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Thursday 31 July 2008

Mother of all definitions

Read more! Sussed it! If it is 'fibre outside, copper inside' you can call it next generation. Otherwise.... call it by its name. FTTC, ADSL2+, co-ax etc.

The next generation is fibre outside, copper inside, and no more BS is permitted. All telco marketers hereby take note. Us consumers are not up for being 'conned', treat us as halfway intelligent please ;o) and Ofcon, reinforce it. Tis so simple a code of practice....
Read more!

Monday 28 July 2008

Virgin Media ups the ante

Read more! Virgin Media's CTO has spoken (see the Reuter's story here) about delivering 200Mbps to its cable customers by 2012, coincidentally the same date by which BT has proposed to have its odd mix of ADSL2+, FTTC and FTTH implemented.

While the VM announcement has been met with plenty of scepticism by cable customers and others growing weary of the hype over headline speeds, it still ramps things up somewhat, and may encourage BT and others to think a bit harder about putting together a solid FTTH offer together for the rest of us (or at least those of us that live in parts of the UK that are considered economically viable).

Of course VM does not cover large parts of the country either, so for those of us in less densely populated spots these two announcements have one clear benefit as we push forward projects for community/municipal fibre: 2012 is now established as a key milestone date. You could argue that the next digital divide starts then, and any community (rural, semi-rural, urban, it doesn't really matter) that does not have something in place to deliver high speed high quality service will begin to suffer from that point on in terms of people, jobs, businesses and prosperity moving away to locations with better connectivity. Read more!

Friday 25 July 2008


Read more! DOCSIS is the protocol used by Virgin, proposed by BT etc, and is vulnerable to being engineered to create a closed network. DWDM on the other hand is likely to be the flavour of choice for open networks. The Fibrevolution facebook group now has a discussion relating to the pros and cons of each option, and what the choices made in the coming months as FTTH UK rolls out will mean for consumers and industry, both long and short term. Your comments and input will be welcome. Read more!

H20 gets code powers

Read more! Well, unless anyone objects strongly in the next few weeks! Read more!

Thursday 24 July 2008

BBC coverage of "DIY" Fibre

Read more! Yesterday the BBC posted a story here about the rising interest in community based fibre projects. The story includes coverage of CBN and also highlights the great work being done by Daniel Heery and colleagues in Cumbria.

Also an odd comment from Ian Fogg, an analyst with Jupiter Research, who suggests a community fibre deployment could be at risk if a commercial player chose to (presumably) deploy a parallel network. What I don't understand is what would encourage a commercial provider to do such a thing, when the take up rate in the face of a pre-existing network would surely be very poor.

Certainly worth a read. Read more!

Thursday 17 July 2008

Economic evidence from US

Read more! Recent studies estimate that accelerating broadband deployment in the US would have a total annual economic impact of $134 billion. Additional economic impacts show the potential for a further $130 billion across healthcare, education, job creation and retention, environmental impact etc.

This has led to a lobby of a broad-based alliance (healthcare, farming, education, telcos etc) to urge Congress to adopt a national policy for broadband mapping, public=private -partnerships for deployment and more. The full article is available here.

The UK needs to move forwards along these lines too. Mapping existing infrastructure that can be used more effectively (ducts, poles and masts for instance), deployment, notspots, and determinning where there are going to be gaps and underserved areas, where public-private-co-operative partnerships could be the best solution.

In order to do this correctly though, there needs to be clear definitions of the services available, as per the post yesterday about defining NGA/broadband to ensure that further digital divides are not created through misunderstandings and lack of clarity.
Read more!

Tuesday 15 July 2008

NGA - definition thereof

Read more! Before this gets any worse, we (consumers, industry and regulators) need a true definition of next generation broadband to avoid confusion. We have been here before, and still are, with ADSL etc.

We started talking about Next Generation Broadband, meaning FTTH. There is no other end game, and there is no intermediate stage that can be called 'Next Generation'. In the 1980s broadband meant 2Mbps symmetrical, or higher. We have allowed that definition to be watered down whilst the assets are sweated. We should not permit this again.

