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East Midlands Broadband Consortium (EMBC) Thread, EMBC - whether to move away or not? in Regional Broadband Consortiums (RBC); Hi, I'm trying to generate a healthy discussion about broadband suppliers for EMBC area, with a view of helping schools ...
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    EMBC - whether to move away or not?

    Hi,

    I'm trying to generate a healthy discussion about broadband suppliers for EMBC area, with a view of helping schools to make an informed decision about whether to stay with EMBC or not. This is not with the view of EMBC "bashing", but rather to see what is best for any of us, should we decide to move.

    We are are a Derbyshire School. Our Head has asked me to check out the alternatives to EMBC to see whether there was any pricing / reliability benefits in staying / moving away.

    Admittedly, pricing appears to be in a state of flux at the moment, with no real clear details. The caveat is how many schools stay with the LEA / EMBC will affect the pricing for good or bad.

    We have had, like a number of schools, had a flyer from RM and the pricing for us would be 10,000 p.a. over a 3 year contract - not bad on face value. The Head and myself are not very keen RM fans though - through different experiences! However, it appears that they use Virgin (who made an abysmal showing at the Pride Park Derbyshire EMBC meeting last month). However, it still could be good, though I wouldn't be keen on their email / filtering options.

    But then there is the thought about staying with the EMBC consortium so as to support lesser financially capable schools i.e. primaries.

    At the end of the day, we need to make the best use of the money (not necesarily the cheapest for cheap sake - but then not too expensive) we have to utilize a reliable service and what's best for the school.

    So, folks, what do you think...

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    I have to agree with you with regard to pricing and no clear details. I have been trying to find out the relative info for my schools (all primarys but different clusters) My problem seems to be trying to find the right supplier for access that may not be the right one for applications (services) . If I could pin down some prices I know it would make my life easier. I've had access prices for KCOM, RM and exa (not one of the companys that tendered) Ive also had pricing opitons from RM with regard to the services that they offer. I find it very disappointing that I haven't been able to find more pricing yet. I have an appointment with Virgin tomorrow afternoon so that will be interesting to see what they can offer, at what cost especially to a couple of my smaller schools. I wonder if the hope from some sectors is that if they leave the schools with minmum amount of info, some schools will decided that the easy option is to stick with what they currently have rather than whats cost effective.
    I do know that I could do with some help on this...........

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    Our network support guys recommended we also talk to Zen - a commercial broadband provider with good reviews. We got a quote from them of about 14,000 p.a. for 100 Mbs uncontended. They were very informative and helpful. But still no clear direction yet becuase of what I mentioned before and your points too Smee.

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    We've still got our options open, but I have spoken with Exa and RM thus far. The latter do, as you say, offer some decent pricing on their fibre lines, so one possibility for us is to go with them, and then bring the security and filtering on site. Bigger initial outlay but a decent yearly rate thereafter. I'm equally dubious about the suitability of RM's offerings with regard content filtering etc.

    We're a little behind on this, but then that was entirely our own fault.

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    Don't know where you are JonWPS, but RM said to us thaere would be no setup fee - that maybe helpful to you. It all depends what you have in at the moment, I think. Our line was upgraded by EMBC / LEA / through BT about 2 years ago. But then if Virgin (on behalf of RM) supply their own line they would have to do some sort of install...??
    Last edited by pingleict; 22nd February 2012 at 11:16 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Smee View Post
    I have to agree with you with regard to pricing and no clear details. I have been trying to find out the relative info for my schools (all primarys but different clusters) ... I find it very disappointing that I haven't been able to find more pricing yet. ... I wonder if the hope from some sectors is that if they leave the schools with minmum amount of info, some schools will decided that the easy option is to stick with what they currently have rather than whats cost effective.
    This is a very important point you make SMEE. The lack of real time figures is about the most unhelpful thing that is happening and it is nightmare for those of us with the responsibility to suggest a decision let alone poor resource strapped primaries who don't have the time to wade through the ambiguity of it all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pingleict View Post
    Don't know where you are JonWPS, but RM said to us thaere would be no setup fee - that maybe helpful to you. It all depends what you have in at the moment, I think. Our line was upgraded by EMBC / LEA / through BT about 2 years ago. But then if Virgin (on behalf of RM) supply their own line they would have to do some sort of install...??
    You're not wrong. I think they split setup costs over the duration of the contract unless you want it done otherwise. This is all to be discussed and worked out though, and our location is very favourable in terms of location to cabinets etc, so we'll see.

