Connecting Shropshire

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Village downloads early Christmas present from Connecting Shropshire

December 19, 2014 / 5 comments / Permalink

An historic village in north east Shropshire has received an early Christmas present from the Connecting Shropshire fibre broadband partnership that will put it at the forefront of the digital information age. Villagers in Adderley, near Market Drayton, can count on their broadband speeds improving significantly following the arrival of faster fibre broadband – with some homes and businesses who opt for an upgrade seeing a 100-fold increase in their broadband download speeds.

Adderley Parish Councillors celebrate the advent of fibre broadband with Shropshire Councillor Paul Wynn (on the right hand side)

The early Christmas present was delivered by Connecting Shropshire partners, Shropshire Council and BT. The majority of the village’s 100-plus premises will be able to access superfast broadband speeds of 24 megabits per second (Mbps) or above, and the average download speed will increase from 0.45Mbps to nearly 59Mbps.

Chairman of Adderley Parish Council, Marius Coulon, said this is “a fantastic advance for the community that will allow both children and businesses faster access to the internet – thank you Shropshire Council”.

It’s just over 12 months since the first community benefitted from the roll-out of fibre broadband by the Connecting Shropshire partnership.  Since then the Connecting Shropshire fibre broadband roll-out has continued at a pace, with more than 28,000 premises across the county now able to access faster fibre broadband as a result of the programme.

In addition to rolling out more than 300 kilometres of fibre optic cable, engineers from Openreach – BT’s local network business – have installed around 140 new road-side cabinets, which are needed to connect local people onto the new network.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member with responsibility for broadband, said: “Connecting Shropshire has done much already to bring better broadband speeds to rural communities like Adderley, where download speeds previously were under 2mbps. This is one of many cabinets that we have built and will continue to build as part of the first phase of the contract with our partners. The approach being taken is consistent with Government policy to get to as many premises as possible for the money available.

“As part of the Government’s continued commitment to delivering superfast broadband to more premises in Shropshire we agreed at Shropshire Council’s Cabinet to begin a second phase of procurement using the £11.38m provided by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). This is very positive news for Shropshire and will mean that fewer people have to struggle to access the internet and all the benefits that brings. We are continuing to work on finding ‘match funding’ and remain optimistic that this will be achieved early in 2015.”

Ian Binks, BT’s regional manager for Shropshire and the West Midlands, said: “Increasingly the internet is touching our lives in new and exciting ways, which is why our teams are working hard to roll-out faster fibre broadband to more communities as quickly as possible.

“The dramatic improvements that people in Adderley will now be able to experience will change the way they communicate forever. Whether it’s families needing to connect several devices to the internet at the same time, or people wanting to work from home or shop online, everything is faster and easier with fibre broadband.”

Paul Wynn, Shropshire Councillor for Prees, said: “I’m really pleased that fibre broadband is now available to order in Adderley village thanks to Connecting Shropshire; better broadband has been high on local people’s wish list for some time. Whilst this is great news for local businesses and residents who have been struggling to connect to the World Wide Web, I’d like to remind people that it is an opt-in service and broadband speeds won’t increase automatically. To upgrade to fibre broadband contact your chosen internet service provider.”

New Shropshire Council Mobile Library begins the rounds

October 20, 2014 / One comment / Permalink

Shropshire Council has just taken delivery of a new Mobile Library to serve communities in north Shropshire. The new vehicle incorporates the Connecting Shropshire logo.

The new Mobile Library offers a range of library services. Readers will be able to choose from a selection of titles in a light, airy design that makes full use of the space. There is a separate children’s section and the vehicle is fully accessible.

Chris Taylor, Connecting Shropshire programme manager, said:

“We work closely with the library service and it’s great to see the importance of the broadband programme reflected in the addition of our logo to the new vehicle. We look forward to travelling out and about on the Mobile Library to inform people about the availability of faster fibre broadband in the coming months.”

Connecting Shropshire fibre broadband project marks double milestone

October 6, 2014 / 4 comments / Permalink

Connecting Shropshire – the multi-million pound high-speed fibre broadband programme – is celebrating a double milestone.

Left-to-right: Steve Davenport, local Shropshire Councillor for St Martins, Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member responsible for broadband, Owen Paterson MP, Ian Binks, BT’s regional director for Shropshire and West Midlands, Chris Taylor, Connecting Shropshire programme manager

Thursday 2 October saw the switching on of the programme’s 100th high-speed fibre broadband roadside cabinet, which took the number of homes and businesses within reach of the new network to more than 20,000.

The new green metal cabinets are needed to connect local homes and businesses onto the new fibre optic network being rolled out across the county.

The Rt Hon Owen Paterson, MP for North Shropshire, will join representatives from Connecting Shropshire to unveil the roadside cabinet in St Martins, which will make the new high-speed broadband network available to nearly 300 village premises.

