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Friday, 25 March 2011

Dirty tricks? Again. Have we learnt nowt?

Read more! As regular readers know, there have been hints and gripes (to put it mildly!) about some of what appears to have been going on. Recently and not so recently - these are not new occurrences. However, only yesterday on Twitter, we hit the target: "At what point do we stop allowing corporates to ruin communities' present & future well-being'? That is the crux of the matter. It is relevant at a nuclear, micro, regional, national and international level. This press release has just arrived to re-inforce our fears about rural broadband in the UK.

This blog post can be read at

The view taken from the Surrey Hills overlooking Ewhurst by this blogger on a recent trip to understand the issues for myself.

I could link a 5tth blog post to nearly every sentence of this PR, but will resist. The one link that is in place is, IMHO, the most important.

We have given control of broadband decision making and spending to entirely the wrong authorities. And we (civil servants, consumers, government ministers - in truth, everyone) have allowed corporates to corrupt the process. We will live to regret this enormously, UNLESS we accept our mistake and change the process IMMEDIATELY.

The press release is quoted below, verbatim:

FEARS are growing that hopes of providing fast broadband speeds in Ewhurst will be crushed.

The organisation established to bring the area out of the technological stone age is worried the plans will fall victim to British Telecom (BT).

Ewhurst & Surrey Hills Broadband (ESHB) believes that it is now the pawn in a "broadband improvement funding power struggle" between BT and Surrey County Council’s economic partnership.

ESHB was granted £150,000 by SEEDA (the South East England Development Agency [previously the lead agency for broadband in the UK - Ed]) for the purpose of providing better broadband to Ewhurst.

Shortly before the contract was to be signed in February, though, SEEDA withheld the grant until an announcement had been made.... "in a few days, which may affect the outcome".

Supporters of the Ewhurst scheme believe that BT, which did not provide a valid quotation during the tender process, has now told SEEDA and the county council that it will be upgrading Cranleigh and Ewhurst for fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and therefore there is no need for the grant to be paid.

"In theory, this is good news for both Cranleigh and Ewhurst because public money need not be spent on the project," said a spokesman for ESHB.

"However, BT has a history of saying that it will upgrade areas as soon as local groups show signs of doing the work themselves, thus blocking projects - and then BT not doing, or postponing, the work.

"Could this be yet another example of a spoiling tactic simply to block the competition with a diminished or downgraded facility solution?"

A particular challenge for Ewhurst results [are] from the long lines from the cabinet to the homes of those living in the Surrey Hills, which BT acknowledge are of poor broadband quality.

They will experience an extremely slow broadband speed even with FTTC.

To meet this challenge, the Ewhurst group wanted to use the promised enabling grant for a fully flexible enhanced solution from its chosen contractor, Vtesse Networks Limited to achieve its aims.

These include techniques to improve the very poor lines and the installation of some fibre to the premises.

"By contrast, the BT cabinets will have no such facilities, thus condemning the outlying homes irrevocably to exclusion for generations to come," said the spokesman.

He said the situation had been complicated by the entry of the county council with fledgling organisations that stand to "inherit" potential SEEDA monies left after the organisation is abolished.

The withheld Ewhurst grant would provide a useful pot of money for the county’s objectives of eventually providing some broadband improvement to Surrey generally, but not on outlying lines as long as those around Ewhurst, he said.

"EHSB has put in a great deal of time and energy into this project and now see it going down the drain through devious tactics," said the group’s spokesman.

He pointed out that ESHB had raised the Cranleigh and Ewhurst profile to the extent that it had at least been considered by BT, even though BT had confirmed in writing last March that it had no such plans.

"Should the grant not be forthcoming to Ewhurst then Surrey must be obliged to ensure that BT provide a full facility universal service throughout the Ewhurst area within a reasonable time-scale and without the slippages that have occurred in other areas such as Haslemere and Brookwood," said the ESHB spokesman.

