Frequently asked questions
Why do I need better broadband?
Many people – particularly those constrained by poor broadband availability such as us in the Ridgehill area – think of broadband needs in terms of a few emails and some limited browsing.
In truth, our current broadband infrastructure allows us little more.
But increasingly the nature of our usage of full fibre ultrafast networks is driven by the factors below, where email and browsing barely feature:
Central and local governments’ ‘Digital by Default’ policy
Best deals on everything are to be found on-line
Streamed video services like BBC iPlayer, YouTube and Netflix have overtaken traditional broadcast or satellite TV
Our children are significantly disadvantaged in education
Health, care, and avoidance of isolation and loneliness can be key benefits
Landline and mobile phone services can be replaced
All of these factors lead to a significant increase in the quality of rural life, the ability to create and retain local rural businesses, and the value of property and its saleability: residential estate agents indicate price differentials between 2% and 8%.
Laptop or tablet not needed: simply talk to the internet using artificial Intelligence agents like Siri and Amazon Echo
What broadband speed do I need?
Broadband speeds (aka bandwidth) are a common metric used to give some indication of what the user experience will be: unfortunately the measures used today (promises of ‘up to’ download speeds only) are of limited value and, at times, misleading.
The actual performance experienced by a user is a more complex measurement: technically this can be measured in terms of committed information rate (also now called assured speed), upload speeds, jitter, latency, mean time between failure (aka reliability) and response time to fix problems. There are also subjective measures such as customer call handling, complaints procedures, recompense for service outages and failure of the operator to meet promised deadlines.
We are engineering our network and services to address all these points, and commit ourselves to delivering you a superior broadband experience whatever your measure. We can do this by implementing a full fibre network, running in native mode at gigabit speeds, with services tailored to the local community needs. Also, should things go wrong or you need questions answered, you no longer need to talk to a call handler in India: we will provide 24*7 reporting locally. And you will no longer need to involve your MP in chasing the upper echelons of the incumbent operators’ management – you can personally call any of the directors and local champions -- they are your neighbours!
We have decided to offer two speeds of services initially, both of which meet every government specification and are true speed offerings – not ‘up to’, only available to 10% of the customer base. Our Superfast service offers 35Mbps download, 10Mbps upload (exceeding the the EU standard for the definition); and a Extrafast service offering 50Mbps download, 50Mbps upload. Shortly we will be introducing an Ultrafast service at 100Mbps both upload and download.
Basically these services are ideal for both residential and business users currently constrained by their present non-fibre service and whose requirements are akin to the national average – i.e. two to four people in the household or business, wanting usage of audio and streamed video services (like BBC iPlayer), and probably having around 10 internet connected devices (like PCs, laptops, set-top SD and HD TV boxes, tablets, smartphones and Kindles) in addition to email, cloud computing and fast browsing. But if you have need for more speed or dedicated bandwidth, we can deliver it when you want!
You do not need to commit to service for a long period of time – you can change your service offering at any time by giving us a month’s notice. And in the very unlikely event that you are not happy, you can cancel with the same one-month notice after your initial 12 month connection term is complete – unlike others, we do not force you to continue unhappily with a service for a 18 or 24 month contract period.
What does it take to deliver full fibre broadband?
Not as much as you might think.
Once you remove the necessity to build network on a national scale and to be subject to the demands of regulators and external shareholders, it is surprisingly easy, as has been demonstrated by the growth of ‘alternative network operators’ (altnets) in this country over the last five years.
In particular, community focused operators, both large and small, have been able to transform the delivery of full fibre broadband in their communities, both rural and urban.
Much of our network build is based on the successful experience of our neigbours across the valley in Callow and Dewsall, who have been getting full fibre broadband for more than two years now.
Who owns RRCN?
The community shareholders own the company and thereby own the network in perpetuity.
Investment in RRCN is recognised by HMRC as being eligible for favourable tax treatment under the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme. This means that 50% tax relief can be claimed on any investment you make.
RRCN is a vehicle for ensuring internet, broadband, TV and mobile services can be offered over the network. RRCN has appointed Directors from within the community — see our About page for details. They act as shareholder representatives to ensure the community gets the broadband and other telecommunications services the residents of our community need and want.
What does fibre optic cable look like, and what does it do?
A single fibre optic cable has a diameter smaller than that of a human hair, yet it is capable of simultaneously carrying a phone conversation between every single person on earth! Each of the residential properties on our network will have one of these fibres directly into their house to carry all their anticipated needs for video, audio, security, landline and mobile communications. For business users we will provide duplicate fibre cables allowing for rapid restoration of services in the event of a problem, and also to carry other business services in the future.
By themselves fibre strands are delicate, so they are encased in outer tubing with propylene covering typically 6mm in diameter. They do not carry any power or voltage, they simply use light to carry the information.
