Visit from B4RN and DCMS – 4th July

It’s a common notion that the institutions that govern us are out of reach, and also that usually, “computer says no”, but yesterday, Rathmell hosted a – frankly huge – group from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, specifically from the Building Digital UK project, and it seems to have been a very promising and practical visit.

BDUK leaders and staff were visiting B4RN’s headquarters, and B4RN’s project team and engineers brought them to Rathmell, because our project happens to be at a particularly interesting stage on several levels:

  • B4RN’s fibre network has just arrived and we’re excited to see first connections after three years of discussion, planning and groundwork
  • key community buildings like the Reading Room and Rathmell Old School were right on the verge of going live, and could be connected in front of DCMS eyes
  • a real-life garden duct dig could be shown in Gooselands
  • we’ve applied for DCMS Gigabit Vouchers through B4RN, but lots of our applications were contested, which seemed odd. The vouchers would give our project finances a real helping hand, boosting the £70,000 or so we’ve raised so far in the community, and ensuring that our more remote neighbours (e.g. those near the methodist chapel) aren’t left out
  • BT Openreach mysteriously started leaving coils of fibre-optic cable unterminated on telegraph poles around the village after quoting us however-much-it-was to come here
  • oh, and the fields in the centre of the village had just been sprayed

Roger led the group around the village, and as they walked, they met and heard from Local Business Leaders, Journalists, Connectivity Engineers, Law Enforcement Representatives, Community Hub Executives, Veterinary Doctors, Agricultural Experts and other Neighbours of Note, and saw first-hand how a project like B4RN can engage different aspects of a community, in a way that an Openreach van might struggle to replicate.

I gathered a bit of circumstantial evidence, including DCMS conversations overheard at the buffet lunch (prepared and served by Jacky, Rosemary and Michelle at the Old School, at which all the carrot cake vanished in an untimely fashion), enigmatic smiles on various people’s faces, and a few tweets from the director of BDUK, which suggested that DCMS are taking our village’s needs very seriously, and may well be reconsidering some of their voucher / funding decisions in our favour. More news on that as it happens…

The atmosphere was fantastic, and it was incredibly encouraging to see B4RN and DCMS out here in a small village, really engaged in the project and attentive to issues that face us and other communities like us. Thanks to all who came, and to those who organised and helped out.

Some key tweets from visitors:

Speedtests on B4RN

As more of us get our B4RN broadband connections (including both Rathmell Old School and the Reading Room yesterday!), one of the first things that you do with all this new-found speed is… a speedtest.

The Resources section of B4RN’s website has lots of useful information for customers (on things like phone / VOIP, streaming TV and films, SmartTVs, router settings and WiFi signal strength) and they also provide some useful pointers and reminders about speed tests, the first of which is:

if you can stream live video you are doing fine and don’t need to
do all this

But, human nature being what it is:

To summarise, for best speed results

  • a wired Ethernet connection between the B4RN router and your computer will be much faster than a WiFi signal
  • if your computer is middle-aged or old, it will be slower than a nice fast new computer
  • you should use the Ookla app to test your connection speed rather than a browser-based speed test (e.g. a page or tab loaded in Chrome/Safari/Firefox/IE/Edge/…)

Unless you have a new and fast computer connected by ethernet cable into the B4RN router, you may struggle to get a speed reading as high as the 948Mbps upload and download that we saw in Rathmell School yesterday. 

At these levels, a speed test is really testing how fast your device / computer can go, rather than measuring the actual throughput of the B4RN connection.

But… if you have three devices that will run at 300Mbps then you should be able to have all three go at that speed at the same time.

The RWBB / B4RN cabinet is live

A landmark day for us on the 29th June as the Rathmell cabinet came live.

And Chris Conder and Jorj Haston from B4RN were in the area so we fitted and connected routers in 15 properties along Route 1; of those 9 went LIVE on the B4RN network.

We have work planned during next week that will enable us to bring more properties on Route 1 live

Quick checklist for being ready to go live:

  1. We have got ducting to your garden wall
  2. Duct is laid through your garden to the house wall
  3. House kit is installed (internal & external box and white duct through the wall)
  4. Complete a voucher / service request on the Get B4RN form (enter your postcode at https://b4rn.org.uk/postcode-checker/ and it will direct you to the right form for your postcode)
  5. You have had fibre blown to the property
  6. Fill out a B4RN Contract form before the B4RN installers arrive (https://b4rn.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Contract-Pack.pdf – contact me for a copy if you can’t print your own)

If we’ve done 1 and you’ve done 2, 3 and 4 but haven’t had fibre blown please get in touch so we can arrange with the fibre blowers to get you done.n.b. you can still do 2, 3 and 4 in advance of us doing 1 as long as you know where we are expecting to bring your property connection to
If you have had 5 done too we will be in touch to arrange a visit to get you on line (if you aren’t delaying service by more than a couple of months due to an existing contract).

