Project completion and VAT refund

We are very pleased to advise that the project to bring fibre broadband to homes and businesses across various GU8 postcodes is now drawn to a successful close.

Residents have pulled together to bring about a broadband capability that would otherwise have been un- available to us from commercial providers like Openreach, or from the intervention of Central and Local Government due to funds restrictions.
Following discussions with HMRC, it has been agreed by them that VAT does not apply. We have not bought goods or services but, by means of a financial contribution, enabled the BT Group to complete what would otherwise have been an uneconomic project for them to undertake. As a financing transaction, it is exempt from VAT.

It is proposed to refund the VAT element of each of the contributors payments in September, by which time we expect the project to be fully “signed off” and the final sum due to BT will have been paid.

Thank you so much for helping to make this project a success. We hope you enjoy trouble-free superfast broadband for years to come.

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Project Complete – 75% take up level

Our rural broadband project is complete. The number of residents left to upgrade with their ISP is quite low now.  Most upgrades have now been completed and we have a very high take-up rate.   So I think it is fairly safe to say the project is now complete.     76% take-up rate is a notable achievement – in comparison the takeup rate for Superfast Surrey Intervention Areas is around 40%.

We also have had the good news that HMRC have now judged that VAT was not applicable to our contribution to Openreach – and that part of our Community Group payment has been refunded.

So after a lot of preparatory research, a great community effort to fundraise, and 16 months after signing contracts, we have brought Superfast FTTC broadband to all homes served by the new cabinets in Hydestile, Hydon Heath and Feathercombe.

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Access to Superfast and Take up levels

We are reaching the end of our superb community project – we have seen over 70% of residents in the area apply for an upgrade with their ISP and get connected to Superfast broadband.  Most are seeing speeds at or above those predicted.   We will be bringing the project to a close soon, and in time, closing the company that was formed to administer the finances and contract.

We are the first gap-funded community project in Surrey. It has been a long 3 years, that has required tenacity, psychology, and a big persuasive stick.  We were helped by some innovative technical thinking from Openreach, and hindered by some predictable corporate obstructions. But we got there. Enjoy.


To put our project in context, 100% of the households in our project on 01483 numbers can now get access to superfast speeds above 20Mbps. The average speed is 44Mbps.   Contrast that with our neighbours in Hambledon Parish on 01428 numbers where the coverage, even after Surrey Superfast upgrades, is between 47% and 63% of households – nowhere near the target of 99% set by Surrey.  Even if you extend the survey to all 6000 homes in GU8 villages the coverage is just 77% can get Superfast.  The reason for disparity between our figures and Surrey County Councils is that they define “having access to Superfast as:  the number of “Homes Passed” is the potential number of premises to which an operator has capability to connect in a service area, but the premises may or may not be connected to the network.  In other words if you are connected to a fibre cabinet you are counted as getting Superfast.  Our hamlet previously satisfied that definition – so how come we had to pay many thousands of pounds to Openreach to get Superfast to our homes?

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 19.20.01Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 19.30.45

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What next?

If the void behind your desk or TV looks like this then maybe now is the time to think about rationalising your telephone, internet and TV network.  In the past few weeks the GU8 Team have been out troubleshooting the few households that have reported issues with broadband speeds – only 1% have been caused by Openreach network issues – the rest have been related to home network inefficiencies.  If you are getting speeds below what you were expecting, here are the top causes we have found:

  1. Don’t test on Wifi – that will give a lower than normal reading.
  2. Wifi range not sufficient to give speeds in distant parts of home.
  3. Too many redundant phone extensions still connected to the master socket.
  4. Phone extensions wired into external junction boxes.
  5. Sky TV boxes unnecessarily being connected by a phone cable.
  6. Phone cables running alongside mains electricity cables, or under carpets.
  7. Using an old router – the ISP will send a new Fibre enabled router.
  8. Master sockets that have not been upgraded to Mk3 twin socket NTE5

If you’d like advice on how to address any of these issues, then do contact the GU8 Team. If you would like to plan to improve WiFI in your home then have a read of these guidance notes.


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Upgrades progessing well

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 20.39.15The upgrades are going well with Pioneer residents reporting better than expected speeds. Some are achieving the maximum within the tariff caps they have chosen from their ISP’s products ( 19Mbps max, 38Mbps max, 54Mbps max or 79Mbps max).  Tests show the stability is good.  All residents in the project can now proceed and book their upgrade – just follow our guidance:

  1. Contact your ISP for upgrade to Fibre.  Pick the tariff that suits your needs – it could be the same cost as you are currently paying for ADSL.  However it is a competitive market and you can get significant discounts on the first year’s fees if you are out of contract or going up a tariff. Negotiate a deal as good as those offered to new customers.  Being “Out of contract” will also give you freedom to leave for a different ISP, so review the comparison sites. Threatening to leave also works wonders for your existing ISP’s attitude towards you.
  2. The cost for a basic speed (<17Mbps) package start at £16per month (inclusive of line rental) for 12 months reverting to around £24. Speedier tariffs may be more depending on the inclusive calls / speed / bonus features such as BT Sport, TV bundles. (Watch out – some deals only mention the line rental in small print – this fee can’t be discounted)
  3. Once an upgrade is booked they’ll give you a go-live date around 5 or 6 days hence. (edit: this is now 15 working days – Openreach are struggling)
  4. Ensure your home network is optimised. See our guidance on this site.  Your ISP will send you a new router, and ask you to install it only on the go-live date – it will be optimised for fibre use.
  5. When first connected please check your speed at and report back to the GU8 Superfast team.  Beware – some people have been disappointed initially because they tested on an inefficient setup. In one case the test was initially only 20Mbps on a Windows 10 laptop, over wifi, with the router connected to an extension.   However once the test was done at the master socket with an ethernet cable the speed recorded was 65Mbps.  If you similar then see our wifi guidance here.
  6. If you have any problems then please contact the GU8 Team – and don’t forget to tell us when you get connected and your speed!
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Update 10th May – Phase 2 underway

The first of the Pioneer connections have been made and under test. The good news is that the initial speed tests show they are meeting or exceeding expectations. Stay tuned for updates of when to upgrade.

