I’m getting broadband!

I have to share this with those of you that have followed my broadband struggles. Finally, after 17 years, I will be getting ultrafast broadband December 12th! I know, amazing huh?!

When we first moved to this property, we just naturally assumed we’d have broadband. Never assume – as it makes an ass out of you and me!! After discovering we couldn’t get it, I ordered HomeHighway from BT – effectively ISDN. After a couple of years, however, BT determined this service was no longer viable for them as a business, because everyone could get broadband. Not us though!

As we’re 11km from the exchange it was technically impossible to get a signal that far down the copper. So, despite BT sales people continually telling me it would work, we went for a satellite service. This was definitely an improvement on HomeHighway but the latency was a big issue for services such as VoIP and online gaming. My poor boys were playing some friends online and thought they’d shot them whereas in actuality they’d been shot due to the latency!

Having endured this service for many years and appearing on various local TV and radio stations to berate both BT and the Government about the lack of service for rural communities – despite being only 10 mins drive from junction 8/9 of the M4 – we adopted mobile broadband from EE. This service, when performing at his best, provided a 30MB download and 8MB upload – more than adequate and more than the Government USO of 10MB. However, living in a communications black hole has meant that at various times the signal isn’t great and over time even this service has degraded, despite many calls to EE tech support.

We were to get “superfast” rural broadband through the SuperFast Berkshire initiative – whereby they got money from the Government to roll out broadband to rural areas. However, they first awarded the contract to ….. yes, you guessed it…… BT. And BT were not interested in a small hamlet of 9 properties, so we were never ‘top of the list’. Further campaigning gave way to SuperFast Berkshire re-awarding the rural part of the contract to Gigaclear – our saviours!

About a year ago we registered our interest on their website that resulted in a while ago them laying the infrastructure down our little lane to enable FTTH. We’ve had to wait a while to get connected to the circuit, but today I received a call to say my installation will take place on December 12th!

Patience has never been my strong point, but after 17 years waiting for broadband I will very soon have a 300MB service – not because I need it but because I want it. I will be opening a bottle of champers to celebrate finally entering the 21st century!

Rimmer’s Quest for Broadband Continues!

For many years, over 16 in fact, I’ve been waiting for broadband at my property. Not superfast you understand, just bog standard plain ol’ broadband. When we first moved here, the only ‘broadband’ option was Home Highway from BT (aka ISDN). After a couple of years, BT removed the service saying ‘everyone can now access broadband’. As you may recall from my previous ramblings, we’re 11km from the exchange and that broadband signal just can’t get that far down the copper before it fizzles into nowt.

I’ve been very vocal since Superfast Berkshire received £8M from the Government back in 2013 to bring broadband to this county. Unfortunately, they awarded the contract to BT who did not want to service the sparsely populated rural communities. So, Superfast Berkshire then awarded the rural contract to Gigaclear. As a specialist in providing broadband to rural areas, we were highly optimistic. Having signed up on their website about 18 months ago, it was encouraging to see them laying the fibre about ½ mile away from our lane on the main road earlier this year. 

Email correspondence with their delivery team revealed that the service should be live later in 2019 so we all waited with bated breath…….. Only to receive a letter earlier this month informing us that Network Rail were obstructing completion of the circuit as they would not allow Gigaclear to traverse a bridge they owned!

Due to this delay, BBC South got in touch with me again and further interviews with BBC South and BBC Radio Berkshire ensued on 10th and 12th September respectively. The reporter was at my house for over an hour on the 10th and then the interview was broadcast the next day on 11th September. You can view the (poor) recording here of the TV interview. Apologies for the poor quality but I recorded it off the TV with my iPhone as I was away horse riding in the New Forest when it was broadcast! Am sure there was an easier (and better) way to record it, but as it didn’t stay on iPlayer for too long I wanted to save it for posterity!

Despite having moved on from my satellite broadband to a mobile data network, I’m still paying a premium – around £60/month – as are my neighbours. FFS!! Fast speed Internet access is a utility in the 21st century and we are being deprived of it because Network Rail has its knickers in a twist about allowing a third party onto their land.  There are service ducts on their bridges for other utilities, so why obstruct Gigaclear?  The Government pledged to provide superfast broadband (which interestingly they state as being 24 MBPS – huh? that’s not fast IMHO!) to everyone in the UK. Yet one Government department (Network Rail) is obstructing another department (Gigaclear operating on behalf of Superfast Berkshire) from delivering this pledge.

I do appreciate the Government has a certain larger topic on its plate right now – no, I won’t bring myself to utter the “B” word – but really this is just another situation that highlights the current Government is not acting in the best interests of the population – at least not the small population of my rural community.

C’mon you jobsworths over at Network Rail – get ya finger out and complete the circuit so that we in my community can join the majority of you in the digital 21st century!!!

