Frequently asked questions
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- How will the B4RN connection be brought across my garden/drive etc? It is the householder’s responsibility to get the duct from the boundary of their property to their house wall. B4RN can only install this world class service at this price if each household helps, or finds friends/neighbours to help with the installation. No other company can install a service anything like this at anything like this price… householder help is part of what makes this achievable. B4RN will advise on the route through your property but the duct route is the householder’s responsibility, as is recording the route. Photographs are a simple way of recording the route.
- How will the B4RN connection enter my house?
The normal installation is for B4RN to take orange duct that has been laid through the property grounds, change to black duct as it comes above ground (UV stabilised) and run it up the wall to a small house entry box (the size of a spectacles case!). This contains a gas block that prevents gases like radon or methane entering your house. These are not likely hazards, but B4RN is intent on following best practice for safety!From the house entry box small hole will be drilled through the wall and a white 5mm duct will be fed through the hole into the backplate which is fitted to your inside wall.
Where will the router be located in our house?
It can be mounted wherever you want it in the house. Ideally, it would want to be somewhere near the rooms where you use the Internet most so that Wi-Fi can be used to maximum effect. However, where it goes will largely be subject to limiting the disruption at the property, i.e. it is easier to run duct through lawn & flower beds than tarmac & concrete. Just like any other company like BT or Sky, B4RN volunteers would find a convenient location and anything beyond that (for example internal routing under floors, through lofts etc. to a more ideal location) would be down to the householder. The router needs power, so will need to be mounted within 1m of a socket. It can also be useful to have a telephone socket nearby so you can more easily change your entire home phone circuit onto VoIP, although this can also be a moveable feast by using powerline adaptors to move the phone to a more convenient socket.
- What specification is the B4RN router? B4RN will install their own equipment on an inside wall of your home. This is the equivalent of your current router and has WiFi and 4 gigabit wired connections. This is supplied as part of B4RN’s £30/month service fee so costs you nothing extra, but it does remain the property of B4RN.Comparable Wi-Fi performance to modern routers from the likes of Sky, Talk Talk etc. Some customers have reported that the WiFi may be slightly weaker range than the latest BT Home Hub, but the underlying Internet service speed is a lot faster!
The latest B4RN router has two wireless-N antennas inside: a 2.4Ghz and a 5Ghz. The 2.4Ghz has greater range but limited speed whereas the 5Ghz has faster speed but limited range. Both antennas are active so you can mix and match which devices around your house use which antenna, or let your equipment decide automatically.
What is included in B4RN's service as an ISP? An Internet Service Provider is an organisation which provides you with connectivity to the Internet. As an ISP, B4RN will provide you with an IP address and the rest of the techie things you need to get online. What else does an ISP do? Well, strictly speaking nothing. Once you are online you access a range of services that are hosted within the Internet and your ISP may offer some of those services as well in competition to all the other providers who are not your ISP but have services you do want to consume. For instance you will want an EMAIL account and your ISP might offer you one. It’s generally not a good thing to take email accounts from your ISP as it locks you into taking your connectivity from them forever unless you don’t mind changing your email address every time you shift ISP to get a better deal. So most people these days go with someone like GMAIL to maintain vendor independence. They give you huge capacity mailboxes and in my experience as good a service as any ISP. There are plenty of others out there too, take your pick.
Apart from email there really are not any services that ISPs offer you anymore. At one time you could get web hosting and storage but again there are numerous alternative providers who offer much better deals who are not ISPs and many ISPs have pulled out of that service area as it makes them nothing and costs them to support it.
So, really what your ISP needs to do is give you a fast reliable link into the Internet and you then sign up to take whatever services you want from suppliers who live in the Internet cloud. I think we are all familiar with the idea of clicking on the icon for Facebook or YouTube or iPlayer or iTunes and hundreds of others. These are all services and applications and nothing to do with your ISP.
Finally – a good ISP should offer friendly, responsive customer tech support. Although B4RN don’t have a 24hr overseas call-centre, they do have a dedicated local support team that can be called (in office hours) or emailed. They will not rest until your problem is sorted… and experience shows problems get fixed far quicker with B4RN than any other telecoms provider.
Will I need to change my email address?
You would need to contact your existing service provider to determine their policy on email services when you terminate your broadband service with them. Regardless of this, our recommendation is to move to using a free email service like gmail, which is typically far superior than service provider offerings. As such, B4RN does not offer an email service.
