FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is broadband?
Broadband describes how fast data can be transferred between computers. A broad road, such as a motorway, can carry more traffic than a narrow country lane. Broadband internet connections are the motorways of the "information superhighway" modems are more akin to a country lane.
What is Connected Communities Broadband?
Connected Communities Broadband is a pilot project to bring broadband services to a number of rural communities throughout the Western Isles. Because the Western Isles are distant from the main internet connections and the wide distribution of the population across a number of islands, more traditional methods of providing broadband, like cable, are impractical. So wireless is being used to provide broadband across the islands.
Who is funding the project?
The pilot has been funded through the DTI sponsored Broadband Fund with Western Isles Enterprise and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar providing additional funds. The balance is match funded by the Highlands and Islands Special Transitional Programme.
Is the service currently subsidised?
Public funds have been used to build the network but there is no ongoing subsidy. Connected Communities have now developed a sustainable business model which should ensure that the pricing remains stable in the long term.
Will everyone within the Connected Communities area be able to get broadband?
In common with other areas in the Highlands and Islands, including those serviced by ADSL-enabled exchanges, there are inevitably a number of small communities which will require supplementary relay systems to serve their area. The local agencies have agreed to fund these additional relay sites subject to the number of subscribers requesting a service and availability of links to the main network. There will always be challenging locations whatever technology is used.
What technical support will be available to residents who sign-up (eg email, telephone) and what is the envisaged response time?
We will provide telephone support on a 9-5 weekdays basis initially, this may be revised if there is sufficient demand. This will be through an 0845 number. We will provide email support with an anticipated response time of 1 day.
How much faster than a modem is Connected Communities Broadband?
The useable speed of Connected Communities Broadband, and indeed most other broadband services, depends on a number of factors: mainly on how fast the underlying connection is, and what the users connected to the system are doing at any particular time.
Connected Communities Broadband connects to your computer at much faster speeds than a "56k" modem which normally manages to connect at around 33kbps. In practice Connected Communities Broadband 500 service will be about 10 times faster than a modem, but it can be much faster if you subscribe to the 1000 and 2000 services.
What is the difference between the recently launched ADSL broadband for Stornoway and other local exchanges and Connected Communities?
Connected Communities will bring broadband to village communities throughout the Western Isles while ADSL will be available to subscribers in some telephone exchange areas. You can check whether you are within range of a BT service by entering your telephone number into the checker at www.bt.com/broadband/. Connected Communities will be connected to homes through a very small antenna while ADSL in Stornoway and some rural exchanges will be through your existing telephone wires with lines into your home and available from various Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Will Connected Communities broadband be available to customers in Stornoway and other areas where BT offers a service?
It is possible that some of the Stornoway Exchange customers may be outside the range over which BT and other ISPs will be able to provide services. In the first instance, you should check the availability of service by using the checker on the BT website at www.bt.com/broadband and entering your telephone number in the enquiry box. If the checker indicates that you cannot receive a broadband service from BT, or that the connection will be slower than you need, please contact Connected Communities and we will advise you if we are able to provide you with an alternative service (subject to survey).
Connected Communities will be available at potentially higher speeds than an ADSL landline service, if this is of interest to you then please contact us.
Which areas will be served by this new community network?
Eventually all of the Western Isles, particularly areas not served by ADSL over landlines such as:
- Lewis: Barvas, Carloway, Great Bernera, North Tolsta, Timsgarry - Uig.
- Harris: Drinnishader, Leverburgh, Manish, Scalpay, Scarista, Scarp.
- Uist: Bayhead, Berneray, Bornish, Carnan, Eriskay, Grogarry, Locheport, Lochmaddy, Sollas.
- Barra: Northbay
Will ADSL and Connected Communities deliver different service levels?
Yes. Connected Communities can deliver up to 6 Mbps to individual clients depending on their distance from the Community Node and whether they have advised us of the higher bandwidth requirement. This service will of course cost more.
Connected Communities will provide equal speeds for upload and download while ADSL typically offers a ratio of 512kbps download to 256kbps upload (maximum of 2Mbps download).
Are there different timescales for services to become available?
Connected Communities expects to start delivering services from autumn 2005. The delivery of services will be through a backbone system with each community coming on line when the appropriate service can be delivered to your community node. Availability of the service will depend on a number of factors including mast building and mast sharing agreements and planning permissions being granted.
Which bandwidth options will be available?
Initially we will provide standard services from 512k up to 2 Mb but higher bandwidths will be available on request (at a higher tariff). Speed upgrades to customer premises equipment can be done ‘over the air’ and do not require a visit from our engineers.
What do the speed differences really mean?
For ordinary web browsing it will mean that the pages load far more quickly - the other meaning of WWW (World Wide Wait) becomes a thing of the past.
File downloads will be faster as well. A 1MB file should download in seconds instead of over 3 minutes. It also enables watching movies and listening to internet radio stations in high quality.
Connected Communities Broadband is symmetrical in the sense that upload (to the internet) and download (from the internet) speeds are the same. With 56k modems the upload speed is limited to about 33.6kbps at best, even if the modem indicates a connection at a much higher speed. Similarly ADSL provides limited upload speeds. This means that if you are sending a lot of data you will see a bigger improvement in the speed of your uploads.
What are the benefits of broadband?
- Always on: no waiting for the modem to connect
- Your telephone line will not be tied up when you are using the internet
- People calling you will be able to get through when you are on the internet
- Those with only mobile phones, or with no telephone, will now be able to get an internet connection
- All Western Isles schools will be on Connected Communities Broadband and school pupils will be able to download lessons and carry on with course work at home
- Pupils won't be frustrated at how slow the internet over a modem, is at home
What are the disadvantages of broadband?
