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Friday, 21 January 2011

What short and selective memories we have (1)

We are re-inventing a square wheel within less than a decade. And I think, now, that it has become more than just sad. I'm beginning to wonder whether it isn't bordering on "criminal" for the British population to be subjected to such "abuse", for whatever reasons it may be - shareholder interest, long-term market share gain, or just plain greed? Who am I to guess the whys and wherefores?

This blog post can be read at

As I know many people don't particularly like reading, I'm going to write a shortish post, and then put my arguments in a longer one.

We are entering a phase of claiming that at least 30% of this country is not viable for FTTH..... and let's clarify that by saying that currently only one company is claiming that it is not viable. For their business......without any evidence.

So, on fairly hazy evidence, we are going to fund the shortfall, right? Using £830M (currently) of public money.

So, let's remember the most vital lesson learnt during ADSL roll out. Which was not that long ago, although I am aware that many of you don't remember that time - hence the second post.

When BT claimed that 23 (as I recall) rural exchanges in Yorkshire and Humberside were 'not viable' for ADSL rollout, the ADIT stepped in. ADIT was a DTI funded 'body' who were originally called the Regional Aggregation Boards (RABs), and of whom there was one per RDA until they were all amalgamated under a single umbrella, based in Newcastle.

Ed Brown, a nuclear physicist in charge of ADIT, decided to fund (ISTR) the roll-out so that Y&H could boast "100% ADSL broadband coverage" - with all the limitations we now know that incurs i.e nowhere bloody near 100% in places like Yorkshire & Humberside.

The ADIT (supported, as I recall, by Yorkshire Forwward) paid the money up front to put in the DSLAMS to the 23 exchanges


1) should those exchanges prove to be viable after all, BT would repay the money to the public purse.

2) every single exchange must have a future-proofed fibre 'middle mile' to the nearest POP for future-proofing and to remove any bottle neck should BT be equally reluctant to invest in future.

My sources tell me that over £1million was repaid because those deeply rural and remote exchanges did indeed prove viable and paid back according to BT's own criteria for ADSL enablement. (And enough people at BT read this blog to argue otherwise, should they wish to)

So, if you plan to give a SINGLE PENNY of the £830M to BT, let's do it on exactly the same basis.

First things first, if you try putting in FTTC, BET or satellite and claim it's innovative under the BDUK guidelines, whoever you are, you should be deported forthwith to Korea and plugged in to a bang until you finally get what 21st century broadband is. (That's equivalent to Ed's 2nd criteria for the funding)

And if the area you connect with money from the public purse proves to be viable for FTTH, YOU PAY THE MONEY BACK.

END. It is that amazingly simple. It is either is, or it isn't, economically viable. Currently there is very little data to prove that rural FTTH (into the Final Third) is not viable. In fact, read: none at all, except, and I hate to say this, the word of a private company with a long-term vested interest in a telecoms land grab for the 21st century to put them in an identical situation they "enjoyed" during the 20th century.

So, to reiterate:

Part of the BDUK projects? Or being told FTTH is not viable near you? Then, draw up a contract that supports the investment, but with a clause that demands repayment should those statements prove to be wrong or inaccurate. And when/if the supplier is proven wrong, get the money back and spend it somewhere that may prove more challenging in the Final Third.

Otherwise, all you are doing is paying public money to a private company to enhance their investment fund because of an unsubstantiated claim that "it is not viable".

Oh, and if you get asked to dig from the cabinet to your own homes because FTTH is also unaffordable to your community (as in Carlisle last weekend), the same contract should apply; thereby saving communities, councils etc a fortune in legal fees in drawing up a simple contract everyone can share.

And this, my dearest friends, is Big Society at work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post and some useful ideas for ensuring clawback of public money.

Let's not forget that to unlock government cost savings by moving services online then the spread of coverage matters not the speed.

In other words providing universal access by the citizen to government, health, education can be delivered by incrementally improving the legacy copper network, moving fibre closer to the customer, using two way satellite.

Whilst this is an inconvenient truth for those fibre zealots amongst us, it must be recognised where any debate about value for taxpayers money is concerned.