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Is ultra fast fibre broadband a real possibility in Teesdale?

October 22, 2020

A new project to install 1000 Mbps broadband into Teesdale is has a serious chance of delivering.

After many years and hearing about many different projects to bring fast broadband to Teesdale and Upper Teesdale, what’s the chances of getting ultra fast fibre directly to our rural homes?

Getting fibre to some houses in our area must be pie in the sky thinking. 

An ultra fast (and reliable) internet connection to my home and office would make the world of difference. Family video calls, less buffering on Netflix, more consistent online gaming at home and more reliable Zoom meetings for work now that’s become a thing (thanks COVID).

Currently to battle slow internet speeds I’m in a lucky position (even though I’m 2 miles away from the BT exchange) to get decent broadband speeds (25mbps – 60mbps) using a 4G router through the Three mobile network. The speeds sound great, but we have good speeds because we have a clear view of the mobile data mast, even though it is 6 miles away, but it’s not consistent. I can’t feel like I can relax and know every time I watch a YouTube video there will be no buffering.

If there is any way I could get a better and improved internet connection to our rural part of the world then I’m always interested.

The new ultra fast broadband speed project for Teesdale

A few days ago I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and saw a post from someone with a letter regarding a new project to try and make this a reality. The post had no likes and just laughing reactions, with people just believing how unlikely this would be. But I thought I’d register my interest as it only took 30 seconds to do and then I’d try and find out a bit more about the 1000mbps they were promising to us rural folk.

I sent an email to FACTCO on their generic email account and within 20 minutes I had a reply from the managing director of the company, Lee Murphy. He was very interested to hear that no one seemed to take it seriously and said it’s often a problem they have. 

Lee was keen to speak on the phone and explain the ins and outs of how they install fibre to homes in rural areas. Going into the call I will admit I was pessimistic at the thought of this project actually happening . I mean how can a company that I’ve never heard of deliver a project like this when BT can’t? Or how many roads and fields will need to be dug up? And the big question, how much will it cost me?

Before I had a chance to ask any questions Lee had broken it all down to make it clear how it could happen and how it is a real possibility.

Here are some of the questions, that Lee answered regarding the project:

How will they install ultra fast fibre internet into each home?

When you generally hear the term fibre cable internet, you generally assume this involves lines underground. 

This isn’t the case for this type of project and this is how FACTCO can potentially deliver this project. The cables will be above ground to save money spent on digging roads and fields.

But they will still need to put new poles for the fibres to reach the houses throughout the village and surrounding homes and farms, won’t they?

Earlier this year BT started Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) for other communications providers. And what this basically means is FACTCO are allowed to add their own fibre cables to existing telephone poles, so there would be no more poles, just extra cable from pole to pole. Therefore significantly reducing the cost of getting the project by not requiring lots of man hours digging and laying cables.

And Middleton, for example, already has fibre available so they don’t need to get fibre to the village, they just need to get it fibre into households. 

Will it cost anyone in Teesdale any money?

The cost of the project is cheaper because there will be none, or very little digging, required for the cables but that doesn’t mean it will be free to do. So who pays?

Currently the Government has a scheme available (Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme) to try and help them reach the target of all businesses and homes having access to gigabit internet by 2025.

As part of the scheme each business can get a voucher of £3,500 and each home can get a voucher of £1,500 to go into the project pool (no business/household will directly receive any money). 

In Teesdale there are a number of homes that are much further away from exchange (this will not be the current exchange, FACTCO may move it) which will cost a lot more money to do. But there will also be homes that are close that cost much less.

So in simple terms, the more people who are interested will mean a bigger pot of money the project will have. In turn the more homes in Teesdale will get ultra fast fibre internet.

Signing up takes less than 30 seconds (depending on your internet speed) so it’s surely worth a shot.

What area within Teesdale could potentially get ultra fast internet directly to their home?

The first project is currently underway in Teesdale and is already taking sign ups for the Newbiggin and Forest-In-Teesdale area.

Below is a map that FACTCO have provided of their projects in our area. The number one and two highlight the two current projects they have going on. Number one is highlighting the Newbiggin project and number 2 is highlighting the project in Bolam (near Darlington). The areas in between are the areas they will be working on next. So if you’re in one of those areas then you could get ultra fast fibre internet directly into your own home.