Double Whammy Good News – Rural Broadband and vExpert Recognition

For those of you that have followed my crusade to acquire broadband for my rural hamlet, I wanted to share this exciting update!

A couple of colleagues highlighted this BBC article to me a few weeks back, London VMUG Chairman Simon Gallagher being one of them. All I can say to you Simon is, THANK YOU.

After a Twitter dialogue with EE’s customer service, they weren’t sure of their signal strength in my area so suggested I spoke to their team who could check. Long story short, they said I was right on the edge – how did they know me so well?! The edge of the signal strength I mean 🙂

They recommended ordering their router, but not the ‘shoe box’ antenna, to first determine if we could receive a decent enough signal. It was duly dispatched and arrived the following day. Installation is so simple; literally plug it into a power socket. The signal strength was OK, but placing it in the loft provided a boost, so there it remains. On average I’m getting download speeds in the region of 30Mbps and uploads of around 3Mbps – so acceptable and WAY better than my satellite broadband. I did wonder if the ‘shoe box’ antenna would provide a boost, so spoke to the antenna peeps that EE use. They said I’m getting pretty good speeds for my area and that the antenna would provide no additional signal, so not to bother. Great, a £100 saved! The cost of EE is comparable to my satellite, both £60 per month. However, I was restricted to 40GB/month on the satellite, but given I couldn’t stream anything, that wasn’t an issue! With EE I get 200GB for £60, but that is a special offer, so am hoping they won’t up the costs after the term of the contract ends.

I can now use VoIP and find that of all the options – Skype, WebEx, Go-to-Meeting, etc. – Zoom is by far the best service, highly recommend it! I’ve also subscribed to Netflix and have just binge watched The Crown. As one of my other friends that recommended looking at the EE service said the other day, “Dead chuffed for you Rimmer that you’ve finally got the Internet!” Yes, dear reader, I am now a 21st century digital citizen!

I do believe this solution to be a ‘stop gap’ though, as Superfast Berkshire has informed me that Gigaclear has been awarded the contract to provide FTTH to rural communities. Looking at Gigaclear’s website it would appear we’re scheduled to receive this sometime in 2019, so fingers crossed. I wonder what it would be like to have 100Mbps…

Then to top it all off, I’m so proud to be awarded vExpert status for the 8th year running! Wasn’t sure I’d done enough last year to be accepted again, but am humbled and delighted to retain my status. Thanks to Luciano Patrao for this logo on the vExpert Slack channel:

And finally, thank you to James Kilby for answering my question on the vExpert slack channel about how to upload an avatar to your vExpert directory profile. He recommended Gravatar and would appear it’s the only way to upload a profile pic on the new vExpert portal.

A Basic Right to Broadband? Bullshit!

Apologies for the title, but am feeling pretty frustrated about the current situation after the Queen’s Speech!

This isn’t about the north/south divide, it’s not even about the have/have not’s, it’s about my Government not being able to deliver me a basic utility. Does this impact my human rights, I wonder? The government has pledged in the Queen’s Speech that we have a ‘right’ to 10Mbps broadband, yet, as I continually bang on about, I do not have ANY broadband – nothing, zippo, nada. The problem with any documented or legislated ‘right’ is that there are always people/groups/departments that continue to flout the implementation of said right.

I’m located 11km from the fibre optic enable telephone exchange, which, by the way, isn’t a rural location, not really. No, I am just a 10-minute drive from Junction 8/9 of the M4 – in fact pretty close to Queenie’s back garden at Windsor. Yes, I’m located in the Tory ‘heartland’ of the South and yet I can’t get broadband – why? Well, dear reader, the answer to that is simple, it is not economically viable for BT/OpenReach to lay any infrastructure to supply me a BASIC broadband service. This is due to my community consisting of approximately 20 or so houses that do not have any broadband via BT infrastructure. Thus, the spend required to poke a usable broadband connection down our copper wire would never provide a return on investment. We are rurally located enough to not have a gas supply nor be on mains drainage, so we’re already paying a premium on LPG or oil and maintaining plants to get rid of our own s&!t.

I digress, the bottom line is the Government and its ministers, Ed Vaizey in particular, Minister of State for Culture and the Digitial Economy, are using statistics that, in my opinion, are down right lies. There has been a government-funded initiative Superfast Berkshire to provide superfast broadband to Berkshire homes. I keep reading that 95% of homes and businesses are now enabled. One could argue, as a great technology journalist Peter Gothard of Computing fame continues to do so, that 10 Mbps is hardly fast! This organisation has an interactive map that demonstrates coverage. Now, if the likes of Ed Vaizey and Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for business, are viewing the stats from this map, then, bingo!, we’ve got broadband, because that’s what the green bit on the map shows!


