Monday, June 26, 2017

My Personal Post Mortem Evaluation

If this project had been delivered under my auspices as a Technology Executive I would ask for a post mortem.  Projects that come in a year after their promise dates deserve some reflection on what went wrong even when the end result is a great one.  This was not my project and I know woefully little about the most significant cause of the delay which I understand was the time it took to come to agreement with Openreach on the deployment strategy for our solution.

My minimal understanding is that in order for Temple to have the optimal solution, which is to have our own phone cabinet and accompanying DSLAM cabinet, Openreach needed to open their network to Call Flow.  Apparently this is not something that Openreach wanted to do.  Hence the escalation to Ofcom.

This lack of information, however, is my primary complaint about the project.  Roger and I were extremely interested in all aspects of the project, we were willing to get our hands dirty, and we were at least reasonably knowledgeable on aspects of a technology rollout.  Unfortunately, even when Ofcom was involved on behalf of our village, we were not informed.

I wonder if we could have helped?  I think we could have.  Unfortunately through this entire project we, or myself at least, felt a little like a mushroom.  We did get regular status updates...but generally only when we asked.  So we asked often.  This was a government funded project and I think we had the right to know what was being done on our behalf.  It was also a technology project yet other than a very static website there was no proactive use of any of the myriad of web based communication products and techniques that could have been used to keep us informed.  In my experience, proactive communications reduces the need to answer calls that might not have been made in the first place if information was made available more freely.

So that is my post mortem evaluation.  Involve the end user to the greatest extent possible and communicate openly and frequently.  The project was a success.  The result is truly game changing for Temple.  We are glad to have it in place.  Can't help but wonder if Roger and I could not have helped to get it here a little sooner though!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

It is Here and it Rocks

As of Tuesday, the 13th of June, Temple is well and truly on Superfast Broadband!  The homes closes to the cabinet are getting over 100mbps.  Homes on the Island are getting over 50 and at least one nearly 100mbps.  The home furthest away from the new cabinet is getting 40mbps (though this may have improved since this was written given some profile changes made by Call Flow).

Given that download speeds before the upgrade were in the range of 1 to 3mbps ... this is truly transformational:

  • My wife works from home occasionally across a typical Virtual Private Network and has struggled in the past with speed.  Access to corporate systems based in the US is now faster at home than when she is in the office.  
  • A neighbor was still not completely convinced about the upgrade until they missed a show and the was able to stream the catch up version  without waiting for hours.  They are now convinced.
  • I did a stress test where I ran three video streams, an audio stream, and did a 100gb download, all with no discernible impact on each other.  
  • The Waitrose ordering website is running faster than ever as well! Which is good since whoever programmed it obviously did not care about those of us with crappy Internet connections.  It took me a good 15 minutes less to do this weeks order than it did for last weeks.  
  • Over the weekend my wife and I watched a movie on our Apple TV device.  Normally we would have had to start the download days in advance.  This weekend we streamed HD in real time.

Superfast Broadband rocks.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Switching from BT to Call Flow

Below are some points of interest for folks switching to Call Flow from BT.  Roger from the Island got this info from conversations with BT and with Call Flow.  This is the text of his message to the Island Residents:

You only need to read this if you are taking up or thinking of taking up the Call Flow Superfast Fibre Broadband service.

Residents are signing up for Superfast Fibre Broadband with Call Flow
 because e
nquiries about staying with existing supplier like BT, Sky, TalkTalk are getting the same response ... they are
​ not currently offering​
 Fibre. 

So if you want to upgrade you need to use this link to register:

https://www.callflow.co.uk/cov erage-and-speed/ 

Put in your postcode and select your address from the dropdown
​.​
​        There is a Special Offer on​
 the top package and you may wish to add one of the Phone Call Packages.

Existing supplier BT has been acknowledging requests through Call Flow with standard letters saying they're sorry to see you go but mentioning a couple of important points. 

They say that you're leaving the
​ir​
 Broadband and that your Phone Landline will continue on new terms. 
​Ignore t​
his is
​ as it is​
 a very short interim position. 
​O​
nce Broadband is swapped to Call Flow, they will automatically then switch the Phone Landline to Call Flow. If you are switching
​,​
 the Landline and Fibre Broadband can only be Call Flow, 
​that's ​
both
​ -​
 not one or the other.
​ The whole procedure should take less than two weeks once Call Flow have processed your order.​
 

Secondly, and an important consideration
​. O
nce you've switched
​,​
 there is a period of just 30 days to make arrangements for your BT email address. If your email ends with @btinternet.com then it will disintegrate along with all historical records
​​
 after 30 days with no way of recovery. And if someone writes to you at your old @btinternet.com email it will not be delivered. 
​Same probably applies to you with TalkTalk and Sky.
You have two alternatives. You can change your email to one of the independent emails like Gmail or Hotmail and advise every one of your contacts to use your new email. Or you can pay BT £5 a month for their Premium Mail Service to 
​effectively ​
buy 
​back ​
your old @btinternet.com email on a 30-day rolling notice contract. 

