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Saturday 25 December 2010

2011 and Fibre To The Home

Read more! Happy Wotsit. I don't do this festive thing, but we can all look forward.

This blog post can be read at

2011 is shaping up to be one of those seminal years where we see results from all the years pushing the same message. I suspect we will also see some disastrous decisions that will result in similar heart-rending end of year contemplations in years to come. This blog post is similar to others of mine which go back to at least 2004 now - a hopeful heart with more than a twinge of dread.

Many will say, in 2015 etc, "Ah, it's all well and good with hindsight, saying we should have done xyz in 2010/2011" but the truth is it doesn't take a genius to see that this country is on the brink of some exciting innovations and some old school cock ups. There are far too many people in public sector etc who just don't get it about FTTH or the importance of true broadband.

But then we've known that all along. Part of the task has been converting those people, but in that process we are fighting a system that is so entrenched in its ways that it has been easier to JFDI around these institutions than endeavour to change often good thinking folk who just want to keep their jobs, pensions etc.

So, what does my crystal ball reckon for 2011?

1) The major telcos, including the incumbent, are going to seriously up their game plan. Marketing hype (read: lies) will be excruciatingly painful for the many in the know who cannot afford £Millions to educate the masses to the truth.
2) There will be more community-owned and open access fibre installed than many of us could have believed.
3) There will be less community-owned and open access fibre than many know is possible.
4) Public money will be squandered as 1) kicks in and councils etc make uninformed decisions with our dosh.
5) The UK will fail to learn lessons from abroad, where FTTH deployments far outnumber our feeble efforts. However, there will be a larger contingent in Milan in February from the UK and that group will do their best to bring back key messages, which should be listened to during the year.
6) Fibre companies in the UK will continue to struggle. Some will relocate to other countries in the EU and beyond, to take advantage of the growth of FTTH worldwide. Some will possibly go by the board trying to fit into the Big Society initiatives, and these will be the greatest loss of all to UK Plc.
7) The digital divide will widen, and continue to do so over the coming years. However, it will be skewed, and more complex - less reliant on the BT network. No longer simply rural/urban or rich/poor or related to line length - communities will become jealous of their neighbours who have JFDI, or of specific private companies who have taken a lead and cherry picked their markets for longer-term sustainability.
8) 2011 will see a resolution to the fibre tax issue. Possibly not as expected, but I think we will hear more about the imparity between utilities (and hence the fears of the Treasury et al that changing rates for telecoms will lead to a spat with the other utilities) and an understanding about the importance of communications vs existing utilities which are already near as dammit ubiquitous.
9) Telecom Tourism will increase, massively. Live near a fibre village? Open a B&B! Need access to a fat pipe? Make friends with those in fibred communities.
10) Convergence will increase to the point where even Nanny Jones "gets" mobile internet. Wanna lay a bet on how many silver surfers have got smart phones and iPads this Christmas or are learning to use the cloud? The failings of the UK infrastructure will become ever more apparent to more and more people in this country, be it mobile, fibre, or PSTN. The Govt will get it, or they won't. (I'll hedge my bets on the latter). The telcos will get it, and start working to fibre up mobile masts, share with communities etc. Or they won't! Competition may be a good thing, but it is serving more to confuse the consumer than solve the problems of our telcos, industry, citizens etc. Converge and co-operate should be the watchwords of 2011.

So, Happy Wotsit. Let's see what 2011 brings.

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Tuesday 14 December 2010

It might sound great if you can get it....

Read more! Wonderful news from the BBC, but without a decent internet connection you won't feel the benefit... or will you?.
This blog post can be read at

Technology is about to embrace Radio 3, in a big way.... just as with Television High Definition is coming to Radio. An experiment which was first run during the BBC Proms season is about to be extended. Live Performances on Radio 3 is going to be `Live-streamed' at 320 Kb/s instead of 128 Kb/s.

This is excellent news and really does take the transmission of music closer to CD quality, although it is still quite a long way off.

I would be rejoicing at this news apart from two slight problems.

1) Years of decadence have buggered my ears, so I probably won't be able to hear the real difference.

2) The new HD service is being `Live Steamed' only, and not available on Listen again, or indeed for download. That means that those of use who have to manage with connections of less than about 1Mb/s ...., like many of us in rural areas, on a good day will be treated to even more pauses than usual on Radio 3 as the live stream struggles to buffer.

Remember as a licence fee payer I am also going to be contributing to the coffers of BT(in all likelihood) through the pilot projects for the roll out of next-generation net access..... if it ever happens.

Still let us feel glad that those in urban areas will be able to listen to BBC Radio 3 in HD..... bless them.

UPDATE: 20.50 14/12/10

Have been listening to it on a connection of 1Mb/s (Tested via and so far it hasn't buffered yet.... It would be interesting to know what the performance of the live-steam is like for those on slower connections.... There are a copule of clicks coming from the Laptop's sound-card though, and I am listening on a cheap pair of headphones....
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Saturday 11 December 2010

Giving up but not without a fight

Read more! 15 years is enough for anyone, banging their head on an astoundingly stubborn brick wall. It's called the telco industry, the lobbyists, and some real morons in govt. During that time, I've also met some seriously amazing people, but I've met some notable trolls, both in and out of government.

This blog post can be read at

This week: BT Open Reach van #1 draws into village. This man has come to put in 4 screws. Yes, 4 screws. It has taken him nearly 2 weeks to arrive. The village is awaiting the connection of a 'fat pipe' ie a chance to enjoy decent internet access.

Hours later, BT Open Reach van number 2 arrives. He can do nothing because there is a missing connection 4 miles away, which requires a simple plug to be connected. Village remains disconnected until.....a third van with separate engineers are called for a task you or I could do. We are now on a 'wait list'. It will undoubtedly be at least 2 more weeks, plus Christmas.

And when the connection has finally been made in the nearby village, no-one here is allowed to do the easy and basic task of plugging in the final plug to close the circuit. Watch this space, we are about to see 100,000 more such incidents from BT.

Meanwhile, we are about to face that delightful period where no-one is really in charge of this country. Vacations, recess, holidays, elections - call it what you will, these lengthy periods are recurrent for civil service, government etc. Sadly, your average every day man or woman, like me, don't get to enjoy these paid holidays. In fact, as a self-employed person, I can't even afford to be ill because there is little to no insurance or SSP for folk like me.

And what we are about to see is a 'cerebral vacation' about the procurement process for BDUK as y'all take your paid holidays. Yes, that's you at Cumbria County Council, in BIS, etc. Good on ya. NOT.

Whilst you sit at home enjoying your paid holidays, thousands of people will be debating the process you are undertaking in our name and with our money. Whether it is taxes or BBC licence fee dosh, we paid it. And now, unpaid, we sit debating how you will spend it, and whether you have even an inkling of how it should be spent.

Spend a million pounds, as Cornwall did, on the procurement process and there is something severely wrong. Especially if you reach the systemically flawed conclusion that Cornwall did - one bidder, BT. And worse, if your bidding process has cost companies and communities hundreds of thousands of pounds to partake - we will nail you to a cross for money that could have been spent CONNECTING COMMUNITIES.

Much as I might have respect for individuals involved in the 'let's connect communities' process, I've never in my political life been so aware of how tied you guys are to eejuts protecting their company cars, pensions, and steps on the career ladder until now.

So much so, that right thinking individuals, who today will remain unnamed but not for long, are sacrificing their own ideals, careers etc to satisfy these gluttons. IMHO.

