Broadband

The Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme (RGVS)

A review of the partially successful parish bid to improve broadband can be read:

16 June – whilst waiting for the District Council to respond to our request for them to take on with Openreach wholescale implementation of a rural pilot scheme for replacement of copper by fibre all is not lost – a new voucher scheme practically identical to the old scheme is now published if anyone would like to take it up.

Additionally Openreach have announced an upgrade to the Bere Regis Exchange:

There are no timescales or detailed schedules yet but it does seem to be a step in the right direction.

The original Voucher Scheme expired on 31st March 2021 but a new Scheme has just been announced:

Dorset Council advise:

That the new government gigabit voucher scheme launches on Thursday (8 April) and not much has changed from the previous scheme.

The voucher values have remained the same  – £3,500 for a small/medium business and £1,500 for a residential household – as has the main eligibility criteria: You must be rural, you must receive speeds of less than 100mbps and your area  must not be included in any future commercial roll-out plans. The Dorset Council top-up fund from the old scheme is also being transferred into the new scheme and will be issued on a first come, first served basis. This will mean, while the funding is available, that businesses in Dorset can claim up to £6,000 and residents up to £2,500.

There has been a change to what speeds you will have to take if using voucher funding. The old scheme required people who received less than 30mbps to take a service of at least 30 and anyone who received 30 or above to double their speed. In this voucher scheme, if you currently receive less than 50mbps you will have to take a new service of at least 50, and if you already receive 50 and above, to take a service of at least 100mbps.

If you have already registered with a supplier, your scheme should be able to transfer to the new voucher scheme. We would encourage you to continue dialogue with the supplier and continue to engage interest in your community.

Finally, if you would like any further advice about the voucher scheme please do contact connectingdorset@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk .

map of the parish showing properties in the parish eligible for the Voucher Scheme
Properties in the Parish eligible for the original Voucher Scheme

Note: The green dots in the image indicate premises that should be eligible for a Gigabit Voucher/ Dorset Top Up. This means that the premises are classed as rural (by the Office of National Statistics), currently receive less than 100Mbps and are not in any plans to receive FTTP through state aid funded plans

Voucher Terms and Conditions

As recipients of the full fibre service residents are the benificaries of the voucher for which Terms and Conditions will apply. The supplier who is to build the fibre network obtains them from the Government on agreement to proceed by individual households and businesses and they must be read very carefully. A fundamental requirement is that In order to qualify for a voucher grant you must get a broadband connection which meets the Scheme rules agreed to by your supplier and take a service from an ISP that can connect to the full fibre connection for at least a year:

Check your speed now with https://broadbandtest.which.co.uk/

A download speed of 12 to 25 Mbps is OK for two or three internet users who want to stream video or play online games. A speed of 25 Mbps and higher supports four-plus people who surf, play games, stream video and more all at the same time. Although sometimes called ‘superfast’ 30Mbps is not really fast by today’s standards! But it can be considered adequate. It is more than enough to stream video (not live streaming!) With 30 Mbps internet service, you’ll be able to download your favourite song or a file for work within a few seconds.

For live streaming and gaming 10-25 Mbps gives moderate HD streaming, online gaming and downloading with a moderate number of connected devices. 25-40Mbps allows heavy HD streaming, online gaming and downloading with a lot of connected devices. 40+Mbps enables hardcore streaming, gaming, and downloading with an extreme number of connected devices.

Regardless of download speed, or how fast you get the stuff, some ISPs limit how much you can download in terms of Mb. This is quite a useful guide on how to estimate that www.choose.co.uk/guide/broadband-data-usage-limits.html

Registering interest and agreement to proceed on a Scheme

The Voucher Scheme relies on groups of premises getting together and registering themselves with an installer (currently Openreach or Wessex Internet in our area) and also with Dorset Council. Both will prefer then to work with a nominated point of contact “stakeholder or champion” for each interested group of properties to act as an administrative link. The stakeholder/champion is not responsible for entering into contract with the installer – for Wessex Internet that is down to individual householders and businesses once agreement to proceed has been reached and for Openreach a “legal entity” is required (Parish Council, Community Interest Company, established Company or individual) prepared to contract on behalf of the group and manage any payments due.

