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.