There are innumerable people who endeavour to take out those of us who challenge what is going on, but I have yet to see a SINGLE ONE OF THEM actually put together a cohesive argument why community ownership, local peering, non-BT networks etc aren't valid. And what we are about to see is hundreds of millions of pounds of public money wasted on BT solutions without a single valid challenge. Oooh, except from the voices who represent the many hundreds of thousands of consumers who are going to be stuck with this dreadful, pointless and avoidable CRAP.

So, if you work for a county council and are ready to consider Next Generation Access solutions, or you are a District Councillor considering a planning application for a new development, or you are a civil servant at Child Services, or you are being co-opted onto an LEP, or you work for a RDA, or your community is about to spend money on broadband for the next generation, or you are an engineer at BT worried about speaking out, or you sit on an a LSP, or your Parish Council is debating broadband as an issue, or you are an MP with an inbox full of complaints about broadband, or Ofcom considering how to deal with consumer complaints or your family can't get connected, your business is dying because this country is so far from providing 100Mbps symmetrical (NGA), then this "holiday" think about it.

Think about what your input is to solving this problem. Think about whether what you are doing is going to solve it. Think beyond your job, and think about the communities in this country who RELY on you, whoever you are, whatever your job is.

And when you come back to work in January, don't let this country make an even bigger mess than it is TODAY of connecting people.

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Monday 6 December 2010

And the bottleneck is where?

Read more! If you read Jeremy's speech and the report, issued today but which ruined many of our Sundays in the community broadband world, you'd think the bottleneck was in the first mile. Especially financially.

This blog post can be read at

The truth is though that any DVP (Digital Village Pump) can be gigabit to the home, as Ashby de la Launde has proven. The bottleneck is in the middle mile/backhaul. Worse still are the bottlenecks in the longhaul/core network which is now struggling and due to struggle ever more as we all get more thirsty for gigabuckets of bandwidth. And most of us can't even afford a decent backhaul out of our communities (i.e from our DVPs to t'interweb) because of so-called "market forces" setting prices few can afford to buy at.

So, if you put a 'digital hub' (our renamed DVPs) in to, say, a BT street cab, you've just put yourself into the prime position of facing an instant bottleneck.

If the Government, councils etc cannot work out that chucking money at BT to cause this problem is an immoral waste, they don't deserve their jobs.
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Saturday 4 December 2010

Wikileaks and lessons for an open internet….

Read more! The cables keep coming, and all efforts to stop them seem to be failing
This blog post can be read at

Earlier this week the release of diplomatic cables was gong head-to-head with the snow in the race to claim the lead story on the National news. It was only when Gatwick Airport closed and the trains of southern England gave up the ghost did the those pesky geeks releasing all those embarrassing factoids and opinions of career diplomats get shunted out of the lead spot on the BBC news.

There are a couple of things to say right at the start, one if that much of the stuff being revealed is blindingly obvious…. Prince Andrew lets his mouth go, Kim Jung Il is a "flabby old chap", and Silvio Berlusconi was "feckless, vain, and ineffective as a modern European leader"…. Yes I think we could have worked that out, or at least heard these observations on Radio 4’s excellent From Our Own Correspondent….

The more interesting stuff is the trivial anecdote, like the fact that a large batch of highly enriched uranium was left on a runway in Libya following a fit of pique by the country's leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi… now that is scary.

In a way these diplomatic cables read just like the documents released every Christmas under the 30 year rule, and that is possibly of more interest to historians than journalists.

What is interesting to watch is the way that those whose cables are being leaked, and who also believe that they control the Internet have reacted. They have tried to close down the Wikileaks website, with little success, they have tried to stop it gaining funding by getting Paypal to refuse to pass on funds…. That too will probably have little effect.

They are now going after the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange with a charge of sexual assault from the authorities in Sweden.

The allegations may be true, they may be completely false, time, and perhaps the courts will tell. One person seems to have been completely forgotten about in this, and that is the woman who has made the allegations. She has the right to be taken seriously, just as has any other victim of sexual assault.

If this is an allegation which has been made and made-up, simply to get Mr Assannge out of the way, then it is a gross insult to any woman who has suffered a sexual assault, and the authorities should go after him with a charge which is directly related to the leaking of the material.

The main point of all of this is that the leaked cables have probably done no more than cause the establishment some embarrassment. Once again the real issue here is that the internet has dumped something on `those who were born to rule us’ which they don’t understand, and can’t control. That may be viewed by many as a good thing.

The trick in the future for those setting up community networks will be to tread that fine line between, open expression, resisting those in authority and excercising responsibility
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Tuesday 23 November 2010

The EMDA Toolkit - you need IT

Read more! I've been pushing this for years as an approach to CAN (Community Access Network) in a Box - the roadmap required for communities to build their own networks. Whoever produces CAN in a Box, I think it needs to meet the format of giving communities the questions they need to ask, NOT the answers they are seeking. Answers will undoubtedly be out of date before the Toolkit is produced, and the answers will differ for each community. But the questions won't!

This blog post can be read at

I've just spotted the name of someone for whom I have a deal of respect - Alan Srbljanin, who I came across when quizzing Mason Bros about the Toolkit and how we could extend it to include communities during the CBN supporting communities era. That was way back when I was organising the End Game conference in 2004/5.

If I could reach under my desk right now and not distract myself reading through every meeting note since 1995, I'd find my phone conversation with Alan and re-run it for you. Suffice to say, I put the phone down with a huge grin on my face. Here was an RDA person who really, truly got IT.

In London last week at the Tweetup and in other meetings, I was asked by more than one person to link to the EMDA Toolkit on the blog so here it is.

EMDA Toolkit for IT, property developers, councils, communities etc.

Bear in mind when it was written and look beyond the possible changes and focus on the STRUCTURE of such a resource. And then buy Alan a drink.
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Mobile broadband experiment - Land's End to JOG

Read more! On the motorbike in Scotland
It is difficult not to find the exploits of @Documentally completely compulsive "viewing". Which may mean my mobile beeps constantly for two plus days as Twitter updates come in on his progress from Land's End to JOG (John O'Groats), and the twittersphere shows why social media is a comms mechanism of huge potential.

This blog post can be read at

As an internet marketer, I've already blogged about using new tools (inc. Twitter which for many is still a mystery) as a branding exercise, as a quick win, as guerrilla marketing, for press releases etc. (Quick Tip: Put RT in your headline!) I have already blogged @Documentally's jaunt to JOG for a client, but I'm not sure they get IT!

As a broadbandIT person, I'm interested in how @Documentally is coping with mobile coverage, data transfer, info overload, juggling devices etc. To date, it seems we have videos, audioboos, photos, texts, tweets and a level of automation to spread the word that implies he is managing jes' fine. And keeping up interesting in-car conversations, sightseeing, accommodation solving, as well as hitching the length of the country using only a mobile phone.

I'm also rather fascinated at how slowly traditional media are picking up on these type of stories. To the extent that I have resorted to trying multiple routes in to them to get this story coverage. The only one which seems to work is the phone - I got an answerphone on my last attempt.

It may seem a mental escapade and one for which @documentally is well suited, but if it doesn't show Big Society at work, I doubt anything does. At some point, tradmedia will pick it up, by which time, at this speed, he will be either in JOG already or on his way home!

I sort of wish he could have taken longer. Highlighting people's plight around the country for different issues, holding impromptu social media surgeries (@cyberdoyle wins for holding the first one on a bridge with council divers and diggers!), bringing new personal interest stories to light which revolve around technology, IT, broadband etc. But you can sort of understand that would need to be funded as forcing @Documentally to stay on the road without a bean in his pocket would be more than unfair, and far beyond the Big Society ethos.

