Search This Blog

Saturday 31 July 2010

NGA sans frontiers

Read more!
Keep reading about regional and community initiatives etc. There is an inherent problem with this, and I did think about calling this post "Broadband without Borders".

This blog post can be read at

Borders drawn around counties, for instance, don't necessarily coincide with the borders that fit around constituencies or communities. So, whilst there may be a county boundary between myself and my friends down the road, we don't recognise it as a barrier, whereas the gritting lorries do, meaning often the gritting stops in the middle of nowhere because of that invisible line!

However, when it comes to joining up the thinking on our next generation broadband ideas, we keep hitting barriers caused by these (often invisible) borders.

I live in Cumbria at the point where, within a radius of about 20 miles, two other counties meet us - Durham and Yorkshire. Both those counties have fibre rings - NYnet and DurhamNet. My nearest (useful) fibre for longhaul/backhaul in Cumbria is up the M6, also about 20 miles away. Therefore, within what I would consider to be touching distance (the distance I need to travel to get to a supermarket), are three sources of fibre.

Now, let's imagine that I wanted to build a community network with redundancy in it. Logically, I would look to using all three of those connection points to ensure the network is always stable. Logistically, I have to start talking to multiple county councils and subsidiary companies acquainted with the CCs - at least 4 of whom can see no relevance between my community and their network because we aren't their problem!

"It's not on our patch", "It doesn't fall within our jurisidiction" and "You need to talk to your own county council" are the usual ripostes.

However, what seems most difficult to explain is that my community has, for instance, close traditional links with places on their patch, often going back around 1000 years. Some are far more modern. So, whilst Carlisle may seem the place to go shopping for a Cumbrian, Darlington, which is in Co Durham, is actually easier to get to. Our farmers here know all the farmers in Wensleydale because they go to the same auction marts - in Yorkshire, and many are related through age old family ties going back generations.

Our telecoms networks have not been built to respect county boundaries, with some people finding themselves connected to exchanges in different counties - which for notspot folk causes no end of grief if the county where the exchange is doesn't recognise their plight. Mobile cells don't suddenly hit a brick wall when they reach a county boundary. Yet, for the move to next generation access, we seem to be looking at things from a slightly skewiff perspective, asking regions to put in projects.

We need to join the dots far more than we are currently. For instance, the CLEO network connects every school in Lancashire and Cumbria. Right now, it is idle because it is the school holidays. Even when the kids are at school, there is plenty of spare capacity and it could be easily increased to serve the communities. It could be extended to meet the Nynet network to offer each additional bandwidth and reduced costs for the NGA infill at the edges of each network. Ditto with DurhamNet.

What BDUK et al need to look at is how we can build networks that connect geographic communities, using existing resources and infrastructure, even where these will cross county or regional boundaries. And just because CLEO was paid for using Cumbria and Lancashire cash, it doesn't stop it easily reaching the Borders, North Yorkshire and Durham, without a significant spend, unlike building a new network or endeavouring to pay distance based charges (the bane of rural backhaul) or BT Excess Construction Costs.

And what communities need to do is look to their neighbours, as well as to other counties who may not be quite so closely related for solutions to some of these problems, eg bulk purchases of equipment and expertise to deliver, where it may not be feasible alone.

Read more!

Monday 26 July 2010

News just in - 500 homes is FTTH viable!!

Read more!

I can't share any more right now but I've been waiting for this particular solution to be scaled down for nigh on a year (read: 15yrs).

This blog post can be read at

At the beginning of this year, I went out to the States to see various different rural FTTH solutions and meet their initiators after lengthy email, Skype etc discussions. It was quite a trip!! And I would recommend it to anyone. If you need a guide and intros, please, just ask.

I've just had an email saying that due to RUS etc, (and hopefully meeting me!) one particular group have worked on scaling down their FTTH solution so that it would seem to be financially viable AND sustainable in low density populations. e.g around 500 connected homes on a 25% uptake. No mention of timespan yet, but previously they were working on cash positive within 6 years. We were talking about densities of 10-15 so I can't imagine they have gone much beyond that.

I have *every* belief in these guys having met them. You should too. These guys have already JFDi swathes of the USA that would leave many of our counties with minimal notspots. There are differences between the States and here, but not so big. You can tweak a business and deployment plan to apply it here in Europe/ UK. Particularly in light of some of the announcements that have come out recently at this end.

So, if you could create a sustainable, deployable network to 500 homes+, would you JFDI?! I will!

As more and more people struggle to find investment opportunities for the common man, this could prove to be one of those long term 'bonds', like a Premium Bond or Building Society, that delivers a return at a suitable rate of interest, not just to the investor, but also, in spades, to the community it involves and that the investor lives in.

These were the guys who introduced me to 'leans' on houses, were there when I saw the war/planning rooms filled with peanuts (no, seriously, they were Very Important Peanuts), and taught me the basics of community mapping etc. They also refused to let me steal the Utopia NGA demo HeaVAN. (Pictured above - thank you Todd for pandering to my desires, and bleurgh to the others for not letting me bring it home!!)

The sooner we in Britain have a Heavan to show people what we mean by TRUE BROADBAND and solutions like these, the better. (And the photo is my truck, which is ready and waiting to become a Heavan - sponsor reqd as I will put you all to shame if I jfdi alone.)

I think it stands for High-Bandwidth, Everything-goes (symmetrical in other words), Awesome Van...guard Approach to Real Broadband in Rural Communities with Low Densities where the Incumbent Fears to Tread Demonstration Vehicle..... or something ;o)

Read more!

