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Thursday 19 August 2010

BT ad

Read more! For those who thought my silent B in the headline of the last post was confusing and/or that it referred to the BT ad where consumers choose an ending, due to be aired on Wednesday 18th August 2010....

This blog post can be read at

I think the news story you are looking for is this one.....BT ad viewers choose ending for TV advert

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Wednesday 18 August 2010

BTad confused

Read more! (with a silent B) No, I really am confused and more than a tad. What exactly are BT OpenRetch doing in rural areas like mine?

This blog post can be read at

Left the farm this morning to take sprog to dentist - a mere 90 mile round trip for those of you who live in towns and struggle to understand our annual mileage (20k without doing anything beyond normal daily tasks). Parked in the single track road outside was a BT cherry picker, plus 2 vans, engines running and 3 BT bods, wandering around. Time: 10.30, they had been there since around 9am, with engines running.

Purpose (seemingly): to replace a perfectly good telegraph pole in the field across from an almost unused yard to the only house that wants/needs a telephone line. There's no broadband here over ADSL, hence the satellite dish, routers, external ethernet draped between houses etc. BT seemingly can't 'get' ADSL to this farm cluster so why replace wires? No wire replacement will ever reduce the distance to the exchange (around 9km) unless you put fibre in from exchange-->village-->farms.

Ask BT bod why the need to replace the pole. "This is marked as a courtyard on our plans so we have to put a 16ft pole in". "But the current pole is on a bank over 3ft above the road, the wire is already over 16ft above the road and courtyard, and any way, it's not a courtyard". "No matter, we're changing it." "Have you informed the occupants of the farmhouse?" "Someone came round a couple of weeks ago....." "The guy who came to look at the pole...? He didn't talk to any of us and the occupants of the farmhouse are in the USA right now. Do they know you are going to be attaching new wires to their house?" "We don't deal with customer issues like that......."

BT bod wanders off to breathe in the exhaust fumes from one of the trucks.

I return at 2pm. Must be lunchtime or a break as two of the cabs are occupied whilst all equipment requiring diesel is unmanned. BUT, engines are still running - ask farmer and audience if they have been running all morning? Yep.

The cherry picker sits, dormant, which makes me struggle to work out how much fuel has been burnt in close proximity to my vegetable garden in the last 5.5hrs, and why. But I have to admit there is a new pole in situ, which now towers over the landscape on the drive from the village and whilst I say it is technicolour red, I'm sure it's just some eco-friendly form of creosote. And we all know it takes around 3 hours to drop a replacement pole into an existing hole. And of course, this is Cumbria, and hell, it's only August, so I'm sure all three vehicles have needed to run their heaters all day.....

I'm doing my best to put a positive spin on the OpenRetch visit but I can't find one. I don't know what this truck and its van pals have put out in carbon monoxide in the last few hours but I can guarantee it has a) cost BT a fairly substantial amount in fuel even on tickover without the minimal PTO use the planting of the pole took and b) caused a totally unnecessary hit to the environment up here today.

The Swiss insist you turn off your engine whilst waiting at traffic lights and penalise a failure to do so - oh for a similar form of citizen's arrest for people who pollute my precious bit of the planet.

I watch, from a safe distance, behind bullet proof glass (for the BT chaps' sake, not mine), as the copper wire that has been taken down is not re-used, though it would definitely reach, and finally, the need to warm the engines up is made clear as the cherry picker is used by a now well-fed, centrally heated, and newly caffeined OpenRetch engineer as he attaches a new cable from pole to pole, and pole to house.

Gone 3pm and the main truck moves off the single track road and parks on the neighbour's drive (luckily, of course, they are away, or he would have blocked their access entirely) so they can now climb ladders and attach new copper cable to the house. Struggle to spot the old copper cable as suspect it might make a few quid on Ebay or from someone seeking to supplement their income. (Average wage round here is £14k, but most people think we choose to live this idyllic rural lifestyle but I still know the odd person who would appreciate a few extra bob to spend on petrol to go 10miles for a pint of milk, over-inflated rural food prices etc.)

Reconsider where the copper may have gone....after all, from what I have seen today with the casual attitude to the environment by the OpenRetchers, if it is going to be lobbed into the landfill rather than recycled etc, I'll have it to resell for the playgroup, air ambulance, or even Big Society projects.

As far as any of us know, no permission has been given nor sought for this BT work, so should there be a problem with the new fixing (entirely different to the old, of course), it's presumably a problem that a call to directory enquiries is unlikely to solve. Debate asking the BT bods for a phone to ring the USA and ask if they knew this would be going on whilst they were on holiday. Momentary concern as to whether this was planned according to a quick peek at their emails to check when they would be away. Attempt to dismiss such conspiracy theories, but it's not easy.

