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Questions & Answers

The questions below are organised by the phase of the project, questions covereing the latest phases are first, more general questions are at the end of this document.

To jump to questions on the Feasibility Study click here

To jump to questions on the Statement of Requirements click here

To jump to general questions click here


Question / comments on the Feasibilty Study:-

Questions and comments are in red, my responses are in black.

B1) What provision has been made for insurance costs in the financial models?

None, I should have made this clear in the document. We will look at this in more detail when / if we agree to proceed.

B2) What provision has been made for other admin costs in the financial models?

None, I should have made this clear in the document. We will look at this in more detail when / if we agree to proceed.

B3) What will the surcharge or discount be for volunteers / non volunteers.

This should have been raised as a question in the FS.

B4) Should a joining fee be charged for those that do not want to volunteer to help with the implementation.

I will add this to the questions in the Feasibility Study.

B5) What should be charged for a joining fee for those that do not want to help with the implementation

I will add this to the questions in the Feasibility Study


Questions / comments on the Statement of Requirements :-

Please note all of the questions listed here will be included in the Feasibility Study.

A1) If the system was down for an extended period should there be a clause in the participant’s contract about the monthly rental being waived?

I will include this in the FS.

A2) With the community-run village TV relay system there were problems with; equipment, maintenance, volunteer labour, payment by users etc.

I will include each of these points in the FS. If anyone has any more information about the TV relay system, please forward details to me.

A3) I think it would be extremely useful if you could formalise a schedule of likely volunteer input.

I will identify some tasks in the FS; others may not emerge until we have completed a trial. If we do decide to proceed with the project we will look for volunteers.

Please contact me if anyone would like to volunteer to help with the project.

A4) Will there be a backup available whilst emergency repairs are carried out?

I will look at this in the FS.

A5) You have ‘closed’ the signup period but have you advised those people who are not currently contactable by e-mail, i.e. those who currently don’t have an internet connection for whatever reason, that there could be a new broadband system in the future? As I understand it some can’t get onto the local BT setup for a reason perhaps not of their making such as insufficient capacity.

The deadline of the 23rd November related to participating in the SoR, anyone is free to “sign up” at any time.

However the longer people delay, the further the project will have advanced. When the Feasibility Study starts decisions will have to be made about the exact location of transmitters, if people want to join after this point there may be a considerable delay and extra costs may be incurred redesigning the network.

Communications are through email, this website and there is a summary in the CC minutes, which are distributed to those who are not using email.

If you know of anyone that wants to “sign up” and has not yet done so, please get them to contact me as soon as possible.

A6) Every household in the area should be taken into consideration as restricting the FS, and hence any future system, just to existing e-mail users is grossly unfair.

Surveying the location of every property will add effort and delay the FS. Providing access for every property will probably require additional backbone equipment and additional capacity.

Additional backbone equipment and capacity will have to be paid for by the active subscribers.  This will put an additional burden on the monthly rental. It may mean that the charge of £13.50 per month is exceeded as we would be in a situation where we are buying more equipment than we need. This will conflict with the objectives of providing a broadband service for no more than £13.50.

I do not propose to survey and design a system to cater for every property.  

A7) What is the expectation that subscribers do to assist with administration?

Some administration / maintenance tasks will be identified in the FS.

Others will become clear during the trials.

The final list will probably only be known once the system has been fully implemented and running for some time.

A8) Which features would the system not have that are provided by other ISPs? Would it be a system just to connect users to the internet?

I will include this in the FS.

A9) The FS could also look into the possibility of including mobile phone access to the area which is virtually nonexistent. This could be restricted to ‘locals’ only.

I will not include this in the FS.

The objective is clear; this is a project to implement broadband not mobile phone access.

However once broadband has been implemented it may be possible to use the system for other tasks but it will not be designed for voice traffic.

A10) Question 1 below asks about ‘line of sight’ for the transmitter/s and 19 talks about wireless components. IF it is to be a wireless system, why would you need line of sight for users? I’m guessing that you mean that the transmitters would have to have line of sight to each other, which could indicate that they would be using microwave communications.

This will be covered in the FS.

A11) In question 7, you indicate that any existing BT router may have to be returned to BT, this would only normally apply if the router has not been used and is in its original (unopened) packing. The FS should take into account that the majority users will have a router (BT hub) and the new wireless transmitter/s should therefore be compatible with existing equipment. It may, of course, be necessary to reconfigure individual routers but that usually isn’t a difficult thing to do.

This is covered by point 4 of the SoR.

The FS will look at the contractual agreements regarding the use of the BT home hub on networks other than BT.