Fibre optic cables are not affected by electrical interference, they do not degrade in performance over the distances involved, and are unaffected by the presence of other radiation. They can be laid alongside (or indeed even within) water pipes, and alongside mains electricity cables. As the preference is for them to be buried in the ground, your service will not be subject to weather or physical damage outages. They can however be damaged by accidental digging: hence we bury them below spade depth in gardens, below ploughing depth in fields, and in micro-channels on the side of the road. We lay a detectable marker tape above them to show the route before damage is done to the cable beneath.
How long does the cable last, and is it a viable long-term solution?
Fibre Optic infrastructure has a virtually unlimited life: the oldest fibre optic installations have been deployed since the late 1970s and are still providing service after 35 years.
The speeds of transmission over fibre optics do not need the physical infrastructure to be re-laid: to obtain increased speeds, all that is required is more sophisticated electronic laser technology converting the electronic signals into light signals. In the late seventies, fibre optics for communications ran at 45 Mbps: in the last year, speeds in excess of 45 terabits/sec have been implemented — i.e. a performance upgrade of over 1 million times!
We envisage depreciating Ridgehill’s fibre optic infrastructure over twenty years, though in reality its life may be considerably greater. It is not only a viable infrastructure for Herefordshire residents today, but is genuinely future-proofed.
What speeds will I receive on the Ridgehill Network?
We are capable of delivering services with speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps in both directions — both upload as well as download. For initial service, both residential and business users will be offered superfast speeds of 35 Mbps download, 10 Mbps upload at a price equivalent to a best deal FTTC service from traditional ISPs such as BT today.
If you wish for more speed, we offer our extrafast service running at 50Mbps both download and upload. If that isn't sufficient, then we will shortly be introducing our Ultrafast service at 100 Mbps in both directions.
For all business users we provide a static IP address and the ability to connect multiple landlines, as well as the second fibre cable into their premises.
Note that these speeds are the minimum you will receive – they are not the typical ‘up to’ figures quoted by traditional suppliers, which suffer from both contention and distance and frequently provide only a fraction of the advertised speeds.
If you need more performance, we can provide up to Gigabit (1,000 Mbps hyperfast) speeds to meet your needs. This will enable all the foreseeable service needs of our part of Herefordshire to be met, irrespective of how many people may be in the household or business. But when you need more, your service can be upgraded without the need for any physical upgrade of equipment.
Ridgehill residents and businesses wll jump from being in the bottom 3% of the country for broadband speeds into the top 3% of the country!
What services will I be able to use over the network?
The fundamental service provided by RRCN is a full featured, reliable, guaranteed speed broadband network, based on a dedicated backbone link into our community not shared with anyone else. There will be no restriction on data usage, though we will have an Acceptable Use Policy which ensures that the use of the broadband service adheres to all legal and governmental standards. We will not have any ‘throttling’ of heavy users – as is frequently the case with incumbent suppliers. We will continuously monitor the total network performance and add backhaul capacity should this be needed to support our RRCN customers.
All email services are supported over the network, but Ridgehill Broadband (along with most Internet Service Providers) does not intend to be a provider of email itself. We suggest that users may wish to consider the full range of services available from major providers such as Google Mail and Outlook/Hotmail. At the same time, you will normally be able to keep your existing email address if you wish – many providers allow this without additional charge, others will make this available for a small monthly charge.
Over the broadband network, you will be able to use Voice over IP technology to have landline and/or mobile access, at calling rates significantly below the rates of current incumbent suppliers. There is no practical limit to the number of landline numbers provided, and it is possible for you to have a different number for each member of the household, all within the current local numbering plan. You can also have additional numbers based on London numbering or indeed most major cities in the world, enabling people to call you at local rates from overseas. All advanced calling features – number display, voicemail, call forwarding, time of day routing, etc. are supported, and all without additional charge. You can use a no-fixed fee provider so you pay no monthly landline charge -- you need pay only for actual calls made (to UK geographic numbers and much of the world at a price of circa 1p per minute). You will be able to port across your existing number if you wish, for which a small administrative charge is payable. Voice quality will meet or exceed any existing analogue landline calls.
Using a smartphone, tablet or PC/laptop, with a one time low-cost app, you will be able to make and receive phone calls on such devices at the same attractive rates. Video calling is fully supported, and you can for example use your TV to hold family meetings anywhere in the world from your living room. Calls between voice and video VOIP devices anywhere in the world can be made without charge, as can Skype or Google Hangout video calls. Conference video calling is also supported.
Full quality radio and music services from across the globe can be accessed, mostly for free. Certain advert-free music services such as Spotify are supported at their normal subscription rates. Voice access to such services using Amazon Echo or Dot devices – or their Google or Apple equivalents – are available, and we fully support all Sonos high quality audio systems.