In the meantime, he has reached Edinburgh from LE in 2 days - an incredible achievement. Now, who can get him to Inverness tomorrow so he can enjoy the slap up meal promised by Vodafone UK?! And I hope someone has warned him JOG is not what it used to be and provides him with a wee dram to drink when he gets there?!

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Ofcom + BT ducts and poles

Read more! It seems that once again all may not be as it seems in the telco nextgen finalthird world. Massive sigh of disappointment and frustration.

This blog post can be read at

ISTR, Ofcom announced on October 7th 2010 that BT had to submit a draft reference offer for duct and pole access by mid-Jan 2011. However, on the very same day, the Wholesale Local Access Market Review pretty much scuppered the chances of the draft reference document holding any value.

For instance, use of ducts and poles for fixed wireless access, leased lines, mobile broadband etc is apparently not part of the undertakings being laid on BT's doorstep when permitting duct and pole access, according to the WLA. (You have to read, hop, skip and jump through the doc to get the whole picture).

That sort of wipes out much of the FiWi approach, and would leave the UK without the chance to build a FTTH network with a wireless cloud on top, use existing infrastructure to wireless easily across rural areas without needing to put up new masts, extend mobile coverage using femto cells on poles etc etc etc etc. On a "Let's think out of the box and into the future" front, it appears to be preventing most new network operators from getting close to the game.

What this sort of seems to boil down to, and I may be wrong, is that Ofcom have said, as they seem far too wont to do, "We won't do anything that threatens your SMP or future profits, OhBTWhoFundsUs."

Stuff the communities and consumers who are desperately trying to extricate this country from the enormous comms problems we suffer and to whom Ofcom has a statutory duty. Never mind the new entrants who are champing at the bit with innovative and exciting, low cost and faster to deploy solutions. Hell no, let's not give them a chance to threaten the great god of last century solutions.

Let's not even mention that, on the very same day, we have announced two things which are as near as dammit mutually exclusive. Allow the press to focus on the "BT must give access to ducts and poles" (which a quick Google will show you) and let's not pop the bubble by pointing out that, "Actually, that's not strictly true, oh media peeps, telcos, communities and consumers".

Any mention by Ofcom that they may have tied themselves into a knot? I can't find one. But then finding an Ofcom spokesperson isn't the easiest task, even on a bright, sunny day!

I'd welcome some input on all this as it would be superfine to discover I am mistaken. Meanwhile, over to Broken Telephone to blog there about this issue and follow on from Ian Grant's article on the subject.

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Friday 19 November 2010

Wedding of the year, the Canutes marry the Cocklecarrots

Read more! A pronouncement by the Lord Chief Justice, whilst well intentioned under under-estimates the common-sense of Juries, and over-estimates the ability to control the Internet
This blog post can be read at

The lord Chief justice has spoken, the whole system of jury trial is at risk from jurors tweeting, googling. It's not unknown for jurors, bored out of their brains to start surfing their Blackberries, or i-phone for the latest football gossip, but now the Lord Chief Justice seems to think that the whole jury system is under threat from modern technology, well it's not. For years jury members have been told that they mustn't talk to anybody about the case they are trying, and I get the feeling from talking to people who have served on juries in the past that this is respected. This lack of understanding about modern technology amongst the members of the legal profession rather harks back to the days when the average High Court Judge would have to interupt proceedings to confirm with their clerk that these Beatles were indeed a popular beat combo.

It's impossible to un-invent modern technology, but at the same time Jurors read papers, which will have carried just as much information as is available online. But the vast majority of people who serve on juries do so extremely responsibly.

Often their biggest concern is not trying to delve too deeply into the forensic background to the case they are trying, but more often to marvel at the stupidity of it being brought in the first place, A friend of mine once spent two weeks doing jury service, and the only case for which she was called was a theft trial involving a man who was alleged to have stole ONE shoe from a shop!
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Thursday 18 November 2010

1st London 5tth Tweetup

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Just reached tonight's accomm, courtesy of Helen. Thank you all for attending, it was great! There were a couple of #fails - name badges, people arriving and not realising who we were (apologies to those people), venue too small and loud, but there were multiple #wins.

This blog post can be read at

I may miss out the odd name, but it was great to have Philip Virgo (Eurim) present to talk about VOA/fibre tax amongst other things - watch this space for ongoing movement there!

Rob Leenderts (C&W) and Matthew Hare hotfooted it over from the TEN conference, although we lost Lorne Mitchell who was networking there! Andrew Churchill (a cybersecurity expert) fell into our clutches entirely accidentally, but turns out he is from Teesdale (just o'er t'hill from me, so that was an interesting coincidence!). Jim joined in, another accidental attendee, and has gone off to introduce his mum to social media surgeries in Leicestershire. (So, if you are planning one in that area, let me know please).

Aled turned up - a face from the old days and a welcome sight. He and I go back to before the day of the Wyboston vote to give the Community Broadband Network the go ahead to take on the entire membership of the Association of Broadband Communities. Many of you were not around then and do not know the history of CBN's birth through the work of the very many people like Aled who were building wireless networks before many in the UK had even heard the term 'broadband'. Aled - stay in touch!!!

We had an apology for absence from Computer Weekly, who earlier in the day had become the first "#rorysreivers do Ambridge" sponsor. There was some minor blog award ceremony that apparently took precedence!

Dave Winder, Bob Franklin, Anna, Paul Griffiths, and Louis Mosley from Rory Stewart's office were all there too and contributing.

Conversations were wide, varied and full on. And the meal afterwards was great. Two people are going off for a tour of the Olympics shindig in the morning, I'm off back to meet a few people at the House tomorrow (and not going home yet!), and who knows what other collaborations came out of it!

Apparently, the next tweetup is at NextGen 10 in Brum. I suspect, as I haven't been offered a ticket, (yet!) I'll be outside at the Unconference again, but for the rest of you, have fun!! And we MUST do this again.
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Set the controls to neutral

Read more! The government says it is minded to allow ISPs abandon net neutrality, but will it work,and should it be fought?
This blog post can be read at

Yesterday, in a speech the Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said in effect that he favoured the end of the principle of `Net Neutrality' where all content providers were given equal treatment in the speed of delivery, to the final user, of that content by ISPs. He said:-

We have got to continue to encourage the market to innovate and experiment with different business models and ways of providing consumers with what they want. This could include the evolution of a two sided market where consumers and content providers could choose to pay for differing levels of quality of service.

This has not gone down particularly well with many in the Internet Community, although as Mr Vaizey pointed out, there is a degree of content delivery management going on at the moment anyway, known as throttling.

There is a fundamental question, which it is right to ask, about whether it is right that there should be some management of high demand sites, so that the rest of us can get on and get important stuff done whilst the world and his significant other are downloading `Top Gear' in HD from the BBC i-player.

What a lot of people are highly suspicious of is the fact that ISPs might choose to charge certain content providers extra to get their content out there faster. To many that goes against the entire principle of the Internet.

I personally believe that if I pay a monthly fee for access to the internet, then all of the content that I wish to access should be accessible at the same speed. I find it deeply irritating that the X Factor could pay extra to get Simon Cowell streamed in HD in priority to something I actually want to look at.... live streaming of paint drying comes to mind as the alternative.

I got a brief customer survey from my ISP, Virgin, today, following a small change I made last week to my billing arrangements. At the bottom of the comments box I wrote the following

`If you abandon Net Neutrality as an ISP, I will abandon you for another..'

