Questions and Answers

Got a question?

Hopefully we can answer it below. We’ve put together the questions people asked most when superfast broadband came to their area. From technical stuff to what happens next, we’ve got an answer for you.

Questions
What is Connecting Cheshire?

We are the lead body for The Connecting Cheshire Partnership, made up of the 4 local authorities across Cheshire – Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Halton and Warrington borough councils.

Connecting Cheshire is an award-winning partnership and is one of the best performing Broadband Delivery UK projects in the UK. The Partnership was established to deliver faster broadband to areas where it had not been commercially viable to invest previously. The first three phases of our roll-out are in partnership with BT and will see almost £20m invested to reach an additional 100,000 premises with fibre by the end of 2018.

For more information on the fibre infrastructure or if you are a Internet Service Provider and wish to access our network please visit:www.openreach.co.uk

The project is being funded by the European Regional Development Fund, BT, BDUK, and 4 local authorities.

What is the difference between the commercial roll-out and the Connecting Cheshire programme?

The ongoing commercial roll-out of fibre broadband is expected to reach around 80% of premises across Cheshire. Examples of areas where there is commercial deployment include Crewe, Chester, Warrington, Congleton and Ellesmere Port. This has been funded by providers such as BT Openreach and Virgin Media.

Typically the more outlying and rural areas have not been viable for commercial providers to invest in due to the high costs involved and more dispersed premises. These are the primary areas the Connecting Cheshire project has identified for public funding to improve broadband coverage and speeds.

Can I get involved?

Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Warrington and Halton Borough Councils are keen that as many residents as possible are able to benefit from the faster broadband that is being provided as part of Connecting Cheshire.

There may be opportunities for you to help in your local community by raising demand for broadband and helping those who have no experience with the internet to start using it.

To discuss what you could do to help please email us at info@connectingcheshire.org.uk

Anything else we can help you to find out?

If you have any questions, please check all our Frequently Asked Questions, and News pages which we update regularly.

We regularly update our social media channels with news of the latest roll-out progress:

We also have a number of useful videos about the project here:

We’re happy to answer any other questions you have about the project. You can contact us at info@connectingcheshire.org.uk. Please remember to include your telephone number and address including postcode to help speed up our response.

How does the programme plan its roll-out?

The aim of the project is to achieve the best ‘future-proof’ broadband coverage for Cheshire.

We’re planning the roll-out, working closely with our partners and participating organisations, taking into account many factors including local demographics and geography, planning requirements, the existing engineering infrastructure and the availability of suitable technologies to provide a service.

Unfortunately cost is also a significant factor; we need to balance our investment to reach the most premises against the costs of connecting more dispersed communities further away from the existing infrastructure. We also evaluate the potential speeds we can provide against the cost to ensure more premises can benefit from an increase in speed as possible.

How can I find out when I am likely to get access to the fibre network?

Information on when Cheshire residents can order fibre broadband is on the Check Availability page of our website.

Please note that not all of one area will go live on the same day so it’s worth checking the website regularly as information is regularly updated.

Will all premises be reached by Connecting Cheshire?

Wherever possible yes, however we cannot guarantee to reach every premise in every area until the network is fully built.  Even when it is, there are occasionally reasons why a particular premise may not be connected.

These include the distance from and the quality of the existing infrastructure, objections to planning or highways use or other residents complaining about works or location of new equipment. Our fibre deployment can also be impacted by environmental factors such as blockages in underground ducts and securing power availability as well as running into obstacles such as rivers, canals, railways, motorways, major roads and bridges.

If additional civil works are involved then time and effort and the cost involved must be considered.  We are doing all we can to ensure that the largest percentage of premises that we plan to reach are in fact delivered, but sometimes the costs escalate to such an extent that we have to place the locality under review and assess the value for money guidelines set by our funders. Regrettably this can result in areas being de-scoped from our roll-out.

Why can’t you tell me when my specific area is going live?

The Connecting Cheshire roll-out is a major engineering project and it’s not possible with a programme of this size to plan every area at the same time so some areas will be enabled before others.

