A few months ago, I wrote about what I percieved to be going wrong with Digital Region, the local-authority backed superfast broadband wholesale network in South Yorkshire.
It seems that matters have not improved since then: a Sheffield-based hosting company, KDA, has written an Open Letter to Digital Region, which pretty much confirms that everything which was true several months ago is still true today, and goes on to suggest that there’s enough experience and skill in the tech community in South Yorkshire to turn this around, if only those in charge were willing (able?) to change tack and allow the community to steer the organisation.
It’s also alluded that a cut-price disposal of the network assets, which should rightly be the South Yorkshire taxpayer’s, for a cut-price may already be in hand, and that a failure of DR will be associated generally with the South Yorkshire tech industry, tarring it’s (generally good) reputation.
DR shouldn’t be the way it is – DR should be more agile than the large telcos, and find it easier to be more focused on the needs of the local userbase, but it isn’t. It seems to be strangled by inflexibility and bureaucratic behaviour, which needs to change if it’s to survive, and deliver the promise that the local authorities set out to achieve. But, at the moment, I’m doubtful that this will happen. The peppercorn sell-off probably feels like an easy way out, however much it’s short-changing South Yorks residents and business in the process.
You can read the full text of the Open Letter here.
It was revealed this week that Digital Region, the centrally funded (to the tune of £90m – mostly public money) superfast broadband initiative in South Yorkshire is facing tough times, in particular a £9.2m loss on a revenue of only £167k (which only just pays the last CEO’s £100k salary – they are currently seeking a new CEO, one assumes to manage a turnaround).
The Yorkshire Post article goes on to explain another £4m of public funds have been ringfenced as a “security”, and that the four participating councils, already under budget pressure from Central Government austerity, may need to as much as £500k per year to secure the operations of Digital Region if the loan can’t be repaid. Is that throwing good money after bad, or is the situation redeemable?
This highlights my belief that these large centrally funded uber-projects contain a more significant risk of failure, and not of delivering the right product. The larger organisations that are able to bid and win such projects can come with higher overheads compared to the smaller community projects such as those serving areas with poor existing broadband service, who have a relatively captive and supportive market, and benefit from a tighter focus – for instance Rutland Telecom’s pioneering FTTC with unbundled sub-loop in Lyddington, which is using the same basic FTTC tech as DR is using, but on a smaller scale and in relative isolation.
The larger scale of the Digital Region deployment obviously needed a much bigger income to support the aggressive build and provisioning costs, along with what looks like a complex structure, and now that revenue hasn’t been realised. As can be seen on the DR website, and highlighted on the ThinkBroadband article, very few ISPs use the DR infrastructure to deliver service and is maybe one of the reasons they aren’t making their targets.
You have to ask yourself why this is? Continue reading “Regional Broadband – The Hidden Danger of Uber-projects”