A good broadband connection is seen my many as an essential service; a fourth utility if you like, after water, gas and electricity.  Having this service available can enable many things such as:-

  • Online shopping and banking.
  • Working from home and reduced carbon footprint.
  • Communicating with distant friend and family.
  • Online training.
  • Internet TV and video.

This area of the site will document some of the various stories and experiences where broadband has made a positive difference to somebody’s life, or inversely where not having broadband has impacted things. The posts will be from anyone who would like to contribute; B4RN Committee Members, Community Members, Industry Commentators, Journalists or any Guest that has a story to share.

If you have a story, experience or thoughts that you would like to share, we would love to hear it! Send it to m.dews@b4rn.org.uk and we’ll publish it.

Views expressed in this section are ones of the post author and not necessarily that of B4RN.

Rural Broadband – The Difference it’s Made to Me

Posted by on Mar 15, 2014 in B4RN News, B4RNstorming B4RNicles | 2 comments

Step back 6 years. I was a busy lawyer living in a small town in the North West of England, addicted to my expensive Virgin Media broadband connection. I used it for email, internet, keeping in touch with friends around the country/world and all sorts of television-related goodies. I’d become dependent upon it, and couldn’t imagine enjoying life without a fast broadband connection. At the same time, I loved walking and camping with pals in Cumbria, Yorkshire/North Lancashire and Scotland. I’d get out as often as possible with my tent and my dog and spend a weekend away, and then I’d drive home and fire up the computer to catch up with pals, the world and the TV I’d missed over the weekend. Everything seemed sorted.

My perspective changed fast, though, when my mother died very suddenly. I realised I wasn’t entirely happy in my work, and I began to fantasize about chucking in my high-pressure job and moving to live in the sort of place I’d spent 20 years driving to at weekends. I was no longer tied to my small town, but could the move be done? My problem didn’t lie in the reduction of income, but in the virtual impossibility of finding the sort of internet access I’d become accustomed to in the kind of place I wanted to live. It’s said that broadband has become one of the essential utilities, and I certainly agree. I don’t mind having to drive 5 miles to the nearest petrol station or cash machine, or even 15 miles to the nearest town, but I can no longer live from daytoday without a decent internet connection.

I spent many, many hours on the internet after work, searching for places I’d like to move to that had houses I could afford. One day I saw an advert for a tiny cottage in Wray, and booked a viewing. I researched Wray, and found that it was part of a broadband experiment involving Lancaster University. It sounded as though this might be the kind of place I was looking for, and when I saw that Wray was planning to stream a cricket match (#twicket) across the internet I knew this was the place for me! My decision was made.

Fast forwarding, I moved to Wray mid 2011. Not long after I arrived I heard about B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North) and became very excited. The proposal was for the local community to cooperatively dig a fibre connection across the moors and into the village that would enable us to have one of the fastest broadband connections in the world. Wow! I was instantly hooked, and extremely excited! I’ve had a commercial broadband connection since I moved here, but I’ve had to pay an enhanced rate because I’m living in a rural community. Also, there was no possibility, preB4RN, of being able to upgrade that connection to fibre, as the commercial operations were not willing to invest the money required to do the job.

I immediately expressed an interest in B4RN and joined in the community effort to spread the word and encourage local residents and landowners to sign up. I’ve known that it was coming for a couple of years now, but four days ago superfast broadband finally became a reality for me when I got home from work to find that local volunteers had blown in my connection. Dog fed, I went to the new router to check my new password, and less than a minute later I was connected, on my iPad, to one of the fastest internet connections in the world! Amazing!

screen shot of my speed test this morning

A speed test from my laptop

Having finally arrived at the weekend, I’ve been able to spend all morning updating things around the house. B4RN is now feeding not only my iPad and Macbook but also (and wirelessly) my PC desktop upstairs. Not only that but it’s also driving my smart TV! No more frustrating pixelated interludes while my commercial broadband struggles to catch up with iPlayer and Lovefilm.

