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Monday 21 December 2009

UK open FTTH is a no-brainer

Read more! Of course, when all of us grassroots people say it, over and over again, it gets no media coverage, but now an OECD report by James Enck has been published proving our point, so you never know - someone in government may listen. Don't hold your breath though.....

No, honestly, don't! The arguments are logical, sensible, economically sound, and include social capital gains... they have no chance of being accepted ;o)

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Friday 18 December 2009

US broadband stimulus grants announced

Read more! Today, the US Federal Govt began to announce the winners of the stimulus grants. "It's in America, not here, it's not relevant." I was told this today and nearly choked on my Red Bush tea. Let's start the panto season right here...oh yes, it is....

Whilst, on a geographic scale, the US projects may seem somewhat out of our league, as is the pot of gold, the problems faced are similar. Huge swathes of both rural and urban America who have little or nothing from their local 'incumbent' in the way of next generation access, or in some cases, first generation broadband. Incumbents and telcos dragging their heels in taking the investment plunge. Even though it is easy to see where the money will come from overall, it might not land in their coffers. Reluctance to do *anything* for the good of a wider community than their Board or shareholders. Sound familiar?

US communities are being given really amazing opportunities to put together astounding projects that will be ahead of the UK in climbing the learning 'mountain' of NGA - both middle and first mile. Not only that but there are lessons to be learnt by the UK in the process used to share out public monies.

For me, though the story that will probably prove most interesting, and may only ever be weeded out with difficulty over time, is how those communities who get overlooked (much like with our own National Lottery funding) resolve the problems for their communities. The disappointment will no doubt be tangible within communities who are banking on getting NGA soon. There may be a silver lining though....I'd love to lay a bet that although they will struggle to achieve what is required on several broken shoestrings, the lessons learnt by such communities will be 100 times more valuable to society than those who get the handouts. As long as they are heard.

I suspect it is those communities who will be the ones that many UK rural communities will need to look to for solutions. Because let's face it, £175M max each year is not going to solve the problems in rural Britain before those communities in the US who have missed out this time will have sought solutions. I don't see rural America sitting on its heels and not finding routes to deploy FTTH etc, with or without a State handout.

Any US community who misses out on the Broadband Stimulus grants, please get in touch. The rest will be written about, promoted, lauded etc and it will be far easier to track their progress. But those who have to be ingenious may well find better routes to the local market, more sustainable solutions, and benefit from those who dive in and make the inevitable mistakes. Save us re-inventing the wheel, if you can, please!! And good luck to all.

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Wednesday 16 December 2009

UK broadband fails the economy

Read more! Access to second class broadband can only damage the economy. If almost half of our online business, which as we all know is contributing more and more to the economy as other industry eg steel, manufacturing etc diminishes, is in rural areas, it is time to sort out our priorities for the economy. And for broadband.

According to a recent NFEA (National Federation of Enterprise Agencies) poll, 44 per cent of online businesses are based in rural areas.

The three areas where we need expansion, competitive businesses, innovation and regeneration - rural, SME and digital - we are failing. Badly. You can talk about putting in 2Mbps, creating funds, taxing landlines, developing new quangos etc all you like, but the time for action instead of talking is NOW.

We cannot afford to lose digital businesses, or stymie innovation further. The rural economy, and therefore the WHOLE economy, is blatantly suffering whilst the Westminster suits discuss policy objectives for 2012-2017 they may not even be around to deliver.

Start digging. In rural areas. THAT is the only solution for 2010 and economic recovery.

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Tuesday 15 December 2009

Verizon hits the 100Gbps mark in Europe

Read more! Verizon has just increased its fibre backbone between Paris and Frankfurt to 100Gbps to cope with business demands in the future. This post would seem to tie in nicely with the earlier post about Ofcom etc considering what is required in the UK for BtB products - um, not *that* much, apparently!

Whilst Verizon are not actually offering the full 100Gbps at present, mainly because no enterprise is demanding it, it would seem by this action that they expect for that time to come sooner rather than later. Shouldn't we be adopting a similar approach in the UK?
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Bedtime reading - 3 Ofcom NGA reports

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OfcomImage via Wikipedia

Ofcom have recently released three new reports for you to peruse over the Xmas hols.

The first - Competitive Models in GPON by Analysys Mason - looks at the financials surrounding GPON tech in the UK. The reasoning behind the report is that

Ofcom wishes to understand whether a regulated GPON unbundling requirement would prove effective in supporting competition on GPON fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) networks, such as those being proposed by BT.

The second - GPON Market Review by Analysys Mason - looks at the current GPON market, and includes case studies from several countries.

The third - BtB Interfaces by CSMG - looks at the importance of (future) Business to Business requirements and hence impact on competition, possible bottlenecks, cost restrictions, and Open Reach's Equivalence Management Platform (EMP).

That should keep you busy for a day or so. All comments more than welcome to stimulate the debate.

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Paris aims for FTTH by the Olympics

Read more! Unfortunately, Paris isn't hosting the Olympics, but there is a growing feeling in the UK, that insofar as telecoms are concerned across at the very least London, and definitely other areas of the country, the UK may well put on a very poor show compared to les French by the time the Olympics roll around.

Esme Vos reports on Muniwireless about the final resolution of the 'vertical build' problems in Paris that have been much in the news for the last year or two. And now the Mayor has stepped in with some neat plans to connect the poor. Oooh lala!

Meanwhile, the UK is nowhere close to even moving beyond thinking about 2Mbps asymmetrical as a potential universal service, let alone getting London or the UK 'up to speed' as Olympic host. For anyone heading off to the further flung parts of the country for individual sporting events, who will need unfettered access to the Net and speeds that are already considered normal elsewhere, our advice would be to bring your own satellite dish, or a well-loaded credit card.
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Monday 14 December 2009

Build it and they will come

Read more! As has been discovered with roads, the wider you make them to cope with existing traffic, the more traffic seems to use them. Now, the mobile operators are facing a similar problem which is also taxing the fixed network operators.

Having encouraged data usage over mobile phones, the mobile operators are now finding that the infrastructure is struggling to cope. The conundrum is that even if they expand their networks, data usage will continue to grow exponentially. However, they cannot keep charging for usage to keep pace with the returns required on this (continuing) investment because they have instituted 'all you can eat' data plans that consumers have become accustomed to.

The same is going to occur on fixed line networks, and is already occurring in countries, such as the UK, where the core infrastructure was never designed to handle the phenomenal (and growing) usage we are seeing.

So, what are the potential solutions to this quandary? AT&T are proposing "education of users" so that people limit the amount of data they use and take some responsibility for not overstretching the under-powered network teh telcos are providing. A second solution is to look at intelligent routing and caching - such as that apparently being discussed by BT and Google with Content Connect

There is a third option that seems to terrify operators, both mobile and fixed. Become a big, fat, dumb pipe. Forget all the other bells and whistles you are trying to flog, and just focus on one thing - providing a profitable fat pipe that does its job.

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Sunday 13 December 2009

Customer Owned Fibre

Read more! Useful coverage at the Economist in this week's TQ section of how in Scandinavia and the USA customers for telecoms services are taking ownership of their individual First Mile fibres and sharing ownership of the next hop through a mutual ownership model.

Whether and to what extent this approach will work in the UK remains to be seen.

There are arguments that say the UK market is less attuned to the kind of mutual self-help ownership seen in rural America for example, and less alike the rural small scale mutual utilities seen in eg. Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland.

Ultimately the value in the fibre is in its use and the First Mile is for each customer's use, so it seems sensible to match that usage with ownership
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Thursday 10 December 2009

Broadband mapping - is this what UK needs?

Read more! US broadband mapping may have just become easier with the launch of Broadband Scout.

There is huge potential here for someone in the UK with similar data records to create a true broadband map of Britain by county, postcode etc. Luckily, I don't, or I would probably have a go at this, as this is the information the UK is most lacking. It is currently tied up, double wrapped, guarded jealously by corporates who keep pulling "commercial sensitivity" nonsense on people like me who request it. Whilst some people are doing a great job of trying to get your average Joe to report in their broadband connectivity, it is not sufficiently conclusive to make mapping broadband demand possible.

