It’s been a couple of months since the last B4YS update – we’ve been very busy – but it’s good news all round, so grab a cuppa, here’s an extra-large B4YS update newsletter:
In the last newsletter we let everyone know that our Stage One fundraising target had been met. That means that Hyperfast Broadband will be coming to our parishes, without a doubt. 19 other parishes are actively taking part in connecting themselves to B4RN, many are connected already. All before us have been able to overcome any difficulty put in their way – community power is amazing – and we’re no different, nothing should stop us now we have funding.
Borwick & Priest Hutton are live
Our B4RN neighbours over at Borwick and Priest Hutton are now live. Last Sunday Keith posted an update on the parish website:
“Yesterday afternoon the first properties in Borwick to be connected to B4RN hyper fast broadband went live. There are now a dozen or so households enjoying gigabit speeds and contemplating the world of opportunities this gives them in computing, media and telecoms. They are now part of the best network in the world, financed and built by you and me, for the benefit of our community.”
We’ll be taking the B4RN batton soon, when we hook up to their link somewhere around the Longland’s Hotel area.
It’s important to register
It’s important that you register for a B4RN connection. If you haven’t done so yet, you can use this form:
Don’t assume you’ve automatically been registered – even if you’re on our mailing list, even if you’ve invested your hard-earned – we will need some extra information so we can identify your property for a connection, so please take the time to register (our registration form was first published 1st Sept 2014).
We’re having a busy time here at B4YS – and there’s always great news to share – but I (Chris) have to admit I’ve been terrible at telling everyone about it these last couple of months.
Taking feedback on board, I’m currently making arrangements for a new “head of communications” on the team, so that updates can be more frequent. Watch this space.
So where’s the project up to?
Since we met the fundraising targets in September, the B4YS team have been:
- Walking & planning the routes between parishes
- Arranging permission with landowners
- Mapping every property in the three parishes, so a detailed local route can be drafted
- Speaking with contractors who can help us with the heavy stuff
We’re hoping to have the Borwick to Yealand link committed to paper over the next month or so, and digging can begin soon after.
B4RN demo day in January
With our neighbours enjoying 1,000Mbps broadband just down the road, we thought it would be good to go and experience it first-hand. “Try before you buy” if you would.
We’re currently arranging a B4RN demo day for the middle/end of January and will publish details as soon as it’s confirmed.
All kinds of digging
Our plans have developed somewhat over the recent months, not least because our funding target from B4RN allowed us some budget for contractor digging. That means our project can involve three types of digging:
- Volunteer digging: Network building the B4RN way. We’ve a considerable list of wonderful volunteers who have signed up to help build the network, both by hand and machine. These volunteers will not only help their community, but also earn shares in the broadband company (see below*)
- Landowner digging: Some landowners prefer to lay the fibre across their land themselves, and earn shares too (see below*).
- Contractor digging: these boys are the experts. Top of our roster is a man who knows the area well – he contracts for BT laying cables and laid our gas pipes in Silverdale – he’s also a regular contractor for other B4RN parishes. Contractors will help us cross (or bore under) roads like the A6.
*Shares can be earned at a rate of £1.50 per meter (£1,500 shares per KM). Work equivalent to £1,500 entitles the recipient to free connection and free B4RN broadband for 1 year. More info here: http://goo.gl/6kVa2A
In other news
- Fancy a job? B4RN are now recruiting for the first paid team member:
- B4RN connects it’s 600th customer, and applies for Ofcom Code Powers:
- The B4RN network heads to Yorkshire. Three counties will soon be connected:
A handful of questions come up quite often, so we’ll try to answer some here:
Q: How will we cross the A6, M6, canal and West Coast Railway Line?
Multiple routes have been carefully planned, making use of bridges, farm underpasses and culverts to cleverly cross these obstacles without needing to involve the likes of Network Rail. This stage of planning is almost complete.
Q: How will the fibre cross the fields?
We plan to use a variety of methods – by hand and machine – the fastest way is to use a mole plough: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b36kBRs5XnE
Q: How will the fibre cross roads?
We’ll use specialist contractors, who will either make a narrow cut in the tarmac to run the fibre through, or ideally use a Directional Drill (very clever!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03hP3ZZaWxU#t=35
Crossing roads like this is expensive whilst fibre ducting is cheap, so if possible we plan slightly longer routes that avoid crossing roads and make use of culverts etc.
Q: What about the limestone under the ground?
The limestone sits at varying depths under the soft ground. There are many ways to tackle the challenge:
- We have a geologist on the B4YS team. We can use LIDAR maps – http://goo.gl/wBKlfj – to help us navigate the clints and grikes so the ducting can be burried in the soft stuff.
- We have a pipe-laying contractor who laid the gas mains in Silverdale. He knows the land (and the limestone) well.
- The fibre ducting doesn’t have to go in the ground, it just needs to be protected. Rather than a standard 18” depth, we have options to:
- Run the ducting at a shallower depth, and top it with paving stones for protection from spades etc.
- Run the ducting over land in steel or plastic pipe clipped to a wall or fence.
- Run the ducting overhead, using telegraph poles.
- As a last resort if we have to (and where we can do), there’s the rock trencher. These come in all sizes, big and small. We might not need the big one!
Q: Will there be a definite start date for digging?
There probably won’t be a definite date for anything. Amongst other unknowns this is a project run by volunteers, dependent on things like convenience to landowners, the weather, contractor availability etc., so it’s going to be quite fluid. We probably won’t know when digging can start until the week before when everything slots into place.
Q: When will you be coming to my house?
Good question. With so many variables and a volunteer workforce it’s difficult to say. We aim to begin digging in Yealand this year, then to Silverdale & Storth in spring. We will be connecting properties throughout 2015. Watch this space for updates!
Q: Can my property/farm/business be connected?
Yes. Every property that wishes to be connected, will be connected.
Q: What is the cost for a B4RN connection?
It’s £30/month. There’s a one-off connection fee of £150 to cover the cost of the engineer visit and modem. The connection is 1,000Mbps upload & download, and is unlimited in terms of data transfer.
Q: Will you dig up my garden?
As a community project it will be the community that lay the fibre ducting. This may be you, your neighbour, or a contractor if you choose to employ one. No digging will be done without consultation and remember, the fibre doesn’t necessarily need to go into the ground. It can be clipped to a wall or fence inside a pipe, slipped between paving flags. There are many options; the orange fibre duct to your property will be thinner than your little finger.
Q: Will I have to change my email address when I move to B4RN?
If you use an email address from your ISP you may lose this when you stop paying them (do check before you cancel it) but that’s true when you switch to any new provider. We suggest you register with one of the free web based services such as Gmail, Yahoo or Outlook Live (see http://free-email-services-review.toptenreviews.com). These can be configured to run with the email client on your computer (e.g. Outlook, Thunderbird) or can accessed through the web.
Please make sure you notify B4RN & B4YS if you change email address, or notifications will be sent to your old one.
Q: Will I need my BT line?
A B4RN connection means you won’t need a BT telephone line. You can save money on both your line rental and your call charges by using a service such as Vonage. Vonage are a VOIP provider; they route your calls over the internet. You can keep your existing telephone number, your current handset, and make calls in exactly the same way – they’re just cheaper!
Have a look at this video for more details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ppcO03WBjM
Q: How can I help the project?
We need volunteers for all sorts – organising, canvassing, route planning, digging, technical etc. – so please let us know how you can help. We are building up our contacts list for future use, and will be contacting people from it as & when we need.
Fill out the form below to tell us how you can help. If you have a digger or can pull a mole plough, you have just become our new best friend!: http://www.b4ys.org.uk/how-do-i-get-it/offer-help/
Q: Can I still invest?
Yes absolutely, download a share form and return it with your cheque to your local coordinator: http://www.b4ys.org.uk/how-do-i-get-it/invest-shares/
Until next time
The B4YS team are likely to be very busy over the coming months, preparing for the digging to begin. Don’t worry if news is a little quiet – that’s a good sign – but there will be at least one update before Christmas.
In the meantime please continue to spread the word. This project where many were sceptical is now happening in a field near you – well done everyone for supporting us. Thank you!