What is broadband?

Broadband is the term used to describe a wide range of technologies that allow high-speed, always-on access to the Internet. This is most often delivered via a connection through a telephone line or cable service, but can also be delivered using wireless and satellite technologies.

Large amounts of information are carried at high speed to your computer making it possible to download music, movies and images as well as using the internet quickly and easily for on-line banking, shopping and public services.

How is broadband currently provided?

Broadband is provided in the Black Country via a range of technologies from fibre-based services using cable or copper wire to satellite and wireless.  Current superfast broadband availability in the Black Country stands at 92%.

What is superfast fibre broadband?

Superfast fibre broadband is the new generation of broadband – much faster, more reliable and it uses a different technology.

Whilst most traditional broadband (known as ADSL) is delivered via copper telephone lines, superfast fibre broadband commonly uses fibre optic cable as part of the link between the customer and the telephone exchange.

The UK Government defines superfast broadband speeds in excess of 24Mbps.

Speed Checker

How do I find out my current speed?

Do a speed test! You can test your current broadband speed using an online checker here: https://www.broadbandspeedtest.org.uk or below:

Why is the internet always slow in the evenings?

Speeds are generally slower in the evening because there tends to be more people using the service in the evening than during the day. It’s the equivalent of rush hour first thing in the morning and in the evening that adds a lot of traffic to the roads and this has to be managed by internet service providers to ensure the equivalent of gridlock does not ensue.

I currently pay for a service that says I should get up to 10Mbps but I only get 2Mbps, why is that?

One of the problems with purchasing broadband, especially ADSL broadband delivered over copper, is that your supplier cannot guarantee that you will get a particular speed. There are a number of different factors that affect the speed of your broadband connection. For example, the speed will be reduced by your distance from the telephone exchange, the quality of the line, the number of joints in the wire, and the wiring inside your house. Also, the connection will be made at the Maximum Stable Rate (MSR), which is the highest speed achievable without the line being disconnected or dropped occasionally.

The broadband router can also make a difference, as can your laptop, computer or some of the software you use.

The distance from the telephone exchange is the length of the wiring involved, not the direct distance. A user could be within a stone’s throw of the exchange but too far away for ADSL (for example, if the exchange is on the other side of a river or railway line). The quality of the line includes what it’s made from – aluminium for example is notoriously slower than copper wiring for ADSL.

In addition to the above factors, your connection may be limited by something called ‘contention’. Broadband and telephone services are supplied on the same basis as other utilities such as water, mains electricity, and roads; all of which assume that not everybody will want to use them at once. If everybody in your town decided to run a bath at the same time, your water supply would soon reduce to a trickle. The same thing will happen if everybody wants to use the internet at the same time.

The Black Country has appointed BT to help install faster broadband across the county. Does this mean I will have to buy my improved broadband service from BT?

No, this project is buying infrastructure which will be made available to broadband retailers (e.g. Talktalk, Sky, Virgin, Plusnet etc) to offer their services to customers. You can buy your broadband service from a large number of providers. 

How do I order superfast fibre broadband?

Once you’ve checked your line to confirm if superfast fibre broadband is available to you, it’s much the same as ordering normal broadband. There are different broadband providers offering the service, so you can shop around and choose the best deal for you.  Then, when you’ve decided which provider to go with, contact them directly to place your order.

When superfast fibre broadband becomes available in my area, will my broadband simply get faster without me taking any action?

No. To get superfast fibre broadband, you’ll need to place an order with a provider who offers this service. This is because superfast fibre broadband uses a different technology and an engineer will need to visit your home or business to install the necessary equipment.

If you choose not to upgrade to superfast fibre broadband, you’ll be able to continue using your existing broadband service as normal.

Will I need new equipment for superfast broadband?

It is possible you may need new equipment. Information on this should be made available by your Internet Service Provider when superfast broadband becomes available to you.

How will I know when a better broadband service is available for my home or business?

You may receive information from Internet Service Providers and other channels. 

How much will a superfast service cost me?

The cost of a fibre service will ultimately depend on which internet service provider (ISP) you choose to go with, as well as the tariff/buddle you choose to purchase. 

Prices correspond to those that companies already offer. It is best to shop around and find the best deal for you. Things to look out for include:

Speed – check this carefully as some broadband packages cap download/upload speeds in return for a cheaper tariff.

Usage – some packages are unlimited while others only allow a limited amount of download/upload each month, so check what you need.

Contract – check the contract length which could be 12/18/24 months depending on the package.

Calls – you could save money by combining broadband with telephone services in one package

Offers – broadband companies may offer incentives to sign up to their products such as discounted introductory periods or vouchers for high street stores.

Price – Use a price comparison website to find the best deal for you such as: Broadband Genie, Uswitch, Compare the Market. On average a fibre service is £5 a month more than a standard copper service, but people on old contracts may find they can save money by switching.

What are Exchange Only Lines?

The vast majority of UK premises are connected to a green roadside cabinet  which then connects to the local exchange. However, a small proportion of business and consumer properties are served directly by the local exchange rather than by a green cabinet – these are called "Exchange Only” lines. It can prove more challenging and time-consuming to bring fibre broadband to properties served by EO lines.

EO lines are included in the roll out for the Black Country Project.  The solution used to provide fast fibre broadband may, however, vary from exchange to exchange. For example, a new cabinet may be installed to provide fibre to cabinet technology or a fibre may be provided to your premises directly, known as fibre to the premises. However, the roll out of the Black Country Project is based on delivering contracted speeds rather than the use of particular technologies and we employ the most appropriate solution to deliver these speeds.

How do I find out if where I live is included in the Black Country Local Broadband Plan?

The Black Country Local Broadband team keeps information on which postcode areas are eligible for funding by the project.

Alternatively you can check availability in your area using the Postcode checker.

Download the full FAQs document below: