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The Hump Day Five (23-July-2014)

The Hump Day Five this week goes to the pictures, gets the picture, migrates the pictures, wants a phone that takes the pictures, and offers a picture of Paris on Summer holiday.


A few days ago a filmmaker friend of mine asked if I would be interested in screening a rough cut of a documentary he has been working on for some time. I was somewhat flattered that he would ask, of course, and I have quite a strong propensity for documentaries, so I instantaneously responded with “Yes, please.”

Not long after I received the details of screening the documentary, and it was at that point that it all started to tweak my interest beyond the subject matter of the film itself, for two reasons. One, the film was presented to me as a video stream via Vimeo (password access, naturally). And two, my friend specifically requested that I promise to watch the film straight through with no breaks and without distraction.

So this is where we are today. Able to grant immediate access to video works in progress via the Internet, and as a result of that delivery method needing to beseech the viewer to take special care to not multi-task when viewing said film via the Internet. Not that I don’t get the reasoning, because I absolutely do, though it does have me thinking that in the not-too-distant future there will be technology deployed to tighten such tasks up. Insistent Streaming? You can watch vwxyz, but you have to do so in Full Screen mode and without screen deviation lest you have to start over from the beginning.

The screening request came across five days ago and I have yet to watch my friend’s film. Really, it is pretty sad that I am finding the idea of being-connected-yet-essentially-disconnected from AppleKory for 90 minutes straight to be daunting!


I’ve been hush-hush for a while now regarding my search for my next smartphone, waiting patiently for the one I had mostly settled on — the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom — to become available in France. I did manage to put my hands on a GKZ while I was in London for’s Pissup in a Brewery last month, and this helped to both move me closer to pulling the trigger and towards establishing a sharper perspective on my decision.

In short, I realized that as much as I would love to have a Galaxy K Zoom as my next smartphone friend, I will only do so if my carrier (Bouygues) can offer it to me at a subsidized price. They do this with a good many other Samsung smartphones, including the flagship S5 (which costs €599 unlocked, without subsidy, but only €221 paid out over 24 months with a correlating commitment), so I came to expect I could put myself into a Galaxy K Zoom for under €200 (versus €499 unlocked, without subsidy).

No dice. Or, at least, no dice yet. Despite my best efforts to make such a deal happen, and the encouragement of a Bouygues drone who told me he could do so but in truth could not (seems that he was willing to say just about anything to me over the phone to get me to walk in the shop), I remain wanting. And with the Summer holidays descending quickly in France, it seems I will remain saddled with my iPhone 4 at least until the start of September. And with the iPhone 6 announcement likely to take place that month…?


A few months back I made one of those big decisions. You know, the kind that changes everything, after which nothing will ever be the same and from which there is no going back. A paradigm shift of immense magnitude.

Thick, running irony, like motor oil straight from the can.

I decided to change photo management software, from Apple’s not-bad-for-a-toy iPhoto to Adobe’s truly terrific Lightroom 5.

For a good long time iPhoto worked for me. There were some significant bumps along the way, to be sure, such as dealing with the product’s generosity when it came to gobbling up AppleKory hard drive space with it’s need to maintain two copies of any photo that was modified in any way (including simple rotation). For the most part, though, iPhoto and I got along fine, even as my photography skills outgrew the software’s cutesy function set.

I suppose I knew that at some point I would need to move from iPhoto into something more robust, however in dabbling with other photography management packages over the years — window-shopping, as it were — I became fully aware of how difficult and tedious an endeavor it would be, fully switching over. Man, that is one deep and dark path to walk down, and if it wasn’t absolutely necessary…well, I could make iPhoto continue to work for me. That is, until I couldn’t.

For reasons unknown, at right about the same time I was beginning to explore shooting in RAW (though this had nothing to do with the issue), iPhoto stopped accepting modifications made to picture files. The changes I made — upping the contrast or vibrancy of a photo, for example, or cropping an image — would stick, but only until I exited iPhoto. Thus, when I would start the application again, any modifications I had made during the previous session were gone.

Naturally, I google-binged my problem, and I discovered that I was not alone. A great number of my fellow iPhoto users had been dealing with the same problem, and as far as I was able to tell in my digging none of them had come up with a solution short of abandoning iPhoto for one of its competitors..

The writing, as they so (too?) often say, was on the wall. iPhoto, it has been nice. Enter Lightroom 5.

It has taken patience and time to do it to do it to do it to do it to do it right, child…er, move everything over, and I have hit my share of lulls, but a marvelous documentary I saw last Friday about the recently-discovered photographer Vivian Maier kicked me back into it, and finally I am finished. And nothing will ever be the same.


It has now been three weeks since I took AppleKory into the Apple Store at Opera to have one of their supposed Genius folk render opinion and possible solutions for a fan and heating problems. For reasons unknown, the poor girl’s CPU was running regularly at about 90 degrees Celsius and her fan was blowing at the maximum 6204 rpm. A friend who is also my OSX Guru has long told me that I run too many apps and processes simultaneously (foreground and background), and he was convinced that was the problem, but even when I turned just about everything off the CPU heat spiked and the fan in response ran loud enough to her in the next room (quite strange for a MacBook Pro).

The Genius who attended me ran some diagnostics and found no problem. He then, though, suggested that it could be a problem with the thermal paste in conjunction with the heat sink, and that such a repair would only cost €29…and a three separation. Wanting to have a happy and healthy AppleKory, I swallowed hard and handed her over. I then went home and told my Guru that he was wrong (Wrong! Wrong!), and that the problem was not running AppleKory too hard, but that it had to do with a hardware issue.


Two days later the Apple technician called. He told me in broken-but-not-bad English that the thermal paste was fine, and that as far as he could tell there was no problem with my system. “Perhaps you are asking it to do too much at the same time?”, he said. “Anyway, it is ready for you to pick up anytime.”


I retrieved AppleKory soon after, and — go figure — since then she has been purring like a kitten (so to speak…that is, without the noise). I have changed nothing with regard to the software I run or the intensity of such (over 20 Google Chrome tabs open as I type), and yet it is a rare occurrence when her temperature exceeds 80 degrees Celsius or her fan exceeds 5000 rpm (and most of the time both of those numbers are significantly lower…at this moment, 72 and 2588 rpm).

Like the child whose symptoms disappear upon realizing a visit to the doctor is in the offing? Or the sick cat who seems to get better when a visit to the vet is imminent? That Apple technician must be one scary dude, indeed!


Approaching the end of July, it is evident that the France Summer holiday has begun to take hold. Signs are appearing in the windows of shops and restaurants announcing date ranges of closure, the foot traffic on the street is significantly lighter, there are fewer people in the Metro (and fewer trains running, as well), there is a lot less ambient and incidental noise leaking into Chez Kessel. You would think, though, that with fewer people in town taxing Internet pipe capacity that my broadband service would be much improved, wouldn’t you?

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UK Broadband — Not Fit for Purpose

Ignore the pachyderm! By 2017 100% of the UK will have broadband (supposedly).

It would seem that far too many people are happy to skirt around the issues, to deliver platitudes and sound bites to willing journalists who don’t actually feel like investigating the truth or facing the elephant in the country. Particularly in the countryside. I was brought up in Yorkshire where a spade (particularly when used for a fibre dig) is a spade.

UK Broadband is quite simply not fit for purpose. There – a trunk, 2 flappy ears and a long memory. See it?!

Oh yes, there are a few people in the nation who can use iPlayer to watch TV shows they’ve missed without buffering, catch up with friends and family on Facebook and not worry about the automatic video downloading, make the odd Skype call without sounding like an alien or being pixelated, and game with others around the world. The applications mentioned, though, are not bandwidth intensive or real-time critical, though, so it would be more than remiss if our telcos couldn’t provide sufficient connectivity for these types of activities. More worrying is that a huge number of people cannot do any of these things, let alone do more.

Smart meters (a truly bad idea, anyway) are not going to work for many, especially in rural areas, tele-health is bordering on impossible still, innovation has gone by the wayside, etc. Not only have we not been able to do this since the ADSL roll-out, it is looking increasingly unlikely that we will be able to do so this decade. The claims that 20,000 people per week are being connected with “superfast” broadband start to fall over the minute you log onto any of the broadband consumer forums and read the real-world experiences behind such claims. It is just hype, crafted for the press release, and spread with jam for the minister appearances in front of the House or news cameras.

