Faster Broadband for Suffolk – Update

We’ve posted several times about the proposed faster broadband coverage for Suffolk, so we though it about time we brought you the latest update.

As part of a multi million pound partnership between Suffolk County Council, BT and the Government, more than 2,500 homes and businesses in 16 locations will be getting super-fast broadband speeds by the end of September.

Latest reports are that some properties in parts of Lowestoft, Belstead, Kesgrave, Hadleigh, Whatfield, Bury St Edmunds, Stowmarket, Sudbury, Felixstowe and those near Manningtree will benefit early.

The new technology provides download speeds of up to 80Mps2 and upload speeds of up to 20Mps2. All of this means businesses will be able to run multiple applications at the same time, receive large amounts of data faster and enjoy higher quality video conferencing.

In an interview with Heart, Ed Vaizey, communications minister said:

“Suffolk, along with the rest of the UK, is undergoing a remarkable transformation of Broadband and it’s fantastic to hear that the first 16 locations in the county will have access to superfast speeds by the end of September, three months ahead of schedule. With around 10,000 Suffolk homes and businesses due to benefit from superfast availability by the end of 2013, this project will provide a huge boost to the local economy and be instrumental in driving growth.”

All positive stuff then. We’ll bring you more news as and when it happens.

Office 365 vs Rural Broadband Speeds

Since its launch, Office 365 has been selling at a rate of more than one subscription per Broadband and Office 365second.

Incredible – most of us would give our right arm to get sales figures like that.

Marketed as a platform designed to help users get their work done, feedback from happy customers shows the suite is living up to expectations.

The mains reasons why people are buying it are:

  • Anywhere access – you can work virtually from anywhere with access to your latest documents and files using familiar Office applications, which are optimised for use across PCs, smartphones and tablets
  • Working together – it enables you to work as a team using familiar Office applications with business email, shared calendar, document sharing and high definition video conferencing
  • Look professional – your professional image is maintained through secure business email and external websites. Plus, new features in Excel and PowerPoint allow you to easily analyse your data and hold effective presentations
  • Optimised for Windows 8 – Office 365 responds to touch as naturally as it does to keyboard and mouse
  • End of Support – if you run Office 2003 and Windows XP after the end-of-support date (April 8th 2014) your company could be exposed to security, compliance and compatibility risks

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

But what about rural customers?

Because Office 365 requires a download to install it, and many rural businesses are constantly battling with broadband speeds of less than 2mbps, some potential customers may well start looking elsewhere for an alternative platform to use.

Even if BT’s roll-out in upgrading many rural areas is a success, it will only guarantee 2.5mbps – hardly in line with the urban areas that enjoy speeds of up to 15mbps.

This will be a big reason for many rural businesses to look for a different solution. After all, if the broadband speed isn’t there, they still have to run their businesses.

Over to you

Are you a rural business? If so, what alternatives to Office 365 have you found?

Leave a comment below.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.
Image courtesy of Piyaphantawong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Suffolk Broadband Speeds

It’s always the rural areas that miss out. But the Better Broadband for Suffolk Programme, run by Suffolk County Council, has secured around £24m of public money (SCC and Central Government) to leverage further private sector investment from BT through a public procurement process.

By the time the programme is completed in 2015, 90% of Suffolk premises will be served by fibre optic based broadband (as opposed to the old copper lines), with the remaining 10% receiving varying speeds of between 2Mbps and 24Mbps.

It is expected that the programme will result in:

  • 90% fibre based broadband coverage, of which 85% will receive superfast (24Mbs+) speeds and the other 5% will be on fibre based broadband with speeds of around 10Mbps, 15Mbps etc.
  • 10% of the county, not on fibre based broadband, will receive varying speeds between 5Mbps and 20Mbps with a commitment that nobody will be left with a speed of less than 2Mbps by the end of the intervention

To find out when BT Openreach will be updating in your area, go to http://www.betterbroadbandsuffolk.com and enter your postcode into the ‘My Location’ box.

Better Broadband for Suffolk

Each coloured square on the left hand side of the map equates to about 2 months, giving you a rough idea when your area will be upgraded.

