broadband Business

Interview with Matthew Hare of Gigaclear

The business of rural fibre

Gigaclear CEO Matthew Hare is a pal of mine. In this little chat Matthew gives his opinion on the future of fibre broadband in the UK.

Tell us about Gigaclear, how and why you started the company.

I started the company in December 2010 aiming to deliver brilliant broadband to rural areas that were crying out for something better. The business model was and is to build and operate new ultrafast, pure Fibre-To- The-Premises (FTTP) broadband networks in rural communities where the existing fixed network infrastructure underperforms.

The aim was to give these communities faster and more reliable broadband than is available anywhere else in the UK. Using FTTP technology, properties served by Gigaclear in rural parts of the UK can experience speeds of up to 1Gbps, up to 33 times faster than the UK average. Once built, the futureproof network can keep up with the increasing demand for better, faster broadband to meet the connection needs of a modern, digital society.

Gigaclear was established to serve a gap in the market. Many of the areas that you operate in are regarded as not being commercially viable by other Internet Service Providers. How can Gigaclear reach rural areas, where other ISPs have failed?

We are not like most other ISPs where most of the business is focussed on city networks. Gigaclear specialises in building new networks to connect rural areas. Our whole business is designed to deliver an ultrafast, FTTP Internet service to these rural areas. As a result, the techniques and tools that we use to build our networks are all optimised for rural environments. If you asked me if BT could do what we do, I would say ‘of course’. There’s nothing secret about it. The question isn’t ‘can BT do what we do?’, but where investing in upgrading rural broadband networks sits in the company’s long list of priorities.

What level of commercial risk is Gigaclear taking to do this?

There are two risks that we consider. The first is whether we can build the network for the cost that we assume we can build it for. The second is assessing the interest – the demand – for better broadband from customers.

When you move in and do up your new home you may find some hidden surprises when you take off the wallpaper and start work. The same goes for building a new fibre network. While we try to minimise risk, there is always a possibility of bumps along the way. For example, a section of highway verge is private land, rather than owned by the local highway authority, or plastic water mains are not where they should be on the left of the road, but oar on the right, which causes problems for our contractors when digging. Resolving these and many other issues can all hold up a project and add cost.

We also need to accurately judge potential customer demand. It can be problematic when other service providers choose to overbuild us. This isn’t just frustrating for us – if another ISP builds over our network, it’s also often a waste of taxpayers’ money.

In your opinion, what can the Government do to support the rollout of better broadband in rural areas today?

The Government needs to look at how it can lighten the regulatory overhead, without compromising safety, to accelerate work to build new networks. The elimination of the permit scheme for managing construction on rural roads would significantly cut costs. Currently, the permit scheme can significantly restrict the hours that our contractors can work, with automatic fines being incurred if they continue operations outside the permit times. When you factor in the set-up time each day before you start construction and the break-down time at the end, a contractor may choose to incur the fine rather than waste time and money shutting down operations early. But this charge doesn’t help get better broadband to anyone.

Where do you see the company in 10 years’ time?

The Digital Minister, Matt Hancock, announced last week that the Government’s vision is to deliver national communications infrastructure based on the two “F”s: Fibre and Five G. . As a business that is driven by building new pure fibre networks in rural areas, we are completely aligned with this vision. We want to see every property with at least one fibre connection and many will have two in cities. Our mission as a business is to focus on the rural areas where we specialise, connecting as many people, homes and businesses, as we can to pure fibre over the next 10 years. There are 1.5 million rural properties currently underserved and we want to reach as many as possible in that time.

In her speech, Theresa May said that it was not right that half of people living in rural areas can’t get decent broadband. What do you feel is the solution to this?

A Copper Switch Off

The country needs to have a complete copper switch off. We need to move to an environment where this is no alternative to fibre. This has two massive benefits. Firstly, operating fibre networks is significantly less expensive than copper. There is less that can go wrong from a maintenance perspective and a single fibre infrastructure can serve every type of fixed network application.

Secondly, it moves the UK to a position where information is always available to everyone. The flow of information and the ability it gives people to work, play, communicate and entertain themselves, whenever and wherever they want, will have a hugely beneficial impact on society and the economy in the future.

Commercial Investment

A complete copper switch off can be done with commercial investment from ISPs and with the support of Ofcom. There’s no doubt that it will be expensive to provide universal fibre access to certain parts of the country. As with any utility, the Government will need to decide how best to make sure there is ubiquitous access in these areas.

There must also be an appreciation that fibre broadband will not be available in extremely secluded areas. If you decide to build a new house at the top of a mountain, miles and miles away from the nearest other habitation, you will need to accept that there will be no utility access.

A Public Policy Solution

A public policy solution can be achieved in several ways. The Government could offer companies the monopoly on a certain region on the condition that it gives every property in that region a fibre connection. That company must then cross subsidise the properties at the edge of the network, further away and with a higher cost to serve with those closer to the heart of the network.

The second option is to ask the taxpayer to subsidise the properties that are not commercially viable to connect with network access; the third solution is to ask people who live off the edge of the network to pay more to have Internet access.

More Gigaclear related posts

broadband End User

Smaller ISPs are key to the UK’s superfast broadband rollout

The small and humorously named hamlet of Crazies Hill in Berkshire may have a population of only 313, yet it could nonetheless prove to be the key to Government plans to equip 95% of the UK with super-fast broadband by December 2017. Earlier this month, its residents agreed a deal to have fibre-optic broadband cables installed under its roads and homes. However, rather than signing with such big internet service providers (ISPs) as BT or Virgin, they signed with the considerably smaller Gigaclear.

This news may have come as surprise to some observers, if only because BT and Virgin had both previously been tipped to connect the long-suffering Crazies Hill to the world of super-fast broadband. Last November, BT employees attended meetings in the hamlet after local residents had complained of sub-2Mbs internet speeds. Meanwhile, in July of this year, Virgin had committed to bringing fibre-optic broadband to the nearby village of Wargrave, raising hopes that they could easily connect its smaller neighbour.

Yet things, as they say, didn’t turn out as planned. It soon emerged that, if residents wanted either BT or Virgin to supply them with super-fast broadband, they’d have to raise a lump sum of anything from £100,000 to £200,000. This would’ve meant that each household would be liable for a payment of between £660 and £1,320. Added to the fact that these households were told by both providers that the rollout wouldn’t be completed in the hamlet until 2018, this steep cost forced them to look elsewhere.

This was how they came across Gigaclear, who in contrast to their bigger rivals didn’t want a large upfront payment in order to install fibre-optic cables in the area. Instead, they affirmed in July that they could perform the necessary work simply on the condition that at least 40% of local residents signed up to the internet service they’d be able to offer once this work was finished. Given that signing up would involve an activation charge of only £100 and a £95 installation fee (which can be avoided if customers install their routers themselves), this minimum target of 40% was soon hit. As a result, Gigaclear won the contract, promising to have the work completed by May 2016.

This is all significant because, contrary to what might be implied when the likes of BT boast that they’ve delivered high-speed broadband to 25 million premises, it shows that smaller providers are also pivotal to the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project. It shows that, when it comes to connecting the remaining 10% of the UK that hasn’t yet been covered by BDUK, Gigaclear and other smaller ISPs like Call Flow and Cotswolds Broadband will be key.

Without Gigaclear’s involvement, Crazies Hill would still be looking for a provider to connect it, since the bigger ISPs all deemed the hamlet too small and under-populated to be worth the expense. However, unlike these bigger providers, Gigaclear’s business model means they don’t have to exploit particularly large economies of scale in order to be profitable. Since they offered residents an ultrafast broadband connection on the condition that these residents subscribe to their service, they’ll be recouping the costs of installation over time, rather than immediately. This allows them to serve even the smallest and most remote of communities, because these communities don’t have to pay for everything all at once.

This approach will prove highly valuable in plugging the remaining gaps in the UK’s broadband. Indeed, in recent months BDUK has been making slower progress (PDF), as it seeks to expand into more inaccessible rural locations and move from 90% coverage to the target of 95%. It’s here that the project and the Government should bring in the likes of Gigaclear to play a bigger role, since it’s such smaller ISPs who are more able to serve rural areas.

Also, BT has of late been criticised by Ofcom and other parties for its sometimes lacklustre performance in rolling out super- and ultra-fast broadband throughout the UK, which in fact lags behind many other developed nations in its fibre-optic coverage. While Ofcom has attempted to rectify this problem by calling for BT’s Openreach division to be legally separated from BT as a whole, it would also go a long way to helping the situation if Gigaclear and other smaller ISPs like Call Flow and Cotswolds Broadband were given more support by the Government.

With more support and funding, and with more involvement in official projects, the likes of Call Flow and Gigaclear would be better able to afford more of the initial outlays that are then recouped over time via internet subscriptions. They would be able to apply their particular subscription-based models to more rural areas at the same time, and they would therefore go much further in advancing the UK towards its 95% target. What’s more, having just signed a deal in July with CityFibre to use 1,100km of the latter’s fibre-optic network, it really does seem as though Gigaclear are more than ready to assume a greater role in BDUK.

If the Government is serious about meeting this target, then it should seriously consider giving less priority to BT and other big providers, and more to such smaller providers. Not only would it help to reduce the arguable monopoly that BT hold over the UK’s broadband network, but it would also significantly reduce the time which rural communities like Crazies Hill would have to wait before being able to join this network. And that, when all’s said and done, is what Broadband Delivery UK is really all about.

simon chandlerSimon Chandler is the news editor of Choose, a consumer information site covering home media and mobile services including broadband services and digital inclusion topics.

broadband End User

Broadband bandwidth growth driver – BT 4K TV


At last week’s very excellent UKNOF35 meeting in Glasgow BT Chief Network Architect Neil Mcrae gave a talk about the BT 4K TV project. 4k has been creeping up on us for a while now and TVs that notionally support it have been in the shops for at least a couple of years (mortgage application pending).

For me the interesting thing about Neil’s talk was the fact that a 4k stream needs 30Mbps bandwidth.  Not all households will therefore be able to receive the service and this I understand. It’s a competitive world and in a marketplace here BT is trying to up its content game then an early launch of 4k services makes a lot of sense. They have stolen a march.

This issue from the Davies perspective though is the fact that we have four kids. Ok they don’t all live at home now but when they did the one noticeable thing about our house was that we had six people all watching streaming media from different rooms in the house.