"If the ‘Big Society’ is to work and innovative schemes such as that of ESHB are to succeed, then the dead hand of big business and county authorities must be removed and local initiatives allowed to thrive," he added.

An announcement from BT that it would be providing FTTC in Cranleigh and Ewhurst was expected last week, but never materialised, and is now anticipated next week adding two more months delay.

Are we willing to allow this to continue throughout another decade? We have waited throughout the Noughties for the most basic broadband connections that copper and ADSL will allow, from the incumbent. Despite assurances that 99+% of the country can get it, the truth is plain to see in the very many letters to MPs, media, and ISPs. That 99% figure is, quite simply, A LIE.

The Final Third is now not just waiting for next gen, it is still waiting for a 20th century USC. Most other countries find our USC 'aspiration' - 2Mbps asymmetric - utterly laughable. Most consumers find it desperately frustrating that there appears to be no-one willing to take their side in 'authority', and those who are doing their utmost to resolve this are undermined by the very councils elected, and paid, to look after community well-being.

Enough is enough.
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Amazon #fail

Read more! Amazon fail to support Japan #QuakeBook

As we reach 14 days today since the earthquake and tsunami, and the consequential nuclear dilemma, a global group of authors, photographers, journalists and bloggers have expressed their frustration at Amazon's non-support of the publication 2:46 QuakeBook

This blog post can be read at

This book includes a multitude of first-hand accounts of the earthquake and its consequences, with all profits going directly to the Red Cross. Such accounts have been noticeably missing from the worldwide press as many journalists have been pulled from the story to report on Libya, or pulled from the region as nuclear fears rise.

As the deadline approaches at 2:46 Friday 25th March, it seems Amazon will not assist in making this book available worldwide.

For a global corporation to even presume that the many volunteers who have made this possible could be 'ambulance chasers' begs the question whether Amazon have their finger on the button at all with how social media, voluntary action and the severity of the disaster in Japan is affecting their customer base, worldwide.

Contact: @ourmainabiko #quakebook
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Monday, 21 March 2011

OT: 10 Things I would pay £1 a month for

Read more! Apparently, there's no money in content, nor broadband, nor supplying us pernickety customers. I beg to differ.....

This blog post can be read at

Here's what I would expect from my dumb fat pipe as extra that I would pay, in total, £10 a month for.

Currently, I get all these things for free. But I started my own business at 8 years old. You have to be sustainable. So, make money...find the customers who actually value what you do and are willing to pay.

What would I pay for? Let's get this clear as an ISP cannot re-invent the wheel as I won't buy it. I want the tools I like today, some of which I have been using for well over a decade now in one form or another. You, as my fat pipe supplier, won't see a bean from moi, but this should help you make the right strategic partnerships and form JVs...perhaps.

1) Delicious

Look, I know I saved/bookmarked it but where? I use at least 3 browsers on every computer I am on. I have 4 of my own computers plus access to untold others. I need my bookmarks, going back years, in the cloud. I've used since it launched. I know what you have bookmarked of mine and I want to keep it where I can find it, please.

2) WebMail

Same as above, but access to emails.And if in a few years I have hammered this Gmail account and done 7GB, even deleting all the big files, then I'll pay you to guard my emails and let's hope the storage limit now I'm paying is waaaaaay bigger. (Oh look, $3 and I get 27GB for a year, nice!)

3) Twitter

Yep, it has its uses, without a doubt. I'll pay £1 a month as I have already earned plenty from it via my guest blogs. And then there is the value of the people I have met (social more than £££s).

4) Youtube, Flickr etc

For several reasons

a) late nights, working alone, can't face getting up to find music - pick one song, leave it to jukebox me
b) marketing for my clients, YT is the place to put videos/photo/audio without explaining how to spell vimeo, flickr etc
c) Personal - how easy can it be to upload a video/photo/podcast and send it to friends and family?

5) Data storage/back up etc

If only I was on a decent connection....I'd pay for someone to hold my data somewhere else, just in case for resilience/redundancy. Until we get broadband, I simply can't upload it but...I'm working on that broadband issue. (One day, people will understand this campaign has NOTHING to do with downloads). And when I say back up, I mean my mobile too as well as all my computers.