Broadband map

For more information, to discuss your broadband needs, or for an alternative quote, contact MPMIT.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Better Broadband for Suffolk – A New Update

If you’ve been following this blog, you would have seen some earlier posts about the Better Broadband for Suffolk campaign:

Better Broadband for Suffolk

Better Broadband for Suffolk – Update

Better Broadband for Suffolk – Could it Really be Happening?

Well, here’s the latest update from Suffolk County Council.

They have announced that they are very happy to be working jointly with BT to deliver much needed broadband improvements for Suffolk.

Key to this programme is embedding the usage of superfast broadband within the business community and sharing learning about the opportunities it unlocks in terms of incremental productivity, efficiencies, improved marketing and even completely new business models.

To that end, the Suffolk Better Broadband Programme are sponsoring the East Anglian Daily Times “Broadband Business” award, aiming to recognise business models, projects and initiatives that have improved business performance through the use of better broadband, increased bandwidth and associated broadband technology.

The award is open to businesses, including social enterprises that are able to demonstrate an approach that has made use of better broadband to support improved access to services, customers, suppliers or any other business improvement.

Fantastic – looks as though Suffolk is going Superfast!

We’ll bring you more updates as we get them.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

 

 

BT – A Customer’s Case Study of Woe

What follows is a tale of woe from a customer who experienced very poor service from BT. Their internet provider isn’t BT, but needed the telecoms giant to fix their broadband line so they could once again function. It’s told in their own words.

I reported very slow broadband speed to my provider on 26th June 2012.

After being asked various questions and having spoken to four different members of staff in Technical Support, my provider sent out a new router for me to try.

The router was received, but there was no change in broadband speed, so I returned it.

At that point, my provider arranged for BT ( Open Reach ) to call.

BT called and after trying various things, both at home and at the local distribution box, got the download speed up to 4MB/s, although I was told by the engineer it would be about 6 MB/s.

Considering what it had been like, I was more than happy with this.

That was until  towards the end of August when it again became very slow.

I reported it to my provider on 29th August 11.15 am and spoke to Technical Support who said I “ might need a new filter and/ or a new ADSL cable.”  After a few tests, they discovered a “high resistance imbalance on the line “ and advised they would look into this and ring me back. No call

 At 5.30 pm I rang the provider and was told “ someone will definitely ring you back this evening “  They didn’t !

On 30th August I rang my provider at lunchtime, spoke to Technical Support who would get someone to ring me on his return from lunch. No joy

3.40 pm :   Download speed .219 MB/s  

At 3.50 pm I rang the provider again and spoke to Technical Support who said  “ try a corded phone in the broadband socket and ring back.” ( I have  different lines for phone and broadband) I did as requested and spoke to Technical Support again, who said they’d carry out a line check and ring back.

At 5.15 pm I rang the provider and spoke to Technical Support who said they would ask another member of Technical Support, who was aware of the situation, to ring me back.

After hearing nothing, I rang again and spoke to the person concerned (“ hooray” ) who confirmed that there was “definitely something wrong with the BT line. I’ll get date for BT to call and ring you back.”

On Tuesday 4th September at 1.15 pm I rang the provider and spoke to a member of Technical Support informing him that Iwe’d not had a call from BT. He said he would contact BT and ring me back.

After hearing nothing, at 3.40pm we rang the provider again and being unable to get through to Technical Support we spoke to a very pleasant young lady in Customer Service and told her of our difficulty and asked to be put through to the Technical Support manager. We were put on hold for Technical Support  –  –  –   –  No reply !

Rang AGAIN and spoke to another equally pleasant lady on reception who gave me the mobile number of the Technical Support manager – unable to get reply.

At 4.00pm BT called, but they were expecting the fault to be a line fault, not a broadband fault. They had a look anyway.

4.45 pm  Technical Support manager rang and I told him that BT were here at that time.

5th Sept. 9.10 am.  No further forward so rang Technical Support manager and left message.

Broadband download still showing .234 MB/s.

Didn’t hear anything back, so rang provider again at 11.50 am and spoke to Technical Support who arranged a BT  call for the next day.