With ADSL, Broadband 1.0, we have had growing consumer confusion with 'up to' speeds meaning very little in actuality, "unlimited downloads" actually meaning "limited" (Fair Usage Policy applies), co-ax = fibre, and so on.

BT split next gen into NGN (21CN/middle mile) and NGA (first mile), mainly, it seems, because of the split of BT into Wholesale and Open Reach.

Today's announcement is continuing the trend of lies, lies, damned lies, and it is time to ensure that broadband 2.0 next generation broadband is clearly (and honestly) defined.

Next Generation Broadband needs to be called by its real name - FTTH. It is not FTTC, and it does not include in any way copper, nor the last generation network. Ergo, ADSL2+ is not Next Gen. Nor is co-ax.

Next Generation is symmetrical.

Next Generation is 100Mbps, MINIMUM, not some increment of that. It is 100Mbps or more constantly, not in bursts 'up to' 100 Mbps.

Next Generation is not ISDN (the 120,000 business properties BT today has claimed to have fibred - correct me if wrong).

Adopting this definition would mean clarity for regulators, the Advertising Standards Agency, consumers, businesses, industry, media, OECD, investors etc. It would allow true comparisons of global broadband penetration, usage, competitiveness and deployment.

If it isn't next generation broadband then it must not be called it. Next Generation Access is not ADSL2+ and to even begin by calling FTTC and therefore the use of copper in the first mile as next generation is totally irresponsible, should be illegal, and denounced at every turn.

Read more!


Read more!

I feel like this is appropriate right now.

(Thanks to Tim Morgan and the Speed Up Britain group for the logo!) Read more!

several amendments made to previous post

Read more! There is yet more to add, but just a heads up to those on the feed.... Read more!

BT announce up to 10M homes to get NGA by 2012

Read more! BT has today announced it will spend 1.5billion pounds to connect 10million homes with NGA by 2012.
Using a combination of FTTC and FTTP, BT will work with local and regional bodies to decide exactly where and when this will occur. BT have asked Ofcom to give regulatory certainty.

Press BT press release here

It is impossible not to comment on this announcement!

Firstly, the sums. There are known to be about 25million homes and premises in the UK. This 1.5Bn quid (sorry, no pound sign on this eeepc!) for (note the up to!) 10M homes implies the 5Bn figure quoted at BSG conference is closer to the mark than the 16Bn. Although, it could mean a far higher proportion of FTTC than FTTH. One wonders though whether it also implies an urban/semi-urban 'cherry picking exercise' as one would expect the figure to be higher if many rural properties were being connected. Much of the middle mile is already fibred, even in rural areas, so how much of this is actually copper replacement? (market value of copper removed will offset some of the opex of this exercise!)

Looking at the working with local and regional bodies to decide where to connect, one hopes against hope that the RDAs etc have been taking note of work such as the Notspot survey, BBC website broadband map, and the growing frustration of rural businesses and citizens to get anything approaching first generation broadband still, particularly when it is so apparent from figures that the rural economy is a) in decline but b) has the potential to deliver the goods as it were into UK plc's economy if supported and able to communicate. (This was clearly given in evidence at a government select committee review in the Yorkshire Dales recently, and undoubtedly in many other places).

One also wonders whether this 'partnership' in deciding when and where will include, as it did the first time round with ADSL, polite requests (ROFL) from BT for interventions, match funding, contributions etc from these agencies/councils etc, which is of course government money. If it doesn't, then you can almost guarantee it will be a cherry picking exercise, and not necessarily picking the ripest cherries from a consumer/UK Plc viewpoint.

I stand by my long-held view that demand for FTTH is highest in rural areas, and until proved wrong by a rural FTTH pilot, will continue to do so.

Regulatory certainty undoubtedly implies lengthy discussions about sub-loop unbundling, which BT have always been unwilling to play ball with, citing lack of space in cabinets as the most frequent excuse, as well as price certainty if they are required to open up their network. Although they have SMP, one wonders about this figure of 10M as they could then say that Virgin must do likewise (Perhaps?)

