Newsletter – June 2022

Over 76,500 properties now able to connect to the fibre network

Topics in this edition:

  • CSW Project updates – Contract 3
  • UK ISPs urged to support low-income homes by offering discounted packages – Update
  • Government proposals would make gigabit broadband mandatory for all new homes
  • Upgrading landlines to digital technology – what you need to know
  • Copy for your own website or newsletter
  • Your questions answered

CSW Project updates – Contract 3

Another 20 Contract 3 structures have now gone live since our last newsletter was published in March. The communities benefiting from these most recent upgrades include parts of:

Abbots Salford (near Salford Priors), Bishop’s Tachbrook, Bishopton, Bradnocks Marsh, Cherington, Clifford Chambers, Haselor, Kenilworth, Lighthorne, Nether Whitacre, Outhill, Radford Semele, Stretton under Fosse, Upper Quinton, Wappenbury and Willington.

As a result of this, over 76,500 properties across the region are now able to connect to the fibre network thanks to the work of the CSW Broadband Project.

As always, once we have received confirmation that a particular upgrade has been completed, we will try and inform as many of the affected residents as possible.

Remember, once your property has been upgraded, you won’t get a faster service automatically. You need to order the improved service with your chosen ISP in order to benefit from it. See our ‘Your questions answered’ section later in this newsletter for more information on this.

UK ISPs urged to support low-income homes by offering discounted packages – Update

In our last newsletter, we reported on how Ofcom’s Affordability Report had found that only 55000 households across the UK had taken up a cheaper broadband social tariff package offered by UK ISPs.

Since then, as was recently reported by ISP Review, the Government’s Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, has increased the pressure on the bigger UK ISPs by calling on them to put more effort into promoting the existence of such tariffs, which are usually offered to those who may be unemployed or on certain benefits.

One of the biggest reasons for the lack of take-up has been the lack of consumer awareness around the existence of such tariffs. Ofcom found that 84% of benefits recipients were unaware that they existed.

This is partly due to the fact that broadband ISPs do not tend to openly promote these plans alongside their main products. They are often hidden away on separate pages, which require more effort to uncover and so, while a number of broadband ISPs currently offer low cost social tariffs, only 1.2% of the estimated 4.2 million eligible households have actually signed up for them.

The Culture Secretary has now reinforced Ofcom’s plea for ISPs to make such tariffs more prominent on their websites and making it easier for consumers to sign up by writing to the bosses of a number of UK ISPs, asking them to clearly outline their plans for drawing more attention to such concessions.

Broadband connectivity may only account for a small slice of household expenditure but it has increasingly become a necessity for many and with the country in the midst of the current cost of living crisis, access to such packages will be a welcome relief for those who are most in financial need.

Government proposals would make gigabit broadband mandatory for all new homes

In late December 2021, the UK government launched a technical consultation on proposals to change building regulations to ensure that new homes have gigabit-capable connectivity installed in them as standard practice.

Around one in ten new-build homes are still being built without gigabit connections. These are mostly in smaller developments, where the cost can be higher or where broadband companies have not had the time they need to install connections before houses are completed.

Changes to the existing Building Regulations (2010), would mean that home developers would be legally required by law to build gigabit-capable connectivity into new homes in England and make it a priority as part of their building work.

Developers would also be required to bring broadband network operators on board to consider gigabit capable connectivity when construction plans are submitted to local councils / planning authorities.

These measures will not only give more people access to future-proof internet connections but also reduce the need for costly and disruptive work to install them retrospectively.

Since these changes were first unveiled back in March 2020, progress has been slow – largely due to delays relating to the COVID-19 pandemic but the launch of the consultation was a step in the right direction.

The consultation has now closed and the Government has stated that they “aim to publish the consultation response and lay the implementing legislation as soon as Parliamentary time allows, with the legislative amendments coming into force as soon as possible.”

For anyone thinking of purchasing a new build property before the new law comes in, our advice would be to check with the developer that they have installed or are planning to install gigabit-capable broadband and get written confirmation of this BEFORE you buy.

Upgrading landlines to digital technology – what you need to know

The technology that we use to make landline phone calls is due to be upgraded over the next few years but what does this mean for you as a landline customer?

Traditionally, landline phone calls have been delivered over the old ‘copper’ telephone network known as the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). However, the equipment used in the PSTN was developed and installed in the 1980’s and is becoming harder and increasingly more expensive to maintain. BT has therefore taken the decision to retire the PSTN by the end of December 2025.

Telecoms providers have been investing heavily in new systems and infrastructure networks such as full fibre, which means that in the future, landline calls can be delivered via digital technology called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which uses a broadband connection.

