connecting

Devon and Somerset

Faster broadband is on its way
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  • Latest news

    • UK Umbrella State Aid Granted by European Commission

      Broadband Delivery UK (the organisation responsible for delivering the £52 million of public funding for the Connecting Devon and Somerset Project) has been granted State Aid* clearance by the European Commission. This allows Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) to approve local

    • BT Appointed Preferred Bidder for the Connecting Devon and Somerset Programme

      The Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) programme has announced that it has appointed BT as preferred bidder for the provision of superfast broadband across Devon and Somerset. The next stage of the project involves undertaking due diligence on the tender

    • Procurement Update

      As part of satisfying State Aid requirements, Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) is required to announce the launch of its invitation to tender (ITT) for the selection of its chosen supplier from the recent Framework arrangement set up by BDUK.

FAQs

About the Get Connected Campaign:

What is the project all about?

The Connecting Devon and Somerset programme has secured £31 million from the government to roll out faster broadband across our region. Local authorities have added a further £20 million, bringing the total to just over £50 million. The aim of the project is for all our businesses and communities to have access to faster broadband by 2015 with 85% of them enjoying superfast broadband. Our end goal is for the whole region to have access to superfast broadband by 2020.

Why is it important?

Reliable access to broadband is an integral part of 21st Century living. It’s much more than streaming video and music or online shopping: it’s increasingly the way business is conducted and services are delivered. Companies with slow access to the internet are seriously disadvantaged in the modern world of commerce.

For us, faster broadband will:

  • Be the 21st century infrastructure that enables our businesses to compete on a level footing regardless of location
  • Make Devon and Somerset a more attractive proposition for business re-locations and start-ups – including the creation of new, high-tech jobs
  • Enable the transformation of public services through initiatives such as: telehealth, improving patient care in their homes; community safety through greater and more efficient use of CCTV
  • Enable improved business efficiency and flexibility, for example through speedier communication, better access to new markets and greater homeworking
  • Facilitate improved skills levels through access to online learning
  • Tackle digital exclusion, ensuring rural communities have the same access to services as urban communities
What is the Get Connected campaign?

Although £50 million sounds like a huge sum, it is still not enough to deliver broadband infrastructure across our whole region and we need broadband suppliers (companies like BT and Virgin) to make up the difference. To get the best possible deal from these companies we have to demonstrate that enough businesses and individuals want faster broadband to make their initial investment worthwhile.

‘Get Connected’ is the campaign we are running to ask residents, businesses and communities to register:

  • their broadband speed
  • the types of activity limited by current speeds
  • what improved connectivity might mean.

The findings will be used to strengthen our negotiations with broadband suppliers and will be one of the factors influencing the eventual broadband roll out. The project runs from now until 2020, and priority for rollout will depend on existing demand, the potential for economic growth, social need and current speeds. Taking part in this campaign offers a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity for communities and businesses to have a say in the services needed for their area.

What does the campaign actually involve?

We need to register details for at least 10,000 participants in 10 ‘sample areas’ across Devon and Somerset. This will give us a statistically representative view of the status quo and future needs across our region. Golley Slater has been appointed to carry out the survey for us. Leaflets are being delivered to 26,000 homes and businesses from 6th February and these will be followed up by a telephone call asking for detailed information.

We are also working with the press and media to run news updates and feature stories in local newspapers, radio and TV.

Why haven’t I received a leaflet?

Only a selection of people in our ten sample areas will be sent a leaflet in the post and receive a telephone call.

However, we would love to hear from as many people as possible right across the region. You can still take part in our online survey or call the survey hotline on 0844 4636887.

How do I register my details?

You can register you details on our signup page or by calling our dedicated hotline number 0844 463 6887.

How can I get involved?

We need our residents and businesses to be involved as the project progresses. You can do that in a variety of ways:

  • Tick the box to indicate you would like to receive our e-newsletter when you fill in our signup form.
  • Attend events and workshops in your area (see our events page – our signup form also has a box to indicate if you wish to receive event information).
  • Put yourself forward as a broadband champion/ambassador or digital mentor when filling in our signup form.
  • Encourage others to signup to our site and take part in our survey.
About a year ago you were asking people to take part in a different survey. Why do we need to fill in this one too?

Connecting Devon and Somerset ran a survey last year to find out if people really were interested in getting faster broadband. The results of this survey helped us win over £30m in funding from Broadband Delivery UK.

The ‘Get Connected’ campaign is all about putting together the information we need to attract suppliers to bid for the installation of the necessary infrastructure for better broadband. We need to register details for at least 10,000 participants across Devon and Somerset to give us a statistically representative view of needs across our region.

