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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Go Cataluña!!!

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?!

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