If enough people say this to their ISPs they might get quite nervous about breaking away from a neutral net, the market may work in the end and Net Neutrality could become a selling point for some ISPs

Also it will be interesting to see how this all affects communities who, like Great Asby, or Ashby de la Launde who have set up their own high speed networks. Will they have a two tier delivery system imposed from above by whoever is providing their `fat pipe' or will they be able to insist on `Net Neutrality' in their supply contract?
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Tuesday 16 November 2010

Twitter, it's like a flock of starlings

Read more! Thanks to Twitter it is becoming harder and harder to control the Internet, as the Met has found out today
This blog post can be read at

Last week's student demos in London showed that the police are perhaps beginning get a very vague handle on how Social Media works, when they Tweeted to the demonstrators who has occupied the roof of Conservative Campaign HQ, suggesting that they'd had their fun and they might like to come down now.

A valiant effort to get with it, but the Rozzers' cyber-awareness rather hit the buffers today when they asked a hosting company to take down a blog called Fitwatch which was handing out handy hints to the students on how to avoid getting their collars felt. The hosting company duly obliged, and the Fitwatch blog disappeared....or did it.

A quick search on Twitter reveals that the offending information is now available on more than twenty other websites, quite a few of whom are not .uk sites.

If the boys, and girls, in blue want to get this information off the web, they've got their work cut out... it's the age old net-lesson, as soon as you ban something, it will simply move elsewhere, usually attracting massive publicity along the way. It would be easier to dictate to a flock of starlings the kind of formations in which they should fly, or perhaps even it would be easier to herd cats.

Good night all
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Monday 15 November 2010

Thursday Tweetup in London

Read more! As per previously announced plan, various Rory's Reivers and 5tth people will be meeting up in central London after work on Thursday 18th Nov.

This blog post can be read at

My knowledge of central London is limited, so if anyone would care to suggest a venue....... Otherwise, I'm plumping for St Stephens Tavern as I can usually find Big Ben!

4pm onwards....see you there!
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Sunday 14 November 2010

Rory's Reivers do Ambridge!

Read more! I am very proud to announce Radio Lentil's latest contribution to the broadband world. Light listening for the masses!

This blog post can be read at

We decided to 'do' Ambridge aka Asby because we have been trying to feed rural and community broadband stories to Radio 4 plus the TV soaps for years. Almost ten years, in fact. Having tried various routes and got nowhere, it finally dawned on us that technology was now perfectly advanced to let us make our own version.

We are all ready to admit that the final cut of our first episode could be more polished, but we learned many lessons and are ready to put them into practice in the following episodes. And boy, was it fun making it!!!

Here is how it happened:

Lindsey has late night idea, runs it past a couple of people with the necessary skills and enthusiasm – Mark Holdstock, former BBC presenter; John Popham, blogger/social media/citizen journo; and Chris Conder – who needs no intro!

Draft script gets sent round, written hurriedly as a first draft, but, as ever, no-one really has time to think it through or do more than make passing comments.

All arrive in Great Asby for the Reivers Broadband Conference for Cumbrian communities, organised by Rory Stewart MP. Having had John Popham to stay overnight, plus picking up Chris at the station on the return from Doc/Fest in Sheffield, we have ¾ of the cast present. Or so we think!

Take up residence in the Three Greyhounds, as after all the episode is set in the pub. John looks constantly at his watch as he is filming, livestreaming, photographing and reporting live from the event which begins at 2pm. It is now 1.30pm. No-one has even seen the script for two weeks, let alone read through it. We finally pull it out of the cloud over the GAB network to display it on Mark's laptop.

Recording begins, with zero rehearsal whatsoever and a few strays sitting around the table who are being gesticulated at “Can you read this line?”. Knowing nothing about writing a radio script, different characters are indicated with the marginally casual – Some1, Some2, Some3!

Short of Cumbrian voices, we drag the landlady from behind the bar and force her to overcome her stage fright to read a line. Next line says “single mum”. A what?! Look out the window and spot a female wandering towards the event. Cyberdoyle rushes out, explains breathlessly what is required and drags her into the bar. My Radio 4 hoody and Mark's professional recording kit convince her this is for real. No point bursting that bubble just yet – she reads her line perfectly and takes up position to capture the event on her camera! (Turns out later, this is Nicky @getgood from@talkaboutlocal – a speaker at the event).

We duck and dive around the table and bar, thrusting the mike into anyone's face just to get all this recorded before the main event of the day. We reach the penultimate line – we need a Parish Council Chairman. In the door walks Rory Stewart, MP. Oh sweet! “Rory, Rory, please, just read this into the mike”. He looks at us, somewhat bemused, and then realises it's his Reivers. You can see the look of resignation. Whatever we are up to now, he knows it is “for the cause”.

Several of us cannot hide our grins of delight as our MP becomes “victim” and contributor to our latest mad idea. We couldn't have arranged this if we'd wanted to, so the BDUK reps look on, waiting for his attention, whilst he makes at least one constituent supremely happy.

“It's a wrap”. We've collared people in and out of the pub, recorded at least enough to make it work (ish!) and the job is done.

Grab our laptops, bags, recording equipment, thank the locals who have put up with us this last half hour and rush to the Village Hall for the real thing.

With many thanks to Mark Holdstock for editing, Chris Conder for putting together the Youtube video/slideshow, Ian Bankhurst; John Popham; Nicky @getgood; the landlord and landlady of the Three Greyhounds, Great Asby; Bill Conder aka Eddie; Rory Stewart, MP; and the Archers/Corrers/Emmerdale teams for refusing all these years to listen and forcing us to make our own soap!

The next episodes will follow communities in the Big Society vanguard and BDUK area of Eden, as well as other communities elsewhere, as we all try to solve the problems inherent in getting next gen into rural areas for businesses, citizens and communities.

If you have script ideas, want to take part, or wish to offer advice on how to improve on our first effort, please do get in touch! Sponsorship and product placement opportunities also exist ;o)

Suffice to say, we are highly critical and equally delighted that we JFDI! Enjoy....
Read more!

Friday 12 November 2010

London tweet up

Read more! I will be in London next week. You know this is rare!!
This blog post can be read at

My original plans have changed, and I would very much like to meet up with a few people if possible whilst in the Big Smoke. There are a slightly astounding number of 300+ regular readers of this blog. Would you like to meet each other?

Come out of lurk mode, suggest a venue, and point us all in the right direction.

Big Society, newly lit fibre communities, next generation, etc. Hell, you can even talk about the BT pension fund if you wish!!

I'll just do as I'm told by y'all.....;o) Just tell me where.
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Sunday 7 November 2010

Radio Lentil - The Digital Village Pump

Read more! Simon Davison, from NextGenusUk was in Great Asby for the the Broadband Day on Sat 6th Nov. So was I, so I got him to explain the concept of the Digital Village pump
This blog post can be read at

This Radio Lentil Broadcast is in two parts


Read more!


Read more! I know you think I've sold out, but that isn't true. I suspect I am learning, finally, to stay stumm occasionally! However, this last week deserves a blog post

This blog post can be read at

Sunday: 600 miles to drive in 2 days.....Having negotiated a mainly closed motorway network on Sunday (and no, you can't send the kids back to school/college over Skype - I have tried), I finished my cross-national double zig, (Cumbria-Leeds-W Mids-Wales/Shrops) with a big zag to Lincs.

My first big surprise was a sign saying "Rutland". So, Dave et al, *that's* where you are!! I've now moved my personal Watford Gap so that Lincs and Peterborough are on the same side of it. Rutland Telecom - be warned. Arrive at South Witham Broadband late at night. Which other ISP will put you up when you are stranded on their doorstep?! I suspect most would have told me to sleep in the car....

Monday am: Met with Tref from Timico. For lunch. We ate pigeon.