Extrapolate this to 6 x 4k streams and all of a sudden we would need 180Mbps downstream. Actually we have 200Mbps but I doubt a high proportion of the populace has the same connectivity.

BT 4k TV is clearly a driver for more bandwidth to the home (actually any 4K TV). I’m also shooting a lot of 4k video with my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and uploading this to Google Drive. On occasion I’m also subsequently downloading it to my Macbook for turning into a produced video/vlog and then uploading it again to YouTube. The file size in this case can be huge – several gigs and so my upload speed is also very important to me.

So where is this taking me? We (a majority of us – not all) have come a long way since the first ADSL rollout. We clearly still have a way to go. My prediction is that by 2020 we should be looking for 1Gbps to the home. Why not? By then 8k will be out (whether we will be able to tell the difference or not – the marketing hype will persuade us that we can). If I still had four kids in the house then I imagine the six streams will use up most of that Gigabit.

The question is who is going to deliver?

More 4k tv stuff on this blog.

PS Excellent UKNOF 35 btw – well done Keith, Denesh, Chris and Mike and the growing number of peeps needed to make it happen.

PPS I’ve looked at various Pay TV services and there ain’t much on I want to watch so I’m not a customer!

4g broadband charitable Coast to Coast End User

Coast to coast walk broadband coverage

Coast to Coast broadband

Thought it would be interesting to see what the Coast to Coast broadband coverage was likely to be during our walk in May. It will be most inconvenient is I cant upload stuff at the end of each day. I’m assuming that the daytime coverage in the mountains will be largely on existent which is a bit of a shame as otherwise I’d be able to store my pics and videos as I go along.

I used the BT postcode checker, EE’s own website for mobile coverage  and the Ofcom coverage page. The results are below.

The places with very little or no bandwidth are small villages. The larger the place the more likely they are to have service. Obvs.

If I left out the place names and postcodes you could guess which stopping points were in National Parks and which weren’t. Clearly the inhabitants of these places have compensations to offset their poor internet access (innit @Cyberdoyle? 🙂 )

What I thought most amusing was that at our ultimate destination, Robin Hood’s Bay, the only network that apparently has 4G coverage is Vodafone and that is out at sea – see featured image. So if the tide is out people with Vodafone sims get good connectivity. Hopefully they have waterproof phones.

Day Place BT checker EE coverage Ofcom 4G checker
Saturday St Bees CA27 0DE 68Mbps 4G EE
Sunday Ennerdale Bridge CA23 3AR 1Mbps none EE nearby
Monday Seatoller CA12 5XQ 1Mbps none none
Tuesday Patterdale CA11 0PJ 80Mbps none none
Wednesday Shap CA10 3LX 33Mbps 4G EE good O2/Voda fair
Thursday Kirkby Stephen CA17 4QQ 78Mbs 4G EE
Friday Keld DL11 6LL 2Mbps none none
Saturday Reeth DL11 6SN 73Mbps 2G no data none
Sunday Richmond DL10 7AG 75Mbps 4G all good
Monday Ingleby Cross DL6 3LN 73Mbps 3G O2/Voda good EE sketchy
Tuesday Chop Gate (Clay Bank Top) TS9 7JF 10Mbps none none – all sketchy nearby
Wednesday Glaisedale YO21 2QL 10Mbps 3G Voda limited
Thursday Robin Hood’s Bay YO22 4RJ 46Mbps 3G Voda out at sea only!

Would have been better had I been able to represent this data graphically but I can’t so never mind.

Don’t forget I’m raising cash for Cancer Research UK whilst on this Coast to Coast walk JustGiving page here. The start date of the walk coincides with the anniversary of my mother’s death on May 1st last year. Mam was Chairman of the Marown & District branch of the IoM Anti Cancer Association.

4g broadband Business

Virgin Media Broadband Problem

Virgin Media Broadband Problem s R Us

I’m having a Virgin Media broadband problem. Took a skeet on my router and no WAN IP address was present. I haven’t bothered logging a fault as their website tells me there know about it – see featured image above. It’s been down since I got back from the dentist at around 10am.

In the meantime I’ve been using my phone as a portable hotspot connected to the EE 4G network. Since I got a 20GB data bundle for £20 a month (see here for story) I am totally comfortable with hammering the 4G connection. In fact you will see below that at 40Mbps down and almost 20Mbps up  I am getting a reasonable speed out of it – faster indeed than my old 80/20 FTTC line that only ever gave me 30/7.


The only problem I have is that my SIP deskphone doesn’t work and similarly neither do our SIP DECT phones that are the “landlines”.

This is a little bit of a nuisance as I use the SIP line to make free conference calls and to call my dear old dad in the Isle of Man. Mobile operators rip you off on calls to the IoM by not only treating them as international roaming calls but also outside the EU. Landline calls are treated as UK geo.

The only easy way to find out if the problem has been fixed is by occasionally trying my landline. Otherwise it’s a nuisance switching hotspots. The connection did come back momentarily but has now disappeared again.

I can get by using the 4G line and mobile calls but you can see why it is important for larger businesses to that they have robust connectivity. If I had an office full of people it would be worth paying for a second totally separate line for resilience/redundancy.

The Virgin service status page says estimated fix time is 14.20. Who wants a bet on whether it will be fixed by then?

broadband Business

CLA calls for legal right to broadband

Broadband for all?

You need a bit of stamina in this broadband punditry game. It’s such a complex situation that it is difficult to follow everything that goes on. Yesterday the CLA (Countryside Landowners Association) called “on MPs today to press Government for a clear and unequivocal ‘Universal Service Obligation’ that means every home and business in rural England and Wales will get broadband coverage of at least 10 megabits per second by 2020.” Broadband for all!

It was only in November last year that Dave Cameron said:

“Access to the Internet shouldn’t be a luxury; it should be a right – absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century Britain. That is why I’m announcing a giant leap in my digital mission for Britain. Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we’re going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it. That’s right: we’re getting Britain – all of Britain – online, and on the way to becoming the most prosperous economy in the whole of Europe.”

Dave was talking 10Mbps USO by 2020. I think you have to accept the politicospeak that comes with the announcement as par for the course.

What does need drilling down into though is the detail which politicians rarely cover and is what gets these idealist statements bogged down in the mire of reality.

  1. First of all who pays for this? Why should BT (other broadband providers may be available) be legally obliged to shoulder the cost of running connectivity to a farmer 5 miles from the nearest green cabinet.
  2. Offering alternatives such as satellite based broadband doesn’t cut the mustard.
  3. By 2020 10Mbps will not cut the mustard either – it should be 1Gbps.

In relation to point 1 we also have to consider the competitive landscape for broadband in the UK. We claim to have the most competitive market going. This is fair enough (probably – I’ve not really looked elsewhere but I think broadband prices in the UK are very low) but this is only in the provision of services largely running over BT infrastructure. There is Virgin of course but Virgin don’t have a wholesale play and certainly (and understandably) ain’t interested in running DOCSIS to farmhouses five miles out of town. Competition isn’t providing services to Farmer Giles.

It seems to me that the only way to do this is for UK PLC to have a state owned infrastructure company that just runs fibre to rural areas places that need it. This entity doesn’t sell services to end users. It just supplies connectivity to service providers.

It may be that this connectivity is just backhaul in many areas which is often the seed required for communities to look after themselves. We need lots of B4RNs. Maybe we need B4RN to spread to every bit of the country. There is nothing to stop the BTs, Skys and Virgins of this world from selling Over The Top services that use someone else’s underlying connectivity.

Having a state owned infrastructure provider won’t sit very well with this government. In fact it doesn’t sit very well with me either really – I don’t trust governments to do things efficiently and well if only because they get themselves entangled in their own red tape. Could Openreach be that state owned infrastructure supplier?

I think the penny is very slowly starting to drop in the minds of the powers that be but it has a long way to go before the light comes on.

There you go. Rant over for now. Check out yesterday’s post on the lack of UK national broadband vision.

PS note new image of cow. I’ve been using one from @Cyberdoyle’s farm for ages. Thought I’d have a change:)

broadband Business

UK national lack of broadband vision

B4RL turns out to be a good source and the lack of UK broadband vision

Last year I created the B4RL Facebook page. B4RL stands for Broadband 4 Rural Lincolnshire. Seemed to me we needed one aka B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North) and B4RDS (Broadband for Rural Devon and Somerset). B4RN is by now world famous and B4RDS is becoming a place for heated discussion with people who have very clear views on the availability (or lack of) of connectivity.

I occasionally get contacted by people local to me looking for help getting connectivity to their communities. Usually the brick wall is backhaul cost. Lincolnshire folk don’t generally seem to be particularly demonstrative when it comes to broadband. It’s usually constrained to social media outcries when their broadband stops working, as the technology periodically tends to do.

B4RL however has turned out to be a good place to follow relevant news in the broadband space because a number of stalwarts post to the timeline on a regular basis.

This morning it’s all about The Culture, Media and Sport Committee visit to Russell’s Water Village, as part of its inquiry on “Establishing world-class connectivity throughout the UK”. The visit has already met with a hiccup as you can see from the tweet:

This week has also seen a link to an article in the Telegraph on the best and worst places to get broadband in the UK. Amazingly my home town Lincoln comes near the top. That’ll be my 200Mbps Virgin connection driving up the average.

best and worst broadbandThe difference between the best and the worst is really marked though. What’s more  we have to consider that to get an average a lot of people must be seeing far worse speeds. Also this probably doesn’t recognise that many households won’t be getting broadband of any sort.

There are lots more good articles on B4RL. What I really wanted to get to was the issue of what is to be done about broadband access and speeds and why we need to do anything..

There is a valid argument that nobody yet needs a 1Gbps connection aka the services of B4RN, Gigaclear et al. I doubt that I ever use my 200Mbps to the full. It may be argued that over and above a certain speed (say 10Mbps per person) what is more important is the contention/congestion on the service provider’s network. That’s as may be but the real point is that as a nation that needs to compete and be innovative in the big bad technology ruled world we need to have that cutting edge.

Commercial websites have evidence that shows how revenues increase with faster page load times. Amazon claim a 1% increase in revenue for every 100 milliseconds improvement in page loading time. Yahoo increased traffic by 9% for every 400 milliseconds improvement. Google say that “Slowing down the search results page by 100 to 400 milliseconds has a measurable impact on the number of searches per user of -0.2% to -0.6%”.

