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Monday, 26 September 2011

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Purple pipe dreams or the road to nowhere...........?

Anyone travelling North on the M6 in Lancashire & Cumbria over the last few years could have noticed something being laid at the side of the hard shoulder - flexible plastic purple pipe which pops out of the ground occasionally where it needs to cross road bridges.

This blog post can be read at

In Scotland, purple pipe can only be used for the street lighting network as ducting for the electricity cables - so what is it used for in England and the rest of the UK?

Well, purple pipe outside of Scotland is apparently only used by telecom companies as ducting!

That got me thinking - if it can be laid at the side of a motorway without any problem, why can't it be laid at the side of all roads? In Cumbria there are roughly 1100kms of primary and secondary roads, plus at least the same in what are category "C" roads - and these roads pass to and through every settlement in the county.

Cumbria County Council received £17.1m for broadband from BDUK, and are throwing in another £6.8m themselves - not including any matched funding from the EU or the "chosen one".

If the County Council used this money to lay wonderful purple pipe along every road they are responsible for, there would be no excuse for any telecom providers to claim that they were unable to reach the last "10%" - the means of getting to them would already be in place!

Building this network wouldn't make the county council a teleco and have screams of “State Aid" thrown at them every 5 minutes – they would be building an open access transport only provision which could be used by multiple telecos (and rented out to them at an amount far less than BT charge).

The roads and verges are owned and maintained by the County Council - and we pay for upgrading and maintenance of them through vehicle licensing and Council tax - there wouldn't be any negotiations needed on right of way and access on their own land to build it - and by banishing forever the placing of copper into the duct, more fibre could be pulled through.

BT wouldn't like it, as it would break up their monopoly on running copper and fibre through what was a publically financed network of ducts, cabinets and poles built back in the 50's, 60’s & 70's by the then GPO - but as they charge an absolute fortune to anyone else to access that infrastructure, maybe the time has come for some real joined up thinking to make them realise they can't get away with it any longer!

This isn’t radical thinking – it works in many other countries where it seems to be the norm, so why not here? It may well be a purple pipe dream, but it sure beats the road to nowhere we’ve already got.........

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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Look to the stars....

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Not too long ago, I retweeted some info about the comparison of time it takes to send a data transmission off-planet or back to earth vs what us non-NASA humans have to put up with from telcos on planet earth. Then, coincidentally, there was a film on this evening that showed the moon landing during the opening credits and I remembered being dragged next door - we didn't have a TV till I was in my teens - and then the garden, to comprehend a) the TV and b) who was walking where that night. I was, as I recall, more impressed by the red and gold furry flock wallpaper than the box in the corner or the moon.....

This blog post can be read at

It seems NASA have reached the limits of their data technology as it now takes 90 mins to send an HD photo from Mars to Earth. Obviously, my heart bleeds for them as it took me all weekend to send a few non HD photos to Flickr after Fibrewalk and as for being able to upload a video - Pah!

So, they are upping the ante.

However, maybe this is a lesson we can share with those who need to comprehend why higher capacity Internet is required. When my grandparents were born and started work at 14, there were few cars around, no tractors, and definitely no computers. For many, getting to market was an arduous task that did not involve Chelsea Tractors or the luxury of private travel. Working from home meant taking in menial sewing tasks and ironing. (Men could not work from home, as I recall from both my grandmothers, and had to be seen to be out there: earning, or fighting.)

NASA is going for 10Gbps between earth and a distant planet because that is what is required to do its job. Whilst you or I may not feel entitled to such speeds, the reality is that 10Gbps is feasible today on earth. To anyone. It's just that the telcos don't want to offer it or invest in it.

Far be it for me to once again suggest that our telcos are preventing each of us of achieving our dreams of becoming astronauts (or interior designers with aspirations for expensive wall paper, or...or....or.....), but whatever NASA (think bigger: science, R&D, research, academia etc) does, inevitably works its way back into our lives.