6) Remote Access

How many times is that file I need on the computer at home, or one of the sprogs' computers?

Yep, remote secure back up is worth a quid each month. I use it every time I'm travelling.

7) Facebook & Social Networks

OK, I admit it, I like the chance to vent to my friends, play utterly pointless games like Mousehunt, and check my kids are still alive. LinkedIn matters before meetings too - who is s/he?

8) Blogger / WordPress

I can't imagine now not having a Just Add Water type tool to create a website on the fly for my latest interest.

9) LiveStreaming

The place to point your mobile when you want to show an event you are at with others who can't be there. Be it Qik or Livestream or similar. I'd definitely pay £1 a month for this, even if I was agoraphobic.

10) I'm missing one! What would be your top "I'll pay a quid a month" app for basic internet usage?

We'll get onto business apps shortly, so chuck your ideas at me.

[Product placement is welcome on 5tth now it's legal in the UK - want to push your service? Get in touch]
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Why we needed far smarter meters and thinkers

Read more!
Smartgrids and smart meters are gonna be buzzwords this year, (finally - thanks Chattanooga for JFDI) as the competition hots up to reach consumers and achieve EU Policy requirements for energy - which as I recall were supposed to be satisfied by 2008. But, we are miles out with our thinking. Or some are.

This blog post can be read at

Chattanooga has shown the way by combining smart grids plus gigabit FTTH. We ignore such examples at our peril, I believe.

Imagine that you had a chance to install "a device" in every single premises in the country. And, just like the meters before them for electricity, this device will be in situ for years. (Mine is, I think, made of Bakelite or similar, and has Norweb on it so it could have been there since 1948! I know it hasn't - I can read too, folks. But it could have been.....)

The FT is reporting today about the partnerships for smartmeters that are springing up. The only mention of anything even vaguely 'smart' is the addition of GPRS. Where are the joined up thinkers in the electricity and utility industries these days???

Put in a smart meter, as in those I heard about in Denmark in 2004/5, that included a wireless antenna. Not so the meter reader can access the meter, but so it creates a wireless mesh network.

The Danish examples had wifi and Bluetooth (well, they had to have Bluetooth in Denmark - he was a Danish king), but why not add options for GSM, 4G, LTE, wimax and a femto cell for seriously joined up thinking?

[Who cares which wireless techs it actually includes, but stick a card slot in the side so it can be updated for all the new techs if you need forward compatability. Or upgrade, shock horror, over the network you have created. Remote upgrades are hardly new, especially in the mobile/wireless industry.]

The point is, we are missing a very serious trick. My house is, unsurprisingly, right next to my neighbours. On both sides. (Odd that!) It is within less than a mile of nearly every other house in the village. It is within 2 miles or so of pretty much every property in the Parish.

A tiny, tiny, tiny, minority of homes and businesses cannot see a single other property around them. Ditto those on grid electricity and water (Oooh look, I've just reduced the Final Third to a Final 0.001% who cannot be served directly from the SmartGrid - sorry, BT).

To put it in plain English: here is THE chance to build a wireless cloud (of multiple flavours, if we chose) which can then be fed by fibre. As they planned, and presumably built, in Denmark (I cannot find a link to the town where this happened, and would appreciate my lovely readers help in doing so....My Danish extends to bluetooth and forkbeard!) - a big fibre ring round town, smart meters in every house creating the RF wireless mesh for INTERNET connectivity.

Now, *that* is a smartgrid. Not just serving the utilities, but also the telcos, mobile operators (who are also telcos, lest we forget), the consumers, the environment, convergence, mobility, data usage etc etc etc.

So, where are the links to the consultation on the official specs of what smart meters should look like in the UK?

Because I think we should all be preventing a serious fup (no, not fair usage policy!) which will affect consumers to the tune of a fair few hundred quid each, slow down smart grid development in the UK, and hinder us yet further by permitting telcos to play in this space at their own speed.