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Good news – the Pioneers have started to order their upgrades

Great News!  The ISPs now recognise our cabinets.   From today our 21 Pioneer residents have started to apply for upgrades from their ISPs.  Installation and testing will happen over the next week and then swiftly afterwards we can liaise with Openreach to ensure everything is safe for the remainder of residents to apply.  At that time we will report back projected speeds and be on hand for guidance on how the remaining 80 residents can then upgrade.  In the meantime now is the time to put the champagne in the fridge.

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Update 22nd April: Phase One complete – VDSL service is live

Good news.  Today we passed a major milestone on our journey to the land of Superfast.    Openreach connected 14 of our residents to a fibre based service – that was successful and those 14 people are now enjoying truly superfast speeds, watching HD video and seeing the practical benefits of a proper broadband connection.  Both cabinets are working.  Please be aware that these 14 residents were only connected first because they were already on a basic VDSL/fibre service, and openreach needed to move those lines to the new cabinet before cutting off the fibre from the old cabinets. This must be done ahead of everyone else being allowed to upgrade through their ISPs.

The next step:   Openreach tell us they are in process of informing the ISPs about the new cabinets.  They have processes to follow, and a set order in which to do them. They won’t give us a timescale but we are pushing hard to fast track this and we are hopeful that it will be achieved in a few days.   Once ISPs have been informed and their systems are updated to show that they can sell upgrades to customers then we will start Phase 2.  Pioneers will be given a go-ahead to approach their ISPs and request an upgrade to fibre.  Once we have seen successful connections by Pioneers in each community we will go to Phase 3.

The GU8 Team are monitoring the Openreach progress and so rest assured as soon as we have confirmation everything is ready for you to upgrade we will be emailing you directly with instructions.Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 12.50.09

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Update 13th April

Openreach have hit a problem in their very complex IT systems that supports the fibre connections on their UK network.  They tell us they have recently discovered it and are working with their offshore contractors to resolve it.   It means they have slipped again and their schedule for us to go live is uncertain.  Once again we are having to press BT very senior management hard to escalate this, keep us in the loop, and to attempt to fast-track the subsequent stages of the process.  We will update once we have a revised schedule for delivery.

Update 3pm: We have been informed that the technical problem is now fixed and Openreach are clear to proceed with the next stages.  There is still admin and tech work to do (not without their own challenges), plus the prescribed ISP’s 14 day notice period, so maybe you can safely order your champagne but don’t put it in the fridge yet.


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Update 24th March

Howard and I met with BT Group managers yesterday to hear their plans for the next phase of the process to get us onto fibre/VDSL services, via our ISPs.

We are confident that Openreach will be handling the migration from the old cabinets to the new ones as efficiently as possible, however there are some technical and back-office hurdles to cross. We also have to wait for a 2 week statutory notice period.   This is the time that they have to give ISPs to prepare for the possibility of a momentary interruption of the connection of our 12 VDSL customers when their fibre is switched over.  After that time, Openreach can then physically switch the fibre over and then the ISPs will start to update their systems to show the new cabinets as “ready for sale of fibre services”. The time ISPs take to do this is an unknown but it might be just a day or two.  Our Pioneers will then start to approach the ISPs to request an upgrade.  Once they are installed (3 -14 days ) we can test and when safe we will announce which communities can apply for upgrades with confidence all the bugs have been shaken out.  We have been given “best case” timescales by Openreach but as we have often seen, these are not always reliable. So on balance I would say that the remainder will be able to apply for upgrade towards the end of April.  We will keep everyone posted on progress and when to talk to their ISP.

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Light at the end of a tunnel?

IMG_2683Openreach have now returned (a few weeks later than scheduled) to complete the final parts of the fibre cable route.  This now means the gaps in the aerial route halfway down Salt Lane, and at Clockbarn Lane (see photo) are bridged by new fibre and that now connects the crossroads cabinet with the exchange. Likewise the cabinet at Hydon Heath is fibre connected too.  We understand the copper wiring has being patched into the cabinets and this lengthy process was completed on Friday.  Openreach have tested that there is “light” travelling down the fibre-optic cables at the cabinets.  We are nearly there.

There is a challenge ahead – the Pioneer migration from the old cabinets to the new is going to be tricky as ours is a very rare project. Normally residents who fund a cabinet will be moved onto a new secondary cabinet (eg. PCP26/1)- merely an extension of the original, distant cabinet(PCP26) .  Ours are different in that neither are connected to the old cabinets and have cabinet numbers in their own right (PCP21 and PCP 28).  This presents the ISPs with a potential problem in how they initiate the upgrade and physical swap of our service to the new cabinet, and whether their back-office systems recognise the new cab numbers associated with our lines.  Currently we are trying to establish a protocol with BT Group on how this is best achieved.

Once we have Pioneers tested and satisfied we will notify everyone else that it is safe to upgrade.

The layout of our new community network is now a little different.  You’ll see the schematic below that will show the copper network (green lines) coming from the exchange.  Those are the routes of your internet signals by the old ADSL broadband system – via cabinets in Milford or Busbridge.  Both those cabinets had been fibre enabled a year or so ago – the yellow lines from exchange to cabs.   Once you opt to upgrade to fibre your internet will come a different route – via our new fibre route in yellow that comes directly from the exchange via Busbridge, Home Farm Road, Clockbarn and Hydon Heath and to the crossroads (note Milford is no longer part of the route).  That connects to our two new cabinets 21 and 28 along the way. From there the new VDSL service will travel along the existing green cables via DPs (distribution points) to our homes. So the only the final leg is over copper.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 11.08.06

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Who has the best ADSL in New Road?