If there is no contractual restriction using the BT hub then, after the FS and test bed has been set up we will look at whether it is possible to use the existing BT hubs.

The BT hub / router or its replacement will be chosen to be compatible with the new network rather than the new network being compatible with the BT hub.

A12) Should we insist that everyone that joins the project sets up a standing order to pay their monthly rental charges?

I will look at this more closely in the FS

Questions raised so far, in no particular order :-

1) Is one line of sight possible throughout the whole community for all users?

No, we can't position one transmitter to get a line of sight for everyone. There will have to be a series of transmitters and receivers to "bend" the signal around obstacles. This is why we need to know the location of all of those that want to be connected. Then we can work out where to put the transmitters to get a series of lines of sight to cover everyone.

2) Why do I have to agree to subscribe to a service now, even though the project has only just started?

We are asking people to commit to pay £13.50 a month for bandwidth of at least 5Mbps as we are confident this target can be achieved. To work out the actual cost of the system we need to know the location of everyone so we can work out the position, type and quantity of equipment. Only once we have this information can we work out the cost. If everyone waits until the system is up and running there won't be a system. This is because it would be outside of the budget available to install equipment on the chance that all households will sign up and very wasteful if some do not.

If the objective of 5Mbps for £13.50 cannot be met then no one will be held to their commitment. If that should be the case then everyone that decides not to proceed will have wasted precisely one email.

3) Will the monthly rental fee increase in future years?

We will have fixed costs for equipment and once these are covered then any additional costs will be down to us if we decide to expand or improve the system.

There will be ongoing costs to pay for the line rental and to an extent these will be outside our control but there is no obvious reason why these should not stay in line with the service from BT that we are replacing.

The last component is to repay the loan from the CC and to do this in a reasonable time we should expect to keep the line rental charge at £13.50. When the loan has been paid off and we have decided we do not want to add any more features we may be able to set the monthly rental at a lower rate.

Hopefully everyone that joins the scheme will continue to use the service at least until the CC loan has been paid off.

4) Will there be a minimum contract period?

Yes, this will be set to cover the cost of equipment required to connect the average premises and it is likely to be at least one year.

5) Is the system secure?

This will be looked at in more detail in the feasibility study but the system does have a variety of security features built in, here is a very high level overview of some features.

We should be able to implement WPA2-AES and RADIUS although this will probably be be dependant on the age of some components in the network. WPA2-AES and RADIUS are "state of the art".

WPA2-AES encrypts the data and is used by the US government for classified information.

You can read more about it here:-  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Encryption_Standard

RADIUS, authenticates users or devices before giving them access to the network, it authorises them for certain network services and then it will keep details of what they do. We may have to have a dedicated server to fully implement this.

6) Will the system support my mobile phone signal booster device?

Assuming the unit is not specific to BT broadband it will work for data, more work needs to be done to see how the proposed system copes with voice.

Please note:-

The system should not be used to replace terrestrial land line based telephone service.      

7) What additional equipment do I need?

It depends where you are, how many of your immediate neighbours join the service and where we are in the life of the project. An isolated property which is in direct line of sight of a transmitter would have its own receiver; this is a white plastic unit 26cm x 8cm x 3cm + a fitting kit. If there are problems “seeing” the transmitter it may be necessary to mount the receiver away from your property and complete the installation by cable. Initially to save costs we may set up the system so one receiver serves several properties. (Each property will still receive the full line speed.)

One of the first questions for those that sign up to the scheme will be to decide whether we provide a domestic Wi-Fi router as part of the new system. The BT hub will presumably have to be returned to BT and in any case may not be suitable. The consensus may be that no router will be provided allowing people to chose one that best suits there own needs. This will not affect the monthly rental charge.

8) Will there be an installation fee?

No, the standard installation (one connection to one router) will be paid for as part of the monthly rental charge. However to aid cash flow, to pay for equipment we may ask people who are willing pay six to twelve months rental in advance to do so.

This is a community project and it is expected that participants will do as much of the physical installation work as possible themselves. E.g. install the receiver, provide access through walls for cable (if required). However if you have a window facing the transmitter you may be able to mount the receiver inside. The remainder of the set up and the configuration will be done for you.

9) How will we pay for the rest of the equipment?

The rest of the system comprises the backbone, i.e. the components that will bring a signal from an exchange faster than ours into Achmore and relay it around Braeintra, Strome Ferry, The Glen, Ardnarff etc. This will be funded by a loan from the CC, which will have to be repaid from the monthly rental charges.

10) Will the speed of 5Mbps be guaranteed?

We are confident we can deliver bandwidth of at least 5Mbps

However the speed will be subject to the way the system is used and as with any broadband service the actual speed will fluctuate because of contention between users. So when it comes to guaranteeing the speed it depends what is meant by guarantee, we are not going to propose any service level agreements with the minimum speed as part of the contract.