Can we afford, once again, to not exercise the 'smartness' and innovation that used to exemplify British thinking? If I can come up with this in the middle of nowhere in Cumbria, surely some overpaid exec in the midst of things in the utility industry and government can see the potential of joining up a few dots?

Actually, whilst we are on the subject, why not hold on the BDUK money until we can have an innovative pilot that really does join the dots by including smart grids?

(Send in the trolls......)

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Sunday, 20 March 2011

I'm not impurressed. But, please, donate to Japan

Read more!

Just in case you have forgotten that there is a major disaster in Japan....Lindsey has done this to me.....
This blog post can be read at

I support this initiative, but the fallout at home will be immense I do have my own blog in case you need to follow Twisted Purr

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Monday, 14 March 2011

BSG pushes traffic management code of conduct for ISPs

Read more! The Broadband Stakeholder Group have managed to get some of their members to sign a Code of Conduct about making available information to users regarding traffic management policies used to throttle Internet connections.

This blog post can be read at

Whilst this is obviously a good idea in the interim period (probably about another decade at this rate) until we finally break the Scarcity Model the telcos are so fond of, it does fail to address the actual issue - we need to upgrade our networks so they can cope with data usage in the 21st century.

Optical Reboot is such a nice term, and the ideology behind it is precisely what we require. We can come up with Codes of Conduct for errant ISPs wishing to avoid regulation, or we can tackle the problem head on. (Read the ADVAOptical blog, it's good.)

Today is Pi Day, and if we can celebrate a number, I think it's time we had a "Break the Network" day involving RaceOnline2012, that Online Centres bunch, BSG, BIS, BDUK, CLA, all the Unis, schools, hospitals, politicians, local authorities, and every other group who have ever been involved in technology, or should be.

The idea would be to show our telcos and government just how b0rked the network is in 2011, even with about half the country failing to comprehend what a computer is for or why anyone would even want one. If you made everyone use a computer on a specific day e.g. to fill out the census form, and then try uploading a video to the Census Dept showing what went wrong, that should cause a certain amount of network nightmares along with all the normal everyday usage that our connections struggle to cope with.

What do you think?!
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Thursday, 10 March 2011

The FTTH Pledge Pot

Read more! I believe (Blimey, sound like someone else!) that there is an appetite to invest in order to resolve the broadband issue. And, oh dearest Coalition, I think you may be making it harder than it need be.

This blog post can be read at

My belief in how to ensure that the UK has ubiquitous, accessible and affordable true broadband has never faltered. The Access to Broadband Campaign was built on the most solid of foundations, and I believe that all we pushed for in 2000-2004 stands solid today. AFAIK, the website and all the incredible content that we created, and which has fed into so much of today's thinking, is still there as reference material.

However, it is time to overcome an issue that is so simple to solve, so obvious a barrier, and so vitally important to resolve, if we are to succeed with Next generation broadband.


Someone, somewhere, decided that Local Authorities, in the midst of massive and comprehensive budget cuts, and with no experience of telecoms or even knowledge of the last decade of broadband revelations, would be the most appropriate to "bring up to speed" and pilot solutions for an issue of such huge import as "Final Third First".

Knowing what effect next generation broadband has both socially and economically, someone, somewhere, chose to dump this firework into the laps of people who cannot possibly be expected to understand 25 years of FTTH, let alone 120 years of telecoms, in a few months, whilst also operating in what can only be called a "public sector war zone".

From the outside, it looks like the majority of people are trying to stick to the "Keep Calm and Carry On" ethos, whilst keeping their heads low so they are not caught in the crossfire of budget cuts and lay offs.That is entirely understandable - you too have mouths to feed, and mortgages/rent to pay.

