Update on Rathmell High Speed Broadband Options

Rathmell & Wigglesworth Broadband (RWBB).  

An attempt to give a bit more detail about the options for improving BB services for our area.

Presently we’ve got copper wire telephone lines, slow broadband of around 2 – 5 Mbps, BT bills for telephone and broadband, or BT bills for telephone plus bills for a different broadband service.

We have 2 main options for improving matters.

A – the BT Openreach Community Fibre Partnership choice.

B – the B4RN fibre optic choice.

A – BT Openreach Community Fibre Partnership.

Openreach has no plans to improve our BB service in the foreseeable future since, presumably, it is not in their commercial interest to do so. They will, however, provide a faster service where communities are prepared to pay for it. BT Openreach require us to gather details of properties that are interested in faster broadband and they will then produce a price for the project. If we choose to go with this option we then need raise funds from the community and these would be payable to BT – 50% on contract signature, 50% on completion.

Openreach would then schedule in work to lay fibre optic lines from the telephone exchange to the green cabinets, speeding up that section of broadband delivery (it is not yet known how Openreach would address areas without an existing green cabinet). Existing but slower copper wires would then complete the BB connection to homes. This is known as Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC).

We have no idea of the costs involved but these would clearly depend on how many customers expressed an interest. The outcome of such a project would be increased BB speeds – BT Infinity, for example, currently advertises speeds up to around 70 Mbps though this isn’t guaranteed! BT landline bills, and BB contracts, BT or otherwise, would continue as at present.

If you don’t express any interest, there is a possibility that the work done for this project will not cover your property.

B – Broadband for the Rural North.

Unlike BT, B4RN is a much smaller local/regional, not-for-profit company that is providing hyperfast BB services to a growing number of communities in the rural north-west. For more information it is well-worth googling B4RN, or go to b4rn.org.uk, to learn about the scope of the enterprise and their methods of working. Presently, the nearest bit of the B4RN fibre optic network is just north of Wham as part of the B4RN project being run by the residents of Lawkland, Eldroth, Wharfe, Feizor and Austwick.

The end result of this project would be a fibre optic connection all the way to every property that is part of the project giving a download and upload broadband speed of around 1Gbps (i.e. 1000 Mbps). This is what is known as a Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) connection and as it is fibre optic all the way and does not have any copper cabling involved all premises can achieve the same speed regardless of distance.

In order to progress to the next stage, we again need to gather details of properties that are interested in faster broadband, and we also need to have a degree of confidence of being able to raise £50,000 from the community (this would only be an indication of a willingness to invest, no commitments). This would then give B4RN sufficient confidence to invest their time and expertise in putting together a detailed routing plan for the project which will also give us a detailed cost estimate. Once we have that costing and if a decision is taken to go with B4RN we would then need people to start taking up shares with B4RN to cover the project cost.

Potential customers can simply express an interest in being included in the project without making any investment, but obviously the more people who are willing to make some investment the more chance there is of the project reaching its target.

Potential customers can choose to invest sums from a minimum of £100 to a maximum of £100,000. Investments are subject to a 30% tax rebate from HMRC in the tax year that you buy the shares since the venture is an officially recognised ‘Enterprise Investment Scheme’.

It is important to understand that this is an investment rather than a payment – securing shares in B4RN that can be sold back to the company after 3 years, or you can continue to hold the shares and receive an annual uplift in your number of shares from year 4 on.

If the B4RN project goes ahead other costs for a property would be a £150 one-off fee to connect fibre optic cable from the property to the network (this is not charged if an investment of £1500 has been made) and an ongoing monthly cost of £30 for a future-proofed, broadband speed of around 1 Gbps (i.e. 1000 Mpbs).   B4RN would now be the customer’s permanent internet service provider so contracts with other ISPs would be unnecessary and even the BT landline could be surplus to requirements with other alternatives available such as a Voice-over-IP (VOIP) product e.g. Vonage, to take your phone over your internet connection rather than a BT landline.

If you don’t express any interest, there is a possibility that the work done for this project will not cover your property and there may be additional costs to be met for a property to join onto the network at a later stage.

We hope that this account makes matters a bit clearer, but if you still have questions we will be holding a meeting shortly when any further matters can be raised.

Roger Vincent/John Ketchell b4rn.org.uk