Engaging your community

Read more! Interesting last couple of weeks. My patch/manor got nominated as one of the 4 vanguard communities for the Big Society. Life went a little hectic....autumn broadband conference announced... etcThis blog post can be read at

So, done a little thinking.

How do you engage your community?

Speak clearly - As my sproglet has quite clearly iterated, speak in English not geek.

Think clearly - Think out of the box - if you think broadband is for x, find out all the y, z, a, b,c,d, uses and promote them

Listen carefully - Learn about those around you. Listen once, twice and thrice.

Watch - how others use this technology. It may not be how you had envisaged.

Share - tell others what you have seen. Communicate.

Read more!

Sunday 25 July 2010

Broadband is boring

Read more! I started my broadband crusade before my kids could crawl. Now, they are about to leave home. One of them has asked to have her input before she leaves ....

This blog post can be read at

I've been brought up around broadband this ... broadband that ... so I know a little more than the average teenager but to be honest, broadband is boring!

Most people my age hear the word broadband and think "geek time!" ... most people know that it's to do with the intenet and how fast things are, but not many people know a MB from a Mb or even the upload speed from the download speed. So even when people like BT are offering up 20MB or whatever, it's just geek speak.

All we want to know is how long will it take us to upload 100 photos to Facebook or how long it's going to take to download some songs from iTunes but instead all these computer techy people bombard us with is useless figures and prices which don't seem to be true half the time - judging by the reaction and things my mum says when some company says they have superfast new broadband speeds!

Also from growing up around someone who is COMPLETLEY OBSESSED with broadband and why we want/need it - I've learnt and used a lot of things you can do with a fairly good connection like ours. Things like Qik and playing things on youtube without the reloading every 2 minutes. But not many people my age know of the things you can use and most often don't get the chance because if you have to wait 5 hours for something to load then you will just close the tab and move on!

My broadband connection is ok - it's not the best after seeing some of the speeds other people's computers work at, but it's not too bad. But it could be loads better and I wish it was. It would mean that I could use my computer much more because everything would be about a million times faster and I could use all sorts of new programs and apps.

Broadband really doesn't have to be boring - it might just be possible to make it exciting, fun and revolutionary, but first it has to be made relevant to people of my age and that means connecting with us and what we want with broadband. In many cases it means actually explaining what broadband is - but not in the techy geeky language of MBs and megs but in our language ... Facebook, Myspace and Youtube.

Broadband doesn't have to be boring, let's try and pimp it up!

Read more!

Friday 23 July 2010

Blog posting - yippeee

Read more! As if life isn't difficult enough already. Blogger have changed settings need to be in Cumbria in September, talking about next gen and rural broadband.

Book your tickets asap!
Read more!

The Autumn Broadband Conference II

Read more!
Tickets on sale from Rheged on 28th and there are only 260 so grab 'em while you can.

This blog post can be read at

There are now multiple events happening in and around Penrith over this weekend, so book your weekend. Family, friends, kids and colleagues - all are welcome.

Sponsors for events pre and post event need to contact Alice and the Tourist Board.
Read more!

Thursday 22 July 2010

The Autumn broadband conference

Read more!
Or....Why I live in t'middle of nowhere. I know it has confused some of you city types for nigh on 15 years why anyone would live where I do, but you are about to get the chance to understand. And, on top of the unmissable 2010 broadband conference, you have a chance to enjoy our rural, Northern hospitality at its best.

This blog post can be read at

The tickets for the Penrith and Borders broadband conference are up for grabs in the next few days. But, why come up here just to listen or attend a conference? Come and enjoy our fantastic scenery (see pic - pls forgive grime and wipers as we rescued MOD folk from the Fells), partake of our lifestyle, share the warmth that reflects the hospitality in the Lake District, bring your Mrs/Mr, kids etc, and learn what it is that I and others have fought so hard to connect all these years.

Yes, it's a conference, but it's on a Saturday, and therefore you can make a weekend of it. This is without a doubt one of the most gorgeous parts of England - why go home in a hurry?!

We are happy, as Eden residents, to arrange Friday evening events in Penrith etc, and Sunday outings around our great outdoors. We would like you to come and enjoy this fabulous part of England, and are happy to make your time here with family, friends, colleagues over the weekend of the 18th Sept 2010 into a memorable occasion, far beyond broadband alone.

But if all you want to talk about is rural broadband,we can offer you a once in a lifetime trip with full colloquium opportunities, and the chance to present your solutions to the companies and communities ready to do so!

Book your family weekend away in September to the Eden Valley and the Lake District and see how life here really is. You won't ever see anything like this at a London conference - don't miss out!

If you need a deal for accommodation, travel etc, get in touch through this blog or Cumbria Tourist Board. Come and stay, you really won't ever regret it.

Check out our Big Society award winning photos and community plan
Read more!

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Celebration of Speed event

Read more! Rural fibre connections continue apace it seems and this week sees the "Celebration of Speed" event This blog post can be read at

LoopScorpio have provided the Ullenwood Court Business Park near Cheltenham with 21st century connections, and in doing so have also brought decent connectivity to nearby towns over their own fibre network.

Undoubtedly, these are precisely the type of places that would fall into the final third, and this approach of mixing business with pleasure (e.g. homes and businesses) carries a level of sustainability with it. It also means that those who are in notspots can be 'subsidised' by the businesses, meaning a general I.T. upskilling in the area which can only be a good thing for businesses seeking employees locally.