BT doesn’t guarantee a minimum speed, but this will be our system and we will design it to our own specification.

Our starting proposal would be something along the lines; 5Mbps (or more) for a percentage of the time (say 95%) with extra charges for heavy users. So that might mean that the system is a bit slower for the peak hour of the day, unfortunately we do not have any statistics for usage at the moment and anyway usage is bound to change as the speed increases.

For example at the moment we can't use BBC iPlayer for TV, but with increased bandwidth that would be possible. If everyone stops watching TV and switches to iPlayer from 5pm to 12 pm there would be a problem with the capacity we have priced at £13.50.

However it will be our system and if everyone wants to use iPlayer every evening then we can design a system to do that, it just costs more. Maybe some people will be happy to pay more than £13.50 for increased capacity (and BBC repeats) and others will just stay with £13.50. We will know that at the requirements stage and again people will be able to drop out then if they wish.

11) Will the system be as stable as BT’s broadband?

No, by definition it can’t be!

Our system will have to use BT’s network as the main pipeline to the internet. If BT’s system goes down, so will ours. In addition we will have our own equipment and it will be up to us to decide how fault tolerant we want to make it. Ultimately it will come down to cost, how much do we want to spend?

Others that have used wireless links report that they are very stable.

We have no statistics as to how stable our corner of BT’s system is anyway!

12) How long will we be committed to the service and will the new vendor’s charges increase more that BT’s .

We will still have to buy a connection to the internet and that will be subject to a lease agreement which typically lasts for one year. It will no doubt go up as time goes on but there is no reason to assume it would go up any faster than BT charges.

13) Is the system secure?

The system does have security built in, it hasn’t been looked at in detail yet, it will be one of the topics in the feasibility study.

14) How will I be kept informed of progress?

Everyone that signs up will have information sent to them via email on a regular basis; this page of the website will be updated with the major events and will record progress and upcoming tasks.

You will be asked to help decide the size, shape and timing of the project. 

15) Will I have to quit my BT broadband agreement to join the new service?

No, you will be able to move over to the new system at any time, although to be sure everything has been set up and is working correctly it would be wise to overlap the new system with the old BT service for at least a month.

If most people decide that they want to let their current BT agreement come to a close before starting the new service the new service start date will be moved back to accommodate this. So unfortunately if you are ready to start up immediately there may be a delay.

16) Can I join the system if I am outside the Strome Ferry and Achmore CC area?

Each individual case will have to be discussed by the CC.

17) Are there any health issues regarding the system?

The wireless part of the system uses the same frequency as WiFi, so if you already have that then your house is already subject to microwave radiation.

Here are some details from the website of one of the vendors:-

Are Wireless Networks a Health Hazard?

A lot of wireless networking devices transmit on the same frequencies as Microwave Ovens so you may think so, however, the transmission power levels are so low that the thought that they might be harmful is currently mere speculation, with mobile phones being a much greater potential health hazard.

18) Can I still use my BT email account after I terminate my BT Internet account.

The BT website states that after terminating the BT broadband contract you will have free access to a basic email system for 90 days. To Continue to use BT's email system after that you have to upgrade to a Premium mail account for £1.54 a month.

We will have the option of creating our own domain name(s) which if we chose can give us names such as :-

John.Smith@Achmore.co.uk or Jill.Smyth@StromeFerry.co.uk.

19) Will the system be more vulnerable to failure due to the additional components between the household and the exchange?

The short answer is yes, but there is a lot we can do to reduce this risk. We could hold a number of spares, so if a component fails we can replace it very quickly. We can install uninterruptible power supplies that mean our system will work for several hours if the mains supply fails. If our chosen exchange proves unreliable or becomes congested we can connect to a different exchange or even connect to two exchanges simultaneously. This would not be possible with BT lines that are only connected to the local exchange. One obvious bonus of the new system is that we will all have access to more than one line at the exchange and so if there is a failure on one line we will lose some capacity but the system will still function.

There will be a trade off between robustness and cost.

20) Will the system cope with our weather?

All the wireless components are designed to be left out in very exposed locations in the wet and cold. Other components will have to be housed indoors or in waterproof enclosures. We will have to take great care to ensure that all equipment is secure, protected if required and that all connections are to a high standard. However there are many examples of this type of network being used successfully in locations very similar to our own.

The signal itself will be degraded and the capacity of the network will be reduced by adverse weather, rather like heavy rain affecting satellite TV. However we will be running the network at less than 25% of its maximum capacity and it is very unlikely we will notice these effects