My next step will be to organise a B4RN telephone service (and I’ll be able to keep my existing number). That means I’ll be able to have a phone that uses B4RN fibre for a fraction of what I currently pay in monthly landline rental charges, and I’ll be able to run my mobile off it too while I’m at home. When my number has been ported over I’ll cancel my existing commercial broadband and telephone connections. I’ll be paying approximately the same price (maybe a little less), but for a vastly improved service.

B4RN has made all the difference in the world to me. If it hadn’t been available then I wouldn’t have been able to move to the countryside. I need a fast broadband connection to live my life in the way I’ve become accustomed to living it over the course of the last 20 years. When I was a teenager the ultimate in technological sophistication was a digital watch, but the world has moved on and few people can manage without email and a decent connection to the internet. Certainly I can’t.

What sort of a daily difference will it make to me? Well, for a start I’ll be able to communicate with the local Parish Councillors in email, in my role as Parish Clerk. Not all Councillors had internet connections before, but they will when the village dig is complete. I also hope to be able to keep local residents in touch with what’s going on via an email circulation list. I’ll be able to read and respond to my work-related emails at home (um… not sure whether that’s a good thing or not!) Mainly, though, I’ll be able to surf the internet super-quickly and stream TV and films via my television. I’ll have a super-fast connection to all of the internet sites that I’ve become used to using since I first bought a laptop 20 years ago and became dependent upon broadband.

I’d like to say a huge “Thank you!” to all of the local volunteers who have made this possible for me. I’ll pay for the connection, but volunteer villagers have come to my house and drilled holes to bring the fibre through, routed the wires through my house and also installed the router for me. They’ve been available at the end of a phone to advise me on how to get things going. Does that happen with commercial providers? *insert hollow laughter here* I don’t think so ?

Thank you, B4RN. You’ve made it possible for me to change my life and enjoy the benefits of the city and town without having to live there.

A Helping Hand from Canterbury

Posted by on Aug 2, 2013 in B4RNstorming B4RNicles | 2 comments

As followers of our project will know, we would not have made it this far without the help of all the volunteers. Now any volunteer is special; someone who is willing to offer their time and skills to an activity for the benefit of others. Well we were contacted the other week by Tim Higgs who asked if he could help out. Was he local? Not quite. He came all the way from Canterbury in Kent to help out for a couple of days. He’s been kind enough to share his story in the latest B4RNstormer’s guest blog.


I’ve been following B4RN since its conception and really wanted to see how rural communities can pull together and get it done where no commercial provider would ever deliver super-fast broadband. Well I finally had some free time to volunteer last week and best of all the weather was good so a lot was happening.

It was really good to finally meet Christine Conder and everyone else involved, there is a real community spirit of just getting on and getting it done.

On the first day I got to see two customers in Arkholme get connected. A splice in the bullet, a splice in the house to attach the pigtail then plug in the CPE then a patch cable in the cabinet next to the village hall and they were on-line and flying at over 700Mbps! During my time helping a further 2 customers were connected each day, it doesn’t sound like much but these were in rural Docker away from any main village. Yet the beauty of full-fibre means they get the same service as those closer to the cabinet!

The last day I was there (Saturday) I was helping prepare the trench behind Storrs Hall for the fibre ducting and back fill the trench. This was the last stretch, joining the route from Gressingham to Arkholme. With this stretch complete it would only be a few days work blowing in the fibre and splicing to connect the first Gressingham customers. This was such a rewarding moment knowing that this was ready after all the hard work John Hamlett and everyone else involved have put in.

For me it was great to see this FTTH network getting installed and customers connected. It sometimes seems that people just don’t believe that a group of locals can get the job done and that they should instead be waiting and waiting for BT. Well they are doing it and much better and faster than BT would have ever done it. So this really shows what can be done, and could have been done across more of the UK if was not for the councils lack of understanding and belief that BT is the only solution.

What really puts into perspective all the hard work B4RN and the local community have done is that they are getting a gigabit (hyper-fast broadband) now and yet where I live in a city centre Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) isn’t scheduled until March 2014, originally March 2013 but the date keeps on slipping! Exchanges that have been enabled never have all the cabinets enabled for FTTC and even then it is still dependant on distance and at BTs best, (their 330Mpbs service), half the speed of B4RN’s network! B4RN is truly an amazing project being built by extraordinary people!