Hopefully, this will now change when someone who isn't involved in the telco world gets on with this job, and makes it available. As a commercial product, that's fine, as long as communities get reasonably priced access to the results for our areas so we can build sensible, sustainable networks without quite so much guesswork or time wasted with the telco smoke and mirrors palaver we constantly face.

And then, Mr Telco, instead of having zero customers buying your stupidly over-priced and non-competitive bandwidth products in places desperate for a community network and true broadband, you can sell lots of these products at reduced but still highly profitable prices to places where you won't have to deal with us ornery, expensive end users and consumers because the community network will be doing that.

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The killer app is not an app...

Read more! I know I'm not the first to say it, nor is this the first time I've said it. This is a post about video....

For many, the Internet as it stands is still inaccessible. Why? Because of literacy standards. Because it is still text based. Because it is still mainly in English, not Swahili or French or Spanish etc. Because it is 'scary'. Most people do not conduct their daily communications via text or through a keyboard - they speak, gesticulate, roll their eyes, react to body language and so on. Yet, this is still difficult for the average person to do using the current technology available to the masses.

Yes, we are moving towards more video content, but for the average person who is comfortable in their own skin but not on a keyboard, we still live in a world where much of our communication is not possible using a camera or a video link.

The infrastructure which would allow us to video conference etc is just not there in many parts of the world. Yes, there are mechanisms for doing so, and many manage to use video, albeit somewhat jerkily, to communicate with others, but it is not easy, nor even possible in some places. (Skype video here? Hmmm, not so it becomes a practice you would adopt as quickly as just going to a meeting and touching flesh with the people you need to talk to).

There are problems with coding and codecs. As memory etc has become more easily available, so coding has become looser, using the bits available, meeting tight deadlines etc instead of programming very tight, memory restricted, efficient code. Instead of being able to easily video conference with suitable quality of service, it has actually become harder as it uses more resources - eg bandwidth and processing power.

But where is the biggest problem? In the infrastructure that is required to carry full-motion, colour video so it feels as natural as a conversation. Whilst people keep rabbiting on about how 2Mbps is plenty, the reality is that it can't physically carry the necessary information to make video conferencing, or other forms of visual interaction, possible.

For instance, 2Mbps is not sufficient for telehealth, or education over video. By a very long chalk. It isn't sufficient for me to have a conversation 'as if I was there' with one of my kids when I am away on business. And whilst I may be able to communicate with them over text, email, on a voice chat, etc the lack of physical and visual signs that we all rely on as humans means that there are often important clues that we miss that make the interaction far less valuable than it could be. To both parties.

Video is the killer USE of the fat pipes. It will become the justification for them. Anyone who has failed to see this, and who still thinks that "content" means that stuff that Hollywood, the music industry, the BBC etc produce, is missing the way things are going. Interactivity will not mean pressing a button to vote for some trivial ex-celebrity. Interactivity will mean communicating with others, whether they are family, friends, peer groups, colleagues, the medical expert for our condition, a teacher, your MP, etc.

I remember standing next to Stephen Timms, watching a group of school children in Alston, competing with pupils from a school in the Midlands - and I say "with" because the teams were made up of pupils from both schools - to make a giant paper airplane over a video link. Up here in Cumbria, it is rare to see anyone who has different colour skin, or hear different accents in daily life, let alone talk to them, work as part of a team with them etc. The benefits and undoubtedly changed attitudes that resulted from that video session are numerous, and almost impossible to replicate without physically shipping kids around the UK. However, the kids couldn't continue their new 'friendships' from home, because the bandwidth required for 2 way video like this is just not available.

Imagine a physiotherapy session required by someone who is housebound due to their condition. At present, you need either a taxi or an ambulance to take you to hospital. That's an 80+ mile round trip for someone here. You then work with your physiotherapist to train your muscles back to life. This has to be done 'in person' because the physiotherapist needs to closely monitor your reactions to new exercises, to understand which muscles may require extra work, see your grimaces of pain and so on.

However, in many instances, this type of therapy could be conducted over a suitable video link. You could be in your home, not requiring the resources of an ambulance, taxi, nor to extend your carbon footprint to reach the hospital. Current and planned 'broadband' infrastructure is totally insufficient to make this possible without FTTH or fat pipes.

Let's go one step further. Project Natal gives some sense of how animation and great coding, including AI (artifical intelligence), could be used in future to deal with many issues, freeing up scarce human resources to carry out work which could not be carried out by an avatar.

Imagine that person who needs to be encouraged to carry out their physiotherapy every day, at home someone who is lonely, who is shy, who is agoraphobic, who needs to socialise but doesn't know anyone. Project Natal type programming could help to build confidence, listen to problems, bring people out of their shell, enable people to communicate about issues they struggle with. And so much more. Your imagination is the only limit on this one - get pondering!

But whilst you may want to do this on your XBox, there are times when this interactivity needs to be shared with a professional. Perhaps a GP who can see that the anti-depressant prescription is wrong for this person, or a psychologist, or a teacher or learning mentor with a difficult pupil. That requires a video link over the appropriate infrastructure to do that.

Once you start to think of all the possibilities for video, on a PEOPLE based level, not a monetary one, then you really begin to get how totally inadequate the current proposals for a USC, for 2Mbps, for asymmetric connectivity, and for Digital Britain really are.

Take away the shareholders, the policy tick boxes, the need to win seats, the use of public funds, and think purely about the PEOPLE. The consumers of this technology. Ask what people want, first. Then think about how we need to deliver it. Not in a piecemeal, this'll do for now fashion, but to reach an eNdGAme where the people who make up this nation are being best served. Think about your neighbour, the person sitting at the desk next to you, or on the Tube. Your family members, friends, the stranger in the doctor's surgery, the farmer down the road. Think about how being able to use video, invisibly, seamlessly, as part of their daily existence could change their life. What could it do for them, or for you? For your life, your business, your community, the nation?

Imagine health, education, security, communication, support, love, friendship, public policy directives, meetings, business deals, conferences, and everything else you can think of delivered on an "as if I was there" network.

And next time someone tells you that the USC of 2Mbps or any type of asymmetrical connection is fine for years to come, put them right.

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Wednesday 9 December 2009

Herding cats into the NGA 'pen'

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Last night, sitting in the Conservative Technology Forum meeting in the House of Commons, it finally dawned on me what a task we really have in front of us. I thought dealing with my neighbours and community was difficult... (oof, you really don't want to know!)

But it's actually far worse!

I've been in the House before so although it was nice not to have jetlag this time from Dave Isenberg's WTF conference, it wasn't "much different' from walking through my own house. (Must replace the marble busts on the stairs though...[photo])

However, what is becoming ever more obvious is the need to 'corrale' people into a situation where they collaborate and co-operate. Working for just your business' shareholders, or for a particular party win, or for the gain of xyz community is no longer the way to play. Not even if you play a winning card that seems to meet all odds. Because, on the whole, to date, every single winning hand has been played with a poker face in an attempt to win for 'your side'.

We have to go beyond sides. Beyond loyalties. Beyond shareholder interest. Beyond personal agendas and party politics. It's bigger. It can sometimes start far smaller eg a community of 12 houses, but it needs to be about making it right, nationally beneficial. It is about the ENdGAme.

What we are trying to do is FAR, FAR bigger than those 'personal' interests, be they corporate, community or even seemingly national when played politically.

What we are trying to do is free something which will allow, possibly untethered to start with, an opportunity to access an unrivalled resource - human creativity and imagination. Innovation. Ingenuity. Inspiration. All of those will unleash far more social economic wealth than anything else we have on the books. That, in itself, unleashes our most recent god - Money - that can be counted and "relied upon", AHEM, as a judge of value.

I know, as much as anyone how scary that is, though, and what it could unleash if you allow people to do what they are capable of. Hell, I have twins. 2 to 1 is not a good algorithm in a power struggle over the washing up, for instance! But when it comes to making things happen....hmm, then you are talking. Harness the power for the common good...and we have a clean house, a village with a cycle powered recycling trailer, real endeavours planned and executed by real people. We are going places then.

