Howard Reeves – Rural Connection Case Study, Beaples Barton Sporting Holidays
Howard Reeves has become an expert on how to achieve the best broadband speed in a very rural location. He runs Beaples Barton Sporting Holidays, a specialised holiday letting business for those interested in shooting sports. He lives and works near Knowstone, South Molton, and understands the importance of a website and online business tools in attracting visitors.
Once the company website was established twenty years ago, Howard needed an effective broadband service to ensure he could communicate online. Living 12 kilometres from the nearest telephone exchange at West Anstey, many creative solutions were used to try to connect to broadband. Using the existing BT telephone lines was beset with problems: travelling through wooded country and in and out of valleys, the connection was constantly interrupted by a whole host of problems including damage from windblown trees, impacts from stormy weather, disruption to low hanging wires and even animals chewing cables.
Over the years, Howard has tried various different services, combining different computer technologies with a variety of equipment or modems. He even juggled multiple broadband services so that one could back up the other when a connection went down. But, with top speeds of just 115Kbps, Howard had to rely on friends to help with his online business activities, particularly as customers relied more and more on the website and emails to request information or make bookings.
Howard explains, “Trying to send or receive emails over a certain size was almost impossible: the server would take so long that eventually it would disconnect. I have no doubt that I lost a lot of business because of this. The fact is that nowadays everyone assumes everyone else has high speed internet and people expect quick responses: if they don’t get a rapid reply, they assume we are not interested in their enquiry.”
Early 2012 proved to be a tipping point. Weather conditions and constantly interrupted signals meant more missed business. Howard heard that a nearby neighbour, a busy sheep farmer and agronomist, had satellite broadband. Anticipating this to be an expensive option, Howard investigated further and was delighted when he found out that the Rural Connection initiative offered subsidised connections to properties and businesses within his area.
Rural Connection is a project run by The Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) and Devon and Somerset County Councils. This programme has European funding and is providing selected rural areas with free installation of satellite broadband. Grants are available for the installation of equipment and set up costs in these areas, and the customer just pays a monthly fee to stay connected. Free training and support are also available, to help those subscribing to this service to get the best of the greater connectivity faster broadband brings.
Howard contacted Tooway Direct, the company working with the RDPE to provide this service. Tooway staff confirmed that he was eligible for a Rural Connection grant, and within a matter of weeks installation was carried out at no cost to Howard or his business. “The whole process was as smooth as clockwork: Tooway staff were very kind and patient with my lack of IT knowledge. They discussed my requirements, then set up the satellite dish and modem. All this was free: the only additional cost to me was £60 for a router. Keith Brown, the engineer who installed the equipment, was very helpful and professional.”
Has satellite broadband made much difference? “Absolutely! Since that day, life has become much easier. I no longer worry about missed emails for business because it now only takes a few seconds to access my inbox. The connection is reliable and doesn’t cut out or stall. Whereas before I did not look forward to checking mails in the morning, it has now become a pleasure. I no longer worry about people sending long and complicated emails and attachments as my broadband can cope: it’s like lightening!”
The flexibility of the service means that Howard can increase his broadband capacity in the future if he needs to. For example, if he wants to provide WiFi for guests he can do so and still retain a serviceable connection for the rest of his business! He is also now recommending satellite broadband to friends and neighbours.
If reading about Howard’s experiences with satellite broadband has increased your interest in the technology. Visit our Rural Connection project page to find out more information about the project and whether you are eligible for free setup and installation.