Social housing broadband pilot

New ultrafast fibre broadband options are being piloted across Bristol city councils housing stock starting in the summer of 2019.  We are learning lessons from this pilot as we prepare for new full fibre networks to serve our council housing stock in 2020.

The need for more broadband speed

A home broadband connection has already become the fourth utility for many households.  Bristol residents consume an ever increasing amount of data – 235 GB a month from the latest OFCOM figures – and the need for even more speed and capacity is constantly growing.  The demand for this data and better broadband is being driven by a number of factors; more people using streaming services, like Netflix; more people working from home; the shift to digital services and using applications on the cloud and householders doing all this online at the same time.

Towards a full fibre Bristol

The city is on a journey to full fibre – that’s fibre running all the way to people’s homes and business premises – with Bristol currently at 7% of premises on full fibre.  This is a major step change to the part fibre / part copper broadband which serves most homes in Bristol.  Full fibre broadband is much faster and capable of gigabit+ speeds and can offer equal upload and download speeds to give a more consistent and reliable service.  It’s not dependent on how far you live from your local telecoms cabinet and is what we need for the future.

What could you do with full fibre broadband at 1GB?

On 1GB broadband, users could download a 5GB movie in 40 seconds which would take over 11 minutes on a 76 mbps connection.  Ultrafast is much better for those who want to stream 4k movies, download large files, game online and do these things and more at home at the same time.

Google, who have their own up to 1Gb network in certain US cities, say that a 1Gb connection will allow users to smoothly stream “at least five high definition videos simultaneously”, and still have spare capacity.

Working with the telecoms sector to deliver new networks

Bristol City Council is working with telecoms companies who want to invest in the roll out of ultrafast broadband in our city.  These new ultrafast networks (faster than 300 mbps download) will offer better choice and competition for tenants regarding their broadband options. It will help them to get the best deal and a broadband / telephone package which meets their needs.  We are also exploring new broadband packages for disadvantaged people, such as pay as you go packages, and entry level deals – to get as many people online as possible.  Finally, we’ll be working with companies to contribute to our digital inclusion initiatives, like helping people get the skills they need to make the most of the internet, or providing free WIFI in selected community facilities.

Learning from piloting new networks

Working in partnership with the telecoms sector, we have begun a social housing broadband pilot.  Starting with homes which cannot get superfast (over 30 mbps), the council will facilitate  telecoms providers to install full fibre and ultrafast networks from summer 2019 in selected blocks in St Judes.   Working in some of our buildings is challenging and so we will be learning about the impact of installing new fibre networks on our buildings and our residents.  All the work will be in communal areas of the building and not inside people’s homes, although if tenants choose to subscribe to a new service there will be some minor installation work in their homes.

No change to existing services, if faster services not required

There will no change to tenants’ existing telephone or broadband services if they do not want to subscribe to services offered by the new network.  Their existing broadband service will not be upgraded for free as a result of this work.  We are ensuring that when more speed and bandwidth is required, there is a new full fibre network serving the property which can meet this demand.  Tenants should feel no pressure to subscribe to new services – the choice is theirs.    The presence of another telecoms network will add more choice and competition when tenants are ready to shop around and subscribe to a new service.

Extending networks to all our homes

The next phase will be a wider roll out of full fibre networks to all council housing in the city.  Visit this web page in the early Autumn 2019 for more details of plans to roll out new ultrafast networks across our council homes.

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