I will be writing about my thoughts on this decade shortly. This is the first in which I have been here the entire time fighting the same problem (Please, please, let it be the last!). But I know, from those I was with last night in London, and to whom I am eternally grateful to not just those but many others for their continued presence in this world I live in, (and their freely given experience, support etc - you do know who you are TY) that there is an 'oldgen' who are helping the 'newgen' deliver the 'nextgen'.

I can't make you speak out in public, but I can hope you might. I have spoken to so many of you in private and know you are not mute!

End of the Noughties.....what do you feel is up and coming for the Teenies, and where do you see your contribution being to the next generation of telecoms?

Are we herding cats? Or is there hope in the telecoms industry? Please, share your views here and if you know someone who remembers the Thatcherite days of 84 and "no TV thru BT" or who has a vision for 2012 that comes from their experience, please, come and share here so we stop re-inventing the wheel.

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Saturday 5 December 2009

Is Don Tapscott right?

Read more! I listened to him speak in Copenhagen at the FTTH Council event and have to admit I have more notes from that session than any other. This week he has taken on the music industry.

Whilst Murdoch and Google battle it out over news access by us mere mortals, the music industry has been applying undue pressure, particularly in the UK, in order to protect an outdated business model.

Don has decided to point out to the music industry several options available for their survival. I personally would not want anything to do with the billing engine responsible for ensuring each person was credited the appropriate amounts, but hey, jobs for the boys there in his suggestions!

What many people are endeavouring to achieve is to change the scarcity model into that of abundance. The problem is that the "protectionists" apparently didn't see this abundance lark coming. So, not having considered solutions prior to its arrival, they now feel threatened. Instead of embracing it, they are panicking like mad and endeavouring to hang on to the olde worlde models.

Won't work. It is that simple. And the telcos are in a similar kerfuffle.

If someone comes along, doesn't play the game, and instead of offering an 'up to', unlimited connection by the current definitions of unlimited etc, makes available a connection that is, "Really, all you can eat. No, honestly, it is, try and break it if you want, we want you using bits", what will we hear from the telcos? Certainly, no more of Benoit's hunting the mythical bandwidth hog, because our all-new 'use it or lose it' telco will be celebrating having found the people who really USE their network. It should be in transporting bits that telcos are making money, not in throttling and restricting the movement of bits.

Several years ago at a conference, I had a chat with Steve Kennedy (previously of Thus) over lunch about data transport costs approaching zero. That is even more the case now. If you have built your network on an assumption that by moving bits around, you stand to make ever more money as the costs of doing so approach zero, then what you want is people USING your network. You want them sharing videos, video conferencing, using VoIP, uploading, downloading, you name it.

You need to make it easy for those users. Not hassle them as the top 5% bandwidth hogs. Don't frighten them into not downloading a film or music track in case it might prove illegal with threats that their kids will suddenly be cut off in the middle of career-affecting school work.

Let everyone have access to what they want. Solve the billing engine problems by collaborating across sectors eg news, music, video etc and charge a flat rate that is supported by similar reductions in access costs because those running the access networks will see their usage go through the roof.

Stop trying to be all things to all men. Focus on what you are good at, and do it well. Make your money from a penny (or a fraction of a penny_ made for each of millions of transactions, instead of trying to find the single million penny/pound deal. Make a little from lots and lots and lots of people doing things. Because by making everything abundant, you will be far better off than now.

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Thursday 3 December 2009

Youngsters get it

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Google WaveImage via Wikipedia

Debatewise is a fantastic project and for all of those involved in nextgen, help support our very own nextgen of kids from around the world who on 9th December will be doing something memorable with technology - discussing what can be done about climate change on Google Wave.

Thanks to Dave Crane for bringing this one to our attention, it really is awe inspiring. The Twitter tag is #GYP and we ask everyone to show support for these people around the world.

Updates are that we've got more than 1,000 young people from over 130 different countries/territories signed up to take part in the debates. We're now busily getting them on to Wave, getting them used to Wave and adding robots and gadgets that will improve the experience for them.

We're also trying to get messages of support from climate change experts, politicians or celebs - a sentence or two of encouragement will inspire these young people greatly so if anyone knows anyone who might like to contribute please let me know.

The Independent will cover the debates in full and we're working on getting other coverage too. The country coordinators we've recruited - of whom there are 100 - will be asked to see if they can get any local exposure and will be provided with help doing so. Some of these guys are brilliant and we've been discussed in the Phnom Phen Post, the Cyprus Mail and on TV in Bhutan. I love the internet.

We've got some brilliant people involved. The Cambodian team are comprised of people who were picking food off rubbish dumps until recently. And the Bhutan team decided the best way to deal with their poor internet connection was to hire a hall and get their ISP to sponsor the event.

There is lots more to tell and I'll happily do so to anyone interested. Any offers of help or ideas for collaboration are very welcome too.


I have Dave's email address if anyone wants to offer support or contact him directly.

THIS is what freedom of access, technology is about, and NGA will enable. JFDI and let's stop worrying about how much money the music industry is losing through its own short-sightedness and lack of imagination.

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Tuesday 1 December 2009

The Digital Economy Shill, sorry, Bill

Read more! Share it.....and with all thanks to James Enck (blog down there on the right in the FTTH blog roll - follow him) Read more!

Monday 30 November 2009

Getting it and saying it with flowers

Read more! Lots of people get it. The vision of NGA, the benefits, purpose, reasons, ways to achieve it, JFDI and so on. And some really don't...

Sadly, those that don't appear to get it seem to include those who really, really need to get it. These include people in government, MPs, ministers, govt departments, consultants and agencies employed by govt departments, RDAs, quangos set up to deliver on IT and Digital Britain targets, journalists, the health service, councils, housing developers, education chiefs, teachers, communities, consumers, planning agencies, public figures...I know you don't want me to go on. However, I will say that all of the above, luckily, also include people who do get it.

But, this last week, when we saw possibly as much, if not more, lunacy coming from government about P2P, filesharing, disconnecting people from the internet (is this ***really*** 21st century Britain pushing this type of logic?) as any nation needs to in a DECADE, I saw the most crass and stupid statement of the lot.

Just for once, and only under severe pressure, I will withhold the name and organisation involved, but let me tell you I am sitting here with a 1s and 0s gun to my head (not good for a pacifist) in order to keep anger and utter frustration at bay. This is an organisation who are (or would love to be) at the very forefront of delivering NGA to the UK and who claim to get it. Do they? Well, read on.

When a teleconferencing solution was suggested for a meeting, to avoid unnecessary travel from all ends of the country and to ensure everyone who needed to could attend and had the choice to either be there in person or by video conferencing - and hell, that's not easy in this country over the network (transport or data) most of us have access to - the person responding to the final meeting date, times, venue etc said,

"I would prefer to have a real meeting with people present."

This reminds me of James May's entry to the Royal Horticultural Show at Chelsea Flower Show (pick any link you like) this year. The RHS judges took exception to the fact that there were no flowers used. NO FLOWERS???!!! Take a good look around, my lovelies. There are hundreds of flowers.

Just as being made of plasticine didn't suddenly stop those beautiful fritallaries (thanks, Joanna Lumley!!) being flowers, neither does being at the other end of a telephone line or webcam suddenly convert you into a non-person or make it an 'unreal meeting'.

To say I am furious at the incapacity of people to realise where this world has already moved on to - we will all talk on Xmas Day undoubtedly over Skype and/or new ThxSanta webcams to family and friends worldwide, gleefully sharing the fact it is free - so zillions of people already endeavour (me included) to conduct our business and lives on a daily basis over this 'ere new-fangled technology. And have been doing in some cases for well over 10 years. (Ok, you got about 4 frames an hour, but it was novel back then!)

Unless those claiming to be at the forefront of delivering NGA and educating the masses (and I include MPs, journos, and you, you and you in that grouping) get it FAST, this country is going to be left...yes, Dad, I promise I won't swear....... BLOOMING (get the reference?!) light years behind.

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Friday 27 November 2009

The bankers should pay for FTTH...

Read more! Sadly, those two letters are not close enough on the keyboard for an accidental slip. Yesterday, the banks got away with not paying at least £2Bn to 8million+ customers for their overpriced, unethical charges. Approx £2,500 each. Far more than FTTH would cost to each of those 8 million people.

I can't be arsed to write this post to be honest. But I had everything ready yesterday. Quantitive easing was given the go ahead for another £2Bn for some pointless motive to benefit a few already rich individuals and companies; 8M UK citizens were ripped off to the tune of on average of £2.5k each or the threat was a £2.50 charge on each bank transaction; new landline tax with added taxes (VAT) on top were announced, oh sorry, leaked, probably to put in BET or some other ignorant solution.

My lovely dad told me not to swear in my blog, but I have had enough. I will swear. In fact, I have.

Personally, I think it is time the bankers put £2Bn into an FTTH account to benefit the nation, especially considering how much each of us has bailed them out for this last 12+ months; that the Bank of England should match it with QE (sign the petition on the No 10 site); and that the broadband tax should only be payable if the Treasury waive the VOA assessments on both new fibre and wireless to the Treasury and add them to this pot.

Who would lose?

(Oh, and if any of you think I am aggrieved about the bank charges case, HSBC paid me off in a test case well over a year ago, which had I been backed by a QC who had cost what theirs did ...) I'm not so green as I am cabbage looking, really.

Internet banking? Nope. It's back under my mattress. (Hm, when I can afford one, I honestly don't have one yet. Am watching Freegle for one...) I have no credit card, no debit card, nothing except cash. LETS and barter rule. Problem??

The banks should pay for FTTH. Full stop. It's the least they can do with all of OUR MONEY.

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Wednesday 25 November 2009

Proud to be British? Negatory

Read more! It has to be said. Westminster and the Smoke. It's been an ongoing thing for a while, but this latest from darn sarf would be the icing on the cake, if there was a cake to put it on. What we have at present is more a pie with personality ...

Personally, I wish I could blame C.M.O.T Dibbler for the non-publication of the -ve post, but actually, it's this article about Richards and Timms in front of the BIS Committee.

Someone else's turn to say what you think. My post is written but it might be better if I take a few deep breaths and contemplate the contents of the FiWi Pie, rather than the one we were served up by Timms & Richards.......

They are saying: You can all have a slice of it, but you may need to share it with your neighbours, sitting around a very small nested table, at around 4.20am. And then it won't taste quite how you expected, because we had no flavouring, flour or eggs. But it is a cake. Trust me. I am a politician....
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Tuesday 24 November 2009

Proud to be British?? The Positive Reasons

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Right now, we have major infrastructure projects happening in mere DAYS in the North, whilst Timms and Richards spout complete tosh in the South (next post!!). I'm not being latitudist but....

If you haven't yet heard about Workington North Rail Station, you need to catch up! This is a suitably major infrastructure project which will have been conceived and implemented in under a week by Network Rail.

Scuse the very poor pun, but this news stops you in your tracks.

"Anything for the weekend?" "Yes please, we'd like a two platform station, with footbridge, waiting room, parking and lights. Oh yes, and trains." "No problem," says NR, and JFDI!

Get on. All power to their elbow.

Meanwhile, many are just setting to and clearing out their homes, wrecked businesses, schools, communities, and making sure life goes on. If you haven't donated, please do so to the Cumbria Community Foundation. The amazing sense of community up here is reinforced by many in the emergency services and volunteers - underpaid and unpaid - who are doing such a sterling job.

I live in Cumbria, and it'd be great if you could help out people, including some of my friends in Cockermouth, many of whom have lost EVERYTHING. The CCF fund currently stands at over £350,000 and the first cheques are already being given out.

However, first estimates are that it will take between £50-100million to repair the damage from these floods. And it isn't over yet. I am watching the river outside my house break its banks as I write, and the Appleby webcam shows that we may all be in for yet more flooding at this end of Cumbria too.

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Cochrane & Felten say it how it is

Read more! Today's homework: Read this from Peter Cochrane about the telcos helping themselves instead of moaning, and this from Benoit about, um, telcos helping themselves. There will be a short test at the end of the week. Read more!

Commentary on the Digital Economy Bill

Read more! Here isa round-up of some of the vociferous commentary on the Digital Economy Bill. Please feel free to add more links, including to your own commentary/blog/articles so we have a reasonable resource to present all sides of the story. Thanks

Best quote - When the Digital Economy Act comes into force, will the last creative professional to leave the country please turn off our Internet
connection — we won’t be needing it. Bill Thompson

Guardian looks at the Mandelson copyright issue in the run up to the Bill

Digital Economy Bill group on Facebook

Official Statement by Telnic Limited on Digital Economy Bill Section 5.2.3

Tumbled Logis Blog - The Problems with the Digital Economy Bil Part 1
part 2

BIS Press Release - The Digital Economy Bill, introduced today, sets out Government plans to ensure the UK is at the leading edge of the global digital economy.

BoingBoing Britain's new Internet law -- as bad as everyone's been saying, and worse. Much, much worse.

BBC - Rory Cellan-Jones. The Digital Economy Bill - does it add up?

TechDirt - UK Digital Economy Bill As Bad As Expected; Digital Britain Minister Flat Out Lies About ISP Support

Open Rights Group

Sunday Business Post ONline - 3 strikes rule and Eircom

Trefnet - P2P regulation in digital economy bill ain't going to work

Digital Economy Bill on Google Wave

5tth Fibrevolution UK - Digital Economy Bill is a joke

Feel free to add more.

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Monday 23 November 2009

Worrying content developments over the Pond

Read more! Currently before the FCC is a proposal for SOC. That's Selectable Output Control to you and me..

Arstechnica has an interview with Kyle McSlarrow, Head of the National Cable and Television Assocation about SOC which is worth reading, and will be followed tomorrow by the other side of the debate.

The worrying part is that this all comes hot on the heels of the copyright etc furore and the Digital Economy Bill this week in the UK. It is beginning to look as though a single industry appear to be attempting to gain control of pretty much everything, including your access to the Net, your A/V kit, your viewing habits and so on.

We have long argued that what is required is a separation between content and service, especially as many of us do not need nannying, thanks, and just want a dumb, fat pipe. Then the market and consumers can decide which products sink or swim.

Where an industry can dictate whether or not you have access to the Net, there is a major problem. For instance, we are already seeing the results (also over the Pond) when this industry has such control. This month's lunacy comes when an entire community wireless network has been closed down, courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment, because one individual illegally downloaded a film.

Just reading page 2 of that article shows what "inconvenience" the closure of the network will bring to that community, all on the whim of a content industry that refuses to accept it needs to move with the times and seriously adapt its business model. As others have done.

It is unlikely that Mr Murdoch's latest rant about Google stealing his pages will see anyone illegally accessing his meeja suffering the same fate, but let's face it, if Mandy continues the route he is currently taking, nothing is impossible in the UK where that industry is concerned. Be worried.

Be especially worried because we don't have the likes of Dave Isenberg within our regulator to speak sense and prevent this all going too far, far too far.
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True broadband and house prices

Read more! Nice to see that some of the key messages are sinking in. Broadband adds value to house prices. It was posted about here twice recently, but now the Times have picked up on it too...

Light Up My Street and Boost My House Price was meant to push the important 'value' of broadband beyond just the benefits to the users.

The Times technology team have nailed it with their interviews of estate agents.

(Allow me to be a cynic for one moment, but hasn't that piece been re-worked because we Cumbrians are top of the news this week?!!)

Down here on the nether side of the hills but still in Cumbria, just literally a few miles south of Alston, we are hearing rumours of problems up yon, so it would be nice if Fibremoor would share what is really happening so that all of those people who are looking to put in fibre networks understand what problems they may face. And those who make up the 'network of people' within this country can apply their collective brains to solving the problems.

In the meantime, what really matters is that true broadband will add value to your home, those around you, and your neighbourhood. Have you started digging yet?! If you are planning to, you need to follow some of the #digtoagig etc posts as some of us are en route to that future already.

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Thursday 19 November 2009

The Spanish join the party

Read more! The Spanish government have joined Finland in making a minimum speed of broadband a LEGAL RIGHT.

From 1st January 2011, every Spaniard will have the right to a minimum speed of 1Mbps, announced the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Commerce at the 3rd Digital Content International Conference. Finland's law takes effect from July 2010, and in 2015 will increase to 100Mbps as LAW.

Spain may have some difficulties implementing this new law because of the topology, and will undoubtedly have to resort to wireless in some of the most remote and mountainous regions. However, having seen a few FiWi projects in Cataluña, they have plenty of in-house expertise to do so. The announcement is backed by 100million euros of public money, which will then release a further 300million euros.

Once again, we are not leading the way in any sense, and are actually falling behind other European countries by removing the legal rights of our citizens in moving from USO to USC.
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Wednesday 18 November 2009

University connects surrounding community to a Gig

Read more! Fantastic. Great Britain take note. This is co-operation, vision and collaboration at its very best. We could easily be doing the same here in the UK...

Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio has come up with a plan to be deeply envious of. Realising that the neighbours to the university campus are in a fairly dire plight, not just with internet connectivity, but socially and economically too, they are rolling out an ambitious university research project to connect 25,000 residents to 1000Mbps fibre.

An unprecedented collaboration of university researchers, technologists, public sector institutional partners in the region, and vendors will bring neighbors around the University the same quality Internet connectivity that students, faculty, and staff enjoy on the campus. The University Circle Innovation Zone beta block will be a research project conducted by the University in cooperation with more than 40 institutional partners, technology vendors, and community organizations. Eventually, the University Circle Innovation Zone seeks to connect more than 25,000 residents..

The project is intended to have specific metrics and objectives in order to deliver key evidence about the impact that technology and the solutions it permits have on the surrounding community.

A smart connected community is a portfolio of endeavors to leverage broadband technologies to affect positive change in the lives of neighbors and in the communities where we live, work, and play. The University Circle Innovation Zone gigabit to the home research project is being supported by unprecedented co-investments by the research community, start up ventures in Cleveland and around the region, and major underwriting support by an “A” group of technology vendors, partners, and thought leaders who, along with Case Western Reserve University, believe in the efficacy of testing and analyzing the impact that broadband can have on real challenges and priorities of the community.

These guys have really got it!!! Don't sit around in conferences and meeting rooms talking about the problems and possible solutions. Don't keep everything to yourself - co-operate and collaborate. And most importantly - JFDI.

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Digital Economy Bill is a joke

Read more! Do this government just not get it about the digital economy or is there something else going on?

The latest announcements about the Digital Economy Bill have many of us with our jaws on the floor.

In the speech, the Queen 'reads', "My government will introduce a bill to ensure communications infrastructure that is fit for the digital age, supports future economic growth, delivers competitive communications and enhances public service broadcasting".

Right, all well and good, but how exactly do they intend to do that? And when? For further details, it seems we need to wait till Friday when the Bill is published, but I can sense a furore coming on when it is....

We have little to date from Labour indicating that they have an inkling about what is required in a "communications infrastructure .. fit for the digital age", let alone how to ensure that it is delivered.

The USO is apparently not included in the Bill, because "it doesn't require legislation." Well, we all know what that means. We are going backwards. The USO of the last 28 years has been a LEGAL requirement on the incumbent. What is going to happen now is that we are going to allow 'best effort' only attempts from fixed and mobile operators, with no legislation to enforce a minimum connectivity speed that many believe is far too low anyway.

For those of you who live in areas where there is little or no broadband now, it is time to start planning your own network, because you can bet your bottom dollar that, without any form of legislation to push the telcos into getting at least 2Mbps to you, it won't happen. There will be cries of "It's too expensive, there is no demand there, we can't do it, those people don't need 2Mbps at all, they can make do with what they have, we've tried our best, it's not profitable" etc etc etc.

The digital divide, I sense, has just been given an almost unavoidable reason to widen. It cannot be unintentional, surely?

The definition of next generation access is being dumbed down left, right and centre now, so when Timms says, ""The UK is on track to seeing half of households having a choice of next-generation service providers within the next three years..." it is difficult to know whether he is talking about BET (definitely not NGA), ADSL2+ (not NGA or it wouldn't be called obsolete technology v2.0, would it?), or FTTH and FTTC (VDSL2).

One also wonders about the choice of the term 'next-generation service providers'. Sorry for being a cynic, but surely Stephen, you mean "next generation services?"

Bit worried that we will only have a choice of service providers to be honest, because knowing how this all works, what that will mean is that the stats, reports and press releases will be manipulated again to show that 50% of the country has a choice of NextGen service providers. They just might not be offering next gen services in your area. Get the picture?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, GB has been showing he gets the technology and can use it, with a
podcast about the Queen's Speech. (Transcript)

"Next week we will be outlining our legislation for the next parliamentary session - a programme that’s in line with our core values of fairness and responsibility.

Our focus, as ever, is the return to economic growth and forging a stronger, fairer, Britain - for the many not the few."

I wish the government *would* take some responsibility for the farce that is our comms infrastructure. After all, much of the problem comes from this government's approach of leaving it to the 'competitive marketplace'. That's why we have a choice of ISPs - all selling the same product!! Some choice that is. We have had a stalemate in new investment - property rates on fibre, for starters. Misleading hype about who is doing what and what has already been done that makes investors cautious about/uninterested in diving in.

And as for doing things for the many....haven't you got it yet? It's the supposed 'few' in rural areas who are currently not getting the chance to partake in a stronger, fairer Britain, let alone make ourselves economically viable.

What on earth could be the hidden agenda here? I can only think of one thing. Labour have employed a digital economy expert/advisor whose colours are firmly, but secretly, nailed to the other side's mast. I suspect she/he is in line for a whopping bonus early next summer.

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Day to day reality of UK broadband

Read more! Wanted: 1 video file of Fibrecamp. Method of transferring from east of country to west? Post. Yep, the great British postal system is the only method to get it here in a timely manner, other than driving there to pick it up.

Why? It is starting out from Hull, where upload speeds are as bad as anywhere else in the country, if not worse for an urban area. It has to get to Cumbria, where download speeds are so dire that I could pull all of my own teeth out faster than it will arrive.

This situation is now occurring almost daily. This is not how anyone should need to work in 2009 in the UK.

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National Infrastructure Investment Bank

Read more! The Institute of Civil Engineers has been pushing for a National Infrastructure Investment Bank. This idea gained some traction at the Labour Party Conference in September, and is picking up speed elsewhere. The sad bit is...

no-one seems to have thought about including NGA in the proposal. Yet, that is clearly infrastructure, will create thousands and thousands of jobs, and could be one of the key factors to turn this nation around, socially and economically.
Read more!

Sunday 15 November 2009

Fibrevolutionary Unconferences

Read more!
There will be a tweetup/unconference on Monday in Leeds. Aim for The Armouries and you should be in the right place!! Look for the demonstration and the placards outside....

That is a joke!! Why do people have this strange and very mistaken vision of myself and others in the community network space?! We are the core constituency named in the Caio and Digital Britain reports, the First Third (you can call it The Final Third, but we managed to change 'last mile' to first mile ....!)

We have no idea how to knit yogurt, you know. We can lay fibre in rural areas, and have. The first UK rural community fibre connections were not laid by anyone at the conference this week.... they were laid by us. And there is an awful lot more due to go in to rural fields and verges imminently because now we know we CAN JFDI.

We care about our communities and constituencies, whom we talk and listen to regularly, openly, and in depth. We are putting in open networks. Community owned networks. Sustainable networks. Probably, if the current maths is right, very profitable networks.

And we know, better than anyone, how to get to where we are going. Which is why we are doing precisely that, mainly using the technology now at our disposal eg Google Wave, Skype, Livestream, Twitter, FB, blogs, webcams etc. Fibre. WiMax. FiWi. Sadly, many of the applications don't work as intended over our connections, but we do our best and it will get better as we own more and more of the first mile.

I wish others would use the technology we espouse to its full capabilities occasionally, but you just don't. There is no intention in any way to dis what is happening in the conference by having an unconference or tweetup. It's just another way of adding to what is already happening and achieving the results required. For UK Plc.

If you want to get involved in breaking new ground in the First Third, come and look for the group in wellies and cardis, who will all have "exile" on their delegate badges. Or just get on Wave, Twitter, Livestream and join in, without leaving your sofa.

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Fibre Switchover

Read more! OK, the digital switchover is ongoing so let's move on and start planning the next one - the fibre switchover. No reason for it to be region by region, as the telecoms network isn't structured in the same way as the TV one. And there is already work out there, by Point Topic et al, about when NGA should come to you on which to base our work on the Fibre Switchover. However, there are different ways to look at this switchover that need addressing......

(More discussion on the Grassroots Digital Britain wave.)

The credit for the instigation of the 'fibre switchover' term and discussion must go to Briantist

What are the issues? How do you feel we should proceed to the fibre switchover? What models are the right ones for this country? For your village/town/region?

Which are the most important issues for NGA?

(Oh for Google Wave with a Yes/No/Maybe tool!!)
Fat pipe to each user
Ownership model (private, CIC, co-op, public)
Social capital repayment vs fiscal capital repayment
OTHERS - please contribute your thoughts

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Saturday 14 November 2009

What is a community network?

Read more! Bearing in mind the post about the status of INCA, this article (also written in 2005) seems valid as well. INCA is being set up for community networks. (Yes, the C stands for co-operative but the intention is clear in the information on This article does nothing to even begin to cover the incredible amount of discussions we had in arguing the point about "What is a community network" but there are copious notes available. This debate has been re-ignited recently by INCA, yet without any reference to the work done previously by people who were and still are, in many cases, at the coalface. (For future reference, wheels should be circular....)

Define a community network

You'd think it'd be easy, but there is a strange tendency to drift towards a 'them' and 'us' scenario. Them are those who do it for money. Us are the ones struggling to keep our heads above water as we do far too much for 'the community' and not enough to protect ourselves and thrive.

Reminds me of that Quaker poem I can never quite remember about if there's peace in the heart, there's peace in the home, and the ripples spread outwards so you reach peace in the world. If you make sure you are OK, then you can afford to help others around you is one way of looking at it, I think. I'm not very good at this I know because the money side of life isn't of enough concern. I'd rather have mega experiences than be rich and bored rigid trying to work out what to do with the wonga.

No project should be running entirely on volunteer energy. As I keep saying to myself "Volunteers-it'll end in tears" We keep seeing it. There are not for profits who think they should do everything for free and can't reach a surplus or sustainability. And for many this is where the yogurt knitting image comes from, that social enterprises sometimes don't show balance sheets that make sense to business people or our current culture where money is apparently everything for many if not most people.

So, back to this defining community networks. I can't name names as it wouldn't be fair but there are a couple of well-known CAN operators who skewed the results on the Springing up all over survey [ABC/CBN Report presented at a DTI event in London in March 2005 - part of the ABC work delivered as Membership Services Director in CBN's infancy] because they've got several hundred people connected into quite a few of their networks. They've extended way beyond their own patch, because they are in business doing this. Are they community network operators? The communities quite often don't own the networks, but in many cases they didn't want to. They just wanted someone to come in and give them a decent broadband connection. And it has been done.

There are others where the company running the network is owned by its members, who have elected people to take charge of the daily running of the network etc. All profits are spent on extending the network, offering new services etc. Is that a community network? What about all the people in the community who are not members and who may think that profits should be ploughed into other community projects which need help like the playschool or youth club? Is involvement by a subsection of the community enough to say that a community network is owned and run by the community even when it is only a small percentage of that community?

What if there is only one person, a lone ranger, who hasn't managed to persuade anyone else to get involved yet? Or maybe doesn't want the grief of trying to explain to them how it al works? If contributions are made to worthy local causes but the profits are spent as the sole proprietor sees fit, ie to prop up their ailing business because they are too busy climbing on roofs fixing antennas to deal with their clients, is that a community network?

Or is a community network one which has had large amounts of public funding and connected the local council offices and put a kiosk in the swimming pool? Can BT say they run community networks because they occasionally give hard up communities a computer and an ADSL connection?

Can we even define 'community'? Because I think until everyone is clear what a community is, who or whether anyone owns it, runs it, where its boundaries are, who makes sure that everyone has blue fingers, who assesses the impact of each and every one of our actions to [the] benefit or detriment of that community, we are a bit knackered trying to define what a CAN is. Personally.

(CAN= Community Access Network)

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Blue Pounds & Community Broadband

Read more! I wrote this in 2005. With the ever-increasing attention being placed on community broadband projects, it seems very relevant right now as the commercial players leap in to the supposed First Third 'void'. (Call it the Final Third if you wish, but you don't think like that when you live here). In my opinion, much of what is proposed at government and telco level is community asset stripping and can only be detrimental when pursued in line with the current commercially-based thinking encouraged by far too many. ....

This was inspired by New Economic Foundation work, who also laid down the prinicples behind the similarities in railways (moving people) and networks (moving data). For all those designing community networks, large and small, urban and rural, this thinking would seem to apply. Now, perhaps, more than ever.

"Suppose you paint a pound coin blue and watched where it went. Every time it changed hands within a community, it meant income for a local person. If the blue paint were to come off onto people's fingertips, how many people would have blue fingers before the money finally left the community? The more times it changes hands, the better for that community."

Once you start looking at your spending patterns within your own community, ie watching pound coins as they leave your pocket, you realise that not only does that pound coin have an impact on your community - positive or negative depending on where you spend it - but how many of your other actions affect the place you live, and the community you work in.

Social capital has been a big phrase for quite some time and it is very difficult to assess but we all know it is as important sometimes as fiscal capital in its impact on communities. When trying to create a sustainable community project, such as the ones in Bolivia, what other factors will affect them? And what if by the very process of creating a project which is sustainable, you destroy some other vital part of the community by taking away the energy or the pound coins from those facets of life to sustain your project? How much work has been done on the assessment of community projects on the communities they serve?

Many of the projects I have seen or been involved with for deserving communities, even in a peripheral manner, have had initial funding and then folded. The reasons seem to be generally that there wasn't enough revenue funding ie funding the people behind them, and over and over again we see voluntary fatigue. Or the time limit is reached, the boxes are ticked and the project folds gently, or struggles along under its own steam. This constant generation and destruction of community projects must be slowly taking its toll.

What if projects were judged/assessed not on the new jobs they create, or the boxes they tick for NGOs and civil servants, but on how many blue fingers they leave in the community, and how long those fingers stay blue?
Read more!

Friday 13 November 2009

Google Wave

Read more! Google Wave invites are slowly but surely invading our world. If you have Google Wave already, don't be shy.

In order to discover a) how useful this is as a collaborative tool for discussions and development of organisations and projects such as INCA, CANs (Community Access Networks), COTS etc and b) how much bandwidth it can potentially use, we need people playing on it.

Come and join us!
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Thursday 12 November 2009

Update on INCA

Read more!
Following a productive conference call just now with Andy Carter (BIS), Malcolm Corbett (CBN) and Shaun Fensom (CBN) plus a host of interested parties from community networks, major commercial carriers, community broadband FiWi suppliers and others, I thought I'd update the people who keep asking about INCA...

1. The incorporation of INCA as an IPS is ongoing and should be completed in the next few weeks.

2. Concerns were expressed that the steering group may not be sufficiently representative yet of certain sectors. Obviously, as with COTS, membership of the steering group requires dedication and a commitment of time and involvement, so the proposal is to get a copy of the current steering group members asap and see where the gaps occur.

Then to propose at least 3 or 4 people to ensure the steering group is inclusive and representative of all stakeholders who need to be involved with INCA for the best end result. The consensus of the meeting was that it is in no-one's interest if the steering group is too large, but it must be inclusive of all stakeholder interests.