Thursday 6th Sept. 8.15 am,  BT called and after checking things out said “ There is nothing I can do. Your provider has capped your broadband at .288MB/s.”

9.10 am, put BT on the phone to Technical Support at my provider to sort things out.

9.25 Technical Support manager rang to say that they were in contact with BT and that they had NOT capped the line and that he’ll ring me back to let me know what has been agreed.

3.00pm Technical Support manager rang asking me to remove the front of the BT box and replace with a filter and requested that we leave it like that and BT will call Friday morning.

Friday 7th September, 10.45 am.  BT called and identified a bad broadband signal and said  “ There is a definite fault. “  Following an investigation the engineer was unable to get to the cause of the fault so moved us to a new line. A BT test showed 2.8 MB/s so we were reconnected. I was advised to keep a watch on things over the weekend as an occasional drop out was OK, but frequent drop outs were not.

6.30 pm, little improvement. Rang Technical Support manager who could see the problem and asked me to ring him in the office on Saturday morning.

Saturday 8th September 10.55am. Rang provider ( Technical Support manager) to say we were no further forward and left a message asking for a return call by midday as I had to go out.   No call.

11.45 am. Rang manager again, no reply, so rang and spoke to Technical Support who confirmed that BT were still dealing with the matter and that the Technical Support manager would ring me later in the day.  He didn’t.

Monday 10th September 9.15 am.  Rang Technical Support manager. No reply so left message.

9.20 am rang provider and spoke to, –  yes that’s right, Technical Support who said that BT are still carrying out tests and that the problem appears to be “quite involved. BT are working in the area and the work should be completed by Tues’ 11th Sept’.”

 Tuesday 11th Sept. 1.30pm. Technical Support manager rang to say that they were still progressing this with BT and that we may get another call from BT tomorrow. He will ring later to confirm.

NO CALL.

Friday 14th September, 9.00am BT called. Two men this time! Connected test equipment to phone line but did nothing else.

I asked if they were not aware of the results of the last BT call on the 7th September and was told that “a week is much too soon for our records to be updated.” So I put them in the picture and they said they would arrange for traffic lights in order to check the junction elsewhere in the village.

Having informed me that Triage were dealing with this they left at 9.20 am.

9.30 am. Rang Technical Support manager who said he was on another call and that he would  call me back in a second.

2.20pm. Rang Technical Support manager to say that I have to go out and as BT were not resolving the problem I would take matters further, i.e. inform “Watchdog” and “BBC Look East” on Friday 21st Sept.

3.20pm, Technical Support manager rang to say he is progressing this with BT and that he was in full agreement with my intent to make this silly situation public.

He is hoping to send me a cordless phone type router to try.

Subsequently rang to say that router is on the way.

15th Sept. Router arrived.

Monday 17th September, Router installed.

Tuesday 18th September, rang Technical Support manager and left message to update.

12.05pm. Received call from Technical Support with the following message – “ BT are scheduled to progress this issue on 19th September and although they will be working in the street they would appreciate access to your home.”

Wednesday, 19th September, 4.10pm. Rang Technical Support manager and left message to say  “no call and no improvement.”

Thursday, 20th September 1.15pm. Rang Technical Support manager to ask where we are up to? For some reason he was not aware of the message I left on Wednesday, but he will contact BT and phone me back.

4.20pm, Technical Support manager rang to say that BT had changed time of job from the 19th am to the 20th pm. ( Might have helped if we’d been informed ! )

No call from BT. Did they do anything ?

Broadband speed still .234 MB/s

Friday 21st Sept. 9.00am.  No change.

12.15 pm Rang Technical Support manager and left message.

2.15 pm, Technical Support manager rang and left message to say BT are still progressing and job should be completed by 6.00 pm.

Saturday 22nd Sept. 12.30 pm.  Rang Technical Support manager to update on the fact that there was no change, and left message.

2.30 pm, Technical Support manager rang and left me a message to say that the problem could take up to three months to sort out!

Monday 24th September – 9.30 am. Rang Technical Support manager and left message. At 7.00pm rang again and left another message.