Owen Paterson said:

“This is great news for St Martins.  Faster fibre broadband is essential to local businesses and I’m certain that it will be a catalyst for the creation of new jobs.  It will also transform the lives of local families, whether they’re using the technology for working from home, entertainment or education.”

The new cabinet in Coopers Lane is the first of four serving St Martins parish that will be going live in the coming weeks as part of Connecting Shropshire, a partnership between Shropshire Council, BT and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, and the first of 10 to be upgraded in the Chirk exchange area*.

People wanting to find out if their cabinet has been enabled should use the new online map and easy-to-use line checker on the Connecting Shropshire website.  These allow people to get up-to-date information about the status of an exchange area and to get specific information about premises by entering a postcode or telephone number.  It can be accessed by logging onto: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/when-and-where/.

Once an area has ‘gone live’, people will be able to get download speeds of up to 80 megabits per second (Mbps) and uploads of up to 20Mbps**.  Residents and businesses wanting to upgrade should contact their chosen broadband service provider.

The Connecting Shropshire programme is being delivered by a team of more than 50 people planning, building and commissioning the network in the Shropshire Council area.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member responsible for broadband, said:

“It’s great to see so much progress and that we’ve achieved this significant milestone within a relatively short space of time.  This is testament to the hard work of the Connecting Shropshire team.”

Steve Davenport, Shropshire Councillor for St Martins, said:

“I’m really pleased that fibre broadband has started to arrive in St Martins.  Many people in the village will get access to much faster download speeds over the new fibre broadband network when compared to the existing copper network.  I would encourage people to check fibre broadband availability with their chosen Internet service provider.”

Ian Binks, BT’s regional manager for Shropshire and the West Midlands, said:

“Connecting Shropshire is a huge engineering operation, but the rollout is progressing extremely well.  Since the first roadside cabinet was switched on in December 2013 in Montford Bridge, our teams have continued to work hard to bring the new technology to as many communities as possible, as quickly as possible.”

Sue Schofield, chairman of St Martins Parish Council, said:

“I’ve been waiting for this news for some time and I’m really pleased that fibre broadband is now starting to become available in the village.  This is especially good news for the local economy; attracting new businesses and enabling people to work flexibly from home.

“As I run Broadplace*** in the St Martins Centre, I’m looking forward to being able to upgrade to fibre broadband.  Fibre optic broadband will also make the centre more attractive to organisations wanting to deliver online training courses.”

Connecting Shropshire builds on the commercial rollout of fibre broadband by the private sector, which has already made the high-speed technology available to more than 111,000 Shropshire premises.

Further information

* The Welsh part of the Chirk exchange is being fibre-enabled as part of the Superfast Cymru programme.

** These are the top wholesale speeds available from BT’s local network business Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.

*** The St Martins Broadplace offers IT learning opportunities for people of all ages and abilities.  The facility is run by local volunteers who offer one-to-one support for beginners, as well as a range of workshops in digital photography, Internet shopping and job-hunting online.

Please note that not all premises in an exchange area will get access to fibre-based broadband, and not all premises served by a fibre enabled cabinet will necessarily get a speed enhancement.

To upgrade to fibre-based broadband, people should contact their chosen Internet service provider.

Connecting Shropshire has the responsibility for providing access to faster fibre broadband for premises that are in the Shropshire Council area.  For information about the Welsh part of the Chirk exchange area see the Superfast Wales programme website: http://www.superfast-cymru.com/home

Fibre fact-finding expedition

October 6, 2014 / Leave a comment / Permalink

I’m not an engineer, I just help out running Connecting Shropshire’s social media accounts. So, to help me gain an understanding of what they do, the Connecting Shropshire team sent me out for a road trip with Openreach to see a little more about the nuts and bolts of how this whole fibre internet thing works. So, here it is, from the engineers through me to you.

My guide for the day from Openreach, Mike Gardiner, leads the way. First up I was taken to the ‘frontline’ and visited an engineer putting the finishing touches to one of the shiny new cabinets.

“This road-side cabinet is what we engineers call the D-SLAM,” Mike announces, rather less grandly than I’d envisaged, while opening up the cabinet. For those not versed in technical speak (me included), D-SLAM stands for ‘Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer’. Nope, me neither. I bravely swallow my pride and ask what it means. Luckily, it seems it’s not the first time someone has asked. It’s because, in the telecoms industry, a fibre customer is a ‘Digital subscriber’. The cables connecting these ‘Digital Subscribers’ to the network are the ‘lines’ and ‘Digital Subscribers’ need their ‘lines’ to get ‘access’ to the network though the cabinet. ‘Multiplexer’ means that more than one line, or customer, can use the fibre at the same time. After jotting my new learnings down, I look for more information.

How long does it take to set up a cabinet like this?

“I’ve been working on this one about three hours this morning, we had already pulled the cable into the footway box, which is around 10 metres away and I’ve just been pulling the remainder of the cable in. This cabinet has not been as straightforward to install as I would have hoped.” Mike pauses for a second, then continues.