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 11.02.06Yesterday’s post about Dan’s efforts to improve his current broadband speed has seen an even better response from Pete G. in New Road.  He too had Adrian around to check out his master socket – the result is a significant uplift ADSL speed of 3.1Mbps…. so now Pete has the fastest speed in New Road (and Pete is nearly the longest line in New Road)  This will probably mean he’ll have the best fibre speeds too when it’s time to upgrade.   So can anyone else do better than Pete?

Update: Kevin F. in Hambledon Road has reported his socket was replaced and doubled his speed to 2.2Mbps.

In Salt Lane Robert C. had Sky send an engineer for a long standing issue of only 0.4Mbps – after removing extensions and swapping the socket, he has now quadrupled his speed to 1.6Mbps.

May I re-emphasise my message that it will be much easier to optimise your broadband  before we migrate to fibre services* – so a little attention to your socket and cabling will pay dividends later on… as these stories have shown.

*   when you start a new fibre service the Openreach DLM technology spends the first 10 days optimising your speed to match the line and internal sockets capability – it then “bakes in” that setting at the exchange.  If you should then improve your home network it will then be difficult to change the exchange settings to benefit from any hardware improvements you will have made.

As a guide, I have mapped the latest speeds that were provided via the survey.  Please take a pinch of salt with these as they may be less accurate if the test was on wireless, or not with extensions disconnected. However they may give you an idea if you are comparatively underperforming with neighbours and be a good candidate for a socket health check.  Note: the further from the cabinet you are, the lower the speed. If you find this mapping useful I can do the same for the other community areas. (Maps now here)Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 11.43.09

Schematic of the existing ADSL/copper (green lines) network that serves us.

Schematic of the existing ADSL/copper (green lines ) that serves  us.

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Update 11th March

Last night we had a meeting of the resident Pioneers to talk through the process of testing their connections prior to them being able to contact their ISPs to try and upgrade to fibre – when the time comes.

We heard a success story from Dan M. in New Road – he had taken up the offer of a Master Socket Health check, and Adrian Ball from spent a while replacing Dan’s old master socket and clearing out some poorly installed extension cables going through joint boxes in the loft. The result was a speed uplift of his old ADSL connection from 1.3Mbps to 2.8Mbps – that makes Dan’s the fastest in New Road now.   Dan’s quote to me was: “I wish I’d done this three years ago!”  This will mean Dan is fully prepared for when we all come to upgrade to the new fibre service… eventually.  That leads us on to a progress update.  Since the last update we have been working with Openreach on the detail of a technical challenge they are facing at the Hydon Heath cabinet- we hope to have news of the optimum solution and timescale by Tuesday next week.  We are told the cabinet at the crossroads is nearly ready and we hope that next week Openreach can give us their updated schedule on when we can start the Pioneers process. Updates to follow.

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Update 8th March – Not ready for service

As expected, Openreach had left themselves no spare time to sort out those technical hurdles that invariably crop up in complex projects like this. Their contingency time had been eaten up much earlier by delays authorising roadworks, getting planning submissions in on time, delays with scheduling of sub-contractors.  Despite our GU8 Team pushing them hard at every step it came as no surprise to hear from Openreach that the cabinets are not ready. We have just been told that even the admin process for getting the new network Ready For Service will now require extra Openreach management to handle the ISP’s migration of us from cabinet to cabinet.  This is doubly infuriating in that we flagged this in November and have been calling for a dedicated Openreach manager to hand-hold the migration and be the point of contact for us as the Pioneers try to get their ISP’s to initiate the upgrades.  It seems Openreach don’t have a template for privately-funded partnerships and we are guinea pigs. This is unacceptable.

We escalated this with BT Group to get a much clearer statement as to how they plan to fast-track the process of informing the ISP’s and facilitating the comparatively unusual process of moving each resident from one cabinet to a new one without encountering the barrier of  a “computer that says no”.  As a result we have seen a new BT Group manager appointed to liaise with us directly throughout the migration phase – to facilitate the transition after  installation of the cabinets and to enable us to sign off the project when it is clear the network is working as promised.  More on that soon.  At the same time we are overseeing, as best we can, the final cabinet installation tasks.  Our conference call with Openreach on Thursday will hopefully give us a better idea on timescales, but we are very aware of the slippage.

This Thursday sees a meeting of the Pioneers – to discuss how to prepare their own home networks, and when to approach their ISPs – subject to Openreach completing the hand-over of the cabs to ISPs.    Once we see that happen, and Pioneers have successfully connected, then we will release the news to everyone. In the meantime everyone should prepare for the switch.

We have posted this cartoon to sum up the mood.  Prophetically we drafted this in November as part of our contingency plans. 


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Deadline day – 1st March

1st March was the day that Openreach were contracted to have our installations complete and the cabinets Ready For Service (RFS).   They have missed the deadline, and whilst 80% of the work is complete I estimate they are going to be a week or two late in getting the cabinets humming and ready to go onto their network.   The GU8 Team have a conference call booked for this afternoon (Tuesday) with the Openreach and BT Group managers to get a status update.

In the meantime our own plans are on track with a meeting of the Pioneer residents planned. This will enable us to brief and prepare for the first phase of upgrades to fibre services  and to get Superfast into each of our respective communities as quickly as possible without teething problems.
We will be maintaining the pressure on Openreach to complete – not least because we have invited Bill Murphy, MD of BT Next Generation Access  to our launch event soon… and it will be a little embarrassing if he can’t have superfast for the live web streaming of the event!  Tweet that Bill.

