Superfast Broadband Roundup – 19th September

Surrey County Council have advised that they have awarded their “final third” superfast broadband deployment to BT. The contract is worth around £33m.

It’s worth noting that the SCC deployment is being done seperately from the BDUK umbrella, and it’s been revealed BT were bidding against two other independant contractors, as opposed to their usual BDUK bidding rivals Fujitsu.

If you fancy being the person who manages the BT deployment in Surrey, they are currently seeking a Programme Director to run the show. I’m not sure what happened to the last occupant of the role, if there was one?

Of course, one advantage of going with BT for this deployment is that assuming BT in the main use their existing FTTC/FTTP service models, it shouldn’t be a problem for any ISP to deliver “superfast” service to homes and businesses on the Surrey deployment. It will be done using the same interconnects and some provisioning.

Compare that to more “bespoke” superfast networks such as Digital Region, which had been viewed as unattractive to work with because of the additional overheads for a consumer ISP of dealing with their processess and provisioning systems, in addition to the “defacto” wholesale broadband providers such as Be/O2 and the ubiquitous BT.

So, while I was at the IX Leeds meeting last week, I was interested to hear of a new service from Fluidata, which aims to solve the problems commonly associated with delivering service over multiple local access wholesalers, which they are calling “Stop@Nothing”.

Their plan is to offer a wholesale “middleman” service, interconnecting to various local access networks, both national (such as BT and O2) and regional (such as Digital Region), among others, and being able to deliver these over an inter-regional backhaul network to the ISP on a common pipe (or pipes), and provide a common API to the ISP for provisioning, regardless of which last mile network is delivering service to the customer premises.

I can see this helping the ISPs in two ways – potentially doing away with the time and cost implications of integrating a new wholesale broadband provider platform into your own provisioning processes and systems, and in giving ISPs who don’t have any local presence cheaper access to regional projects (such as Digital Region), without the risk of building into the area – maybe this becomes something can be done later if volume warrants it. It potentally also gets around issues such as minimum order commitments from individual ISPs, as these are aggregated behind the Fluidata service.

I haven’t got a clue how cost effective Fluidata’s product will be, as I’ve not seen any pricing for it. I can only assume that it’s competitive or they wouldn’t be doing it.

Meanwhile, the group of determined farmers and country-dwelling folk behind B4RN in the North West continue doing their own thing, their own way, and have recently been digging into a local church hall in Abbeystead:

There’s a whole series of videos on their YouTube channel about how they are progressing and details on the physical elements of their infrastructure such as digs and fibre installs.

Broadband Blindness in North America

B4RN‘s Chris Conder tweeted this interesting ~30 minute video from a producer in Sacramento, CA, on the limitations experienced on broadband in the US, and how the large telcos appear to be failing rural communities, and that deployments of their fastest products tend to be only available in “boutique” (usually high income) areas.

It highlighted how the large telcos found it hard to invest in deploying high speed broadband to sparse communities because of the conflict between affordably delivering a service and paying a shareholder dividend.

The video also spoke to some local community broadband companies in the US who, like B4RN are going their own way, and investing in their own future.

Good quality internet access is starting to become as essential to modern life as a stable electrical supply or safe, drinkable tap water. It’s becoming more of a utility and less of a consumer product.

Rural DIY Broadband: B4RN Launches

A few months ago, I’d blogged about B4RN, a community-led rural ultra-fast broadband project in my home county of Lancashire.

Today, they are holding a launch event in Lancaster to signify that they have reached their target number of interested parties who have committed to sign up for the service, and to announce they will be issuing shares in the organisation. I know the folks from ThinkBroadband are at the launch today, so expect to see some reporting from them shortly.

It’s heartening to look at this sea of raised hands from the community meeting – so many people putting their faith in their own community’s ability to organise and do this for themselves, rather than waiting for a centrally funded project that might not help them.

This is great news. I’d said before that DIY was the most realistic option for some of these regional communities. Fantastic stuff.

Broadband to your Barn

…or, “a different kind of social networking”

There’s been some good reporting recently on the B4RN (Broadband For the Rural North) initiative, which aims to deploy a fibre broadband infrastructure to over 1300 properties in a rural area of my native Lancashire, which would otherwise almost certainly fall into the 10% of fast broadband have-nots by 2017.

If the build was left to a commercial entity which needed to pay dividends to it’s investors, it would be very difficult for the plan to pass the litmus test, because of the high overheads involved in a large company, and the need to make profit.

So, how does B4RN differ from initiatives such as Yorkshire’s Digital Region, or Connecting Devon and Somerset?

Well, for one thing, it’s a smaller project. The second one is that it seems to be less reliant on public funding.

Continue reading “Broadband to your Barn”