Digital Vacuum Sucks in Digby? Fibrestream NextGenUs #FTTP #finalthirdfirst #digitalbritain

I braved the elements of a windswept rural Lincolnshire on Saturday to visit the Digby Fete. Digby is in the middle of nowhere. It’s two main distinguishing features are the fact that it is the home of RAF Digby and that it is the next village on the map to Ashby De La Launde.

The proximity to Ashby has become an irritant to the good parishioners of Digby because their neighbouring village has just announced that it is getting 100Mbps Fibre To The Premises (FTTP). Up until now neither village could get decent broadband connectivity.

Now Digby faces the prospect of becoming the poor cousin of its neighbour, falling behind in house valuations and having an uncool populace because none of them has a Facebook profile (other social networking sites are available).

The residents of Digby should not however worry. Their future is in their own hands with a little help from a friend called Guy Jarvis, his company Fibrestream and NextGenUs.net.

NextGenUs is the organisation that has put broadband into Ashby. The project is financially viable because the recipients of the connectivity are doing most of the digging themselves.

When the Caio Report was published outlining the cost of implementing a full blown fibre roll out in the UK this cost was stated to be in the region of £29Bn, of which £24Bn was digging up the roads.

There are I am told roughly 18,000 communities like Digby and Ashby in the UK – the so called Final Third. Digby has 240 or so homes. The £29Bn Caio number represents £1.611M per community or in Digby’s case £6,702 per home, assuming they all want broadband. The business case doesn’t work. Even if we assume that all digging is done for nothing, by the community, the cost is still £1,157 per home which is £3.86 per month depreciation over 25 years.

This doesn’t sound much but it is compared to the likely cost of the service. If say there are 5,500 telephone exchanges in the UK and 20million homes (don’t know the actual number but it doesn’t matter for the purpose of this discussion) that works out at 3,636 homes per exchange. It is easy to see how the depreciation cost, and thus the up front capital outlay is going to be far lower in the more populated areas.

NextGenUs was at the Digby Fete at the request of local parishioners to tell them how to copy Ashby and enter the Digital World. How the company does it is their business but this is not something that the likes of BT and Virgin are going to get interested in. The Caio numbers are based largely on inputs from the incumbents with their high overheads and hidebound structures.

What is clear is that there is a digital vacuum on the periphery of our centres of population. This represents a huge market opportunity for a business that can get the recipe right. That’s 18,000 communities. Once the first fibre goes into the ground there is never going to be a second. Then it “really” won’t make commercial sense. What’s more once these communities have their high quality connectivity they will want to buy telephony, TV and other services based on that connectivity.

I say good luck to Guy Jarvis and NextGenUs. If your community is looking for help with getting connected you can contact him via the Fibrestream website.

Note although I am wearing rugby shorts in the picture below it’s the fleece that tells the truth. Still, I am happy to say I won a durable plastic shopping bag in the tombola.

Trefor Davies with Guy Jarvis of Fibrestream at the Digby Fete

Trefor Davies with Guy Jarvis of Fibrestream at the Digby Fete

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  1. cyberdoyle

    I think there is a golden opportunity to lay fibre – like you say there are lots of places who the telcos won’t help. One thing that would really help this to take off is for government to drop the valuation office tax on private and community fibre. It puts the costs up and taxes the seed corn and not the harvest.
    BT don’t have to pay on new fibre at the same rates as new entrants to the market. We need a level playing field.

  2. Trefor Davies tref

    Having written this post I realise that I didn’t quite get the sums right. Whilst there are 18,000 “digitally excluded” communitites the Caio Report covered the cost of rolling out fibre to the whole of the UK and not just the Final Third.

    The content of the post is still valid because a disproportionate amount of the cost reported by Caio will still be in lighting up this Final Third.

  3. cyberdoyle

    and a disproportionate amount of the cost could be avoided quite easily by compulsory purchase of any passive infrastructure that the incumbent refuses to upgrade to NGA, and dropping the valuation office tax which prevents investment. It taxes the seed corn instead of the harvest.
    Legislation to make other utilities share ducts and digs when cutting into roads/rivers etc and other government initiatives could save a massive amount of the costs. Any funding available from Europe should not be used for the two thirds already cost effective to install. (BT have just nabbed the funding for Cornwall because they already own the infrastructure down there and wouldn’t share it with anyone else). I disagree totally with this, the funding should be for the final third and nothing else.
    And for what its worth I think Caio exaggerated. there is fibre in almost every exchange already to run the pots and has been since the late 90s… we could have had fttc for years and already have laid lots of ftth for NGA. They just want to milk the copper cabal for another few decades. Its only the thought of the global ridicule that’s made them fibre up londinium for the olympics.
    chris

  4. Somerset

    Yet again Cyberdoyle confuses fibre in the core network with rolling out FTTC and FTTH. Totally unconnected. Why would BT be installing new fibre between a new FTTC exchange and the main exchange if there was already fibre there?

    Is FTTC NGA?

    Please explain exactly what would be compulsorily purchased in your scheme. I don’t see anyone in the industry, who knows the detail, proposing this.

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