FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about B4SH’s service

How does gigabit compare to current broadband speeds?

Compared to most standard broadband packages, which offer download speeds of 20 to 100 Mbps, gigabit speeds are an exponential increase. We’re talking 1,000 Mbps, or 1 million bits per second.

The other major benefit of B4SH gigabit is that download speeds are matched with upload speeds. Traditionally, you’ll get a much smaller pipe for uploading, which is part of the reason you can watch a 5-minute YouTube video in roughly 5 minutes, but uploading the same amount of footage can take over an hour.

Will you use BT’s network?

No. We are installing a brand new, full fibre network. It will use the latest fibre-optic technology, rather than ageing copper wires, so will be more reliable.

What can I do with gigabit speeds?

All that data — a million bits per second — means that you can do everything you already do online, but a lot more of it, and faster. All of your usual web browsing and streaming will be supported, but with much higher speeds and far less congestion on your home network. That said, there are several specific uses that benefit dramatically from the new fat pipe of data that gigabit connectivity offers.

  • Streaming video: All that bandwidth means lag-free Netflix, even when you’re watching different shows on different devices at once. But the real improvement is that 4K streaming which uses four to five times as much data as a 1080p stream, will be just as fast, without the interminable loading and buffer times you may experience on standard broadband.
  • Online gaming: Anyone who has ever lost a match due to a laggy connection will appreciate the switch to gigabit speeds. With matching up/down speeds, you’ll never again need to worry about slow ping rates and spotty connections.
  • Immersive media: Ultra HD streaming is just the tip of the iceberg, as faster upload and download speeds make more immersive media, like 360-degree video and VR, more accessible. As higher data capacity goes mainstream, you can expect new media formats to take advantage of this, just as streaming video exploded when broadband became mainstream.
  • Data backup: Traditionally, backing up data has been centered around local storage, like external hard drives, especially for data-heavy uses like videos. With the move to gigabit speeds, expect more cloud capability and backups that you can access anywhere, anytime.
  • Multiple users: Finally, the biggest reason to switch to gigabit speed isn’t to satisfy one prolific data hog, but rather several users. A family of four can max out a broadband connection quite easily with little more than a movie marathon and a round of Grand Theft Auto online, but gigabit speeds promise to support far more data simultaneously, making it possible to stream music in the kitchen, 4K video in the living room and a game in the kids’ rooms without a hiccup.

What does ‘hyperfast’ mean?

We will offer, as standard, a 1,000 Megabits (1 Gigabit) per second symmetric service (same speeds upload and download). Most suppliers only offer residential customers an asymmetric service (fast download and much slower upload). Other suppliers’ symmetric services tend to be available only to businesses, and very expensive.

How fast is 1Gig?

Most BT broadband lines run over copper cable and can provide around a 50Mb connection. The further you are from the Green Cabinet, where the fibre terminates the slower you connection will be.

WIth a pure fibre network B4SH provides a full 1,000 Mb connection. That’s about 20 times faster than a good BT connection.

For a visual comparison see the video on the Home page.

 

Will my service be slower if I’m not near your main fibre route?

No. The B4SH network is full fibre to the premises so will connect straight into the home or business. No copper, no delay, reliability problems reduced and distance no issue.

The Surrey Hills is a rural AONB and homes and businesses can be sparsely situated. Current suppliers connect customers to cabinets using copper wires and some at great distance. The speed offered to these residents is affected by how close they are to the cabinet, and the more rural you are, the longer the line can be.

How proven is the technology?

We are modelling ourselves on, and receiving technical support from, the highly successful Broadband for Rural North (B4RN) who offer a Gig Broadband service in Lancashire/Yorkshire/Cumbria. We connect into B4RN’s data centre in London, which provides worldwide connectivity and facilities for the continuous monitoring of our network.

 

Can we trust the network to be reliable?

“Good broadband is boring, it just does what it should do”, said Chris Conder, one of the founding team at Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN). We are replicating their proven network design to allow our network to be just as reliable.

As we will not use any existing networks, we will install new fibre and use the latest technology.  However, new does not mean untested, B4RN have approaching 5,000 customers currently connected and we will be linking to their network.

Why the Surrey Hills?

Walter Willcox, one of our founding directors, became involved with B4RN in 2010 and was so delighted with their progress he wanted to introduce the same service to the Surrey Hills where he recognised that there were many areas of poor service but sparse populations resulting in current suppliers being unable or unwilling to install new fibre services.

Is my service monitored for faults?