The cynic in me says that this announcement has been made to delay others from investing; that far too many politicians etc will once again see an announcement by BT as meaning 'job done, end of problem'; and that many consumers will assume that if BT are on the case they will soon have super dooper fast broadband equivalent to that in Hong Kong, Korea etc. Ebbsfleet (bursts of up to 100Mbps down and 2Mbps up) and previous experience with BT's broadband announcements, will no doubt lead many of us to believe otherwise.

One awaits with interest the answers to the following questions:
1) What percentage of FTTC to FTTH is proposed? Just Ebbsfleet and Olympic Village as FTTH?
2) Which regions - 1.5Bn would equate to just over 100M quid in each of the RDA regions plus Scotland and Wales. That is not much, considering cost somewhere in the region of a third of that and has connected 75 users with 2Mbps wireless!!
3) Who else is going to invest regardless of this announcement?
4) Will Ofcom insist on sub-loop unbundling where FTTC takes place?
5) Will Ofcom control the prices so that we finally see a paradigm shift? And will it be on the side of the consumer (refer to Ofcom's statutory duties) or on the side of BT (refer to Ed Richards' recent announcement about telco risk)
6) How will RDAs etc assess the need/demand within regions to decide where BT should be deploying? And ensure that they engage all stakeholders in the decisions?
7) If interventions are made with public money to ensure that BT go into 'unviable' areas (rather than cherry picking urban areas), will these pots of money be up for public tender as per EU State Aid rules?
8) And finally, will BT do infill where Virgin have no cable, or will they be overlaying that network to offer choice to consumers? (Is this BT's attempt to reach the 80% coverage in tandem with Virgin - are we going to be left with 2 major ISPs, and a few 'boutique' ISPs?) In either case, by 2012, what percentage of the UK population will have access to NGA/FTTH, and choice of supplier? The sooner we know the answer to this, the sooner everyone can start laying fibre in the missing areas, and pushing for appropriate regulation so consumers have a choice, not a duoply.

Oh, and one final comment: "BT already provides fibre to the premises of more than 120,000 businesses,..." that will be ISDN then. How bloody misleading is that?! And ADSL 2+ is NOT next generation broadband, it is first generation broadband, but they are deciding to re-label it to suit them........again.....argggg.
Read more!

NGA no longer equals FTTx

Read more! A snippet hidden at the bottom of BT's press release today about their plans for a fibre deployment is most interesting. I quote from the FAQ in the release:

Are “next generation broadband” and “super-fast broadband” the same thing?
No. “Next generation broadband” refers to the family of new services that BT will offer. These include fibre-based “super-fast” services – such as FTTP and FTTC – as well as advanced copper-based fast services such as ADSL2+.

So at a stroke BT plunges the industry into confusion. for months if not years the whole sector has been talking confidently about Next Generation access networks, meaning FTTH and/or FTTB/P. BT now seems to include ADSL2+ into the mix, a technology which at best can deliver 24 Mbps, but which in practice appears to be falling far short of this. Since when is last mile copper "next generation"? To my mind this disingenuous claptrap with but one goal in mind - to further confuse the consumer, already baffled by Virgin's spurious claims about its "fibre network". No doubt the Post Office will soon start referring to the 'stamp' as a next-gen communications technology.

BT also seem to think that ADSL2+ can support HDTV. I'd like to see that in the wild.
Read more!

BT sticks a cautious toe in the water

Read more! Today's announcement (the original press release here) from BT that they will make a £1.5 billion investment in FTTx in the UK over the next 4 years will no doubt spark huge discussion and debate amongst the 'fiberarti'.

While I'm no great friend of BT (is anyone?) I can't help thinking that this is a hugely positive step. At last the incumbent has acted. Not only have they said that they are willing to work with regional and local players to look at a range of options for where they make the deployment, they have actually confirmed that they are not planning to focus solely on urban centres. which is clever as it will to some extent stop people like me from banging on about the rural digital divide.

Of course there is still along way to go, and I'm sure the devil will be in the detail of the agreements BT will seek to establish with said regional/local players (and how much matching investment those players will need to commit) in order for us to see some rural deployment.

