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Are there alternatives to fibre broadband?

Until Connecting Devon & Somerset announce who will benefit from their Superfast Extension Programme (SEP), due to be announced some time in 2015, we will not know if we will have to continue with current broadband speeds for the rest of this decade. We do however, know for certain, that the current superfast programme funded by £53M of public money and subcontracted to BT in 2013, will definitely not benefit the people of Upottery parish.

Are there alternatives technologies (other than fibre) that could be used to improve broadband speeds in Upottery parish?   Yes.....here are two, but they are dependent on BT or others providing them:

ADSL2+ 

(ADSL = Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line; asymmetric referring to the upload speed being ~20% of the download speed)

ADSL2+ is an improved communications protocol which runs over the same "local loop" copper circuit from the exchange as does our current ADSL system. It is an improvement over the older ADSL protocol and requires equipment to be installed in the BT telephone exchange that serves your copper wire telephone line and which can more than double the speed of an ADSL line. In September 2014, BT declared ADSL to be a "legacy system" which normally means that it is supported on a "best effort basis", with no further enhancement/improvements. BT claim that 98% of their customers are on ADSL2+ exchanges, but in rural areas like ours, small "Market 1" exchanges like Upottery and Churchstanton have not been upgraded to ADSL2+ and BT have published no plans to upgrade them. You can check if your line supports ADSL2+ using this BT website: http://dslchecker.bt.com/adsl/ADSLChecker.TelephoneNumberOutput

ADSL2+ is not funded by Connecting Devon & Somerset, because although in theory it can provide "superfast speeds" (>24Mbps) if you live next door to the exchange, for the majority of users it cannot exceed ~18Mbps. If the length of your line from the exchange that serves you exceeds 3Km you will not gain any speed increase from ADSL2+ 
For more details of ADSL2+ see http://www.increasebroadbandspeed.co.uk/adsl2

Fixed Wireless Broadband

Fixed wireless broadband (not to be confused with WiFi that you may use to connect your computer to your router in your home) is a radio broadband service transmitted on a line of sight between a base station or repeater and each users individual property. It relies on small dinner plate sized antennas installed on each users building which look directly at the base station antenna which can be many kilometres away. Speeds of 15Mbps per second are possible from such systems and they can offer much faster upload speeds than is offered by standard BT copper wire broadband. Because the system is completely independant of the BT network, providers offering such broadband services do not supply a landline telephone service and many users still continue to pay for a BT landline as well when they use these systems. Often a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone is offered which uses your computer like a telephone or you can purchase a dedicated VOIP phone connected into the router. Existing landline telephone numbers cannot be transfered to VOIP phones. Companies such as CFBS and Wild West Net provide fixed wireless broadband services in the South West.

While fixed wireless is not currently provided by the subsidised CDS programme, the presence of a fixed wireless broadband provider in your area can affect your eligibility for government subsidised broadband services in the future. This is because the government's promise (which it may miss) of providing a minimum 2Mbps "basic broadband service" for all by 2017 is conditional on there being no private broadband supplier in your area. This is driven by the agreement on state aid that BDUK reached with the EU. The rules seem to be:

If a fixed wireless broadband supplier covers your postcode bud does not provide speeds in excess of 15Mbps, then you remain elligible for a superfast fibre broadband service provided through the state aide CDS programme

If a fixed wireless broadband supplier covers your postcode and offers speeds in excess of 15Mbps, then you will become  inelligble for a superfast fibre broadband service provided through the state aided CDS programme.

If a fixed wireless broadband supplier covers your postcode, irrespective of the speed offered you become ineligible for the Minimum 2Mbps "Basic Broadband Service" that the government claim it will offer to everyone in the UK by 2017.

In summary:

If a wireless broadband supplier operates in your area offering download speeds of:-

Eligibility for Superfast (>24Mbps) fibre broadband supplied by the government financed CDS project

Eligibility for a Basic broadband (2Mbps minimum) funded by state aid

Above 15 Mbps

The area becomes ineligible

The area becomes ineligible

Below 15 Mbps

The area remains eligible

The area becomes ineligible

An "area" will probably be seen to be all properties covered by the same 7 digit postcode.

The following responses provided by Connecting Shropshire and Connecting Devon & Somerset, confirm the above:

"Whoever potentially provides a service would only sterilise the area for state aid (make it ineligible) if they respond to our OMR. If they supply a service yet do not respond we would not be aware of the suppliers commercial position. If they do respond and can provide a service of less than 15mbps but not over 15Mbps then the area would still be classed eligible for state aid funding for NGA. The area however would be classed as ineligible for state aid for basic broadband." : Connecting Shropshire.  

(OMR = Open Market Review; NGA = Next Generation Access)

"This is a complex issue. Essentially the principle is that investment of public funds needs to be targeted where there is market failure. Where a private sector / investment is taking place or has confirmed commitments to take place investing public funds is deemed to not be state aid compliant. The note from Shropshire correctly states this situation, based on my knowledge. Our OMR which is live will help us understand the situation across Devon and Somerset and will include responses from CFB and Wild West I would imagine. We are working with the BDUK state aid competence centre to clarify the situation as we move forwards with our SEP Procurement. Currently we are working on the basis that the SEP funding from Government is not focused on speed uplift or improvement. It needs to target superfast delivery, defined as 24mbps and above and can apply to areas where there is no public subsidy offering technologies capable of delivering NGA speeds": Keri Denton, Connecting Devon & Somerset. 

(CFB and Wild West are two fixed wireless broadband suppliers already operating in the CDS area)

As a result of these rulings, people in other parts of the country who have been considering inviting in a fixed wireless broadband supplier or setting up their own community fixed wireless broadband service, have decided to put such plans on hold. This is because light broadband users is their area who would be unlikely ever to become a fixed wireless broadband user and are currently getting speeds <2Mbps, will be locked out of ever getting the benefit of a government funded basic (2Mbps minimum) broadband service.  

If you have any questions or comments on this page, please send them to: upotterywebsite@gmail.com
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