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Friday, 12 March 2010

Friday Fibre Factoids and Fings

moral fibre in uk for FTTH
Quick round up of the latest breaking news. Please add your contributions so everyone can catch up over the weekend.

1. OK, first had to be the announcement about Pacific Fibre's plans to bring new fibre across the Pacific to New Zealand and Australia. Here we have an experienced group of entrepreneurs and businessmen (no woman in sight - I'll happily relocate if they need me to balance it out!) getting together to address an issue that is going to face many - next generation bandwidth.

As Oz and NZ governments push for FTTH, the backhaul available could increasingly become the bottleneck (very simple graphical explanation). There are other players who have trans-Pacific cables eg Southern Cross, who seem a tad upset. But that's the competitive market for you, and, of course, the boon of JFDI. Wish I had $900M to help them out or could own a few shares....How does this relate to the UK? Ahem, we have a bandwidth problem too!! We need forward thinking business people to come and take on the telcos, please.

2. This bandwidth problem also came up in "Bandwidth is the new black gold" (Time), which whilst written from a US point of view, should strike some hefty chords here in the UK about potential problems in our move to the next iteration of internet connectivity.

We are moving from bandwidth scarcity to abundance. This is quite a novel position in a way and it is going to be subject to market forces that could derail digital inclusion 2.0. (Assuming we get past digital inclusion 1.0). That is, commercial interests spotting a chance to make loadsadosh out of the abundance.

3. This week saw the National Digital Inclusion conference (I had to miss it, so I hope someone will put out some really good commentary on it, please link to it if you spot it). Many were lucky enough to follow both on #ndi10 and through video streaming. Ironic really that 99.9% of those who it should have been addressing or who could contribute online couldn't of course access it, even if they had wanted to.

4. Which apparently many don't want to, which is why we have Martha Lane-Fox running herself ragged to try to persuade the digitally reluctant, but only in towns because apparently rural areas don't have poor people, to get online. Is it really true she is unpaid? Is every major force for the online good female and unpaid? Gordon Brown, how can you sleep???

On the subject of females, let's mention Helen Milner, because although I think UK online centres (that is a classic example of one of their unusable webpages for a beginner - spot the typos, unusable links, appalling information architecture etc) are a bloody joke and worth less than Business Link - whose website, BTW, costs £35M a year to run, Helen is out there speaking out. Meanwhile, stand up every corporate, spending that much on your website, and show your ROI to your Board. Now, Business Link, show us the ROI please....your Board is the UK business populace and we are NOT happy.

4) This week also saw the Consumer Focus report - Broadband Minded which actually looked at why the digitally reluctant aren't getting online. It turns out it isn't about cost after all, as much as it is about 'fear'. Kudos for a great report that was quite eye-opening.

I think it probably comes as a shock to those in Westminster village that many of us do not have credit cards and are therefore excluded from all the good deals etc you are focusing on with the ad campaign. £150/yr saving means nothing if we can't actually access that deal, y'know? It came as a major shock to me that I have managed to bring my kids up beneath the poverty line when I checked the criteria for free laptops and broadband. Sadly, they are now too old as the government is at least 10 years behind on this initiative, but if you know anyone who might be eligible, please tell them. The chance of them even hearing about it is minimal because the campaign targeting is badly thought out.

I think the people I mix with have little idea what has gone into achieving all that has been done to date by many of us who can't even dream of the wage you take for granted, so it's payback time. Go and tell the single mum up the road what she could have for her sprogs. Please.

Meanwhile, where are the BBC in all of this? 5 minute slots at 5.55pm each day, showing the UK how to be internet savvy and overcome the fears. ITV came along and produced several programmes this week (which @cyberdoyle is going to provide links to....)

5) Meanwhile, I discovered and met Alex and having seen it first hand, I was impressed. It hits a specific demographic (non techie), and I for one know someone who is about to get an Alex computer for their birthday this month as it will stop the family tech support need instantly! Plus, I love the cloud aspect of it all. We never hear enough about this, but everywhere I go, bandwidth requirements are being reduced with localised clouds now. (separate blog post required, I guess)

Back to Alex and Digital Inclusion: Take 10 laptops (recycled from the public or private sector who throw them away willy nilly) into a community centre or hub, dish out Alex on a stick to each user, and all of a sudden, you have got people online. Really easily. However, it needs all political parties, councils etc to deal with the problem that community meeting places are vanishing in rural and urban areas, fast. We are losing pubs and village halls rapidly out here in the sticks, guys. Urban areas are losing funded IT centres too. Solve it.

Then, of course, there is the additional problem that most of us can't get broadband yet. Not just a few of us, but millions of us, and it's getting worse.