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Petition for Govt. response to lack of Fibre provision

There is a new petition – ultimately everyone should have fibre directly to the front door of your premises (FTTP).
Click this link to sign the petition “Require all UK broadband/telephone lines to become fibre to the property (FTTP).
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Map of current no. of signatories: Waverley is relatively high

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Fibre in the air

The good news is that 95% of the fibre has now been erected on the poles along Salt Lane between Hydon Heath and the Corner House.  Two new poles will be erected in a few days and that will complete the “aerial route”. The final leg of fibre is already in place from Corner House to the Crossroads cabinet.   The base to the Hydon Heath Cabinet is now complete, awaiting power and the cabinet to be placed on top.


Hydon Heath Cabinet 21 goes here


Fibre coiled awaiting the last connection to the adjacent new cabinet at Hydon Heath


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Update February 24th – close to the wire

With only a week to go until the installation deadline Openreach are leaving it to the very last second to complete the works.  If I were a betting man I’d put money on them missing the deadline.   There is a lot to do including:

Blowing fibre down the (now unblocked) ducts from Home Farm Road via Hambledon Road and Clockbarn Lane to Hydon Heath. Scheduled for the 24th

Installing the aerial fibre from poles along Salt Lane. Scheduled for the 25th

Installing two new poles in Salt Lane and running fibre to them.  (29th)

Installing a concrete plinth at Hydon Heath, and the new cabinet on top, with power routed from nearby (26th).

Connecting all the copper to the crossroads cabinet 28 and junction boxes. (underway currently)

Connecting all the copper to the Hydon Heath cabinet 21 and junction boxes.

We have been pushing hard for them to have a “joined up” approach to their installation works but apart from us setting up a camp bed and living in the back of their Openreach van we have done as much as we can to avoid the slippages. It may be that one cabinet will be on the Openreach Network slightly ahead of the other.  We will keep you posted on the latest schedule as we are informed.

Edit: 24th pm – Openreach tell us that they will indeed slip a bit on the connecting up of the crossroads cabinet – and the Hydon Heath cabinet is running a few days behind.


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Update February 22nd

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 14.24.48The road closure in Hambledon Road had been for longer than we were told. The road is now open.

We are pressing Openreach for a timescale on removal of the traffic lights installed last week at Hydon Heath.

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Update February 13th

Openreach and their contractors have been working hard this week in Home Farm Road, Busbridge, at the Crossroads and at Hydon Heath. We have also seen a “little” bit of tree lopping to prepare for the fibre to be pulled up onto the poles along Salt Lane.  You’ll see a blue rope denoting where the fibre will hang.    Openreach assure us the Ready for Service date is still last day of February.  However there have been slippages in their schedule – some unavoidable.  They tell us that this will not impact on the deadline.   Your GU8 Superfast team have been ramping up the “supervision” of Openreach and keeping their “feet to the fire” – I think their toes are curling a bit now and steam now visible coming from their socks.

Technically there have been some challenges in Hambledon Road and an underground duct will need replacing – we are told there will be roadworks next week, and a possibility of emergency road closure of Hambledon Road (north of Clockbarn Lane).  This is because of the very narrow parts of Hambledon Road which prevent safe working.  The closure will be short notice and hopefully for a short time.   We have leveraged our good relationship with Surrey CC Highways to expedite matters and have been negotiating to reduce the inconvenience but safety trumps most arguments.  So please be understanding if you should encounter a Road Closed sign – it will be for a very valid reason.

The cabinets will soon be connected to the existing copper network that links our homes. As men tinker in manholes we are told you may experience some line noise when making calls – and possibly intermittent internet service – (yes, I’m not sure how we will know the difference).

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Fibre laid today!

A key milestone has been achieved – today Openreach are pulling new fibre through the old ducts that run from the crossroads up Salt Lane to the Corner House.

DSC_3566 DSC_3561Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 23.46.01Yellow denotes new fibre cable from the exchange: underground to cab Y (now called Cab 21) overhead poles to the corner house on Salt Lane, and underground to the crossroads cabinet X (now called cabinet 28).  Blue (former cab 48 residents) denotes the copper connecting the cabinets with homes. Red is copper serving those formerly  on Cabinet 26.


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Cabinet 28 installation today

The new cabinet No. 28 is being placed on a concrete plinth today!   You may have noticed quite a few deep holes dug on the green – there has been some extensive digging at the crossroads over the weekend.    This is necessary to install ducting for the new fibre and copper to connect the cabinet to the existing manhole near the finger-signpost, and more disruptively, to allow connection to the nearby low-voltage power cable (that currently serves street lights).  There is a story behind this, and it explains why so many holes are now, temporarily, in our green.  Hydestiles-crossroadsBefore the 1990’s the green was the roadway and the crossroads was a dog leg junction that was an accident blackspot. Salt Lane was realigned in the early 90’s by the developers of the old KGV hospital (see the 1950’s postcard that reveals the bargate stone wall that was across the current green and roadway)  but the legacy is that all gas mains, drains and a high voltage power cable that serves Hydestile are still to be found 4 foot under the green.  Openreach contractors have been digging very hard, in miserable weather to expose these cables to allow the electricity company to connect up the cabinet to power.

Once the cabinet is in position, the contractors will move on to the Hydon Heath cabinet 21. Concurrently the wiring up of the cabinet 28 will be done. The green will be re-instated once all works are complete and the cabinet is “live”.


