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BLN4 FAQ's

Can anyone buy internet through the BLN?
The BLN is able to offer connectivity to any educational establishment within the UK.  We can sell directly to individual schools or academy chains wanting to procure connectivity for all of their sites. The network is designed specifically for school use and we are therefore unable to sell to businesses or to residential customers.

Do I have to take out a 3 year contract?
Due to the costs involved in running a procurement and the savings made, 3 years was agreed to be the best length of time to take out a contract.  Due to the costs and complexities around taking out a new contract, anything less than 3 years would not be value for money.  Anything longer, and the changes in technology may mean it costs you more.  Therefore, the BLN contract runs for 3 years.  If a school signs up part way through BLN4, their end date will remain the same as the rest of the estate, March 2022.

Why do you charge by connection size and a per pupil fee?
Underpinning the charging model to schools was the need to allow all schools access to fast and reliable connectivity whilst distributing the rest of the costs fairly across all sizes of schools. Through consultation with the School Reference Group and looking at the balance of all the elements, a decision was made to charge a lump sum dependent on the size of connection chosen and then a £5.50 per pupil fee.  This sees a reduction of 50p per annum for every pupil in BLN4.

Will the cost rise during the contract?
The line rental costs are fixed for the full 3 years. Your charge will only increase if you opt to upgrade to a higher speed mid-contract.  The per pupil fee is calculated on your pupil numbers from the latest October census (taken annually), so this charge may increase / decrease depending on how your pupil numbers fluctuate. 

What is an FTTP connection and do you sell any other connectivity types?
FTTP stands for Fibre To The Premises.  Some ISPs refer to these connections as Leased Lines.  This means that the cables in the ground are full fibre all the way from your school server room to the core of our network.  Although it still physically connects into cabinets in the street there is no contention on your connection at these points.  FTTP is synchronus so the upload speed is the same as your download speed.  Other types of internet connections do exist but their speeds are not guaranteed making some of them not fit for purpose and as we have already invested in creating a full fibre network, we do not offer any other connectivity types.

What is the extra peak bandwidth?
To support schools in keeping their costs to a minimum whilst having the bandwidth that they need available, the BLN has negotiated for 40Mb and 50Mb connections to automatically exceed their chosen speed limit during peak usage. We recognise that Windows Updates and cloud based services can impact on the speeds available for users for short periods and that it is not cost effective to upgrade your bandwidth to allow for these. If you regularly peak at the maximum of the allowance available then we will discuss upgrading to the next bandwidth. This is only available up to 100Mb
and we would always recommend schools who regularly require more than this to move to a higher fxed bandwidth offering.   

Is the network scalable and can I upgrade my connection size during my contract?
Our core network is currently scalable up to 10Gb and we are confident that this is more than adequate for the duration of the BLN4 contract.  Individual schools can upgrade their connections at any point for free, they just need to pay the difference in the line rental charge.

Why does the BLN offer a Smoothwall box in school, isn't cloud based filtering the way forward?
Having a box per school has many advantages and it was agreed by the BLN Technical Reference Group (TRG), that this was still the best solution for the BLN.  Active Directory integration and reporting are just 2 of the features that work better in this environment plus there are no contention issues accessing the service.  Having the hardware installed in school means we can allow you full access to your box if required and if any maintenance is needed, it only affects you as an individual and not the whole estate.

What does AD Integration mean and is it important?
AD stands for Active Directory.  AD is the system you use in school to log in to your school network.  By linking your web filtering into your AD the Smoothwall knows who you are by who you logged onto your device as, there is no need to remember another username and password.  It is important all users have their own unique username and password otherwise any reports will not reflect which user has done what.  The Smoothwall knowing who you are can ensure that the correct filtering policy is applied as you may want different access for different types of users.  It also means you can easily identify a user and look at their browsing history in detail if you have any safeguarding concerns. 

When will I be invoiced?
You will be invoiced by CBMDC in April each year.  Your pupil figure will be calculated on the previous October Census data which is how school funding is determined.

Why do I need to decide by October 2018 when my current contract doesn't end until 31 March 2019?
Once the BLN team have all our contracts back from schools, we then need to get the contracts signed by Bradford Council and the suppliers.  This isn't quite as simple as just signing a piece of paper and it can take a while before the process is completed. Once this is done, the new contract needs to be rolled out in time for the 1 April 2019 start date.  This includes installing all new Smoothwall boxes in schools, which takes a considerable amount of time.  If school is thinking of leaving the BLN, you need to give yourself adequate time to get your new connection procurred and installed.  The standard lead time on getting a fibre circuit installed is 60 working days, from planning being completed and that is providing there is no excess construction (which can incur further costs to the school), to be undertaken.  This doesn't leave you with much time, if you do not sign a new contract until the New Year.

If the Smoothwall box belongs to school can I re-use it?
The Smoothwall hardware belongs to school but the warranty on this hardware expires on the 31 March 2019.  More importantly than that though, the Smoothwall licence also ends on the 31 March and therefore your box will no longer function as a Smootwall device.  This will not put your users at risk of accessing unfiltered internet, the box will instead block any content that you try to access.  Smoothwall will not re-licence a device that is out of warranty.  As the hardware belongs to school you may decide to re-purpose the hardware such as turning it into a file server, or school will need to dispose of the device.