We fully understand people’s frustration and the huge importance of fibre broadband so we’ll keep you updated our information regularly as plans evolve. We will strive to provide accurate information and ‘ready for service’ dates that can be met; as our overriding objective is to avoid making promises we can’t deliver on.

What about the estimated 2% of homes and businesses that will not be able to get fibre broadband?

Although around 95% of Cheshire premises can now access Superfast broadband, there are some areas not yet reached. If you are struggling with your broadband, use the OfCom broadband checker to see what might be available in your area:

https://checker.ofcom.org.uk/broadband-coverage

Additional coverage is being provided by Connecting Cheshire; the Openreach Where and When checker can help identify areas in scope for improvements:

https://www.homeandbusiness.openreach.co.uk/fibre-broadband/when-can-i-get-fibre

Is is estimated that the remaining 5% of premises will require additional funding to be reached once our current roll-out ends. A number of alternative options are available as follows:

  1. To consider an alternative broadband service such as wireless or satellite, and we are currently able to offer a £350 subsidy via the government’s Better Broadband Scheme for premises receiving under 2Mbps. http://www.connectingcheshire.org.uk/Betterbroadbandscheme/ This can also be used towards a community funded scheme with a supplier by aggregating a number of vouchers together towards the cost.

 

  1. Alternatively providers such as BT offer a community funded option whereby a match of community and BT funding can be combined to provide a bespoke solution to your locality, see BT Community Fibre Partnerships https://communityfibre.openreach.co.uk/ (this can work alongside points 1 and 4 to help fund the scheme).

 

  1. Also 4G broadband options may be available within the area, providers such as Vodafone and EE offer home broadband options subject to 4G coverage: www.vodafone.co.uk/shop/mobile-broadband/dongles-and-mobile-wi-fi/ or https://shop.ee.co.uk/broadband/broadband-deals

 

  1. The government recently also announced a Gigabit Voucher Scheme, this can only be spent on full-fibre networks i.e. Fibre to the Premise, but can offer £3,000 per business and £500 each for residential premise, as part of a community scheme. See more http://www.connectingcheshire.org.uk/new-gigabit-voucher-scheme-launched/

 

  1. We are currently in the process of scoping and confirming funding for a new Connecting Cheshire Phase 4 roll-out, however it is likely to be early 2019 before we know more about the planned roll-out coverage.

We have some information available on how you can try to improve your broadband speed. [PDF – 198kb]

How did you determine the exact location of the new cabinet?

The Connecting Cheshire programme will reach over 100,000 additional premises (that would not be covered commercially) in mainly outlying and rural communities. Any delays to the installation of cabinets put areas at risk of not receiving fibre broadband through the Connecting Cheshire programme due to the challenging time constraints we have with our European funding. As such the Government has removed much of the ‘red tape’ related to the commissioning of these cabinets to assist in the rapid deployment of fibre networks across the country.

Around 600 new roadside cabinets will be rolled out by Connecting Cheshire. The location chosen for the new green fibre cabinet is determined by a number of factors. BT’s Openreach Planning contractors assess the current location of the green roadside cabinets and wherever possible use the existing infrastructure, if in good condition, to ensure minimal disruption to the local area. If this is not a viable option they then determine a suitable location for the new cabinet taking into account existing utilities’ underground infrastructure such as gas and water mains that cannot be moved, access to power (the new cabinets require electricity to power the new fibre-optic equipment inside), width of footpaths, ease of safe access for Openreach engineers and distance.

Ideally Openreach aim to locate the new cabinet as close as possible to the existing cabinet. The proposed location is then forwarded to the Highways Authority for their review and if there is no objection, the cabinet is stood. It is safe to say that every cabinet requires an element of civils’ activity i.e. in every case a hole is dug for the cabinet base, and in most cases a short trench will be required to pick up the power and network. In most cases the impact to the highway will be minimal, but even when we place the cabinet on soft verges there may be impact to the footway/highway for a short period of time.

I’ve just seen a new green roadside cabinet near my premise, does that mean I can now get fibre?

Connecting Cheshire will be installing around 600 new roadside cabinets as part of our programme to reach over 100,000 additional premises with fibre broadband.