I'm sure Velcro was treated with the same "You'll never need it, no-one will ever use it" etc approach that gigabit broadband for the masses is now.......................Meanwhile, I don't feel that reaching for the stars for community and rural broadband is any less attainable than a furry, 3D wallpaper.

P.S. My next door neighbour was, and remains, one of the best lace designers in Europe. Nottingham has almost completely lost the distinction it previously held for the manufacture of lace, and the trade has been altered hugely from my childhood where colouring in her patterns was the highlight of every single day. Altair and every other colouring book had nothing on being part of Nottingham's lace industry 'waste' that I, as the only girl in the street, had full and unfettered access to with my crayons.

So, next time you buy lingerie or a lace tablecloth, look at the lace and see it as I do! An absolutely integral part of my childhood. What made you who you are? What are your childhood dreams? How will *you* reach the stars?

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Saturday, 24 September 2011

FibreWalk Time Travellers

Read more! Fibre Walk has received some fantastic press coverage courtesy of the Herald. Thank you again to ITS for sponsorship. Read the copy below....

This blog post can be read at

From Section 2 of the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald 24th September:

Above: Freddy Markham, armed with laptop, and other enthusiasts prepare to board the 1946 Leyland bus.

IT was a case of old meets new on Friday as a group of internet enthusiasts gathered in Kirkby Stephen's Market Square in order to be transported to Warcop via a classic coach for the UK's first public "Fibre Walk".

The group, led by broadband campaigner and Warcop parish councillor Lindsey Annison, walked a route from Warcop School towards the proposed site of the UK's first cyberbarn. Along the route, a group of 23 people discussed the challenges presented by DIY fibre cable laying across the landscape.

Present on the walk were representatives of a number of remote villages in different parts of the country who have grown tired of waiting for their lack of Internet access to be solved by the big telecoms companies and government, and have decided that their only solution is to take up spades and ploughs to dig the trenches that will house the fibre cables that bring future-proofed internet to their communities and businesses.

Also present were parish and county councillors, broadband consultants and fibre optic experts from across the north of England.

Special guest Donny Smith, of Minnesota-based Jaguar Communications, which has rolled out an extensive fibre broadband network in an extremely remote part of the United States, shared his expertise.

"Donny's experience in all aspects of fibre optic broadband, from the pitfalls to solutions, was incredibly valuable," said Lindsey, who was joined by John Heron, chairman of Warcop Parish Council, and Richard and Liz Wynne, of Warcop village hall new build committee.

The event was sponsored by ITS Technology, which is experienced in fibre and advanced network technologies. John Bookless, its chief executive,, said, "This event has done fibre to the home in rural communities proud, and ITS is delighted to have had the opportunity to share our expertise and be involved in such a fantastic initiative to increase awareness of the challenges we all face with hyperfast broadband."

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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Lies and more lies? OTU report p 95-6

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Now here's a fact that hasn't been reported widely yet, Britain came 10th for broadband in a fantastically interesting global report about ICT and broadband.....And then you spot the utter lie in the middle of the report and realise Britain's position is complete tosh propagated by god knows who, nor for what purpose, as it simply shows us as liars.

This blog post can be read at

The ITU "Measuring the Information Society" report came out a week ago, and you'd think the Brits would be celebrating, but it seems to have fallen under the radar a little.

Hardly surprising when on p.95-6 comes an outright lie about broadband in Britain which can only have skewed all the results for the UK. Whoever is responsible for feeding such untruths to OECD (from whom the data appears to have been supplied to ITU) deserves never ending sleepless nights and karmic payback on a level approaching bankers' bonuses.

"While in 2010, Germany and UK had similar fixed-broadband penetration rates, 59 per cent of the United Kingdom's were above 10Mbit/s, compared with only 30% per cent in Germany. Indeed, in the United Kingdom, 99% of all subscriptions are above 2Mbps"

Really - says who??????? What good does it do this nation to hide the truth of our broadband situation?