The truth is that however much money the UK government seems to throw at BT to deliver nationwide broadband (ADSL, now superfast), the company continually fails to do so. And in a spectacular fashion that requires successive ministers to lie to the public about progress. As good little boys and girls, we all believe what we read in the press and see on TV (right?). We are endlessly told that all is going well, that by 2017 100% of the country will have broadband, and that the mandarins in Whitehall know that they are getting true value out of our money. Yet even though we can see this is definitely NOT the case (as can PAC, NAO etc) we allow good money to be thrown after bad, and with nary a challenge in the mainstream media as investigative journalism appears to have lost the wheels from its wagon.

Recently, there has been a surge in network outages (VirginMedia being the most recent at the beginning of last week), and an increasing number of complaints about (1) paying for superfast and getting nowhere close, (2) people being disconnected for months whilst the ping pong game between ISP and telco fail to resolve faults or long line issues, (3) dirty tricks campaigns that prevent utterly fed-up communities from JFDI themselves, and so on. The list of failures within telecoms at present would be almost funny, in fact, if it wasn’t so very sad that as far as connectivity goes Britain is quickly becoming a third world nation.

Many network operators surveyed recently say that their networks are at full stretch now, and that without substantial investment the strain of IoT (Internet of Things) could cause further breakages. Consumers know first-hand that this is the case because their connections often grind to a halt. Yet, where is the long term cross-party plan, after discussion with that most vital stakeholder (the consumer)? Where is the inquiry into why BT failed to deliver the first round of broadband, yet persistently lied in saying that 99.7% of the country had precisely that? And who the eff decided to set the procurement up so that it could all happen again? (Yeah, yeah, no one ever lost their job buying IBM, but an entire country is losing out right now).

Where is the platform for the great and good of the broadband world, who unsurprisingly do not lurk in Whitehall or Westminster like the paid lobbyists, always ready to advise the policy wonks on what is required and how to reach the day where we can all sit back and enjoy our connectivity? After all, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that in order to break the cycle of the Broadband Groundhog days of the last 2 decades, the entire country needs to be fibred up with an upgrade path for the future that is gigabit+. Whether individual homes and businesses are on wireless, mobile or a wire, it all has to be fibre-fed. And the closer the fibre is to each premises, mast, hub, etc., the better.

Where are the MPs flocking in droves to Lancashire, Oxfordshire, etc. and exclaiming in joy at the solutions being put in place by (mainly) privately funded alternatives? Where are the lessons learnt from all that has gone before being put into practice? It sure ain’t in a £10M pot for innovation that includes one company whose directors recently all resigned, some satellite providers, and a voucher scheme or two. Where is the MORAL FIBRE, the concern to find the right solution for the well being of this nation, the cojones to face up to errors and JFDI right?

We have covered all this before — over and over, I daresay — and for more than 20 years now. We have shouted, even from within Westminster and Whitehall, but hell, what do we know? We are only the people who need to use it.

If BDUK had adopted Fibre To The Village Pump as even a possible concept, you can guarantee right now that BT would not be sticking cabinets in B4RN villages and cutting through water pipes or fibre, as happened last week. As a BT shareholder, I would want to know what they think they are doing with the company’s capital if that is the best plan they can come up with to capture market share. I mean, really, why compete with a gigabit network that has the support of pretty much all of the community when your only offering is a substandard tech using over-lengthy copper phone lines? (And yes, we know BT could do FTTH on poles, but are all still holding our breath to see this actually occur in Dolphinholme).

Quite simply, these days it is depressing to be a British broadband campaigner. You watch (seemingly on an endless loop) the farcical decisions, policies and spend coming from an establishment that cannot even manage to keep track of its own files, which are on paper (water-damaged is today’s excuse). ON PAPER? Really?!? They feel fit to advise us on digital issues when no digitisation has been done, and even when it is done the serfs (sorry, civil servants) lose it on trains?

So, back to the elephant….

British broadband via BDUK is not fit for purpose today, nor at the current rate will it be in the future, and nor are those making the decisions to spend (WASTE) our money with a company that cannot deliver fit for purpose either.

[And if you want to know how I would deal with the elephant — aside, of course, from addressing it in articles such as this one — I am available as an experienced, consumer-oriented, opinionated, best practice Solution Seeker who has a weekly show on TechQT that discusses all of this broadband stuff and more.]

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Geo Restriction Means a Pirate’s Life for Me…

Accessing the whole of creation…what is available in my “region” of it, that is.

A regular contributor to, we are as always pleased to present insight from James Blessing, the current Chair of the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) UK.

Once upon a time in the west, a man sat and contemplated the state of the world and the marvels that now existed upon his doorstep. With a simple gesture he could now access the whole of creation, every song that’s ever been sung, every work of art painted or love poem written in a moment of teenage angst. And the cats, don’t forget the cats…

Maybe that’s the future, it’s almost the now, but there is a problem that means that “every” gets dropped on the floor and is replaced with the slightly less poetic “everything that we could managed to get the licensing conditions approved for in your country right now, but maybe not next week” and that problems is lawyers.

When I started to think about this article I was going to focus on the benefits of the Internet and broadband, and then I tried to watch a clip from the late show…and then I changed tack. This isn’t the first time — and it won’t be the last — when content isn’t available in my “region”, where geo restriction has reared its head and made it so that if I want to watch content I have to either fire up a VPN to the “right region” and watch the content from there, or I will have to  head over to a friendly Pirate resource and unleash a p2p application. Do you want to know the worst bit about this? The content was being pushed to me by the DailyShow itself.

Sorry, but this video is unavailable from your location

And it gets worse. Wil Wheaton has written a blog about this very topic, in fact, as he’s seeing an ever increasing number of people using bittorrent to download his new show, and he is worried that if it continues the show won’t be renewed. It even pushed me into writing a quick email to Syfy UK (the network that produces the show in the US), but even they can’t get the show:

We instigated proceedings to acquire the UK rights, but a number of legal complications surrounding differences in UK and US clip clearance legislation, have unfortunately prevented us from doing so.

Now here is something that needs fixing. I have no “magic bullet” solution, as there are too many vested interests that won’t have a sensible conversation unless someone waves a stick at them and the politicians seem to be too scared of big media to unleash their sticks. There is an election next year, though, and it sure would be nice if one (or all) of the parties could commit to making an effort to resolve this issue…your local MP could be an excellent place to start!

Editorial note – check out our new site – BroadbandRating.







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FTTC Broadband — Upgrade Your Router

FTTC installed…and then the problems started.

Once again, welcomes contributor Tim Bray, Technical Director for ProVu Communications. “FTTC — Upgrade Your Router” is Tim’s second “Broadband Week” post.

At ProVu we, don’t often do onsite installations, preferring instead to leave them to our resellers. Sometimes, though, a problem comes along that requires that we get involved in helping to figure out what is going on.

One of our customer’s sites was activated for FTTC broadband. This customer ran an office with a small call centre and about 10 office PCs, and they thought the higher bandwidth would be useful. Zen (the ISP, in this case) had a special offer on ADSL to FTTC upgrades, so the time seemed right for upgrade. Our customer swapped their onsite router out for a model that could do both ADSL and FTTC, and all appeared ready for an easy change over once the Openreach engineer arrived.

ProVu logo

On the scheduled day the Openreach man showed up, and our customer had just 10 minutes downtime while he performed the jumpering in the cabinet. Up came the new 40 Mbps download line (which also had, more importantly, a massive upload speed). Magic. Everything worked, and the internet seemed to be lightning fast. And then the problems started. “The internet is slow!” “We’ve got bad call quality!” And so, a site working properly and perfectly had stopped doing so because of a service upgrade.

We added lots of monitoring. Smokeping and Nagios. Sure enough, we learned of intermittent bad packet loss on the line that came and went, usually at such quiet times as evenings and weekends. We could tell that something was on the network opening a large number of sessions through the NAT in the router, and we knew that the problems started as we got towards 600 TCP sessions. We wondered whether with FTTC when you open a browser window with all your saved tabs the computer would hit those tabbed sites — Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, BBC News and all their associated ad networks and image CDNs — all at the same time, perhaps causing these events to happen too quickly and to throw too many ports open at the same time.

Running just a small consumer type router, we couldn’t diagnose the issue to the point where we could determine what was causing it. As such, as we needed better instrumentation to investigate further, we decided to install a proper linux server as a router in lieu of the dedicated hardware. BT Openreach provides PPPoE termination, so it is easy to deploy standard PC hardware with 2 ethernet cards to act as a router. We used Munin to add every kind of monitoring. We had graphs of UDP sessions, TCP sessions, and traffic graphs for voice traffic against other traffic…you name it, we graphed it.