Good luck to Loop Scorpio with their rural broadband future,and here's hoping we see more such announcements about local people JFDI.

Read more!

Bringing Utopia to Eden

Read more! WRITTEN BY GUY JARVIS: At the BDUK Industry Day last Thursday, potentially the most important announcement was, perhaps surprisingly, not the three market testing areas (quite what there is to test about the engineering and economics of FiWi deployment that is not already known is unclear - the challenge to date has been funding the build phase)

This blog post can be read at

The most interesting announcement was the forthcoming Cumbria Conference to be held over the weekend of 18th/19th September in Penrith and hosted by Rory Stewart, newly-elected MP for Penrith and the Border.

The objective is bold and the timing is right:

The Government Coalition has a big idea, Building the Big Society, and one of the great things about broadband, that Rory and his team have begun to realise, is that it provides a focus for local communities to come together and bring about a common benefit, in the form of the 4th Utility.

The 4th Utility is shorthand for:

World Class - a moving and ever improving target - Kaizen is the key word, continuous gradual improvement

Killer cap is the killer app - eliminating the need to consider the availability of sufficient speed and quality of service is the definition of the 4th Utility.

A future proof telecommunications access infrastructure in the First Mile which makes concerns about network capacity are a thing of the past - speed becomes an irrelevance.

Communities at a Parish-by-Parish level should have the opportunity to make an informed choice of alternatives for how their 4th Utility is delivered and on what terms.

Building the Big Society

Is Building the Big Society an approach that will enable local communities to secure their Digital Futures?

Perhaps, so long as the process of localism, handing power to local communities to make their own decisions, is genuine.

The important point to understand is that the engineering and economic cost delivery models are finalised - the supply side of FttH and FiWi is settled.

And the proposition is simple.

If your community is ready to demand its world-class future-proof 4th utility then the economic model already exists for any capable service provider to seek to establish and deliver that service.

An interesting aspect of the CIC approach is the locking of the FttH assets so that they cannot be sold on to other than CIC alternative owners without the express direction of the CIC Regulator.

Governance is the long term determinant of the terms of trade balance, in other words, who owns the network determines the deal on offer to customers.

CIC is all about preventing the existence of divergent objectives, all about creating a positive nexus, a common set of interests, of shared purpose, between monopoly access supplier and local community of customers (digital consumers and creators both)

Best Value Taxpayer Funding

Where taxpayer funding for market testing projects misses the point is that it is promoting and rewarding a promise.

Better to derisk the proposition by rewarding delivery and look to standardisation not competition in access infrastructure and it is the governance structure that matters

Why does the Community Interest matter?

Such a valuable and natural monopoly as the 4th utility, a service that has an expected operational life at least equal to that of the copper wire metallic path telephone system i.e. the rest of this century, needs careful thought and informed action now to ensure the interests of present and future generations are foremost.

Better for a nexus between supplier and customer by design than allowing an adversarial relationship to emerge by doing nothing to challenge the telecoms status quo.

What is required to complete the 4th Utility jigsaw and realise world-class connectivity across the UK is for local communities to be positioned to make informed choices.

Choices about what happens after these new networks are built, how are they governed and in whose interests - shareholders, customers, both and if so in what proportion - do people come first or profits?

Provide each community champion with an information pack - can in a box - that identifies the actuality in their locality and the options available.

Regardless of our day jobs we are all 4th Utility customers

To maximise the benefits and compete globally, as customers, what matters, the test of success, is achieving the value for money at a price point that does not restrict accessibility for all.

This not to say that everyone must directly pay for service either.

There are transformational government services that may in themselves warrant providing 4th Utility access free at the point of use

When the savings on reduced transactional costs, e.g. on freeing up hospital space earlier by enabling independent living, outweigh the cost of access then it makes sense to provision that access free at the point of use.

This helpfully solves Martha's Race Online 2012 problem too.

Read more!

Monday 19 July 2010

JFDI for your community

Read more! Recently, some of us, who make no claims at all to be telecoms experts (unlike others I could name and shame) have come under fire for our views, lack of technical expertise etc. In fact, it reminds me of a previous era, nigh on 8-10 years ago, when our views as first gen doers rather than complainants, came under equivalent fire. This blog post can be read at

I make no bones about not understanding all there is to know about FTTH, fibre splicing, tier 1,2,3 etc, and have spent much of my children's childhood and college allowance on trying to educate myself so I can at least try to argue the case for what I believe in. (Which is a lot more practical than technical). According to the recent critics, not with much success. BUT, I know that I have skills, as do many others around me, that none of the critics can even dream about possessing.

Which is why I welcome the fact that the government has finally stopped taking consultants' views as the 'real thing' and started listening to real people. Not necessarily me, I hasten to add, but people who have a vision of how the UK could look and how to achieve it.

One of those who has listened to many views is my recently elected MP - Rory Stewart. I've read parts of his books and am envious of his experiences walking, alone, across the Far East, India, as well as his task as CPA etc. I've been to that part of the world, too. But my book doesn't have quite such an exciting title nor probably content as his - Fiasco. Hmmm! But he is another one who saw the value of taking a sabbatical and getting real world experience. And for that - utmost respect to one of a new generation of MPs who actually have real world experience. His recent columns in our local paper have made refreshing reading.