The location chosen for the new green fibre cabinets are determined by a number of factors please see Q&A How did you determine the exact location of the new cabinet?

There is a lot of complex engineering work involved in building our network and within challenging timescales. Openreach engineers plan the network some months in advance of it becoming live so installing the cabinets is often the first and only visible stage in this process.  As a result of this we are looking to install as many cabinets as possible and this may mean there is some delay between a cabinet being stood and it being enabled for fibre while we wait for all the hidden underground work to be connected back to the ‘root and branch’ network.  Delays in the connections for areas preceding your cabinet can also impact on this process.

Some of the problems include blocked underground ducting stopping the new fibre cables from being installed, and problems with working around other underground utilities such as electricity, gas and water. Finally the cabinets have to be tested and connected up to the exchange so that internet service providers can add it to their systems as being live. Please keep checking availability on our website, and our social media channels.

I've seen Openreach working in my area. Is this to connect me to fibre?

First of all, if you haven’t already looked, please check the roll-out maps to see what the situation is with regards to fibre broadband in your area, as this might help to see what’s happening.

The Connecting Cheshire project is a significant engineering undertaking for BT, our contracted partners. With over 100 engineers involved, plus sub-contractors and 900 miles of fibre-optic cable being laid to reach more than 80,000 premises during the project (with work carried out within guidelines and protocols set out by our highways and planning authorities). Some of the work will be ‘business as usual’ work, or be outside the Connecting Cheshire roll-out scope, or being carried out over a number of our phased Connecting Cheshire deployments where the technical solutions will vary.

As such, it is very difficult for us to comment on each individual engineering activity and its intended purpose or rationale, but we are happy to feedback on any work or processes that may infringe such regulations or protocols, and will try to ensure that any disruption to traffic or residents is minimised. We would also like to thank our local communities for all their support whilst this work takes place.

My line is connected directly to the exchange. Will I be able to get fibre broadband?

Exchange Only (EO) lines are connected directly to the local telephone exchange rather than passing through a green cabinet that can be upgraded with a fibre broadband connection. These lines are generally very close to the telephone exchange or very remote from it. Some EO lines may be fibre enabled as part of the Connecting Cheshire roll-out, with fibre direct to premises, or where an additional cabinet is built close to the exchange. Where EO lines are within the fibre roll-out, alternative technologies such as wireless or satellite may also be used to provide an uplift in speed. The Big Build video also explains.

Unfortunately EO lines offer additional levels of complexity and cost. For this reason, many of our EO solutions are being planned for the latter part of the programme.

Until the rearrangement of lines or physical upgrade has taken place we are unable to confirm which premises will and won’t be able to get fibre.

When fibre broadband becomes available in my area, will my broadband simply get faster without me taking any action?

No, to get fibre broadband, you’ll need to place an order with an Internet Service Provider (ISP). This is because fibre broadband uses a different technology and an engineer may need to visit your premises to install the necessary equipment. You can discuss this with your chosen Internet Service Provider.

We have produced a video about upgrading to fibre broadband.

What kind of speeds can I expect as part of this rollout?

The speeds will vary at different premises, and will depend on time of the day and the variation between the services that different broadband suppliers offer.

The speed will also depend on how your own premises are connected to the fibre network, for example whether it’s from a roadside cabinet or directly from the exchange as well as other factors such as the length of your line from the telephone exchange or green roadside cabinet, the line quality and the equipment and internal wiring within your premises.

The Big Build video will help to explain more.

The exact speeds you’ll be able to get will depend on how your own premises are connected. Most of our roll-out will be “Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC)”. FTTC uses fibre-optic cables throughout the network right up to the street cabinet. It then uses existing copper wires to connect the cabinet to homes and businesses. FTTC provides wholesale download speeds up to 80Mbps and upload speeds up to 20Mbps. Please note Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may use different speeds in their advertising. Individual line speeds will depend on network infrastructure and the service chosen by the ISP.

BT has won the contract – does that mean I have to use them as my Internet Service Provider?