Your landline provider will contact you well in advance of when the process to start migrating your old landline to your new telephone service will apply to you and your property.

Once a home service is moved from PSTN to VoIP, the phone will generally work in the same way as it always has, but it will need to be plugged into a broadband router instead of into the phone socket on your wall. If you need any new equipment – e.g. a new router, your provider should sort this out for you.

This change from PSTN to VoIP will affect other devices that rely on a phone line – such as some fire and burglar alarm systems and telecare devices. It is therefore important that you mention those devices to your provider and check if they need to be replaced or reconfigured in order to continue working when they notify you that your service is to be migrated.

Once the PSTN is switched off, if you wish to continue having a landline phone, but don’t already have broadband or don’t use a broadband service, you will generally still need to have a suitable connection. Ofcom expects that providers will have a range of options for people in this situation.

However, as VoIP services will operate successfully on broadband connections of less than 1Mbps, customers should not be forced to take out a high-speed broadband package if they do not want to.

One issue with VoIP that has raised concerns with residents is what happens during a power cut at your property? A phone connected to a broadband router wouldn’t work as it gets its power from the property’s mains electricity supply. So what if you needed to call the emergency services?

If you rely on your landline – for example, you don’t have a mobile phone, are unable to use a mobile phone or you don’t have a mobile signal inside your home – your ISP must make sure that you are able to contact the emergency services in the event of a power cut. This could be in the form of battery back-up so that your landline will continue to work for the minimum of at least 1 hour.

However, since the end of 2018, Ofcom’s published guidance states an expectation to ‘recommend only providing battery back-up or other protection facilities to vulnerable consumers.’

If you would still quite like the option of a back-up solution but aren’t in a vulnerable group, ISP Review’s Solutions for Battery Back-up of Fibre Broadband and VoIP article provides you with some options.

If you have any further queries or concerns about the migration to VoIP technology, we suggest you contact your landline or broadband provider in the first instance. More information is also available at the Future of Voice website.

Copy for your own website or newsletter

As always, we have a range of short articles of around 300 words that can be downloaded for use in your own newsletters / websites should you wish to use them.

Your questions answered

Here are some of the Questions and Answers (Q&A’s) that residents have raised recently. Our website has a full set of Frequently Asked Questions, which are regularly updated.

Once the upgrade to my property is complete, will I automatically get a faster service?

No. You must order an improved broadband package through your chosen Internet Service Provider (ISP) to take advantage of the faster speeds. This is what we suggest you do.

First of all, enter your landline or address into the BT Broadband Availability Checker.

If your property has been upgraded to superfast broadband via a Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) solution, then ‘VDSL Range A & B’ will be listed under ‘Featured Products’ along with the speeds you are likely to achieve.

If your property has been upgraded to ultrafast broadband via a Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) solution, then ‘WBC FTTP’ will be listed under ‘Featured Products’ column.

Our How to use the BT Broadband Availability Checker webpage will help you make sense of these results.

Then use one of the many broadband comparison sites available online (such as those listed below) to find and order the right package at the right price for your household or business:

The ordering process is slightly different if your property has benefited from an FTTP upgrade. Our Ordering an FTTP service webpage provides you with information on the installation process and also includes a list of ISPs who state that they offer residential and / or business packages in all or parts of the CSW region.

What is Fibre on Demand?

We have again received a number of enquiries from residents recently where the BT Broadband Availability Checker suggests that a product called FTTP on Demand is available at their property, offering speeds of up to 1000Mbps.

This is NOT the same as the Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) product that CSW has been installing, though it is easy to get the two products confused because they essentially function in identical ways. However, their cost, contract length and deployment methods have tended to be significantly different.

With the FTTP solution that CSW is installing (listed as ‘WBC FTTP’ under Featured Products on the BT Broadband Availability Checker), the fibre optic cable will have been installed outside your property (e.g. down your street), which makes it fairly quick and inexpensive to get connected.

By comparison, FTTP on Demand is designed to be requested (‘on demand‘) in Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) capable areas where the fibre optic cables have yet to reach specific properties. In some cases, this will attract significant distance-based construction charges (civil works) costing thousands of pounds.

Because of the high costs involved (and often the requirement for a much longer than standard contract), very few providers actually offer FTTP on Demand. Some providers that we are aware of include Cerberus Networks and FluidOne, though there may well be others.

FTTP on Demand is therefore likely to remain a niche product for those who are prepared to pay the often very expensive additional installation charges and a higher ongoing monthly cost.

For more information on making sense of the BT Broadband Availability Checker results, visit our How to use the BT Broadband Availability Checker webpage.

You can find more frequently asked broadband questions on our website.

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