The Sounds of Summer – Sponge Hitting Bottle

Posted by on Jul 27, 2013 in B4RN News, B4RNstorming B4RNicles | 1 comment

The weather has been very kind to the B4RN community lately. This has allowed for the digging, fibre blowing and customer connections to be carried out with the only interruptions being to apply more sun scream and drink tea.

There have been numerous stories coming from the new B4RN customers that are realising what a world class connection can offer. This one was posted to the Facebook page but was worth putting on the main page. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience.


We were blown by B4RN the other week. What an experience. It was a beautiful sunny day. There are some wonderful sounds associated with a British summer. The friendly babble of Test Match Special in the background, leather on willow, tennis ball on catgut, Aussie stumps rattling regularly. Well now there is a new sound. Sponge hitting bottle. What finer acoustic to add to the list. At last we knew we had a patent duct – all that twisting and writhing had been worth it.

Next came a rapid reshuffling of equipment. A squirt of lubricant a few tweaks and adjustments and hey presto 90 metres of fibre.

Once the required length was achieved it was my neighbour’s turn with equally satisfying results.
Not since the anticipation surrounding George Alexander Louis had there been so much anxiety. Will it be today, will it be tomorrow. Will it work?

Out of the blue I got a text message at work. “Christine Condor is in our house connecting us up”. What? THE Christine Condor? Star of TV, radio and all things broadband. The very same. Five minutes later I got a hasty phone call. “Christine has gone down to the cabinet to turn us on. Quick, while she is not here which lead do I plug into the router? Didn’t want to look daft…?” A quick Ethernet stuffed in the right place and off we went.

By the time I got home it was all done and dusted.

Eventually I will tire of going on speedtest.net. Eventually. No matter how many times I do it I still marvel as the needle hits the red zone. I want to be able to break the magic 100. I was advised to visit an Amsterdam website. I thought those were the ones that David Cameron wants to get the internet companies to ban but it turns out the Dutch have faster speed test sites. That said what is 10meg between friends? Yesterday I was managing with 2!

A huge thank you to all the main players in the team. Volunteers all. Yes that’s right – all volunteers. So next time you see a B4RN volunteer offer them a cuppa, a smile and a thank you. To Barry and Bruce, Chris, Chris, Chris and Chris. David, Eric and Tom to name but a few. Thank you also to the more local players. Stuart and Pat, Zita, Philip, Richard and David, not to mention the terrible trio of John, Kevin and Thomas.

It is worth it.

These words are meant to provide mirth not offence –and to cheer the team on and on.

Come On (line) Eileen

Posted by on Jun 1, 2013 in B4RN News, B4RNstorming B4RNicles | Comments Off

Abbeystead is in full connection phase now with several people in the picturesque hamlet now lucky enough to be receiving one of the world’s fastest internet connections.

One of the latest B4RN customers is Eileen Wallbank and her family. she has kindly sent a few words to the guest blog so over to Eileen. And thanks for taking the time, these blogs are great for other people to see.


Here are my thoughts on the B4RN Broadband connection.
 
As a newly connected resident to the B4RN fibre optic cable internet network I am absolutely delighted with it! Previously I had to rely on a dial up connection which was extremely frustrating as it took so long and very often I never got past (or even reached) the first page of the website I was trying to connect to before it crashed and I had to go down to my daughter’s to do the essential work I need to for running our farm business eg cattle movements, internet banking, VAT returns and many more! 

Increasingly, more and more things have to be done on-line and very often purchasing on-line is a lot cheaper!
 
I never even tried to do things like i-player and I haven’t been on facebook for years as it was just impossible.
 
Now thanks to B4RN my life has changed so much – I can do my internet work in minutes (instead of hours!) which frees up my time to get on with other things  – and Skype  – here I come!
 
Over the last few months I have spoken to many people who wish they were connected  to B4RN – they all say it’s such a good connection -  and so much faster than the ones they are on – 70MbIt/sec or less  as opposed to up to 1000Mbit/sec from B4RN – and to make it even worse they are paying double to what B4RN are charging! They say they are SO jealous and I am very lucky to have it. I have always believed in B4RN to deliver a world class superfast fibre optic cable network connection to my home from the very first meeting I attended and I have truly not been disappointed.
 