Monday pm: Drove into the deepest flattest wilds of Lincs. Much of the rest cannot yet be told, but suffice to say, I learnt more about fibre laying by a community than you may want to hear. Sadly, however, you will shortly be able to read about it #3 in the JFDI Community Broadband series. (Like the others - NOT available from Amazon, buy it from Lulu).

Was gutted to find the bubble car museum highlighted on my endurance rally map had moved. But, not to be deterred, I tracked down the owner, and now have a new pin in the map. (If you don't know, my kids' book character has a bubble car and I have an unhealthy fascination for them - James Caan now knows! And I am 1/4 Manx so what better fit for the Peel car?).

Monday night: Turns out this is a very small world. Invite a local rally driver I met on the Lombard for a pint and find he knows the fibre folk I am with from waaaaay back when - when fibre was made by Tuaregs and only in blue. (Oh, was that Paris-Dakar fibre, not the Lombard?).

Get told a cracking story about a consultancy employed to advise on dark fibre. "We've just realised we don't know what it looks like".....

Tuesday: Meeting with fibre training company about the conference in June and the new book. (I lie because really what I wanted to see was the fibre training courses and the blowing demo. Sneakily sign up for a course and now have to be in't Midlands for 8 weeks masquerading as someone who works for an overcome telco who has suddenly realised they laid off all the wrong people not that long ago).

Surprise meeting in a driveway: Long conversation, out of the blue (bloody Tuaregs and sand getting in the way again!), about disaster relief and fibre. In the middle of nowhere. Brain goes into overdrive......Watch this space.

Afternoon: Get informed that sometimes my blog posts don't make sense. Have re-read the above and think they were lying.

Tuesday night: get home and within less than 5 mins out of car get calls from Canada and USA. About fibre. Am beginning to think I should try to carve a career out of this....

Wednesday: Discover am ill

Thursday: Day off, prone and exhausted. Or as you lot think, another day not answering phone when you ring.

Friday: Watch Big Society meeting online. Finally devour enough painkillers to be able to be present - John Popham's video footage was right. This was one event that was too good to miss. Kidnap two of the attendees and force them to stay at my house. And wait for news that @cyberdoyle has won the £10k video prize from digitalrevolutions. When we finally learn she lost to a PROFESSIONAL photographer in the amateur category, Sheffield becomes a no go zone. Possibly for ever. 10km of fibre needed now to connect her community vs a flash camera for a man who earns his living looking through a lens. Not impressed.

Saturday: Rory's broadband day. You want links? #gab10 on Twitter. The rest you must find alone.....Hover between groundhog day (about 8 years ago) and a feeling of elation. I think BDUK can make the right scenario occur IF Cumbria County Council don't relive Project Access (my biggest fear). Ups and downs. Pick Cyberdoyle up from the station, and spend the rest of the day watching her hand out fibre to strangers. "It's a sharp" LOL. CD on form and wasted in the audience. She should have been on stage. Ditto Barry Forde, whose Powerpoint I will hopefully put up here in the next day or two.

Prior to event, we move into pub with our pet BBC sound recordist - Radio Lentil interviewer extraordinaire, Mark Holdstock - and make our own version of the Archers. Obviously, called The Reivers. Collar landlord, landlady, passing strangers (who become friends (@talkaboutlocal) to read lines, and then Rory Stewart MP walks in the pub and agrees to feature in it! Radio Lentil hits a new high - the edit should be available in the next few days. Scripts for future episodes are welcome.

Had a momentary burst of pride when Gt Asby was cited as a model community broadband network in the event - I know the history! Fast, Faster, EdenFaster - today, six years ago, was when we got the funding. (Another day I was at a broadband conference instead of remembering the kids' birthday but some of you may remember filling a Pringles tin antenna in Hawes to make up for it!)

OK, we weren't right with all we did way back then with Edenfaster, but we put two networks in place that still exist and are now breaking the ground for everyone else, and not just in Eden, Cumbria. Indirectly, we set off more than just a few others. Pat ought to get some glory and recognition; I was very pleased to hear some tales of GAB installs that were about his hard work, but in the wider world, the ground we/he broke then is often unknown.

Sunday: going to get an engine for my very poorly car. Stay on the road a while longer - no buses, trains to speak of that would have made last week even vaguely possible. See my parents. Post the kids' presents. Enjoy autumn. Ignore broadband for a whole day.

The last paragraph probably won't come true, but the rest happened, and far more!

Read more!

Sunday 31 October 2010

Another Friday night and I ain't got

Read more! no internet... Another big system failure, but it also says something about how the internet is viewed by the media
This blog post can be read at

On Friday night there was feeling of Deja Vu. Three weeks ago my internet slowed to walking pace, on Friday night it stopped altogether. It seems, that once again the fault lies with BT, a `node failure' was to blame. The number of people affected was reported by the BBC to be tens of thousands... elsewhere 1.2 million was quoted. The twitterati went for the higher figure and judging by the fact that the effects seemed to go wider than just BT's own domestic customers, I saw Plusnet given as an example, and I'm with Virgin, that higher number seems feasible.

Offering further comment on the fact that the whole episode was down to a failure (probably an equipment failure) at a BT exchange is probably superfluous.

What did strike me was how long it took the conventional media to report this story, and not realise the importance of it.

When my main internet supply failed, I plugged in my Orange dongle and went in search of references to the outage. There was nothing on any of the news websites, so I did what I would normally do in these circumstances.... I turned to Twitter, searched `outage' and slowly at first my suspicions were confirmed... and I have to say that I was relieved to find that it wasn't my wireless router which had blown up.

The first hint that the conventional media was across it was a tweet from the Guardian's Charles Arthur, saying that something seemed to be amiss and saying he would investigate.

As Mrs H pointed out to me, if everybody's internet had gone belly up, then they would have been prevented from reporting it on their websites, because those websites would have been `unupdateable'

Fair point, but there didn't seem to be anything on the broadcast media either.

Eventually a small story appeared on the BBC News website at about 2300, the outage had occurred about three hours earlier.

I have to say that it struck me that if the figure of 1.2 million users being left without the internet was correct then this is a much bigger story, but it did happen in Southern Scotland and Northern England, so it was a long way from London... Even if it was tens of thousands of people, rather than 1.2 million, that lower figure would have been newsworthy if it had been electricity which had been lost, so why not internet?
Read more!

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Essential reading on fibre tax in Scotland

Read more! Three cheers for Scotland. The Digital Scotland report puts in plain English (is that a misnomer?) the case for derating fibre and returning telecoms buildings to standard business rates, amongst other equally logical solutions which will lead to the right endgame.

This blog post can be read at

There are times when you really wonder why any of us do all of this. After all, there are a number of us who don't want to own, run or even have anything to do with networks - we just want fibre through our window frames!!

The ups and downs over the last 10-15 years have been particularly trying. However, there are days when you think there is a light at the end of the tunnel and today is one of them.

With many thanks to Pauline Rigby for the heads up that it might be worth reading, in detail, the Digital Scotland report, I have now found the three pages which have stuck a rainbow in my office for the day. pp 57-59.

For more detail, you can read this blog post on Computer Weekly.

Read more!

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Fibre tax and my licence fee

Read more! I've got a bee in my bonnet again. Sorry folks but I think this stinks.....
This blog post can be read at

Broken Telephone - Why are we pissing away £120M?
and also Is Govt robbing the BBC licence payers?

Would welcome a different viewpoint on all this, if there is one!
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Monday 25 October 2010

Big Bucks for Broadband

Read more! Rory Cellan-Jones thinking on the latest announcements
This blog post can be read at

Big Bucks for Broadband The latest blog from Rory Cellan Joanes
Read more!