On the downside - and it is a pretty big downside, they seem to be talking about Fibre to the Home for only a small proportion of their total planned rollout, which in itself is only planned to be 40% coverage. So, assuming we sit and wait for BT to do the job, by 2012 less than half of us will be able to get "40 - 60 Mbps" with a lucky 1 million homes offered real FTTH with 100 Mbps.

Why oh why do they persist with these half-baked slow solutions? Why, in a market where for some of the country at least, BT's fibre offer will be in direct competition with Virgin Media, which will be offering 50 Mbps or so via DOCSIS 3, does BT not blow the competition away by deploying true FTTH across the board, with 100 Mbps symmetric? they seem hell-bent on taking a perfectly good technology and watering it down to the point where the benefits for the consumer are merely 'good enough' rather than astounding. Yes it's about cost, yes it's about sweating the asset, but it's also about the arrogance of the incumbent exemplified by the quote from a BT spokesperson in a recent story about their equally diluted rollout in Ebbsfeet" when they said of the 20 Mbps expected permance of the Ebbsfeet deployment that it was "Higher in fact than anyone currently needs".

40% coverage? So the remaining 60% of us are left twiddling our thumbs with whatever copper based bodge will have been cobbled together by then.

Let's hope this will act as a spur to all those RDAs and local authorities that have yet to develop clear policy on the issue, and that some real constructive dialogue begins about how the remaining 60% of the country can get access. 2012 is not a long way off in the scheme of things, and the arguments about the digital divide are compelling in that local economies that are not connected will quickly suffer from a leaching away of jobs and investment towards those places that have fibre access.

For me this adds new urgency to the campaign for community owned fibre networks. A truly sustainable and responsive business model that offers tons of added value and lower costs for consumers has got to be the preferred option.

Benoit Felten is as ever ahead of the game with his post here that cuts through to some of the core issues.

You can also see Ofcom's response here, and the BSG's statement on the news here.

Let the discussion flow... Read more!

Monday 14 July 2008


Read more! OK, I admit defeat. I have signed us up on Facebook.

It will never ever be cyworld, which I would die for (virtually, obviously!), but in the absence of ways to network with others who need FTTH in the real world, and who have things to say, I have finally succumbed.

There is now an FTTH UK fibrevolution group, and we are going to begin the actions that are required to find the FTTH activists, investors, frogs (read about lilypads if that doesn't make sense) and more.

WATCH this space...... (until I can work out how to put the RSS feed from the blog into Facebook)

Find us on Facebook, join us, bring your friends and neighbours in to the fold etc.

I am actually quite horrified about how few of the folks in my inbox are on Facebook, in a way (especially clients, industry specialists, activists etc). Until I realise that our way of communicating has been pretty effective up to now. This is just another tool, but it may prove useful.

Let many flowers bloom...invite your friends into our circle and let's watch the flower bed grow.

Read more!

Saturday 12 July 2008

Turkeys voting for Christmas

Read more! FTTH is a disruptive technology. It changes the game - totally. It leaves the cosy business models of traditional telcos lying broken and bleeding in the gutter. Maybe I'm missing something here, but can someone explain to me therefore why Ofcom and others seem to believe that the best way to work out how to deploy FTTH in the UK is to consult with the incumbent players (i.e. those with the most to lose)?

If Ofcom's duty is to act in the best interests of the citizen/consumer, then why consult with industry vested interests about NGA. Turkeys don't vote for Christmas.

We currently sit at a tipping point brought about by the dual realities of fibre and digital convergence. The UK digital communications infrastructure of 2015 will be unrecognisable in comparison with what we see today. Along with many commentators far better qualified to comment than myself, I believe that there is now a very real opportunity to create a multitude of small interconnected - and hopefully in many cases community owned - NGANS, ending once and for all the monopoly of BT, bringing a real market into being, and delivering real broadband and real value to consumers.

Perhaps I'm starting to answer my own question...

Let a thousand flowers bloom! (as long as they are standards based, open, and fully interoperable).
Read more!

Thursday 10 July 2008

Property rating for fibre

Read more! Back at the beginning of this century (!), I became very interested in the issue of property rating on fibre, and why it was cited as one of the issues surrounding non-investment in FTTH, particularly by new entrants.

I wrote an article on it, Treasury taxing new entrant fibre providers', and the issue has been taxing me ever since.

I am short of hard data about how much this property tax is at current rates since the new rates came into effect last year.

Nor do I know what effect it has on the 'up to £16bn' sum - is it included in the provision of FTTH that keeps being cited? Is it included whether or not there is full copper replacement?

How is it affecting the thinking of non-incumbent players?

When H20 do Bournemouth, do the council take the rates with one hand and pay them with the other? Does the money go direct to Treasury or stay with the council?

Under what circumstances can the rates be changed - viz in Korea where they scrapped them entirely to encourage FTTH deployment?

The BSG had a working group for this issue, does it still exist?? What/where is the latest document on the subject?

Questions, questions......any answers out there?
Read more!

Oh dear. How long will this be allowed to continue?

Read more! Virgin's new ad - The Mother of all Broadband is surely misleading customers?

Um, have I missed something? Isn't the old NTL network co-ax not fibre optic? I know the Telewest network that VM acquired was substantially FO but surely VM can't say that their network is FO? Or is there an 'up to' deception again? As in ' up to x% of our network is fibre optic'.

And 20Mbps is hardly 'the mother of all broadband'. What slick marketing device are they going to use when they finally get round to offering 100Mbps? Or 1Gbps? (which of course we know FO is perfectly capable of, even today).

And spot the No download limits, but an acceptable usage policy applies. So, there are download limits then. So, really it should say 'Limited downloads' because they are being limited.

The ISPs are not helping encourage users to start demanding FTTH and true broadband services if they perpetually mislead them into believing that what is on offer now is all bells and whistles, nor by this constant abuse of the English language. Nor do these type of adverts help the politicos, potential investors, and so on, understand what is going on.

C'mon Ofcom, at the very least insist on the correct use of language, and some honesty in these ads.

Remember your statutory duties:

Ofcom's Statutory Duties
Under the Communications Act 2003:

" 3(1) It shall be the principal duty of Ofcom, in carrying out their functions;
(a) to further the interests of citizens in relation to communications matters; and
(b) to further the interests of consumers in relevant markets, where appropriate by promoting competition"

Spot the important terms - citizens and consumers.

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100Mbps symmetrical by 2015

Read more! In the US, of course, not here in the UK.

The full article is here My opinion? (which of course you want to hear!) is

* Too little
* Too late
* Too few (a majority of Americans, not all)

But at least it is a start, even if some US states already have more advanced (both in development and in thinking) policies such as Gigabit or Bust (California, 2003), Utopia (Utah, 2003) etc, whilst Canada are light years ahead on thinking, deployment and usage.

Now, bring some of that thinking over the Pond......

Any more examples from around the world of advanced thinking worth adding to the mix, readers? Sweden, Latvia, Korea, etc spring to mind. Let's make a list of links to projects to inspire our politicos.....
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Too far from Westminster?

Read more! Once again, the A1 upgrade has been turned down. This also has to with FTTH.

It may not seem initially to have anything in common with FTTH but it is indicative of the way which issues which severely affect areas of Britain other than around the capital are treated. The A1 is apparently of "no strategic importance". The folks making this decision have obviously never tried to drive to Northumberland, or to Scotland via that road, nor understand why some of us live, work and play in the North.

The decision has caused frustration to many of us, and will continue to cause untold economic hardship to many businesses and citizens. The A1 should not be a single lane highway in the 21st century, nor should we be expected to communicate over the single lane, one way highway that is ADSL. There is similar frustration caused by the sloth with which ADSL broadband rollout has, and hasn't, been achieved in this country, and the abject failure to encourage FTTH. Or even to begin to understand why we, outside of London, need it ever more desperately.

Unless the policy and decision makers begin to get their head round the fact that the rest of the UK also has a valid contribution to the economy to make, and rural areas in particular, whether that is from tourism (that stretch of coastline is extremely popular as a destination but boy is it a ball ache to get to), small businesses, hauliers, or from the growth of new industries, our economy is going to continue to suffer. Let's not forget that Sage, for instance, are based just down the road from that particular stretch of miserable motorway so it's not like us Northerners are incapable of producing the 'goods' as it were.