I’ve waited a long time for my connection – and believe me it lives up to all my expectations 100%. I’m so happy I’ve got it at last and am enjoying every minute of using it. The B4RN team have been amazing – they are all so helpful and work so hard and I am extremely grateful to them for all their help.
 
Thanks again

Guest Blog – Leaping into the 21st Century

Posted by on Apr 15, 2013 in B4RNstorming B4RNicles | Comments Off

Another guest post from recently connected Monica Lee from Quernmore near Lancaster. This is another excellent post for prospective customers as Monica goes into detail around subjects such as preparing for the service, receiving the service, using the service, cancelling existing service amongst other things such as a VOIP phone provider and future IP webcam installation.

Thanks to Monica for taking the time to provide some valuable feedback.


By Monica Lee, 9th April 2013.

We live in the fells of rural Lancashire. A few weeks ago we lived without access to mains water and with a rather dodgy phone connection. We have satellite TV (terrestrial TV signal is poor here) and a reasonable mobile signal so long as we find just the right spot to pick it up. Actually, I exaggerate. Our mobile is OK outside the house and on the higher ground, though that of our neighbours in a nearby village is non-existent.

A few days ago our water company brought us into the 20th century by connecting us to the mains supply. This is the story of how we have also joined the 21st century.

We were initially on a dial-up connection and moved to BT Broadband when it came available. It has improved slowly, but the very best we could get was 1Mbs download and 0.5Mbps upload. This is because we live some way from the BT cabinet, and we are joined to it by 3 miles of copper wires – signals just do not travel through all that copper very well. The only way to have a secure future-proof connection that won’t degrade is to use fibre. So – we became actively engaged in the B4RN project out of both self-interest and community spirit (because the money and jobs that are generated will all go straight back into the community).

The attraction of B4RN. By putting in a fibre connection all the way to the home, B4RN offered 1000Mbps upload and download – and at £30 per month, it costs much less than we were paying to BT. We registered our interest and became early shareholders – this was not necessary to get the connection, but we wanted to show our support for the project. As the digging in of the core route came nearer to us we started to plan where we wanted our house connection to go, and where (and how) we would dig it in. We also wanted a CCTV camera in a small barn further up our lane, mainly as a security measure (keeping an eye of traffic) but so that it can also be used to keep an eye on our sheep during lambing time.

Getting connected. The core route comes through an inspection chamber in one of our fields, so we knew our start point. We had to decide where we wanted the fibre to enter the house, thereby fixing the end point. We talked this over with B4RN volunteers and got some advice and ducting from them, and started digging! We started well in advance, so there was no pressure, which was good because laying the duct through the garden was much more fiddly than in the field! B4RN volunteers came and fixed the connection box inside the house where we wanted it, and a few days later more volunteers turned up to blow the fibre through and set up our connections. We were very impressed by the helpfulness and competence of the B4RN volunteers – the whole process went very smoothly.
If we had been on a long term contract with BT we could have chosen not to take B4RN service until that had ended, but we wanted to be connected immediately. We did have to wait a little, because although we were connected at our end, more connections had to be made further down the line before we could get service – but eventually we went live and all the lights started flashing! So exciting! We run the computers in the house on a local network, with a network printer, but they all plugged straight into the B4RN box with absolute ease. Everything runs very, very quickly. My husband posted on FaceBook: “I used to have plenty of time to make a cup of tea whilst downloading BBC 4′s Drama of the Week, a good five or ten minutes in the old BT ‘broadband’ days. I have just tried downloading another one, but unfortunately I blinked at the wrong time and so I have no idea how long it took.”