This is one of the reasons why large content providers are members of Internet Exchange Points like LONAP where their traffic gets the benefit of faster connectivity.

It may be about speed in the headlines but behind all the hype it’s about money.

The same logic can be applied to broadband connectivity. I found this Forbes article from 2012 that claimed that GDP increases by 0.3% with a doubling of broadband growth. Now I’m sure that there will be lots of caveats and conditions associated with this but the general message seems to be clear.

The problem is that this isn’t a BT or a Virgin issue. Apart from the fact that B4RN and Gigaclear have shown that it is very much doable to provide 1Gbps to the home economically (£30 a month for a 1Gig connection – I’d say that’s hugely competitive).

BT’s job is to generate value for its shareholders and not to underpin the economy. This is a we the people issue. Why should the UK wait for BT to decide that there is indeed a business case in providing FTTH, which is what we are talking about. Fibre all the way to your house.

UK GDP at the end of 2015 was around £1,787 Billion. Last year Ofcom told us that the average UK broadband speed had grown to 22.8Mbps by the end of November 2014. If everyone was getting 1Gbps that would be over x 25 growth or, if for the sake of a number we use the Forbes 0.3% figure, a 1.5% growth in GDP.That would take GDP to £1,814bn or a growth of £27Bn which is funnily enough roughly what the Caio Report in 2008 said that rolling out nationally FTTH would cost. Bear in mind this figure would be based on BT type overheads and costs.

Compare this to the £15.5 to £19.5Bn annual increase in GDP by 2040 quoted for the H2S train project for an investment of around £50Bn.

I don’t have a problem with investing for the future. The government’s problem is that it can’t see how an investment in digital infrastructure would generate growth. It can’t work out the numbers. A capital project such as HS2 has an established business model that bean counters can bet their brains around. The brave new digital world is a mystery to most of them. They aren’t necessarily to blame as it’s new for everyone. What is lacking however is vision.

There is something else lacking. If you talk to the folk at B4RN they won’t touch government money with a barge pole. This is partly out of bitter experience.  When they were starting they were ignored by the establishment in favour of BT when it came to the distribution of funds. BT being seen to be a “safer” pair of hands. It is also because government money comes so wrapped in red tape that accessing it is seen as too much effort to get to.

So somehow the MPS on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee visiting Russell’s Water today need to be provided with a message they can take back to Westminster. A message that says “raise your game UK”. Let’s be seen by the world as being visionaries and not just by a few people in government trying to spin a story.

The CartoDB  website is useful if you are looking for data on your local broadband speeds.

broadband Business

Long Line Issues – Living & Working with a 0.18Mbps Internet Connection

Long line issues – makes you appreciate good broadband when you have it

This is Lincolnshire broadband week on Most of the posts have been pretty upbeat. Feelgood stuff about how superfast broadband has changed life/work for the better. Well it ain’t all good I’m afraid. Businessman David MacGregor tells us about his long line issues – broadband so slow as to be almost unusable.

Working and living with a 0.18Mbps connection (…on a good day) is beyond ridiculous. Trust me when I say Broadband rage is real thing. My other half Kirsty and I run a small business (Terranomade) making and designing vinyl graphics, signs, wall art, stickers etc. from our small-holding just outside Theddlethorpe. It never ceases to amaze me that we have managed to grow the business as much as we have, with such limited internet access. Previously we have had some reasonably high profile clients, and attempting to draft and discuss previews and mock-ups via email, whilst operating on such a painfully slow connection speed, has very nearly cost us contracts and further commissions. As you can maybe imagine, in a competitive market place, speed is quite often the key. We genuinely feel as though we are losing business as a direct result of our internet speed issue.

As previously mentioned, one of the main problems with a slow connection is obviously downloading and sending attachments. A considerable portion of our day is spent waiting on pictures uploading, which eats into the time that should be spent on other projects and before you know it you find yourself still working at 9pm at night and thinking I wish I had got more done today.

Quite often friends will ask if we’ve watched some series or another on Netflix or its ilk, and then the quietly embarrassing conversation of “No, we can’t get Netflix etc” ensues. No-one ever quite believes that a connection speed of 0.18mbps is even possible. So, we never get to use on-demand services that’s just a huge no no! Hell, even to watch a 2 minute video on YouTube it takes 10mins and three attempts to get it to play all the way through whilst “buffering”. We have a rule of only one person connected to the internet at a time, primarily because if we are both attempt to go on ebay or facebook we spend the night getting messages of “no internet”.

We are currently awaiting an investigation being completed by BT as to what can be done to improve not only our connection, but also that of the six other houses along our road that are in the same boat. According to Openreach we are some 9.5km down the line and our cabinet has been fibre enabled, which is all well and good, but due to the length of the copper line, it has meant no improvement whatsoever. In the three years of living here our line speed has in fact has become considerably worse. When we first moved in we were lucky enough to get almost 0.35Mbps at times, now, due to more houses or line degradation, we are subjected to a pitiful 0.18Mbps.

Tref writes:

Remember the days of the 56k modem. You’d set something going and walk off to make a cup of tea whilst it downloaded. Might even set it going overnight and hope that it didn’t crash in the wee small hours making you have to start again. Well for some people this is still a reality as David can testify.

Other posts in Lincolnshire broadband week:

Tim Mackintosh gets excited

There’s tiles in them thar clouds

Superfast translation

No more commuting to Budapest by composer Ervin Nagy

Philip Little of Bluecube Move to the cloud accelerated by superfast broadband

Intro to day 4 by Tref

Broadband for all by Tref

Could we have a B4RN in Lincolnshire (B4RL)

Gigaclear Ultrafast broadband in Lincolnshire by CEO Matthew Hare

BT fibrebroadband Managing Director Bill Murphy discusses superfast broadband progress in Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire broadband programme update by Steve Brookes

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Tim Mackintosh is getting excited at the prospect of high speed B4RN internet access and has some suggestions of how he might use its excess capacity

ultra high speed broadband uses – innovative ways of using your high capacity internet connection

Tim Mackintosh is about to dig himself onto the B4RN hyperfast hyperhighway. In this post he discusses innovative ways of using the capacity that will soon be made available to him and talks about TV White Space.

Well, it’s a bit too wet today to do anything to help push forward that twenty kilometre trench today … so, I thought I’d just ponder what it might mean to us all once the sods are replaced and Silverdale residents have gigagot their gigabits.

As Karen Adams posted on B4RL Facebook page recently, in an extract from a CNET article written five years ago, Verizon Communications Chief Information Officer Shaygan Kheradpir said:- “I remember when AOL first came out and people wondered why people would ever need faster than 56Kbps downloads,” he said. “Every time we have increased the speed of service, consumers and others have found a way to fill the pipe. I’m confident that someone will figure out what to do with all that capacity.” With our B4RN gigabit fibre broadband, we’ve got 18,724 times more capacity.  That’s a very big pipe to fill.

Of course, we don’t need to fill the pipe.  There’s no obligation upon us to do any more on line than we are doing now.  B4RN fibre is just going to let us do what we do much more reliably.  But what sort of things could we do, if we wanted to?

There’s a company in the Netherlands called Nerdalize.  For people in places like B4RNland with a gigabit at their disposal, they are offering the opportunity to use some of their unused bandwidth to heat their houses.  They will supply storage heater sized server units which will be processing information for universities, research centres and other industrial data managers whilst at the same time, heating the premises.  Nerdalize pay for all the electricity used by the servers and can still offer data processing at 30% – 55% cheaper prices than its competition. – Green, clean and environmentally friendly.

In the USA, there are a number of initiatives where communities can share their surplus bandwidth with less well connected neighbourhoods.  These initiatives are made possible by the use of TV white space and it doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to see how it would work in Lincolnshire.

What is TV White Space (TVWS)?

Between 2008 and 2012 the UK’s terrestrial television system switched from analogue to digital broadcasting. The TV transmission system is arranged regionally and so to avoid interference between neighbouring regional signals there needs to be space between the channels used in each region.

Devices used for program making and special events (known as PMSE), such as wireless microphones, occasionally use some of these spare channels, but the remaining channels can be shared for other uses. TV White Space technology makes use of these available channels using an online geo-location database that tells the wireless device which frequency it can use without causing interference to TV broadcasters and PMSE operators.  Depending on the availability of channels in an area, TVWS can offer tens of Mbps per channel over several kilometres.  One of these databases has  already expressed an interest in working with community projects for community benefit.

The Gigabit Libraries Project in the ‘States, has libraries with spare broadband bandwidth, sending some of this connectivity to more remote locations in their communities to provide a WIFI connection for special community events and activities.  TV white space technology is being developed extensively in many parts of the world and the equipment required is becoming more affordable all the time.  Individuals in B4RNland, with connectivity to spare and an interest in community art, could decide to use TVWS to share some of it, as a WIFI hotspot, with a ‘Woodstock’ like music festival visiting the vicinity, or a ‘Hay on Wye’ type book fair a field or two away.

Another TVWS initiative being explored in UK would be particularly resonant in B4RNland with Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks and Sites of Special Scientific Interest as prolific as fleas on a dog’s back.  TVWS would easily allow any B4RN connected environmentalist to furnish a bit of bandwidth to a local university or conservation organisation that wanted eyes and ears on a remote location 24/7.  They could set up an HD video feed serviced by a TVWS link and put it immediately up on the web for the world to see and study.

Our community owned and managed gigabit connectivity is going to give us opportunities that not only don’t exist today but that will open doors to whole new worlds that we cannot even imagine from where we’re standing now.  

From the horse’s mouth, I have it on good authority that TVWS connectivity will soon be able to be mounted on a vehicle.  In the event of an emergency – road accident, rail crash, cockling disaster – anywhere in B4RNland, this TVWS mobile WIFI hub will facilitate immediate high bandwidth WIFI inter connectivity between all the emergency services, volunteers and local community resources to co-ordinate the best possible response in the quickest possible time.  All that’s tomorrow.  But we can start exploring its potential whenever we like.  

Once we’ve dug that twenty kilometre trench …

Tim Mackintosh found B4RN in 2011, attended their launch in Lancaster, bought some shares and started making a nuisance of himself locally. In 2013 he got together with a few like minded individuals and set up B4YS (B4RN broadband for Yealand, Silverdale and Storth) and obtained a grant from Arnside and Silverdale AONB to grease its wheels. So far, BAYS has connected most of one of the three parishes – Yealand. Tim has been interested in TVWS since before B4RN.