Across the board, decisions are being made in Westminster which, to those of us further afield, indicate a growing failure to grasp reality, to apply common sense, or to help this country out of the deepening mire which years of appalling decisions and mismanagement have caused.

This particular decision will cause many of us to use other roads to reach Scotland, spreading the problem wider, and making it ever harder for the 'required number' of vehicles to use that road to get an upgrade. We will see more road accidents caused by 40 tonners driving through rural villages, more road damage on roads not designed to carry such traffic, more hold ups caused to those trying to travel (for business and leisure purposes), more costs for those who need to use the A1, in wasted time and higher fuel consumption, environmental impact as HGVs drive through the rural countryside where they should not be, and more.

It is difficult not to compare the problems caused by the A1 decision to those being faced by a throttling of traffic caused by insufficient broadband infrastructure. Social, economic and environmental impact from lack of broadband is considerable, and inacceptable. After all, that is about transport too - of packets, rather than vehicles, goods and people.

When will Westminster get out and about and understand they are causing more problems than they are solving with their decisions? Even us country bumpkins can see the ramifications of such decisions; we are not, after all, idiots as seems to be assumed by the suits.

Read more!

Tuesday 8 July 2008

What El reg readers think

Read more! El Reg posts about Ed Richards 'return on fibre' speech and the readers start to comment....Interesting variety of comments on The Register about who, how, with what money etc. Read more!

Monday 7 July 2008

Ed Richards, Ofcom CEO, on FTTx and regulation

Read more! "Super-fast broadband is crucial to the UK’s future. These next generation networks form part of the critical infrastructure of the country’s economy and will be central to the way we live our lives in the future.
Super-fast next generation broadband will come to change our perception of communications radically. Alongside mobile broadband, it will, in time, have a similar impact on our society and economy as first generation of broadband.
Not just in information and entertainment, but in how businesses and consumers organise themselves and interact and, increasingly, in aspects of our lifestyles such as healthcare."

Which is nice.

He went on to talk about providing a comfort zone for investors in FTTx to ensure that they could make a fair return. While those comments seemed pretty clearly pitched at BT, which has been arguing the toss for months 'about not yet seeing the business case' for investment, they are also of key importance to those us seeking to develop alternative approaches, such as municipal/cooperative fibre networks.

If OFCOM have a thorough grasp of the developing marketplace, and there is no reason to believe they don't (yet), this statement on investment could help to open the wallets of numerous potential players in the emerging FTTx space, not least those providers of patient capital that may be crucial to municipal/cooperative network development.

Read the full speech, should you wish to, here.
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UK - bottom of the league

Read more! Is the UK actually mentioned in this article about national FTTH deployment?

Oh no, because we don't have a national strategy yet. HOW FAR BEHIND DO WE HAVE TO GET?
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FTTH and death

Read more! I've had a bit of a week with my 'best friend' dying. And I just can't work out how FTTH fits in...

Would 'life' be better if everything was held in some sort of FTTH type filing system? Not really. Would FTTH have made this last few days better? Nope. Could FTTH have solved any of the medical probs? No.

The truth is, that because all of this has happened in a small, rural community, NOTHING can work as fast as our jungle drums work with current technology. And those techs have been diesel engines, mobile phones, land lines and seeing/talking to people in real life.

Nothing works as fast as an ambulance crew who know the 35 mile road to the hospital. Nothing works as well as a nursing system who can CARE for the patient. Nothing can cope with the fact that someone didn't write a will, nor the fact that the family are amazing. Nothing works as fast as the acceptance that no current govt system can work as fast as 'people power'.

In fact, it has become ever clearer this week that sometimes, you don't need technology, policy, regulation etc. What you need is good common sense and humanity.

And when the community spirit makes up for "We can't tell the police where the ambulance picked him up under Data protection laws", so the community goes out to find the car, the keys, the access into the 'life' of the dead person for his family, etc, and then you realise we may have gone overboard in our policies.