If you are on Route 1 and haven’t done 2, 3 and 4 yet then it’s really time to get some plans in place to move things forward.  If you need help / advice you can fill in our form to request help.

For those of you who are now live or about to go live there are a number of useful links on the B4RN website (https://b4rn.org.uk/resources/) on all things from Voice-over-IP (VOIP) phone package providers (e.g. Vonage / SIPGate) to Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS) that can keep your router running in the event of a power cut.

B4RN also do a weekly computer club (Fridays 2pm-4pm) at their Melling office to which all are welcome (especially if you bring cake!) where you can get advice on getting Wifi signal around your property, VOIP phones and they can potentially (depending on make/model) also re-programme your existing Broadband router (when you are live on B4RN) in order for it to become a Wifi repeater somewhere else in your property.

Investment Update – May 2019

B4RN is now expected to be going live in parts of Rathmell by the end of June.

As you will remember our initial investment target was for us to be able to start the dig on Route 1.

We have raised £65k so far and that money has now been spent in bringing Route 1 to its current state, under budget.

Unfortunately the Government voucher scheme isn’t going to give us anything like the remaining amount for the rest of the work.

We need to raise approximately another £30-50k to complete our Phase 1 area which includes Route 1 (almost complete), the rest of central Rathmell, and the initial part of the route to Wigglesworth/Tosside as far as Cappleside. The exact amount we need will depend on how many vouchers are successfully applied for and our future digging costs.

To make an investment download a form from here

https://b4rn.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Share-application-form-B4RN-V6-13.11.18…pdf

The B4RN share prospectus is downloadable from here

https://b4rn.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Invitation-to-Subscribe-for-shares-in-B4RN.pdf

The majority of the investment so far has come from people who are going to have to wait for more money to be raised before they can get connected.  It would be great if those who will shortly be able to go live on B4RN who would like to invest could return the favour and help us raise the funds needed to complete Phase 1.

We would also welcome any additional investment that existing investors could contribute.

Gooselands Voucher applications

One of the postcodes that has been accepted by DCMS for both residential and business vouchers is BD24 0LT i.e. Gooselands in Rathmell.  B4RN have asked for as many BD24 0LT residents as possible to register now on http://b4rn.org.uk/postcode-checker as this will help both to lower costs and release more money back into the project.  This should also mean that we would be able to get Gooselands properties dug and connected sooner rather than later.  

May 2019 update

Dig & Fibre Blowing progress

As per the map below we have had a lot of progress over the last week or so. 

Green shows where there is Live fibre, Red shows where fibre has been blown into the access chambers (manholes) but is not yet spliced (joined up), and orange shows where we have duct. 

n.b. when the fibre is blown into the chambers it then needs to be split out and spliced to the next section of fibre, either to link to the next chamber or to serve a property(s), this splicing is done by a separate team who need to get scheduled in by B4RN. 

Further route 1 fibre blowing is now awaiting the arrival in stock at B4RN of the 288 fibre cable that we need to have blown into the rest of route 1.

The road crossings at the old school field and at Gawthorpe House have both been completed this week, we just need to get a few ends of ducts dug in and jointed and we will have a fully dug in trunk route ducting.

Digging has been ongoing up at Rome farm and the line to Parsons Close has now been completed. Digging will continue in Rathmell next week to lay in the property spur ducts on the north side of Hesley Lane from Gawthorpe House to The Grange and a couple of other outstanding property spurs off route 1. 

If you are on Route 1 then if you haven’t already done so you need to be working on the following: Get your garden dig done

Get the ducting into your garden (in most cases from the field adjoining your property) and across the garden to your house wall.  As per previous emails the orange duct needs to run below ground, please do all you can to go under garden walls / fences rather than through or over them, and please consider the chances of you or someone else damaging the ducting when doing future work in the garden (probably best to be more than a single spade depth down), use extra protection (e.g. blue water pipe) if you can’t dig it in deep.

If you need help in doing your dig then ask around for help from neighbours, a group working together can do a lot in short time.

There is also a gardener who has done work for people on garden digs on other B4RN projects and would do similar work for residents on this project, his name is Robert Davidson and he can be contacted on 07766662861 or email robert.davidson83@outlook.com.

Get a House Kit installed

I’ve given out 25 house kits over the last few weeks and have another 20 ready to get out to you.  Rather than me spend time chasing people to try and give them out, I’ve decided that it would be best if people arrange to come and pick up a kit from me, so get in touch to arrange a pickup if you are on Route 1 and don’t yet have a kit.

We have a Rathmell based electrician, Craig Curry, who is B4RN trained to install house kits and you can contact him on 07941 085086 or email craig.curry@btinternet.com to arrange an install.