Everything we could think of that might help us to figure out what was causing the issues being experienced was in place. And it was that moment that the problems went away. Again, magic. Once the new router was installed, everything worked. We saw large throughput and sessions through the router, but no corresponding packet loss. And no user complaints.

Very puzzling.

Then one Saturday I noticed the traffic graph on the router rise up to 30 Mbps download speed and stay there. Not the first time this had happened, of course, but it was the first time I was there to watch. My suspicions were raised, so I phoned the call centre. “No, all our calls are fine.”  The new router was coping with this traffic fine. So I ran Wireshark and discovered that the call centre staff were watching telly using Sky Player on a sneaked-in laptop. And from watching the trace, I could see that Sky Player was streaming the video by opening a new TCP session every few seconds, which coupled with the large number of phone calls must have been what was overwhelming the old router.

I phoned the call centre manager with my findings, and she sussed that they were watching the footie. And regarding a remedy, lets just say some HR Department action occurred!

At this point, let me sum up the learning points:

  1. A bigger router might be needed for FTTC, as the router could be the slowest bit and not the ISP.
  2. The router might have a limit for packets per second.
  3. Even a small office can open a lot of ports through a NAT, something for which small routers cannot cope.
  4. With a good enough router, it is possible to run a small call centre and stream TV at the same time.

As an aside, I think this is a great point where IPv6 would help. IPv4 and NAT is stateful on the router. The router has to record each session and rewrite the packets. IPv6, though, would be stateless, so the router would have only need to pass on the packets rather than having to track sessions and rewrite port numbers. Also, there is the old adage: Use a separate connector for voice to your data. I suspect that some of the poor voice quality that encourages this is actually the voice and data services acting in conjunction to overwhelm the router, rather than there simply not being enough bandwidth. Bufferbloat may be part of the problem as well. But I suspect a router with more grunt may make it so the second line isn’t required.

I’ve done various consultancy jobs to investigate ‘SIP phones dropped off network’, and by scripting to monitor the NAT state table have found the router/firewall just dropping the session from the NAT table, which is obviously either a bug or just not enough capacity in the device.

Editorial note – check out our new site – BroadbandRating.

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Kiwi ISP Slingshot promotes piracy amongst punters

Kiwi ISP Slingshot promotes piracy amongst  Antipodean punters – broadband internet copyright infringement

New Zealand based ISP Slingshot is providing pre-VPNed connections so that New Zealanders can watch BBC iPlayer or subscribe to Netflix etc for free. A VPN, or Virtual Private Network in this case allows users to tunnel across the internet so that it looks as if they are located somewhere else. Effectively corporate promoted broadband internet copyright infringement.

BBC programmes are made available to UK license payers on computers tablets and smart phones via iPlayer streamed over the internet. iPlayer is blocked from streaming to non-UK IP addresses on the basis that they are unlikely to be genuine UK residents and thus will probably not have paid their license fee.

Netflix is a paid service but not available in every country around the globe. New Zealand based subscribers wanting to sign up have to lie about where they live. Slingshot provides the IP spoofing, presumably via a proxy based in the UK which can then also be used to access iPlayer.

From a Netflix perspective the issue is likely to be the fact that Netflix themselves may not have the licenses to stream certain content in markets other than those in which they operate.

As a UK BBC license payer I am of course outraged that I am effectively susbsidizing the TV watching of New Zealanders. I can’t see how they have time anyway. One assumes that most of them are out playing rugby  every night.

It’s interesting as this sort of thing is probably legal in NZ. Slingshot takes no responsibility for the fact that customers may have told Netflix porkies about where they live.  It’s the way of the world of course. The internet doesn’t care (much) for national borders, unless you live somewhere the government is trying to control what you access…

Anyway that’s it. Interesting broadband internet copyright infringement snippet methinks.

Editorial note – check out our new site – BroadbandRating.

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Africa Broadband Snapshot: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Despite double-digit growth over the last four years, Africa accounts for only 7% of of the world’s Internet users and less than 0.5% of the world’s fixed-broadband subscriptions. The key to bettering those numbers? Innovation and collaboration. is pleased to present the following “Broadband Week” post from Michele McCann, Business Development Manager for Teraco Data Environments. Michele’s post is her first contribution to the site.

For anyone who has not had the opportunity to see Africa outside of the context of a safari with lions, elephants, rhinos and the ubiquitous donkey, here is a quick snapshot view of second largest continent in the world.

Geographically, Africa makes up one-third of the world’s total landmass, with a total population of a little more than 1 billion. The population figures are really only an estimate, as the majority of our people have generally not been counted due to lack of process and technology. This rough estimate equates to 15.6% of the world’s population, but only 7% of the world’s Internet users. Our internet penetration is a mere 16.3% and rising, with content players such as Facebook enjoying contributions from over 51 million African subscribers at a 4.8% penetration rate. We are the 2nd largest mobile market globally, with over 650 million mobile subscribers and 700 million SIM cards currently in use.


The 2014 landed cable capacity is now >30Tbps and is expected to double by 2015. This capacity growth has happened in a mere five years, from its previous humble capacity of just over 300Gbps. Multiple landing stations are available throughout the continent, with South Africa alone having over 10 landing stations directly connecting to four different continents. This has resulted in improved latencies from >800ms to just under 200ms.

The terrestrial fibre inventory of Africa is estimated at over 732,662km, reaching 40% of the population, of which 313m people are within a 25km reach of a fibre node.
Considering Africa’s explosive and constant growth, why are we still experiencing average fixed broadband speeds of 5.6Mbps at a rate of $20 for a 5GB package, excluding the line rental which is over $100 per month? And mobile broadband speeds averaging at 6.9Mbps at a rate of $80 for 5GB?

Recently released ITU statistics indicate that by the end of 2014, fixed-broadband penetration will have reached almost 10% globally. 44% of all fixed-broadband subscriptions are in Asia Pacific, and 25% in Europe. In contrast, Africa accounts for less than 0.5% of the world’s fixed-broadband subscriptions, and despite double-digit growth over the last four years, Africa broadband penetration remains very low.

Globally, mobile-broadband penetration is expected to reach 32% by end 2014; in developed countries, mobile-broadband penetration will exceed 84%, a level four times as high as in developing countries (21%). The number of mobile-broadband subscriptions will reach 2.3 billion globally and 55% of all mobile-broadband subscriptions are expected to be in the developing world. Mobile-broadband penetration levels are at their highest in Europe (64%) and the Americas (59%), followed by CIS (49%), the Arab States (25%), Asia-Pacific (23%) and Africa (19%).

So why is Africa still lagging? Is it a lack of infrastructure? A lack of Internet eXchange Points (IXPs)? A lack of access to content? A lack of innovation?

The answer to all of these questions is “No.”, except perhaps for the last one citing a lack of innovation. As you have seen, Africa has loads of infrastructure, which can reach millions of people. The top 5 largest content players have invested in Africa and are connected to the key hubs – e.g., South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt – all of which have functioning exchange points located in neutral facilities. Therefore, as content, infrastructure and distribution points are easily available then the only conclusion is a lack of innovation around how to generate revenues in a changing world rather than hanging onto old business models of high transit and interconnection costs.

Is this something that will change in the near future? In my opinion, the operators should change or sell out! As users become more and more tech savvy, pricing models and service levels are being questioned. And with more and more global operators and content providers looking to Africa as their new market expansion opportunity, existing African providers are going to need to adapt business models and provide services that are relevant to their market place. Great examples of African innovation stories include Orange providing free access to Facebook for all their African users, Bharti Airtel providing one mobile rate across Africa, and – in what is perhaps the biggest game changer – the launch of mobile money markets through M-Pesa by Safricom (which allows users with a national ID card or passport to deposit, withdraw, and transfer money easily with a mobile device). All of these innovations are focused on services that users can obtain using broadband as the vehicle.

For the necessary innovation to occur and aid in solving Africa’s broadband Internet problems, cable operators, infrastructure providers and ISP’s all need to collaborate across services and pricing, and they need to start keeping the end user in mind across all business models.

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The (Hidden) FTTC Wall

Local exchange FTTC-enabled, cabinet within easy view, power and fibre laid down… welcomes Broadband Week contributor Tim Bray, Technical Director for ProVu Communications.