Other posts in Lincolnshire broadband week:

There’s tiles in them thar clouds

Superfast translation

No more commuting to Budapest by composer Ervin Nagy

Philip Little of Bluecube Move to the cloud accelerated by superfast broadband

Intro to day 4 by Tref

Broadband for all by Tref

Could we have a B4RN in Lincolnshire (B4RL)

Gigaclear Ultrafast broadband in Lincolnshire by CEO Matthew Hare

BT fibrebroadband Managing Director Bill Murphy discusses superfast broadband progress in Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire broadband programme update by Steve Brookes

broadband Business

There’s tiles in them thar clouds

Superfast Broadband is Picture Perfect for Tiling Company cloud storage of 50,000 images

As we approach the end of Lincolnshire broadband week on this blog we have a couple more case studies for you hot off the press – onlincolnshire are sponsors of this themed week on

Superfast broadband has been a success story for tile and heating specialist Martin Pocklington whose business like many is evolving to being online and cloud based. I’m sure that the day is not far off where we will all be exclusively cloud based. We will look back fondly (really? – maybe not) at the old days where we had to remember to make backups and waited patiently whilst Microsoft updates finished downloading. Here is Martin’s story:

Having been in the industry over 20 years, Martin has owned Horncastle Tiles Ltd since 2002 and bought Boston Heating Limited in 2010.

As well as websites for both businesses, Martin also runs online retail and wholesale operations at and

Having signed up to superfast broadband in June 2015, Martin has also made the move to the cloud.

He explained: “I have up to 50,000 images of tiles stored on the cloud, which is great as before it was a nightmare to store and track them down.

“Without switching to superfast broadband it would have been a very long, slow and painstaking process.

“We turn over £1 million a year by being able to process sales quickly and delivering fast, without the broadband speeds we would get left behind by competitors. We can now trade online competitively as we have fewer overheads being based in rural Lincolnshire, but it is essential to have that speed.”

Martin added that thanks to making the switch to superfast he can also access online accounting software.

“Quickbooks means everything is centralised and I can access the information from any device, anywhere in the world so long as I have an internet connection. It’s also linked to our ecommerce site and updates automatically which means I don’t have to input information manually,” he explained.

To find out more about Martin’s business visit or

To learn more about onlincolnshire, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, visit

PS this post was begging for a caption such as night out on the superfast broadband tiles or simlar but I couldn’t think of one that worked with the content 2 free tickets to trefbash 2015 if you can think of a good one.

Other posts in Lincolnshire broadband week:

Superfast translation

No more commuting to Budapest by composer Ervin Nagy

Philip Little of Bluecube Move to the cloud accelerated by superfast broadband

Intro to day 4 by Tref

Broadband for all by Tref

Could we have a B4RN in Lincolnshire (B4RL)

Gigaclear Ultrafast broadband in Lincolnshire by CEO Matthew Hare

BT fibrebroadband Managing Director Bill Murphy discusses superfast broadband progress in Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire broadband programme update by Steve Brookes

broadband Business

Last day of #Lincolnshirebroadband week

But not the end of Lincolnshire broadband! 🙂

Ok playmates today we finish off Lincolnshire broadband week with three posts.

First up at 10.30 we find out how Horncastle tiles stores 50,000 images of tiles in the cloud.

At 1pm guest contributor Tim Mackintosh discusses innovative ways of using high capacity broadband services and

Finally at 2.30pm David MacGregor talks about the problems associated with being 9.5km from his cabinet.

It’s been a highly successful Lincolnshire broadband week so far with 368 social media shares and comments. And that’s not counting all the comments left on Facebook and LinkedIn and the retweets.

Check out the other posts this week using the links below:

Superfast translation

No more commuting to Budapest by composer Ervin Nagy

Philip Little of Bluecube Move to the cloud accelerated by superfast broadband

Intro to day 4 by Tref

Broadband for all by Tref

Could we have a B4RN in Lincolnshire (B4RL)

Gigaclear Ultrafast broadband in Lincolnshire by CEO Matthew Hare

BT fibrebroadband Managing Director Bill Murphy discusses superfast broadband progress in Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire broadband programme update by Steve Brookes

broadband Business

Superfast speeds = superfast translation? #lincolnshirebroadband

Superfast broadband speeds have been an enabler for Lincolnshire based translation services company

Iwona at PABPAB Translation is a forward-thinking, multi-award-winning translation company with branches in England and overseas.

Nearly all of PAB’s translations are conducted by a native language speaker and more than 70% of its customers come through word of mouth based on the quality of work and the level of service the company offers.

The company’s operations team guarantees to reply to customers needing translations within one working hour from a quote request, so being responsive is part of the firm’s daily routine.

When Managing Director Iwona Lebiedowicz wanted to ensure that the company could reach the next level of service to offer its customers worldwide, she decided to invest and sign up to superfast broadband to aid the company’s growth.

She said: “Our team members come from all over the world as we are one of the largest firms of certified translators and language interpreters in the east of England. As our staff are from all over the world, we wanted to be able to use cloud-based computing and so upgrading to superfast broadband was the next logical step for us as a company.”

Signing up for such speeds has meant Iwona and her team have been able to perform the tasks they normally do, but in a fraction of the time.

Ruta Rubina, PAB Translator and IT Co-ordinator, explained: “We decided to upgrade at the end of 2014 but waited until April when we installed a new cloud-based IT system. The technical demands and the potential enhanced performance cloud computing offers made it necessary to switch to superfast broadband if we were to benefit fully from our new IT infrastructure.”

“We’ve also noticed fewer errors happening,” added Operations Manager Ana Maria Silvago, “which for translation is invaluable.” “Most of our business is done online and our freelancers are located in various locations across the world so it’s great not to be running into problems with regards to getting vital information out there. It now means we are more efficient and more productive overall.”

Sales Ledger Assistant Monika Przybyszewska agrees, saying the superfast speeds on their broadband give greater capacity to send and receive data electronically.

“With invoices especially in my case, it’s much faster. Costs are reduced because we can now rely on our invoices being received by email,” added Monika.

“We are also enjoying faster payments with reliable internet banking and we are able to handle customer issues more efficiently.”

To find out more about PAB Translation please visit This case study was first published yesterday on the wesite.

broadband Business

Superfast broadband replaces long distance commute to Budapest for Lincs based Hungarian composer

Lincolnshire superfast broadband enables composer to work over the internet.

Ervin Nagy is a Hungarian Concert pianist and composer who has been living in Lincoln since 2009. As a pianist he has travelled the world to give concerts and would periodically land back in the Hungarian capital city Budapest to collaborate on composing music for video games with his partner, BAFTA winner Tamás Kreiner.

As the demands of a growing family increased this long distance commute no longer became attractive but thanks to superfast broadband Ervin is able to keep his work going. In this post he tells us how it works.

Ervin writes

As I have told you earlier, sometimes I went to Hungary to work in a studio, writing music for games, animation films etc. As we are spending less time every year in Hungary, we had to find another way to work. So I invested in some tools, so I can record some music myself.

The software which is responsible for the recording and editing of the recorded notes is called “Cubase“. But to make the actual sounds, one needs to use so called “instruments banks”. These are storage softwares for various instruments. There are hundreds of thousands of them, from pop rock instruments to symphony orchestra instruments or ethnic instruments from all over the world.

The one I use is called Sample Tank 3. This has a little bit of everything and gives me access to a whole range of instruments. Sample Tank 3 gives me some idea of the basic sound, but the quality of these instruments are not the best. In the big studio in Budapest-due to all the investments and purchase of more than a decade we can make a much more up to date sound. This is where internet helps us a great deal.

When we want to work together we both, my sound engineer colleague and I, log in to Teamviewer and within seconds my colleague is in my laptop and see everything as I have recorded. Because I am still learning these programmes, he knows many tricks how to make unique detailed editing. The more you know of these small details the more natural effects you can create. So I tell him how I want to change things etc…

The one thing is missing yet and that is we have to use Skype to hear each other’s computers and sound systems. (oh yes, that is the other very important feature of our long distance work 🙂 ) Luckily the newest generation of Cubase will enable us to do it so. We will be able to log into each other’s sound system and we hear exactly the same quality of sound. Maybe the next generation will allow us to share our lunch as well 🙂

When all is done the recorded and mixed music goes to an even bigger studio for final mastering, all this could not happen without the internet!!

The very first piece of work we have produced like this just left my laptop last week.Tamás will try to find the best samples for the various instruments, and then goes to mixing and mastering. I know that many musicians and studios work this way. Mainly because someone has a great equipped studio in let’s say LA but the singer they need is based in France. And possibly they also need a great flamenco guitar player who lives in Andalusia….

You can hear some great music productions nowadays, where great musicians play together, although they never actually physically meet. Sounds absolutely crazy:)

As I just said, the first ” long distance” music is in the let’s say last third state before finishing. Some others can be seen on  or sound cloud link is:

Other posts in Lincolnshire broadband week:

Philip Little of Bluecube Move to the cloud accelerated by superfast broadband

Intro to day 4 by Tref

Broadband for all by Tref

Could we have a B4RN in Lincolnshire (B4RL)

Gigaclear Ultrafast broadband in Lincolnshire by CEO Matthew Hare

BT fibrebroadband Managing Director Bill Murphy discusses superfast broadband progress in Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire broadband programme update by Steve Brookes

broadband Business Cloud voip

The move to cloud based services gathers momentum as superfast broadband penetration grows

Philip Little of Lincoln cloud based telephony service provider Bluecube discusses the growth of cloud services in Lincolnshire

The trend in businesses moving to cloud services in Lincolnshire has been gathering momentum for quite some time now. However, at Bluecube, we have seen an exponential growth in this over the last 18 months in particular, so why is that?

The swing could be attributed to increased awareness of hosted voice services through better marketing and advertising efforts from providers and networks. The technology gets better, slicker and the argument to move to cloud services more compelling than ever, but we think the main reason so many businesses are moving to the cloud is because of the availability of superfast broadband services.

The majority of businesses, regardless of their size or industry now have superfast broadband available to them, yes even in Lincolnshire! What this article centres on is whether these businesses are taking full advantage of the speeds they now have at their disposal.

If you upgrade to superfast broadband and carry on working the way you always have done, you’re not going to see huge changes. Yes you will be able to open large email attachments much faster and streaming video should be a much smoother experience (goodbye buffering!), but that’s about it. Once you have the speed available you’ll need to adopt a cloud strategy to take full advantage of your investment.