Cancelling BT Broadband. By far the most frustrating part of this process so far has been cancelling our subscription to BT Broadband. There seems to be no other means to cancel an account other than by phone, and the phone number is hard to find. Once found I got a rather forceful and cheery guy at the other end who said with utter conviction that he was sure that BT could match the broadband speed of whatever I was moving to. He then took a good half hour to try and persuade me not to move, before he finally did terminate my broadband account as requested. In brief, I explained we were going to fibre to the home and he said that BT would be very shortly putting fibre in all their cabinets and I would easily get 25 to 60 Mbps. I pointed out that fibre to the cabinet is not the same as fibre to the home, that 25 Mbps is much less than 1000 Mbps, and that, because we are so far from the cabinet we would only get a maximum of 2 Mbps. He pointed out, politely, that I did not know what I was talking about, and that I just had to wait for BT Infinity and I would get an amazing service. I pointed out that I did know what I was talking about and that as we were 3 miles away from the BT cabinet it was technologically impossible for us to get 25 Mbps from them. (The absolute maximum theoretical limit for three miles of copper wire is less than 5 Mbps). He promised me that this was not the case and I would very shortly get the full benefit of BT Infinity if I stayed with them.
How I wish I had been taping that conversation and had held him to his promise. I did point out that he was in danger of misrepresentation or mis-selling, but that did not quell his enthusiasm. He asked how much B4RN charged; I said £30 per month; he promised BT would give me the same service for £29.99. I was almost tempted to take him up on it, but told myself firmly that I did not want the months of hassle as they completely failed to deliver. One final step increased my desire to leave BT. He told me that I would be charged an extra £30 which he said was what it would cost BT to get a man to go all the way out to the exchange and physically unplug my broadband connection and go all the way home again. I queried this as I thought it was just a flick of a switch that could be done remotely and at any time, but he was not having any of it. I agreed to pay the extra cost and he finally cancelled my BT Broadband!

Sorting out the phones. Although I cancelled the broadband, I did not cancel the BT phone line immediately. If you cancel the service without transferring it you can’t keep your old phone number, and also I wanted to be sure the systems would work first. B4RN intends to offer its own VOIP phone service in the future, but, as it relies on volunteer labour at present and everyone is fully stretched, B4RN is concentrating on getting the network up and running first. VOIP is when the phone runs through the broadband instead of the traditional phone-lines, so it tends to be cheaper and does not suffer the interference to which phone lines are subject. I considered several VOIP providers, and eventually went with Vonage  a couple of weeks ago. I went for their cheapest package which costs £3.99 for the first 3 months then £5.99 a month after that. All UK landline calls are free, and mobile and international calls are at reduced rates. I applied on-line, and had to choose a new, temporary, phone number. Activation of the account costs a little less than £20. They sent me a little box which I plugged directly into the base of my B4RN box. The telephone connector that had gone into the old BT telephone socket plugged into the Vonage box – and the telephones are all working again. The sound is very clear – no crackles at all over the fibre network. I left it for a few days in case it stopped working, but so far all is excellent, so I have just asked Vonage to change my temporary number to my old permanent number. I trust this will all go smoothly – watch this space!

Next tasks. Next on the list is to sort out the TV. Changing the broadband and phones will save us a fair amount of money, and it would be good to pick up all the free channels that are available over the internet. We would save the Sky subscription, though we will still need a TV licence. We do want the ability to pause, freeze, record and play back programmes that we have got used to with Sky, so we will need to do some more research into what is available.

CCTV. We have not yet got round to installing a CCTV camera – though the connection is now there to do so. The hardware seems to be quite cheap, though we will have to research how to set it up and work it!

Updating equipment. I did run some speed tests and it was soon clear that the speed is limited by our equipment, not the broadband connection. The Vonage instructions tell you to plug your computer into the Vonage box, and then the box into the router, but the B4RN router is set up so that both the computer and the Vonage box can be plugged directly into it, and it is much faster that way. Things also went faster when I changed my old Cat.5 computer cable for a newer Cat.6 cable (which cost the grand sum of £1.42, including postage, from EBay). However, the component in my computer that is really slowing it down now is my network card, which will only go at 100Mbps. Despite that the network is going so fast that we would hardly notice it going any faster, as I can watch whatever I want on my computer without any downloading lag. It is, however, really good to know that when we next buy a new computer, or an internet ready TV or whatever, that the B4RN network will have ample speed to be able to handle whatever we throw at it.