And now today, we will see something new and novel and exciting. Especially for our patch. I'd like to say to the disclaimers, especially as a Quaker - HOLD YOUR FIRE. The world has moved on, new things are afoot, give us a chance to prove ourselves. There are an awful lot of people seemingly on (y)our side to make things happen - JFDI - and they are in positions of knowledge, experience, expertise, and more. Please join in, inside of trying the 'divide and conquer' tactic.

Let us have a chance to show our hand, to do what is required to achieve 'our dreams', and if/when we don't (again, for some of us) then, and only then, knock us down. Or you could be stopping exactly what this country requires - innovation, creativity, out of the box thinking, collaboration, co-operation etc.

I lived in Spanish speaking countries for a long time and I would say - Mañana es otro dia. All of you who are ripping shreds out of some of the grassroots people, you can either watch, or you can get involved. It's up to you.

If you know so much, then contribute, collaborate, co-operate and make it happen for this country, a little bit at a time. As someone said recently, "It's just like eating an elephant. If we all take a bite, it will be dealt with so much quicker". (Conservationists, pls back off - it's a theoretical elephant!!!)

Read more!

Sunday 11 July 2010

The USC doesn't work - I tried with #moat

Read more! I did my best with my impoverished kit to record what happened last night. A manhunt was going on near to our neighbourhood (my friends were up there buying a combine harvester at lunchtime and had phoned me to ask for directions from Google Maps as the sat nav couldn't find the postcode). Therefore, I had a very close interest in the area yesterday.

The connection I was on at the time, which I managed to record at 1.96Mbps down and a mere 400kbps up, ie the proposed USC, ***FAILED*** utterly to cope with today's apps.

This blog post can be read at

This was the speed test I did yesterday before the story became what it did.

I then proceeded to try and watch the unfolding of the #moat gate drama. Without turning on a TV.

If you follow me on Twitter, you will see I posted links to the Real Radio interview with Gazza, talked about 5Live radio, was blatantly watching Sky News HD (I do not have a Sky pot), and was also trying to watch BBC News 24 whilst listening to Real Radio and others to get the latest news. Online, on the above connection. It took all of my ingenuity.....

I think that the above would be a fairly standard news consumption for a major breaking news story. I'm not a journalist. Just a person who spent hours as a baby and adult nr the River Coquet, and who had friends who unwittingly found themselves in the vicinity. Or who was interested. There were THOUSANDS of people on twitter, radio stations, TV etc who could claim that level of interest or more last night.

I do NOT have a video of the farce that was the 2Mbps connection when I tried to stream Sky, BBC News and Radio5, real radio etc, but I do have a video of much earlier in the day. No-one could accuse me of trying to push the connection to the limits (which perhaps you might like to argue I was later on in the night, as a standard consumer endeavouring to follow a breaking story on my doorstep).

All I can say is this:

If you think 2Mbps in a rural area will work, it bloody won't. And if you think FTTC will work, then you have failed to understand what WE, the people, intend to do in the future....if a story like this breaks on my doorstep, and I am drowning in journos screwing up the mobile network, then I'll be uploading this to over my own fat pipe (not a limited one) in full HD cos my iphone can do that TODAY. And it won't be over the mobile network unless it needs to be.

(P.S. Please note: it has taken me nigh on an hour and a half (2 now) to write this blog post because of the uploads that should have taken about 5-8 mins on a decent connection. No wonder my productivity as an SME is dropping..... I am still battling the video upload, it may turn up later - UGH) Please come back and watch it.

UPDATE: Finally.

Right, I make no apologies for the failure of my Nokia N97 to record off a screen. It doesn't work full stop but I can't afford to replace it. But, ALL that was running at the time was Sky News and this is how a 2Mbps connection coped. Buffer, buffer, buffer. It's all many of us see on iplayer etc every single day.

Then, add in all that I tried to do later on in the evening with 2 TV feeds, 3 radio feeds, Tweetdeck plus Twitter and ongoing web searches for news. #FAIL

This is NOTHIING. I should have been playing bingo, uploading the videos from the kids' school play, watching the other parent's contributions from the play, following Facebook updates to see why sprog 1 hadn't come home yet, etc etc. As Well.

I can't do that on my Friday night connection - do you think I should just be watching Big Brother? GTFOOH.

Think FTTC will cope? Put FTTC into my cabinet and let's see what my rural neighbours and I can do on a totally unlimited connection that you, Mr Ian Livingstone, believe will give us access to new applications..... I'm quite content with the old ones right now, but happy to explore, so bring it on! I'll break it quite happily after last night as soon as you do.

Read more!

Friday 9 July 2010

Why Iwade is not the answer

Read more! I have been sent the following article to publish on this blog by someone I met at the FTTH Council conference in Lisbon. Meanwhile, Ian Livingstone, CEO of BT, wrote to me this morning saying:

Whilst we expect to provide FTTP to a number of areas, FTTC will provide a really good service and enable a new range of applications. Our customers would not recognise your description of this as ‘a waste of time’.

Well, it's not just me who would beg to differ, Ian.....

This blog post can be read at

Back in those dark, distant days of the adsl rollout in 2003/4 BT learnt four very powerful lessons it is putting to good use today.

Lesson number one: Governments have money!

When Governments feel that they are being pressurised by the pesky electorate to sort out important problems, they have a habit of throwing money at the problem (not, you note, at the solution!). Not being commercial entities themselves (some might say, a million light years away from being such entities!), they tend to have no idea as to (a) how much things really should cost, (b) how long things really should take to sort out, (c) what the "real" answer really should be.