So, of the 79.6% of households connected to the Internet in UK (Annex 4), only 20% are sub-10Mbps? Jeremy, it seems you may need to rethink where that £530M has gone, mate.

I hope ITU (and/or) OECD may be willing to share the information about just who provided the figures for UK. If it proves to be Ofcom, our regulator's integrity and interests will once more come into question. If A N Other Body, such as an incumbent, then there have to be questions asked about why such "falsehoods" are permitted on behalf of an entire country to a respected global reporting body such as ITU.

One to look into more deeply. There are plenty of journalists out there who can get to the bottom of stories such as the phone hacking scandal so this should be a doddle.....

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Saturday, 17 September 2011

Fibrewalk Musings

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So, the day after the FibreWalk and am just pondering all that was discussed. As Colloquia went, it was perfect, and once again confirms the formula works: community + industry + public sector brings together a breadth and depth of knowledge and experience that is frequently missing from events targeted at specific sectors. No keynote speakers, just let everyone talk to each other. After all, each of us is an expert in our own right, aren't we?!

This blog post can be read at

It certainly was Informal Yet Informative, and it would have been impossible to capture even a fraction of the individual and collective discussions which occurred as the group spread out across fields, bridges, roads, and footpaths, and then regrouped to look at specific issues which rural FTTH faces.

I guess the defining message from the day has to be the importance of communication within the necessary partnerships that will deliver next generation to rural areas such as Cumbria.

No community is an island.

The fibre industry knowledge that was available to all attendees yesterday from the ITS team, Donny Smith of Jaguar Communications, John Colton of Lucid (and others), highlighted the different approaches available, and required, to solve the thorny issue of Digital Britain. However, that industry knowledge is impressively enhanced by engaging with all levels of the community involved, from the wider County and District levels, down to Parish and individuals within that community.

There was little envy for the County Council with 9000 employees (represented by Janine from Durham County Council); yet, somehow those 9000 employees need to communicate effectively internally and externally in order to ensure that the region gets the right results. A tiny Parish with 6 Parish Councillors also has to capture the knowledge and opinions from within the parish to make sure the solution chosen suits everyone as part of the big picture for the Parish, now and in the future, as well as of the County. Finding the right professional advice from industry to look at potential solutions that may only be feasible when local input is harnessed is also vital. So, communication is key.

From technical solutions, such as FTTH, FTTC, FiWi, directional drilling under rivers and the concerns of the Environment Agency about bentonite (which is used to ensure the drill head turns smoothly) to the different names used worldwide for drilling equipment - hogs, snakes, ferrets, subsoilers, tillers etc, through funding - match funding, locally raised money for shares, BDUK, partnerships and syndicates- to sustainability, and on to the somewhat treacherous and unfamiliar grounds of archaeology, botany, AONBs, and protected species, I'm pretty sure we covered everything!

We had a representative of what must be the Final One Percent from the top end of Swaledale, and no-one can envy that community the search for a solution for the next generations, but there has to be one found if this country is to be digitally inclusive. There was much discussion about "Outside In" ie not focussing on areas where the market will (eventually) provide but on those areas where the solution is the most challenging, as well as most needed.

"Do it once and do it right" shone through, and James Saunby of Grey Sky Consulting outlined just how enormous the challenge is to do that in areas such as Northumberland where it has taken a mere 18 months for the EU to solve a simple State Aid issue to get the USC to people, let alone anything more permanent.

The debate about BT's FTTC cabinets being "fit for purpose" for next generation in rural areas was once again raised, and no matter how often this subject comes up, the answer always appears to be the same. They quite simply ain't part of the solution, mainly, it would seem, due to the design. Deliberate or otherwise, the cabs just don't seem to be future proofed e.g. for FTTH upgrade and anyone looking to spend money on rural FTTC should be aware of the shortcomings of those cabs, and look instead to other cabinets, and hence other solution providers, such as Rutland Telecom, Vtesse etc.

