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Monday, 12 October 2009

It is time for the truth (and spades) to out

BT have announced that re-use of existing ducts, poles and masts means that the cost to FTTH is substantially less than they previously thought. Has this really just dawned on them? What have the guys at Martlesham been doing since Peter left if it didn't even occur to them that existing ducts could have fibre fed through them?!

There needs to be a major press release given to idle journalists announcing that the figure commonly used (from the Analysys Mason report) as the cost to FTTH this whole country has just been officially slashed. It needs to be rammed home to MPs too, as well as RDAs, telcos, citizens and so on.

For far too long, many of us have been saying the figure is wrong, and that it is being used by the telcos as an excuse (the BIG LIE) to prevent work going ahead to get this country on track with fibre. It has been used to mislead government, as well as writers of reports such as the Digital Britain report, who have made false assumptions based purely on commercial "interests".

The economics of deploying fibre (with that £28Bn figure at the core of the argument) have been commonly cited as the reason why this country is lagging behind. "Too big a risk" "Wrong financial climate" "No return on investment" etc are all excuses we hear punted out, time after time.

However, there is now substantial evidence that not only are the costs of deployment far lower than has been published, the maintenance, running and environmental costs of FTTH are far lower than for other technologies such as ADSL. Even more than that though is the hard and irrefutable evidence of the social and economic impact that FTTH offers any nation.

Even if FTTH were to cost £28Bn, which we all now know it won't because BT have openly admitted their 'closer to actuality' costs, then the benefits to the citizens and businesses, to government services, to health, education and so on are undeniable. As are the cost savings for these public services.

In a country struggling to get back to a position of world class business and improve citizens' social and economic well being, we need to work together AS A NATION, to get FTTH rolled out as fast as possible. There is no other single issue or spend which would galvanise this nation, economically and socially, as FTTH will.

BT should be forced to work in partnership with local communities, ISPs, RDAs, businesses and citizens so the UK can roll out a world class FTTH infrastructure nationwide. BT should not be permitted to build 'open networks' where there is limited regulation over how much is charged for access to those networks. We need open networks which are open to ALL, be that a community ISP/CIC or the likes of Virgin et al.

Where BT and other telcos fear to tread eg in rural areas, the first mile needs to be opened up now to those who are prepared to connect the digitally disconnected with FTTH. The digitally reluctant cannot be persuaded to come online until they see that the infrastructure DELIVERS. (Right now, as we saw this weekend with the Ukraine footie match, it isn't designed to)

NextGenUs pushes "Together we are the network" and the truth is that we all need to work together, co-operatively, to get the infrastructure in place and FAST. That has to start in rural areas to revitalise and regenerate the rural economy before that goes entirely and irrecoverably down the tubes.

Stuff getting the 50p levy through parliament before the election. Put through a First Mile Act and open up the ducts to all of us, who undoubtedly can do it cheaper and far sooner than BT. That would see some very serious activity from the JFDI camp at minimum cost to the country. BT would benefit as much of the core network over which data will be transported belongs to BT. New, community-led ISPs would come into being who would be feeding profits back into their local communities. Existing ISPs could offer competitive products. There is a slice of the FiWi Pie for everyone.

This country needs to dig into its coffers, and then start digging in fibre. Not in 2017 and beyond, nor to aim for 2Mbps by 2012, but to get seriously fat pipes to every home in the UK as fast as we possibly can.

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