Gaining access to this "free" money can be very difficult (and indeed expensive) for the novice. However, once you have learnt the rules, the money can then start to flow in.

Three important rules that BT learnt back in those early days:

* never do for free what you can get someone to pay for
* be prepared (happy even!) to step in and "rescue" the day where other providers have gone bust having spent all of the "free" money
* undermine other recipients wherever practical by deciding to now do it anyway!

Lesson number two: Governments distrust small companies to deliver!

Ok, so the Government has decided that the market needs a helping hand if those "hard to service" areas are to enjoy the benefits of decent broadband. Given that the money is now available, the Government must now ensure that it is spent wisely. They thus tend to follow the "nobody got fired for buying IBM" rule. However, courtesy of Brussels, they can cleverly hide this fact! By adopting "obligatory" EU procurement rules they can insist on "open tenders" with defined "scoring mechanisms". These help ensure that even where a local provider has been the driving force behind the money being made available, once the decision is made EU rules dictate that "everyone" is free to bid on a "level playing field". Level playing fields tend to be expensive, and sometimes impossible, for small companies to measure up against - for example, if one of the scoring criteria is the financial "soundness" of the company ("can you demonstrate a turnover and profitability of £x million over the last five years?").

Lesson number three: As a monopolist, only BT can supply a competitive service!

This one sounds insane, I know, but bear with me!

Small companies want to provide innovative, local solutions to problems. Trouble is that in the broadband sphere, if they succeed then they are the only effective provider in that locality.

Medium to large companies tend to go hunting for "vertically integrated" solutions. Thus, if they have put in the investment then they want to own the customer relationship. "Why should other, competitive companies benefit from our significant investment and hard work?"

BT has what Ofcom refers to as "Significant Market Power". This means that BT must "play by the rules" and allow competing operators "equal access" to the infrastructure. The result of this is that it is (to date) only with BT that the end consumer ends up with some sort of choice as to who they pay for their service!

As Nicola McKenzie was quoted as saying in the article about Iwade in The Telegraph on 8th July 2010: " became possible to push for a network where there’d be competition for customers, because any broadband provider can use BT infrastructure, which they would maintain for the future.”

Lesson number four: Bitstream is more profitable than unbundling!

Those who have studied business will know about the concepts of the "Value Chain" and "Vertical Integration". Basically, these concepts state that the greater the proportion of the overall solution that you are responsible for providing, the greater the proportion of the available revenue (and hopefully return on investment) that you will enjoy. However, there is an additonal benefit to be gained - the tighter the control you will enjoy on the development of the marketplace (in terms of future product and service innovation).

"Everyone knows" the real end game is fibre to the home. BT in particular is very well aware that if their existing copper local loop infrastructure was replaced by a true fibre equivalent then they would be forced to "unbundle" it and would lose all control over the products and services provided over it. They have witnessed the enormous success of local loop unbundling in the UK and have absolutely no desire for this to be replicated over a fibre network. Why else do you think that BT is adopting its two pronged approach to access network evolution?

What are the two prongs?

1) deploy fibre into the access network in an incremental manner - hence "fibre to the cabinet", or FTTC. With this approach, BT can achieve two things. Firstly, they push the active electronics out to the street cabinet, which has the effect of destroying the business case for competitive operators in most situations (there are just not enough available customers per street cabinet to warrant competitive provision of equipment at the street cabinet). Secondly, they can ensure that (oops!) there is not enough fibre deployed between the exchange and the street cabinets to cope with "true" point-to-point fibre to the home at a later date.

2) where BT must show some sort of enthusiasm for at least trialling fibre-to-the-home, ensure that the fibre infrastructure cannot be unbundled. Enter Passive Optical Networking (PON for short) as the solution of choice for incumbents!

So, whilst Iwade is excellent, short term, news for the residents who will now "enjoy" much faster broadband speeds, it is in effect locking them in to having BT as the only supplier of active (not passive) "first mile" infrastructure, and thus total control over the scope and scale of the products and service delivered over it. Even worse, BT is being paid public money to allow it to reinforce its dominant market position.

There has to be a better way! AND THERE IS!!

We should stop attaching sticking plasters to a gaping wound and instead begin to implement the real cure. There is only one, true technical solution out there and that is a real fibre equivalent to the existing copper local loop infrastructure. Quite simply, whereas today we have hundreds, if not thousands, of homes with direct, dedicated copper connections back to the central exchange, in the future we should have hundreds, if not thousands, of homes enjoying direct dedicated fibre connections back to equivalent central exchanges. Furthermore, this point-to-point fibre architecture should be available to all competing service providers in the same way as the copper local loop is today. Finally, stop this insane belief system that BT is the only possible company out there that can deliver!

Free the mind, free the market - that way, true 21st century product and service innovation will flow!

Read more!

iwade up the odds ...and went with BT, Wot a f*** up.

Read more! Furious doesn't even touch what I feel today. I am waiting for replies from BT because I think we now have an ex-state corporate taking the piss. Big style. And I, you and everyone deserves an explanation. Especially because BT think they have just found a route in to public funding through parish and local councils. "Who generally know nothing on this subject and are easy to play" - Jeremy, Ed, etc, get your radar switched on to what is happening behind your backs......

This blog post can be read at

It would be nice if BT would send the full disclosure on Iwade to everyone who needs it. All we have at present is a pretty press release (which I refuse to link to) and a site telling you that if you are in the final third, BT have just found a way round it. Called FTTC. Believe that, you'll believe anything TBH.