But this is just pure and utter bullshit, as I’m continually told by the copious BT engineers that have to attend down our line to fix the failing, old knackered wires to deliver a shitty voice connection only, we will never get broadband here with the current infrastructure. I can only assume it is these inaccuracies that enable Ed Vaizey to write an article such as this in the Telegraph this week.

I’ve been interviewed on BBC South Today and BBC Radio Berkshire about this issue, each time I re-iterate that in the 21st century a broadband connection is an every day necessity like electricity and water. Now, you will find even property details contain details of broadband speeds for the property on sale, in the same way the house’s energy rating is listed!

I, and my little community, all survive either with a 3G/4G dongle (yes even 4G coverage is spotty out here!) or with satellite broadband. The Government has made an offer to subsidise a satellite connection by up to £350, but the actual cost of installing one is close to £1,000 + VAT and getting a basic service of 8Mbps up and 2Mbps down is in the region of £50+VAT PER MONTH, so the measly offer of £350 is totally and utterly inadequate. Plus, if you’ve already invested in your own satellite because you had no option – hello! Me! – then you can’t claim the £350 retrospectively, what a surprise.

I’m doing my bit for the congested roads in Berkshire and being ‘green’ by working from home. You could argue the outlay of satellite broadband is small scale in comparison with having to rent an office. As a BT engineer once said to me – in the days that they still did site surveys – you have this wonderful, idyllic location what more do you want? I want the view AND broadband sir, that’s what I want!

On that note, I have twice been told by BT sales that between a 1Mbps and 3Mbps broadband connection is available to me. Twice I’ve ordered the connection, twice the equipment has been sent out, twice I’ve installed it and twice the blue “b” has not lit up. Twice I’ve returned the equipment and twice BT has charged me for cancelling the order! It took a lot of arguing with BT that I didn’t cancel the order, they couldn’t provide the service and thus I’ve returned the equipment. Twice it took me months to get a credit for the £120 “cancellation” fee. What a joke.

I hope the likes of Peter from Computing, The Telegraph’s campaign and Christopher Hope from The Telegraph with their continual journalistic efforts can help move this Government into action. The likes of me – your constituent, your voting public, one of the idiots that put you in power – are not making a difference other than to keep banging on about it. Perhaps one day this lone voice will be heard………..


Superfast Rural Broadband

This year I’ve been interviewed twice by BBC Radio Berkshire and once by BBC South Today.  I am very passionate about the fact that BT cannot, and will not, provide the infrastructure to allow a broadband connection in my area.  Yes, reader, we do not have broadband AT ALL!  The Government has announced a programme to roll out superfast broadband to rural communities, an abstract from www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk is below:

Rural programme

As part of our ambition to to achieve a transformation in broadband in the UK by 2015, government has allocated £530 million during the current spending review period to stimulate commercial investment to roll out high-speed broadband in rural communities.

On Friday 4th October, Berkshire announced a contract with BT for £8M to deliver superfast rural broadband to 91% of the region.  I was interviewed by the BBC as one of the 9% who won’t have access to this.  My argument is that we live 10 minutes from Junction 8/9 of the M4 and not having any broadband from BT is unacceptable in this digital age.  But the bottom line is, as we’re a community of only 20 or so houses that are 11km from the exchange, for BT to lay the infrastructure to provide us a broadband service is just not economically viable.  From a business perspective I do understand this, really I do.  However, when taxpayers money is involved I want the funds to be apportioned to where they’re really needed and my neighbours and I need BT broadband.  As I said on my radio interview (listen here at around 1hr 9 mins), humans cannot exist in today’s world without online access, I think I also referenced it being a human right, which is pretty strong I know, but I am passionate about this subject!

For the privilege of online access I have to pay over £90 a month for my satellite broadband.  As I work from home, this is cheaper than renting an office, but why should I be penalised for living where I do?  A BT engineer once said to me “look at where you live, it’s gorgeous.” My reply was, yes but I want to live here AND have broadband from BT!

More recently another BT engineer said it is unlikely we will EVER get broadband out here from BT.  I guess we’re going to have to rely on 4G to deliver us an acceptably priced broadband service, not BT.

I’ve expressed my desire for funding to be allocated from the £8M to lay the infrastructure to provide us BT Broadband to the councillor responsible for this project, David Burbage, and have encouraged my neighbours to write to him also.  As of today, I’ve not had a response from Mr. Burbage, not even an acknowledgement of my email, which I find just rude frankly.

Perhaps he listened to my interview on BBC South Today news on Sunday 6th October, hopefully someone from BT’s PR team did, hopefully SOMEONE will listen to me and provide my community the basic requirement of broadband from BT 🙂

Anyone listening?  Mr. Burbage? BT? Hello………