, it would only cover areas (and possibly only properties) where people have expressed an interest.

It should also be noted that this would be a Fibre to the Cabinet/Fibre to the Pole solution and the remainder of the link from the Cabinet/Pole to your house would still run over a copper cable which will still suffer speed degradation as the length of the copper run increases.

To get a costing from Openreach we need to provide a list of all the interested properties, so please Register your Interest.

openreach.co.uk