The network again will support streamed TV services in HD, or even (where available) in 4K Ultra High Definition quality. Most UK terrestrially broadcast TV stations can be streamed live or via catch-up using the broadcaster’s apps such as iPlayer. Again there are a very wide variety of channels available worldwide without charge, but where premium content is desired, companies such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sky, Sky Sports etc. are available at their standard subscription rates.
Late release movie and TV show content is available on a pay-per-view basis, as are many worldwide sporting events. The only restriction currently is that BT does not make BT Sport available over many other networks, though this may change in the future.
When using such services, no external aerial or satellite dish is required, so these can be removed from your property to benefit the aesthetics of the whole area.
What are my total service costs?
Please see our Resdential and Business sections of the main menu for details.
There are no hidden costs: no activation fee; no connection fee; no additional usage fee; no installation fee; no IPV4 rental charges;no restriction whatsoever on usage (provided it's legal!).
What about landline phone service?
There will be no need to keep a separate landline phone service -- all incoming and outgoing calls are provided over a technology called Voice over Internet Protocol -- or VOIP for short.
There are many advantages -- not the least of which is crystal clear clarity of calls, and no charges whatsoever for calling other VOIP phones anywhere in the world. And you don't need to be restricted to voice calls only -- full high definition video calls can be carried over the network as well.
There are somewhat over 200 providers of VOIP phone services which interconnect with the conventional phone system, all offering a range of calling plans and features which significantly reduce your cost of calling -- whether it's simply local geographic numbers, mobile phone calls or calls to the most distant parts of the world. We will assist you in selecting the package which best suits your needs.
You can keep your existing analogue phone handsets -- either plugged in or cordless -- using a low costs adaptor, or you may wish to take the opportunity to purchase the very latest high performance VOIP handsets -- prices start at around £30.
Do I have to change my phone number?
No, there's no need to change your landline phone number unless you want to (many customers decide to do this as it significantly reduces the likelihood of nuisance calls).
VOIP services allow you to have numbers assigned from any exchange in the UK, from freefone numbers, and indeed from many countries overseas. You can also choose to have multiple numbers available, so that a business for example could offer a local number in each country in which it operates.
If you decide to keep your existing phone number, it is ported across in much the same way as mobile numbers can be ported between operators. The process takes a few days but of course you can keep using your existing number while this takes place. Depending on the call package chosen, some VOIP operators will levy a small administrative charge for this porting service.
Can this improve my mobile phone reception?
Yes, to the extent that service can be provided over your existing smartphone (Apple, Android or Windows), tablet or laptop using your home or business wi-fi service. You will receive improved call quality and potentially significantly lower costs. Video calling, conference calling and originating/receiving calls via both your landline number and your mobile number are supported.
When away from your home or office, calls will be made or received over the mobile network in the normal way. By using some of the alternate mobile carriers you may well find that you can save substantially on your mobile call charges, as much more of your traffic will be priced at low rates over a VOIP service rather than at mobile calling prices.
There are a wide variety of options available, and we will help you choose the ones that are most suitable for you, your family and your business colleagues and employees.
How does the broadband service reach my home or business?
The broadband network will consist of a fibre ring dug in a narrow (15mm) hole across fields to the rear of properties using a mole plough or equivalent.
In exceptional circumstances, we may install fibre by micro-trenching into the road surface, though we will normally install fibre under roads to avoid surface degradation. Modern micro-trenching units dig a trench just 15 mm wide. After the trench is dug, fibre conduit is laid at the bottom and sealed in place with filler to maintain the structural integrity of the road, following which a layer of asphalt or a pre-formed insert is placed on the surface, matching the existing road surface.
How does the fibre connect into my property?
We plan to install all fibre cabling into your property either underground or along the base of a wall or driveway, meaning that there will be no more unsightly wires or telegraph poles.
On completion of the scheme we would hope that it would be possible to remove all the existing poles and copper wires as they will be redundant, thus improving the overall aesthetics of the area.
The cable run into your property will be installed by us after consultation with you. Across soft ground – lawns or flowerbeds – it is recommended that it is buried slightly below spade depth to avoid accidental damage.
Once the fibre cable is in the trench, our engineers will call to route the cable into your property, install the fibre router unit, connect to your existing wiring and test and demonstrate the working service to you to your satisfaction.
Will I still need a satellite dish or TV/Radio aerial?
Virtually all standard (terrestrial broadcast) services including digital radio from across the world are delivered over the fibre network without any need for TV/radio aerials.
Additionally, all your premium channels from Sky, Netflix, Amazon Prime video etc. can similarly be delivered over the fibre cable without the need for any satellite dish.
You are likely to be surprised by the wealth of choices available to you, and 'downloading' videos will become a thing of the past. The tendency to watch programmes when the broadcaster puts them on will change, and you'll be free to watch what you want when you want to -- even on multiple sets in the same house.