6) I came away from a meeting with Andy Hudson with something that has since become a minor obsession. According to Andy, references to the Web occur at least 6 times per hour on any BBC channel you watch or listen to. So far, he's right, in my experience on my trip home (car radio) and since (TV). How does that make someone feel who cannot get on the Net? How excluded, left out, exasperated etc does that leave you? I don't expect answers from the readers of this blog, but I am going out in the village this weekend to ask all those who I know are not online.

7) Right, this election hoohaa. The Conservatives launched their tech policy and I think many of us suffered the same kneejerk reactions to it.

a) First country to get 100MBPs to the majority of the country - have you lot not been into the EU recently, or been listening to those who have and who know the craik?!!! I've just got back from Portugal and the FTTH Council conference. I know that few people were listening last year when I said we weren't on the league table for connecting 1% of the nation, but believe me, we are a long, long way FURTHER behind many EU nations now and unlikely to catch up in a hurry. First? Bloody unlikely. Ed and Jeremy, you really need to get out more!

b) Once again, there is a brushing under the carpet of the Final Third. In this document, it has been reduced to a 1/10th, but let's face it, without a USO (not USC), meeting a 90% 100Meg target before any other nation is a big call without understanding the issues. Sadly, the Conservatives are making the same mistake as everyone. Listening only to those who claim to know how to do this, who have ££££s in their eyes, instead of the UK PLC good in their hearts.

8). In the run-up to the election, Malcolm Corbett, the interim Chair of INCA, who has apparently finally admitted a conflict of interest with CBN (the Community Broadband Network, publicly funded by Stephen Timms, DEFRA, Countryside Agency and others to support communities. MC is a Director and it is now a private consortium of consultants in case you didn't know), has regurgitated a manifesto. 10 months after a fibre manifesto appeared on this blog. Whilst I hold nothing personal against Malcolm, I wish he would share his own ideas occasionally.

9) Meanwhile, Virgin have upped the ante. They're going to try aerial FTTH. Hooray. Not that I can see Virgin coming over my rural hill in a hurry, but every bit of pressure is good. Let's be real though, this is really only in response to BT demanding access to Virgin ducts.

10) The Final Third First campaign continues to grow in momentum and supporters. All are welcome. The Final Third is by no means just rural. When I ran the first Notspot Survey, it became increasingly apparent that many of those unable to get any sort of connectivity were in places I had never imagined - central London, within a few miles of SEEDA HQ (the lead RDA for broadband), inside the M25 etc. That situation appears to have worsened as more people have got online.

Please support the campaign. It has come from a long history of campaigning over this issue, there are some amazing people and organisations involved already, and it really does represent you. If it had a fighting fund, it could be even better, so we are working on that now. With a few quid, it could do things that other organisations have persistently proven themselves unable to achieve.

And a huge thanks to Cyberdoyle for the Moral Fibre graphic. I would love to run a few days of discussion on "Moral Fibre" through this blog, please let me know if you would like to contribute. It can be anonymous, all views are welcome.

Add the news you have found below. Share information, discuss, debate, and have a good weekend!

UPDATE: I missed out the Risk Assessment for NGA Report from Analysys Mason. This should lead you here to the mapping tool and hopefully I will be finally released from my embargo on the raw data behind the A-M report when someone tells me the link to it.


Cybersavvy UK said...

I forgot this. Open data access in Govt has been pushed from Tim Berners-Lee and many others. We now have it to map a wide variety of data for broadband although it took some doing to get the raw data behind the AM report!!

This came on the back of the Analysys Mason report last week.

Cyberdoyle said...

By Gum, that was a rantandanalf.
very good. Sorry I can't find the link to the ITV programme I saw about the internet last week, I did a search on ITVplayer and all it said was 'we can't find anything that matches your search, will these do instead' and it showed links to corrie and emmerdale LOL. Love the bit in your post about ALEX, the idea of the pen with your world on it is mega, especially if they have a backup if you lose it. I wish the policy makers would take a look at ALEX instead of throwing all this dosh away on microsoft crap in their becta home access scheme. Will comment more later... after I have read it all again.

Cyberdoyle said...
the above link is tons better for anyone wanting to know about the govs free laptops. (just sayin) It is clear and concise unlike the official ones. Lordy think how many Alex sticks they could have bought with £300 million.

Pauline Rigby said...

There is a data set online now at:

Is that your data?

Cue response of "that's not my data, it's too shiny," etc

Gov really should make a board book on computers, LOL.

Cybersavvy UK said...

@pauline, well, finally! Yes, obviously it has been 'sanitised' and polished up but that looks just the ticket for people to play with. Better delete my version LOL