The approach implemented by Peter Shearman, BSG, with COTS, where there is a wider forum with a tighter steering group, is recognised to have merit and should be replicated with INCA.

3. Anyone interested in membership of INCA and/or to put themselves forward for the Foundation Board (see 4) should contact Steve Spillane or Malcolm Corbett in the first instance. Contact details available on

4. The Foundation Board will not be elected but will be put in place purely for the minimum time required to go through the necessary due process to get INCA up and running.

5. The full Board will then be democratically elected by the membership following no rmal co-operative/IPS requirements under Co-operative UK Green 2 rules.

6. CBN expressed the wish to disengage themselves from INCA at the earliest opportunity to ensure there is a clear separation between the two organisations. In the meantime, however, CBN 'staff' are those to get in touch with if you have any questions regarding INCA.

7. A list of key objectives for INCA will shortly be available.

8. For those attending the conference in Leeds next week, there will be an INCA 'workshop' and a platform announcement regarding INCA. For those unable to attend, there may be problems for the conference organisers with live streaming, but it is to be hoped that someone will video the INCA session and make it available to all post-event, (Fibrestream have offered to do this on behalf of everyone) and that at the very least there will be a Twitter backchannel for remote participation.

9. There will be meetings announced shortly by Malcolm Corbett to ensure that all those who wish to get involved in the steering of INCA have been given the opportunity to do so, and there will be video conferencing facilities available for those meetings. (Courtesy of Cable and Wireless)

10. Anyone who is not on the CBN mailing list is currently not getting INCA mailouts, contact Steve Spillane or Malcolm Corbett until such time as INCA has fully operational, independent adminstrative systems.

Couple of extras: INCA's primary purpose is as an umbrella organisation to provide a national point of reference for independent NGA networks, large and small, urban and rural. There is no intention for INCA to step on the toes of existing or potential commercial and public sector funded projects or activities, but rather to support them.

I am still seeking clarification as to whether membership of INCA is a pre-requisite for seeking public funding from the upcoming pots, but it is hoped that this is NOT the case, as it is essential that those projects who choose to operate independently of INCA can do so without prejudice.

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Wednesday 11 November 2009

No! No! No! No! No! Someone stop BT right NOW!!!

Read more! We didn't christen it OpenRetch for nothing. This latest is sickening.

You cannot possibly put BET on the same website, same press release or in the same sentence as the words "Next Generation Access" without the word NOT featuring prominently.

BT OpenReach have launched a website about -new acronym coming up folks - SFFA (Super Fast Fibre Access) and BET appears not only on the website but also in the press releases.

The front page of the site says:

We're using a substantial part of the £1.5 billion committed to Next Generation Access, by the BT Group, to enable 40% of homes in Britain to take advantage of Super-fast Broadband Access by 2012.

We are supportive of the ambitions of the Government’s Digital Britain initiative and are committed to work to help deliver a truly Digital Britain. Our Broadband Enabling Technology (BET) is one solution which will help us do just that. It's designed to deliver broadband speeds over long distances, where people are either unable to access the internet or can only do so now at very low speeds.

1Mbps, oh dearest BT OpenReach, IS a very low speed. It is below the proposed USO and hence not part of delivering a truly Digital Britain, IS IT?????

This is outrageous misleading of the general public and press and probably politicians, quangos, RDAs, funders, investors, shareholders etc.

Check out the URL of the website - /superfast.

Give me a break. This is precisely the type of atrocious behaviour by marketing departments and telcos which has led to the utter confusion of consumers etc that currently exists in this country.

Next generation access is vital to our current and future economic and social well-being. If a private company is allowed to start at the very beginning by LYING to the public about what NGA is, there is no bloody chance that we are going to get, as a nation, to where we need to.

And if anyone funds BET, they need putting on dial up at home and work for the rest of their given days.

If Ofcom will not lay down the law on this one, or at least issue some guidelines or a Code of Practice about NGA marketing to stop this in its tracks, I will personally pay a bunch of very cheap workers to spend as long as it takes out on the Internet making sure that as many websites as possible have either a forum post, blog comment, banner ad or similar on it saying something along the lines of "BT's BET is NOT next generation broadband. Complain now. Boycott BT." (Feel free to make suggestions for alternative wording).

Believe me, there are thousands of very, very cheap workers who do this stuff day in and day out (I have to deal with the results of their activities in my day job) - that will be one helluva lot of websites.

BT, be warned. This is unforgiveable behaviour. Your shareholders should be ashamed.

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Light Up My Street & Boost My House Price

Read more! It isn't that long since I posted about broadband and estate agents. Now ISPreview have conducted a survey on the impact that lack of broadband has on house prices, particularly relevant at a time when house prices are on the rise......

The ISPReview monthly survey is, of course, a somewhat self-chosen audience to be asking these particular questions to. But it does clearly show that broadband now affects, as shown in my post, the purchase decision of MANY, MANY people.

If you re-phrased the ISPreview questions so that Joe Public didn't get flustered when asked about broadband speeds (eg "would you buy a house with a broadband connection where iPlayer didn't play properly?" might be more user-friendly!) and ran a survey on, say, the BBC website, you would probably find the figures even more illustrative of the reality of the situation in the UK.

Let's just consider for a moment...

If any of us had known for sure when we bought our homes that we would not get a decent broadband connection by, say, 2009/2010 (as many haven't), AND known then how important that connection would be to our daily lives, leisure, families, kids' education etc etc in 2009/10, would we have moved to the house we did? More interestingly, how many would have set to and done something about it earlier eg built a community network, aggregated demand and shared a fat pipe, if we had realised the telcos, govt etc were not exactly telling us the truth about when true broadband would arrive?

Sadly, some of us did know when we bought our homes because we had already been stuck in the broadband campaigning lark for far too long at that point, and we do know that decent broadband ain't going to get here in a hurry unless we do something about it, but there are thousands and thousands of people in the UK who are NOT aware of the reality of the situation and keep believing the hype.

Alston Cybermoor did some work on broadband and its effect on house prices and as I recall the average house price in the area had risen to over £15,000 more than expected because of the presence of the community network.

If I was planning to sell my house, I think I would investigate which of my neighbours might also be planning the same over the next few years and invest with them in setting to and increasing the value of all the houses in the neighbourhood. After all, putting in a pukka broadband connection is really not that different from building a conservatory or following the advice of those weird daytime house improvement programmes which have ruined our mornings for so long.

Aha, I can see a commissioning editor reading this and seeing the massive potential for a programme showing just how much you can add to your house value by putting in true next generation access.......C'mon Channel 4, this should be right up your street. You could call it "Light Up My Street"....

You read it here first....!
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Open Access is good for the market

Read more! During a post-COTS steering group discussion this week, one of the matters under discussion was Virgin Media's network and its closed status. The existence of a closed network within the UK at a time when many are pushing for open networks as we move to NGA is a problem. But is the problem for Virgin or for the rest of the country? This paper....

argues that open access networks are not only good for consumers and nation's economies, but also for operators. Although, it also states that more evidence and data is required to assess the situation fully.

Capacity utilisation is one issue which leads to profitability, and by Virgin's closed nature, the network can only be used by the number of customers Virgin can win - unless wholesale access is made readily available to others. Back in May, Virgin denied plans to offer wholesale access to its network, but one has to wonder why it should refuse to do that? Surely, it is better to be selling capacity on an existing network as more usage means that bit transport costs tend to zero? Additionally, revenue coming from outside the family is a good thing, mitigating maintenance etc costs to other businesses rather than just the VM Group.

Virgin Media seem to run a tight-lipped ship, with little word from them yet on COTS, Digital Britain etc, nor do they seem to be leaping up and down to speak at nor sponsor the plethora of interesting events in the coming months.

It will be interesting to see whether the Hatt/Cornwall trials are part of the decision-making process on this issue. If Virgin believe they can corner a substantial proportion of the rural market ie our First Third (telcos' and policitians' Final Third) with VDSL2, this could see a significant uplift to revenues as well as a land grab, meaning that wholesale open access to their cable network would be less inviting. For Virgin. What it may mean in SMP terms though is open to further debate.