My advice would be to bite the bullet and change to Gmail
​ or Hotmail​
, advise everyone but then 
​if you're worried about missing emails, ​
​consider ​
pay
​ing​
 the £5 a month to BT for a few months to see what continues to come through on your old 
​@btinternet.com ​
email address, mopping up stragglers by reminding them you've changed to Gmail
​/Hotmail​
.
​ ​
Once emails stop coming through to your old 
​@btinternet.com ​
email address you could cancel the 
​£5 ​
​monthly Premium Mail Service​.

Any questions please post below.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Initial Installation has Been Scheduled

There is a scheduled date of June 13th now for the migration of people that have already signed up.  I am not sure what the cut off is, or will be, for this date.  I am hoping that due to the year long delay in us getting service that we might see this date pulled forward but I guess I should just be patient.

When you get the note from Call Flow letting you know that your order is in to Openreach you should notice that your phone service will take a couple of weeks to follow.  I am not sure what you will get in terms of communications from other vendors but if you are currently with BT you will get a note from them saying they are sorry to see you go but noting that your phone service will be staying with them.  When you see this remember the note from Call Flow!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

It is HERE!

Openreach has turned the fibre circuit over the Call Flow so Temple is now connected to the Superfast Internet.   Call Flow has done the work they needed to do, that normally takes two weeks, in a single day.  Orders that Call Flow has already, or will be taking now, will be filled in two to three weeks.  This is the time required to do the actual cut over of service with Call Flow making a request of Openreach for the individual line to be provisioned.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Superfast Broadband is (Almost) Here!

The below is the content of a flyer that is going to be delivered to residents of Temple that live outside of the Island where a regular newsletter has been carrying updates. I was able to talk informally to one of the Openreach engineers today who informed me that fibre has now been run to our new cabinet and that everything should be within a couple of days of turnover to Call Flow. I have asked our liaison at Openreach for an update but have not heard anything that would give us a good idea of when a turnover will occur. Once the turnover is done Call Flow have pledged to be ready in a week! So the question is...what is ALMOST?

Superfast Broadband is (Almost) Here!

In the coming days Temple will go from having some of the nation's worst broadband speeds to having some of the best.  Bradenham Lane is currently closed to allow for the laying of the fibre cable for our new service.   We are close!

Background

Three years ago I learned that BT had decided that it was economically unviable for them to upgrade our Internet service to a fast, fibre based, solution.  The good news is that the government is helping communities like ours with a program called Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).   I contacted Superfast Berkshire, who are working with BDUK, and they introduced me to Roger Thurston who lives on the Island and was also interested in getting Temple onto the high speed internet.

To make a long story short, with the help of the community, we were able to get Temple included in the current round of funding for broadband upgrades.  This was announced two years ago (July of 2015) with the expectation that we would have our new service by June of the following year.  Again, in the interest of brevity, it is now almost June of 2017, it has been a long road to get here, but our upgrade should be completed very soon.

What This Means to You

If you are happy with your current broadband service you do not need to do anything.  Nothing will change for you.  The good news is that it may actually be a little easier for you to sell your house when the time comes as having access to a fibre based Internet connection is important to a growing number of home buyers!

If you are interested in the new service you will need to contact Call Flow to switch from your current phone and internet service provider (Bt, Talktalk, etc) to a Call Flow package.  They won the contract to provide the needed technical infrastructure to give us access to the high speed Internet.  There were costs to provide that service that were above and beyond what would normally be entailed and while some of those costs were offset by Superfast Berkshire and BDUK there was also an investment made by Call Flow.  For this reason the high speed service will cost slightly more than a “normal” service from vendors such as BT, Talktalk, or Sky.  At some point in the future there may be other vendors offering us service using the infrastructure that Call Flow has put into place but for now you can ask your current vendor but be prepared to contact Call Flow!

Browse to https://www.callflow.co.uk/ and enter your postcode to see how fast an upgraded connection will be.  The closer you are to the new cabinets the faster your speed will be.  Our estimate is for 90 mbps! They are taking orders already.

Please note that I am in no way connected with Call Flow.  I am simply communicating what I know about the upgrade.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ever So Close

The road is closed, trenching has begun, and cable is being pulled.  No one has committed to a completion date but one of the workers did say that things were going "exceedingly well".  Sounds good to me!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Road Closure Sign is Up!

We are closing in on a completion.  A sign indicating that the road will be closed for installation of the new conduit is a clear indication of that progress.