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Project Update – January 29th

There has been a flurry of activity in the area recently – primarily from Openreach, their sub-contractors, Surrey CC Highways and SSE power company.   We can confirm that the work is well and truly underway working towards Openreach’s “Ready for Service” date for both new cabinets of the end of February.   The new cabinets will be placed on their positions next week (Cabinet 28 at crossroads) and the week after (Cabinet 21 at Hydon Heath). The fibre cable is already part installed from Busbridge.  Roadworks will be in place to allow the rest to be laid.

We should briefly mention that the on-the-ground works are a little later than expected. Behind the scenes we have been applying sustained pressure on BT Openreach since July to provide tangible evidence and assurance that they will not fail on the key deliverables (to use corporate speak for a moment) of delivery on time, and to the level of service they promised.   It is an understatement to say that has been like crawling over hot coals in a thin string vest.  We have exerted pressure personally, through political channels locally, and at the highest level of BT Group.  Despite our best efforts a few unforseen (by Openreach) factors had caused delays – delays that they say they hope to be accommodated by overlapping works in the next 4 weeks.   We have been assured that at the moment Openreach are working towards the cabinets to be Ready for Service by the last day of February – as originally scheduled.  We will update everyone should this change.

Secondly we should flag that ready for service won’t necessarily mean you’ll have an instant opportunity to upgrade on March 1st.  As explained at our December get together, ready for service means the cabinets will be powered up and connected – only then are the internet service providers (ISP’s) told they can sell new services to residents.    ISP’s do take some time to get their systems to recognise the cabinets as upgraded.  We should be patient – and rest assured, the selected pioneers will be testing the water first so when the networks are ready for us to all jump in – we will be confident to give everyone the go ahead.

We will soon be publishing guides on how to prepare for the upgrade and what you’ll need to do to sign up for fibre.

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Ofcom report the real state of rural broadband

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 08.34.56The latest report from Ofcom is an interesting read.  It states clearly that the progress of the roll out of superfast broadband is nowhere near as good as Openreach or Surrey CC will tell you.   Ofcom’s data on the coverage in rural areas is no surprise to us: “about 1.5 million, or 48 per cent of, premises are unable to receive speeds above 10Mbit/s”.   This aligns closely with our own research in the GU8 area and is in stark contrast with Surrey County Council’s headlines of “97% of residents can get Superfast” and “Surrey is the best connected County in the UK”.

The conclusion appears to be that there is little likelihood that Superfast is coming to rural “not spots” in the next three years.  This was the conclusion of the GU8 Superfast Team back in 2013 and prompted the campaign to privately fund a solution.   Our neighbours in Hambledon face a similar decision, even after the Superfast Surrey intervention had rolled out their fibre service to the village – only serving half of residents.

Our own data is outlined below:

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 17.29.1626/1/2016 Daily Telegraph article assessing the Ofcom report

View the Ofcom report.

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Jeremy Hunt’s letter to Surrey constituents

For the duration of our project we have been consulting Jeremy Hunt MP.   Originally as then Minister for Culture Media and Sport he had championed the roll out of Superfast Broadband for all.  He has maintained his interest in the progress across Surrey and has been kept abreast of the GU8 Superfast Community Project – we understand he and BT MD Bill Murphy discuss our project when they meet periodically.  Beyond the reach of our project residents across Surrey have been pressing Jeremy for a solution to the huge number of “have nots” in rural Surrey.  Here is the most recent letter from Jeremy sent to residents that have previously written to him. It should be read in conjunction with our post on the Surrey CC OMR.

Sent: 19 January 2016 13:04
Subject: From Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP – Broadband Update in South West Surrey

Dear Constituent
Further to my email to you at the end of last year, I said I would write again following my meeting with BT Openreach.

We had a very productive and positive meeting earlier this month with all the key players including: Joe Garner, CEO Openreach, Kim Mears Managing Director, Infrastructure Delivery, Chris Townsend, Chief Exec BDUK, Andrew Field, Superfast Broadband Programme Director, Bill Murphy, Managing Director of BT, Next Generation Access, Tim O’Sullivan, Whitehall Relations, BT Group; Director of Public Affairs, Peter Martin, Deputy Leader Surrey County Council, Trevor Pugh, Strategic Director of Environment and Infrastructure and from my team in Hindhead, Morwenna Brown and Richard Nelson.

The meeting began with some interesting statistics and discussion on where things stand in Surrey. 95% of all South West Surrey residents now receive download speeds of 15Mbs or more. This leaves an estimated 20,000 premises left to do in the whole of Surrey. The next step is for Surrey County Council (SCC) to re-map the county extending to all the properties that need to be upgraded. Following the outcome of BDUK’s discussion with the European Commission, SCC can then complete the market review and determine what additional deployment can be undertaken within the constraints of available funding.

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Survey Results

We had 71 residents complete the survey.   The speed data has been added to the historical data on every line in our Project area.  We can now see the changes in speed recorded over 2 years, the spread of ISPs over our 120 residences, and the proportion of people who have experienced technical issues or seen reduced quality of their broadband service.

In summary:

ISPs – BT: 42%    Sky:  12%    TalkTalk: 10%   Plusnet (BT): 5%

Worst speed in our area: 0.17Mbps in Hydestile

41% of homes have had a broadband fault in last 12 months

20% of homes have had a line fault in last 12 months

63% have seen significant reduced average speeds over the last 12 months

27% of homes have had an engineer call out in last 12 months

24% of homes have experienced browser “page stalling”

Some of the home network information gathered will be very useful when we go live with the fibre upgrades.