- Do I get a fixed public IP address, or a block of IP addresses? By default we will issue 1 static IP address per premises. We expect many users to install a gateway/router/firewall/WiFi hub on the end of the line and that will handle additional internal address allocations and use NAT to share the single address.If the user is taking VoIP services connected directly to our CPE switch then an additional IP address will be allocated for that. However we have no problem with allocating additional addresses or blocks of addresses if required so long as the end user knows what to do with them and makes a case to us. there is a charge for this. We have to justify our address blocks to RIPE who will want to see the case for assigning them. Given the shortage of IPv4 addresses we might be forced towards IPv6 numbering if a user wants to take a block but the B4RN network will support both protocol stacks.
- Is B4RN really so much faster than my current connection?
The current broadband service in most of the area is sold as “up to 8Mbps”. It’s unusual to get the full 8Mbps though because it depends upon distance from the exchange and quality of the copper cable linking your property to the exchange. Hence, typical broadband speed in in the area is 5Mbps download and 0.4Mbps upload. The B4RN service is 1000Mbps download and 1000Mbps upload, irrespective of distance from your local B4RN cabinet. This is 200x faster download and 2500x faster upload.
It might be more helpful to think of it like this: a B4RN broadband service removes the internet connection as being the bottleneck it traditionally has been. The limitation then becomes the user equipment in the home and the remote servers with which you are communicating. Most customers seem to get a few hundred Mbps. While this is unbelievably fast, and almost all people will say they don’t need this, the world is ever-changing and who can predict what the internet will mean to us in 10 years’ time?
It’s also important to remember that speed isn’t everything, and a lot of people just want a reliable broadband connection that works perfectly all of the time, whenever you need it. The B4RN service is designed solely to deliver a world-class broadband service, using the same fibre-optic cables that link data centres and countries, all the way from the internet exchange in Manchester to your property. It doesn’t make use of ageing infrastructure and cables that were designed and laid decades ago to deliver something else: a telephone service. As such, the glitches, slow speeds and temporary outages that we are all used to should be a thing of the past for B4RN customers.
- How many connections can I make to the B4RN router?
You will have one gigabit connection that serves all the devices in your household. There are 4 network ports on the B4RN router. You could for example connect one to your computer, one to your TV, one to a games console and one to another device etc. Remember you also have the built in WiFi. If you have lots of computers and smart TVs at home, and you need more than 4 wired network connections, you can buy a Gigabit switch which will give you even more connections. Because B4RN is so fast you will find none of the connections feel slow even if lots of users in your house are busy online at the same time.Please see the Customer section of the B4RN website Resources page to find a PDF guide to extending your home network.
How can I get the connection to the TV and around my house?
You can run a network cable from the B4RN router to your TV. Alternatively, you can use Powerline Homeplugs networking to connect different parts of your house using electrical cables. These aren’t as fast as dedicated network cables, and the quality of the connection can depend on the wiring, but they can be an easier alternative.
Note that if you want to mount your B4RN router near the TV, be careful not to mount it right behind the TV because it will block some of the power of the WiFi signal. Similarly, you may need to consider thickness of walls, foil-lined plasterboard and insulated walls, all of which may attenuate the WiFi signal. If these sorts of issues do affect WiFi strength in your property, it is possible to install extra WiFi access points to boost the signal in areas of weak signal strength.Note that whilst B4RN may be able to advise you further about this, as with current internet service providers e.g. BT, internal networking and WiFi remains the responsibility of the householder.Please see the Customer section of the B4RN website Resources page to find a PDF guide to extending your home network. We also run a friendly club on Friday afternoons at Melling 2-4pm where volunteers will help and advise you.
- Can B4RN help install networking cable / antennas etc around my house?
B4RN will not do this for you but they may advise you. Installing a network cable is analogous to running a telephone extension cable, which people would typically tack to skirting boards or run under the edge of the carpet. If you are looking for installation of network sockets in walls, then most electricians would be able to provide this service, although you may wish to consider buying a TV with WiFi built in as these are pretty much standard these days.Please see the Customer section of the B4RN website Resources page to find a PDF guide to extending your home network. We also run a friendly club on Friday afternoons at Melling 2-4pm where volunteers will help and advise you.
How do I make phonecalls using B4RN? You will need to sign up to a third party VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service. This provides a telephone service that uses your internet connection. The calls are generally cheaper than on a traditional phone service, and you won’t need to pay line rental anymore. B4RN subscribers have found market leaders Vonage provide a good, consumer friendly service, however, there are many alternatives you can find by googling for “VoIP service”.
The VoIP provider will provide a small device that will plug into your B4RN router. Your home phones will be plugged into this in the same way your phones are currently plugged into your master socket. There are different types of boxes but they are all small and unobtrusive.