The 4 BDUK pilots have not yet, in six whole months, actually been introduced to each other AFAIK. Online or offline. There has been no meeting that would permit these public sector bods, who are also citizens and consumers once out of their suits, a chance to talk to one another about common problems, issues faced with the procurement etc. Let alone bringing together the "Big Society" who have clearly established their wont to be involved in making the right decision with this money from the public purse.

There is no use of the premium channel we are endeavouring to build access to - t'interweb- so these 4 pilot communities can meet each other, talk, discuss, find solutions etc.

And there is certainly no-one out there saying "How do we get best value from this BBC License Fee money?"

Where are the business planners, showing all of us how the pilots will benefit us? Where are the economists, serial entrepreneurs, experienced commercial operators?

Where is the one single person asking ME, as a resident of this pilot area, how much I am willing to invest in a solution?

Why ask BT? Why not ask me first?

I run a business. Every single farm in Eden/Cumbria, Hereford, Scotland and North Yorkshire is a business. There are thousands of businesses in these 4 counties. We can invest against tax. We can make informed business choices. We run businesses, day in and day out.

Has a single one of us been asked how much WE are willing to put into the pot to ensure that we build a next generation infrastructure that will not force our children away from this area? Into education, work, houses etc away from their homes?

We care. We know how to make profits, even when times are really rough. We know what certain solutions are worth to us, to our families, to businesses, to our communities. And therefore what we are able to put into the Pot.

Are you really going to ignore all of us, sideline us, gag us, so that contracts can be given to companies who have zero interest in our children, our schools, our Parishes, our neighbours, our livelihoods and our communities?


I pledge here and now, from my Eden-based internet marketing business, £5,000 towards building a next generation broadband network within Eden that meets all of the State Aid Guidelines, and is community-owned. (Whether as a Trust, co-op etc).

I hope that it will be on a long-term investment basis, because I am proud to live here, and I know that FTTH is a viable, sound, economic investment for anyone. However, if it has to be a legacy from which I, in my lifetime, see no return, then I will GIFT this money because I appreciate all that the generations before me have done to leave legacies of land, buildings, funds, Reading Rooms, co-ops, Aid funds etc. In both Eden and Wensleydale, the evidence of previous generation's generosity is impossible to ignore.

It is surely our task to continue the work that the previous generations started in Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Herefordshire and Scotland to ensure the well-being of our children?

I know I will not be alone, any more than my mother was with her railways - SCR and WCR.

So, I pledge £5000 for an Eden True Broadband Solution.

(And vultures, stay away. You have all been circling far too close recently.)

We can JFDI Pledge Pot Proposal

Read more!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

How to spend £530M (or not...)

Read more! One of the reasons to keep going with broadband campaigning (despite my frequent attempts to retire from all this grief) must be the chance to meet and have access to people who you would otherwise never come into contact with, and benefit from their thinking. For everything else there is Mastercard, but for quality replies such as this....

This blog post can be read at

This weekend, at 8.09am, (which indicates how much the CCC update bothered me!) I sent the following email to someone I met whilst kicking my heels in a bar during the Lisbon 2010 FTTH Council Conference. He looked English, we got talking, and it turned out that, coincidentally, he too was at the conference. We met again in Milan a few weeks ago.

He is MD of a company already supplying 25Mbps and upwards to businesses, and who is about to start connecting rural domestic properties to similar fibre and FiWi services, with or without BDUK.

Whilst he was happy for me to publish his name, I have chosen to anonymise the content of this email. He is not based in Cumbria, and as far as I know his company is not planning to put in even an EoI for the BDUK Cumbria projects. I asked his opinion as someone who is *not* involved in the personalities or politics of this region.

As ever, I make no apologies for my approach to getting problems into the open - blame my Yorkshire upbringing. A spade is a spade is a spade.


Before I give myself some sort of fatal apoplectic attack at the idiocy of our Council, would you care to make any comments on this from Cumbria County Council yesterday?