BT eventually drive away around 4pm (must get the vans back to the depot by 5pm presumably and clock off), having spent a full workday day putting in an entirely unneeded pole, cost approx £400-£600 in pole alone, let alone cable, peeps and vans (with no toilet - I have to admit that has worried me all day because my cornflowers etc next to the pole are quite sensitive to acidity and they never asked to use the loo, but we are not inhuman), the massive, pointless consumption of fuel on the doorstep and the fumes that has undoubtedly left, the wasted copper, and the fact.....

this is the biggie....

it would have cost less to run fibre and ducting through the field than it did to replace an obsolete technology to ONE HOUSE. Plus, had BT actually spoken to the 4 houses in the cluster, they'd have found untold offers of help to do something useful rather than sit here with engines running all day, purely because someone in an office has looked at a plan and said, "That's a courtyard."

Not, "That's a courtyard/pole/wire that allows us access to THREE houses plus a neighbour and 2 businesses we currently can't get the USC to EVER and who don't have a BT phone account even........oooh, they are farmers, shall we see if they can help us deal with the first round, the final third, of USC people?"

Oh no. Joined up thinking? No chance. Let's go pollute the hell out of a farm for a day, waste 3 employees' time, burn untold gallons of diesel, replace a pole and bin the old one, and the copper wire too, FOR NO GOOD REASON WHATSOEVER except some plonker in the office, who has never been anywhere near this farm, is ticking all of his boxes to prove he is worth employing.

BT, I suggest you come and visit this pole again very soon. Now it is so much higher than the old one, I can see an overhead power pole down the road from the top of it that was previously on an uphill run I wasn't sure about. Shortly, you will be wondering whose fibre is running down to the village, where your engineers have spent nigh on 30 months since the Carlisle flood trying to solve the problems of aged and decrepit and corroded copper. It will be our fibre and I hate to say it but these customers you have just spent untold hundreds/thousands of pounds on today - they will be NOT YOURS. I think you may find they are on a community network belonging to us.

Sorry but is it not time you listened, talked, communicated with those whose land you need for your network, and your customers, and those who are determined to change the network map in the UK......

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Friday 13 August 2010

No review on fibre tax

Read more! Having taken a couple of days to calm down at the sheer idiocy of the coalition, it is time to ponder the failure to review the fibre tax.

This blog post can be read at

There are multiple previous posts on the fibre tax on this blog, all bewailing the fact that the Government (previous ones) had failed to comprehend:
  • the distortion caused by the current system towards the incumbent and against new entrants

  • the cost to the UK economy of failing to address the problem by severely limiting fibre deployment

  • the lunacy of not adopting a system which favours the brave with the UK well-being at heart rather than the "corporate canny" with their own shareholder interests

Aidan Paul, Vtesse Networks, at our colloquium in Newark showed in simple graphs what the current fibre rating system means for BT.

In came the coalition and, with it, hopes that the rhetoric preceding the election wasn't just hot air, and that some common sense would exhibit itself in the decisions made by the new bunch at Westminster. BUT, Ed Vaizey has decided, after constructive talks with VOA (constructive for WHOM, one has to ask?), to not review the rating lists.

There is plenty of evidence from other countries who have taken specific routes to deal with the fibre rating issue that once this barrier to deployment is removed, the revenue which is (would have been) forthcoming to the coffers from fibre tax is a DROP IN THE OCEAN compared to that generated directly and indirectly from the use of fibre, to the GDP, GNP and NNI. So, we see increased value in and from the commercial sector (eg businesses), considerable savings to the health service and within education delivery, benefits for citizens (both in personal savings and opportunities generated), plus a huge reduction in costs for delivering government services.

As if all those factors should not be sufficient to convince any government to deal with the problem so fibre deployment happens sooner rather than later, the environmental impact of FTTH alone is such that it becomes a no-brainer vs any type of copper or alt telecoms solution.

What seems to be becoming increasingly clear is that it is over 20 years since *any* government in this country really got the importance of fibre to this country's citizens and economy. This realisation (or lack of) is now causing the UK to lag behind many other nations, not just meaning that the technical deployment is hindered by factors such as outdated and unnecessary regulation, but our overall IT awareness is similarly hampered by the lack of access to a communications infrastructure which is capable of doing a 21st century job.

You cannot even begin to understand the impact, for example, telemedicine has on (let's start small and expand the ripples) a single patient --> a regional Health Department --> the NHS in general and hence this country's well-being if it cannot and does not reach any patients at all.

We have thousands of digitally reluctant in this country - "Oooh no, I wouldn't know where to start with a computer" and really, who can blame them when the day to day benefits to each of those people cannot even be demonstrated because we don't have a single FTTH demo project in this country showing how the applications can and do work.

The only relief in all of this sorry tale is that there are communities who are JFDI anyway, and who are going to begin to increase the awareness in this country of what FTTH really means, despite the government's failure to support such projects and insistence on taking a short rather than long-term view.

The reality is that during your term in office, Mr Ed Vaizey and friends, we COULD deploy FTTH to the vast majority of this nation if the barriers to doing so were removed today. If we solved the USC issue with fibre and started in the most difficult areas rather than permitting corporate cherry picking, the marketplace would pick up, the economy could be assisted towards recovery, our businesses would not be at the severe disadvantage (as they are today), our school kids would receive a cybereducation similar to that of their peers in other countries, we could help to decrease our carbon footprint, etc etc etc etc.

The savings brought across the board by FTTH could then be spent on the services the citizens of this country require, and which are currently under threat.

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Tuesday 10 August 2010

No more discussions, we need decisions

Read more! As FCC people wend their way towards our European shores next month for the conference season, let's not lose sight of what is happening elsewhere. It is a particular failing of this isle to filter out events elsewhere in the mistaken belief "we know best".

This blog post can be read at

Michael Copps, FCC Commissioner, has put out a one paragraph statement that bears several readings. The issue, Net neutrality, is not one which we can avoid either. Nor is his statement so simplistic that we cannot also apply it to our own regulatory environment.

“Some will claim this announcement moves the discussion forward. That’s one of its many problems. It is time to move a decision forward—a decision to reassert FCC authority over broadband telecommunications, to guarantee an open Internet now and forever, and to put the interests of consumers in front of the interests of giant corporations.”

Replace "FCC" with "Ofcom" or "ASA". Focus particularly on "discussion" versus "decision". Consider "authority", "open", "interest", "consumers", and "corporations".

Re-word this statement from current UK or EU perspective, and it is of worthy of 2 minutes consideration by us all in Europe today.

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Saturday 7 August 2010

Honesty in Broadband?

Read more! lights in tunnel
It's been a long time coming. And it's still not actually here because Ofcom, whose mandate is consumer protection and representation, are too busy being courted by the telcos, media companies and so on, to actually fulfill the mandate. (Or put me right, guys)

This blog post can be read at

This time a complaint has been upheld by the ASA against BT, which is a novelty because they failed to uphold Virgin's 'creative' claims previously about their fibre optic network. But you have to ask how this sort of practice got past Ofcom and into ASA territory anyway......

ThinkBroadband actually put the reality of BT's claims really neatly in their write-up of the case and it's worth reading, as well as the previous link.

BT claimed that consumers would know that the word "instant" didn't actually mean instantly, particularly in the context of broadband and the Internet.

Ho hum. Let's ask ourselves why UK broadband consumers would now be quite so confused about speeds, instantaneous access, always on, download and upload speeds could lay no blame whatsoever on the mis-marketing of services by the incumbent and their pals for the last 7+ years, could one?

And as for the comment about custard....The truth of the matter is once we get into degrees of 'how long' etc, Bird's custard *is* instantaneous compared to making "real" custard which anyone who has tried to do it will know takes hours/days/weeks/years (depending on your culinary capabilities!)- a bit like down/uploading a film/file/podcast on a substandard "up to" (rural) broadband connection. The important point is that it tastes about as much like the real thing as BT's Infinity broadband looks like a big fat two way pipe with HD TV movies downloaded 'instantaneously' wherever you are, but at least you don't need to be a geek to know which is real custard/potato etc.

I think it's time for a bar based on, um, let's say the Korean experience. (Or Hong Kong, Japan, Sweden etc). NOT the paucity of provision which the UK is becoming famed for, courtesy of the incumbent and the corporate telco players.

If a film will download or upload on your network to anyone wishing to be your customer at the same speed as this Utopia (now FTTH Council EU) demonstrator then you can say you have that service available.

You can even say you have "or more". But pretending that *anyone* who phones up asking for this level of connectivity has a cat in hell's chance of getting it is ridiculous, especially without proof. There are ways to guestimate (or even be accurate) about what can be delivered over any length of copper in this country, based on the evidence from around 20million lines and a not insubstantial R&D crew in Ipswich who really seem to know their stuff.

Take your call centre people away from their scripts, and instead of forcing Ofcom to regulate your mis-selling and complaints about you, sell what you really have to offer to each household or business who rings you up. Then, and only then, we might see market forces at work. Not because of hype, but because of TRUTH.

I drove through a deeply rural area of Yorkshire tonight and stopped to do one of my ever-increasing wireless scans of what was available, knowing that the copper in that area is utterly useless for ADSL. A local company name cropped up on my scan who have delivered a working, more than satisfactory, wireless network for less than BT wanted to connect a SINGLE home in the area to ADSL. This is the competitive market place. Those people are now so content with their network (I stopped because several of them have been in touch to tell me so) that if and when BT get close to 'seeing the light', there will be a very seriously uphill struggle for BT to regain market share. We are now seeing this across the country, and not just with wireless networks.

We need honesty because there are services now being delivered eg by Rutland Telecom and friends which are going to shortly show hard, irrefutable evidence that they really can deliver what some claim to be able to (and can't). This hard evidence is already available to real users, who will invite visitors into their homes to try it for themselves, who will then go home and dig where they live. Leaving companies who make spurious claims to fend for themselves.

Playing on the ignorance of the nation, a methodology which has been carefully cultivated, nurtured and fertilised the entire time I have been in this game, by marketers and ad agencies whose clients are invariably telcos with shareholder interest, cannot continue because "the truth will out".

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Friday 6 August 2010

Friday Thought - Big Society gets (k)IT

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As some may know, my region, Eden in Cumbria, was recently chosen as one of the four vanguard communities for the Big Society. Quite what this will mean is, as yet, unclear, particularly in a community where JFDI has been going on for centuries because of our remoteness from Westminster, both geographically and emotionally.

This blog post can be read at

However, one thing that has become clear is that in order to deliver many of this community's dreams and aspirations, we need decent comms infrastructure to overcome our remote location, distance from services, distance from each other etc. It also means that the meagre budgets that we have at a regional level may well be better spent by the communities themselves through use of technology to reduce costs, increase efficiency and so on.

So, here's my thought for the day. This country is about to lay off hundreds of thousands of people in the public sector. Having been into public sector offices far too many times, I think I can safely say that the vast proportion of these people sit at desks and use computers. Some, although a far smaller proportion, may well also have laptops and smart phones.

There are community projects throughout the UK who could benefit from these items. We can use flat screen monitors for digital noticeboards on our community wireless networks, we can use old computers to bring the digitally reluctant into the 21st century, we can use routers, servers and so on to connect the disconnected. We can use smartphones to create exciting new community apps and demonstrate them to communities, Parish Councils etc, and also (where the mobile network permits) demonstrate mobile apps for community use. Laptops are often beyond the pocket of many of the rurally deprived and these can be used in so many ways - I would only bore you if I began to create a list of their potential uses.

If this IT equipment goes anywhere, it should be into our deprived and rural communities first and foremost. I have this awful feeling that some well-meaning charity will blag a contract to clear public sector offices of unneeded IT kit and start shipping this essential equipment abroad. We must not allow that to happen. These are UK assets, paid for with UK public money, and we need them here. In particular because the Big Society is expecting everyone to solve major issues as volunteers but we cannot do it without the required equipment which can normally only be acquired with hard cash.

I'm sure completely honourable and trustworthy people can be found to reformat hard drives, smart phones, etc for nothing if it means that we then have access to equipment that will permit community projects to succeed without having to operate on broken shoestrings and without the right tools for the job.

We'll work on sorting out the infrastructure too - oh, we already are!

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Tuesday 3 August 2010

Ofomc and samknows claim average broadband speed increase

Read more! Really? Might that be because in the 3 years ish this "experiment" has been running, our requests for the special routers to be placed in rural areas rather than purely urban areas have managed to achieve the grand total of 5 being sent out. One I know blew up as it was plugged into my house when we were hit by lightning, the other 4 are on varying degrees of rural connections which on occasion fail entirely to actually connect to the outside world.

This blog post can be read at

If you, Ofcom and Samknows, are going to claim the average speed of British connections is increasing, then please define by location (urban vs rural) exactly where these routers are. Because I hate to be a cynic but aren't the majority of your routers in places being cherry picked by the telcos for ADSL 2+ etc???

I could say the average speed on all British roads is 60+mph if all I measure are the parts of the motorways with least traffic and most lanes. Aren't you skewing the statistics in a similar way? After all, who is paying for the end reports???

Put an absolute minimum of 50% of your routers in rural areas, as defined by accepted statistics and/or definitions, and then re-present your data please. Otherwise, I hate to say it, but these claims mean nothing.

"Torture numbers and they will tell you anything"
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