Here is a small tale about my own company’s experience with FTTC.

ProVu logo

The ProVu Communications offices are in Milnsbridge, which is just outside Huddersfield. As we are heavy broadband users, we were really happy to discover that our local exchange was being enabled for FTTC. A new cabinet appeared directly across the road from our front door. Some BT men came, dug up the road right outside our front door, and laid power and fibre to the new box.

Here is the view from our front door, with the FTTC box across the road. Note the fresh line of the roadworks coming across the road to us.

We eagerly checked on the DSL checker, but our phone numbers never activated. Then we started to dig around, checking the phone numbers of our neighbours.  It seems our phone lines are exchange-only lines, and thus there is no cabinet…and no FTTC. Although just across the road, all the houses and commercial properties have FTTC.

Here is a picture that offers…well, the whole picture. The houses beyond the road junction and past the No Entry signs can all get FTTC. Our office? The red front door on the right.

The problem is that this information isn’t public, and there are no public maps of which lines connect to which cabinets.   If we were a business moving premises, for instance, there is no way we could be sure about getting FTTC in our new location without first ordering a phone line and checking the number.

FTTC can make a massive difference to a business, with availability potentially meaning the difference between using a hosted email provider or installing a server onsite. Or between deploying a hosted phone system versus having to buy an onsite PBX. Or between having workers who can work at home via VPN or requiring that all work be performed from the office at all times.

The moral of the story? Don’t get excited just because your exchange is FTTC-enabled and there is a cabinet nearby. Wait first to see if the BT checker displays “Available”.

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Rise of the Gigabit Cities

With broadband, too much is not enough, and the safe harbour of status quo will not meet the ever-expanding needs of the market. is pleased to present the following “Broadband Week” post from Hyperoptic Managing Director Dana Tobak. “Rise of the Gigabit Cities” is Dana’s first contribution to the site.

Everyone has moments in his or her career that they can’t forget – for me, one such moment was during the press conference in 2005 at which Be Broadband was launched. We were incredibly excited to be the first provider to take advantage of Local-Loop-Unbundling and offer 24Mbps to consumers, the fastest broadband speed available on the market at that time. During that press conference a journalist raised their hand and asked me, “is there really any need for 24Mbps? Will anyone ever need speeds that fast?”

The question took me by complete surprise, illustrating that some people didn’t understand — and still don’t — the need to innovate and challenge the status quo. Fast-forward nine years, and with our new venture Hyperoptic we are now offering consumers and businesses 1,000Mbps (one gigabit per second). And we aren’t alone. 2014 has definitely been the year of the gigabit cities in the UK.


So why do we need gigabit cities — cities whose broadband infrastructure is predominately fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) — and what is fueling the expansion? A lot of people think that the rise of the gigabit cities started with Google Fiber in Austin, Texas, but it actually goes much further back.

In the UK there is massive confusion in the market regarding what ‘fibre’ broadband actually is. The reason for this confusion is that the big providers have muddied the waters by marketing their services as ‘fibre’ broadband, even though the fibre actually stops at the cabinet and the connection into the house is delivered over telephone copper cables. And of course, this has definitely contributed to the UK being slow to join the gigabit cities club. Businesses and consumers think they are getting full fibre broadband, but in truth they are getting fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC).

We believe that the UK is a market that can hugely benefit from Hyperoptic’s full fibre approach – after all, the UK has the most Internet based economy of the G20, contributing 8.3% to the UK economy. From our experience with Be Broadband, however, we knew going in that there would doubters who would question why anyone would need a gigabit FTTH broadband when FTTC broadband can deliver speeds up to 76Mbps (the key phrase here being “up to 76Mbps” – because there is the copper component, consumers and businesses are subject to an undependable performance, peak-time slowdowns and barriers to fully utilising their connections).

Educating the market hasn’t been easy. Many people still don’t understand that there is a better way and that once they get FTTH, broadband becomes an indispensable service on which they can truly depend. Other countries have been quicker to innovate and create a network of gigabit cities. For instance, China and Japan currently have 37 million and 24.7 million FTTH subscribers. Also, thirteen countries in the EU have experienced growth greater than 30% in subscribers in the past year, with France and Sweden now each exceeding1.2 million FTTH subscribers.

Currently the UK isn’t even figuring on FTTH rankings, but this is starting to change. Hyperoptic launched in London in 2011, and has since then passed 35,000 homes in the Capital with recently announced availability in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Cardiff, Bristol and Reading. Sky, TalkTalk and CityFibre have joined together and will soon launch gigabit broadband in York (City Fibre has also said that it will be launching 20 new gigabit cities by 2016).

The UK may have been slow to start, but now the gigabit cities are growing apace. Industries are becoming increasingly digitised, and we are changing the way that we consume media and entertainment (with online streaming only set to increase). The status quo will no longer suffice, the time for doubting is over.

broadband Business internet Net

It’s Not Size that Matters, it’s What You Do with it that Counts

Sell not the thing, but the benefit in having the thing. Broadband? No, thank you. Connectivity? Well, I don’t mind if I do! is pleased to welcome “Broadband Week” guest contributor Clare Greenall, Marketing Manager for Timico Partner Services Ltd.

Let’s talk about how to sell *Broadband (ahem, connectivity) in the twenty-tens, as it’s quite a hot topic of late with all the Superconnected City schemes that are prevalent right now.

To start, I want to address the asterisk in the paragraph above beside the word ‘Broadband’, which is a term widely used to cover the whole spectrum of different types of connectivity (and a topic of discussion that regularly rears its head in our office). Traditionally, Broadband is perceived as a home-user product that provides access to emails, a bit of web surfing, and some social media. And it absolutely does all of those things, but that perception dates back to the days when 512k was the download max and the dial-up modems were still screeching in the corner of the room. Time has moved on.

Timico Partners Ltd.

With all of the new-fangled adaptations of Broadband (ADSL), such as; Ethernet, GEA, FTTC, EFM (the list goes on…) we can’t possibly cover off all these with the title ‘Broadband’ as it just doesn’t do it justice! The Government uses the word ‘Broadband’ and other providers use it, all because we assume the general public doesn’t understand any other term for connectivity. Let’s reeducate and start calling it ‘Connectivity’, or — better yet — give each product its proper name… Seeing as sales of connectivity are ramping up yearly, shouldn’t it be considered important to teach the masses about the huge diversification of connectivity? Will it not be beneficial to highlight the massive advantages that fibre offers over copper?

Increased bandwidth suddenly opens up endless possibilities for small and big businesses alike. For instance, take ‘the Cloud’, the attack of which some businesses fear as if it is some 1950s horror movie, not possibly understanding the real benefits it can provide. At its start, VoIP (Voice over IP) got itself a bad name because no one seemed to get the underlying connectivity piece right, calls were dropping, and voice quality was horrendous. Having access to these types of solutions is really only workable if they are run on robust Internet connectivity.

Let’s not kid ourselves here, though. Consumers really don’t care if adding Annex M to their ADSL connection will increase the speed up to 2.5Mb, and they don’t give a monkey’s *(*%$#^ if their EFM is delivered on GSHDSL technology. No, what they want to know is what paying more for their connectivity every month is really going to deliver, in terms of tangible benefits.

It’s like that old saying, ‘It’s not the size that matters, it’s what you do with it that counts.’ (sexual connotations aside, of course).

Businesses today don’t want Telecoms salesmen rocking up and spieling off countless numbers and technobabble about how their product works and the technology it runs on – trust me, I come from a voice environment and have had my mind blown by the detail in the ISP world – they just want to know the real benefits. I understand that all of the underlying facts and figures are necessary when building the solutions that overlay the connectivity, but that level of detail should be left to the IT folk and solution specialists to discuss.

I suppose what really bought this to the forefront of my mind, though, is seeing the countless email promotions coming through for the Superconnected Cities scheme. Even as I’ve been writing this piece, a promotional email has arrived from an IT firm that obviously has no idea how to market superfast connectivity so that people will actually want to buy it…

“YOU, Mr. Customer, can have from £250 up to £3000 towards the cost of your installation fees and you can have connectivity technology allowing for speeds of between 30Mbps up to 1Gbps.”

Great…OK, but what does that mean for the average business user?

We have to change the way we sell Broadband…ahem, er, sorry, Connectivity. It’s a means to an end. What’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? All the customer really wants to know is:

  • How will this help me to grow my business?
  • Will it cut costs in the long run?
  • Will it help me to work smarter?
  • What kinds of services will this allow me to use?