Tuesday, 25th September 9.50 am, rang provider to speak to Technical Support.  

“ We apologise for keeping you waiting. We’ll answer your call just as soon as we can. Thanks for your patience”      WHAT PATIENCE ? !  !

10.00 am. Rang again and spoke to member of Technical Support, then to the Technical Support manager, who asked if I could please send him photos of the BT line into our property.

Sent three photos to him at 10.40 am.

Friday 28th September, 4.10pm.  Rang Technical Support manager as hadn’t heard anything.  Left message.

 Monday 31st September 5.20pm. Rang Technical Support manager who said he is proposing to run a new line into the house to see if things improve.  Will ring me tomorrow to confirm.

No call.

Wednesday 3rd October, 9.15pm sent Technical Support manager an email saying that I hadn’t heard from him and that my neighbours are on 1.6MB/s and asking him what’s happening ?

He replied apologising and saying that they’d had a few ADSL issues their end. However, BT had planned to carry out work on the 21st October, and have applied for three way traffic lights. Also, he has requested a new line to be installed on the 24th October.

 19th October, confirmed with Technical Support manager that BT are still on to check copper fault on the 21st.

“ Yes.”

Sunday 21st October, 8.30am. BT called to repair phone line. ( Hard to believe ! ) But the engineer said he didn’t know anything about broadband. He remade the connection in a terminal box but couldn’t do anything else.

What now ?

 Monday 22nd October,10.15am rang Technical Support manager and left message.

He rang later and I requested a migration code as by now my patience was running on borrowed time.

He agreed that the BT call based on their report was an “ absolute joke”, but that he had arranged for them to install a new line on Thursday. Could I hold off until then ? 

I checked the date with him as previously I’d been told Wednesday, but no, it was definitely going to be Thursday.

 Wednesday 24th October, 10.50 am  BT called to install new line !  Fortunately we were at home and the line was installed.

Since then broadband has been running at download speeds of between 6 and 7 MB/s. An incredible result, but why did it take so long for BT to identify what appears to be a straight forward line fault ?

While it appears that the main problem with my internet provider is a severe staff shortage, ( hence the repeated and incessant “ We apologise for keeping you waiting “ etc’)  the same cannot be said of BT staff who, with very few exceptions, appear to lack communication, lack experience, lack knowledge and lack a general interest in resolving the problem.

I feel that not only should BT Wholesale pay for installing the new line, but that they should provide compensation to my provider and ourselves for wasting a considerable amount of time and for providing what can only be described as “an appalling service.”

Bad service or what?

What has been your experience of your broadband providers? Have you experienced good service or bad?

Leave a comment below and share your experience.

 

Rural Broadband: will it ever improve?

Broadband access and speeds vary enormously throughout the UK. If you are a business in an urban area, the chances are your connection is pretty good. But if you’re in a rural area, you are probably working with slow speeds and a patchy service.

The Government say they are “committed” to creating “the best superfast broadband network in Europe”, but a report by the Country Land and Business Association would suggest otherwise.

The following article that recently appeared on PCPro explains:

The government’s commitment to a minimum broadband speed of 2Mbits/sec across the UK’s rural areas is “very unlikely” to succeed, according to the Country Land and Business Association.

Following its report released today titled “Broadband fit for rural growth“, CLA President Harry Cotterell said there is still a “huge amount” left to do to ensure universal, high-speed coverage across the UK.

The British government has committed to creating “the best superfast broadband network in Europe” by 2015, earmarking £530 million of public money to invest in infrastructure upgrades and installations, and plans to provide a universal minimum 2Mbits/sec download speed.

However, the CLA claims the government’s use of the word “commitment” is misleading. “We are calling on the Government to step up and agree to a Universal Service Obligation rather than just a Commitment,” says Cotterell. “There is no legal sanction behind a Universal Service Commitment – it provides the Government with a get-out clause if the benchmark is not achieved.”