That might sound complicated, expensive, and scary or even a little over the top if you’re only a small business, but bear with me on this – a cloud strategy can be as simple as deciding your one man business is going to move all documents from an external hard drive to something like, Google Drive and start using Skype for calls. If you’re a larger company it might mean that you start to work on a migration plan to get rid of your legacy on site equipment (phone system, servers, storage) and start moving services, data and processes into the cloud. Whatever the size of your of business or the business you are in, you’ll need to start thinking differently to take advantage of this opportunity.

What opportunity I hear you ask? A recent report from Deloitte has shown that SMB’s that use cloud technology grow 26% faster and deliver 21% higher gross profits.  85% of those surveyed believe cloud enabled their businesses to scale and grow faster. This means that the advantage of being a city based company is slowly disappearing. Small businesses now are also able to compete on a more level playing field with larger businesses, as cloud services are generally charged on a per user/per license basis. Small companies can now have the same specification phone system as a large corporate because they don’t have to invest in expensive equipment, as it’s all hosted in the cloud. Starting to get the full picture now?

To realise the full potential of superfast broadband and the real savings you can make through replacing on site equipment and resources with cloud based services, you’ll need some expert advice. There are plenty of companies out there that can help guide you through the process, Bluecube are just one of them.

One thing is for certain, the cloud revolution will continue and it will grow until either it cannot be ignored or your hand is forced. For example, BT have announced that digital ISDN services will have been completely phased out within 10 years and replaced by the 21st century network (i.e. internet based) completely.

Philip Little is Senior Business Development Manager of Lincoln based Internet Telephony Service Provider Bluecube Telecom.

Footnote by Trefor Davies

The concept of Internet Telephony is growing in popularity. Although it has been around for over a decade in the early stages of the market growth was stymied by the lack of good broadband upload speeds.

With the advent of superfast broadband this has changed and the reliability and quality of experience of cloud services has dramatically improved. If you have fast broadband then the move to cloud services is a no brainer and most of’s business is conducted through this medium.

Read our other posts in Lincolnshire Broadband week

Intro to day 4 by Tref

Broadband for all by Tref

Could we have a B4RN in Lincolnshire (B4RL)

Gigaclear Ultrafast broadband in Lincolnshire by CEO Matthew Hare

BT fibrebroadband Managing Director Bill Murphy discusses superfast broadband progress in Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire broadband programme update by Steve Brookes

broadband Business

Today on – how people are using their new superfast broadband connection

Lincolnshire broadband week continues

Ok playmates (or meates seeing as this is Lincolnshire broadband week – if you aren’t from around here you might not understand that one me duck) today we have three guest posts talking about how people are taking advantage of their new superfast broadband connection.

At 1pm we have Philip Little of Lincoln based hosted VoIP company talking about how they have seen a huge uptake in hosted voip services since the advent of superfast broadband. Was really nice to come across Bluecube btw – someone doing my thang in my home town (thang is an Americanism – not from Lincolnshire, btw).

Then at 2.30 pm we have my good friend and internationally renowned Hungarian concert pianist Ervin Nagy discusses how he has managed to stop having to commute to Budapest and get more quality time with his family in Lincoln, all thanks to superfast broadband.

Finally at 4pm we have an case study showing how Lincoln based translation company PAB is using hteir new superfast broadband connection to access cloud the based IT services that have revolutionised their business.

It’s very noticeable that case studies are always business oriented. We overlook the fact that superfast broadband has allowed sea changes in the way we use technology at home. Multiple TV streams for the family in multiple rooms. Backups of family photos – how often do you hear of people losing all their precious family photos (“often Tref“). Keeping in touch with the kids using video Hangouts/Facetime/Skype/Facebook. etcetera, etcetera etcetera (as in the movie the King and I). I think I’m losing the plot this morning. I’d better go.

I may add more as they come in. and already have some lined up for tomorrow.

Ciao amigos meates.

Posts in Lincolnshire broadband week:

Philip Little of Bluecube Move to the cloud accelerated by superfast broadband

Intro to day 4 by Tref

Broadband for all by Tref

Could we have a B4RN in Lincolnshire (B4RL)

Gigaclear Ultrafast broadband in Lincolnshire by CEO Matthew Hare

BT fibrebroadband Managing Director Bill Murphy discusses superfast broadband progress in Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire broadband programme update by Steve Brookes


broadband End User

Broadband for all – our rights to access utilities

PM promises broadband for all

It is fitting considering it is Lincolnshire broadband week on this blog that last weekend Prime Minister David Cameron announced that broadband should be considered an utility and that everybody should be able to request it. He said:

“Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we’re going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it.” Good.

The digital minister Ed Vaizey gave further detail, explaining that the plan was to bring in a universal service obligation of 10Mbps for “the very hardest to reach homes and businesses.”

This is a very difficult issue to get your brain around. In the first instance whilst 10Mbps may be a huge step forward compared to what some people in rural areas might be getting today it will still be way behind what most of the rest of us can already receive.  By the time it has been implemented 10Mbps will be seen to be pretty slow. Maybe that doesn’t matter.

If it is perceived that water, electricity and gas are a right, and I’m not sure that is the case – I can’t believe every rural dwelling is plumbed in for these services – I don’t think people are offered partial services for these utilities. eg you can only have some of the electricity you need not all of it.

Why shouldn’t rural people get the same broadband services as their cousins who moved into town?

It will also be interesting to see how this is paid for. I don’t think it would be reasonable to expect BT to have to foot the bill and my experience in working with Nottinghamshire County Council on their BDUK programme suggests that the whole subject of government subsidies is hugely complex. There are massive rolls of red tape indiscriminately (my words) applied to any project that may be perceived to have subsidies involved. I may be wrong.

Our politicians are often criticised for not understanding issues, especially those pertaining to technology and the internet. We must accept that some of these issues are difficult to grasp, especially in times where we are trying to save money not spend it.

We are promised a consultation period in 2016 on how to achieve the promises made by the Prime Minister over the weekend. I say ok but at the same time we should be actively looking to see how UK plc gets the universal fibre to the premises that must be the long term goal.

Other posts in Lincolnshire broadband week:

Philip Little of Bluecube Move to the cloud accelerated by superfast broadband

Intro to day 4 by Tref

Broadband for all by Tref

Could we have a B4RN in Lincolnshire (B4RL)

Gigaclear Ultrafast broadband in Lincolnshire by CEO Matthew Hare

BT fibrebroadband Managing Director Bill Murphy discusses superfast broadband progress in Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire broadband programme update by Steve Brookes


broadband Business

Will the B4RN business model work for Lincolnshire

Will the B4RN business model work elsewhere or is it the result of an unique set of circumstances.

B4RN, or Broadband For the Rural North is a community owned provider of internet connectivity services offering 1Gbps fibre to the home technology for £30 a month. B4RN bill themselves as “the world’s fastest rural broadband”. You don’t need to rent a phone line as well which is the case with “traditional” fibre broadband technology which still  relies on the copper phone line for the last bit of connectivity to your house. So the £30 is it and the 1Gbps is also it. If people want a phone they can get a low cost VoIP line from any number of providers – B4RN recommend Vonage.

Fibre to the home is not generally available from mainstream broadband providers such as BT and Sky because these providers typically reuse the country’s existing copper line infrastructure to carry most of  their services. The cost of rolling out totally new fibre connections to everyone would not make business sense. This was estimated at £29Bn by a government funded report a few years ago. BT is spending around £2.5Bn on the current Fibre to the Cabinet rollout.

How does B4RN do it?

You can see there is an order of magnitude difference between the two costs. It doesn’t make sense for BT to spend £29Bn on a broadband service. For one with that kind of up front cost they wouldn’t be able to do it for £30 a month and I doubt their shareholders would consider it money well spent.

So how come B4RN can provide a 1Gbps FTTH service whilst BT can’t. B4RN’s cost per metre to roll out fibre is around £5 whereas I remember seeing up to £140 in the BT pricelist, at least for the most awkward stretches of fibre. That’s a big difference.

b4rn fibre entry point
B4RN fibre enters a stone walled building (pub actually)

B4RN relies on donated labour from communities served by their broadband. People accept that the price of getting broadband is their free labour. BT will have union regulated price structures for this kind of work. BT also has to provide scale. They need to be able to provide the same services across the whole country. They won’t find volunteers to help them dig trenches if those volunteers think they are helping to line BT’s pockets. B4RN is a community owned organisation. The volunteers are lining their own pockets.

B4RN volunteerMoreover one of the costs associated with digging fibre into the ground is what is known as a wayleave. This is the fee (per foot) paid annually to a landowner whose property is being traversed. Landowners will see this as a “nice little earner” from BT. In the B4RN business model scenario the landowner normally waives the wayleave either as a gesture towards the community, the desire to get broadband themselves or having been subjected to peer group pressure ie leant on by friends. There have been cases where a landowner has just not been interested in helping out and in this scenario his or her property is simply bypassed and doesn’t receive the service.

Chris Conder B4RNThis whole way of working relies on having champions within each community to round up volunteers and manage the digs in their area. This is typically done on a parish by parish basis.

The original B4RN assumed there would be 8 parishes involved with up to 1,300 premises. Once a parish had been “lit” (in other words the fibre connected and providing broadband services) interest in the scheme would naturally be generated from neighbouring parishes. People talk.

The process of connecting to adjacent parishes is fairly straightforward and largely only involves the planning of the fibre digs. In principle the B4RN network could spread across the whole country, eventually even reaching rural Lincolnshire, simply by connecting adjacent parishes. It’s a little more complicated than that but not much more.

The difficult bit is setting up the first parishes. This is because just digging local fibre connections isn’t enough. This fibre has somehow to be connected to the internet. It also requires significant technical expertise to do so. B4RN were lucky in having Professor Barry Forde living in the community. Barry was Professor of Networking Technology at nearby Lancaster University.

B4RN was also able to secure cost effective access to a fibre connection that ran to Manchester which is the main internet meeting point in the North of England. The combination of Barry’s tech, the fibre link to Manchester and a ferociously focussed team led by a farmer’s wife named Christine Conder has resulted in a network that is now booming, spreading (13 parishes as I write) and the toast of rural broadband networks across the whole world (B4RN frequently receives global media coverage). Moreover Barry Forde and Chris Conder have been warded MBEs in recognition of their work promoting rural broadband.