Both Call Flow and Openreach have pledged to have our service up and running quickly once the new conduit is built.

I hate to make predictions but June is starting to look possible?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Inching Forwards

We now have a schedule for the closure of Brandenham Lane on the RWBM website for the last two weeks of May.  The same dates are on Openreach's works calendar according to Call Flow.

Hopefully everything will be routine from here on out and come mid-June we will have high speed service.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sign Post for Progress?

Call Flow has added us to their database!  This means that you can enter your postcode and get an estimate for your speed and see how much that speed will cost you.   You can also place your order and get in line behind me.

https://www.callflow.co.uk/coverage-and-speed/

We have not heard anything, yet anyway, to indicate that June is not going to be feasible as our go-live.  It is all up to the road closure proceeding smoothly and Openreach doing their thing expeditiously!

Below is what went out to the residents of the Island:

Call Flow are hopeful of providing Superfast Fibre Broadband to Temple late next month, if Highways stick to allowing Bradenham Lane closure
​ so that our Fibre Cable can be brought down from the A404​
. They have now published their tariff and estimate speeds of up to 80Mbps, 
​though​
 our village expert calculates
​ more likely​
 
​up to 50​
Mbps.  

If you are interested to subscribe to Superfast Fibre Broadband then please read on. If you are not interested and are satisfied with the Standard Broadband you currently use then there is nothing you need do, nothing will change. 

Call Flow are making a special offer of free installation and a free modem for their top unlimited package. It will be at the same price as their middle "capped" package for which there is a
​ £60​
 installation charge. Who wouldn't, I'll be signing up for
​ the Special Offer​
, along with Anytime Phone Calls. 

Please note that the prices include Line Rental but phone calls are charged by the minute other than free calls to 0800 and 0808 numbers. A Phone Package can be bought, either Evenings & Weekends or Anytime. 

It is an Eighteen-Month Contract with early termination fees. 

Please see precise details by clicking on this Link. If you pre-order, your payment will not be processed until Call Flow contact you on your live date. 

https://www.callflow.co.uk/cov erage-and-speed/ 

Put in your postcode and select your address from the dropdown. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Maybe by the Start of the Summer

Highways RBWM is unwilling to move the closure of Bradenham Lane forward any more than to the middle of May.  It seems that we are somewhat ring fenced by other work being done on the 404 and the policy of not having the signage for two projects competing with each other.  The project that is most in our way is a four week effort being done by Highways England and ending the middle of May.   Andy Hudson, the Director from Openreach that is helping us to get connected, has had someone on his staff meet with Highways England in hopes that if their project is done more quickly than four weeks, that we might then get a jump start on ours.  Andy is hopeful that this will be the case.

The bottom line is that we will not get the fibre to our new cabinets until May.  This is why we were hoping that Openreach could have come to terms with Randall Farms.  It is too late now for a second path to help us but if we had been able to gain access to our neighbouring farm land we would likely be saving some months of waiting.  I guess having waited for years a couple of months is not that long but I am still disappointed that any additional delay is being added on top of the months and months that we have already seen tacked on the end of our original promise date.

If there is any good news it is that we have been assured that Call Flow will be ready to connect the fibre and offer us service in the minimal possible time.  We have not gotten any indication from them, however, as to what they expect that length of time to be.  I think that we can be assured that it will have been a year from when we had originally hoped to have been connected to when we are FINALLY brought out of the dark ages of Internet connectivity.  I lived on a boat in near Washington D.C. fifteen years ago and had better connectivity that I do now living in the shadow of one of the world's greatest cities.  It is really a little appalling.  Hopefully not for much longer.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Latest - Another Delay ... Go Figure

As our luck may have it, mostly bad that is, the conduit between the top of the lane at the 404 and our cabinets down here in the village is not passable and 200 meters of new conduit will need to be installed.  This will require a closure of the Brandenham Lane and that has been requested by the contractor that will do the work for Openreach.  The standard for such requests would be that our closure would be granted for some time three months from now.

This would, obviously, be painful as the original promise date for our improved service was a year ago this coming June!  This is the worst case though.  The contractor has requested an expedited closure.  If that fails then Andy Hudson will make the request through a more senior channel.  His hope is that we could still get the closure we need in the next couple of weeks.

This is where having a second route being worked in parallel may have helped us in regards to timings.

Stay tuned.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Couple More Tickboxes Checked Off

Openreach has completed a run of Fibre down the 404 and across traffic to near our exit from the 404 North.  This is the good news.  The bad news is that the task of running the fibre through our existing duct works requires a specialist contractor and to the best of our knowledge this has not yet been scheduled (our Openreach contact is on holiday).