And that’s what we should be encouraging the channel to sell: the benefits of superfast connectivity. With only a couple of sales made through our local Superconnected Cities scheme in Portsmouth, it’s pretty clear that current attempts to sell a service that most businesses are crying out for have been unsuccessful. It’s time to show businesses what they can do with their big fat pipes.

broadband End User fun stuff

Isaac Newton woz ere but no superfast broadband in Grantham

Isaac Newton woz ere, according to the plaque on the wall but no superfast broadband in Granthan

I was picking up Kid3 from a gig in Grantham’s St Wulfram’s Church last weekend. Nice enough gaff as churches go, if you like that sort of thing. Kid3 plays in the Lincolnshire County Orchestra – it has a name but that eludes me as I write as it has changed over the years. Before picking him up I hung around the graveyard for a bit, as you  do and couldn’t fail to notice a plaque on the wall opposite.

It read “In this hall of the King’s School Isaac Newton was taught 1654 – 1660. This plaque was set up to mark the tercentenary of the visit of the Royal Society 1960”.

Another of those, “gosh was he really” moments, somewhat akin to me seeing the Meccano bike but different. Now I’m not really comparing Isaac Newton to a Meccano bike. He was a superstar of literally earth moving magnitude, having “discovered” gravity or at least being the first person to notice what it was he was looking at.

Interesting to muse that Newton lived in the 17th Century and thus would have had little conception of technologies that exist today. They probably didn’t even know what a virus was in those days let alone a computer virus. In the interest of fitting with this week’s broadband theme I did a broadband availability check on Newton’s Alma Mater, or at least of the church over the road. The results are given below:


For Postcode NG31 6RR

Featured Products Downstream Line Rate(Mbps) Upstream Line Rate(Mbps) Downstream Range(Mbps) Availability Date
WBC ADSL 2+ Up to 17 10 to 19.5 Available
ADSL Max Up to 7.5 6.5 to 8 Available
WBC Fixed Rate 2 Available
Fixed Rate 2 Available
Other Offerings
Copper Multicast Available


For all ADSL and WBC Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) services, the stable line rate will be determined during the first 10 days of service usage.Throughput/download speeds will be less than line rates and can be affected by a number of factors within and external to BT’s network, Communication Providers’ networks and within customer premises.The Stop Sale date for Datastream is from 30-Jun-2012; the Formal Retirement date for Datastream is from 30-Jun-2014. The Stop Sale date for IPstream is from 31-Dec-2012; the Formal Retirement date for IPstream is from 30-Jun-2014.Note: Please note that postcode and address check results are indicative only. Most accurate results can be obtained from a telephone number check.Thank you for your interest.

I wonder if they knew it was Isaac Newton asking for superfast broadband in Grantham whether they would have accelerated the roll out in the area. After all with such a great mind what discoveries might be hindered by the lack of uplink speed. Hanging out with his scientific cronies would certainly not have been a great experience. Better maybe than the several months round trip time for a letter in those days.

Note the formal retirement date of 30th June 2014 for IPstream. This was the old ADSL backhaul network. BT moved ISPs on from this to it’s 21CN version years ago by making cost of bandwidth on the newer service far more attractive than IPstream.

broadband travel Weekend

Cygnets seen during today’s walk to work

Cygnets at Lincoln’s Brayford Pool

My walk to work always bring new sights. You see a lot more at my gentle strolling pace than when you are stuck in a car waiting at traffic lights, queuing at junctions and generally polluting the atmosphere.

This morning I came across this swan and her three cygnets. I can’t imagine the cygnets are more than a couple of weeks old although I’m no expert on this subject. The photograph was taken from behind railings only a few feet away. The swan remained calm but I’d like to bet that if I’d tried to get closer  to the cygnets she would have let me know it didn’t make a lot of sense. I assume it was a she but I’m not sure how you tell the difference.

At lunchtime on my way to the gym I spotted some blokes with a white van laying some fibre. I wanted to take a photo but felt this would have been a little conspicuous. Odd even (hey 🙂 ). Apparently we have a new building on campus that is being lit.

Around 5ish I set off for home. Didn’t notice if the cygnets were still there.  I have a very steep hill to walk up, called Steep Hill funnily enough. We are simple folk in Lincoln. Like to tell it like it is. Walking up Steep Hill is a challenge at the best of times but when you’ve been to the gym it is especially hard going. Must be doing me good, I’d imagine.

This is broadband week on So far this week we have had 12 posts, including this one which is nothing to do with broadband unless you count the fibre laying. It’s been noticeable that whilst on a typical day we get 15% return visits this week it’s been more like 20% per day. That’s more of our “regulars” coming back for the broadband themed week. As time goes by (You must remember this…) we will be having more themed weeks, now that we have the new site theme and hopefully will build up the visitor numbers.

There is still a fair bit to do before the site is finished. We are currently working on improving the sharing buttons – the plug in being used is a bit hit and miss with the shares. The comments system is also not as seamless as I would like. The previous design used the built in comment facility. This has been moved to Disqus on the basis that it is one of the leading systems in the game. However I’m not too impressed with it. Disqus adds more steps to the commenting process and whilst some of this week’s posts have attracted a reasonable level of comment I’d like to bet that some of you have abandoned the process due to the number of clicks you have had to make.

Anyway, more anon. Got a football match to watch. Ciao bebe.

broadband End User H/W internet media piracy

The Hump Day Five (9-July-2014)

In line with Broadband Week on, the Hump Day Five either benefits, suffers or remains mind-numbingly inconsequential…you decide.


Need for Speed HubFourteen years have passed since I arranged my first broadband Internet service in Paris with France Telecom, and yet it is no effort whatsoever to recall that first setup. Is this because I have an elephant’s memory? Well, it could be (because I do), but it is far more likely due to the utter ridiculousness of the Alcatel Speed Touch USB ADSL modem that came with that subscription. I remember when the box arrived, modem and instructions inside, and opening it to find…an aqua-green jellyfish-serpent cyborg!

Holding that creature in my hands — and there really was no way to think of it in any other terms — I could not help but think, “Man, these French people really do have a different way of doing EVERYTHING!” By this point I had been in the country for nearly a year, so this was not an uncommon thought for me (more like one I tripped over at least once a day), and yet…well, I laughed because there really was no other possible reaction. Then I connected the darn thing up — one end of it kchinged via standard RJ11 cable into the T-plug ADSL filter that plugged into the phone jack, the other connected via USB cable to my Dell Inspiron 3700 — and got to work.


Not long ago my ISP in Paris (Bouygues) informed me that my 100 M/ps service was being upgraded to 200 M/ps at no additional charge, which would’ve been cause for celebration if the service had actually changed moved out of its actual speed range of 20-40 M/bs.


As an American male born in and partially raised in Chicago and later seasoned in New York, I am fortunate to have what is doubtless the top U.S. sports fan’s pedigree (offer arguments to the contary in the Comments if you must, but…well, come on, really?). I can more than hold my own in any beery statistics-laden conversation, am a rabid fan of both the Chicago Cubs and the New York Giants, bask in having seen Michael Jordan ascend to the position of Greatest and Most Influential Team Sport Athlete of All Time (and also recall easily the days when Muhammed Ali held that position), am able to maintain the “High Road” in the face of any so-called sports fan from delusionally-skewed Texas or rant-before-they-think Philadelphia, and really don’t take it all that seriously while managing to be dead-serious about it all at the same time.

All of the above accepted as unshakeable truth, when I resolved to move to France back in 1999 I did so knwowing that the whole sports thing would be one of the hardest points of separation. The 5-8 hour time zone difference was something of a factor — though I am a scar-branded member night owl — but by far the biggest obstacle to maintaining my U.S. sports culture was to be the near-absolute lack of interest U.S. sports in France, and thus the complete lack of game-viewing options and opportunities. Horror! Still, in for a penny in for a pound, I let it all go…that is, until I became broadband-connected (see aqua-gree jellyfish-serpent cyborg item above in the first slot). First I got back baseball, via an Internet radio broadcast product called Gameday Audio (and baseball really is at its very best over the radio, anyway, as any true fan will tell you), and that just in time for the Chicago Cubs epic 2003 season which saw them…no, it’s just too painful. Broadband and broadband-connected technologies continued to improve, of course, and just a few years after I got baseball back via radio the floodgates opened with streaming video and — the coup de grace — the introduction of the Slingbox.