No. A big plus of the Connecting Cheshire approach is that BT’s network is open which means you will have a choice of service provider. You will be able to shop around for the best package to suit your needs from a wide range of providers who will have access to the improved network.

We have produced a video about how to upgrade to fibre broadband.

How can I find out the latest update on the roll-out?
Why has the date for my area changed?

Forecast dates are based on whole exchange areas, not individual towns/villages. These dates can move back as well as forwards due to the nature of an engineering build of this complexity and scale.

The forecast dates on the postcode checker are reviewed every quarter, based on predictions of the work due to be completed over each quarter. The dates are adjusted each time a phase of work is completed, so this may not mean your area has been ‘put back’, it’s just another part of the exchange area has been completed.

Openreach has been working in my area but haven't put things back as they were. What can I do?

If you are unhappy with work that has been done by Openreach, or want to report health and safety issues or any damage caused, please visit https://www.homeandbusiness.openreach.co.uk/help-support 

What is fibre broadband?

Fibre broadband is the new generation of broadband – much faster, more reliable and it uses a different technology. Whilst traditional broadband (known as ADSL) is delivered via copper telephone lines, fibre broadband commonly uses fibre optic cable to link between the customer and the exchange.

Fibre broadband can be delivered in two ways: fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and fibre to the premises (FTTP).

FTTC uses fibre-optic cables throughout the network right up to the street cabinet. It then uses copper wires to connect the cabinet to homes and businesses. FTTC provides wholesale download speeds up to 80Mbps and upload speeds up to 20Mbps.  Our Big Build film explains.

FTTP means fibre-optic cables run right to the door of each house or business. It provides wholesale download speeds up to 1,000Mbps and upload speeds up to 30Mbps.

What is the process to upgrade to superfast broadband?

We already have had many areas in Cheshire go live with fibre broadband, so first check to see if it’s available using our online checkers www.connectingcheshire.org.uk/check-availability

Once confirmed it’s available, contact your internet service provider to find out if they offer any superfast broadband packages or shop around to find the best deal.

For regular updates and to find out more register your interest or follow us on facebook or twitter and we’ll tell you as and when fibre is available in your area.

We have also produced a video about how to upgrade to fibre broadband.

How do I order broadband?

Connecting Cheshire is responsible for overseeing the building of the infrastructure for superfast broadband across Cheshire, and not responsible for providing the actual service to your home or business.

There won’t be any charges from Connecting Cheshire.

In order to upgrade to fibre broadband when it’s available in your area, you’ll need to take up a fibre service from an Internet Service Provider (ISP).

There are many fibre broadband providers and package deals of broadband, calls and TV services are now widely available. In most cases such packages may not be any more than you are currently paying for standard broadband. Many customers take the opportunity to review their existing contract for telephone calls at the same time which may mean you end up paying only a little more, if anything at all.

There are a number of broadband comparison websites to use to compare providers and packages.

How fast is fibre broadband?

The exact speeds you’ll be able to get will depend on how your own premises are connected.  There are two main ways in which fibre optic can be used to bring you fibre broadband:

Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and fibre to the premises (FTTP).

FTTC uses fibre-optic cables throughout the network right up to the street cabinet. It then uses copper wires to connect the cabinet to homes and businesses. FTTC provides wholesale download speeds up to 80Mbps and upload speeds up to 20Mbps.

FTTP means fibre-optic cables run right to the door of each house or business. It provides wholesale download speeds up to 1,000Mbps and upload speeds up to 220Mbps.

The exact speed you get also depends on a number of additional factors like the length of your line from the telephone exchange or green roadside cabinet, the line quality and the equipment and internal wiring within your premises. Connecting Cheshire is working to ensure that everyone gets as fast a speed as possible given their geographical location.

How long does it take to be installed after I place an order and what does installation involve?

The time before installation of fibre broadband varies among Internet Service Providers, typically it takes about two weeks. An engineer might call and install a new modem at your premises and you will receive a new router from your Internet Service Provider. In most cases, your other telephone and computer equipment doesn’t need to be replaced.

Will my connection get faster when I receive superfast broadband, as I am a long way from the exchange?

