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Newton’s first law of motion states,
“An object at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by a force. An object in motion remains in motion, and at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force.”
The village of Newton, near Lancaster was mainly at rest until a great force was applied to it. Community Power. The community have pulled together to bring the B4RN fibre into the village. Soon they will be the next village to receive gigabit fibre broadband and be enjoying the benefits as Arkholme, Qurenmore and Abbeystead already are.
So this village will remain in motion as Newton’s law states. Quite a substantial amount of motion. Up there in the digital fast lane with the rest of the world catching up.
See the community in action here.
As regular visitors to this site will have seen, B4RN was visited by the Secretary of State for the DCMS, Maria Miller on 29th April. Feedback from the visit deemed it to be very useful with all participants saying it was very worthwhile. Following the visit, B4RN received the following note from Mrs Miller
“It was great to be invited by the tireless local MP, Eric Ollerenshaw, to learn more about B4RN and I would like to thank the entire team for hosting such a welcoming and informative visit. It was a great opportunity to see a project on the ground that is being delivered by enthusiastic, committed, community-minded individuals – a lesson to us all. It has certainly helped stimulate some thinking within the Department and I wish you every success with your future plans.”
This was a very welcome response but as the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words”. Let’s hope that the visit has stimulated some different thinking in the DCMS and shown that there are alternatives that can serve the rural areas better than some of the DCMS’s current plans.
There is lots of coverage of rural broadband at the moment and this is a great interview with Penelope Bossom, owner of Overbury Estate. In it she talks about deploying super fast 100Mbs (and hopefully faster) fibre optic broadband to the estate.
There’s even a shout out to B4RN. Well worth a listen.
It can be heard here. Good luck to them.
Yesterday was another special day for B4RN. In the same way that buses sometimes seem to arrive so did politicians to B4RN.
Our extremely supportive MP, Eric Ollernshaw has had an invitation open to the Department for Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) for some time now. His persistence and belief that the B4RN project is one that the Secretary of State should see as an example of how world class broadband can be delivered to rural areas paid off as Maria Miller MP came with Eric to a newly connected B4RN customer in Quernmore to see for herself what B4RN is all about.
Mrs Miller listened to some residents, local business owners and farmers and heard about the difference that B4RN has made to their personal and business on-line activity. B4RN CEO, Barry Forde gave an overview of the project to an inquisitive Mrs Miller who was shown the maps, systems and technology involved. Following that, she then proceeded to fusion splice her own B4RN fibre necklace which she took away with her.
B4RN’s customers are already seeing the benefit of having one of the world’s fastest connections as can be seen from the guest blogs that have been submitted. In addition B4RN has received several enquiries from businesses looking for office accommodation served by the B4RN network which is very encouraging.
The visit was then toasted rather unusually with champagne and not tea, which one of the residents had recently won from B4RN’s dark fibre provider Geo in their current #FindGeo competition. Regular visitors to this site should not be concerned though, as normal service was resumed with the appearance of cake.
In addition to Mrs Miller and Mr Ollerenshaw visiting, local Lancashire County Councillor Susie Charles was also in attendance showing her support for the project. Afterwards they all gathered together for this lovely group photo. Again, regular visitors to this site should not be concerned by the bright light surrounding these people, the B4RN community have recently learnt that in some areas this is known as “sunshine” which is a novelty in these parts but is, as it turns out, rather pleasant.
As is customary on these occasions, a typically B4RN-esque video has been produced showing the higlights of the visit.
The B4RN community would like to thank all involved, particularly Mr Ollerenshaw, his hard working PA’s Sarah Fletcher in Westminster and Maria Fazzani in Lancashire, who, thanks to their persistence and continued support for B4RN made this visit possible.
Well they said it couldn’t be done unless it cost thousands of pounds per property, but the community have done IT. Thanks to the generosity of the shareholders and the hard work of the farmers the ducting is laid all the way to Abbeystead and now the fibre is being blown in by the volunteers. The join from Quernmore to Abbeystead was done a couple of weeks ago, and then the snow came so there was a slight delay, but now its all systems go again and the fibre has passed the landmark Jubilee Tower and is well on its way. More blows scheduled for next Wednesday to get to the heart of the village, where all the people are digging the duct into their homes and businesses. There are lots of videos on our YouTube site and Facebook pages, but here is the latest from this week:
Well done to all concerned, and grateful thanks to the shareholders who had faith that it could be done. The second share issue is now available if you want to invest and help us get even more people online in your community. Please click here to read all about it and consult your financial adviser. These shares are eligible for 30% tax refund through the EIS scheme so we think they are a great investment both of your money and in your community. With the added bonus of hyperfast broadband for you and your family. Buying shares is always a risk, but the rewards are already starting to be evident in this rural upland area where traditional telcos fear to tread.
Update 15th May.
Last chance to register for this event is Thursday 16th May.
Although this event will not be live streamed, it will be recorded and posted on-line so if you cannot make it in person then please submit your questions via the event contact email address and they will be addressed by the team.
The email address to register attendance and submit questions is firstname.lastname@example.org
B4RN Emtelle Show Tell Day 230513 Please click on the link for more info.
