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Connected Counties Newsletter - COVID 19

Tuesday 14th April, 2020

Update on delivery as a result of the COVID-19 impact

Under the current guidelines set out by central government we are still continuing the delivery of the Connected Counties contract as Openreach employees have been classified as key workers.

This is being reviewed on a day-by-day basis reflecting updates from central government, but we wanted to highlight that delivery has the potential to slow down depending on the updates and risk to Openreach employees. Please be aware that some working practices have changed to ensure Openreach employees are as safe as possible from the COVID-19 outbreak.

While we work through this tricky time, please be aware there may be delays in our responses to enquiries.


Thanks to Openreach and other ISP engineers and fieldworkers

We are grateful that telecoms engineers across all suppliers, classified as keyworkers in recent government guidance, are continuing to improve and maintain networks across the country and allow so many people to continue working from home.

Unfortunately, there have been some reports of residents across the country verbally abusing Openreach employees for not self-isolating while they are out and about maintaining and upgrading infrastructure.

Please note Openreach have put in further measures to ensure they are mitigating the risk of COVID-19 and are abiding by the social distancing principles being enforced.

We would ask that people try to be supportive of these, and all, key workers at this hard time.

Myth busting

There have been worries from residents and businesses around the country that the internet will not be able to cope with the additional number of people working from home or using streaming services while we have been told to stay at home. There is currently no evidence to suggest this and internet providers are working hard to maintain a reliable service.

Internet service providers are very well equipped to deal with increases in demand on their networks from these activities as they already have this built into their systems to cope with major internet usage events.

One point to note is that mobile companies have seen a sharp increase in mobile phone calls, which has put some strain on their systems. If you can use WiFi calling or your landline, you might find this is better quality.

For more information, please see this ISP Review article.

Home visits and installation

The installation process to bring a broadband service into a premise, whether this is installing the fibre cable directly into your premise in a Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) build or ensuring the copper connection to your premise is working in a Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) build, may require the Openreach engineer entering your premise to complete the broadband upgrade.

Openreach are not undertaking home visits to anyone, other than the vulnerable, those without any service, and essential services at this time in order to protect both the public and their engineers and to meet with current central government COVID-19 guidelines.

This will be regularly reviewed based on central government guidance.

We are aware this will cause problems for many residents trying to upgrade their service and would hope that we can return to a normal installation once the current situation improves. However, please speak to your internet service provider, as you may still be able to upgrade your service without an engineer needing to enter your premise.

Making the most of your internet connection

There are many ways to boost your internet connection, even if you are on the best package available to your premise. Below we will list a few options for you to try:

1.    Make sure you are on the best package available to your premise and for your budget
Many people have not yet signed up for the best speed broadband potentially available to them. Whilst Openreach have stated that they will not be doing home visits, some upgrades do not require an engineer to come into your home. The best way to understand whether you can be on a faster package is to speak to your internet service provider. Any package upgrade will cost a bit more each month, but it may be worth it. If you are on a ‘capped’ package you may want to consider upgrading to an ‘unlimited’ version.

2.    Move your current router
Large metal objects (such as a microwave) and objects that give off a signal (such as a TV or games console) can interfere with the WiFi signal, therefore it is best that your router is away from these objects. Additionally, the router gives off a signal in a ‘bubble’, with the router being in the middle of the ‘bubble’. As a result, the router will reach more of your premise if it is located centrally. However, it’s best not to use a telephone line extension cable as these can impact the speed your router receives (a power extension cable is fine).

3.    Plug in an ethernet cable
This may sound obvious to some, but plugging your laptop or PC directly into the router using an ethernet cable is the easiest way to ensure that speed is not lost through WiFi signals. If you don’t have an ethernet cable lying about the house, they are relatively inexpensive to get from multiple online retailers and can come in lengths over 10 metres.

4.    Consider buying a WiFi extender
If WiFi to your “office” is not suitable, consider buying a WiFi extender. Whilst these can be expensive, and some internet service providers will allow you to purchase one through your broadband deal with them, you can also buy relatively cheap versions which will help improve your connection. Like the ethernet cable, these can be found from multiple online retailers. Please note: It is advisable to review this with your internet service provider to ensure this will provide an improvement in your home or business.

5.    Change the WiFi channel
A more technical solution, but easy to do following a guide on the internet, would be to change the WiFi channel. The best way to learn how to do this would simply be searching “how to change the WiFi channel” and the name of your internet service provider into your preferred search engine. Each spectrum (2.4GHz or 5GHz) has a 100MHz spectrum to fit in 11 channels. Therefore, if all of your neighbours are on the same channel it would be wise to change this as there will be interference in the WiFi signal from their routers (usually 1, 6, or 11 are the best ones to use).

6.    Restrict the number of users and devices on your WiFi
Please remember that if you have multiple users on the same network, internet speeds are likely to slow down. If you a have good mobile signal, it might be worth using your mobile data (without your phone being connected to the WiFi) for non-essential internet use. Please note that there could be additional charges depending on your mobile data plan. Additionally, it might be worth restricting the number of devices connected to your WiFi at any one time.

For more information please visit Ofcom’s website or the Which website, and to check what speed is available to your premise check the Connected Counties website.

Please remember that the Universal Service Obligation (USO) and Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme, as well as other voucher schemes, are still in progress. For more information click on the names.

Bringing BETTER broadband to homes
& businesses across Bucks and Herts