You might spend longer on the internet than you do currently. As there will be no requirement to release the phone line for incoming or outgoing calls, and because of the improved speed of loading web pages, using the web should be a far more enjoyable experience.
The always-on nature of the service and the higher speeds make an unprotected computer more susceptible to virus and other forms of attack. To minimise this risk we recommend that you run firewall and antivirus software at all times.
Will I be able to continue using my existing ISP and e-mail address?
Yes, however you may need to discuss your options with us as there are variations depending on your current ISP. You may have to continue to pay your existing ISP/email host a fee.
When will I be able to subscribe to Connected Communities Broadband?
We expect that the network will be available from autumn 2005. For regular updates please keep checking this web site.
How will it all work?
A small antenna will be fixed to your premises or home by one of our installers and this will connect to a small box inside your premises from which a cable will need to be connected to your computer. Depending on your computers age and configuration, it may be that an additional adaptor or card will need to be fitted to your computer. The antenna will receive its service from a larger antenna in your area and this will subsequently link to a microwave backbone which in turn is linked to the internet. There will be no connection to your telephone socket.
Do I have to keep my computer turned on?
No, but if you want to use the internet you will have to wait for your computer to boot up and you lose the immediacy of the always on connection.
What kind of computer do I need?
The service will support most types of computer including PCs and Macs. The computer you use must have an Ethernet interface. We recommend a minimum PC specification of 500MHz processor, 512k RAM, Windows XP/2000 to take advantage of broadband speeds.
Which software should I have on my computer?
As well as the operating system and any applications you use, you will need an internet browser and email client. We recommend that all users maintain a firewall and current antivirus software on their computer.
Is there any software available from Connected Communities?
We do not provide software, however free or low cost software to support the following is widely available on the internet:
- Firewalls (also built in to Windows XP) – example Zone Alarm
- Antivirus – examples AVG, Macafee
- Parental control
Note: Connected Communities provides these names for information only and does not endorse any of the products and services described.
Can I still have the service if I don’t have an Ethernet port on my computer?
Internal adaptors are available for desktop computers.
External adaptors are available for both desktop and laptop computers which connect to either a USB port or PCMCIA card slot.
We expect to be able to provide USB to Ethernet adaptors as part of the subscription fee.
Can I use a USB connection instead of Ethernet?
Yes if you specify this at time of ordering our installers will provide you with a suitable USB to Ethernet converter at time of installation
Who will install the equipment?
Our specialist contractor will make an appointment with you to install the equipment at a mutually convenient time.
Can I install the equipment myself?
We do not offer a self-install option as our equipment needs to be aligned and customised to the individual subscriber.
Will you configure my computer for me?
Connected Communities does not carry out this service. Our installation contractor may choose to offer this service, otherwise local computer retailers may be able to help as may other members of the community.
What happens if the broadband equipment goes wrong?
Our Network Operations Centre monitors the network continuously and we expect it to notice any faults before a customer does. Our field service engineers will then attend where necessary.
How do I pay for the service?
We will offer direct debit payment collection.
What is the minimum contract available?
Due to the high cost of the premises equipment which we are absorbing, we will require a minimum contract of one year initially; thereafter we will require one months notice of termination.
If you wish to terminate your contract within the initial year, we reserve the right to charge for the rest of the year.
Will you offer a free trial period?
Given the high cost of equipment and installation, we do not feel this is an economic option, however you will be able to see the service working locally home before you sign up.
What will the installation cost be?
We aim to provide a comparable price to other ISPs – we will therefore be absorbing the majority of the cost of equipment and installation ourselves. Please refer to the price list.
Will I be able to use the service to make phone calls (Voice over Internet Protocol - VoIP)?
Yes. We will not restrict the use of such services over our network; an example of this type of service is Skype.
What is VoIP?
Voice over Internet Protocol telephony allows users to make voice calls over the internet. These calls are typically free when you connect to other internet users and can also be provided at attractive rates to normal landlines in many countries.
Will the Connected Communities service support online gaming?
Yes, we expect that consoles such as PS2 and Xbox will work over our network.
Can I use a wireless (WiFi) router with your service?
Yes provided it has an Ethernet connection for the incoming network connection.
Can I use multiple computers on the same connection?
Yes, there will be no extra charge for this, but bear in mind that intensive use may cause the speed to suffer and you might want to upgrade to a faster package.
Can I sign up for discounted telephone services with you?
We do not currently offer this service, although we will allow the use of free or cheap VoIP services over our network.
How many users are expected to take up Connected Communities Broadband?
We will provide services to a wide range of companies, teleworkers, home users as well as the Public Sector organisations including schools, health centres and council offices.
Is there any danger from the use of radio devices in the home?
We have carried out an extensive literature survey and technical review, the results of which are available on our website (under the Library/Reports section), which show that all our equipment is well below the recommended limits for exposure.
What happens if I move house?
Please give us at least one month’s notice and inform us of your old and new addresses and postcodes.
If you are moving inside our coverage area we will recover the equipment installed on your premises and reinstall it at your new premises at a mutually convenient time. We will work with you to try to minimise the service downtime this causes.
If you are moving outside our coverage area we will terminate your service and recover the premises equipment by making an appointment with you. You may be able to retain some value added services (eg hosting).
Please note the minimum contract requirements elsewhere.
How robust are the backbone network masts?
They have been designed and installed with the local weather conditions in mind. This includes design and installation in accordance with European standards.