“The problem we’ve had with this particular cabinet has been with the duct between the fibre optic cabinet and the old copper cabinet just down the road. The ducts connecting the two were badly blocked, you see.  Our ducts often get filled up with silt, or get damaged by tree roots and the like. In this case, we had to excavate the pavement around the duct and then repair the duct.  Only then could we pull the cables through and connect them up. This is just one part of the job, each cabinet involves hundreds of hours of work on average.”

Wow, I feel like Paxman or something. What a question that was. I press on, eager to show I’m one of them really, and hit them with another tough question.

So how does it all work then?

“So the fibre comes to the new D-SLAM from the nearest large exchange or ‘head end’. You get the phone line that comes into the existing cabinet from the local telephone exchange and then off to the customer.” Mike explains. I understand, perhaps I’m actually really technologically minded but just hadn’t realised until now…

“So,” Mike continues, snapping me out of my dreams of being the next Tommy Telford chap. “when someone here in Shropshire decides to upgrade to fibre broadband, an engineer would come along, the phone line gets disconnected in the old cabinet then gets re-diverted into the D-SLAM. It goes in one side, the magic side as I call it, and comes back out, gets linked back to the old cabinet and then out to customer as fibre broadband.”

I nod encouragingly, quickly realising I may not be the undiscovered engineering genius I thought I was about 10 or 15 seconds ago.

“This D-SLAM extends the exchange equipment so that it’s closer to homes and businesses…it might be easier if I got a piece of paper and drew it for you!”

I fear he’s picked up my shortcomings. Thankfully, he does just that and, like a child with a picture book encyclopaedia, I suddenly find things easier to understand and realise it’s not actually as complicated as I thought.

Here is the full version of the diagram he drew for me:

So, the fibre runs from the head end exchange all the way to the new roadside cabinets, connected through a series of ducts. The copper line comes from the telephone exchange, into the old copper cabinets nearby. The two cabinets are connected using copper wire, and the existing copper line runs from the old cabinet into nearby homes and businesses. So when you contact your chosen Internet Service Provider to order an upgrade from copper broadband to faster fibre (and you can choose from a number of service providers), the changeover connects you to the fibre cabinet, meaning the data moves from the head end exchange to the cabinets through the fibre network, not the copper one, and then out to the homes down the copper line giving you faster internet. Fibre to the Cabinet is a bit like if you are running a marathon, but for the first 26 miles you get a taxi and only run the last few hundred yards, making your average speed much faster.

Sadly, I had to be whisked away at this point but I was left with a promise that my education would continue soon with a trip to the head end exchange. Sounds exciting. But for now, this is where my teaching ended.

Plans to provide fibre broadband to 13 new exchange areas announced

September 15, 2014 / Leave a comment / Permalink

New exchange area map outlines programme’s plans up until December 2015.

Thirteen more exchange areas will get high-speed fibre broadband before the end of next year as part of the multi-million pound Connecting Shropshire programme.

RAF Museum, Cosford

Openreach engineer, Danielle Baugh, surveying outside the RAF Museum in Cosford as part of the Connecting Shropshire programme.

The partnership between Shropshire Council, BT and Broadband Delivery UK, aims to make the sophisticated technology available to around 7,500 homes and businesses in: Bishops Castle, Bromfield, Calverhall, Cressage, Ditton Priors, Dudleston Heath, Ellesmere, Hodnet, Knockin, Munslow, Norton, Seifton and Worfield.

Today also saw the launch of a new online map and easy-to-use line checker on the Connecting Shropshire website, designed to make it even easier for people to find out the availability of fibre broadband in their area.

It can be accessed through the Connecting Shropshire website at: www.connectingshropshire.co.uk/when-and-where/

The map allows local people to get up-to-date information about the status of their exchange area within the programme. The line checker enables people to enter their postcode or telephone number to find out their exchange area, whether or not fibre broadband is available and estimated dates when it will be available to them.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member responsible for broadband, said:

“We’re working towards connecting as many Salopians to fibre broadband as we can and the next stages of the plan are now confirmed. So far over 19,000 homes and businesses across 25 exchange areas have seen fibre broadband become available to them through the programme and as we continue to build, even more will be connected.

“The map and line checker are important resources that allow people to see where they fit into the programme and whether they are in an area where faster fibre broadband is already available.”

Steve Henderson, BT’s regional director for broadband partnerships, said:

“This is an exciting time for Shropshire. The Connecting Shropshire partnership is spreading its wings and our teams are working hard to bring high-speed fibre broadband to as many communities as possible, as quickly as possible, including some of the most remote areas of the county.

“Fast and reliable internet is becoming crucial to daily life for residents in Shropshire. Fibre broadband will provide an equal opportunity to access essential online activities, such as council services, healthcare and other public services, as well as offering new leisure and educational opportunities.”

Connecting Shropshire builds on the commercial roll-out of fibre broadband by the private sector, which has already made the high-speed technology available to more than 111,000 Shropshire premises.

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