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Surrey County Council’s Open Market Review (OMR)

The current political landscape:

Superfast broadband should be covering all of Surrey by now – that was the ambition of Surrey County Council back in 2014 – with promises of 99.7% being able to get 15Mbps or above.   That promise had a caveat that wasn’t mentioned by Surrey Council… that they aim to only enable cabinets –  not all residents‘ homes.  Those living more than 2km from a cabinet won’t be getting Superfast. That leaves large numbers of residents of Surrey discovering that they can’t get Superfast broadband and there is no plan for them to be enabled in the immediate future.  In our area there are homes to the East (Vann) and North of Hambledon (Merry Harriers area) that are beyond 2km from the cabinet on the Petworth Road – Superfast Surrey (Surrey County Council) say they are reviewing this (see letter below).  Areas of Milford and parts of Godalming are also excluded.  The problem is county wide – Effingham, Albury, Ewhurst, Chiddingfold, Mickelham – to name just a few resident groups that have campaigns.

The GU8 project team have been contacted by many other campaign groups from Surrey (as well as groups outside the County) as our project is seen as a pilot in Surrey as we were one of the the first to realise we were outside the scope of Superfast Surrey’s intervention areas.  We have been asked to advise groups who are just embarking on finding an alternative solution to being left in the sub-2Mbps boondocks.

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Survey November 2015

In advance of our GU8 project going live it will be beneficial to have some comparative statistics to gauge how well our respective connections performed.  If everyone completes the survey we can see who’s connection performs poorly in relation to their neighbours and that will aid us troubleshooting issues should there be any problems once we connect to the new BT fibre network. So if you are on cabinet 26 or 48 and have contributed to the GU8 Superfast Project then please fill in the details… it’ll include a speed test  (or see link button in the right hand margin ).

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Don’t extend your broadband contract yet

Stop! – don’t be tempted to extend or upgrade your current ISP or broadband contract yet. Likewise don’t be tempted to move ISP’s just yet.   If they offer you a new discounted deal for the next year or two then please resist as a new or extended contract will tie you in at just the wrong time. You’ll need to be free to make a choice about the service you want when fibre is installed in February and March – that will be the best time to negotiate a new, upgraded deal – or move to a new supplier.  Staying out of contract in the meantime leaves you free to choose.

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House value protection is an important aspect of our project

UK house buyers would pay an extra 8% for their property if it was guaranteed to have broadband with a speed of at least 100Mbps, a new study has found.

Research carried out by ultrafast broadband provider Hyperoptic polled prospective home buyers on the importance of a quality internet connection, and found that this is valued more strongly than many other factors when moving house.

Two-thirds of those questioned said that having a good broadband connection was just as – or more – important than living next door to nice neighbours.

Furthermore, a third of respondents said they would gladly give up an extra bedroom if it meant having a quality broadband service.

The survey coincides with the busiest time of the year to move house – August bank holiday – and with the average UK property costing almost £182,000, this means consumers would be willing to fork out an extra £14,000 for a good broadband connection.

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Flaky Broadband – we are logging the problems

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Information is power and so for us to fight Openreach and our ISP’s to address the worsening broadband speeds and reliability many of us are experiencing we have set up a logging facility of speedtests.  Go to

This link takes you to our favoured speedtester online but logs the results in a SpeedWave “Hydestile”  This will then group all our tests together to allow as to compare.  You will need to set up an account to do so, but it is simple.  This could be a valuable tool when it comes to the Project going live next year.

Note: Speedtesting is useful in many ways but it has a few dangers if making comparisons – particularly with neighbours, as the variables are many : make of router, extensions on your line, if tested over a wireless home network, your ISP, your PC.

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Checking your home network is reliable

Negotiating to have your line repaired or attended to is an art – Openreach will do the work but you’ll have to initiate that work via your ISP.  Being prepared with all the answers is vital as it removes as many variables as possible making it easier to diagnose the issues and hopefully pinpoint the problem to BT’s network – not your home network.  Openreach own everything on the outside from the exchange upto and including your internal master socket – everything beyond that socket to your router and extensions is your responsibility to maintain.

Using the Openreach Line checker will give you an indication of the theoretical speeds your line should support.GU8 Faceplate presentation.002

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Phase two complete – Contract Signed!

Dear Neighbours,

You have been magnificent. We have had a very high contribution rate and are in a position to go ahead with the project. We want to let you all know that we have now signed the contract for our project and Openreach have commenced the process to get two new fibre cabinets to serve our community.  The completion date, subject to no unforeseen circumstances, of course, is the end of February 2016. This is one month earlier than the first contract we received.   Please remember that the first six months involve a lot of preparation work, so you won’t see the Openreach vans for a while.

Once again, thank you so much for all your support. It has been a fantastic community effort and a very positive experience for us all. We are really looking forward to getting to know many of you better as we move through the installation process.

Paul, Howard, Julie and Debbie

GU8 Logo large

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Contribution target achieved

February 2015

It has been a very busy few weeks for the GU8 Superfast project.  Most of the contributions from residents are in and the level of support is a fantastic demonstration of community spirit at its best.

The current situation is that there has been overwhelming support for the project with a very high number of people ‘digging deep’ to contribute. We are tracking well with the level of contributions needed to raise the funds and are confident we will not need a second round of fundraising.

It is confirmed that we will be the first BT Surrey Gap Community Superfast Project. This is excellent, as publicity can be both good and not so good, so BT know they really need to deliver to our community. As we suspected, BT have several hundred similar projects competing for the limited resources available to implement rural solutions and the completion time for our project is now at the latest end March 2015. This confirms our sense of urgency to get in the stack of BT projects. We have already been  asked to help Plaistow and will do this – once our contract is signed.

The very good news is we have finally achieved a price reduction. This was a huge battle with pressure from the highest level and took a while to deliver. We are now happy we have done all we can on the price and want the contract signed in the next few weeks.