Yes.  The service will be monitored remotely 24/7 and network faults will be flagged to local teams.  After first line support has ruled out a problem with the customer’s equipment, we will visit the fault site, locate and repair the fault.  Many faults are quickly resolved over the phone.

Is the service proven?

We are modelling ourselves on, and receiving technical support from, the highly successful Broadband for Rural North (B4RN) who offer a corresponding service to the community in Lancashire/Yorkshire/Cumbria.  We will connect into B4RN’s data centre in London, which provides worldwide connectivity and facilities for the continuous monitoring of our network.

I like what I hear about B4SH, what can I do to help?

  1. Invest
  2. Volunteer (this is an evolving list)
    • Talk to possible investors.  We are being funded by the community and have already raised a significant amount but more funding is needed
    • Help us plan the route using your local knowledge
    • Come forward if you have knowledge of mapping software
    • Help us set up our CRM (customer relationship management) software
    • Help us with digging or excavating trenches, chambers etc
    • Blow and fuse fibre – if you already have these skills please get in touch, if not we can train you
    • Do leaflet drops
    • Become a Local Champion.  We need people to help us co-ordinate with their neighbours, represent their area or just talk to your neighbours, find out about levels of interest for us.

Will you do all the installation?

We will install the main fibre route and provision for service for all properties we pass.  Payment of the installation fee will cover the cost of all the equipment (duct, fibre, router, gas block box) and installation to connect your home, but the property owner will need to dig in (or lay) the duct across your own land.

How do you fund the cost of building the network?

Building and running the network is funded by monies raised from investors.  B4SH is privately funded so needs independent investors to cover our costs.  We rely on volunteers to do a lot of the work, but need funds to cover the cost of materials and equipment.

How does the Tax Relief work?

B4SH applied for, and were granted, Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR), as a result investors will be able to apply to HMRC for SITR, which is currently 30%.  Individuals making an eligible investment can deduct 30% of the cost of their investment from their income tax liability, either for the tax year in which the investment is made or the previous tax year.  The investment must be held for a minimum period of 3 years for the relief to be retained.

An overview of SITR can be found at https://www.gov.uk/

How do I become a member of B4SH?

Anyone purchasing shares becomes a member of B4SH and is entitled to vote at general meetings and become involved in the strategy of the society.  The minimum shareholding is £500 and the maximum shareholding is £100,000.  As a community benefit society, each member is entitled to one vote at general meetings, irrespective of the number of shares they own.

Why should community spirit entice me to invest?

We provide opportunities for public-spirited people and organisations to contribute to the community, financially (or by volunteering), with the expectation of a social dividend, rather than personal financial reward.

Is B4SH a registered company?

Yes.  Broadband for Surrey Hills Ltd (known as B4SH) is a registered society with the Financial Conduct Authority under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 (registration number 7656).

B4SH’s annual accounts and statutory returns will be available to view on the Mutuals Public Register maintained by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Does B4SH pay dividends?

As a community benefit society, B4SH is not for profit and must operate for the benefit of its defined community (ie its potential clients) rather than only for the benefit of its members and shareholders.  B4SH cannot pay dividends, but can pay interest on its shares; however only at a level necessary to attract and maintain the investment needed to fund the network construction and operation.  Any surplus funds must be used to benefit the community and cannot be distributed to shareholders.

However, as we do not pay dividends we should have better control over future pricing and there is no need to increase subscriptions to cover shareholder returns.

How do I sell my shares?

All shares are “withdrawable shares” and can only be sold back to B4SH. They have no potential for capital gains and will only be redeemed at face value.

Will I get interest on my shares?

For the first four years the investment cannot be withdrawn nor will any interest be paid. From year 5 and onwards annual interest will be paid at a rate which will be determined by the board after taking into account the financial position of the society and FCA rules. At present the target rate is 3% which is paid in the form of additional shares credited to the investor’s account annually.

From year 5 onwards investors may apply to withdraw their investment but all withdrawals will be at the discretion of the directors.  For more information see our Application to Invest and our Business Plan.

Why should I invest?

Your investment in our service will influence our route planning as we aim to connect all our investors to our service.  If, however, we have very low levels of interest in subscribing and insufficient investors we will unfortunately have to modify or stop our rollout plans.  We have faith in the service being a success and believe that once people have experienced the benefits of the service they will invest.  It is important to remember we are not reinventing the wheel, we just aim to give the Surrey Hills what the hills of Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire are experiencing today – fast and reliable broadband.

What happens if I don’t invest?

Without your investment we will not be able to build the network as quickly and, in some instances, if there is insufficient interest we will not be able to build the network to your area.  Your investment will also influence where our network goes as we will seek to connect our investors as swiftly as we can.