Guest Blog – New Customer Experience

Posted by on Apr 14, 2013 in B4RNstorming B4RNicles | 9 comments

The B4RN community has been busy lately connecting new customers along the ever growing core route. Some great good news stories have been coming out from many of the newly connected customers about how the B4RN connection has affected them. Some have shared their views on the Facebook page and others have sent a few words to our guest blog page wanting to share their experiences with the rest of the community.

Many words have been said about the benefits of a fast a reliable connection by the B4RN team and the media but the ones that come from customers who are experiencing first hand what the connection means to them are much more insightful.

Here’s the latest one from Andy Pearson resident of Arkholme, one of the best connected villages in the world. Thanks to Andy for taking the time to share his experience with other members of the community. Over to Andy.

 

The process, when it happened, was very quick and easy. Provide the power to the ‘box on the wall’ and watch as the green lights on the top illuminate. Bingo! One of the fastest domestic Internet connections available anywhere and on a different planet to anything the incumbent supplier can offer.

I remembered what Bill Clinton said when he got the presidency “I feel like the dog that chases the garbage truck and finally catches it. Now what do I do?”

I feel a bit like that dog too.

First thing to do was to connect all the gadgets we’ve got. One old MacBook laptop, one old windows PC, two iPads, two smartphones, an iPod touch and an Internet radio. All at once.

It worked. No more spinning beach balls, no more waiting for the hourglass to go away. They can all simultaneously place demands on the new system and it copes. Full of enthusiasm I did a speed test. I expected to get a really high number and was quite disappointed when I didn’t. I got ‘only’ 19MBs on my laptop using an Ethernet connection. Now, to keep that in context, I ran a check on the still functioning incumbent Internet supplier (you can guess who) and got the usual 0.46MBs result. So straight away B4RN is about 40 times better. Worried that my new service wasn’t as quick as it was cracked up to be I borrowed a teenager (hello Jasmine) who owns a new MacBook Air. Straight away she got a speed test result on the WiFi of over 90MBs. So the good news (I think) was that my gear was old and simply couldn’t take advantage of the new lightning fast speeds available. Best I start saving up for something more modern. Worth reiterating though that I’m still 40 times faster now, even with my ancient gear, and there’s no buffering to spoil videos any more.

Next thing to do was sort out the telephone line. Being charged sixteen odd quid ‘line rental’ every month for a rotten old copper wire has always struck me as spectacularly poor value for money. Now that the line was no longer needed for the Internet I thought why bother with it at all? Bit of a no brainer really. So we have moved over to Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VOIP as it’s known and now use the Internet for phone calls. A Google search reveals loads of providers and the likelihood is that they all come out at about the same price for a domestic user. It’s likely too that either you’ll need new phones (Digital European Cordless Telecommunications, DECT phones) or, like us, a box that allows you to use your existing phones. Whichever company you choose will supply all that you need and once again it’s a very simple business to set it up and get going. They gave us a new phone number (05603 xxx xxx) and apart from that it’s just like it always was. Only cheaper, and not as crackly.

That’s it for now. A bit of new equipment, a bit of electronic ‘paperwork’, a new phone number and a much much faster Internet all costing less on a monthly basis. Happy days. For the future we’ll need to upgrade our computers and investigate how to get Internet onto our TV so that we can make use of BBC iPlayer (other channels are available) and film services such as Netflix or LoveFilm.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the Internet is changing the way we do things and our patterns of life. Whatever the future brings in this regard, thanks to B4RN we in this area of rural north Lancashire will be able to keep up with the changes and be part of this digital revolution.

Blowing in the wind and fleeting in the sleet… with Pete.

Posted by on Dec 7, 2012 in B4RN News, B4RNstorming B4RNicles | 6 comments

Yesterday our new blowing machine arrived. This is due to the sponsorship of three B4RN members, who have bought it in memory of Anton.

