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Thursday, 3 March 2011

Why Milton Keynes is a quick win for BT

Type "Milton Keynes Fibre" into Google and you get an astounding number of news articles lauding the fact that MK is piloting FTTP with BT. Let's think about the history a little.....
This blog post can be read at

I remember being astounded in about 2002/3 discovering that the new build town we had all heard so much about had had to set up a campaign group for bogstandard broadband - isn't that what "BB4mk" stood for?! After all, when MK was built, much was made of the fact that it would be the first place to have "Honey, I'm coming home" video calls, fridges that automatically re-stocked, domestic robots, and all that 21st century sci-fi wonderment. (Ok, I don't actually remember the MK promotions, but I bet it was that sort of thing!) As with Hull when it had free local calls, we were all jealous. For a bit.

Then reality struck MK. And the rest of us who were campaigning for broadband. BT and all those reselling BT's products could only offer ADSL. Which as we all know is a copper product. MK didn't have much copper. It had TPON. And aluminium. And really old cable built in the 60s with a mere 32 channels and no data capacity.

Oh, the irony of it. Here was a brand new city with some all-singing, all-dancing fibre and cable, stuck in the dark ages because they didn't have copper. There were suggestions to overlay Cu on the fibre. Which really said everything about Britain's broadband dilemma and failure to 'see the light' that was heading very fast down the tunnel at us, even then.

"No-one" could afford to do all of MK with FTTH because that would have been far too far sighted, (and whose was the TPON and cable?!), and there was all this ally to upgrade as well. It was all just too soon. Not just for consumers, but very much for SPs, CPs, councils etc who certainly didn't want that type of advance in people's houses and all the associated problems. (Which still haven't gone away for political, shareholder and multiple other reasons. Or just one. £).

In 2003, you couldn't have suddenly made that TPON useful for Internet connectivity. Someone in MK would have invented YouTube or similar, and then we'd all have been up in arms that MK had an unfair advantage. The cable guys would have cried "Foul Play". Well, let's think about that... as we should all remember, the MK cable network franchise was originally.....are you going to guess? Of course. BT's. But they were forced to sell it by a Brussels anti-competition quango; however, no-one wanted it at the astronomic price they asked, so it was leased by NTL in 1999, now VM. (AFAIK, it's still a BT asset, but VM maintain it?).

Had the good folks of MK been given FTTH (as all cable cabinets in MK are, as far as I can discover, fibred), house prices would have rocketed. MK would have become the number 1 town to live, instead of um...not the number one place to live.

Statements such as this began appearing online:

Copper cable will be provided to enable all existing customers to be transferred off TPON and on to copper to ensure they're able to receive broadband. BT plan to move customers off TPON as soon as the copper is in place which will also make ordering broadband easier. This work is also scheduled for completion in October 2005 and should ensure that 512kbps broadband is available to everyone on the estate with the expectation that most will be able to receive higher speeds. [The first run of copper to Monkston was laid in June 2003.]

Some of us have watched from afar over the years as this utopian vision failed rather spectacularly to deliver decent telecomms. After all, who could have known in the 60s that routing the copper wires around 3 sides of a square at the end of a trunk, branch and twig path would mean no Internet?

The Digital Switchover is due in 2012 in MK. Many people have had years of problems with broadband, Freeview, as well as suffering a wide variety of trials of wi-fi, Wimax, Extended Reach etc that have not solved the problems, only temporarily alleviated some of them for some of the people.

MarKet ripe for the picking? With all that fibre already in the ground, and desperation in the air, you'd think so!


Somerset said...

Didn't BT want to put FTTP into the UK and the then Conservative government (Mrs Thatcher) said no as it would affect all the cable TV companies.

Then the cable TV companies became one (VM) and started selling broadband!

If only we had...

globe said...

cybersavvyuk - are connected to the analogue cable in MK? I'm making a small feature for BBC Television on this. Could you get in touch please? Many thanks

Somerset said...

DSO starts next month for some parts of MK.

So why exactly is MK a quick win for BT?

Somerset said...

Westminster cable is similar, BT owned and leased to VM.

Quick install for FTTP?