Would B4RN work in Lincolnshire (B4RL)

So would a B4RN model work in Lincolnshire. The answer is quite possibly but of course this relies on fulfilling the three criteria – tech knowledge, access to a fibre backhaul (to the internet) and finding a team of parishioner interested enough to make it happen. It also needs enough householders interested in taking the service. All of these factors are difficult to achieve.

There is a scenario whereby B4RN could run the project which would satisfy the tech knowledge criterion. You would still need enthusiasm and local fibre, the latter being the hardest/most expensive to find. It is going to take the B4RN network a long time to reach Lincolnshire by organic means and the building of a new “node” would provide a shortcut to making this happen.

If the government were only to chose one thing to assist rural communities access good quality broadband it would be by helping them to access the fibre backhaul. The B4RN experience in getting state assistance has not been good. In fact they have had no government assistance and moreover consider the red tape associated with such help to be more hassle than it’s worth. However this doesn’t mean that a government provided fibre connection into rural communities isn’t doable.

It’s a model that should be looked at could be the wholesale provision of dark fibre into markets that would otherwise be uneconomic and not attractive to private investment. Any Service Provider would be able to avail themselves of the facility.

There is one note of caution to this tale. One of the reasons the BDUK project was structured towards only allowing large businesses to bid for the money was because of the government, in line with all public bodies, needs to be seen to be spending our cash wisely. Part of that is making sure that the investment isn’t thrown away because the Service Provider goes tits up sometime down the line. In other words the entity being given the cash needs to be seen to be a good long term prospect.

There is some validity in this approach. After all broadband has become part of our critical national infrastructure and BT isn’t going to go bust anytime soon. Witness The Ashby Digital Village Pump project providing 100Mbps symmetrical FTTP in Lincolnshire. This was announced with great fanfare but was badly run and soon fell apart. There are others like it.

This doesn’t meant to say there aren’t well run small businesses or organisations that can do the job. B4RN obviously can and the likes of Gigaclear appear to be thriving despite being a provider of fibre to the premises.

This is going to be an ongoing discussion for some time to come.

B4RN country

Other posts in Lincolnshire broadband week:

Philip Little of Bluecube Move to the cloud accelerated by superfast broadband

Intro to day 4 by Tref

Broadband for all by Tref

Could we have a B4RN in Lincolnshire (B4RL)

Gigaclear Ultrafast broadband in Lincolnshire by CEO Matthew Hare

BT fibrebroadband Managing Director Bill Murphy discusses superfast broadband progress in Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire broadband programme update by Steve Brookes

broadband Business

Gigaclear ultrafast broadband in Lincolnshire

Starting to bring Gigabit Internet to Lincolnshire

In early October, Gigaclear connected the first customers to their new Gigabit Internet service in Carlby in Lincolnshire.  This was as an extension to the newly upgraded Gigabit FTTP network just over the border (and railway line) in Rutland.  The map below shows Carlby and Essendine and the customers who have ordered service.  The green icons show where the network build is complete and the customer is now live.

gigaclear ultrafast broadband in lincolnshire

As the network build draws to a conclusion at the end of this year, all the residents of Carlby who have chosen to take up the service will be installed. Once live on the network they will experience transformational performance.  Some question whether a new buried FTTP Gigabit network is really needed.  Gigaclear believes that making, building, designing, advising and marketing anything just works better with improved access to information. The better the underlying speed, the better we all work.  So really, ultrafast speeds are like having running water in your home – once you’ve got it, you don’t know how you ever did without it.  And we really can use it when we get it – as this customer has shown in their first four weeks of service:

gigaclear ultrafast broadband in lincolnshire

Gigaclear builds these new pure fibre networks because we see a substantial unmet demand for much better Internet access from both consumers and businesses.  The demand is for faster speeds, predictability, reliability, symmetry and clarity.  A brand new Fibre-to-the-Premises (“FTTP”) network delivers this, literally in spades. By focusing on delivering these things, we are adding customers at record rates every week.

gigaclear ultrafast broadband in lincolnshire

Yes G.Fast is being promoted as an alternative, and it can make a lot of sense for urban areas where loop lengths are short, property ownership is complex and you are already served by a high quality copper local loop.  Because in this scenario, G.Fast should in almost every case deliver you download capability of more than 100Mbps.  But if you want faster speeds, need fast upload as well as download, don’t have great copper or are on a long loop – that is to say you live in rural Lincolnshire – then G.Fast is a dead end for you.

gigaclear ultrafast broadband in lincolnshire

Matthew Hare is a serial entrepreneur and is CEO and founder of Gigaclear plc.

Trefor Davies writes:

True Fibre to the Premises or FTTP is the holy grail amongst broadband services. FTTP doesn’t suffer from the same environmental problems as copper based services such as Fibre Broadband (yes it’s still copper to your house) and doesn’t degrade with length of line. FTTP can easily be upgraded as technology speeds increase because all you have to do is change the kit at either end of the fibre. You don’t need to lay new fibre.

Once the initial outlay on laying the fibre is out of the way it should in theory be cheaper to run.

BT isn’t rolling out FTTP everywhere because of this initial cost of putting the fibre in the ground (or on the poles etc). It doesn’t make economic sense for BT and whilst BT has its detractors I am not one of them. I can understand the business issues.

However this doesn’t mean to say we shouldn’t look around for alternative business models and tomorrow I will be describing one in the guise of B4RN. Stay tuned.

Other posts in Lincolnshire broadband week:

Philip Little of Bluecube Move to the cloud accelerated by superfast broadband

Intro to day 4 by Tref

Broadband for all by Tref

Could we have a B4RN in Lincolnshire (B4RL)

Gigaclear Ultrafast broadband in Lincolnshire by CEO Matthew Hare

BT fibrebroadband Managing Director Bill Murphy discusses superfast broadband progress in Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire broadband programme update by Steve Brookes

broadband End User

BT superfast broadband supremo Bill Murphy talks about progress to date in Lincolnshire and offers a glimpse into the future


It’s hard to believe more than two years has passed since the very first digital conference organised by onlincolnshire.

Back then, in 2013, I told a packed conference room in Lincoln that the most important aim was to ensure as many people as possible can benefit from fibre broadband.

There is no doubt we’re well on the way to achieving that, but let’s be clear, the story is far from over. Plenty more work in towns and villages across the county is already underway or being planned for the future.

It’s worth pausing for a second to take in the remarkable achievements that BT’s partnership with Lincolnshire County Council has already delivered.

Since that event back in March 2013, fibre broadband has been made available to more than 190,000 homes and businesses across Lincolnshire, thanks to Onlincolnshire and BT’s commercial rollout. Incredible, when you think that’s more than 6,000 properties every month able to sign up to fibre broadband for the first time.

We are transforming lives, changing the way Lincolnshire as a county does business, and opening up a whole world of possibility for our younger generations.

But we know there’s more to do. Some of our smaller communities are still waiting. Often, they’re the ones it’s proving hardest to connect to the network.

We continue to work closely with the council to explore the best way of tackling the most hard-to-reach areas. And just recently, BT itself announced a commitment to ‘never say no’ to communities outside of any current rollout plans and to work with them to find a fibre solution.

BT is more determined than ever. We’re making huge advances in the development of new technology. Just last month, 2,000 homes and businesses taking part in a real-life trial in Cambridgeshire became the first in the UK to experience a new type of ultrafast broadband.

G.Fast, pioneered by BT, is already delivering ultrafast broadband speeds of up to 330 megabits per second (Mbps), more than ten times the UK average, but is capable of going even further, up to 500 Mbps.

This trial is being delivered by Openreach, BT’s local network business, on behalf of and in collaboration with UK communications providers – eight of which have chosen to take part in this early research.

If the trials, also taking place in parts of Newcastle and Swansea, are successful, and assuming UK regulation continues to encourage investment, Openreach aims to start deploying G.Fast in 2016/17. This exciting technology is without doubt the key to making ultrafast speeds more widely available.

But how does it work?

G.Fast is a type of transmission system that uses a wider frequency band to deliver high broadband speeds over short-to-medium copper lines.

BT has pioneered research into G.Fast since 2007 and we believe speeds of up to 330Mbps will be available to millions of homes by 2020, and 500Mbps available to most of the UK within just a decade.

It’s a six to nine month trial, allowing BT, Openreach and the eight communications providers taking part to assess the technical performance of the technology across a large footprint.

Different methods of deployment are being used to provide a valuable insight into how the technology can be used on a day-to-day basis, and how usage may grow over time.

The speeds on offer will allow people to stream live ultra-high-definition 4K video content to multiple devices at once, all whilst simultaneously browsing the web, uploading videos and photos, or playing online games.

So the future’s exciting. And here at BT, we’re delighted to be leading the way in transforming the UK broadband landscape from superfast to ultrafast.

It’s going to be some journey.

Bill Murphy is Managing Director of next-generation access at BT and is responsible for their nationwide superfast broadband roll-out.

Other posts in Lincolnshire broadband week:

Philip Little of Bluecube Move to the cloud accelerated by superfast broadband

Intro to day 4 by Tref

Broadband for all by Tref

Could we have a B4RN in Lincolnshire (B4RL)

Gigaclear Ultrafast broadband in Lincolnshire by CEO Matthew Hare

BT fibrebroadband Managing Director Bill Murphy discusses superfast broadband progress in Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire broadband programme update by Steve Brookes

broadband Business

Lincolnshire Broadband Programme Update


Lincolnshire Broadband Programme Update – 31st October 2015

Lincolnshire broadbandSteve Brookes is Programme Manager at Lincolnshire County Council responsible for the Superfast Broadband project.


Total Homes Passed (THP) at the time of writing is 137,817 and we are on target to meet the end of Quarter target of 144,794 THP. There are currently 626 cabinets upgraded and a total of 704 cabinets stood to date, out of a total 801 applicable to this project.

The Quarterly targets within this project are very demanding and amongst the highest in the UK in terms of BDUK projects and to ensure we continue to hit target, BT has brought in additional resource from local companies. Both Openreach and LCC are confident that we will hit the end of Quarter target, as we have done at every Quarterly Milestone to date.