The finishing sprint
– we are expecting the final contract from BT this week. It is valid for 30 days.
– we need to convert a few outstanding pledges to money in the account.
– we are very aware that we need involve the WHOLE community and so there are a few outlying houses we are still presenting to. We may be a community who is mentally ‘as one’ on this project but physically we are pretty spread out!

So, living the dream – life in GU8 with superfast is tantalising close. One final push and we will be across the finishing line of round one.

Best wishes,

Howard, Paul , Debbie and Julie


Howard and Julie on one of our early research trips

Howard and Julie on one of our early research trips

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Project XY – in images

GU8 Logo smallThis month the GU8 Superfast Community Project Team are presenting to small groups of residents in each of the clusters of Feathercombe, Hydon Heath, New Road, Salt Lane, Hydestile crossroads and Hambledon Road. We plan to outline the results of our research, the options that are available to us, the scheme that Openreach are proposing, and the justification for embarking on a project to get Superfast to our area.   We hope to present to over 120 residents by the end of January.

Our GU8 Superfast Project is now fully formed.  Here is an overview of how a plan to bypass the copper lines and bring fibre closer to as many  homes as possible.Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 23.45.26

Project XY:   The plan is to bring the Openreach fibre infrastructure closer to the residents served by the distant cabinets 26 and 48.  This is achieved by installing a new fibre cable from BT’s major fibre supply in Busbridge. This will be fed down existing duct to a new Cabinet Y in Hydon Heath. From there it connects into the existing copper infrastructure (blue) serving the Cab 48 residents.

Additionally that new fibre cable will be extended West by overhead pole and existing duct along Salt Lane to the  Hydestile crossroads serving a new cabinet X.  That will be tied into the existing copper infrastructure (red).  This will reduce the amount of copper between homes and exchange by 2.5km – meaning improvements in speed from the current 0.5Mbps-10Mbps raised to between 20Mbps – 75Mbps depending on how close a home is to the new cabinets X and Y.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 23.46.01

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How to check your line speed

When dealing with Openreach, your internet provider (ISP) or getting information to mount a campaign, information is key.   Having accurate measure of your line and service will give you more power to fight against a complacent Openreach - especially if inadequacies in the lines is shown to be widespread amongst neighbours.

You will need to know:

Your address and postcode

Your ISP (TalkTalk, BT, EE etc)

The Cabinet you are connected to. (openreach line checker will tell you, see below)

The service you are currently on: ADSL (old slow service) or VDSL (Superfast, BT Infinity or equivalent)

The speed of your service in Mbps Down (Measure with a speedtester - see below)

For advice on ensuring your home network is working well:

There are a few ways to check the speed you can get at the moment. There are also ways to check if your line will support fibre services in the short term - until 2016. Once our Project XY is complete the speeds will be changed radically for those included in the scheme. We will notify each resident of the new speeds they could get at that time.

Speed Tester

This site will check your current speed, in Mbps Download and Upload. Don't be confused with the marketing speak you'll see in adverts that often mentions "upto 80Mbps" This is generally ambiguous and depends on your distance from the exchange, and so can be ignored. These two checkers are a more realistic estimate of your speeds.

Openreach Line Checker

The second is the official BT Openreach Availability checker - this is for BT customers only. This measures what your line will support currently. - it will NOT indicate what your speeds will be when the Project XY scheme is complete, as that scheme is using totally new cabinets and routes to your home.
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The early stages of the campaign – in 4 minutes

There were times when our ambition to get decent broadband looked doomed – with every option closed off to us.  Each video, discovered on YouTube, seems to sum up the frustration very well.

After a long campaign, the residents are reviewing the progress:

The truth behind video 1:

  • BT Openreach stated: “cabinet 26 will be upgraded May 2013
  • Lucie Glenday, Chief Digital Officer for Surrey County Council quote: “99.7% of Surrey residents will be able to get Superfast by December 2014
  • Neither of those statements were correct.
  • 3G and 4G are not viable alternatives to home broadband.
  • Surrey CC stated: “we are working with our provider partners to develop alternative technologies for those residents unable to access Superfast” –  No viable alternatives were proposed.
  • BT were unable to fix widespread network faults reported by residents on 2 different cabinets.

and the sequel! The residents discover exactly what 100% means:

The truth behind video 2:

  • Surrey County Council’s statement: “99.7% of Surrey residents will be able to get Superfast” is misrepreseantation. If you are too far from a cabinet for Superfast you are still counted as being in that 99.7% because your cabinet is enabled even though you are not.
  • The 2km limit of Superfast is not mentioned in Surrey County Council publicity.

and the 3rd chapter in the story. A solution is found and Superfast seems ever closer:

The truth behind video 3:

  • Throughout Surrey there are residents groups forming to pay for infill Superfast coverage where they have been left out by Openreach and the Country Council.  Residents are having to pay substantial sums for the Openreach infrastructure to be extended to include homes beyond the 2km limit.
  • Openreach took 5 months to come up with a price for extending their network to serve our outlying community.
  • Openreach would not breakdown their costings to justify the price.
  • Openreach are dealing with over 70 privately funded projects throughout the UK but have under allocated resources to deal with them.
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We are not the only ones…

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 17.34.59As part of our research into a solution for the GU8 area the Project Team contacted a number of other communities who had embarked on similar community funded broadband schemes.    One of those villages was Rotherwick.   Their story is told in a press release:

The people of Rotherwick, a village in the north of Hampshire, have recently proved just how much a small community can do with a collective effort.

By pooling their resources, they have pushed their broadband speed up from a meagre 1Mb/s to more than 30Mb/s. Some residents are even enjoying twice that speed!

Identifying the need

John Bennett, a Rotherwick resident who is self-employed and often works from home, was struggling to cope with broadband speeds of less than 2Mb/s. He also knew his neighbours were struggling in a similar way.