So for me, courtesy of a Slingbox I have set up in south Florida (thanks, Dad), broadband means the NFL on Sunday, the World Series, and all of the U.S. sports punditry (and idiocy) I can stand, all just an application click away. To paraphrase Warren Zevon in closing, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”


Evey morning upon sitting down with AppleKory, one of the very first things I do is check for torrents of the television programs I keep up with broadcast the night before. Of course, I won’t say here what I do when I find those torrents. Before broadband, though, this daily exercise was not even possible (though before bittorrent there was KaZaA…and Helllllloooo Skype!).


And with that “Helllllloooo Skype!”…

Like 98.6% of the readers looking over these pixels, I am bound to at least one telephone line. Anyone with one of my telephone numbers can pick up any telephone and call me, and if I am not blocking the incoming number for some reason the odds are good that I will pick up. Landline, cellular…I have both (two landlines, in fact). If I do pick up, maybe I’ll even talk for a short while, though with the dovetailing advent of widespread broadband and instant messaging my career as a prodigious telephone talker came to a shockingly fast halt. Why talk, after all, when I can type nearly as fast (and when I am so much more well-written than well-spoken)? And if I do want or need to have a verbal exchange, why use up one of my hands holding a phone when I can instead make the voice connect over my broadband connection using Skype, or Google Hangouts, or whatever-whichever VoIP-driven service I can push my utterances through (and, yes, receive utterances back from) at little or not cost and without having to leave the comfort of my keyboard?

Broadband, baby…it just works.

broadband End User spam

Virgin Media Broadband Spam

Broadband Spam by Virgin Media – aka junk mail.

A week or three ago I whinged to Virgin Media on Twitter about their broadband spam. In other words they keep sending me junk mail pitching their broadband packages. I’m sure they are very good but sorry boys, if I want to look at your stuff I’ll do it online. The guy (gal?) at the end of their Twitter account promised he would take my details off their mailing list.

Alas twas a vain promise. Yesterday I got some more junk mail off them. I’me sure there must be a way of complaining about this. I can’t use the old send the junk mail back in the reply paid envelope because they don’t provide one. Maybe I’ll stick it in an unstamped envelope and send it on to Richard Branson. A few of those and they’d soon get the message: “Oy I keep getting junk mail off this bloke Tref. Doesn’t he know I already have Virgin broadband, TV, phone etc etc etc? Also I had to nip to the post office and pay the unpaid postage before finding out it was more junk from him. Who can I complain to?” Or words to that effect. I imagine. Probably.

One assumes Richard Branson uses Virgin, unless they aren’t in his area. They don’t bother providing services to areas of low population densities such as vast country estates, farms, villages and so on and so forth (just trying to avoid too frequent repetition of the etcetera word).

Having read umpteen mailings from Virgin (I am in the business – I don’t normally read junk mail) one has to admit that consumer broadband services are getting cheap. As a non TV watcher I’m not tempted by the TV bolt ons. Surely people can get everything they need on BBC1 and BBC2, oh and Yesterday although the adverts are a nuisance on the latter, aren’t they?

In the interests of research I did take a look at the Virgin Media website. Their broadband spam does work in raising awareness. It amazes me how much these people must spend on marketing and I wonder how much of your monthly subscription that accounts for?!

The big message seems to be in the bundle. A common thread in the pricing is the fact that you always have to add a telephone line rental to the total. It would seem to me that this function is rapidly becoming obsolete, other than to carry a broadband line but that is another story.

Bad Stuff broadband broken gear Engineer

Faster Fibre Broadband Internet Connections

Attempting to explain some of the mystique surrounding broadband connections, (mostly) in layman’s terms.

I will attempt here to clarify some of the mystery surrounding fibre broadband connections while also offering suggestions for how to overcome some of the more confusing aspects of obtaining a faster service.

Virgin Media (mainly in urban areas) and BT describe their products as Fibre Broadband, although they both only use fibre-optic (glass) cables up to the street cabinets. Virgin then have a single coaxial cable t provide a reliable connection up to 150 Mbps to many properties along each road, whereas BT’s broadband delivers their services by sharing individual aging twisted pair telephone lines.

The BT solution is crucially dependent on good quality short lines (around 300m) between your new green cabinet (where the faster equipment is located) and your property, to achieve their fastest speeds, though sadly, many have quite long telephone lines that are often in a poor state of repair and some longer lines are not offered any service improvement at all. Poor installation practice complicates matters, and often fails to achieve optimum broadband performance. Note also that the faster services are usually available at an increased cost, with additional costs charged by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) sometimes hidden by low monthly usage limits.

The BT Group are responsible for the delivery of both phone and broadband, although you can pay for those services via a number of different service providers to which BT Wholesale offers the services (all of which rely on BT Openreach to maintain and install new services). Repairs are inevitably required, so the quality and ease of fault rectification is an important factor when selecting an ISP. Unsurprisingly, there is reluctance to replace the ageing line plant, and BT along with others’ lower cost options sometimes suffer with “customer diversion” tactics.

Discovering Availability

Surrey CC publishes lists of all the postcodes where their subsidised services are usually available, but exclude the so-called commercial deployment areas. The postcode data includes all properties regardless of quality and sometimes even availability. BT Wholesale offers an estimate for those lines where they currently provide a service, however if you use other suppliers such as Sky and the Carphone Warehouse group (TalkTalk, AOL, Tiscali etc.) you must rely on the BT Wholesale Availability Checker (although the figures are often identical).

There are a number of quite serious errors within the BT Wholesale database, so it’s important to verify the estimates where practicable. Checking both phone number and address is useful, as is checking neighbours’ addresses as well. If you are unfortunate enough to have bad substandard lines, the checker hides the fact that your green cabinet is available but useless; although the estimate page does contain the phrase “Fibre multicast” (for sport, etc.) is available”, so you can detected that you are excluded. It’s a good idea to measure the distance between your property and the green cabinet, too, taking account of the line route if it is known. Surrey CC’s valuable interactive mapping utility includes a distance measuring tool.

BT Wholesale Broadband Availability Checker

The speed estimation is based upon existing line quality and distance from the Distribution Point (DP). This is the point on the cable where multiple services separate down to smaller or single lines fanning out to individual houses. The compromise is reasonably satisfactory where the houses are all grouped a short distance away from the DP, but it is notoriously bad where several kilometres of single cables continue to a small cluster or a single house.

There are strong indications that BT Wholesale recently increased the threshold, to prohibit the poorer lines from obtaining any faster service at all. As well as line distance to the green cabinet, there are large differences in line quality, depending upon the conductor thickness and the number of joints sometimes damaged by water ingress (and, no doubt, many other causes). Also, line routings do not always follow the most direct route, especially if there has been property development since original phone lines were installed, and though it may be very frustrating for the end user, it would be quite impossible from a cost viewpoint for BT Openreach to re-wire even a fraction of the UK. If the UK, though, is to prosper the entire country must somehow install true fibre to every property. Of course, this is almost impossible within the current Political and Commercial climate, except for a few tiny commercial ventures and some quite remarkable rural Community efforts like

It should be noted that the BT Wholesale Broadband Availability Checker figures are not used to justify repair activity by BT Openreach until the actual speed has deteriorated well below the lowest estimated speed. In some cases, the estimate is dropped when repair activities have not met with full success, presumably to avoid a repeat site visit.

If a property does not have any BT phone line, the BT Wholesale Broadband Availability Checker won’t provide any estimate at all. In such a case the unfortunate resident may have a lot of bother and obfuscation to obtain a faster service as without a BT Wholesale estimate it can be near impossible to obtain a faster service. One approach is to contact BT Care via twitter, even if you have no intention of selecting a BT retail offering.

As a last resort you might ask for a helping hand from your MP.

Installation Procedures

BT Openreach often employ subcontractors to install new faster broadband services, personnel who for the most part are not equipped with any expensive test instruments nor trained in their use. A subcontractor’s remit is to observe the DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) connection light that indicates that the modem has synchronised (i.e., connected) to the green cabinet at any speed. The modem and cabinet equipment then observe the line performance over a period of at least one day. up to the 10 days “training period” BT Wholesale quote. Unsurprisingly, line speeds rarely improve over time without a BT Openreach repair visit, which must be arranged by your chosen Internet Service Provider (ISP) after you have completed your own investigations.

Importantly, subcontractors do not examine the end user’s house wiring (it isn’t BT’s property), which can leave the end user ignorant of whether their house wiring may be causing severe line performance problems. Of course, BT Openreach do offer a line improvement service…at some cost.