If you are only able to receive Fibre to the Cabinet broadband, FTTC, it is true to say that the further your house or business is from a cabinet, the more difficult it is to provide higher speeds. This does not mean however that this cannot be provided. If broadband is already available in your area, adding the superfast equipment not only shortens the distance the signal has to travel but also is faster than your current broadband signal, so a faster connection will be the result. The connection from the existing cabinet to your premise does not alter, and uses the existing telephone lines.

The exact speed you get also depends on a number of additional factors like the length of your line from the telephone exchange or green roadside cabinet, the line quality and the equipment and internal wiring within your premises. Connecting Cheshire is working to ensure that everyone gets as fast a speed as possible given their geographical location.

Typically:

  • Within 1.5km of your cabinet you should expect download speeds of 15Mb/s plus*
  • Within 2km – 10Mb/s*
  • Within 3km – 8Mb/s*

*Please note that the underground and overground network rarely runs in straight lines and routes often take many twists and turns’ before arriving at your premise so the straight line distance between you and your cabinet may not necessarily be the true distance the fibre signal has to travel.

In very rural areas some long distances remain. These are a challenge that will require bespoke solutions on a case by case basis. Naturally these are more complicated, take longer and incur greater cost. We are focussing on the areas where we can reach the greatest number of premises with fibre as early as possible. For those areas that are harder to reach, we will be looking at solutions later in our programme. So for some localities this means ‘not yet’ rather than ‘not ever’, please bear with us.

So also the answer to question about the remaining 2%.

What are the factors that influence the speed I actually get?

Your broadband speed can be affected by a number of different factors.

Broadly, they fall into three categories –

  • Distance: The further your premises are from the cabinet (if you have a FTTC connection) then the more this will affect your speed. The last part of your connection is over copper wires and the further the internet data has to travel over copper, the more the speeds will be affected. This generally means that for lines more than 1.2 km from the green cabinet, a superfast service will not be achieved.
  • Technology/Your own equipment: There are all kinds of things at your own end that can slow things down and affect the actual speeds you get online. Your computer, your internal wiring, distance from your router, age and specification of your router, whether you are connected by wi-fi or direct cable, even the thickness of your walls and proximity to other electrical equipment… the list goes on and on.
  • Number of users: The number of users that are connected to the internet service provider’s network will also have a direct impact on the speeds you can achieve at any one time.

Speeds advertised by internet service providers are based on a wired connection to your device. This broadband Performance Tester allows you to test the performance of your broadband connection. To use this tester you must have Flash installed and enabled on your device.  http://speedtest.btwholesale.com/

When can I get fibre broadband?

Fibre broadband is being rolled out across Cheshire, with around 95% of premises already able to access a fibre service. Enter your phone number into the Openreach line checker to see if you can get it yet. This will also tell you which telephone exchange area you fall within.

If you’re one of the premises in Cheshire that can connect straightaway, contact your choice of Internet Service Provider to place an order or shop around for the best deal. Please note that not all of one area will go live on the same day so it’s worth checking the website regularly as information is regularly updated.

How does it work?

The big build to bring fibre broadband to the UK is complex and it takes some time for a town or telephone exchange area to be upgraded. The broadband many of us have today travels on copper lines from the telephone exchange usually via a green roadside cabinet to your home of business. The first piece of next generation broadband jigsaw is the installation of Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) where fibre optic cable is brought from the telephone exchange building to new green roadside cabinets. From the cabinet it then travels over the existing copper line into your business or home. The majority of the Connecting Cheshire roll-out will use FTTC.

The Big Build video helps to explain.

What is Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) and what does it involve?

Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) is one of the new fibre broadband technologies being deployed across the UK. Unlike the more common FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) services FTTP requires a fibre connection to the individual end user premises, rather than just to the nearest “green box” cabinet. FTTP is deployed when the limitations of FTTC – particularly relating to distance from the cabinet – cannot provide superfast broadband. Typically this will be in the most remote areas or where premises are connected directly to the telephone exchange rather than via a cabinet (known as exchange only – EO – lines).