FACTCO gigabit broadband voucher scheme project coverage map

They are hoping to include the following places in their next projects:

  • Butterknowle
  • Cockfield
  • Copley
  • Cotherstone
  • Eggleston
  • Evenwood
  • Forest-In-Teesdale
  • Harwood
  • Langdon Beck
  • Lartington
  • Mickleton
  • Middleton-In-Teesdale
  • Newbiggin
  • Romaldkirk
  • Staindrop
  • Woodland

If you live in any of these places, or the surrounding areas please make sure you register your interest using the survey below.

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But I’m really really far from the exchange, I won’t get the speeds being suggested?

The location of the exchange, wherever FACTCO choose to locate, will not make a difference in speed. The fibre cables they install can be laid over 50 miles without any loss of speed. No one person in Teesdale will get a faster speed than anyone else because of their location. 

How much will it cost me?

The installation of the lines will be free (well very likely to be free), as of today (20th Oct 2020) Lee has told me that not a single person has to pay towards their fibre cable installation, the pot of money within the project has always been able to cover it.

As previously mentioned, the more we can get on board the better it is for the whole community, and with 2020 so far we all need our community to come together.

Once it’s installed there will be a monthly cost, just as you would pay now to your internet provider (Sky, BT, Vodafone, Plusnet etc).

They offer three plans:

100 Mbps

£24.99 (inc. VAT)

  • Free installation
  • Free router
  • 12 Month Contract

300 Mbps

£33.99 (inc. VAT)

  • Free installation
  • Free router
  • 12 Month Contract

1000 Mbps

£44.99 (inc. VAT)

  • Free installation
  • Free router
  • 12 Month Contract

I’m not entirely sure what the average speed will be in the centre of Middleton-In-Teesdale directly but I doubt they will get above 70 Mbps consistently (use this test to find out your real internet speed)  and the average price of broadband (including line rental) will be around £15-£25 per month. But even if you get a high speed 70 Mbps per second in the village, this soon degrades as you venture further away from the BT exchange. The speed of your connection reduces the further you are from the BT exchange because currently (using Middleton-In-Teesdale as the example) only has fibre to the cabinet. From the cabinet it relies on old copper cable to get to each home, and this is what the fibre cable will replace. I’m sure this will be the same for villages further down the dale like Staindrop, Evenwood and Cockfield.

This doesn’t go for everyone, but if you’re like myself and don’t use your phone landline in your home for phone calls, and only use it for the internet then you won’t need to pay line rental. So you could potentially save money depending on your current deal.

Looking at the pricing plans, I would personally say they are very competitively priced. Especially when you compare prices of non-fibre solutions and no line rental needed.

I’ve noticed a lot of people complaining on Facebook groups about their internet providers. One in particular that begins with a ‘V’ and ends in ‘fone’, offering cheap broadband which sounds great but it is not reliable. I actually had the same issue with that company at my old home in Leicestershire and cancelled their internet service in the first 30 days. If these so called cheap broadband deals should be giving you 25 Mbps broadband but you never get it, what’s the point. And don’t even get me start on their online/phone support services!

Will I be tied into a contract after 12 months?

This was an issue I was concerned with, what if FACTCO laid the fibre cables then forced us to be tied into a high tariff in the future. But after the initial 12 month contract FACTCO allow the fibre line to be used by any provider so it still allows you to get the best deal.

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I don’t need faster internet connection, how will it benefit me?

With our homes becoming smarter, and content getting delivered instantaneously it’s only a matter of time before Teesdale (and other rural areas) are left battling loading screens even more.

The community has the potential to have internet access that is equivalent to city centres in the UK, and why should they have it and not us.

Businesses in the area will see a huge benefit to the ever increasing amount of remote video meetings and home users will see Netflix being streamed without any fuss while Fortnite is being played on the Playstation upstairs.

Everyone will use the internet slightly differently in each home, but we as a community have the chance to get ultra fast fibre broadband into our rural homes for nothing.

All we need to do is signup, and it takes 30 seconds.

So, do I think it can happen?

I want it to happen, and it all sounds plausible but it all depends on us. If you ask Lee the same question you will get a resounding YES, in his words the key to any of these projects is the community sign up. Once they have that, delivering the hardware is more straightforward because they know what they’re doing with that end of things.

Lee was also keen to point how pivotal the team at Digital Durham have been in getting this project started. I would love to know if you have any questions I can put to Lee, I’m also adding a survey/questionnaire to get understanding of demand for this. If you’re happy to give any insights to your interest and current internet connection then would be amazing.

Otherwise feel free to contact me directly, kane@mitchelldigital.co.uk.