A Universal Service Commitment provides the Government with a get-out clause if the benchmark is not achieved

The report itself points out perceived flaws in the government’s current plans, including the fact that the number of bidders for state money to install new broadband infrastructure has dropped from nine to just two – BT and Fujitsu. Of those two, reports are circulating that Fujitsu has been blacklisted from receiving government IT contracts, leaving BT with a potentially uncontested route to the government’s half-billion pound commitment. “We do not believe Broadband Delivery UK’s bidding process is working,” says Cotterell, calling the bidding process “too bureaucratic”.

The CLA points out that the deadline for the tendering process has dropped back to March 2013 “at the earliest”. It also cites over-strict planning permission laws as a roadblock, preventing infrastructure such as green broadband cabinets from being built on private land.

“Broadband acts as an economic driver for rural businesses,” according to Cotterell, and the report calls for “reliable, adequate and cost effective broadband connection[s]” across the UK. “Although there have been some notable successes in the ten years since the CLA started campaigning, there is still a huge amount to be done to ensure coverage is universal. We have set out our first-ever rural broadband policy because we believe the Government must do more to help the countryside.”

You can download the full PDF report here

Are you a rural business?

Do you feel you’re being held back by your broadband service?

Leave a comment below and tell us how you feel about this issue.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Better Broadband for Suffolk – Could it Really be Happening?

A while ago we wrote about the latest update in the Better Broadband for Suffolk campaign. Well, now there’s more news.

A recent email from the campaign has announced that:

Suffolk County Council has today announced that it will work with BT to implement the county’s Better Broadband for Suffolk programme.

Every household and business premises in Suffolk will now be guaranteed broadband speeds of at least 2 megabits per second (Mbps) by 2015 with 85% being able to access superfast coverage.

It means that within just three years, 9 out of 10 Suffolk properties will be connected to fibre-based broadband and will be able to get speed increases of at least 10Mbps.

Obviously, this announcement has been welcomed with open arms. As Mark Bee, Leader of Suffolk County Council said “Improving access to broadband is going to help Suffolk’s economy grow by as much as 20% and create up to 5000 new jobs. There’s a digital divide between Suffolk and the rest of the country but an even more acute disparity between urban and rural Suffolk. The Better Broadband programme is going to close those gaps, boost school attainment and help the public sector to deliver services more efficiently and cheaply.”

So what’s next?

Well, a contract between Suffolk County Council and BT is expected to be finalised and finally awarded by the end of October 2012.

This is fantastic news for Suffolk and we’ll keep you posted on further developments as and when we hear about them.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

The Pitfalls of Switching Landline and Broadband Providers

Everyone wants to keep a close eye on costs, which generally means we are all much better Switching phone and broadband providersat looking closely at the cost of our utilities to ensure we’re not paying over the odds.

When it comes to modern life, phone and broadband are essential, but costs can escalate all too easily, so it pays to keep an eye on what packages are on offer. But the thought of changing providers puts many people off.

A recent paper by Ofcom identifies 6 problems with the current switching process:

1. Multiple processes

Over the years the communications industry has developed its own switching process resulting in a number of different processes causing confusion, increased costs and multiple challenges.

Because different providers use different technologies, when transferring bundles of services multiple processes are required often leading to inaccurate advice on what is the correct procedure to follow.

2. Inadequate systems

Originally, the industry’s systems were set up to deal with one service over one line. But, although technology has progressed, internal systems haven’t often resulting in a lack of reliability, extra hassle and cost and even loss of service (especially when switching a bundle of services).

3. Insufficient customer consent

Often called ‘slamming’, without upfront measures to verify a customer actually wants to move, consumers can be moved from one provider to another without their knowledge or consent.

It can happen when a sales person claims to represent a different provider, or when consumers are told they are signing up for information when really they’re signing a contract, or even being sold services over and above what they agreed to.

4. Lack of awareness of the implications of switching

Problems often arise because consumers are unaware that switching from a provider comes with certain conditions. These could be that they are liable for an early termination charge, cancelling one service affects the price of another, or that continuing a service depends on them receiving the one they are switching.