Take Up across the Project Intervention Area is now 19.86% as of September 2015, so we are confident that by today’s date, we will have hit 20%. Whilst the rate of Take Up can be described as a steady, consistent growth, we have pointed out that the huge numbers of THP in Lincolnshire per Quarter does have the constant effect of slewing the numerator/denominator ratio adversely towards Quarter end when the vast majority of THP are completed.  

The overall growth is encouraging and a planned marketing drive starting on 1st November involving press, radio and bus advertising, should drive numbers further forward.

At this point in time, BT has released an advance of £4.6M back to Lincolnshire County Council under the claw-back agreement within the contract. This in itself is testament to the confidence they feel regarding take across the county as claw-back under the contract is scheduled to be paid on a 2 yearly basis across the 10 years from project start. This money will be fully reinvested into the broadband programme to further enhance Superfast broadband coverage.

We are in discussion with BT regarding the early use of some underspend from the current project and we are pleased to note that they have agreed to look at 20 structures (localities presumably Tref) initially with a view to establishing feasibility/cost etc. and then, hopefully moving to an early deployment. LCC has been compiling an ongoing list of communities that do not benefit from the initial deployment, with a view to potentially dealing with them under Phase 2 or via underspend from the current project. Value for Money and coverage will be the key drivers here.

Trefor Davies adds

There are 156k homes in the intervention area, based on the assumption that 50% of county was already covered. It was initially estimated that  76% would get superfast broadband. The project is currently running higher than this at 83%. This figure does fluctuate from quarter to quarter – depending on mix of scenarios in each community. For some cabinets only perhaps 60% of THP will be able to get coverage but others can be in the nineties. Overall 17% of homes passed are not going to get superfast broadband ie above 24Megs.

Phase 2 of the project, which has not yet been announced, will look to pass 6,000 premises with fibre of which 4,081 should get superfast broadband. an element of this will be fttp although BT will only deploy this where it makes sense to do so, the cost of provisioning here being the barrier – eg new greenfield site with new ducts is easy brownfield sites where the ducts can often be blocked, not so easy.

In this post we are reporting on progress. This is not a discussion on the pros and cons of a technology or a complaint as to why can’t everyone get the best speeds.

About Steve Brookes

Steve was with BT for 20 years, ultimately managing teams in their external network. From there he spent several years in Europe building a European Fibre ring and following that was with Fujitsu before programme managing the Fibrespeed network across North Wales. Prior to working for LCC, he was a consultant to the Saudi Telecom Company on the deployment of FTTH, before moving on to be the Fibre consultant to the Abu Dhabi Government on a multi million dollar tourism programme.

Other posts in Lincolnshire broadband week:

Philip Little of Bluecube Move to the cloud accelerated by superfast broadband

Intro to day 4 by Tref

Broadband for all by Tref

Could we have a B4RN in Lincolnshire (B4RL)

Gigaclear Ultrafast broadband in Lincolnshire by CEO Matthew Hare

BT fibrebroadband Managing Director Bill Murphy discusses superfast broadband progress in Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire broadband programme update by Steve Brookes

broadband Business

Intro to lincs broadband week on #lincsbroadband

This week is Lincolnshire broadband week on periodically holds themed weeks. These are weeks where all the posts are focussed around on single subject and tend to get a lot of engagement from the readership. This is usually manifested in a high level of social media shares, typically on Facebook and/or LinkedIn depending on the subject matter but also Twitter. Living as I do in Lincoln I decided it was time to have a Lincolnshire broadband week.

During Lincolnshire broadband week we will be publishing a mix guest posts that include service providers, wannabe service providers and a range of case studies concerning innovative uses for broadband. We will feature BT’s next generation tech, Fibre to the Premises and wireless. Also covered will be how superfast broadband is driving the use of cloud technologies, how the pace of technology development is driving the need for faster and faster broadband and innovative examples of how the availability of superfast broadband is changing the working patterns of some people.

Lincolnshire is a very rural county with in parts very low population densities. Our County Council has for years made efforts to drive availability all over the region. This week is also an opportunity for people living in Lincolnshire to have their voices heard. Are you happy with the progress of superfast broadband in your area? How has superfast broadband changed your behaviour when it comes to using the internet, or even in your everyday lives?

As well as leaving comments and sharing blog posts with your own social network we are also encouraging people to join the B4RL Facebook group. Short for Broadband 4 Rural Lincolnshire B4RL aims to emulate similar fora in other parts of the UK where there is already a lively debate on the subject of superfast broadband and its availability.

Whether you already have superfast broadband, are still eagerly awaiting its arrival or are disillusioned and deep in the trough of despair because your house isn’t even on the waiting list you should be tuning in to for Lincolnshire broadband week. Bookmark the site, follow @tref on twitter and join the B4RL group. is the personal blog of Trefor Davies. Tref was cofounder and Technical Director of Newark based business broadband ISP Timico and is Chairman of one of the world’s leading Internet Exchange Points LONAP. Lincolnshire broadband week is generously supported by onlincolnshire.

#lincsbroadband is supported by onlincolnshire.

PS couldn’t find a Lincolnshire broadband image per se so you get this one of the cathedral in the snow:) We get real winters here in Lincolnshire 🙂

Other posts in Lincolnshire broadband week:

Philip Little of Bluecube Move to the cloud accelerated by superfast broadband

Intro to day 4 by Tref

Broadband for all by Tref

Could we have a B4RN in Lincolnshire (B4RL)

Gigaclear Ultrafast broadband in Lincolnshire by CEO Matthew Hare

BT fibrebroadband Managing Director Bill Murphy discusses superfast broadband progress in Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire broadband programme update by Steve Brookes

broadband End User fun stuff

GoPro Pigs GoPro

GoPro Pigs GoPro on

Needs no introduction really but if you were one of the global audience that saw the original broadbandrating pig racing video you will know that a GoPro camera was strapped to the back of one of the pigs as part of the filming. GoPro pigs!

Well this is that pure GoPro footage – you occasionally get a glimpse of  one of our cameramen tracking the pigs as they raced around the course.

That original vid had around 11,000 views in its first week online – mostly on Facebook. The YouTube version had far fewer.

See the original video over on broadbandrating here.

broadband End User social networking

New Facebook group – B4RL

B4RL – Broadband for Rural Lincolnshire

Hi all. I’ve learned from the example of B4RDS (fast broadband for Rural Devon and Somerset – ) and decided it would be a good thing to have B4RL as a focal point for people to discuss issues they may have with getting superfast broadband to their homes and businesses.

I have initially invited people to the group who I know to be involved with rural broadband issues elsewhere. They have their own issues to sort so I’m not expecting them to become active members. We need to find our own voice in Lincolnshire.

However they are there on the off chance that people living in Lincolnshire may well be able to benefit from the experience of others elsewhere in the the country.

The BT/BDUK rollout of superfast broadband is progressing but it isn’t going to cover everyone.

There is also a cohort of individuals who think that superfast or fibre broadband (as it has been dubbed by marketeers) isn’t the right solution. Fibre broadband is not fibre all the way to your home but to the green cabinet down the street. Should we be going straight for Fibre to the Premises as in the case of B4RN in Lancashire (see .

FTTP doesn’t necessarily cost out for big businesses like BT so what’s the alternative?

This group is going to be the place for people interested in high speed broadband in Lincolnshire to air their views and is open to anyone to join.

The group url is here. Feel free to sign up. The more the merrier.

PS this is not a knock the incumbent group – we want constructive useful dialogue.

broadband Business

The tangled web of consumer broadband marketing

best broadband deals

In the last 10 days I have had approximately fifteen emails from affiliate relationship managers of the big 5 ISPs with notices of changes to their marketing offers. 6 from TalkTalk, 1 from Sky, 4 from BT and 2 from Virgin. Plusnet haven’t been in touch for 3 weeks or so. I’ve also had one or two generic affiliate window ones.

The headlines from these offers include:

fibre flash sale

Netflix promotion

unlimited infinity 1 offer

BT Sports Assist Campaign

12 months free Broadband Unlimited without TV plus a £100 M&S or Tesco e-voucher, pre-paid MasterCard or a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4

Love2shop voucher

Unlimited Superfast Broadband £5 a Month For 18 Months + Free Connection

£75 and £125 Sainsbury’s Vouchers and a £5 Unlimited Broadband

Get a £100 voucher when you take out one of these bundles

Bewildering really innit? These offers tend to change most weeks. They have to to some extent because  I think the Advertising Standards Authority otherwise looks at them as the norm – a price crash isn’t a price crash if it is always that price.

These offers make the cost of a broadband line to be deceptively low. You have to look at the price beyond the initial offer or contract stage. This isn’t to say that that subsequent price isn’t competitive. The inducements offered to switch broadband provider are however very tempting.

Last week if you signed up with Sky on an initial 12 month contract you could get a broadband package with unlimited data usage for only £14.18 inc line rental – taking into consideration their cashback deal. Similarly BT Ininity 1 (unlimited) was £19.24 inc line rental when including their Sainsburys £125 voucher offer.

Brutal. These companies have to have deep pockets and huge marketing budgets.

The upshot to the consumer is that they have a bewildering complexity of offers to try and choose from. I guess much of the marketing budget is spend trying to be the “last broadband provider that the consumer saw on TV” on the premise that whichever was the one seen last will be fresher in the mind and more likely to be chosen.

The best broadband deals however do change with bewildering regularity and it makes sense for someone making a switch to bide their time, decide what sort of incentive they want (cash, Sainsburys vouchers etc) and wait for the great offer to return.

All good stuff – it’s how sites such as et al make their money.

Oh and btw caveat emptor – it isn’t always just about price is it? Eh?

PS it’s a full time job keeping track of these deals.

broadband Business

600% increase in BT Wholesale WBC and WBMC FTTC and FTTP Cease charges

Notification of changes to WBC and WBMC FTTC and FTTP Cease charges

A reliable industry source has just told me that BT Wholesale are increasing their Cease charges for Market B Wholesale Broadband Connect (WBC) and Wholesale Broadband Managed connect (WBMC) Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) and Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) products with effect from the 1 September 2015. Market B if I recall correctly is where there is more than one competitive broadband provider or where BT has more than 50% market share. 

The pricing for WBC and WBMC FTTC and FTTP End User Access (EUA) Cease charge increases from £5.31 to £31.52.  Market B is where most of the business is. The reliable source can’t see any corresponding price increase from Openreach so they say this looks like BTW generating some additional gross margin.