Friday 22 October 2010

NOW I feel like cheering!!

Read more! All it took was a single meeting. (Two, actually!) Of community people who don't take shit (oops, sorry dad!) from Westminster......

This blog post can be read at

The communities who most need broadband are no longer willing to sit back and await solutions from London.

Three cheers for Cumbrians, and folks from North Yorkshire, who in the last 24 hours have turned this crap on its head.

Digging is about to commence in the first mile. People suddenly have realised what they need to do. There is going to be no waiting about for funding decisions.

Reality has struck that BT do not need to be involved, that every community can do its thing, and that all of this next gen stuff can belong to US and our next generations.

Am feeling quite upbeat......and hope that other communities around the country pick up on what is now going on here in the north......

Read more!

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Why I don't feel like cheering

Read more! I ought to be upbeat and positive but I have this growing, nagging feeling of doom after the Chancellor's (hardly unexpected) announcement....

This blog post can be read at

Part of me is over the moon that Cumbria is getting some money for next gen broadband. Because I feel that if anywhere could show the rest of the country how it should be done, it is here.

But, part of me has this gnawing feeling that it could all go completely pear-shaped. And is probably likely to, if past experiences are anything to go by.

Firstly, there are people already leaping on the bandwagon who haven't put anywhere near as many hours into thinking about how to solve the Cumbria problem as others. Educating those people, (some of whom think they know it all already, others don't have the time nor the inclination to listen) is going to be an uphill struggle. And may fail.

Secondly, it's now about money. This shouldn't be about money, it should be about the endgame - which is ensuring that citizens and businesses, wherever they live, get a future-proof service. But the vultures are now circling, and their endgame is different. Theirs is much more selfish than that, seeking 'a pot of gold', in their own words.

Thirdly, there is only one man with whom I am entirely in agreement about what should be done in Cumbria - Barry Forde. Every other proposal I have heard is (sorry, dad), bullshit. He should just be permitted to get on with it, just as he WASN'T with Project Access - which was an almighty waste of money and a right royal cock-up. He already has the full support of MANY communities, and soon will have many more. If we could elect him as the North West Minister for JFDI Broadband, he'd win any vote hands down.

Fourthly, there is enough will in Cumbria to deliver a project which is self-sustaining, which generates sufficient funds to be independent of any requirement for future 'grants' or subsidies, which can expand from the surplus it generates because it is run in a business-like manner by Cumbrians, and which proves once and for all that the £28BN figure is a number generated to satisfy the incumbent's desires, and not based on what others can deliver ubiquituous next gen FTTH for.

Will we learn from past mistakes here in Cumbria? Somehow, something inside me is refusing to accept that we will.

I am hoping that the coming months will prove that Cumbria and Cumbrians are capable of shooting the vultures out of the air; hearing the sane voices not just the loudest, greediest ones; of ensuring that this pot of money is well-spent and well-spent several times over, not just once; and that the end result is a MODEL for others to follow, not dismiss as a failure.

I'm also hoping that the lessons learnt during this project are openly and honestly shared. One of the biggest short-comings the grant funding 'crack' we have become addicted to has engendered is the need for projects to gloss over issues or problems, not seek help elsewhere in case word leaks out and it upsets the funders (future and present), causing others elsewhere to re-invent the wheel, unnecessarily.

I'm not sure why I am feeling so despondent. I think I have joined the leagues of cynics. Must be my age!

Read more!

Changing the culture in govt

Read more! Whilst cuts etc are understood, what is incomprehensible is the lack of joined up thinking in the civil service.....

This blog post can be read at

Here's an example. It took me 23 minutes on hold on the phone the other day whilst someone worked out how to email my council tax bill to me. Now that the council has worked out that their system can do this, it should be possible to save money by emailing everyone with an email address rather than posting envelopes which eat up trees and petrol in their delivery. Using existing software, citizens could update their own email address, and confirm receipt of their bill each year.

As a business person, you are constantly looking at ways to cut costs and increase profits. Any entrepreneur who received a suggestion that they could be saving money by emailing all their invoices rather than posting them would accept, consider and apply that way of increasing their profitability.

Suggest such a thing to the civil service and you are immediately threatening the envelope stuffer's job. The assumption being, surely, that a citizen's concern for spending public money is misplaced. However, what is misplaced is the assumption within the civil service that a) it is not our money and b) councils etc should not be run in a business-like manner.

Wastage needs to be knocked on the head and despite the cuts, we will still see wastage of public funds whilst the "thoughtless" culture continues within those organisations who spend our money.

This to me is what #BigSociety should be about. Each of us taking responsibility for the mess this country is in, in whatever capacity we are able to. Exactly the same as we should all be taking responsibility for cutting our electricity usage.
Read more!

BDUK announcement

Read more! So, the rumour mill was right that we should listen to the speech. The 4 areas have been announced - Cumbria, Hereford, North Yorkshire and Highlands and Islands.

This blog post can be read at

Here's hoping that we are going to not see a repeat of other fiascos with public dosh that tend to surround broadband in this country. It is time to turn the tables and make the digital divide one which shocks the urbans and telcos into action, not vice versa. (Although, I see that BT's plans are being forced forwards by all our noise at a speed they are unaccustomed to........BT to announce FTTP at £21.50/month from March 2011)

I repeat my call from the other day:

  • Any project should be 100+Mbps symmetrical

  • A model not a pilot (The technology is too mature to pretend it needs testing and the business case has been proven elsewhere)

  • Community-owned not a further monopoly (think community in a wider sense that just a few people in wellies)

  • Future-proofed

  • Small but effective - proving the case, not thinly spread jam

Fingers crossed we won't be disappointed....
Read more!

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Practical Get Online Week

Read more! It's all very well persuading people to get online, but it's not much good if that is a physical impossibility in their location. As ever, it is not the uber-funded who are out there JFDI!

This blog post can be read at

Once upon a time, we built a network in a matter of days - Wennet - with a SWAT team who came together to connect a notspot using funds destined to be spent on pointless and probably unread case studies. The story of that is in the book JFDI Community Broadband Wennington. (Note, please do not order from Amazon. You will never receive a copy).

However, once you get a few people online on a decent connection (that puts the incumbent to shame), others start to hassle to be connected too!

So, progress has continued. Connecting others in the vicinity, both with fibre and wireless.

Once again, there is another video of the practical work being done to bring broadband to deeply rural areas of the UK - more FiWi Pie from Lancashire.

And it's nice to add that Rory's Reivers contributed their travel money from the #rbc10 conference to buy these nanos. Far better use of the money than giving it to over-paid suits on expense accounts. So, one month to the day since the conference and two new links have been put in as an interim measure until fibre can be laid to bridge that gap. However, fibre backhaul may be arriving via a different route, and then these wireless bridges will be re-used to connect up the next two communities who are waiting patiently for any sort of connection.

See? FiWi Pie, we love it!

(Oh, and UK Online Centres.... these videos are exactly what you should be using to promote Get Online week. Tweet them and share them! We have got to work together. That includes those with wellies and no dosh, AND those with posh t-shirts, badges, flags, banners, balloons etc.)

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Monday 18 October 2010

I never thought I'd say this...but

Read more! Well done to the CLA
This blog post can be read at

The Country Land and Business Association, is actually one of the most active pressure groups when it comes to getting decent digital coverage into rural areas, and they seem to be the only mainstream organisation to have picked up on the flagrant shortcomings of the `Get online' week. This is a press-release which landed in my inbox earlier this afternoon.

