This blog post can be read at 5tth.blogspot.com
It may be a recession, but many community people managed to take a day away from work to partake in this event. There were also a substantial number of supplier representatives there, whose offerings range from the whole caboodle through to component parts or services, including BT, Fujitsu, Cable and Wireless, MiniFlex, AFL, Commendium, NextGenUs, Ericsson, and included the majority of those on the procurement short list. Cumbria County Council and CLEO were also represented.
My overall impression is that these structured yet informal events not only bring out the best in people, (as do the colloquia) but also see far more forward motion than a simple talking heads do, such as the vast majority of conferences end up being. Without being party to many of the commercially sensitive discussions which were undoubtedly ongoing during the event, it seemed that the sales pitches went far beyond "this is our standard offering" because the communities have well-developed visions of precisely what their communities want. There is going to have to be a shift towards the centre ground, of compromise, and this event definitely seemed to be pushing things in the right direction by both 'sides'.
Thinking of it is as "them and us" (suppliers and communities) is however inappropriate as it is clearly obvious that what are being developed are partnerships. BDUK and the County Council have made it clear that suppliers are going to have their work cut out ensuring that whatever is delivered involves the communities to whatever level each community wishes to be involved. Whilst what is being built must be commercially sustainable, it also has to suit the communities at least as much as it suits the suppliers. Collaboration and co-operation are the watchwords here.
So, the suppliers, including BT, were "harangued" in the nicest possible way by Rory Stewart MP to contribute, talk to the communities represented, and work together towards the common goal that is next gen broadband across Cumbria using the recently announced £16.4M, the immense goodwill and passion exhibited at Rheged, Great Asby and other recent events, as well as the existing assets in Cumbria, such as CLEO (the education network).
Several communities had been chosen to give updates on their progress and outline their thinking, both to share what was being considered around the county and also to assist the suppliers in considering where and how they could assist in achieving the goals being set by the communities. Fibre GarDen, Great Asby, Eden Valley Digital, Grange and Cartmel LAP, and Northern Fells all gave presentations.
Different scenarios were defined prior to the meeting:
- The quest for community backhaul solutions
- Solutions for demand aggregation
- Build and Benefit schemes
- Community Data Books
Much more to say, so am going to write this as a multi-part post. (And hope that Blogger's photo app starts working again before I finish!