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Monday, 1 March 2010

Rural Fibre Colloquium gets BBC and CLA uptake

The Digital Dales Colloquium on Friday was all and more. We didn't quite expect the BBC coverage but let's face it - rural broadband and FTTH deserves far more. So does Chris! Who may yet put BT and VM to shame in rural areas.

Aidan Paul of Vtesse, who despite fibre press coverage to the contrary is not a 'nutter', explained in a fascinating and interesting way *ALL* about fibre taxes, or business rates on fibre, and hence the impact on the UK's chance of catching up where next generation access is concerned. And he told us where the term "daylight robbery" comes from.

If you haven't seen Trefor of Timico's blog post yet, read it and weep.

If you are concerned about fibre taxes, and you should be, Monday 1st March sees a BSG/VOA meeting in the Intellect Offices in Russell Square between 2 and 5pm where you too can quiz the VOA about these taxes and their application as we endeavour to move to #digitalbritain.

Our question from the attendees of the Colloquium to the VOA meeting is:

As with charity shops and not-for-profit companies, will the business rates on fibre optics be reduced and /or waived?

We hope for a very early response.

We moved from there to Collaboration, Co-operation and Co-ordination.

Charles Trotman of the CLA introduced the plans for the introductory meeting on Tuesday of a new lobbying group for better telecoms infrastructure in this country. It seems a shame to use the term 'broadband' as that has already been bastardised by the telcos and their marketing departments.

The consensus was that every single citizen and business in this country needs to be represented and therefore the choice to include as many interested parties as possible would give this new organisation the opportunity to speak with a far louder voice. Access to future-proofed communications is not just a rural issue. It is vital to the well-being of this country.

For many FTTH, and all that it can deliver, is believed to be essential to 21st century living. There was also an acceptance at the event that we will need to fight for it against shareholder and ill-informed political interests. One option for a name for this was given as 'Moral Fibre' (Proposed by Glen Rewston from Hull and amply reflected at previous FTTH Council events. Some attendees had just returned from the most recent event in Lisbon.)

Reports from the Lisbon FTTH Council conference put Britain in the unenviable position of lacking moral fibre. Or, in fact, any fibre at all. Some indications of the advances being made elsewhere should mean that many reach for their passports to discover the extent of our failure by looking abroad. Especially within Whitehall departments who are far too quick to claim that the UK is a digitally advanced nation etc.

We are so NOT a digitally competitive or advanced nation, as I personally can attest from my recent travels, and intend to prove conclusively over the next few months.

If you would like to see first hand how backward the UK is, contact the blog. We have very limited places on three trips in the next couple of months that will illustrate our fibre poverty and its effect on GDP, consumers, businesses and government services clearly. These are timed to coincide with other events globally and, of course, electioneering.

Come and join us on our Invite Only events to a group of nations who have FTTH and know how to use it. Contact Lindsey for more details. After 10 years of threatening to go and see first hand what is being done elsewhere, the plane tickets are now being booked for a small UK contingent who have been invited by the host nations and will be personally shown round projects and communities who are benefiting from the most advanced communications in the world. Miss this opportunity at your peril!

The colloquium sought to cover a wide variety of issues. Financing and funding were discussed, leading to a new source of possible funding for every town and village in the UK; access to ducts, poles and masts (or should BT be broken up? Properly this time); wayleaves; next gen applications; and much more.

Representatives were present from many sectors across the board - councils, high level industry, SMEs, community networks, consumers, telcos, quangos, and more. This formula has worked since the very first Digital Dales event way back when in 2001, all through the ABC events, and then it was plagiarised to give the Community Broadband Network a head start.

We will be sticking with this format - it works! The chance for those involved in policy, regulatory and strategic delivery to meet those whose lives will be affected can never be more clearly illustrated than when an MP meets a farmer, or a top level government or Digital Britain consultant meets a consumer stuck on 256kbps. Not in some after-event gig, but across the table.

All in all, thanks to everyone who came and made it the event it was. The next event will be in May/June (post-election) followed by a further event after the summer recess. I hope we will see new faces around the table who are realising that this is the way forward, and also on our trips around the globe to meet people who already benefit from next generation access at .... up to 1Gbps today.

A big thanks to our sponsors: Timico, NextGenUs, Broadsoft and NGA-UK.

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