The question is whether this charge gets passed on to end users. It represents a significant chunk of change considering the amount of churn there is in this game – 12% in 2013/14 according to my source. Not surprising churn is this high considering the amount of up front cash being dangled in the biz for new subscribers. I guess this churn must be adding to BTW’s overheads.

It  would appear (alt image here) that BT themselves are going to charge £5.50 which would suggest that they are taking a hit – they surely must have to carry the same costs as BTW (or their customers).

I can’t believe the charge does get passed on by most consumer ISPs. There would be uproar. It would surely be anti-competitive. You’d be taking your sign-on bonus from one ISP and handing it to the one you’re just leaving.

This price increase certainly puts a bit more of a squeeze on the customers of BTW. It’s a fine balance they have to strike. BTW will need to show profit and if their costs rise they need to put up their charges. But they also don’t want to stop their customers from growing by being too expensive.

Smaller ISPs can’t keep up with the pricing of the big consumer players and have to sell on service levels. In my time at Timico we bought quite a few small ISPs specifically to bulk up the broadband customer base and gain scale. There are other reasons for doing this – we were able to up sell our other services into the acquired customer base (leverage the base to use a somewhat corny business term).

This increase in Cease charges is certainly an incentive to look after your customers.

Anyway that’s it for now. I’m not sure I’m that interested in this kind of fine business detail – changes to WBC and WBMC FTTC and FTTP Cease charges – but it does have the potential to cause a bit of a stir.

broadband Business fun stuff

How to choose the fastest broadband provider – go pig racing

fastest broadband pig race

Fastest broadband pig race brought to you by

The video says it all really. This is the latest in a fun filled series of videos by which brings a different slant to how to go about choosing a broadband provider.

In this case the fastest broadband provider is represented by the winning pig. The ISP names are all made up in case the losers make a complaint.

The funny thing is that one day you could be eating a bacon sandwich made from our winning pig – Uswine Bolt.

Filmed on location at Piglets Adventure Farm Park in York to whom we are extremely grateful for their enthusiastic cooperation.

Thanks also to Tom Davies of If you visit his website you may notice something in the way of a family resemblance. Video production is part of the portfolio of service s offered by Marketing Services. If you are looking for your own corporate video or videos please do get in touch.

broadband Business

BT throw £129m back into rural broadband pot

BT rural broadband reinvestment

Bit of an announcement from DCMS re performance against budget for BT and the BDUK broadband roll out. I was in conversation with someone about the Lincolnshire project and was told that they were coming in significantly under budget and were expecting the remaining funds to be ploughed back in. That is going to be the subject of a week of posts over on but in the mentime the gov has beaten me to it with the news.

At the risk of becoming one of those media outlets that just regurgitate spiel they get sent I’ve pasted the whole press release below. I know that readers of this blog have a wide range of views on this subject so I’ll leave it to you guys to comment and form the debate.

Good morning,

Please find below a joint DCMS/BT statement re: BT to return up to £129m to local authorities to rollout superfast broadband even further.

STATEMENT 30.07.15

The Government welcomes BT’s news today that the company will make up to £129m available to extend the Government led roll-out of superfast broadband.

The funding will be made available to local authorities to reinvest the money in providing further superfast broadband coverage to even more homes and businesses and much earlier than originally planned.

The money is being made available as a result of a clause in the contracts BT agreed with governments and local authorities that allows the funding BT has received to be returned or reinvested into further coverage if take-up is better than the 20 per cent* expected in BT’s original business case. The high take up rate to date has resulted in BT making  a new business case assumption of reaching 30 per cent take-up in these areas.

John Whittingdale, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said:

“It’s fantastic to see that the rollout of superfast broadband is delivering for customers and for the taxpayer. The Government was clear from the start that as levels of people taking up superfast broadband went beyond our expectations in areas where we invested public money, BT would reimburse the taxpayer for reinvesting into further coverage across the UK. This now means that BT will be providing up to £129m cashback for some of the most hard to reach areas.

“Our £1.7bn superfast broadband programme is on track to reach at least 95 per cent of the UK by 2017, and it is great to see homes and businesses making the most of everything that superfast speeds have to offer.”
Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT, said:

“Seven years ago, in the depths of recession, we embarked on our multi-billion pound fibre investment to bring faster broadband speeds to the UK.

“BT’s fibre network is accessible to more than 23 million premises. Four out of five UK homes and businesses can access it and 4.6m are now connected. We’ve hit our original take-up assumption and have rolled out ahead of target and on budget. This is a real success story for the UK.

“We are delighted to be able to share that success by making up to £129m available to extend the roll-out to more BDUK homes and businesses, earlier than planned and at no extra cost to the taxpayer.

“BT will work with local bodies over the coming months to identify where these funds can be provided early to enable the local bodies to invest in increased fibre coverage sooner than would previously have been the case.”


Notes to editors:

* This 20 percent take-up rate was based on international comparisons and BT’s experience in its own commercial roll-out.

broadband End User

Oops something went wrong

On a wet Friday afternoon in July – oops something went wrong with the broadband order

I’ve procrastinated long enough. I’m ordering Virgin Media’s 152Mbps broadband only service. At least I’m trying to. As you can see from the featured image without too much success so far.

My logic in choosing Virgin is simple. I want the fastest broadband I can get. With Virgin I will get near to 152Mbps download and 12Mbps up. With FTTC I can only get 30Mbps down and 7Mbps up. Simples.

Also I don’t need a phone line – line rentals are all around £17 and are a rip off. That’s with expensive call charges on top. All I need is a VoIP line that I can use from a dect phone, IP phone or indeed my mobile phone. With the latter I can use it anywhere in the world. Also I don’t trust the mainstream telephony providers’ call charges. They are around 10p for a geographic number cf near to 1p for VoIP and their non geo pricing is not at all transparent. This has been made worse by Ofcom’s recent dictat on non geo number charges.

There are some tempting offers for bundles that include other services such as TV. To be honest there is rarely anything on worth watching on the telly. I don’t feel deprived by not taking up any of these offers.

All I need is a connection. The rest is all an Over The Top service somewhere on the internet.

I do have misgivings with signing up with Virgin. Non UK call centre is a big one. That really is crap. Bufferbloat is another, equally crap. I don’t think I’m likely to be caught by their upload limits and trigger traffic management/throttling. We shall see.

The Virgin contract is 12 months. I’ll be keeping you updated re progress which at the moment is pretty non existent because as I’ve already mentioned, oops something went wrong!!!

See previous post on how to choose a broadband provider here.

… bit later – Virgin clearly have some problem with the broadband bits on their website – see screenshot below. Can’t even get onto the product pages now.


broadband Business

Ofcom Strategic Review and the separation of Openreach from BT

Ofcom Strategic Review – the boys don’t want to see a separate Openreach

The Ofcom Strategic Review happens every 10 years, the last being in September 2005. This week Ofcom announced the consultation for its latest review with a wide range of subjects on the table around the general subject categories of

  • investment and innovation, delivering widespread availability of services;
  • sustainable competition, delivering choice, quality and affordable prices;
  • empowered consumers, able to take advantage of competitive markets; and
  • targeted regulation where necessary, deregulation elsewhere.

The 2005 review led to the formation of Openreach. The 2015 review includes in the “sustainable competition” section a discussion as to whether Openreach needs to be totally separated from BT. Cast off and left to row its own canoe.

There has recently been a flurry of complaints to Ofcom about Openreach, notably from Sky and TalkTalk. We discussed this at the ITSPA council meeting yesterday and then afterwards at the Summer Forum. The tone of the conversation was that yes there was a problem with Openreach – the number of engineering visit no shows costs the service provider industry a fortune – but no they didn’t see the benefit in separating Openreach from BT.

People would rather Openreach just got its act together and stopped failing the industry with its poor performance. See my own experiences here. The feeling was that the process of separating the Openreach would take years, during which time there would be huge disruption and little or no investment in the infrastructure.

This is a complicated subject on which I’m sure many readers will have their own specific views. I’m beginning to veer away from the idea that separating the two is a good thing. The biggest issue for me is the Openreach cost structure. There doesn’t seem to me to be much incentive for them to reduce their costs. On the other hand Openreach does have a complex bag of worms to manage – the archaic UK copper phone line infrastructure.

Technically the easiest/best thing to do would be to replace the copper with fibre. In the long run it would be by far the best thing. The problem is of course how to fund that. BT certainly isn’t going to do it.

The Ofcom discussion document is 185 pages – read it here. It’s a full time job reading this kind of stuff. You have until October 8th to respond.

broadband End User

The future of data storage bandwidth usage

Bandwidth usage – the only way is up

I periodically discuss the bandwidth usage on our home broadband and the growth trend in data storage on our NAS box, driven by the number of photos we store. This usually prompts a discussion on home broadband data usage and for your entertainment and delight I’ve put this chart together as an update to the previous post from 2013 on this subject. Clearly we were due an update.

broadband bandwidth usageWhat prompted me to think about this subject, apart from the ongoing decision making process re which broadband provider to use, was the fact that yesterday I copied some video footage off our CCTV. It was of our son’s 18th birthday party and there are memories in that video that will at some stage be overwritten by the CCTV box.

The CCTV records in High Definition and uses 1.7GB per stream per hour. I copied 6 hours from 2 cameras which I make to be 20.4GB of data storage. Add to that the footage from the GoPro used by one of the kids on the night and you have a hefty amount of storage just to record the proceedings of the evening. I don’t yet know how much is on the GoPro – it has a 64GB SD card and can record in 4k format.

The footage from the CCTV is very clear and in great colour (take note burglars). I doubt we will look at it very often or maybe not at all. Maybe it’ll get rolled out every now and again in the same way that we watch our wedding video about once every blue moon. It doesn’t really matter. The NAS box, currently with less than a TB used out of its 2TB capacity is upgradeable to 4TB. The storage is cheap.

Won’t be long before our rate of usage starts to grow significantly. Just as our broadband data usage continues to grow. It looks as if our broadband data usage approximately doubles every two years. This suggests that by 2017 we will be using 600GB a month and 1,200GB, or 1.2TB a month by 2019!! I believe it.

I’m sure I wrote a post sometime about when I expected to have to upgrade my NAS box but I can’t find that. When I get home I’ll take a look at the picture storage data over the last few years and extrapolate – just for you. I’ll add it to this post tonight. I’m betting the trend is going to look just like the broadband usage and with mainstream 4k use not far off (I don’t think it is yet even though it’s readily available) who would bet otherwise.