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Monday 17 September 2012

Cumbrian News & Numbers - and your county too

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As we enter another week where announcements will be made about counties 'fulfilling' their broadband procurements, I'm going to stick 5tth's head right above the parapet and expose some facts.
This blog post can be read at

The contents of my inbox and notes from recent meetings clearly show that the (potential, if not actual) trainwreck that is UK broadband aka digital Britain etc is well known to many. In homes, businesses, government and local authority offices, even Number 10. The problem is that transparency during this entire process has been, well, murky to say the least.

As an example, from my own doorstep: Cumbria blame the BDUK framework etc for their decision (note the lack of a link on the CCC page), claiming that the only option was to award funding to a possibly non-compliant bidder (especially with the lack of any competition following Fujitsu's drop out) and hence this is the best possible solution within the (BDUK defined) circumstances.

Ask the hub co-ordinators, a group of broadband champions who were in existence before Cumbria County Council even got engaged with broadband. (Thanks to Rory Stewart MP). How do the HCs feel about this decision? An email doing the rounds this week from the UNPAID but passionate community representatives and pilot project co-ordinators asks:

I note we are a pilot ... there were Battle of Britain pilots and Kamikaze pilots. Which will we be?
The image about BT pilots says it all. (Clue: It's a balloon and about as modern a technology as BT are willing to expose publicly.)

Cornwall has never been fully honest nor transparent about why the Leader 2 funding from the EU (some £750+M as I recall) *had* to be matched by a large infrastructure project with private funding. From BT - the only UK company who could possibly help prevent a need to return the EU funding. (Nigel, please argue this point with me in public!) Currently the 60:40 FTTH: FTTC split in Cornwall appears to stand at 1000:100,000 homes. Either we are being treated to an appalling interpretation of basic Maths:ratios or there is a need to challenge these figures regarding delivery of the contract.

Surrey, Lancashire, North Yorkshire etc (yawn, there are around 45 of these CC decisions to come in total, all with a single company winning the cash since the £1.3M consultancy about the required framework was conducted by consultants who know zilch about telecoms) are all seemingly in thrall to the incumbent, despite the last decade of evidence pointing to why allowing BT to extend its monopoly is almost definitely the wrong decision for all concerned.

Voters and constituents, businesses and home owners, education, health, e-gov etc etc professionals know this. But then, we weren't paid over £1M of public cash to offer advice. Or ensure the right result for UK Plc. Our freely given advice eg through the Digital Britain report seems to have been ignored, wholesale. Perhaps we should invoice the government for our losses directly accruing to the decisions made by the PAID consultants?

Haven't all of our industry and citizen-focused sectors suffered enough at BT's hands since the word 'Broadband" was invented? Lack of symmetry alone (you cannot send a picture or film or document in even 1/10th of the time you can receive one; often it is MUCH slower) should be enough to challenge a private company's hold over the country. The glass ceiling over UK broadband is made of copper. That alone should fill you with dread.

If a hard dose of reality about our failure to even find a place in the modern world beyond the Silicon Roundabout is insufficient, then .... well, now we have numbers.

Real hard facts that will not get lost in the next election, reshuffle etc. Because the numbers are out there in the public domain. Through Twitter and blogs (this is the most minor of those exposing the ongoing 'fraud' aimed at cashing in at the Treasury's expense, from BBC licence fee money etc). But mass media are running scared of exposing what is going on because potentially at least £5Million of annual advertising revenue could walk out of the doors of papers such as The Guardian, Telegraph etc. Let me spell it out: from BT. Blogs such as this have nothing to lose, and certainly not that level of funding, by exposing the truth.

And however hard the spin doctors work, there are waaaaay too many emails, FOI requests etc to hide this away and protect the decision makers, incumbents, advertisers etc.

So, let's JFDI. Here we go. The first in a series of posts about the reality of Broadband Britain. If you have a vote, have a house, have a child, have a business, live in a community, use a computer, or have a health issue, you need to read this. It affects YOU. Just replace the County name with that of where you live. Look up the detail of your own county's procurement.

If you are none of the above, it affects you too. If you can't work out how, comment. The concerned community will help you to find the answers you require to stop a continuance of this haemorrhaging of limited public funds into private coffers.

During a time of extensive and required cuts to our budgets, it would seem we all have a responsibility to protect the national treasury from abuse by corporates.

Start now.

This money could be far better spent than by extending the incumbent monopoly. Especially when the incumbent telco BT has still not been held to account for its abject failure to deliver last time we faced this problem a decade ago with ADSL. And when it, BT, was given huge pots of public money to resolve the dial up/notspot issue, all it managed to do, seemingly, was to return to the public purse, hands outstretched, some 10 years later and 'demand' more cash due to market failure. Oh right? BT's failure to deliver, you mean??

Just because Ministers, ministries and policies change, it does not mean that the reality of yesterday goes away. Change MAFF to DEFRA. It will never change what happened during Foot and Mouth (FMD). Ditto DTI, BIS etc and broadband.

Read this Vitally important text about the Cumbria Superfast procurement if nothing else today
and please forward it.
I will if possible reproduce the entire post here if permitted because it affects EVERYONE in the UK. If your County is being slammed/knobbled/etc by BT for cash that is already in short supply, your County, District, Parish Councillors for starters deserve to know.

In the meantime, please share this link : On a PC: Right click, open in new window, ctrl c to copy the link, tweet, blog, email etc etc. You can JFDI. We should not be "mugged" in this way, as a country, by a PRIVATE COMPANY.
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