This is quite a complex tale but not so complex for the local people with no tech whatsoever, but a little word of mouth, to solve issues which seemingly left family in the hospital entirely unaware of the location of the incident, the circumstances of the incident, the personal belongings of the victim etc. Due to POLICY and REGULATIONS.

I have been horrified by the events this week, though relieved by the community's capacity to resolve them. Once again this is a situation where a rural community has resolved issues DESPITE government intervention rather than BECAUSE of it.

This is constant. Agencies fiddle whilst the country burns.

Read more!

Sunday 6 July 2008

Vote Now!

Read more!
The community network that is the subject of my second book has been shortlisted for the UK Catalyst awards - vote for SWBB today!

South Witham Broadband has been shortlisted for the People's Choice, so let's bring broadband to the top of the agenda where it belongs. Vote for SWBB today!
Read more!

Thursday 3 July 2008

Get your mugs and tshirts here!

Read more! More designs in the pipeline, watch this space!!

Go on, you know you want one! Get a mug or tshirt today and support the push for UK fibre to the home - rural and otherwise!!

Best rendition on Youtube of C'mon on baby by a Fibrevolution reader gets a free mug!!!
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Consumers WANT fibre

Read more! Point Topic's latest report shows that consumers are taking up fibre broadband as a first choice where available over other technologies.

Point Topic's report

It is hard to know how loudly us consumers need to shout to show demand for fibre optic broadband connectivity, but we are often drowned out by those who would prefer us not to have it - for a variety of reasons.

The telcos are not keen as it means digging deep for capex investment, and then being forced to dispel the 'false scarcity' myth about bandwidth that they have propagated for oh so long. Policy makers are not keen on us consumers having such freedoms - imagine unlimited uploads, speedy communications between citizens - oh, what chaos we could cause (in their minds). Regulators are generally behind the times rather than ahead of the game, and their jobs would be so much harder if forced to catch up and keep up. And sort out some of the self-inflicted, restrictive regulations they have short-sightedly implemented.

However, when hard evidence is produced that consumers are taking up fibre optic broadband, where the choice is available, over other technologies, it is time for the above mentioned parties to get their acts together and get with it.

This is not about shareholders of private companies NOT getting their money back - the business case is surely so strong in other nations who have JFDI with FTTH/x that that argument has been well and truly gazumped is not about whether our Department of Trade and Industry (thoughtfully renamed as DataBase ERRor recently) understands how businesses need to operate and why we need FTTH/B/x/village (call it what you will)....this is not about whether those in Ofcon can justify their jobs any longer...or whether those in government and policy makers etc can grasp how the real world operates....

this is about every stakeholder in the UK, the citizens and consumers and communities and businesses who make up UK PLC being able to compete and communicate in the global economy and society.

How much evidence is required to make people in this country make common sense decisions and make FTTH happen?

The Point Topic research clearly shows that as far as VFM goes, FTTH wins hands down, both for the telcos and the consumers. Low take-up clearly relates to low availability eg in the UK where we have less FTTH available than anywhere else outside of Mongolia or the Sahara as far as I can see. (tongue firmly in cheek but you know what I mean!)

16 million people in the UK are, according to Point Topic, currently broadband subscribers. How many of those are saddled (as I am) with far less than 2Mbps down and a poxy 256kbps up, or just a connection that doesn't do what it needs to, and are frustrated in the extreme by what we are being sold as broadband? And paying up to 15 times more for an asymmetric joke than we would be for fibre optic connectivity?

A simple sum shows that 16million subscribers into the supposed £16bn for FTTH to EVERYONE is £1000 each.

OK, so here's an offer. As one of the 16 million with something I have been sold as broadband which isn't, I pledge my £1000 right now to pay for my bit of FTTH and help subsidise the other 9million or so homes and businesses who have suffered from the appalling IT education in this country and therefore don't understand just what FTTH or true broadband will mean to us all. Or who can't get anything approaching broadband and are stuck on dial up - like all my neighbours 1 mile away, everyone in the Notspot survey, on the BBC website broadband comments section, on the many broadband discussion forums, in MPs inboxes etc etc.

Part 2 of the offer is that I will go and find at least 5 people who don't have broadband and talk them into adding into the pot to make up for some of the 16 million people who may not have £1000 to donate into a central co-op to make FTTH happen in this country.