Optimising House Wiring

Many houses have quite complicated line extensions, some of which can be wrongly connected. As the faster services are much more fragile, it is imperative that the new modem be connected directly to the master socket, possibly with a new extension socket, but without any other house wiring involved. All extensions must be connected AFTER the new master socket integral filter, which should be provided as part of the installation. It follows, naturally, that many problems are best avoided by optimising house wiring BEFORE installation day.

BT Openreach Maintenance

Even a casual observer can see that the Public Switched Telephone network is not being adequately maintained in some cases. The BT Group only have a “Universal Service Obligation” for a phone line; all domestic broadband services are only provided on a best endeavours basis.

Modem Speed Operation

Discovering how a broadband modem operates is not an easy task as there are many complex factors involved. Some aspects involve the Dynamic Line Management (DLM) function, which attempts to maintain an optimum speed but that can be confounded if an intermittent line fault is present. DLM will then reduce the line’s performance in an attempt to maintain a stable connection.

Matters are made even worse as BT Openreach lock their modems down so the end user is unable to monitor the line condition in sufficient detail. Most users are probably limited to recording speed tests at various times of the day and night. A specialist, though, can unlock one modem giving access to vast amounts of data recorded continuously. The BT Group also has access to similar data available for every line connected through one of the new cabinets. Finally, BT Openreach engineers have test instruments that allow them access to some of the parameters, but not usually over the long periods necessary to investigate intermittent noise-induced problems.

broadband End User internet Net

B4RN, OMR, State Aid and the Witches Ducking Stool

The powers-that-be do not expect an ordinary rural community to roll up their sleeves and build state of the art fibre networks in parts of the UK denounced as totally uneconomic. is pleased to present the following “Broadband Week” post from B4RN Chief Executive Barry Forde. Barry is a networking expert with many years experience of designing, building and operating high performance networks, and apart from providing the technical input for B4RN he also acts as a consultant to a number of local authorities establishing local high speed broadband plans.

In mediaeval times if a woman acted oddly she ran the risk of being denounced as a witch. To test the veracity of such an accusation, a person so accused would be strapped onto a ducking stool and then immersed in the village pond. Then, after an arbitrary time, the woman would be brought up and examined. Continued life served as proof that she was a witch, resulting in a subsequent burning at the stake, whereas if the woman was dead then clearly she was innocent and everyone expressed their regrets. The point I’m making is that acting oddly was and still is a pretty dodgy thing to do if you want to enjoy a long and happy life.

B4RN is clearly acting oddly, as the powers-that-be do not expect an ordinary rural community to roll up their sleeves and build state of the art fibre networks in parts of the country denounced as totally uneconomic by those who know better. If the megalithic BT says it’s not doable then that, of course, is the definitive answer. Must be some sort of witchcraft if B4RN says it can do it, right? Bring out the ducking stool (the modern equivalent being the Open Market Review, combined with State aid rules)!

No one disagrees with the principle that in a modern society we should avoid situations where some part of the population is left disadvantaged in relation to others. So if we as a nation need Next Generation Broadband (NGB), loosely defined as >24Mbs by BDUK or >30Mbs by the EU, then it should ideally be available to all. The commercial operators are going to roll NGB out to about 60% of the population using their own money, so what’s to be done about the rest? And, no, the answer is not to make them move into the cities and then turn the countryside into a Disney theme park.


DCMS got the treasury to put up £520M of public funds for use in subsidising NGB build-out in the more difficult areas, the idea being to push NGB availability out to ~90% of the population. (I’d love to know whether there was some mathematical basis for that amount, or whether someone just stuck a finger in the air to test the wind.) The money was allocated on a formula basis to Local Authorities, each of which had to then come up with a local broadband plan, the hope being that they would also add additional funds from their own resources and also bulk things up with ERDF and similar initiatives. It worked, and I understand the total pot has climbed to around £1.2B, which is serious money. It was also hoped that allowing each LA to do its own thing would unleash competition and bring in new operators clearly thirsting for the chance to get stuck in!

I won’t rehash the long and bitter saga of how this BDUK phase 1 project has gone, but suffice it to say no one — apart from BDUK/DCMS and their respective Ministers and BT (of course) — is happy with things. The lack of competition in awarding contracts by Local Authorities (they all went to BT, the national monopoly telco) was roundly condemned by the NAO and PAC, and the fog of obfuscation laid down by the Local Authorities in making clear which post codes were in, which were out, and what speeds were to be delivered to each, is a plot worthy of “Yes Minister”. Small community projects like B4RN were totally frozen out of this by a whole series of rules that made it impossible for us to bid for the Local Authority contracts.

The powers-that-be, however, clearly feel happy with events and have decided to put another £250M of public money into the pot to increase the NGB coverage to 95% or better. Is there a basis for that new figure, or is it another finger in the air exercise? Having learnt nothing from the first round they seem intent on repeating the same model with formula funding for the Local Authorities, who will then award contracts as they see fit. The suspicion is that most will simply extend the phase 1 contracts with BT but, fingers crossed, some might take the opportunity to run genuine tenders which could open things up for community groups. First, though, each authority needs to run an Open Market Review to establish what work is going to be done by the commercial operators in the coming three years.

So let’s look at how all of this works from B4RN’s point of view. As a network operator building a network we have been asked to respond to Lancashire’s OMR with details of what our plans are, and as I see it we have three options, none of which appeals to me:

  1. Ignore the OMR and don’t respond. If we do this then our Local Authority can ignore us and assume that any areas not covered in phase 1 is “White” (i.e., no existing operator), and therefore eligible for subsidies from the phase 2 kitty. They could choose to simply add these areas to the existing phase 1 contract or they could go out to tender for them, in which case B4RN could respond to the tender.
  2. Respond to the OMR and list our targeted areas but say that these plans involve us bidding for public funds. The Local Authority is then perfectly free to ignore our plans as they involve public money and the OMR rules says these plans can be ignored, so the area stays White and we revert to 1 above.
  3. Respond to the OMR saying that our target area is going to be built come hell or high water, and we will find some way of building out to all 3500 properties in our patch. If we do this then the State Aid rules say we cannot bid for any public funds as the market is going to deliver ,and our area is now grey and not eligible for grants. In theory, this should also prevent LCC from funding BT to build out in those post codes too. As the phase 1 postcodes have not been disclosed by LCC, however, they can at any time state that a specific patch is being done via phase 1 funding, not phase 2, and go ahead. I cannot see any way to stop this from happening.

Options 1 and 2 mean that it is very unlikely we would get any funding via the phase 2 project, as our Local Authority has a close working relationship with BT and I’d be utterly astonished if they allowed us a sniff at the money. The probability is that they would extend the phase 1 contract with BT or, if not, do a new procurement structured to keep B4RN out. Option 3 means we are locked out of any funding anyway, and still will not have protected ourselves from a BT overbuild. But what we have done is committed the rural community to find 100% of the money and effort needed to build out the network. It becomes simply a matter for the Local Authority and BT to cherry-pick anything that looks remotely attractive to them, claiming it was in the phase 1 plan, and leave B4RN with the extortionately expensive and difficult bits.

So do we drown or do we burn? No response means no money, a response means no money and making a really serious commitment on behalf of the community and there is no safety net. The whole purpose of B4RN is to support the rural community. We really don’t want to get into a situation where we are making commitments on their behalf without prior agreement, and a 28-day window to respond to an OMR is nowhere near enough time to consult. From a community point of view, it seems the best way would be to not respond and to let the Local Authority fund BT to go out as far as it can, and then B4RN simply overbuild BT as and when community effort and funds permit. Given the extraordinarily high take up rates and support we get from our community we have no worries about competing with a subsidised BT, but it does stick in the craw seeing them get state aid support amounting to 80% or more of their costs whilst we get nothing. Particularly when ours is a full blown FTTH project that offers much better service and is very much future-proofed.

What I would really love to know is how on earth such a ridiculous situation has arisen. There are a number of community groups that are ready, willing and able to emulate the B4RN project. The government makes plenty of noise about localism and Big Society in action, but when such a wonderful example as rural broadband emerges they instantly kill it with bureaucracy and a morass of mindless rules. Why can a community not make a start on their project and look to bid for state funds to top it up? The rules say if we start something then it immediately becomes sterilised for any support. Do they really think it’s better for people to do nothing at all, except wait in the vain hope that big government will eventually solve things? Surely initiative should be rewarded, not penalised.

