Purple pipe dreams or the road to nowhere...........?
Anyone travelling North on the M6 in Lancashire & Cumbria over the last few years could have noticed something being laid at the side of the hard shoulder - flexible plastic purple pipe which pops out of the ground occasionally where it needs to cross road bridges.
This blog post can be read at 5tth.blogspot.com
In Scotland, purple pipe can only be used for the street lighting network as ducting for the electricity cables - so what is it used for in England and the rest of the UK?
Well, purple pipe outside of Scotland is apparently only used by telecom companies as ducting!
That got me thinking - if it can be laid at the side of a motorway without any problem, why can't it be laid at the side of all roads? In Cumbria there are roughly 1100kms of primary and secondary roads, plus at least the same in what are category "C" roads - and these roads pass to and through every settlement in the county.
Cumbria County Council received £17.1m for broadband from BDUK, and are throwing in another £6.8m themselves - not including any matched funding from the EU or the "chosen one".
If the County Council used this money to lay wonderful purple pipe along every road they are responsible for, there would be no excuse for any telecom providers to claim that they were unable to reach the last "10%" - the means of getting to them would already be in place!
Building this network wouldn't make the county council a teleco and have screams of “State Aid" thrown at them every 5 minutes – they would be building an open access transport only provision which could be used by multiple telecos (and rented out to them at an amount far less than BT charge).
The roads and verges are owned and maintained by the County Council - and we pay for upgrading and maintenance of them through vehicle licensing and Council tax - there wouldn't be any negotiations needed on right of way and access on their own land to build it - and by banishing forever the placing of copper into the duct, more fibre could be pulled through.
BT wouldn't like it, as it would break up their monopoly on running copper and fibre through what was a publically financed network of ducts, cabinets and poles built back in the 50's, 60’s & 70's by the then GPO - but as they charge an absolute fortune to anyone else to access that infrastructure, maybe the time has come for some real joined up thinking to make them realise they can't get away with it any longer!
This isn’t radical thinking – it works in many other countries where it seems to be the norm, so why not here? It may well be a purple pipe dream, but it sure beats the road to nowhere we’ve already got.........