But that’s not all. We’d like to find out where demand for faster broadband is particularly high. This will help us attract more investment from the private sector and will strengthen our negotiations with suppliers. That’s why even if you are not contacted by our researchers, it’s still important for you to register your details through our website www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk or by calling our hotline on 0844 463 6887.

Why is Devon / Somerset / North Somerset / B&NES, Plymouth / Torbay lagging behind other parts of the country when it comes to Better Broadband?

It’s made commercial sense for broadband infrastructure providers to service cities and larger towns first. In these areas there are lots of potential customers who live close together, so the infrastructure can be concentrated in smaller physical areas requiring relatively little investment.

Broadband infrastructure providers are now starting to look at the more rural parts of the country to see if it makes commercial sense to extend into these areas. However, there will always be locations where it doesn’t make commercial sense. The government has recognised this and is encouraging councils to bid for money to bring better broadband to everyone.

Most people only need about 5Mbps to do what they want to on the internet. Why are you trying to get anything faster?

It’s true that right now 5Mbps is sufficient for the majority of people when it comes to things such as email, online banking,  social networking,  standard definition iPlayer and many businesses activities. However, there has been a drastic increase in the amount of data consumed by online services over the past 10 years, most recently with the rise of on-demand TV services such as BBC iPlayer, or in the case of businesses,  the increasing reliance on video conferencing.

This has all combined to put ever increasing strains on aging infrastructure, and whilst it is hard to predict what the next 10 years might bring, data usage is certainly not going to decrease with increasing demand for high definition video content and cloud based services only set to increase. As such we need to be ready for such technological advances to make sure we don’t get left behind, hence the reason we are future-proofing Devon and Somerset’s broadband infrastructure.

About the broadband rollout:

When will I know when my community is getting superfast broadband?

In early 2013 we will begin the roll-out of our new infrastructure. At that time we will have a better idea of the areas that will benefit from a superfast service. We aim for everywhere to have an improved service of 2Mbps by 2015 with 85% of residents having access to superfast broadband by 2015 and the remaining 15% by 2020.

Please keep looking out for announcements through our website, or better still, fill in the survey and tick the box that allows us to email you updates.

What improvements can I expect to see?

Faster broadband means more people can work from home, access services online – saving them money, and stay in touch with friends and family across the world. It also means our businesses can communicate fully with overseas partners and customers. And it means our young people can access essential information for their homework and use the web for research.

Except in our big population centres (eg Taunton, Exeter, Plymouth and Torbay), access to broadband is very limited. We estimate that the private sector is currently committed to delivering superfast broadband access to only 38% of premises, and this is likely to rise to just 62% by 2015. This leaves 26,000 businesses with a turnover of £9 billion and 700,000 people with no certainty of improved connectivity. Our project aims to extend the reach of faster broadband to market towns and rural communities.

When will I get faster broadband?

The delivery of faster broadband will start in 2013 although we won’t be able to give any specific detail on the roll-out until we have finished the procurement stage. As one of three local authority areas that are among the first to get funding, we are working with the government to develop and take part in a national framework of approved suppliers. This is designed to make sure we get the best possible value for money. The time frame we are working to is as follows:

Activity Indicative date
‘Get Connected’ Campaign is launched to find out businesses and residents’ broadband speeds 6 February 2012
A series of events and workshops to help businesses and residents make the most of superfast broadband Summer 2012
Devon and Somerset broadband partner appointed Autumn 2012
Begin roll out of superfast broadband Spring 2013

BT have just announced they will be upgrading a number of exchanges in Devon and Somerset. Does this mean that they will be rolling out superfast Broadband anyway?

BT have made various announcements about locations where they are rolling out their BT Infinity programme. Some of the main towns and cities across Devon and Somerset have been included in this list. In areas where the upgraded BT exchanges enable the services that meet the aims of the Connecting Devon andSomerset programme we won’t need to spend public money. However, despite the BT upgrade, thousands of homes and businesses across Devon and Somerset will still be without a better broadband service. The Connecting Devon and Somerset Programme will help plug the gap.

BT maintains a searchable map and a downloadable list of exchange areas where they have or will be rolling out FttC, but note that it does not give detail down to cabinet level, and they do not upgrade every cabinet in an exchange area. BT have stated:

“Openreach averages 85% coverage of homes and businesses within an enabled exchange area”.

When you roll out Superfast Broadband can I choose my superfast supplier or will I have to sign up with whoever you appoint?

The supplier we appoint will be responsible for installing an overall infrastructure that is capable of delivering a better broadband service. Any Internet Service Provider (ISP) can choose to use this infrastructure to provide customers with a better broadband service.