Sorry dad for the swear words, but bollocks, BT. You can sweat the copper asset as long as you want but Charles Dunstone et al are already taking you out with their wireless offerings, and I can name multiple honourable companies who will stop this first mile monopoly you are trying to achieve.

And I think you might find there are bloggers whose audience are seriously unimpressed with this latest....

Stop conning the British public, BT.

FTTC is a farce. There are no two ways to look at it. From a next gen point of view, FTTC is a waste of time. Street cabs in Hove (where I used to live) or anywhere else are unneeded because we need FTTH. FTTC is asset sweating and you, BT, taking public taxpayers' money to do your job as a commercial company and endeavouring to LOCK DOWN the assets so only YOU will benefit when we get FTTH is a no-no.

Let's get to the crux of the matter - network design. If I need to go out to the Internet to talk to my neighbour on a video call, something is wrong. If my e-video with the GP goes out to the Net, the network is not right. That is what BT is selling you - or Ian, put me right.

Design the network as a distributed core network that is localised where it needs be save a bloody fortune. You let people talk to their neighbours in the cloud. You permit neighbours to chat over a VPN local network. Or correct me if I'm wrong. I'm trying to put this as simply as possible, though I know my readers quite well and they would undoubtedly prefer it to be more complex. (And will, if and when reqd contribute, especially if you, BT, do).

I want to know if iWade is a publicity scam, because that is what it looks like. I also want to know who said that you, BT, had any say over where and who got NGA/FTTH? And to those in government, ask youself really carefully, why BT have said x place is not viable? Stop playing the tune of 66% of the UK.

I actually think that we now have enough people ready to dig FTTH in, just as other countries have already done it.

Hmm, BT, maybe we will just go round you. And don't you know it....hence iwade. Rutland have already gazumped you by doing FTTC without scamming the Parish council, haven't they? Watch them put FTTH in without you - we are.

Why do we need BT to have the best, fastest, most scrumptious internet connection? Can't we build it ourselves and leave you, BT, out the loop entirely? Oooh yes.

Read more!

Thursday 8 July 2010

Why grassroots matters

Read more! I would not normally do this, but the last few years have put me in touch with people for whom I have the deepest respect. I have met people who are literally the salt of the earth. I have been very, very lucky. I have also met their antithesis - seeking career boons, pensions, fast cars, money, with no care for the end game, or those it will affect.

I'm not sure I understand all of the truth and heart behind what is being done to make Broadband Britain happen, despite all the years I have been involved, but this poem and Panchatantra help.

I know, sadly, that there are many out there who pretend to be behind the 'cause' but I think this might be the test to prove their value to the UK Endgame.

This blog post can be read at

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

–Rudyard Kipling
Read more!

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Convergence + Divergence = FiWi

Read more! Only a few days ago, someone very techy I have known for a long while said during a conversation about fat pipes, "I still haven't worked out what the killer app will be". My instant response was video as I strongly believe that we are heading towards a virtual reality scenario where making a video call will become as natural as making a mobile call now is for the vast majority of the world. Perhaps we should call this 'virtual naturality'?

This blog post can be read at

However, we should not even be thinking of the term "killer app" any more. The term came from the world of commerce who saw it as the golden goose which would lay the most profitable egg. It comes from a boom and bust, bubbly world that focuses on money before all else. It came from a need to 'justify the Internet' - how bizarre that sounds today?

From a network point of view, the killer app has also potentially had a less positive feel - could there be an app that would break the network? Some of us have always hoped that there was as it would highlight the inefficiencies and design faults within the core network and mean it would need to be fixed before ere long and hence remove that bottleneck and break the scarcity model once and for all!

Killer App becomes Killer Cap, as in capacity, capability?

I digress...I have been thinking about convergence and divergence recently. Convergence because we are all seeing new devices etc which overlap and bring unexpected features and functionality into easy reach. Divergence because we are moving away from expected models and futures because of the convergence.

For those of us who have been banging on about Fibre To The Home, fat pipes, and FiWi (increasingly), there has never been a need for a single killer app to prove our point that people need to be able to do precisely what they want to do over a network wherever they are, whenever they choose to and however they want to do it.

People will do what they choose and applications will rise and fall in popularity, meaning that the network must be sufficiently capable of dealing with the vagaries of human nature and differing interests far more than it needs to be able to cope with a killer app. (It also needs to cope with "consumers are also creators", and asymmetry is the biggest problem here once people have sufficient bandwidth and the devices to share what they have created.)

However, convergence has meant that the mobile phone has taken a starring role in driving forward application development and hence network usage. Mobiles have introduced more people to technology than computers have. Whilst digital video cameras may be expensive, the video on your mobile is usually more than sufficient to 'capture a moment' and MMS, Bluetooth etc have meant sharing it, whether via the Internet eg Youtube, Facebook etc or directly to another handset, is something that most people can master reasonably easily.

And herein lies the divergence, and, to me, the importance of FiWi. FiWi is Fibre ---> Wireless. (Many people forget that a mobile phone is a wireless device but for the purpose of this article, wireless also encompasses all the different uses of the wireless spectrum - wi-fi, Wimax (RIP?), GSM etc.)

A fat pipe is required for backhaul and the core network. There are no two ways about that, especially as our data transport requirements soar by the hour. If you cannot send enough packets through the network, consumers will moan. And rightly so. However, where the fat pipe reaches to only becomes an issue if the device and application(s) at the end of the first mile e.g. under the consumer's fingertips are using bloated code.

