B4Rn Logo
Hero Further5

News & Events

Service Status

News archive: Guest Blog – Leaping into the 21st Century

April 15th, 2013
Author: Chris Conder
Tags: blog connection ftth guest
Posted In: Archive News

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.

Gavin And Belinda Second Nature Smallban

Stories from out in the field from our very happy customers

One residential customer in Over Kellet used to know whether it was worth firing up her computer by looking out of her front window to see what the weather was doing with her telephone line.

Customer Testimonial

We juggle two jobs from home, and it’s just been a game-changer. Just sign up! It’s the best internet service I’ve ever received, and I’ve moved a thousand times!
Georgiana, Dentdale
It has allowed us to improve our farm business through the implementation of Wi-Fi heat detection ankle bands on our herd, and thus improving our business productivity.
Heather Whalley, Farmer
OMG it is amazing! I don’t want to go back to London, which was faster than here, but not now! Just to say a BIG THANK YOU to all you guys, what a great thing you are doing. I’m shocked not everyone is signing up!
Customer in Norfolk
After lambing 1300 ewes a good film is what I want to watch and because we have B4RN that is no problem. Just enables me and my family to get on.
Farmer (Anonymous)
It’s like going from a Ford Anglia to a jet engine!
Jackie Frankland, Rathmell

We’re award winners!

Connected Britain Bpoty All Caps Edit Best Rural Isp Winner 2022 Inca Winner 2022 Medium Connected Britain Community Improvement Award Winner 2022 Inca Ispa 1663059912