How much will it cost?

We don’t know yet but we aim to make sure that there will be a choice of Internet Service Providers so that residential and business customers pay a reasonable amount for their better broadband service.

Is there a chance that despite the rollout of superfast broadband I may not get access to it?

Some locations are so geographically remote that superfast broadband will not be achievable for cost or technical reasons. This is why we are aiming to ensure that every part of Devon and Somerset sees an improvement to their service and can get at least 2Mbps.

Will I have to use the superfast service or can I stick with my existing supplier?

You can choose whether to buy the better broadband service. You may be able to keep your existing broadband service – your Internet Service Provider will let you know what your options are nearer the time.

Where can I find out more information?

You can get the most recent updates via signing up to our site on our signup page, or by visiting the latest news section of our website.

My local exchange has been upgraded by BT, but I cannot receive superfast broadband – will I still benefit from this project?

BT and Virgin both currently supply superfast broadband to a few areas in Devon and Somerset. When BT announce that they are upgrading an exchange to their Infinity product (fibre to the cabinet, or FttC) they do not necessarily upgrade all cabinets, only those that will provide a return on investment to BT (typically 50-85% of cabinets). There is also an issue of premises served by direct lines (exchange only lines) that do not pass through a green cabinet at all, and so can miss out on receiving the new superfast service.

Where an area is not receiving a superfast broadband service, and there are currently no known announcements of superfast broadband (shown as white on the superfast broadband map) then the area is “in scope” for the Connecting Devon and Somerset project.

This includes postcodes served by cabinets from BT FttC exchanges where the cabinet has not been upgraded. As we are still in a procurement situation, we cannot provide any specific information on the infrastructure roll out. However, the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme has the aim of delivering superfast broadband to at least 85% of premises in the Devon/Somerset region by 2015 with the remainder by 2020.

Technical questions:

The speedchecker doesn’t seem to work – what’s wrong?

We’ve had one email so far from someone having a problem with the speed checker – we’ve checked extensively and found that it should work across most common operating systems / browsers / devices.

The most likely problem is that your computer is behind a firewall that is preventing access. If you receive the message “Unable to connect, please try again later.”, you may be running a firewall or a network configuration which is preventing the tester from connecting. If your Internet access is restricted via a web proxy server only, you will not be able to run this test.

It is recommended that you use the official Sun Java Runtime Environment (JRE), available for Windows, Linux, OS X, Solaris and other operating systems. The Speed Test should load in the box above. If nothing appears, you may not have a Java Runtime Environment installed or correctly configured. You can get the latest version here.

The speed checker we are using is provided via Think Broadband. They have a series of FAQs that might provide an answer – link here.

Alternative speed checkers can be found online, e.g. BBC, Speedtest.net etc. and you may want to see if they work.

How do I manage cookies on your website?

To make our domain simpler, we sometimes place small data files on your computer. These are known as cookies. On your first visit to connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk, you’ll be greeted by an introduction message. When you close the message, we’ll store a cookie so that your computer knows you’ve seen it and knows not to show it again (and again…). However if you have chosen to disable cookies in your browser this message will reappear each time you visit. (more…)

What is broadband?

Broadband is a term normally considered to be synonymous with a high-speed connection to the internet. The term itself is technology-neutral and broadband can be delivered by a range of technologies.

ADSL broadband is available across most of the UK and is provided through your existing BT phone line. Your internet service provider (ISP) will provide a modem, or router, to deliver the broadband and this is usually free of charge. ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line – most broadband provided through a phone line is ADSL.

ADSL Max from BT gives you access to download speeds of up to 8Mbps. Most BT exchanges are now ADSL Max-enabled. ADSL2+ more than doubles the speed of an ADSL Max connection, providing up to 20Mbps, by changing the transmission frequency.

The next step up from ADSL2+ is VDSL (very high bit-rate digital subscriber line). This can deliver speeds of up to 52Mbps over very short distances – far too short to reach the exchange – so it only works in areas where fibre optic cables have been laid to new cabinets on the streets. This type of technology is known as Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC). If you are familiar with the dull green cabinets that BT normally uses, watch out for bright green cabinets appearing next to them. The closer you live to a bright green cabinet, the better.

Fibre optic is very much the ‘next big thing’ in broadband terms, offering super fast speeds of up to 100Mbps and this is offered by providers such as Virgin and BT. The principle of carrying light signals along glass fibres does ensure much faster transmission speeds than are possible with the normal copper wire. The other advantage is that there is minimal speed deterioration in fibre optic cable, unlike copper wire where speed can fall away quickly over long distances. The current problem with fibre optic is its lack of widespread availability. Whilst Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) offers speeds of up to 40Mbps, Fibre to the Home (FTTH) can offer speeds of up to 100Mbps+ – in fact BT and Virgin have both run successful trials of 1Gbps (1 gigabyte or 1000 megabyte) services.