5. Unnecessary switching costs/hassle

When looking to switch providers, consumers are often faced with a series of unnecessary hassles (that often lead to costs), such as the difficulty and complexity of the process, the number of different people consumers have to contact to make the switch and the ‘behind the scenes’ processes that over complicate matters resulting in a poor customer experience.

Until the industry is brought into line and continuity of technologies and processes are out in place, consumers must remain vigilant. Always make sure you read the fine print of your contract to avoid any nasty surprises when you decide to change suppliers.

Despite the issues outlined, don’t be off put by changing – just be aware of the pitfalls.

You can read Ofcom’s full report here.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders
and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Better Broadband for Suffolk–Update

A while a go, we wrote about the continuing campaign to get better broadband for Suffolk.

Well, here’s an update for you as reported by EADT24:

SUFFOLK’S MPs gave the proposals to bring in superfast broadband to rural parts of the county a ringing endorsement during a special briefing at Westminster yesterday.

County council leader Mark Bee joined Local Enterprise Partnership chairman Andy Wood and Chris Soule from the Federation of Small Businesses to meet MPs whose constituents are waiting for fast broadband to reach their communities.

All the MPs welcomed the fact that the council was near to choosing which of two providers – believed to be BT and Fujitsu – would carry on the work.

And they were looking forward to the day when work would start on breaking down the “digital divide” that has built up in Suffolk over recent years.

While households in Ipswich and part of Felixstowe can get speeds of up to 120 Mbps through Virgin fibre-optic cables, properties in some rural parts of the county struggle to get 1Mbps.

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter has constituents on both sides of the digital divide.

He said: “The news about how far we have come is excellent and it is right to note the work that has been put in by the county council, the LEP and the FSB.

“It is great that we are one of the first four areas of the country to take this major step forward.”

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said it was good news that rural areas would be among the first reached, but work would also continue to improve services to enterprise zones which was vital for boosting business.

Mr Bee said communities with some of the slowest broadband speeds in Suffolk would be among the first to have work completed.

The first properties to be linked up should be at the end of this year with the first programme completed by the spring of 2015.

Ultimately the aim was to bring superfast broadband to all properties in Suffolk by 2020.

Narrowing the digital divide

A recent article posted by ThisisMoney.co.uk highlights that it’s not just Suffolk that’s struggling with woeful broadband speeds.

They report that, according to figures from the Federation of Small Business, 63% of firms (from a survey of 3,000 small businesses) in rural areas are dissatisfied with the speed of their broadband connection. That’s in direct contrast to 48% in urban areas.

Despite the Government’s pledge to create 10 ‘super-connected’ cities by 2015, the FSB believes that they are not going far enough to help rural businesses. In fact, this will have the effect of widening the gap.

The FSB are calling for a rollout of 20 Mbps superfast broadband to 98% of rural communities and businesses to help ‘close the digital divide between urban and rural businesses.’

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

What’s Got a Strangle Hold on Your WiFi?

Just about everyone has experienced interference on their WiFi. Drop outs are becoming more and more frequent simply because the 2.4GHz frequency band is so congested.

A recent article in PC Pro explored this phenomenon using some rather nifty visual aids.

image

The above image shows an analysis of all the radio frequency activity in the vicinity of the PC Pro office. This is wireless signals and other devices using the 2.4GHz band.

The article then went on to analyse this:

Look closely and you’ll see that, on channel 8, there’s a non-Wi-Fi source of interference, represented as three bright stripes in the bottom “waterfall” window: I’ve not tracked down the culprit yet. To the right, the broad red/green stripe flanked by two narrower vertical green lines shows you the devastation a cheap wireless video sender can wreak.

While this might seem a rather extreme example, I’m sure that many living in densely populated urban centres will be surrounded by a similar level of congestion and interference. Just imagine how many baby monitors, cordless phones and wireless routers there are in a modern, central London block of flats, and you’ll get the idea.

So, what’s the answer?

Well, the article suggest  that, when next upgrading your wireless router, you go for a dual-band model that gives you the option of connecting to the less congested 5GHz frequency band.

As the image below shows (an analysis of the 5GHz band in the same location), the difference between the 2 bands is quite staggering:

image

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.