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What does it Cost?

We are currently working with schemes that are "Demand Led". That is, the installation cost is paid for by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and topped up by Hampshire County Council - but only as long as enough residents covered by the scheme pledge their voucher. Under the terms of the DCMS voucher scheme you are expected to:

  1. commit to upgrading to a 12 month contract with the ISP of your choice for a fibre connection with a download speed of at least 30Mbits/s, and
  2. which is at least double your current connection speed, or greater than 100Mbits/s, whichever is the lower. (In most of the cases we are dealing with cases where the current speed is less than 30Mbits/s, so only the "double your connection speed" is relevant.

As a result, and largely because of the speed doubling requirement you may find that you have to pay more for the service. In practice, the actual cost to you will depend upon your current contract and connection speed. Most will pay a few pounds more per month - but for a much faster service - while some may even pay less (e.g. by no longer paying for a fixed telephone line).

For example, most (i.e. just about all) of the properties covered by the South East Alresford scheme currently get a connection speed of 30 Mbits/s or less, and will satisfy the requirement by upgrading to (for example) BT FIbre 2. This is currently priced at £30.99 per month for a typical download speed of 74 Mbits/s. If you are currently on BT Fibre 1, this is a £2 a month increase on today's price for BT Fibre 1. However, those on an older contract may well find that they are already paying more than this, especially when line rental is included - and hence could see a price drop as a result of the upgrade.

You do not have to use BT and can choose any ISP that offers a Full Fibre service. You may well get a better price/line speed than that used above as an example. For example, Vodafone currently appear to be advertising a price of £26 a month for 100Mbits/s download speed  in the Alresford area.

If your property currently has a higher speed i.e. when you double your current speed the result is more than 74 Mbits/s then the DCMS compliant upgrade is to (e.g.) BT Fibre 100 (140 Mbits/s). This currently costs £39.99 a month.

You can use a broadband speed checker (e.g. https://www.broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk/) to find out your current connection speed, both download and upload.

A Short Guide to Broadband Prices

There are almost too many different broadband internet suppliers (ISPs) to give a definitive price guide. We are trying to monitor current prices and include a selected range in our FAQ.

When comparing broadband prices, it is worth noting that there are several strategies that an ISP can use to lower their price compared with a competitor. For example:

  1. Cut back on the number of "support team" call centre staff and training. The result is a longer queue for the customer and a less than satisfying result when you get there - but it does keep the cost down.

  2. Pay a reduced price for a longer response time from Openreach. BT Openreach maintain most of the cables and much of the switching gear and charge different prices to their customer (i.e. the ISP) depending how rapidly they are expected to diagnose and fix faults. The longer the contracted response time, the less the ISP pays - and the longer it takes to fix a fault.

  3. Reduce the capacity of the "backhaul" network. The cable between you and the exchange (often called the local loop) is only the access path to the internet. The backhaul network is the rest, linking up the exchange to the ISP's routers and then to interconnection points with other ISPs. Not all users are at "full throttle" all of the time, and ISPs exploit this by having less capacity in the backhaul network than they would if everyone was using their internet connection to the full all of the time. This difference is often expressed as the "contention ratio" i.e. the ratio between the actual number of users and the number the backhaul network could support if all users were at "full throttle". If the backhaul network is undersized i.e. the contention ratio is too high then the result is similar to the M25 at rush hour and everything slows down.

As a general point - you pay for what you get - and if an internet package appears to be too good to be true - now you know why. The best way to find out how good an ISP really is, is to read the many online reviews of its services and compare the results with the reviews of other ISPs.

Going forward to FTTP, the contention ratio is likely to be the biggest issue and is probably the main reason why the "cheap as chips" ISPs may be reluctant to provide FTTP packages. Even at the lower tiers, the end user gets a higher connection speed and will expect to see the benefits of this. Unless the ISP increases the capacity of its backhaul network to match then the contention ratio gets a lot worse and - you have a very unhappy customer.

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