Mobile applications have necessarily used tight programming and compression techniques. Firstly, because of the internal memory limitations of the device, but also because the mobile network has limited capacity. The spectrum is a finite resource. You can't be letting people send 20 photos of granny's birthday party which are all 50MB, f'r instance.

But web applications have been developed with increasing amounts of memory eg in personal computers and servers, and increasing amounts of bandwidth available to the consumer to send or receive data. This has allowed web programmers to become 'lazy'. Why develop awesome compression techniques for videos if the connectivity a typical consumer has can handle what is already existent, and the likelihood is that this connectivity is only going to get fatter?

WAP was a much-maligned protocol but actually it was thinking along the right lines. People are going to use wireless to access the Net. More so now than ever before as the convergence becomes inherent in our thinking. iPads, iPods, smartphones and even your average £10 mobile handset can all access the Net. The idea that to do so would require you to plug in to any type of socket is now anathema to all of us.

Whether the wireless is in the first inch ie the wireless access point that spews wireless around your house or in the Bluetooth you use to share your photos, or the first mile ie to overcome technical difficulties with laying a fixed line solution, or even a satellite connection (which is also wireless), if you then connect this to fibre, you have the answer to the problem.

What problem? Oh, well, that'll be how to get fibre as close to every single human as possible.

Read more!

USC - the too low bar

Read more! Peter Cochrane comes up trumps again. If you haven't read his latest post about the need for high bandwidth, make it the one thing you do today. This blog post can be read at

Whilst the majority of the post could be read as relating to business benefits, you can also substitute personal and individual benefits to every point. You could spend hours imagining what the world would be like with more's a few f'r instances.

1. Outputs can be as simple as kids developing their own video series (probably not for mass consumption, but you never know!) during the school holidays when one is in Spain and the other in the UK. "I've got this video I made to start us off.I should be able to upload it over the next few hours whilst you go to the water park, get distracted and forget the original idea entirely...."

2. Whether this is travel to a family event, a hospital appointment from your armchair, or a simple video conference showing your daughter how to make Yorkshire puddings now she has left home...."No, not like that!"

3. Team working happens in every family and community, and between communities - look at how successful town twinning has been in developing relationships, both personal and commercial. The limitations are always the geography and communication tools e.g. the need to visit somewhere and see for yourself what they might mean when describing a particular opportunity.

4. "What do you mean you couldn't find the answers for your homework?" "I've uploaded all the Parish videos, photos and cine film for the last 40 years this morning." "Your X-Rays are in your inbox - now, if you look here you can see..."

5. Thin clients instead of complex computers that people can't use, software expenses dramatically reduced, walled gardens for non-competent user protection, etc. Tornado/flood approaching? Pick up your laptop, move to somewhere safer and all is still there in the cloud. Green data centres for localised content storage not requiring expensive Internet transit.

6. As Peter says, we can't even begin to guess what this will bring, and it will all become as second nature to us in the next few years - virtual naturality.

7. Communities will have access to data to mash up for their locality to better understand what impact certain decisions will have, based on modelling, best practice and lessons leaned elsewhere.

8. Rapid prototyping and manufacture - "I've made this out of plasticine, 2 margarine tubs and a stick of rock, but I need the gearing out of metal and then it will make rope for my Action Man's climbing expedition." "The village clock needs mending, but the quote was so expensive, we'd never afford it. But John designed the required part in the pub last night with Jimmy and it should be ready tomorrow."

9. Add in all the user, rather than just the Hollywood/Murdoch created content, and this becomes oh so exciting. Citizentube Live, oh wow!

10. See previous post about FiWi!

What Peter has done has taken everyone beyond 'broadband' into the world of what is easily achieveable when you remove the scarcity model. All the USC is doing is attempting to restrict us entrance into that world for much longer.
Read more!

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Balancing the books to justify NGA investment

Read more!

Off go the supposed great and good of the telecom world to meet the newbie government in July, and once again, we could be setting the scene for a lesson we have already learned the hard way in the past to be repeated.

This blog post can be read at

The Americans have just realised that when you leave the telcos to it, you have a lack of competition and innovation, resulting in a digital divide. We in the UK know that when you leave the telcos to it, you have limited competition (i.e. for years they all just flogged exactly the same product), a business-model driven approach to innovation i.e. bugger all in case the shareholders get jittery, and a digital chasm.

Over and over again, we see the same statements being spouted about next generation broadband/access/networks, and the same people consulted on how to do it. Without sufficient evidence, debate or discussion about why these statements are still as untrue as when they first entered the public domain, or these people are the wrong people to advise. I'm going to pick on one statement which has irked me out of my bit mine as it keeps being said and no-one seems to be disputing it.

“Rural next generation access is not financially viable”.

Says who? Ah yes, the telcos. So, here's my take on it as I'm not invited to the meeting in July and am bored after 15 years of shouting into the vacuum that is Westminster anyway.

When we look at the cost-benefit equation for building any new service or utility (think railways, canals etc), do we, with the benefits of hindsight in the case of railways and canals, say that those utilities have only provided a financial return on investment? Or do we look at the untold myriad, and possibly infinite, benefits that have been reaped that are a) not directly related to the initial investment or returned to the initial investors and b) are social benefits to the community as a whole?