What do you mean by superfast broadband?

Across the country there are different interpretations of superfast broadband. For the purposes of the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme, we are defining superfast broadband as anything with speeds in excess of 24Mbps.

Why are download and upload speeds different?

ADSL splits the wire into two so it can carry data (when you download from or upload to the web) and voice (when you are on the phone). The “asymmetric” part means that you can download from the web much faster than you can upload to it. Most domestic and small business users have needed to download from the internet more than they upload, so this is why greater capacity has been given to download. However the need to upload greater amounts of data has become much more important in recent years with the advent of social media and file sharing websites. As such there is a need for fast upload as well as download rates which is something that superfast broadband promises to deliver!

I currently pay for a service that says I should get up to 10Mbps but I only get 2Mbps, why is that?

One of the problems with purchasing broadband, especially ADSL broadband delivered over copper, is that your supplier cannot guarantee that you will get a particular speed. There are a number of different factors that affect the speed of your broadband connection. For example, the speed will be reduced by your distance from the telephone exchange, the quality of the line, the number of joints in the wire, and the wiring inside your house. Also, the connection will be made at the Maximum Stable Rate (MSR), which is the lowest rate where the line isn’t dropped occasionally. It’s not the highest speed the line can actually deliver. The broadband router can also make a difference as can your laptop or computer or some of the software you use.

The distance from the telephone exchange is the length of the wiring involved, not the direct distance. A user could be within a stone’s throw of the exchange but too far away for ADSL, for example if the exchange is on the other side of a river or railway line. The quality of the line includes what it’s made from. For example, aluminium is notoriously slower than copper wiring for ADSL.

Beyond that, your throughput may be limited by something called ‘contention’. Broadband and telephone services are supplied on the same basis as other utilities such as water, mains electricity and roads, which assume that not everybody will want to use them at once. If everybody in your town decided to run a bath at the same time, your water supply would soon reduce to a trickle. The same thing will happen if everybody wants to use the internet at the same time.

Why is the internet always slow in the evenings?

Speeds are generally slower in the evening because there tends to be more people using the service in the evening than during the day. It’s the equivalent of the rush hour first thing in the morning and in the evening that adds a lot of traffic to the roads and this has to be managed by internet service providers to ensure the equivalent of gridlock does not ensue.

What do broadband speeds actually mean?

Broadband speeds can be very confusing. So, for those of you who aren’t ‘techies’ this table shows what your broadband speed means in real terms.

Broadband speed chart

 

What does megabytes per second mean?

Alongside price, speed is one of the key factors people talk about when it comes to choosing broadband. All of the ISPs quote the broadband download speed as a key part of their advertising, while discussions on download speeds have become mainstream news thanks to the government’s Digital Britain report.

Broadband speed is measured in megabits per second, commonly written as Mb or Mbps (as in 24Mb, or 24Mbps). It essentially means the rates at which data is transferred either from (download) or to (upload) the website’s server (the computer hosting the website you’re visiting).

The fundamental unit of digital data is the byte and all digital data is constructed from numerous bytes (much like the fundamental building block of a house may be a brick, but 1000’s of bricks are required to build a house). Because the number of bytes in many files is a very large number (i.e. a single photo could consist of 2-5 million bytes!) digital data is abbreviated using a framework of words as follows:

 

Terminology Number of bytes
Kilobyte 1000 bytes
Megabyte 1000,000 bytes (or 1000 kilobytes)
Gigabyte 1000,000,000 bytes (or 1000 megabytes)

 

To put all this in the context of the activities the average user may use the internet for:

  • An average word document is around 50-100 kilobytes in size
  • An average website, photo or music track is around a couple of megabytes in size
  • A video can range from hundreds of megabytes to several gigabytes in size
  • Streaming 60 minuets of standard definition video over the internet can consume between 50 and 255 megabytes
  • Streaming 60 minuets of radio over the internet can consume over 60 megabytes
How do I find out my current speed?

Do a speed test! We have one here on our website but this is by no means the only one available, or indeed the best speed checker. There is no such thing as the ‘best’ speed checker and it is wise to take the average result from multiple speed checkers at various times of the day. Do a search for broadband speed check and you will find many to choose from.

It is also wise, if possible, to carry out the tests on a wired, rather than wirelessly connected computer, as wireless networks can cause large variations in the results which may not reflect your true internet speed.

 
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