He replied:

From the horse's mouth:

“Our aim is to use these [Rural Market Testing Pilots] to discover exactly what needs to be done to make superfast broadband commercially viable in rural communities as well as urban areas, and to understand what kind of Government support will be necessary.”
Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, 15th July

The first step in understanding how government may invest in extending superfast broadband beyond where the private sector will get to will be the running of 4 market testing pilots in rural areas. The information from these projects, in addition to initiatives that are already going on across the country, will be used to better target possible government intervention and investment in ‘superfast broadband’ in the future.

The above is taken straight from the BDUK website.

Three phrases really stick out here: "market testing", "pilots", and "superfast". In my view these are the crucial elements of what the money should (one might even say "must") be used for.


Clearly, there is no dictionary/legal definition of what constitutes superfast. However, I would argue that two, phased, meanings are emerging. The first, short term, measure is to get speeds above those theoretically possible with ADSL 2+ technology. A suitable goalpost for this in my view would be something north of 20 Mbps. For the medium term, then I agree with you that we need 100Mbps access, with a true symmetric capability.

Market testing

Market testing means, in my view, that the market must be tested! Put another way, then IF people do have access to superfast broadband at suitable price points (ie not expensive) then is there a good demand for it, what can it be used for, what will it be used for, etc etc.


The BDUK website is VERY specific on this in my view - these are meant to be PILOT projects. They should be testing different solutions, different suppliers even.

So, returning now to the Cumbria "update".

First thing I notice is that the term "superfast" occurs only once in the whole update - in the first sentence as a descriptor for what the Accessible Cumbria project is all about. By the end of the update, the only speed mentioned has dropped to a miserly 2 Mbps. If that is what they think "superfast" means, then they should be sacked on the grounds of gross incompetence.

They then go on to state that "discussions with BDUK to date have focussed on two things", which they specify as:
  • getting the best value for money
  • ensuring any rationing is fair
Getting the best value for money should be measured against those three terms I listed above: Market Testing, Pilot, Superfast. That is what the money is clearly meant to be used for, and so that is what the successful use of that money should be measured against. Using the money for a different purpose should not be allowed and indeed if it is used for other purposes, then the County Council should be made to repay the money.

"Ensuring any rationing is fair" is a silly statement to make as it completely misses the point about what the money is meant to be used for. "Ensuring that the pilot addresses the challenges of delivering superfast broadband to all businesses and communities within Cumbria" would be a much better focus in my view.

The comment about FTTP is utterly ridiculous. Yes, it is expensive, but that is the point of BDUK money being focussed on "final third" areas where it is (supposedly) much harder to justify the investment. In any event, FTTP is only "expensive" where the cost per home passed is much higher than it is in dense, urban areas. Within a village, the homes might well be spaced as close as they are in an urban area and/or the cost of digging might well be less, thus helping to offset a higher home spacing.

The comment, "There are various degrees of enthusiasm and expertise in our communities which would also be shunned by the FTTP approach," is a very vague statement that is neither explained or justified. The person who wrote it is clearly not up to the task.

There then follows a long, rambling discussion about the provision of community points of presence. This serves only one purpose and that is to allow the council to spend the money on improving its own internal network with "spare capacity" perhaps being made available for community use. If they really think that the CLEO network, that they will have specified, could be leased to a supplier to then use for community access then they must have been smoking something. 

To fulfill the criteria of a superfast community point of presence (and for BDUK funding here, it must be superfast), means that the point of presence must be 1Gbps for any sizeable (eg hundred homes and upwards) community. The reason for this is that (assuming fibre delivery) the cost difference between a 100 Mbps and an 1Gbps feed will not be that significant, accepting that 100 Mbps wireless feeds would be ok for very small (few tens of homes perhaps) communities until a fibre path can be established/justified.

It really makes me fume that they think that they should install the CLEO network and then sub-let that to a supplier for community use as this is a classic way to waste money and opportunity. If anything, it should be the other way round - provide the funding that would have been spent anyway on the CLEO network to a supplier to help underpin its rollout of a true "superfast" backhaul network that is offered on an open access basis.