As of today another contractor, working on behalf of Call Flow, is connecting power to the new cabinet that will house our high speed connection hardware.   We have asked Call Flow for an update on how long it will take to offer us service once the fibre is connected but our contact there is on holiday.

Finally, given all the holidays above, I reached out to Superfast Berkshire to see if they had any news. Guess what?  On holiday!  I kid you not.  Is there a special telecoms conference going on somewhere this week?

Hopefully the duct works overlay part of the project will be scheduled soon and will not encounter any issues.

This is where it would be nice if we could have to paths being pursued at one time. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Progressing Forward Again

Openreach needs to do two pieces of work to get the new fibre connection to the Call Flow cabinet.  The first of these tasks is to run the fiber itself and this has been scheduled for this week.  The second piece of work is to repair some of the ducting.   This work should be getting scheduled this week.  Obviously it is this second piece of work that is going to dictate when we can see fibre in Temple to which Call Flow can connect us.

Fingers Crossed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Not so Happy News

Below is an update from Openreach in regards to their efforts to get fibre to our new cabinets.

Unfortunately they have hit issues with both of the paths they can run along.  There is a blockage in the conduit in the first case and in the second the landowner along Temple Lane is asking for more compensation than Openreach are willing to offer (presumably because the other route would be less expensive even with all the extra works required).   Here is the text of the update from Andy Hudson of Openreach.

Will, Roger

With reference to the installation for Call Flow Solutions to serve your community.

I know you are eagerly awaiting the delivery of your solution and I thought I would provide you with an update.  This is more detail than we would usually provide but in the interest of good community relations I am happy to keep you informed.  Our customer for the solution is Call Flow Solutions and I have asked that they too get the same update too via their commercial team on copy.

The route via the farmers’ fields seems unlikely to progress as the farmer is seeking higher levels of compensation than we would support.  I do not have the details but our planning and wayleaves team are continuing to see if they can secure this option with the landowner. Helen Monroe on our side is leading this element and has everyone’s details following the site meeting.

The route down the road with the existing duct has a section that is not passable and requires replacing.  This necessitates building a joint box in the road or verge and laying new duct with a road closure.  This is being planned and the necessary permits and applications prepared.  I will inform you when we get traffic permit dates back.

We have applied for lane closures on the A404 to access our boxes along the main route as all the boxes are manholes in the main carriageway.

We will continue to complete or attempt as much work as is possible in parallel.

I should have some information or road closure dates etc within a week and I will drop you a note when I have more details.

Regards

Andy

The net impact of the above is a delay of anywhere from a couple weeks to several months (or more based on our record so far with this project).

I am hoping that someone in our community knows Mr. Randall well enough to reach out to him on behalf of the village.  It would be nice to know that he is aware that this project is not being driven by profitability for BT but by the government on behalf of his neighbors who campaigned relentlessly for a year to get it approved!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Happy High Speed New Year

It is the new year and things are starting to happen in earnest relative to our broadband speed upgrade!

Earlier this week Call Flow's new DSLAM (digital subscriber line access multiplexer) cabinet  was installed on top of the concrete pad that was put in place during December.  This is the cabinet that will contain the electronics that will get us on the super fast broadband that Call Flow will be offering shortly.


Once that cabinet appeared I notified BT Openreach (at their request) that it had been installed (hopefully they also had heard this from Call Flow)!  The very next day Openreach began the process of connecting the copper that will be our bridge between our phone lines (in their new cabinet) and the superfast connections in the new Call Flow cabinet.

The fibre connection is proceeding as well.  BT Openreach are pursuing two paths in parallel.  One path would come from a fibre pickup point near the exit to Temple on the 404 down the conduit the provides us with our phone service.  The downside of this path is that the conduit is crowded, though not at capacity, and the nature of the path into our valley is such that it may also have gotten silted up over time (creating a challenge for the running of our fibre).  Work on this path is set to begin on the 14th of January.

Given the possible issues with the above path a second option is also being pursued.  This option would take fibre from a pickup point close to the beginning of Temple Lane and trench it from there, down Temple Lane, and ultimately to the new cabinet that has just been installed.  There is a meeting on the 16th to discuss this approach with the landowner.

In the meantime we will be waiting for power to be supplied to the new Call Flow cabinet.  This has been ordered for mid February.  We have been informed that all setup activities can still be completed by Call Flow without power to the cabinet, however, for subscribers to gain access to the cabinet the power will need to be there!

All of the above is good news for a change.   In an ideal world we will not need the backup path for the fibre connection and we could have fibre to the new Call Flow cabinet in the coming days (or worst case week or two).  At that point it will be up to Call Flow to get their infrastructure working.  Continuing in the ideal world scenario this could mean that we might see high speed broadband available in February.