Access to backhaul is always going to be a problem and any region which doesn't address this problem before anything else is going to struggle. However, it was interesting to hear how county councils are having to look for ways to match fund whatever BDUK have allocated to them, before actually looking at the size of the problem within their region and what funds will be required to solve it. Considering how long the country has known that we need to get FTTH in, the central approach to solving it with the £530M does appear to be ill-thought out, whichever angle you look at it from.

Mobile coverage, which was patchy on the walk, shows that an enormous investment would be required to bring rural mobile broadband up to scratch if that were the only problem; yet, it doesn't take much to work out that mobile backhaul could be infinitely improved if FTTH or Fibre To The Village was solved first, with pico and femto cells deployed to back up more beefy existing mast backhaul.

The importance of the farms in our countryside cropped up again and again. Donny Smith (who is also a cattle farmer as well as a 10,000 square mile network builder) spoke at the evening meal about needing to be self-sufficient and valuing our farmers - as a nation we import a phenomenal quantity of food which we should be growing ourselves. Farmers have a diverse range of skills, as well as knowing their land intimately, and we should all be much more aware of their part in our future, for broadband and beyond. The farm shown on the graphic is just one of approximately 300,000 in the UK, but a stark warning about the future for such important industries came during the walk when news broke that an industry which used to employ 196,000 people had lost four of the remaining 6000 miners in a tragic accident.

The landowners and farmers in rural UK stand to play an integral part in next generation broadband, particularly for community-led networks, and it was good to have at least three farmers on the walk to give accurate information about how that could work and what is required.

Does everyone want all-singing, all-dancing tomorrow's world applications? It seemed there was far more concern over not being able to do even the day to day online tasks today, and it was reported that villages close to exchanges are expressing interest in community fibre projects because the 6-8Mbps they have today is already insufficient. The USC is not just backward thinking, it is also totally unrealistic as a target for consumer contentment. It is, more than likely, a rod for our own backs.

One of the exciting things for me about the FibreWalk is seeing how a small village begins to understand just what future-proofed next generation broadband means for seemingly unrelated projects - the village hall, the school, regeneration of community assets, and developing new business opportunities, such as tourism and social enterprises off the back of it. Public meetings? Pah! Take the village for a walk and the light finally begins to dawn how broadband really is at the centre of everything, as people like myself have been saying for a very long decade and more.

Much, much more was discussed and, well.. you had to be there!

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Read more! Brilliant!! It was always destined to be a unique event and I'm proud to have been on it.
This blog post can be read at

23 people from Cumbria, Yorkshire, Surrey, Minnesota... Wow! The rain held off. We discussed, I think, many of the issues (what did we miss?!) you face in 1, 10 or 10,000 square miles of rural FTTH.

Thanks to ITS the sponsors, Warcop Parish Council, Donny, each and every attendee, Darren at the pub, the weather and a few hidden folk who made today possible.

@johnpopham filmed it all so don't miss out.

All I can say is a massive thank you to everyone and ... Wow! We can JFDI now. So good to meet the last few people in the jigsaw, face to face.

A great day. And we will be doing more of these #FibreWalk events all through the next 12 months to make sure word gets out about what is possible with a little communication!

Cat5 the twisted purr and I are listening to the rain (missed us!) and cogitating on another successful event made possible by the incredible people who showed up. Thank you all.

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Sunday, 11 September 2011

Our NGA Vision is.....

Read more! Calling grassroots activists and everyone with an idea about Digital Britain, USC delivery, nextgen broadband etc

This blog post can be read at

There's a fab but constantly evolving doc doing the rounds that you might like to help make public. In the old days, it would have been called a chain letter.

There are 60 million people in this country who could spend money effectively on public services, so if you know how you would like to see £530M + spent on broadband, please get involved in the letter doing the rounds. Pass it on to your MP, councillors etc, at whatever point you see it.