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What the Conservatives are saying

Read more! The Shadow Dept of Culture, Media and Sport seem to have got it.

Jeremy Hunt, Shadow Minister of Culture, was the person who stood up in Parliament on the Digital Britain Report day and made more than a few of us sit up with the fibre broadband beginning to his speech. Now Ed Vaizey, Shadow Minister of the Arts, has delivered a fibre speech to take note of.

Watch this space. (There surely has to be a comment about light and shadows here in our fibre optic space?!)

And to the Shadow Ministers, (now that we know you are reading this blog!) how about you get in on the Broadband Manifesto discussion on Fibrevolution and add your 2p?!
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Tuesday 10 November 2009

Fibre bandwidth coming to a mast near you?

Read more! Some years ago at an event at DTI about community networks, there was an out-of-session discussion between O2, OpenReach and myself about sharing excess bandwidth from mobile masts for backhaul to rural and remote community networks.

The fact that there might even be spare capacity, or that many masts are fed by fibre seemed to come as a surprise to the O2 rep. Now, it seems that in the light of a huge ramp up in consumption of mobile bandwidth (smartphones, dongles, mobile advertising etc), over the Pond there are moves afoot to increasingly feed mobile masts with fibre.

It is likely that similar is happening or will happen soon here. The need to broker that bandwidth between the different occupiers of a mast should surely be a job for COTS? It makes sense to run one fat pipe to each mast to provide for the aggregated bandwidth requirements of each operator. However, it also adds an ideal opportunity to consider the bandwidth needs of others in the locale of that mast and to cater for that as well, thereby reducing the costs for all involved.

Whilst it would clearly trespass on the plans of mobile operators to provide broadband via dongle etc to those in the vicinity, and would require (finally) deals to be struck about the currently ludicrous costs of siting equipment on and access to masts, it could bring next generation broadband much closer to many, many people in the UK. Whether delivered by wireless (eg Wimax etc) or as a closer break out point for fibre backhaul to a community, the opportunities would seem too good to ignore from this approach.

Mobile broadband, as we have said before, has its place. But NOT as the primary mechanism for delivering next generation access. This can be delivered far more efficiently and effectively by bringing fibre as close as possible to the punters and communities, and then using wireless to cover the first mile or inch.

This is FiWi, a term we have been banging on about for ages and are still waiting to see adopted by the masses!

There is also a "FiWi Pie" side of it too i.e. there are potentially win-wins all round with this approach: Those flogging fibre backhaul stand to see more capacity required at each mast thereby generating more revenue, the mobile operators get cheaper backhaul for all their offerings, the mast owners get a cut from additional equipment sited on masts, and communities get affordable backhaul that is not being priced per inch.

Or, we can keep trying to rip each other off and go nowhere fast. I prefer the FiWi Pie approach!

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Life without wires

Read more! In a world where FiWi in increasingly becoming an integral solution for true broadband connectivity, it's vital to have females's Wireless Woman's series on wireless visionaries.....

Yes, here - Wireless Visionaries
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New series of blog posts

Read more! In the run-up to the election and following the Digital Britain report, this blog will be hosting a series of guest posts from a wide variety of those involved in broadband.

Invites are currently being issued and we hope that if you have any suggestions for contributors and contributions, you will let us know. The intention is to stick with the format we have pursued since day 1 for events - a mix of consumers, community, industry, public and private sector. This time though we are adding in MPs!

We hope to bring to you a wide selection of views on broadband in the UK, in our endeavours to see the eNdGAme realised. Some of our contributors are looking at the issues from an international viewpoint, or from beyond our shores, and we welcome their differing viewpoints on what is happening here.

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Monday 9 November 2009

Trains, canals and wayleaves

Read more! Thanks to MB94128 and his comments, this post is ever more timely, which I guess is more than can be said for our trains! It is about railways and FTTx. One particular railway at this moment, who don't get broadband....but it's bigger than that.

As some may be aware, I have an unhealthy interest in railways and canals. (Blame the parents). F'rinstance, Wensleydale Railway PLC is about moving people in rural areas, I want to move data in rural areas.

Technological revolution compared to industrial. The railways often cropped up in our first Access to Broadband Conferences, with many likening the new fibre and outdated copper networks with the advent of the railways leaving the canals to die off. (Luckily, just as the canals have found new life with the leisure trade, so copper can be similarly jewellery, kettles etc!).

The railways stand to play an important part in the next generation network, being obvious and logical conduits to connect up the country with longhaul. More so than that though, when you look at where railways run, even those which Beeching closed, many of which Sustrans have breathed new life into (leisure again), there are correlations between the rail network and notspots and / or the digitally excluded. Railways and fibre go together remarkably well, seeking to go as straight as possible to work properly.

Ditto canals, so let's not exclude them from this picture too. When I lived in London, I discovered canals in the most unexpected of places on the numerous occasions I missed the bus. For those with time to spare and a chance to get out of the city, there are canals galore in this fair land of ours, wending their way through the countryside, past otherwise disconnected homes, farms and businesses.

So, not just longhaul, but backhaul and first inch connectivity too.

However, as we all keep alluding to, there is still a major lack of co-operation between the required players for the next generation game. (Nick that phrase and I'll sue you! I have plans for it!) Perhaps it is purely that so many people still haven't got it.....and cannot grasp just what broadband can do to lives, businesses, communities, etc?

This week's tale comes from a deeply rural area, where it has to be said, some of the necessary players really have got it eg councils, communities etc. Running through this rural area is an heritage railway line. When approached about laying fibre up the line to reach a couple of distant parishes, enthusiasm was expressed, in particular because the benefits of the existence of this fibre along their line were clearly laid out to them - future signalling requirements, superfast wi-fi hotspots in stations, PR, corporate & social responsibility angle, etc etc. As Churchill says, "Oh yes."

Over the intervening period since the initial approach though, things have taken a turn for the worse. It now appears that, having sought advice, the original wayleave offer is insufficient and the railway want more. The amount being asked by said railway per metre for wayleave actually equates to more per person in one of the parishes to be connected than the CPE!

It is easy to see where the advice has come from - those who run railways between major urban centres eg London and Edinburgh, as the figure is similar - negotiable between £2-3 per metre. However, this amount would mean the project hits an instant stalemate and could not proceed to connect people over the coming 3-6 months as intended.

In essence, and particularly considering the additional revenue this heritage railway could make from station hotspots etc, the wayleave being asked is either greedy or ill-informed.

I could go further, and point out the negatives. Those in the affected parishes will have to be informed about the railway's response - it affects the scope and complexity of the project, and the community have been involved from the outset. This can only be negative PR for the railway. Blimey, you know us English, we can hold grudges for years. There may be grandchildren of the 'afflicted' who never ever use the railway, even though the detail of "Why" is lost in the annals of time.

Lost revenue - not just from the grandchildren, but this is a heritage railway. It relies on tourists and visitors. It needs to add value to its services at every turn. Being able to upload your photos from the train over a £1 day pass for wi-fi could be a winner. Love where you are? Want to stay? Want to find a hotel or B&B for the night? Hey, just check it out as you travel between A and B on the train.

Virgin want to provide HD TV etc to the communities the train passes? Let's start talking about you using our fibre, Mr B. If that fibre starts to generate further revenue, it can only be good for the railway, who would be within their rights to up the wayleave.

What is going to happen though is that the fibre won't be laid because it is not COMMERCIALLY VIABLE at that rate. Hence, the railway gets a big fat zero. No revenue, no benefits, no added value services, no future exciting developments.

This needs to be a reminder also to all those of you who insist on charging by the metre for rural back and longhaul. You are currently getting the same big fat zero income. We cannot buy backhaul from you if it is so expensive that it is beyond our pockets.

Work together. With us, the users, the communities, the consumers - at the end of your network but the beginning of ours. OK, it may not seem much now in revenue, but we all know what happens when you build it. The users do come, they do use it (or there wouldn't be a single FUP in place in this country), and they do pay.

For any other railway, BWB, landowner, telco, etc, it's be nice to think this may be a salutory lesson for you too. "Better summat than nowt"

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