What we are endeavouring to build here is not some built-in obsolence product/service with a short lifespan, but a long-term communications network that really will be about the NEXT GENERATIONs e.g. our kids. If those building the canals had had any comprehension that canals would not be used for shipping coal at all, but for leisure activities, they would probably have been horrified that there would come to pass a world where people had so much free time and spare cash to squander they could block up these precious conduits of commerce.

They would also undoubtedly have attempted to cash in as much as they could during their own lifetimes to get the biggest bite of the cherry. This in itself could have driven the assets to unsustainability and seen them fail, but luckily, we had a culture of innovation back then; it was, after all, a time of revolution. Industrial revolution. New and wondrous things were appearing each day to progress society, not just to fill commercial pockets. Like the railways....

Around 40 years ago, I fell in a canal - the Erewash. Its supposed guardian had allowed it to become overgrown, unused and derelict following our favourite chap's closure of the canal in 1963 (Beeching). A band of enthusiastic volunteers had the vision to start restoring it so that it could be of use again. Not to ship coal and goods up and down the country as was its original purpose, but to enjoy with narrow boats, dinghys, and in my case, wellies.

There were few grants for such activities back then, and money was raised in the time-honoured fashion of the Brits – coffee mornings, jumble sales etc. Few in authority had the vision to realise, unlike the people who lived along it and wanted to use it, that here was a resource that had yet more life to it than as an ancient, deteriorating relic of times gone by. All they could see was a problem with no future they could imagine and that would be expensive to face up to. (See the parallels yet?!)

So, the restoration was carried out by volunteers, giving up precious time, skills, experience, knowledge and energy until it became blatantly obvious to those in positions of so-called authority, who had done little to nothing up to that point, that here was a genuinely awesome asset. Of course, they suddenly realised its potential and viability and took over again to reap the benefits.

Grassroots activists, volunteers and visionaries did the hard work. They JFDI and made the unthinkable happen. Look at the Erewash Canal Preservation Society website and see what a difference that canal has made to the community it now SERVES. The photo on the homepage is of Langley Mill Basin, which on its opening day in 1970, I managed, for once, not to fall into whilst in a dinghy with the team clearing out discarded beer cans and bottles from the celebrations. To see so many boats in the photo is truly awe-inspiring - we achieved that?!

Not only does the canal now provide a direct income (e.g. to British Waterways); it also provides untold indirect incomes along the length of the canal, in villages that border it, to nearby transport providers, boat hire people, cycle hire, cafes, pubs, shops, you name it who earn a living from the visitors to and users of the canal. Those who originally built it would be astounded at its commercial reach as a leisure asset.

But, most importantly, it has brought life back into the community. It has indisputedly contributed directly to the WELL-BEING of the community, to those whose lives it touches (and touched, somewhat wetly, in the past), and this well-being no doubt radiates outwards in ripples. Go on a boating holiday on the canal and you will return to work refreshed and invigorated, I promise. (Even if your sprog tries very hard to drown and ruin your day.)

Can that well-being be measured? Yes, but not necessarily in fiscal terms on a spreadsheet. Can it be seen and monitored and felt? Yes, yes and yes again.

If we cannot learn from the canal and railway builders, from those who put in electricity before we even had the national grid, who dug water into villages before the Water Boards etc etc etc, and apply the lessons that financial return on investment is almost bordering on irrelevant in these cases of utilities, we are going to go nowhere in achieving next generation access AS IT SHOULD BE DONE. We are not building something that is only going to pay back to its original investors and builders; we are building something that will change lives. Not just of our generation, but of the next and next and next.

If we permit those who ONLY have a financial interest in the short-term to direct the plans for next generation access, we have failed completely to learn from history. We will have failed our children and their children. We will have let ourselves down. We will let down this country, its citizens and both our present and future economies.

Saying that it is too expensive ignores the very real benefits that will come, which will reach far and beyond the pockets of the initial investors, and touch lives far into the future. How much do we value our citizens and their well-being if a cost of £1000 per head (and that's being monstrously generous) is TOO EXPENSIVE?

If each citizen who uses the Internet, let alone who uses next generation access and all that will do, can potentially save at the very least £600 per year personally, according to Martha Lane-Fox, then how can rural next generation access, where the savings are likely to be considerably higher, ever be too expensive just on that front alone? Oh, is it because, p'raps, that £600+ doesn't go to the telcos? Of course it will be spent within those communities (blue pound) or on whatsoever that consumer decides to spend it on, won't it? This in itself could help to offset some of the jiggery pokery that has been caused by the recession and will be caused in the months and years to come as we face national cuts. And even more benefits can be reaped if the asset is owned by those self-same communities not a self-serving telco.

But on a non-fiscal level - how can you put a price on the well-being of communities? How can you allow commercial companies to dictate whether or not that well-being can be enjoyed? It's like saying that everyone who starts an e-commerce business has to give the telcos a cut of their profits for providing the internet connection, or that internet connectivity can only be used for non-commercial activities because the telcos aren't enjoying the fiscal return.

The well-being of a community cannot be measured in £££s, but its impact often can. More people to run the school fete means more people to promote it to friends and family, more money to spend at the end, less reliance on other means eg LEA to keep the school going, a better school environment for the kids, happier parents, after school clubs so parents can work longer if they choose etc etc.

The cost of installing next generation access will fall to a few; there can be no doubt about that. But the returns must be enjoyed by the many, or we have failed to comprehend the real value of what we are trying to do. And to get to that day, we must accept that next generation broadband is never too expensive, wherever it may be, because of the community and citizen well-being it will engender.
Read more!