Without a doubt, the best suggestion so far is that counties lay ducts in the roads and rent them out on a long term basis to fibre infrastructure suppliers. But many of the other ideas are great too!

If you see the doc on HTTP, post a link. It's currently under the radar and the last three times I have seen it in emails, it had changed radically from the previous attempts but it's getting way more exciting now....

If you are a councillor, please get in touch so we can try to get you one of the latest copies for your area.

I used to hate those chain letters, but this one gives me hope!

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Thursday, 8 September 2011

AFL Telecommunications have given me the best birthday present ever!

Read more! Who wants flowers?! I'd like to send a huge public thank you to all the team at AFL Telecommunications......

This blog post can be read at

AFL have sent me 1 mile of fibre as a fab gift, in time for my birthday. This means that the Cyberbarn project (which received funding as a UK Online Outreach Centre yesterday) will be sitting on top of a very fat, future-proofed fibre connection back to the village.

I cannot thank AFL enough for their support for this project, and others in the past. AFL's involvement in rural FTTH shows exactly how community and industry partnerships can work to move Digital Britain forwards. So, to Barry, Graham, Jo, Jane and Steve, a massive thank you.

More on the Cyberbarn project at the Colloquium and there will be regular progress reports here as we turn a farm building into a unique Fibre Training Centre, cybercafe, ONline Centre and, more than likely, my second home!

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When modern technology meets vintage!

Read more! Colloquium Update for Friday 16th September event.....

This blog post can be read at

I just thought you would all like to see the fabulous bus we will be travelling on next Friday to the walk. Cumbria Classic Coaches' 1946 Leyland Tiger.

Rosie has a very special place in our household as we named her. We were sleeping in her one night many moons ago at the Barnard Castle Steam Fair (like you do!) and there had to be a bedtime story for the twins. So, she was christened Rosie and it stuck.

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Monday, 5 September 2011

Fibre Walk Colloquium

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Sponsored by ITS Technology

Prepare your wellies and clear your diary for 16th September. It's Colloquium time in Cumbria........and you need to act fast if you want to attend as space is limited (unless you have your own transport).

This blog post can be read at

Just to be adventurous, we are going to try something different - a mobile colloquium aka a fibrewalk! Generously sponsored by ITS Technology.

PLEASE NOTE: tickets are limited and the purchase deadline is Tuesday 13th September.

Why is rural FTTH so difficult? To find the answers and debunk a few myths, we will be going for a meander along a typical rural fibre route. (It is only 1 mile so don't panic about your fitness!) During the journey, you will be able to ask questions of the experts as everyone sees for themselves the ground we need to cover in rural places such as Cumbria.

The mile has been carefully chosen to highlight as many of the issues facing rural fibre and FiWi rollout as possible, giving everyone an opportunity to see just what this country needs to face up to if we are to meet the targets of delivering next gen to the Final Third.

Our planned afternoon destination is a local farm where we will be congregating to colloq, network and cover a few of the most pressing issues that are facing rural next generation broadband in the UK.


We are very honoured to have Donny Smith, CEO of Jaguar Communications in Minnesota as guest speaker on the FibreWalk to answer all your questions, share his unrivalled expertise in rural broadband networks, as well as some amazing stories and tips for anyone interested in the Final Third.

Jim Savege of Cumbria County Council will also be available to chat about Cumbria's plans and vision. Industry and community networks will be represented, including sponsors ITS Technology, local fibre training company, Lucid Optical Services Ltd, B4RN, Broadband Cumbria, East Cumbria Community Broadband Forum, Upper Eden Community Partnerships, as well as communities from further afield who are tackling the rural FTTH problem.

We are hoping that Rory Stewart MP will also be dropping in to join us.

Whether it is sustainable business models, dealing with scarce populations, the latest technology being used, community engagement, direct drilling, moleploughing, remote wireless access points, or the logistics of building and maintaining a rural fibre or wireless network in mid-winter - we will probably discuss it!

