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Wednesday, 6 July 2011

CAN in a BOX

Once upon a time, probably late at night, I had this idea to empty my inbox of all the questions that were beginning to inundate me, by creating a FAQ, a wiki, a road map, a hand-holding guide to community networks. I think this was about 2000. By 2001 ish, it had a name - Community Access Network in a Box. I was knocking around with artists and musicians at the time, and the round peg in a square hole seemed about right for many aspects of my life, then and now!

This blog post can be read at

CAN in a Box has over the years struggled to see the light of day. (The most recent iteration of it has been living in a box under my desk, and is about 10-15 250 sheet pads of notepaper, handwritten and organised into chapters. Another serious quantity of it is, I think, in a garage many miles away. I hope they have used it to light the fire as seeing it again is not in my game plan).

No-one would fund it, and no-one really cares for my scribblings!

However, there are some ideas which simply refuse to go away. I am getting more than a little accustomed to not being credited for my ideas, and the outright theft of others to suit people's career, income and ego-boosting plans is irksome. But it doesn't stop the ideas waking you up at all hours - day and night - to write them down! And give me the freedom to organise an event, as I have been about broadband since before the vast majority of this country knew what it even was, and I always found an opportunity to push CAN in a BOX.

But, develop a simple term like FiWi (2004, Bethnal Green with FreeToAir Adam - notes available) and the world and his lobster thinks they thought of it in 2008/9. Or was it later they coined it? Oh, who cares? I know where it began.....they were not there.

A network for people doing community broadband (1998 - phone and email, Arwain, John etc in Cambridge, Daniel and a host of others) and a couple of years later, that becomes lost in something which I understand will be launched again in a few hours, by one of the late arrivals whose thunking I really miss having access to, as version 5.2 or wherever we are now to support community broadband. (You heard it here first. CBN v 5.2 is coming at ya! And knowing nothing, I believe this time it may have a chance.....)

But may I yawn?!

Why is it all taking so long? We are not surrounded by total morons, bureaucratic idiocies can be kicked in to touch courtesy of Big Society now (but that's not a new concept for us Brits!), and I came in after a 10 year fight, so it has now been - get this - 25 years trying to do FTTH.

Let's move the pace up, guys.

13 years after I actually finally started to make contact with people who thought like me in the UK - I'd spent 2 years drifting in an IRC world of informed geeks who didn't speak UK English, and civil servants who found me foisted onto them by heads of department and ministers who didn't have a clue about these 'fat pipes' I needed to run my rural business, it seems CAN in a Box may have found a moment in which to reach the real world. And I am sort of hoping that some of the other great ideas like the Association of Broadband Communities, which became CBN, then INCA, may now have found their time to exist in a positive and purposeful manner.

I think this is a record though. I know from experience I am an absolute minimum of 4 years' ahead of what is called 'innovation' in this country in the broadband arena, and every sector that it touches upon - rural sustainability, rural development, eco housing, small business growth, environmental issues, etc. But 13 years? Hell, I can hardly recognise my writing from that long ago!

I know it's summer, but I have barely been out doors for weeks. But the energy does get through my duvet cover cum curtain to inform me that others are bouncing off this extra light we have.

Now, folks, all you need do is direct that light down fibres to every home. Stop believing the BS, stop pandering to people in overpaid jobs who know nowt and do less, in case they upset someone with a massive pension deficit and , sorry, but really, JFDI.


Anonymous said...

Two words have recently entered my vocabulary:-

Vendor Neutral and Technology neutral

These seem necessary for those agencies that are attempting to allocate public money to a "Superfast Broadband Project" e.g.$FILE/item%2011%20-%20Superfast%20Broadband.pdf

In a competitive tender I can understand the need for it to be truly vendor neutral but a Technology Neutral specification is no specification at all. Surely by now we all know that the technology is FTTH ?

MB94128 said...

SurreyHills clickie :
"Superfast Broadband Project" (Surrey County Council, 24 May 2011)
[PDF, 53KB)

Here's the site map  for the Surrey County Council. If you want to dig deeper into what they are doing I suggest you type
[ superfast broadband ] into their search box (upper right corner).

P.S. I suspect "Technology Neutral" refers to using DSL, DOCSIS 3, or FTTH to do the job. Yes, DSL sucks, but FTTC + DOCSIS 3 (via repurposed co-ax cable) could be a cost effective bridge solution that might buy a decade or two.

PhilT said...

It isn't hard to write a technology neutral specification that can only be met by one technology.

I see the sense in neutral specifications - you know what you need but you may not know the best way to provide it. It's a requirements specification.

Nobody needs FTTH but they may need a gigabit connection, if you follow. Define your gigabit connection and let people offer ways to provide it.