4th April 2019 update

Now the whole area voucher application has been approved, Route 1 is no longer ‘on hold’ and the ordering / blowing of fibre is being worked into B4RN’s plans and will proceed as soon as possible.

We also have dates for the 2 road crossings on Hesley Lane which are planned as

29th April – Old school field crossing

1st May – Gawthorpe House crossing

The crossing at the Reading Room to the lane beside the church has been quoted for and so should follow in the next batch of planned work during May or early June

The control node cabinet is now in place on its concrete base in the Reading Room car park, which is another major step forward.

Digging has also still been under way and ducting is now in place up to Swainstead incorporating the first stretch of the route towards Sheepwash and Wham.

Voucher scheme update

Voucher scheme update

We’ve had some news back on this from B4RN as follows, and it does get a bit complicated so I’ll do my best to set it out as simply as I can:

  • DCMS responded that more of the postcodes included in the whole area application will also have to be excluded as there has already been some government money allocated to properties in the same postcode (n.b. this can be money for contracts that have been awarded but where work has not been started), this primarily affects some, but not all, of the properties on Route 1 and central Rathmell
  • DCMS have now accepted the whole area application once it was resubmitted without those postcodes
  • non-business properties in excluded postcodes will not be able to be included in the whole area application that B4RN have submitted and so will not be eligible to apply under the voucher scheme
  • B4RN have found that they have been able to successfully apply on a single property basis for a business that is in one of the postcodes that is excluded under the whole area application so it seems the rules are different for businesses

B4RN will be inputting the relevant lists of postcodes for both the project area and the postcodes that are eligible for a voucher under the whole area application into their online form and will notify me when it is ready for people to sign up. The online process will automatically give you the relevant form for a voucher / non-voucher based on your property postcode.

This may well mean that there will be places where one residential property is eligible for a voucher and their immediate neighbour is not purely based on them having a different postcode.  I have to stress that this is solely due to the DCMS rules and not under the control of either B4RN or the local project team.  We should just treat it as a bonus that the whole area can get some benefit for every voucher that we can make use of.

Important: on the non-voucher version of the form it will have a tick box for you to say whether the property is a business or not – if you tick this box the B4RN office will follow up with you to go through a single business application on your behalf, and as part of the process will need to see one of the following pieces of evidence for the business:

  • VAT registration
  • Charity Registration
  • HMRC notification/letter stating the sole trader/partnership UTR number
  • Certification of incorporation (Limited Companies)
  • Business bank account statement issued within the last three months
  • Non-domestic rates reference
  • A Recent utility bill  

A qualifying business can be anything from a sole trader / micro business (e.g. a mobile hair dresser who does their books at home) up to a medium sized company, or a farm.  It does not unfortunately apply to people like me who work from home for a company based elsewhere.

Benefits of the voucher scheme to the property owner are as follows:

For a business (either under the whole area application or single property application) : £300 cash back towards costs of getting across the curtilage / house kit installation and the normal £150 connection fee is waived, so an effective £450

For a residential property: £150 cash back towards costs of getting across the curtilage / house kit installation and the normal £150 connection fee is waived, so an effective £300n.b. the cash back is payable when B4RN get confirmation from DCMS that the connection is live, and DCMS check this by emailing the property owner when B4RN tell DCMS they have been connected.  These emails must be responded to within 28 days or the voucher becomes void and B4RN don’t get to claim their costs back and the property owner would not get the cash back.The benefit to the project is that whatever costs B4RN can claim back for a property on the voucher scheme will be ploughed back into the same project allowing us to do more and reduce the amount of overall investment required.

21 March 2019 update

Dig Progress

Route1 Trunk is now all dug in!! The remaining road crossing at the old school field on Hesley Lane is expected to be in April.  The B4RN civils team laid the base for the distribution cabinet (green box) and dig in its power connection from the Reading Room.  Once the cabinet base is in place B4RN will be able to install the cabinet itself. Digging will continue over the coming weeks to fill out the Route 1 spurs to Rome / Swaw Beck / Swainstead / Old Sawmill / Hesley Lane (Gawthorpe House-The Grange) and the central Rathmell ‘head-ends’.

Voucher Scheme

B4RN are still waiting to hear from DCMS regarding the Voucher Scheme application for the area, B4RN have a number of applications in progress and have been in contact with DCMS to prioritise our area application.  Once the application is approved I will be able to send you a link to B4RN’s online form where you will be able to register to get a connection under the voucher scheme.  I’ll send more details on this at the time.

House Kits / Garden Digs

I am going to be collecting a batch of house kits from B4RN during next week and so we will soon be in a position to provide them to those who have asked for them so far.  If the voucher scheme is approved I am told there should be an allowance per property being connected under the voucher scheme to be put towards the house kit install and/or garden dig costs.  I don’t have full details on this yet but I will provide more info as soon as I have it.

March 9, 2019 update – the trunk route has reached Rathmell old school

We’ve had some good progress this week in spite of the weather and we have now got duct for Route1 as far as Hesley Lane at the old school field, and spurs down to the school / School House as per the sections shown in purple.

Our next section to work on is the section shown in blue which would give us a completed trunk route bar the road cut / crossing at the school field.

House Kit installation training

Training was held in Rathmell on Monday 4th March to give attendees the relevant knowledge of how to install the internal and external house boxes and handle the ducting / fibre.

March 2, 2019 update – good digging progress on the trunk route between Hollin Hall and Green Farm

We have made some good progress over the last few weeks as you will be able to see from the map below. Green shows the part of the dig that B4RN have blown fibre into being served off the Eldroth node, Orange is where we had duct dug to on the last update, and Pink is the duct we have dug in since the last update.

So we have gone under the railway and the A65 and got duct to the properties at Close House and down to the Craven Arms.  The main route has advanced from Hollin Hall up to the lane to Huggon House / Green Farm and spurs have been laid to garden walls of the properties around Huggon House.  We saw a slightly unconventional yet effective approach from Martin Charnley who took his garden fence down and invited the contractor to mole his and his neighbour’s house connections in through his garden! We have also impact-moled under Mill Lane by Tilthammer / Old Sawmill ready to get property ducts to the Old Sawmill area. We were hoping to have reached Hesley Lane at the Old School Field at the end of last week, however a broken starter motor on the mole plough compounded by another problem caused when removing the broken starter prevented us from ploughing this week.  So hoping for better progress during next week.

Timescales

I’m still not going to give any definitive dates as there are still too many variables to be certain but I will outline what remains to be done (in no particular order, some things will be able to happen in parallel).

  • 1-2 weeks worth of digging on the main trunk duct – this is our prime focus at the moment
  • Open road cut across Hesley Lane at the ‘School Field’ gateway – to be done by B4RN no fixed date as yet but expected to be early April
  • Open road cut across Hesley Lane at Gawthorpe Hosuse – to be done by B4RN no fixed date, but will be done at the same time as the school field crossing
  • B4RN distribution node to install / commission – to be done by B4RN no fixed date as yet
  • Open road cut across Main Street Rathmell from the Reading Room to the lane by the church – to be done by B4RN no fixed date as yet 
  • Filling out property spurs to the rest of central Rathmell (aka the ‘head ends’ in B4RN terminology)Filling out property spurs off the rest of the trunk route e.g. Swainstead / Swaw Beck / Rome / Parsons Close
  • Another variable which may affect timescales is changes made in November to the rules of the Gigabit Fibre Broadband Voucher Scheme which now allow B4RN to make a block application covering both businesses and residential properties.  B4RN have made an application for our area and are awaiting confirmation from the Department of Media, Culture and Sport as to whether this has been approved.  B4RN will be waiting for this to be resolved before they make any further properties live as they cannot claim on a property retrospectively.  I’ll give more details on this as soon as I have them.

Getting yourself ready for a house install

The above diagram gives an overview of how a B4RN connection gets from the duct in the field to the router mounting plate in your house, and who is responsible for which parts of that connection.

The project will get a 7mm orange duct to your garden boundary, please let us know if there is a specific place you would like us to get to.

It is the householder’s responsibility to get the duct dug in through their garden (we can’t mole plough every garden). I would encourage neighbours to work together to have multiple property ducts dug in together as much as possible.

The project will supply the householder with 7mm ducting (black for above ground and orange for below ground) and any connectors required.  If you choose to add additional protection to the buried duct e.g. alkathene water pipe, then you would need to supply that. It may be possible to source some free offcuts of 16mm duct from B4RN to use as additional protection.

It is the project’s responsibility to get the 5mm white property duct through the house wall and fit the internal / external boxes. As things stand this is normally done on a volunteer basis and any costs involved have to be met by the local group as they are not covered by the B4RN connection fee or the project investment.  However if the voucher scheme goes ahead, and a property has signed up with the scheme, I am led to believe that this may well become less of a volunteer basis and may become more of a contractor job with the costs claimable against the voucher scheme.  Again I will update you when we have more definitive details of how this will all work.

Note: I understand that all Harrison Cross’s electricians have all been trained in the fitting of B4RN House Kits so they are also a potential route to get a House Kit installation done at the householder’s expense.  However, the project will still need to be involved in order to get the House Kit from B4RN, so please ask first.

Once all the above is in place and the cluster of properties served off the same access chamber have reached the same point B4RN engineers will come to blow the actual fibre from the chamber to your property and make the connection live and give you a router to mount on the internal box if your are taking up the connection.