Anton was very proud of the project and wanted to buy something to help it succeed. Well it worked a treat Anton, and we’ll soon get caught up with the farmers digging all the ducting in now we have our own blower.  Here is a short 2 minute video of it being tried out yesterday, in appalling conditions. We kidnapped the demo man (Pete) who showed us all the tricks of the trade. He stayed all day, finally escaping once we knew the fibre had made it all the way to the hub. Many thanks Anton and Pete, and well done to Bruce and Tom for their persistance in working no matter what the weather to JFDI for us all.

Guest Post – Arkholme Extreme Diggers

Posted by on Oct 4, 2012 in B4RN News, B4RNstorming B4RNicles | 3 comments

Here’s a lovely guest post from David Smith, one of the coordinators and B4RN Team at Arkholme, a rural village in north Lancashire. As regular visitors to the B4RN site will have seen, David and his fellow community members have been working hard come rain of shine laying the core B4RN duct. In David’s own words, here’s how it all started.

 

Arrived home from 10 days in Malta well rested. Within 2 hours Chris Conder on phone, ”we’re starting the dig tomorrow, can you organise helpers!!”

Well from that day for two weeks, the community has rallied round and despite the awful weather has succeeded in laying the core duct from the village hall to the Geo breakout point.

Helpers have been supplied with tea and food and kept working hard by Chris. [I know the feeling! - Ed]. First houses could be live by end October. Meeting in Bay Horse pub this week found a couple of dozen residents well up for the next stage of dig around village. We’ll do this!

 

Power up the tea urn and bake the cakes, Arkholme forge ahead with the dig.

JFDI fibre ducting into the homes

Posted by on Jul 21, 2012 in B4RNstorming B4RNicles | 2 comments

B4RN goes Forth, JFDI FTTH

Matters are moving apace at B4RN. Digging of the phase one ducting has reached the outskirts of Quernmore and is heading over to Abbeystead. Houses en route are being connected with ducting of similar thickness to TV cable, ready for the fibre optic to be blown to carry 1000Mbps connectivity. The hub of this activity lies in Quernmore where one of the two nerve centres is sited. This links all B4RN users to the internet via the Geo fibre which runs through this picturesque valley. The green coloured cabinet, which houses all the necessary electronics for this wizardry, sits unobtrusively in the village and has recently been powered and populated ready to revolutionise internet connectivity for the residents of the core route between the parishes.

The Narr Lodge group of four barn conversions lies just east of The Hub at Quernmore, and the main ducting has been dug into the fields behind the houses earlier this year. The B4RN team were out a couple of weeks later with a digger siting an access chamber so the houses could take a duct off to each property. Tim Dawson, one of the Narr Lodge residents, was there to see the team at work.
“Installing the chamber is not rocket science.  The digger bit into the ground near where the main trunking lay and after a couple of minutes battling through the stones, soon carved a clean square ready for the 3 oblong bases and concrete top bearing the “B4RN” logo”.

 


D-Day for Narr Lodge
With the access chamber sited, the residents joined together on a Saturday to lay ducting to the houses. The sun shone for Dig-Day, which must be a good omen given this summer’s weather. Tim recounts, “We had put a lot of thought into the best way to get the ducting through to the houses with minimum disruption. We always knew the last 20m into the house was probably going to be one of the most difficult bits particularly since most developers don’t have the foresight to lay spare ducting for future services. We thought we might be able to re-use the ducting for the Sky cables to feed the houses on the North side but unfortunately this had collapsed in places and we couldn’t get a clear run. We also somewhat cheekily approached BT’s OpenReach to see if we could use their ducting which lies on our private land and goes to each property. This evidently created enormous confusion at BT, since they couldn’t grasp the concept of private individuals wanting to install their own fibre to the house (FTTH). After a flurry of emails and some long pauses we got stone-walled and took that as a ‘No’.
“Then it occurred to us that the surface water drains run from each of the North side houses to the beck near the access chamber. The B4RN ducting is waterproof and unlike the foul drains there is little risk of transiting material forming a blockage. It also had the advantage that ducting could easily be run up drain pipes as they come out of the drains for first floor access.”

Dig where you live.
The Narr Lodge D-Dayers laid the orange ducting out on the ground to each property to estimate and cut the required length. The ducts were then bundled into North and South 4′s with cable ties every 2 metres.