Please see our PDF guidelines on the Resources page for further details.
Can we retain our existing phone number and old telephones? If you currently use BT or another quality phone provider, yes – your existing number can be ported over to the VoIP service just like a mobile number can be ported to another mobile network. It’s also trivial to purchase additional lines if these are required. Note that we have had some reports that some third party companies can make transferring your number difficult. You should double-check with whatever VoIP provider you choose before you make the switch.Old phones will still work on most VoIP services. You must get the new VoIP service working and ask them to move your number to them, if you cancel your current contract first you will lose your number. They will give you a new one, but many wish to keep their current number, so please follow the instructions on our help files.
- Do we have to continue to pay line rental to BT (or similar)? No, you can choose to cease your landline entirely if you wish. However, it is important to understand that if you currently have a landline with a wired telephone connected to it, then you will currently be able to use it to make a telephone call in the event of a power loss to your property. Your internet connection on the other hand is not usable in the event of a power cut (unless you invested in a UPS to keep the router powered), which means that any telephone service that makes use of the internet connection would not be available. If you own a mobile phone, this is probably not a concern as your mobile can be used to make an emergency telephone call if you have signal, if required. However, if you don’t own a mobile phone, don’t want a mobile phone and do wish to be able to make a phone call in the case of a power cut, then you may wish to invest in a battery pack (a UPS). This will keep your service working for a set amount of time, depending on the size of unit you buy. We have written a help guide about these for your information.Please see our PDF guidelines on the Resources page for further details.
How can our TV make use of our B4RN internet connection? Most modern smart TVs are able to stream video from many services via the internet, e.g. BBC iPlayer, ITVPlayer, Netflix etc. If you don’t have a smart TV, a streaming internet player (e.g. YouView box, firestick or Sky’s NowTV box) will be required to perform the same function that is built into smart TVs.
Assuming you have suitable equipment, you should be able to access some streaming services like BBC iPlayer, ITVPlayer etc. for free. There are a plethora of services available and some (e.g. Netflix, Sky Go) will require a subscription.
Remember that B4RN provides your internet connection service only. It is not responsible for any TV, phone or indeed any service that you may purchase to utilise that internet connection. It is your responsibility to find appropriate services by, for example, reading about them on their websites and coming to your own decisions about what is best for you.Please see our PDF guidelines on the Resources page for further details.
- Can we use our B4RN internet connection to watch live TV? Yes and no. Most major channels do not stream live broadcasts to a smart TV or streaming internet player device. However, some of the major channels can be streamed to computers and tablets/devices. Presumably this is a legal/licensing issue that will be worked through in time, but may take some months or even years. So, for live TV, you should keep your current TV aerial/satellite dish setup until broadcasters catch up with the wonderful technology that B4RN will install!
Note that you should continue to pay for your TV licence. Watching over the internet does not create an exemption from needing a licence.Please see our PDF guidelines on the Resources page for further details.
- Could B4RN become overloaded if everyone tried to watch the World Cup at the same time? No. There will be enough bandwidth out of the village for thousands of HD video streams. Furthermore, if more bandwidth is ever required, the inter-village links can easily be upgraded.
- What is the security like on B4RN? We take data security very seriously, and our network is very secure. Our 24/7 backup is TNP (The Networking People) who also look after a lot of other networks including schools, so security is paramount. More info about them here: https://www.tnp.net.uk/latest-news/
We don’t keep people’s bank details like larger ISPs do, we use a separate company called Go Cardless to manage our direct debits. This means if we are hacked they can’t get your bank details, and if GC are hacked they can’t get your personal details. This makes us more secure than other ‘mass market’ ISPs
. Our network is constantly monitored, and if there were any breaches of security they would be dealt with immediately.
Nothing is absolutely safe out there in the ether, just like it isn’t safe on a motorway or a plane, but you can rest assured we will always be there, and protecting our community.
- How can I keep my connection working in a power cut? Customers with battery back ups are not affected, but those who don’t have them lose their internet and sometimes their phone lines in power cuts. If you wish to keep your internet and phone service operational in power cuts read our guide, and contact us if you want the computer club to order you a battery back up (UPS) in the next consignment. firstname.lastname@example.org and Phil will help you. https://b4rn.org.uk/…/…/04/PUPS22-intro-and-User-GuideV4.pdf
Can I watch BT Sport on B4RN? As of December 2019, you can watch BT Sport without BT Broadband with a BT Sport Monthly Pass. The individual package costs £25 a month, contract free.