Note: The Legal Entity requirement is proving to be unpopular largely as it requires residents to handle other people’s money should the vouchers not cover the cost of the installation. Also the Legal Entity will be faced with an invoice should any resident of business default on the Terms and Conditions of the voucher scheme requiring withdrawal of a voucher.

County Council advise “that Openreach are trialling a demand led system whereby individuals pledge their vouchers and when sufficient have been pledged the installation will be built without contract. The Terms and Conditions of the voucher scheme still apply“.

Wessex Internet are both the fibre network supplier and the Internet Service Provider (ISP) so they connect up all the way to your computer. They provide the Optical Network Terminal (ONT) box which completes the fibre installation on the inside of your property. This converts the fibre optic data stream to an electrical signal ready for a normal ethernet cable to carry the data stream to their supplied router which connects to your computer. A test will then be conducted to prove that the full fibre service ordered by you is there.

www.wessexinternet.com/community-schemes

Register interest for full fibre:

www.wessexinternet.com/iwantfullfibre

https://www.wessexinternet.com/faqs

Openreach are only a fibre network supplier hosting a variety of ISPs. Regardless of when an installation is carried out it is done so in two distinct phases:

Phase I is the network installation from the nearest major node – often a couple of cabinets inside the telephone exchange – to a Connectorised Box Terminal (CBT) box in the ground or on top of a telegraph pole. The CBT is a multi-connection point to provide the fibre service to as many properties as there are outlets on the box.

Phase 2 requires that you contact the ISP you have chosen which can accept the full fibre service to arrange final termination. Your ISP will arrange for Openreach to return in order to run a fibre cable from the CBT into your property where the Openreach engineer will fit an ONT. Your chosen ISP then connects a suitable router to the ONT and then to your computer. A test will then be conducted to prove that the full fibre service ordered by you is there.

www.openreach.com/fibre-broadband/community-fibre-partnerships

picture illustrating the 6 step process
The process from Dorset Council’s perspective

Be aware that there will be a cost to the resident or business whichever supplier is selected under any scheme:

For a Wessex Internet installation this will be due to the need to change Internet Service Providers (ISPs – BT, Plusnet, Virgin, TalkTalk etc) to Wessex Internet. You may have to deal with early termination charges and change your email address or pay your original ISP for the privilege of keeping it – needs to be looked into and advice is available on the internet or from your ISP. You will need to take a full fibre package from Wessex Internet which meets the Terms and Conditions of the voucher scheme. The article from SAGA below seems to cover the email issue quite well:

www.saga.co.uk/magazine/technology/internet/communications/switch-providers-and-keep-your-email

For an Openreach installation they finish by fitting the ONT inside your property and that is all part of the contract. At that point you must arrange an ISP to connect to a full fibre service for which there may be a connection charge to the ONT. This may include a new router plus the cost of a full fibre package which meets the Terms and Conditions of the voucher scheme.

Other help available for people with broadband speeds of less than 10 Mbs.

If you receive broadband speeds of less than 10Mbps you could be entitled to help from Ofcom’s Universal Service Obligation (USO), run by BT. Unlike the Voucher Scheme this is not a group option.

The USO offers a solution to people who receive less than 10Mbps and in most cases the solution offered would be a Home 4G Hub (this can get you speeds in the region of 30Mbps). When a 4G Hub solution is not suitable the USO can offer a subsidy towards full fibre installation.

What are the pros and cons of Home 4G Broadband?

Pros:
Portable – can be taken anywhere as long as there is a plug
Can be a much faster option over broadband (depending on the package)
More flexible plans available – 1 month through to 24 months
Ideal if you struggle to get fixed line broadband
Cons: 
4G can end up costing more overall than regular broadband
Most plans carry download limits
4G broadband can be patchy in areas making it less reliable

For more information on the USO go to www.bt.com/broadband/USO

In the meantime

and if you are stuck with poor performance then there are things that can be checked:

Looking Way Ahead

There is a proposal by OFCOM to withdraw the copper service from about 2026 as being past its sell by date:

read https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0022/204853/consultation-copper-regulation-withdrawal-conditions.pdf