There will be a charge for the event of £30 (£20 for concessions) - full details and booking are on the Eventbrite page

After the walk, there will be networking when we go to support a local eatery which does the most superb food without breaking anyone's bank, and possibly visit a Cumbrian hostelry or two. This is of course optional, but an ideal opportunity to network, chat, follow on conversations, etc.

Housekeeping: Bear in mind, this is Cumbria. Firstly, it is likely to rain and secondly, it hasn't been warm in August so unless we get an Indian summer, September is unlikely to be different - dress sensibly as there are no outdoor shops for emergency jumpers or waterproofs where we are walking. There is also patchy mobile coverage, little chance to livestream the walk, and no internet connectivity to speak of. So, you're either here to take part, or you aren't!

The last train out of here south is 19.13 if you want to arrive in Leeds on the same day! B&Bs in Kirkby Stephen (our Colloquium Base), Brough, Appleby and the surrounding area are plentiful and cheap (£28+) as is the Black Bull Hotel or the Kings Arms (01768 371378

What better opportunity to spend the weekend in the Lake District and Cumbria with your family? Come and explore Eden - the only rural Big Society vanguard area, and there is plenty to do including the World Sheepdog Trials and Country festival at Lowther, Cumbria Artists Open Studios, Borrowdale Show, and much more!


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Friday, 2 September 2011

The First Mile

Read more! Thanks to Lindsey for letting me contribute - as a consultant I feel I'm intruding, but I've a question about The First Mile (Last Mile for UK telecoms traditionalists - the one closest to the customer, though)...

This blog post can be read at

I recently came upon a problem with wanting to define The First Mile. The problem is going to arise more over the next few months since broadband projects seek funding beyond BDUK. Some of these (like ERDF and probably DEFRA) want to fund the community networks, but not sink even more money into backhaul that never gets to benefit end users.

The definition that had been suggested was "from customer to cabinet".

This presents some obvious problems - it suggests FTTC (which I hear not everyone favours?) and anyway, not all line use cabinets, particularly in rural areas.

So the question is - what should the definition be?

At the moment I'm proposing "from the customer to the exchange".

Admitedly this does suppose some telecoms involvement, and probably BT involvement, but that is probably just a reality. It has the advantages (I think) of being flexible to ensure the feeder connection from exchange to community network can also be funded, and in being technology neutral.

But any other ideas?

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How others are doing rural connectivity

Read more! Great quote: “For those who stay firm, there is commercial potential in rural connectivity too,” proclaims Ginguld. A social enterprise offering wireless broadband in northern India and the Himalayas is chucking up to 70Mbps at deeply rural communities with ingenuity and innovation.......
This blog post can be read at

Are we really going to be satisfied with connecting our own rural communities with 2Mbps? Or are we going to bite the bullet and keep up with remote and rural folk across the world in far more dire situations than our own?

If a project such as AirJaldi can create 20 local jobs, then that should be one of the criteria of any money spent in the UK too. Not just moving existing employees around the country to then claim that new employment has been created in the region, but real new jobs being created, running the networks, offering tech support, training the community etc to be self-supporting.

Shouldn't we, in reality, be embarrassed about how we are tackling the problem here? Why are we throwing such vast quantities of money to only achieve such minimal solutions as are being talked about on a daily basis now? The USC has always been the lowest bar you could possibly set, but where are the innovative pilots that BDUK promised to fund that we could be as proud of as those behind AirJaldi?

AirJaldi is more next gen than the connectivity the vast majority of the UK Final Third are going to enjoy this decade at the rate we are going.....

Read more about AirJaldi

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Thursday, 1 September 2011

Do County Councils need NGA spelling out AGAIN?

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Once again, it would seem so, with Devon & Somerset's latest decision to use satellite (yes, you read that correctly) to deliver NGA.

This blog post can be read at

Whilst I have no issues with satellite broadband as an infill technology similar to ADSL, neither can be termed as Next Generation Access even with the most dumbed down definition available. (And boy, are there a few of those doing the rounds!)