On the condition that this network is owned by us, the users. Not by a monopoly as seems to be being touted by WIK and Vivien Reding this week, or in BTs dreams, nor Government owned cos sorry, guys, but you are making such a hash of things that no-one trusts you to run a private piss-up in a subsidised Westminster bar right now.

Owned and run by the users.

Britain is the home of co-ops (think Rochdale Pioneers), they run successfully throughout the world, and it is the only way UK Plc is going to get what is required.

Everyone can have a piece of the pie - the telcos can play on an Open Public Local Access Network, those who want to deliver services can do so to every customer they find, the Treasury can take its cut from taxes etc from the regenerated economy, we will all benefit from the environmental benefits (FTTH is cheaper in electrickery than DSL for starters), and everyone is a winner.

Where fibre is not immediately simple or as vital, we will build a wireless network to reach those who have other choices to start with eg urban areas. It's called

FiWi Pie

and everyone can have a slice of this fibre-wireless mix.

Cherry pick those of us who are desperate for FTTH, in rural areas, where services of any description are being cut by the day (last week our Post Offices closures were announced, this week it is our public phone boxes here in Cumbria), small businesses, teleworkers, those of us who really, really need this to exist.

Leave the cities for now, they have plenty of better access to real and virtual services, and can't even exhibit the demand us ruralites already have.

Is it really so difficult?

Here's Emtelle's moleplough - they are a British company who have done FTTH elsewhere in the world, whilst kicking their heels waiting for the UK to catch up. I'll dig my own trench... vamos!

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Theme tune ideas for Community FTTH

Read more! How about "Dig Your Own Hole" by the Chemical Brothers? Read more!

Tuesday 1 July 2008

A Community Fibre Conundrum

Read more! I've been putting in some serious hours over the last 5 or 6 months learning, thinking, plotting, promoting and nudging forward the whole community owned FTTH scenario in my locality. My labours have met with some modest successes, but at the same time the scale of the mountain of work ahead has become ever clearer, and more daunting as each week rolls by.

I did some back-of-a-fag-packet calculations on the work required to seriously establish and build the support of key players in the locality, work up a modest community awareness campaign, identify and secure the funds required for a credible feasibility study, and get the project to a point where the business case was established and we could go to market to identify the investment needed to take the thing forward. I reckoned that one focused and well motivated person, maybe me, could do the work required in 9 to 12 months working perhaps one or two days each week (allowing some time for earning a living).

In reality of course I, like most of us simply don't have that time available. I'm working to establish and build my business, and while this project could potentially become part of my business, right now it is volunteer labour that I can barely afford to do. 

My guess is that I'm not alone in this. How many would-be community fibre projects are out there, with plenty of goodwill and support from local authorities and other players, but with zero resource available to take them forwards? It seems a little crazy that a community owned FTTH project, which could generate perhaps £500k profit p.a. once established, is stymied from moving forward at the pace needed for the sake of maybe 10 or 15 grand of development support. Maybe I just need to be a little more creative about looking for funding support to move things on, but to my mind this is a real stumbling block right now.

The other key hurdle to overcome is access to expertise. A really useful resource that could prove invaluable for budding community fibre schemes globally is a knowledgebase. How does one create a successful community owned NGAN from the bottom up? I've been involved in cooperatives and cooperative development for many years so I've got some decent ideas, but it would be fabulous to get some knowledge sharing going on more widely, and learn what works well, and what doesn't. I know it would help me enormously if I could learn from the experience of others who have done or are doing what I'm trying to do. And I dare say I probably already know a few things that might be of value to others working to create other networks.

Who is out there doing similar things? If you share my enthusiasm for sharing some learning on the community FTTH front please let me know, and we can do something practical about it.

Lindsey's books mentioned elsewhere in this blog offer some valuable food for thought, although they are focussing on responses to the problems arising from ADSL rollout some years back. We are now into a second, and I think much more tsunami-like wave of FTTx rollout, and while we are still in the very early stages, the pace will surely quicken from here on in. Time's a wasting, must go and lobby a councillor...
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