As for the concept of a "Quality Guild", well that just smacks of soviet style socialist thinking. It is also, I suspect, illegal under EU competition law.

Now moving on to the rationing bit...

I have to admit that the bullets do sound ok in and of themselves.

The concept of "broadband coordinators" sounds fine in theory. My real worry would be that it would be local loudmouths (aka "politician" types) who would grab these positions to further their own personal aims.

As with the [redacted] project, I see that the term "pilot" is being rapidly watered down as in "...for BDUK to make a statement about any intentions for Cumbria beyond the pilot phase...". These are meant to be pilot projects to see what works etc, not the pilot phase of a full rollout by the Council!! Megalomania or what?!?

Again, as with the [redacted] project, "action" is unlikely before summer 2012 - nearly two full years after the money was made available. That is little short of pathetic really.

Deploying 1 Gbps community points of presence to every village with (or close to) an existing BT exchange is pretty basic stuff. The costs of deployment are easy to suss out (Openreach EAD circuits have open pricing and the "excess construction" would not take that long for Openreach to assess). The County Council could have held a mini-tender just for the provision of these circuits very quickly and then have got them deployed within around a further six months. Whilst that was going on, the council could have been working on further, localised tenders for the "last mile" bits, combining a healthy mix of fibre and wireless (and even high speed satellite) deployment.


[Note: Despite Ofcom's banning of all usage of the term "superfast broadband" without a TSR, I have permitted it this one last time on the 5tth blog. From now on, use superfast broadband within my hearing at your peril.]
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Friday, 4 March 2011

Weekend Discount on all the JFDI books

Read more! If you haven't bought the JFDI Community Broadband Trilogy about villages which have built their own broadband networks, now is your chance. 20% off all the books until Monday. Just enter code "GIANTUK305" on Lulu when you order.

This blog post can be read at

Happy Reading!
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State Aid Guidelines

Read more! Light reading for the weekend, folks! After last night's "Eden Valley Connective" broadband meeting with BDUK, I thought it was time to lay into the State Aid Guidelines.

This blog post can be read at

It is going to be very important for those within the BDUK pilot areas to help those in Councils etc to make the right decisions. We can all only do that if we understand how State Aid will and does affect choices made. For instance, it would seem that "open access" is being translated to suit the bidders already, and not either the project or the end users.

In addition, it would seem very important that Councils et al are very clear about 51.

51. In assessing the proportional character of the notified measures in "white" or "grey" areas, through its decision-making practice, the Commission has highlighted a number of necessary conditions to minimise the State aid involved and the potential distortions of competition. The lack of any of the following conditions in (a) to (h) would require an in-depth assessment [51] and most likely it would lead to a negative conclusion on the compatibility of the aid with the common market.

So, a) for instance reads:

(a) Detailed mapping and coverage analysis: Member States should clearly identify which geographic areas will be covered by the support measure in question. By conducting in parallel an analysis of the competitive conditions and structure prevailing in the given area and consulting with all stakeholders affected by the relevant measure, Member States minimise distortions of competition with existing providers and with those who already have investment plans for the near future and enable these investors to plan their activities [52]. A detailed mapping exercise and a thorough consultation exercise ensure accordingly not only a high degree of transparency but serve also as an essential tool for defining the existence of "white", "grey" and "black" zones [53].

Mapping for instance is vital. At Penrith conference, the maps failed to include our own homegrown networks like Cybermoor, Gt Asby etc so maps must include ALL existing service providers, not just the big boys.

Communicating with existing service providers about their plans. Hm, we are already hearing from providers and communities who are getting increasingly concerned that their ongoing work could be totally distorted by BDUK intervention unless local authorities try much harder to discover what is going on in their areas. (This has been ongoing for a while, but many of those now getting in touch are not 'planning' to build something, they have already JFDI.)

This small example of a detailed and complex document gives some idea of what we are all up against.

There will be a short test on Monday on the rest of the Guidelines. ;o)

(Next week, we shall be studying the Framework Agreement).