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    We're in the same boat, RM's pricing has rattled a few cages I'll tell you!

    I asked a few questions to RM, here is some of the info i got from them:

    The SafetyNet plus they are including offers staff proxy and student filtering. Staff proxy is an unfiltered (blocks only IWF list), on site filtering options are available (Smoothwall/smartcache)
    They offer as many public facing IP's as is reasonable
    No access to firewall, changes take typically 24 hours
    They use Cisco Routers

    We are awaiting quotes from a few places.

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    Just had Virgin in, will let you make up your own mind after you meeting!! Not impressed!

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    Not in your county , but we were paying 9750 (or somewhere close to that) a year for 10 Megabit and the service was poor, it was from the LEA with RM doing some bits.

    We moved last year to Zen and its the best thing we did. No downtime on the connection at weekends, no stupid charges for additional public IP's or DNS changes, and in complete control of our line. Zen actually having very technical staff at the other end is also a pleasure, not just call centre script readers.

    We pay 14,000 a year for 25 Megabit on a 100 Megabit bearer so we can increase in the future if we need it. Zen gave us 32 Public IP's (Had choice of 1,8,16,32,64,128 or 256). They waved the install charge.

    We also have backup ADSL, so if something was to go through our fibre it auto switches to DSL on another Exchange, not the fastest, but better than no internet at all, so a great backup, costs no extra in terms of payment to Zen.

    We bought a Fortigate 200B box for the filtering and firewall and cannot fault it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by paulellam View Post
    Just had Virgin in, will let you make up your own mind after you meeting!! Not impressed!
    Oh dear oh dear oh dear, shame todays not pancake day.....the fella from Virgin was a total tosser!

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    As someone working for a primary school I am interested to hear others views on this. We aren't particularly happy with our current service, and are facing huge increases in costs both in April, when our LA's subsidy of the service charge will be removed, and November when we will have to pay the full connectivity charge too - we could potentially be paying around 10k a year for a 4mb mpf connection.

    My personal feeling is that there is a lot of misinformation being bandied about to scare primaries, most of whom don't have dedicated technical staff, into signing up. For example, we have been told that we would lose separation between our admin and curriculum networks and would have to change all of our internal IP addressing, that non-RBC suppliers don't understand safeguarding and are unreliable, that it would take a lot of time and expertise to maintain in-house filtering etc etc.

    We are in an area that can get fibre optic lines both through Virgin and BT. We only use EMBC for email (currently only used by four or five staff members, pupils don't have email accounts), connectivity, web filtering and access to the LA's information services. Our website is already hosted elsewhere and we have a separate supplier for our VLE. I find it hard to believe that there isn't a better, and cheaper, option available to us.

    We have been told that Capita and KCom will both be writing to schools by 14th March with quotes for their 'Day 1' bundles. Virgin phoned a few weeks ago offering me quotes through EMPSN and as a direct service, but haven't come back with any figures yet.

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    In the interest of fairness ... it is worth pointing out that different LAs within EMBC have slightly different setups, and so some of the comments from some schools might need to understood in that context. For Northants, there is no integration between LA and school systems ... and that comes at a cost to schools to do more work themselves ... but in other LAs it works better due to the greater links between systems.

    YMMV

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    The whole thing is extremely frustrating, and we are some distance away from where we ought to have been this late in February. I genuinely think that if emPSN and their separate providers don't sort their act at sharpish they will lose a fair bit of custom to RM, particularly if cost is the deciding factor. For us it isn't, but we obvioualy have to be aware of it. My guess is the option that represents the least transition and disruption will end up being the most expensive, but having been promised a call yesterday from the relevant provider I'm still waiting, so still frustrated at the delays.

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    Virgin have quoted us 42.00 per month for a 50 meg fibre business broadband connection... 250.00 installation fee if there is not an existing virgin fibre link into the school ... That includes one telephone line and free UK calls ... One leg of the the virgin cable network runs past our front door !! We are looking at filtering option at the same time. The end result will be a substantial saving of cost by leaving our current lea supplier ...

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