Don’t forget rural-urban digital divide, says CLA

The CLA today (18 October) issued a reminder not to forget the rural-urban digital divide during Get Online Week.

The Association warned that businesses and communities in rural areas without an adequate broadband service continue to be digitally disadvantaged.

CLA Yorkshire Regional Director Dorothy Fairburn said: “One in five people in rural communities is still unable to connect to the internet effectively.

“Broadband access for firms in rural areas is essential for their businesses to grow. Without broadband it will become harder for rural business to compete effectively with their urban counterparts.”

Miss Fairburn added: “Internet service providers must help to close the rural-urban digital divide. Broadband is an essential tool to help UK businesses recover from the current economic crisis.”

Read more!

Simple acid test for BDUK

Read more! We have multiple examples from around the world now of costs for rural FTTH so....

This blog post can be read at

When BDUK get to choose which projects go forward, this should be a very simple way in these times of cuts and best value spending reviews to judge them:

On average, the maximum that rural FTTH to a property should cost is £1000. In the majority of cases it will be under £750.

Therefore, using my now infamous mathematical skills, £230Million divided by £1000 is 230,000 homes. Divided by £750, it is 306,667 homes.

If the proposed projects cannot GUARANTEE to connect up between 230k and 306k homes with FTTH, don't choose them! Or we will be wasting the digital dividend dosh - we only have it the once.

And don't get me started on how much further this digital dividend money would go if we took the VOA right out of the equation and waived all fibre tax / business rates on these projects. That is, as long as the choice of who will deliver these pilots is not made on who can come up with the fanciest tender bid (as possibly was the case in Cornwall?), in which case, we probably won't get any rural FTTH at all.
Read more!

Saturday 16 October 2010

Radio Lentil - Guy Jarvis from NextGenUs reflects on Rheged

Read more!
Guy Jarvis talks about some of the issues facing those who want to get fibre to the final third
This blog post can be read at


Read more!

Friday 15 October 2010

Showing some moral fibre in the UK

Read more! Few of us are willing to pretend that sweating the copper asset is good. Because it is only good for BT shareholders. And even that is now debatable. It certainly isn't an option if we want to take on the world. Right now, with the plans available from our incumbent, the UK would struggle to competitively take on anyone for FTTH by 2017.

Is that what we want as a nation?

This blog post can be read at

It really is time that people stood up to BT in this country and made inroads into the necessary infrastructure investment and deployment that is required to get us back on the road to innovation and implementation.

We can pretend that FTTC, Cornwall, Infinity, and multiple other farcical announcements are good for the country. Or we can JFD what is required. Luckily, there are many who believe that copper is only good for socks, kettles and bracelets, and who know that BT is not required to deliver any level of 21st century network deployment.

New non-BT exchanges are being built as I write, and it is time for every community to realise that you do not need, nor want, BT Infinity if you wish to get to a Chattanooga or Korean level of connectivity. Not just sooner rather than later, but AT ALL.

It is time to take BT out of the first mile entirely. There is a place in FiWi Pie for them, but as a wholesaler. Openretch has had its day.

We need to climb out of the box, and understand that the biggest 'drag' on this country's move into 21st century comms is the company we gave an ageing infrastructure to, and failed to apply functional separation to.

Luckily, we no longer need that ageing copper-based infrastructure, nor the companies around it, and each and every community can build its own community broadband network in this day and age, without requiring the incumbent's involvement. We don't need new quangos either - time to JFDI.

So, let's start.....

Read more!

Thursday 14 October 2010

Broken Telephone

Read more! It is with great pleasure that I can announce that I am now blogging for Computer Weekly on the Broken Telephone blog.

This blog post can be read at

It would be difficult to ignore the state of UK comms, so I am very pleased to have the opportunity to comment on some of the areas where problems can be found, and to discuss some of the solutions to the issues. Please follow me on Computer Weekly as well as here, and I am, as always, open to suggestions, comments, and (vigorous) debate!
Read more!

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Nice campaign to get the reluctant `online', but at least the line is on in the first place

Read more! A well intentioned article in the Guardian looks at the challenges faced in urban areas with those who are frightened of technology, but what about those who don't have the technology
This blog post can be read at

Making connections to get the country online
Sunderland is way ahead in the race to get even its hardest-to-reach residents online. Can other areas learn from its approach?

This article deals with a serious problem, namely that even when there are good internet connections some people are reluctant to use them. This is a very fair point, and if there was good internet connectivity in rural areas there would also be a fair proportion of people who would be terrified by the prospect of using the internet.

What is being described here though ignores the fact that there are vast tracts of our green and pleasant land where people don't even get the chance to be terrified of new technology. For many the problems being tackled in Bridlington and Sunderland would be welcomed with open arms in the depths of Cumbria and North Yorkshire. Perhaps Ms Lane-Fox should be invited to come and see the situation where the spirit is willing, but the connectivity is weak.

Read more!

Go Cataluña!!!

Read more! Some years ago, I spoke about rural broadband at a conference in Callus, near Manresa. In Spanish. Over the following days, I proceeded to try to learn Catalan, whilst speaking a bizarre mixture of Spanish, French, Italian, English and Catalan with my multi-lingual guides who showed me round the region. And then today, I read an article about Manresa and Callus....and cheered!!

This blog post can be read at

It is difficult to explain what happens on trips like this. This was the second conference where I had been asked to fly out and speak about broadband in Spanish. And then come home. (The other time was Santa Cruz in Bolivia where I refused point blank to come straight home after giving a 30 minute speech! But that is a whole other story).

I had passed through Cataluña many times before when living in Andalucia, but the trip to Manresa, Callus and then Girona, Figueres and Cadaques (Dali land) started a lifelong romance, I suspect. Not just the scenery but the people and the innovation. Plus the fact that the Catalans know how to stick two fingers up at Brussels (or Madrid) to get what their citizens need, not what some faceless bureaucrat thinks the box tickers require.

Callus had BIG plans. There was already a wifi network based from the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall), but the alcalde (Mayor) took me under his wing - especially when we discovered Callus and Lindsey had both ropemaking and railways in common - and I heard more inspiring plans than I could possibly have expected from this man and his community. They went like this:

Fibre up the railway line, which used to transport the salt from Cardona Mines, turn the mine into a tourist attraction. Link in an industrial estate up the road, which would double up to create present and future employment for teenagers as website designers and multimedia whizzes. The kids would spend summer doing websites, etc for the businesses in the business park, and winter as ski instructors, learning a variety of people skills as well as video techniques for one on one ski lessons.

I recall there was a waiting list at the secondary school because parents were moving their families and businesses to be on the end of a fibre connection. Even I was tempted to go back to school! The tunnels on the railway line were no issue for wireless connectivity as they had trialled leaky coax and found it worked just fine. So, now I think of it, this was a classic example of FiWi.

Anyway, Callus has little in the way of accommodation, so I stayed in Manresa. And this is the point of the blog post. These guys have built an open access FTTH network, because the Generalitat de Cataluña have vision. And the first to come along is Orange with a triple play FTTH bundle that sort of defies belief.

For those who don't speak Spanish: 50Mbps symmetrical, all landline calls free, wifi router, HDTV decoder plus 60 channels (bear in mind they don't have Freeview), a mobile package, and the all important Barca or Real Madrid matches, for €44.95 a month. That's £40.

The technical details of the project in Viladecans show that there is a cost of €768,324 to pass 2358 homes and businesses. Which is €326 per HP (Homes Passed). No mention, obviously of any fibre tax as the Catalans aren't as moronic as our Government. They get IT and they know how to make IT happen.