The run to the South side houses could only be done via a trench through Tim & Hazel’s garden and down the back of the houses in the field/gardens. There happened to be a digger on site and this trenched to a depth of about 25 cm and the residents laid in the bundled ducting, back filled and re-laid the turf.

OK… the end result would never make it to one of those TV gardening make-over programs but it’ll re-grow. Since we developed our own barn conversion we did have the foresight to duct under the house and into the garden so it was a 10 minute job to run the ducting into the house.

Elsewhere we are splicing the orange ducting into less obtrusive UV resistant black ducting and routing that up the outside of the house though a hole drilled into the wall.


It is worth remembering that when the FTTH box is in the house it has an integral 802.11b/g/n wifi which is pretty fast (300megabit symmetrical). In addition relatively cheap Cat5e or Cat6 cabling can easily be routed internally to take 1000Mbps symmetrical anywhere within the house.

The fibre connection equipment in the home
 The old internet connection in this part of Quernmore, which is on the 5 kilometre limit for ADSL broadband, has been just about tolerable and arguably better than those at the top end of the village who get no connection at all.

My two daughters love watching things on YouTube and as long as there is not too much other traffic, it works… just! The BBC radio reception in this part of the valley is pretty poor and we tend to rely on internet radio but this needs a good sized buffer and still keeps dropping out.

I checked the broadband speed on a couple of occasions recently during the day. It has reached the heady heights of 1 Mbps on occasion in the last year but recent tests show this is down to 0.4Mbps download and 0.3Mbps upload – nearly symmetrical but hopeless speed for anything serious (see screenshot). I was glad to see the B4RN team installing the access chamber – I can’t imagine what 1000Mbps is going to be like. Certainly the girls are going to love it and keep on asking when are we going to get faster broadband.

Editor’s Takeaways:
1. Even though not every property wishes to be connected at this time, sufficient ducts have been laid to connect all the properties in future.
2. Great example of the B4RN JFDI spirit which reduces the first mile civils’ costs).

3. Many people in the B4RN area are on very low speeds (as described above) with many still limited to dial up or expensive satellites. This is set to change when speeds 3000 times faster are available to many in the next few weeks.

Narr Lodge Gets Its B4RN Inspection Chamber

Posted by on Jul 9, 2012 in B4RNstorming B4RNicles | Comments Off

Here is another guest blog kindly submitted by a local resident, Tim from the village of Quernmore who unfortunately has a broken leg, (get well soon!). The spare time has highlighted even more than before the fact that the internet connection is inadequate. Anyhow, many thanks for the post, over to Tim.

 

Narr Lodge gets its B4RN 1000Mbps inspection chamber.

I suppose one good thing about being intermittently off work with a broken leg (don’t ask!) is that you get to see exciting developments like the digging in of the B4RN inspection chamber serving our group of houses. One of the many down sides is that you spend more time on the internet getting frustrated with the rural broadband speeds, however things will impove shortly. The main ducting to the Rec in Quernmore had been dug in a few weeks ago. I could see that it was hard going in the stony ground round here but it passes close to our gate into the field, just the spot for the access chamber. Today (Mon 9th July), the B4RN team Rusty, Bruce and Frank turned up with a mini-digger. For once the weather was kind and the sun shone between fluffy cumulus as we struck earth in front of the gate and got into the stony ground. After battling down to a metre we took the top stone off one of the old stone land drains – STOP!

OK, re-think. After restoring the culvert cap stone, the digger moved a metre and a half to the side and hit better clay soil, the digger easily reaching the required depth and cleaning out a neat square hole. They borrowed my crutch whilst I propped up the gate post, to check the depth against the access chamber – so I did help, a bit. They bedded the bottom plastic chamber module on gravel and dropped the other three on top, topped off by the “B4RN” concrete cover. A bit of backfill and job done! It isn’t rocket science but the logistics and routing have required tremendous planning by the B4RN team. This week we’re going to trench up the garden, about 30cm deep, split into north and south branches to run ducting to the back of the houses. Then all we have to do is wait for the fibre and communication at the speed of light.

Photos of the access chamber being dug in.