Needless to say, our service speeds support the latest 4K Ultra High Definition TVs!
Will the current telegraph wires and poles still be needed?
No, they will not be needed once all the properties have been connected via fibre.
However it will be BT Openreach’s job to remove poles and wires, as they are the owners.
When will the service be available?
Our current timescale is that services will be live by the summer of 2018. We are starting network construction in April, and hope to be finished by the middle of May. Inauguration of live service -- and a community party! -- will follow shortly thereafter, the critical path being the backhaul connection which relies on BT.
We may decide to extend the network to adjoining hamlets and villages if the demand is forthcoming. Exact timings will be dependent on local interest in take-up of the service.
As we are a community company, additional revenues from new users are used for the benefit of the community, either to reduce the charges to existing users or to fund community projects.
What about the effect on any current broadband contract I may have?
You will need to consult your current supplier in regard to your existing contract termination arrangements.
Most incumbent supplier contracts are for a fixed 12-month or 18-month basis initially, then extended automatically (usually at a higher price) on a month-by-month basis.
However, when price rises are imposed (as is the case last month with standard BT residential and business prices) then the customer has the option of cancelling his existing service without paying any termination penalty.
If you are finding your contact with your existing supplier is being problematic, please talk to us and we may be able to help, as current services fail to meet the Universal Service Committment (2Mbps) that operators are required to provide.
How good is the backup service in the event of a fault?
Significantly better than with your current supplier!
Because the network will chiefly be underground and not in danger from flood, rain, wind, snow or other elements, it is inherently reliable.
Most faults can be diagnosed and restored remotely, and a fault reporting line is provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Standard response to a full network outage will be 4 hours, and failure of a single users’ service will normally be next day or a maximum of two business days in exceptional circumstances (i.e. if you have accidentally dug up your fibre connection!).
What if I don't live in Ridgehill itself`?
We may decide to extend the network to adjacent hamlets, villages and isolated properties, but this will require some contribution to the costs of providing service to each group of properties.
The amount of the investment will depend on a number of factors -- the most important of which is the percentage of properties wishing to go ahead with installing the service. Normally at least 30% take-up will be necessary for the service to be brought to a neighbouring area in a cost-effective manner.
We're keen to work with broadband 'champions' in each locality to get service to those who want it. With our growing experience of installing fibre cabling and our use of local contractors, we can respond quickly and cost-effectively to other community needs.
Remember, better broadband and connectivity lead to significant increase in the quality of rural life, the ability to create and retain local rural businesses, and the value of property and its saleability: residential estate agents indicate price differentials between 2% and 8%.
Will it cost more if I'm a long way from the main cable?
Not really in the way your question is raised.
We plan to bring the service to the nearest point in the field or road adjacent to the curtilage of your property, and then undertake the soft dig (i.e. through lawns, beds, under flagstones etc.) to the chosen entry point on your property. If you'd like to help us by doing part of this yourself we will be very pleased to show you how.
Once the fibre is in the ground to your property, we will then attend the site to install the connection and fibre hub, and fully test and demonstrate how it works.
If a resident has not opted for a connection in the initial phase, we expect there will be additional charges for the work needed to get fibre to your premises if you wish us to do it. Such charges are likely to be distance related as dig contractors charge per metre.
What are the alternatives to Ridgehill Community Broadband?
There are two basic options:
You can wait (for an indeterminate time) for a national operator to build you a full fibre network; or
You can seize the opportunity to join our community venture and get service operational by the beginning of summer this year.
Because RRCN is funded by private money from the community, no commercial operator including BT can use public funding such as that provided through Fastershire. Clearly it would be a mis-use of public sector funding to subsidise a privately financed network such as ours.
So you can continue to wait in the hope that a commercial operator may come into the valley using his own cash, or you can take steps to help build and deliver what we want for our community, when we want it, and be in a position that is superior to 97% of the broadband delivered across the UK today.
Will it cost me more if I sign up later?
The costs associated with undertaking bespoke installations at a later date significantly exceed the costs of being installed as we are building the network. We also may not even have capacity to connect you later.
If you are in the situation where you wish to let your current contract run until it expires, then we would urge you to sign up now and allow us to plan for your connection as we are undertaking the initial work. You will not be charged for service until you take it.
Who do I call if I need more information or have any problems?
Call us on phone 01432 274479 or email us at email@example.com. We'll make sure that your questions get relayed to the most appropriate person to respond.
We also have directors and champions within the community who can talk things through and assist on site. And we are very happy to have additional volunteers – please let us know if you would be interested in this important community activity.
Our ability to provide the best broadband and connectivity services to Ridgehill and its surrounding communities is dependent on developing and delivering on the community ethos.
It's how we can deliver significantly superior services at lower costs than traditional suppliers. And the benefits, both socially and financially, stay within the local community.