Have a good weekend all. And just a reminder that rural areas, kids and advanced technology mix really well. I suspect we may see something similar in Stoneleigh as a school holiday course in years to come...
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Thursday, 3 March 2011

Why Milton Keynes is a quick win for BT

Read more! 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!
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RFoG standard approved

Read more! The Radio Frequency over Glass standard has finally been approved.

This blog post can be read at

It's not a cure-all and it won't be the winner in the FTTH market, but for certain companies looking to put in pilots in certain areas (the initials BDUK come to mind), RFoG could well be an opportunity waiting for a (FTT)home, or more to the point, a DVP (Digital Village Pump).

Read more RFOG techie stuff here.
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Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Europe 2020 Project Bonds consultation announced

Read more! It had to come, using bonds to fund the major infrastructure projects that the EU will need over the coming years.

This blog post can be read at

The announcement of the consultation is here.

I've been involved in quite a few discussions about this type of infrastructure funding recently, so it will be interesting to see the results of the consult. There is definitely an appetite for more imaginative use of financial vehicles to get the EU back in the fast lane.

Meanwhile, for those with their eyes on smaller scale solutions to funding infrastructure, there is a Cumbria Social Enterprise Partnership event on 16th March in Kendal for anyone wishing to know about community share issue.
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Making the Business case for Telehealth and telecare

Read more! Am watching the King's Fund Telehealth and Telecare conference and it is fascinating.
This blog post can be read at

The challenges faced by these projects are oh so similar as those faced in so many other sectors of UK society.

Couple of points: (the videos will be archived and bear watching)

a) The Cornwall project had no broadband to work with so could only play with telehealth and telecare toys that worked over phone lines. (Those behind ActNow should be ashamed at what that says about the huge amount of money thrown at that county to resolve that problem earlier this decade, let alone what is once again being thrown at Cornwall now). Imagine what could have been done with the £31million these pilots have had if the comms infrastructure claimed by the telcos actually existed in this country?

b) There is a difference between telecare kit and telehealth kit. e.g. telecare includes smoke alarms, CO2 monitors, etc, and telehealth kit is much more about vital signs. This is still pretty primitive stuff compared to what telehealth means in many countries abroad, and what was taken for granted by many speakers in Milan just 2 weeks ago. I'm looking forward to the international speakers this afternoon and tomorrow, who I suspect may pop a few bubbles.

c) The users chose the simplest, least glamorous pieces of equipment. Even though there were touch screen, funky 'toys' on offer, the focus groups etc chose the ones they liked to use most. There is a lesson in this for all public procurement - ask the users, first, and secondly, it does not need to be the all-singing, all-dancing, most expensive equipment that hits the buttons for those who must use it.

d) The best story told during the event so far is that of Eddie, who has COPD. The fact that he can now monitor his own situation means that he now sees the correlation between how he feels and what the monitoring shows him - visually, on his TV as I understood it. What this has done it to release him from 5 years of not going out of his house, because he understands his illness far more clearly.

Jamesks on the Tweetstream said: Rather damning evidence on how medical profession have failed to help people take control of their health in the past.

Valid point which many holistic practioners would agree with, but putting a more positive slant on it, when KPMG run their post-lunch session on making the business case for telehealth, it would be interesting to see what GBP pound sterling value they put on Eddie's increased confidence, freedom, improved quality of life etc etc.

Because surely that should be what telehealth is about? Improving patients' lives. Yes, it should not drain the coffers dry to implement it, but surely someone should be seriously taking into account these individual stories, including those from the smoking cessation groups who were also highlighted who have found it much easier to give up because of the increased support available.

This is the SOCIAL CAPITAL side that I have been arguing for years should be shown on the balance sheets for any such project, including deploying FTTH.

BT may not want to be forced to set up so-called non-economically viable projects, but government and local authorities must look at more than just cash projections and profit forecasts, and take on board exactly what benefits and value these type of services have for citizens' well-being, quality of life, and hence the contributions that those people then put back (often many times over) into society.

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