“It affected everyone in different ways,” says John. “Home working was virtually impossible. People couldn’t watch iPlayer. Everything online moved so slowly.”

In Rotherwick’s two small business parks, the local broadband speed was proving a big obstacle. John says, “They had a lot of empty units. Slow broadband was deterring businesses from coming. They were keen to do something about it.”

Researching the options

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Cabinet 26 goes live!

October 8th 2014:
As you know, we have been pushing to get Superfast Broadband to our community since mid 2013.  In February we campaigned for BT to upgrade cabinet 26 at Rake Lane.  We succeeded in getting them to commit to an upgrade, without cost, within 4-6 months.

The first milestone is here – today the new FTC cabinet 26 went live on the Network and is available for BT, TalkTalk, EE etc. to sell their fibre services to you.

Group A
   For those of you on cabinet 26 and within 1.5km of the cabinet (marked as inside the circle on our map: Rake, Enton, Station Road) you will have the option to buy into a Superfast Service that will give you much greater bandwidth (internet speed) than you do currently.  This service can be bought/upgraded from most internet service providers (Sky, TalkTalk, BT, EE etc)  BT’s version of this is called BT Infinity.  There are introductory deals to be had, and the long term monthly cost is not a lot more than the current super slow tariffs.  You will possibly need a new free router installed.  The speeds you can potentially achieve on an “infinity” service varies with distance from the cabinet. You can get a very rough guide here:  Input your phone number (if you are a BT customer) and this will show your potential speed.  I would refer to FTC Range B (Impacted) Downstream Line Rate.  This is BT and therefore not too reliable.  Ignore the availability date.

Those of you who don’t take a Superfast Service can stay as you are.

Group B   For those of you on cabinet 26 but beyond 1.5km of the cabinet (Hydestile, top of Water Lane Enton) you are beyond the technical limit of any Superfast service.   If you apply for a Superfast service you may find BT or your internet provider will try to install the service but they may possibly fail.  The experience we have seen in Hambledon from residents over 1.8km from their fibre cabinet is that BT try but fail to get a viable service to work.  Other internet service providers have a different approach and may be able to supply VDSL/fibre services where BT can not – so don’t give up if BT say no.


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Hambledon residents are affected too

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 18.24.36Residents with phone: Wormley 01428 …
A number of residents of North Hambledon on the Wormley exchange have contacted me – they should be able to get superfast broadband Infinity now that Wormley upgrade to fibre is complete, as promised by Superfast Surrey (Surrey CC). However residents are gradually discovering, one by one, that they won’t get super fast broadband at all.  This is mainly for people 1.5km beyond cabinet 6 on the Petworth Road on the edge of Hambledon.  This means anyone near the Merry Harriers or North of there, or outlying areas such as Vann will not ever get super fast.

My message to residents in such a situation is to contact me and I’ll happily put you in contact with others in similar position.  My advice is also to contact the Superfast Surrey Team and ask in strong terms: “where’s my Superfast? – you promised 99.7% of Surrey would be covered?”    They say there is a review going on, but one could ask why they did not anticipate so many people were not covered by their Superfast plans that requires them to have an additional review. (we calculate over 200 in SE Godalming alone). Their website also says they plan to develop alternative solutions for the excluded residents.   I have yet to get anything tangible from them to qualify exactly what Superfast Surrey consider as an alternative.  As of July, they have no alternative solution.

Contact Surrey CC:

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Phase 2 of our campaign

GU8 Logo small  After the success of securing the superfast future for Enton and Rake we have turned our attention to the wider neighbourhoods of Hydestile, Feathercombe and Hydon Heath who are not going to get a Superfast service.   We have continued our discussions with Openreach and are working through the suggested options for bringing fibre to our community.   We are also exploring viable alternative technologies.  Anticipating the need for a co-ordinated approach and vehicle for possible fund raising we have created a new Project name:  GU8 Superfast Community Project.

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Phase 1 – a success! Enton gets green light.

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May 2014   Our First Success!
Following our intervention, Openreach recently agreed that they will fibre upgrade street cabinet no.26 at the junction of Rake Lane and Station Lane. This is a complete reversal of their earlier decision not to do so. It has undoubtedly been achieved because of the strong resident support that we received, with over 90% of the 140 Enton/Rake Lane area households and businesses who will now benefit having signed up to our campaign.  Community power does work. We are thankful too for support from Peter Martin, Deputy Leader of Surrey County Council.

So what now?
There are a further 80 households and businesses currently served by cabinet 26 that are simply too far from it to benefit from the upgrade when it happens later this year. Continue reading

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Who is not going to get Superfast?

The extent of the problem.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 23.44.09This map shows our area and the circles denote the technical limit of Fibre services. Beyond the circles Superfast is not possible, and there are no plans to change this for the future.  All homes outside of the circles have no prospect of Superfast speeds.  This situation is probably replicated throughout Surrey in many rural and sub-urban communities. However, Superfast Surrey regard you as counted in the “100% as having superfast” if your cabinet is connected to the exchange by fibre, even though the fibre service won’t work on your line beyond 2km distance.

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How far does the problem extend?

3rd February 2014:
We are currently exploring a number of “alternative” solutions to our Broadband needs. We have widened the campaign to Group 4 –Cabinet 48 homes too. To provide a tangible list of potential customers we have been asked to collect a list of telephone numbers and addresses of those residents that would take-up BT-Infinity (or other suppliers’ service) if offered to them.  This list is of those residents further than 1.5km from their nearest cabinet.  This would mean Hydestile, Feathercombe, Clockbarn Lane – effectively all homes East of Enton Green,  North of the Merry Harriers pub, South of Busbridge Lakes on Hambledon Road, and West of the Clockbarn/Salt Lane junction.

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