The best bit was finding this article about Xarxa Oberta (Open Network). Yes! Callus has been included in the Digital Territory project and is getting its FTTH network. There are approx 1500-1600 people in Callus as I recall. Interesting that their Government sees that as viable (In fact, every urbanisation over 50 houses is getting at least Wimax) and ours hasn't got their heads round it yet. (Except in Cumbria, of course!)

Even so, I think I'll pack.....let's toss a coin...Chattanooga or Callus?!

Read more!

What's the link?

Read more! Quick quiz: what is the link between the following two items?

This blog post can be read at

My sitting room carpet which was here when I moved in the house

And this:

No need for answers on a postcard. It's simple.

The day both these items leave my house for good will be one of the happiest of my life.

Update: In response to MB94128

What that carpet hides!! One day, when we all have broadband and I can go back to work, I will have a beautiful recycled floorboard floor over all this cabling!

Cat 5 overkill! I don't actually have 24 devices to plug in, but maybe one day.....

Cat 5 subtly running up the doorframe to the attic where the meshbox for the neighbours is plugged in.

Read more!

Ofcom's WLA statement

Read more!
Ofcom has published a statement about the review of the Wholesale Local Access market.

This blog post can be read at

There is plenty to take in, but I'm just going to highlight a couple of points.

Firstly, because I know we have readers in Hull, you may find section 1.29 of some (galling) interest.

"However, we are not at this stage requiring KCOM to provide any specific access products, such as access to its duct and pole infrastructure. This reflects the continuing limited interest among CPs in competing in the Hull area."

There are others who are better placed to make comments about the (mis)perception that there is 'continuing limited interest'..... Hull City Council as representatives of the citizens and businesses, for one, may wish to step in here...

Secondly, access to BT's ducts and poles

"1.34 Further industry discussion is also needed on the details of the PIA products that BT should offer. The obligation requires BT to produce an initial RO for duct and pole access, describing the services to be made available, within just over three months from the publication of this statement. Significant OCP involvement will be needed, to take BT's proposal forward."

Just over three months from now includes a lengthy Christmas break for many. I'm sure the timing is not deliberate as all of us want to see BT put something useful together sooner rather than later. OCP's = Other Communication Providers, and for the very many planning to get on and build networks that will invariably compete with the incumbent, particularly in the Final Third, it is vital that we all seek involvement in helping BT to create the RO (Reference Offer) which is due by mid-January. (Para 1.23)

I sincerely hope that the initial RO will be a draft, and subjected to industry and community / consumer stakeholder scrutiny before Ofcom acceptance as the last attempt would have made OCP engagement with poles and ducts an almost impossibility. Not that we haven't investigated many of the ins and outs of putting in our own poles and ducts, but it would be preferable if those of us who are determined to make all this happen did not have to clutter the countryside with yet more poles ......;o)

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Monday 11 October 2010

Free Spot Cream for All

Read more! We the `pimpled' will rise up and free the citizenry from our Marr-sters
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Andrew Marr says bloggers are 'inadequate, pimpled and single'

There is something rather sweet about the smell of fear amongst the establishment, not just in the morning, but at any time of day.

I remember, when I first started out as a journalist there was a huge degree of prejudice against anybody who had not spent years being scarred at the coal-face of the newspaper newsroom, abused by the fearsome (often Scottish) benevolent tyrants who ran their newsrooms with a rod of iron.

I was fortunate to learn what I do from a slightly different angle, in radio learning the technical and creative side of the art first, and the editorial in time. It helped my career that many of those who came into radio from the local newspapers had little clue about the technicalities of how the equipment worked, a situation which was made even more interesting by the migration from the world of quarter inch magnetic tape, to a world where ones and zeros are lovingly re-arranged into beautiful sound.

In recent times the younger generation has actually found this adaption to new technology much easier as it is remarkably similar to the software that they use to do their DJ mixes. What has been an irritating constant throughout my career is the way that Oxbridge graduates were fast-tracked through the system. This was largely because those in charge came from the same background, as with any organisatioin with its routes in the establishment, and modelled very much on the civil service.

The same technology which has allowed people to make their own DJ mixes has also allowed them to speak out and have a voice. What Andrew Marr is complaining about is not that single people with spots are speaking out, I think... But at the heart of his fears is a worry that the establishment is losing its ability to control the flow of opinions.

Yes, sometimes there is more heat than light shed, but in fora like this one, the people who are writing often have more light than most to shed on what is happening, or rather not happening. What establishment figures like Andrew Marr fear more than anything else is that they become irrelevant.

The Sunday morning AM programme may be seen as being a flagship for journalism, but in the trade it is what is known as `a clip machine'. Sunday is a quiet day for news, and the main job of the AM programme is to provide fodder for the bulletins later in the day. It's a kind of mutually beneficial relationship. Political parties target their weekend messages in interviews for The Andrew Marr Show, the show gladly gives them airtime because it gives the show Kudos when it credited on screen in bulletins later in the day.

The important thing about blogs like this one, is not that they allow ranters to sound off, but they give a space for discussions about topics, like rural broadband, which the mainstream media often find boring, believe me I've lost count of the times that I've had suggestions for stories about Broadband/fibre in the countryside knocked back by programme editors who said that listeners wouldn't be interested.

I once fought bitterly to get a piece on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours about the difficulties facing rural communities over internet access. Grudgingly the editor agreed to run it. That story got the biggest listener response of that week. I think at the heart of what Andrew Marr is saying is that only the people of his background have the right to set the agenda. That is becoming less and less tenable as access to the dissemination of information and opinion broadens.

Oh....and I am neither single, nor have spots.
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BT takes IDNet down

Read more! No-one else seems to have reported it, so I will. Last night, just before 8pm, IDnet, which serves a considerable number of homes and businesses around the country, went kerflump.

This blog post can be read at

Last night, after trying several different routers, I for one was damned glad to have an ISP who answer their phone at 10pm on a Sunday eve. "Yep, we're all down. It's something to do with BT Central, and no time is yet being given for restoration of services." So, early night then as unable to work. (Oh yes, that'll be because the mobile coverage in this rural area isn't sufficient to make mobile broadband an option, and there is no 3G here, whatever the coverage maps say, nor is it possible to have a second broadband line to the office as...yep, you've guessed it, no spare lines in the village!).

This morning, the system is back up and working and the idnet network status messages read as follows:

"2010-10-10 20:21: Both our Primary and Backup Broadband links into BT are currently down. BT are aware of the failure and are investigating. We do not as yet have a time estimate from them for a fix. We will provide an update as soon as we get one."

"2010-10-11 01:46: Service has now been restored. We are demanding a full explanation from BT.
2010-10-10 23:59: BT confirm both circuits tested OK. They are now diagnosing their internal network routing.
2010-10-10 22:18: BT now have engineers onsite in the Exchange diagnosing the problem."

But better is yet to come.

"2010-10-11 08:10: BT have admitted that someone removed the configuration for our circuits yesterday. We and (sic) demanded that they investigate why this happened, what safeguards will now be put in place to ensure that it can't happen again and why it took them so long to resolve the issue."

idnet downtime, BT fail

I don't know exactly how many customers idnet serve, but if it hadn't been a Sunday night, no doubt there would be others reporting the outage, including Govt agencies looking at that link above.

I look forward to the explanation from BT. And it clearly highlights how no country should rely on a private company that could prove to be the single point of failure.
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An every day tale of farming folk.

Read more! An important video
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Why digital technology is important to me. And my family. And my farm.

This video has been made for Sheffield Docfest Digital Revolutions to highlight how technology has changed a farmer's wife's life. Watch, enjoy, comment, tweet, and share!!

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