Devon & Somerset CC had £750k of RDPE funding for NGA, split into two lots. Lot 2 was for Exmoor and was withdrawn - which begs the question if the money has been earmarked to be spent elsewhere, as in Lancashire. Lot 1 - value £400k - was awarded to Satellite Solutions Worldwide.

Now, Devon and Somerset have BDUK funding to the tune of £30M for the region so one has to wonder whether the "built-in obsolence" of this RDPE funded project is deliberate, or political for longer term box-ticking aims. Or is the RDPE project quite simply a waste of money?

Whichever it is, it once again highlights the failure of County Councils to be the right body to administer such funds destined for NGA on behalf of the communities that need Next Generation, not stopgap solutions for ulterior motives. This is hardly the first time I have brought this up as regular readers know; each new announcement seems to further illustrate that County Councils quite simply do not have the wherewithal nor experience to make considered decisions on this subject.

This is not a rant against County Councils per se. The lack of this IT and broadband knowledge in-house at CCs was known long before these decisions were foisted upon them. It is one of the reasons the RDAs nurtured broadband/IT specialists and departments. Many of those people have seemingly found their way into County Councils; yet these decisions still keep coming - are the experts failing to be heard, p'raps?

There has been so much nambypambying over the years, with everyone trying desperately not to upset telcos, ministers, State Aid etc, or lose their coveted jobs and perks, whilst juggling with the complex reality that BROADBAND AFFECTS EVERY ASPECT OF OUR LIVES. This decision seems to be yet another one that confirms that UK broadband has truly lost its way in reaching any of the stated aims of this and preceding governments, the EU, let alone providing something that consumers and businesses could use to try to regain the path to economic recovery UK Plc so urgently needs to find.

We, or rather our 'elected bodies', seem amazingly willing to haemorrage our money on short-sighted projects in a way most businesses must and do find quite horrifying. Each of us as business owners could not even contemplate taking such risks with scarce capital without seriously considering the effect this will have on our businesses further down the line. Best value tests, due diligence, SWOT analysis, scenario planning, cost-benefit, etc - are these anathema to public sector?

On top of all this, one has to wonder at the growing prevalence of stories coming this way of existing companies or community networks being steamrollered out of existence by public money where they are ALREADY delivering services. I have been following one particular region (not Cumbria, so that should narrow it down for you!) since the announcement of the four pilot areas for BDUK funding, and am in regular contact with a company whose very existence, expansion plans and customer base are under threat by BDUK procurement in an area where NGA services of 100Mbps are already being delivered.

Devon and Somerset has similar companies, already delivering service, as do most other regions due to market failure, telco reluctance to invest, and this recurring theme of public funding being used inappropriately.

The failure of County Councils to engage with those commercially delivering service, let alone seemingly to be even aware of what is happening on their own patch, despite regular attempts to inform them of the existence of broadband services which will be threatened if misinformed decisions are made, further reinforces the growing feeling that we are now in the midst of a train crash.

Is it not time to reassess how we are spending what little money we have to achieve the stated NGA aims - which really are not that complicated? Where is the experienced business person advising the government on next gen broadband issues, who understands the impact broadband has across the board, and not just in ticking 2Mbps boxes? Is it really so damned difficult, even in the seeming absence of a business brain, to see from other countries who have gone wholeheartedly for FTTH strategies, what a difference this can make in social and economic impact?

As I wrote recently, every step of the FTTH walk is a challenge. We all know that, so why are we sticking our heads in the sand and our bums in the air, leaving us wide open for a good kick? We should be tackling the real problem head on and taking up the challenge, not pussy footing around it and delaying the start date, for year after year after year. It will not get any easier, only harder, leaving us ever further behind our competitors. Or are too many people in the UK content to do nothing (positive), oblivious to the fact that we are gifting our children's precious energies, time and any remaining resources clearing up after this train wreck we seem so determined to create for our next generation?

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