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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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