B4RN and Emtelle are hosting a “Show – Tell” day on Thursday 23rd May 2013, sharing experiences and demonstrating installation techniques for rural fibre to the home/broadband initiatives.
Topics to be covered include Financing, Customer Engagement, Product Selection, Network Planning, Content & Active Equipment
We hope you will be able to join us for a fully interactive day!
Barry Forde CEO, B4RN and Steven King Chief Commercial Officer, Emtelle
Interested parties should
register for attendance,
or to find out more info
Twitter hash tag for the event is #FTTHshowTell
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.
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.
If you are reading this its probably because you have seen our advertisement in the Lancaster Guardian. We have been lucky enough to win a competition for new businesses and they are giving us a series of adverts, for which we are very grateful and we want to make the most of them.
What are we doing? We’re helping communities build their own world class superfast fibre optic broadband service direct to the parts other providers can’t reach within 21 parishes in rural north Lancashire. Many people are already live on the B4RN service and are now seeing the benefits of one of the world’s fastest connections. Here is a recent speed test taken by one of the customers.
Thank you for your interest, and if you would like to join us then these are the contact details:
01524 2555887 is our answer phone if you want to volunteer please leave a message and someone will ring you back. We do not have full time staff in the office yet, but willing volunteers are manning the phones and will respond to your questions.
Or email us at email@example.com and we will reply.
B4RN was recently featured extensively on the BBC, if you missed it then you can see the report here.
Currently we are working on the core route between the 8 parishes in our original plan. Some villages have decided they don’t want to wait much longer, and have got together and raised the funding needed to join themselves on to the core, as our first share offer was to fund the core only. Our second share offer is now available and offers a free connection worth £150 for anyone becoming a shareholder of 1500 shares. More details here
We are also extending our coverage to to more parishes on the edges of our network because of demand, so the main network will include 21 parishes now:
|Arkholme with Cawood|
|Burrow with Burrow|
|Littledale part of Caton with Littledate but also including Brookhouse and Caton Green along with some parts of the core of Caton.|
|Halton with Aughton|
|Hornby with Farleton|
|Melling with Wrayton|
|Wray with Botton|
Every community has people in it who are keen to build the infrastructure to bring our rural area into the digital age. We need those people to gather the volunteers together in each area because they are needed to do the building. It isn’t rocket science, its basically just common sense, laying the duct deep enough to be out of harm’s way in straight lines and level, so we can blow the fibre through it. We have found so far that there are many active people in the villages who help the elderly get the duct to their homes, so you don’t need to worry if you can’t dig it yourself.
We are also looking for more investment, either with loans or shares to reach all the areas and the other villages/hamlets/farms that are on the other routes and to complete the installation of the main core route which was held up in the wet summer last year.
Now is the time to invest in your future, for yourselves and for future generations, either with your muscles, brains or money, or a combination of all three if you are lucky enough to have them…
This last few weeks B4RN volunteers have been test driving the new Fujikura 12S in the fields, and the homes in Rural England. With sheep. And Tea.
Fujikura are very kindly loaning this splicer to B4RN for a few weeks because we only have one splicer and the diggers and farmers are digging like mad and its a job to keep up with them! The volunteers are busy blowing the fibre and installing equipment in homes and businesses. It’s all go at the moment and with lambing time looming everyone has a push on. On one row in Arkholme of the 40 properties all but 5 took a connection, with 32 taking live service and 3 just having the install done until their current contracts expire. 80% take up. Nice.
Some little videos of the 12S in action and more photos below.
The fujikura in action again, with some digging too, and more sheep. And tea.
This is a brilliant little splicing machine which is also very portable. It even has straps so you can hang it round your neck if you want to climb poles! All our fibre is buried so we don’t need that facility, but it proves how nimble the machine is. So far we have tested it in fields, in tents, in snow and frost, in homes and yesterday we worked in one of the cabinets. It has performed well in all of the places and not been any problems. The cleaver and tools that came with it were also of excellent quality and of a few hundred splices the majority have been very low dB. Only two splices have had to be re-done, (with loss of 0.4db or above), with the 12S notifying the operator of any faults before fusion is attempted. Most splices have given 0.0dB estimates, which we feel is a good guestimate of success. We have been very pleased to be able to be the first in the UK to test drive this product, and will seriously consider buying one as our company gets bigger and generates income. If anyone would like to sponsor this machine and so B4RN could keep it a bit longer please do get in touch!
With grateful thanks to our sponsor Fujikura, and many thanks to Tom Watson who has shown us its potential and enabled us to speed ahead with delivering connectivity to this beautiful area of the Lune Valley, where internet services are very poor but the views are amazing. The people can do IT for themselves, and bring a fibre to every home to make it one of the fastest villages in the land. If not the fastest. Since seeing the fusion splicing in action we have since had a request from the local WI to be trained as volunteer splicers, and we think this is a great idea. Women make good splicers as their fingers are very nimble. There is no escape for anyone in this community, if you have a skill we will find you! As soon as we get photos of the ladies in action we will post them.