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Monday, 20 June 2011

Watch Northumberland

If the £250k for rural broadband in Northumberland is spent on anything other than FTTH, then this country seriously needs to get its act together and rethink what on earth we are doing with the limited EU funds still available to us.
This blog post can be read at

The money from the EU should not be signed off by either Govt or the EU unless it is being spent upon bringing Fibre To The Home to these outlying areas with nowt, first, and then using that connectivity to reach back into market towns and areas of higher density population. This 'outside in' approach that some of us have been pushing for for years does appear to be in GreySky's thinking judging by James Saunby's response in a BT-sponsored debate.

“James said it was more important to get [broadband] into rural areas than urban areas, and that’s barking - absolutely barking!”
Mark Elliott, CEO DigitalCity (Spot one reason for misunderstanding the rural issue in the name?!)

With £250k, you should realistically be able to reach over 200 of even the most remote rural properties with FTTH, particularly as looking at the maps, there are several clusters where the build and dig costs will lower the average cost per property to below £1k if some common sense and joined up thinking is applied.

Once built, these remote and rural hubs could then be used to reach in from the market town hinterlands to bring FTTH to the more dense areas, at far lower costs than the rural areas, whilst bringing in increasing revenue streams to the community network.

However, one immediate concern would be that whilst the supplier may get IT, the procurement agency may baulk at pushing the broadband bar upwards, and settling only for the minimum definition of broadband possible. This would appear to be the case if this article about Northumberland County Council's broadband ambitions is correct.

Which makes one wonder just how serious the government are about helping Big Society to happen when we are all still suffering from ill-informed top-down decision making?

Perhaps James Saunby of Grey Sky Consulting would care to share the thinking on how the plans to further show up BT will proceed......?


Somerset said...

Full paragraph:

“James said it was more important to get it (broadband) into rural areas than urban areas, and that’s barking - absolutely barking. It is equally important everywhere. has to be universal...”

Anonymous said...

Broadband Vouchers will let customers decide of course!

I spoke to James a while back about this Northumbria project and it was clear that the "thinly spread jam" syndrome was prevalent

ie. maximum perceived benefit for limited funds being thought of at a county level and over-diluted by spreading too widely rather than concentrating on making a radical difference where the need is greatest.

This leads to looking for the cheapest implementation that can still have some vestige of claim to be "broadband" and that by default in many decision-makers minds means giving the money to BT to do BET and Copper to the Home.

Whilst FTTH is the endgame, there is still scope for looking to FiWi to deliver quick wins and provide service, so long as the commitment remains to get FTTH in due course.

James Saunby said...

The current £250K funded project is just a start for Northumberland. We are waiting for state aid approval at the moment - once we've got this we will be able to make progress. Until we've got that and sorted contracts out, it's difficult to comment much.

This project probably wont impress anyone much - except the people who actually get basic broadband for the first time, of course. But this project will mean we'll have state aid approval to implement basic and NGA broadband projects across about 4,000 sq Km of rural Northumberland. Then we'll be able to make some real progress.

chris said...

Basic broadband James? - that means BET? If you waste any money on that you won't get any more. Europe will soon see through that scam and will cut funding for anything that doesn't deliver a futureproof solution. People may be glad to get 'basic' broadband, but once they realise its limitations you will get a backlash and they will all be moaning. Just like the failure that was project access. Do not let history repeat itself.

Somerset said...

What are 'Broadband Vouchers'? Please explain in detail.

How many FTTP properties will £250k do?

A minimum spec of 10M stops any more discussion of BET.

Cybersavvy UK said...

@somerset - the figures we have from multiple sources give an average connection fee of just shy of £1000 per home over a minimum of 100 homes in and ex-village in rural areas. This includes deeply remote farms etc and is for FTTH, not FTTC or below.

Ergo, 250k should connect at least 200 homes, as the post says, in even the most sparsely populated areas of Britain.

Recent meetings have shown that these costs can be reduced yet further, but it is down to putting in some pilots and proving that to "the cynics" now. Which, to date, no-one has done.

PhilT said...

BDUK only have £60 per home so talk of £1000 per home is pure fantasy, is it not ?

chris said...

They can't do BET for £60 either, someone told me it costs £1400.00 to do a connection, plus the cost of laying new copper and removing DACS, otherwise why do grey sky consulting need a quarter of a million pounds to get BET to 200 rurals?

Cheaper to do the job properly and lay fibre, wasting all that money on copper is just not right.

Core fibre networks in rural areas would expand and pick up other areas, self sustaining. Seeds.
BET is a dead end that will need replacing very quickly, a total waste of taxpayers money.

PhilT said...

The 200 homes by FTTH is what Lindsey thinks the money should be used for. Greysky are talking about much bigger numbers at but the linked doc has vanished so I don't know any more than that.

Scotnet are indeed asking for over a grand per BET connection "The installation costs for the BET service is £1095 plus vat."

chris said...

The number of homes to be connected by the quarter of a million pounds is 200 out of the 750 desperate for connectivity. The point Lins was making is that fibre could be done to those people for the same price... I think the doc has been removed now but I have seen that figure quoted elsewhere too. Its the most half baked plan, and paying to enable an exchange to adsl2+ is project access all over again.

Cybersavvy UK said...

Hang on, let's backtrack.

"BDUK only have £60 per house...." is not strictly true, if at all. The government intervention through BDUK was to fund INNOVATIVE PILOT PROJECTS in the final third (originally) to then stimulate further private and public sector investments by proving what could (and could not) be done.

It was never meant to be used to attempt to blanket the rural countryside with half-baked solutions. It was for NGA and innovation.

There is a whole separate issue about USC which has somehow been rolled into this due, mainly, to a failure to get out the box and explain to those who need to get IT what is required for the endgame.

Hard-strapped councils are looking at a very welcome pot of money during a time of cuts and trying to be all things to all households. Twill not work.

And we will return once again to the thorny question: who has asked me and hundreds of thousands of SMEs in rural areas like me what we are willing to put into the pot to connect our struggling businesses?

Pure fantasy? Yes if I attempt to do it alone but definitely not if someone comes along with a solution that falls under true community ownership for the next generation of my community and not to line their own pockets using my company and community's money.

chris said...

"what people are prepared to do to help themselves"
I think you have a very valid point there.
Many have already paid up to £1k for satellites round here, and are paying £40 + a month for a megabit download, a fraction of a meg upload and a 1gigabit data cap. If they had put that money into fibre they would have been sorted.
I think people will pay if someone could deliver a decent service. Lets face it, they have no choice, because no incumbent will help them. I agree, if the BDUK money had been used for innovative pilots instead of BET and 'superfast infinity' cabinets we would be on the way to solving the problem. As it is, all they are doing is patching up an obsolete business model.

Somerset said...

Read this: