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Thursday, 14 January 2010

Lessons from Louisiana

After three weeks of subzero temperatures, Louisiana makes a very welcome change. I'd forgotten what sun felt like! Am sitting here attached to a 25Mbps symmetrical pipe, boostable to anywhere up to a gig - direct into the vein! I am currently in a data exchange which has a carbon toeprint rather than a footprint, is providing cloud computing services over the community fibre network to local businesses, and is housed within a business centre which survived, only just, Katrina ....

The best bit? It was conceived and is run by an amazing, dynamic lady, the building is owned by another female visionary, it includes a Women's Business Centre, the whole focus is on economic development, and the replicability of this set-up would be simple. Even in the UK. The only reason we can't do it is that the places where this set up is most needed are those places where there is currently insufficient infrastructure to do so.

What should we be doing? Well, firstly, the sooner we resolve the cost issues of backhaul in all areas of UK, rural and urban, the better. The UK Government should spend the first tranche of money from the rural Broadband pot putting in new open fibre, owned by the community networks it has constantly supported in words (DBR, Caio etc) if not in action. It should be a co-operative, not for profit venture, so that from now far into the future, every single person, business and community in the UK has a CHOICE about who to buy backhaul from, and the telcos and incumbents are finally faced with true competition. Yes, the government will say they cannot go directly in competition with the telcos, but there are ways round all of these arguments about anti-competition, as other nations have discovered (EU included). Think Amsterdam, Vasteras, Korea etc etc. Think about who wins and why that in itself makes it essential....

The telcos need to face up to the fact that competition is going to happen. I have in front of me the figures for building a middle mile network in the UK as a co-operative venture, and these figures have been created by a group of fibre legends, and are based on sound and known principles and costs. It isn't actually as expensive as I had thought it would be, and there are undoubtedly investors out there who want to take BT et al on at their own game and take Britain into the 21st century and beyond.

This would level the playing field and bring the data transit costs down to their real value, (cost plus) level, rather than over-inflated corporate greed-need levels. It would boost usage and access to the core network in a way that no other action can. It would immediately encourage innovation and therefore help to stimulate the economy, create new jobs, and support diversification, especially in rural areas. That co-operative needs to be started and run by members of the communities who are already up and running, and then as more communities create their own networks, they too can join the co-op. There should be no telco interest, or equipment supplier interest within that co-op, just consumers and communities, who by the very own end-user self-interest will ensure that the co-op is run for the benefit of all.

I suggest it may well, and should definitely, happen in the UK soon too. If anyone has some spare cash in the bank and wants to be involved, or you are a community network in desperate need of affordable backhaul, please do get in touch.

More from the USA soon - I now have 40+ pages of notes and my head is reeling with facts, figures, ideas and information from the amazing people who I have met and who have been generous and forthcoming in the extreme with their contributions to the discussions and answers to my seemingly never-ending stream of fibre questions. Many of these people are very well-known within our sphere and I am honoured to be invited and welcomed into their world. Thank you all. You know who you are!!



3 comments:

Cyberdoyle said...

bloody brilliant. About time too, looking forward to part 2. Its raining here, could do with some good news...

GuyJ said...

Well American involvement, support and investment made all the difference to the UK in 1942. Perhaps we will see more of the same for FttH in 2010...

怎麼辦 said...

goodjob!........................................