FTTP is offered on a wholesale basis to all Internet Service Providers (ISP) and the price to end users is set by the ISP. Not all service providers offer FTTP based products; however the numbers doing so is expected to increase as the technology is more widely deployed.

When an ISP accepts a customer order the engineering fulfillment is undertaken by BT Openreach. The existing phone line remains and a fibre is connected to the end user premise. FTTP can offer support speeds of up to 1,000Mbps – although the actual speeds offered will depend on the service provider – and as the existing line remains, existing services can still be accessed. In many cases a fibre can be simply routed from existing underground ducts and telephone poles to the end user. In more complicated circumstances it may require an engineering visit to assess how the connection is made.

The need for a direct fibre connection means lead times are typically longer than for FTTC. In some instances, for example where long fibre runs are needed to reach a premise, specific requirements may incur additional costs on a case by case basis. These costs are published by Openreach and apply to all ISPs. Service Providers are responsible for determining what, if any, costs are passed on to end users.

I am considering changing my internet service provider, will I lose my email address?

There is no definitive answer to your question. It all depends on the broadband provider you’re switching to, and how your existing email account was set up.

Email addresses given to you by your broadband provider such as xxx@btinternet.com or xxx@talktalk.net differ from ones like xxx@hotmail.com orxxx@gmail.com as the latter are not specific to an Interet Service Provider (ISP) and they allow you to access your emails for as long as you choose to keep the account open.

As there is no industry standard in dealing with this issue you will need to speak to your ISP directly to find out if it’s possible to continue using their email account when you decide to switch to a different broadband service.  In some instances, it may be possible to continue using your account for a small fee, in others your account unfortunately will close when you cease your contract.

I'm not getting the broadband speed I was promised, what can I do?

It can be really frustrating if you’ve been promised a great broadband speed by your internet service provider, (ISP) but only to find your broadband is often slow when activated.

Our objective is to deliver faster broadband to areas of Cheshire that would not otherwise receive it.  Once an exchange is live and we have connected a cabinet, or fibre to the premise, the availability of service is then offered to all UK ISPs who then take a commercial decision whether to offer fibre broadband products or not.

The Connecting Cheshire project is concerned with delivery of superfast broadband infrastructure i.e  in most cases fibre to the green roadside cabinets. Once complete, any further issues such as whether or not a fibre product is offered to your premise, what speeds are available and the line quality is an ISP decision and outside our direct influence.

Each ISP has a relationship directly with BT Wholesale through whom provision, maintenance and disconnection of services are maintained.  If you have a complaint about the quality, reliability of or failure of your service this needs to taken up directly with your ISP.  If an engeineering issue is identified, your ISP will then pass this on to Openreach to deal with.

If you are experiencing problems with your service or your broadband speed is slower than advertised, the first step is to complain to your ISP. You should use a broadband speed checking service to see whether you are getting a significantly slower service than you expected.

It can be difficult to pin down the cause of the problem as there are so many factors involved such as  the exchange, the line into your house and the hardware you’re using, like the router.

Check that all these things are working normally and are not contributing factors before contacting your ISP. Also note that it can usually take a couple of weeks for your speed to stabilize after activation and a consistent speed is reached.

What does the term 'superfast broadband' mean?

In the UK, it is generally accepted that ‘superfast’ means speeds of over 24 Mbps and this is the benchmark used by almost every BDUK backed programme.

Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) offers superfast services from 24 Mbps to just under 80 Mbps. The actual speed achieved is determined by the distance from the green cabinet to the premises and by the type and quality of the cable.

How do I find out what speed i am getting?

It is free and very straightforward to carry out a speed test. As speed may vary at different times of the day, it is best to carry out a few tests on different days and vary the time. Many online testers are available, see: https://checker.ofcom.org.uk/broadband-test

If possible you should connect a cable directly to your router to do the test, or if you only have WiFi do the test right next to it. This will give a truer picture of the actual access speed on your line. Other items such as printers and digital wireless phones can also affect your wifi signal.

See also question I’m not getting the broadband speed I was promised.

Can’t find the answer to your question?

Email us at info@connectingcheshire.org.uk