So back to the ducking stool. Do we practice holding our breath in the bath, have a chat with Jenson Button regarding borrowing some F1 flameproof long johns, or try and borrow Harry Potter’s invisibility clock so we can work our magic unseen by the Death Eaters in Whitehall/Local Authority/BT?

Editorial note – check out our new site – BroadbandRating.

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Broadband – A Student Perspective on an Essential Service

Broadband is a key service students need to navigate their time at university guest contributor Zoe Redfern recently completed a Masters in Computer Information Systems at the University of Lincoln and will relocate to Cheshire in the coming months to begin a graduate job with Siemens.

Having completed my Master’s Degree at the University of Lincoln not long ago, I am quite qualified to comment on the four years I had to put up with ‘Student Broadband Packages’.

At the time I moved into Courts (the on-campus accommodation) only an Ethernet connection was supplied, one to each bedroom. WiFI was installed soon after, though.  From that point students could actually connect their laptops to the Internet from their flat’s kitchen and living areas. This WiFi was great in the flat I inhabited at Courts during my first year. Although I was in the room furthest away from the wall mounted router I could still connect to it without any issues.

By the time I moved out of Courts the issue of Internet was very close to the top of my list, so I moved into an accommodation block that provided Internet as standard. The service started off at 8Mbps connection and went up by 2Mbps’s each of my three years there, and it suited me down to the ground. It was one less thing to worry about, and with me studying for an IT degree any problems would have fallen on me to sort out.  That, and chasing others for payments was something that I would have found to be really annoying.

To be honest, the Internet connection at my second accommodation — supplied by a company called Ask4 — was really good (and no websites were blocked by the Ask4 service, unlike the BT Broadband service I used whenever I went home) I was so pleased with the service, in fact, that I did on-site promotions for the company for two years after the landlord put my name forward. I was irritated and puzzled, though, that even though we had a standard connection we could pay extra to upgrade. For instance, we could spend £80 for the year to have a 30MB connection in one room only. My boyfriend was paying just a little more than that for a 100MB connection in his student house…a connection that that would’ve cost roughly £400 in my flat!

In the end, I paid for the 30MB connection for two years, using the money I earnt from Ask4 to do so (in essence, a win-win situation). I stuck with the flat rate this last year, though, and I must admit that other than it being a little bit slower for downloads it was just fine! And I honestly cannot say that I encountered any problems with the Ask4 Internet packages, etc., though it did become a bit tedious when the company would schedule maintenance to occur close to deadlines and throughout the night (times when most students were probably pulling an all-nighter).

I would say I used the Internet primarily for work during my last year (with the odd bit of procrastination here and there), and to keep in contact with family and friends as well. I also like to game when I have the chance, download TV shows and music, and stream football and other sports. Also, I found that I was using the Internet more to keep in contact with friends outside of Uni, too, as well as to arrange things with Uni friends. And I used Social Media to both keep in touch with people and to contact companies about graduate positions. Thus, with the Internet fulfilling so much of my contact needs, I discovered that even though I get unlimited texts each month on my phone contract, I was no longer sending as many texts as I once did!

Finally, the Internet connectivity around the University campus was always great! I used to take my laptop to the library to do work, making use of the Uni WiFi each time with no problem, and the speeds were more than sufficient for what I needed and wanted to do on the Internet.

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…Superfast Broadband That

In moving into a world of affordable cloud-based services and versatile mobile devices, the way in which we consume Internet access and connectivity will rely on ISPs that can provide a solid, consistently fast and reliable service. once again welcomes Zen Internet and ISPA Council Member Gary Hough to the page. Superfast Broadband This…, the first part of Gary’s “Broadband Week” post, ran yesterday, and readers wanting a more comprehensive understanding of the piece that follows (and a wee bit more of Gary’s biography) will want to start there.

At the ISP who I work for, we are expecting a real boom in the adoption of superfast broadband over the next few years. In fact, we believe it is likely that 95% of UK households and businesses will take up such offers, though of course this depends massively on the network coverage and rollout of suppliers who can deliver it. And this is where my dilemma lies, because we’re now moving away from the home PC, desktop, archaic server networking that we’re all used to and into a world of very affordable cloud-based services and versatile mobile devices. All of this will become the norm as time goes on, of course, and the way in which we consume our internet access and connectivity will rely more and more on ISPs that can provide a solid, consistently fast and reliable service. Our economic success at the local, national and international levels will become dependent on superfast broadband, without which we all lose out in some way, be that education, business, trade or indeed leisure.

As more and more customers come to enjoy the benefits of faster Internet content delivery, and more businesses discover new and indeed cheaper ways of using the Internet to improve on or enhance their commercial performance, managing bandwidth-hungry customers becomes more and more difficult, especially for the larger ISPs like Virgin Media (the one I employ at home). Based on my own experience, I believe these larger ISPs are likely to continue throttling on the fly to cope with the demand and their network capacity issues, and that the impact on you and I will very much depend on your post code area of residence.

It is unfortunate, but up until quite recently I have been unable to utilise the benefit of a free staff account on fibre from my employer, this due to my local exchange not being fibre-enabled. Now, though, I can at last avail myself of this perk, which gives me one heck of an advantage as my company doesn’t traffic shape or manipulate their broadband services like so many do. Sadly, however, most ISP’s customers don’t have the advantage of a free account nor can they simply switch at the drop of a hat, because typically they are tied into a lengthy contract period. In part, this is because BT charges the ISP heavily for the first 12 months, and this charge gets passed on. As such, on fibre at best the customer is looking at a 12-month minimum contract, which can be quite dire if the service is bad.

Ofcom are partly to blame for this situation, because they really do need to look at the wholesale price charged to ISPs that restricts them from providing an alternative and cheaper service. That said, some ISPs (including Zen Internet, I am glad to say) continue to invest heavily into improving access and ensuring that they can provide the best possible service. To me, this shows a real commitment to existing customers and potential new customers alike, who need to know that the longevity and speeds paid for will be delivered.

With ADSL the market competition was less of an issue, as the biggest providers slugged it out for market share and monthly contracts were easier to come by, but as lengthier contracts remain in place for superfast services the budget you set and the reliability of the service you choose will become far more important.

There is no harm in summing up, though by this point you can probably guess which approach I’m going to take. A strong commitment to providing a better service for discerning customers, along with consistently high speeds and excellent support, as well as a years-long track record of continual investment will see me move my fibre broadband service away from Virgin Media to one supplied, ironically, by my employer.

You should think long and hard about which ISP is really going to be committed to you and your fibre broadband service needs for the next 12, 18 or even 24 months. After all, you’re paying for it and you will no doubt be quite tied to it for the foreseeable future.

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Ofcom to Cut Openreach Prices: Will it Increase Fibre Broadband Take-up?

Openreach’s wholesale prices to drop dramatically, but will it make a difference in fibre broadband adoption? welcomes guest contributor Julia Kukiewicz, Editor of, a consumer site focused on UK broadband (among many others).

Later this year Ofcom will force Openreach to radically cut the wholesale cost of installing a fibre line, from £50 to £11. The regulator says that this price cut, which is currently waiting on European Commission approval, will promote competition among the ISPs that resell BT fibre. That’s BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Plusnet, Primus and EE, among many others.

How big a difference, though, will an Openreach wholesale price cut really make to consumers?

Let’s consider how the ISPs pass on these wholesale prices today by looking at a sampling — three of the biggest providers, and three substantially smaller — of how much they are currently charging new customers to sign up for fibre broadband:


£30 (free with up to 76Mb)










Free (£50 without Plusnet home phone)

Almost all of the ISPs are already incorporating part of the wholesale fee into their monthly fee or just eating it, with the expectation that their customers will buy extra services and/or stay and pay beyond their minimum contract term. Even with that concession, though, the fees could be a significant barrier to standard broadband households that are considering making the leap to fibre broadband. Psychologists call this ‘the pain of paying’: it’s unappealing to make a big upfront payment for a service, even if you feel that the monthly price is pretty reasonable. Similarly, almost all of the listed ISPs offer fibre only on an 18-month contract (Sky being the exception, offering a 12 month tie-in), which is a big commitment for a household looking to switch. Thus, at face value, reducing the wholesale installation fee and contract length for fibre (Ofcom want Openreach’s fibre contracts to go down from a year to a month) looks to make BT FTTC more attractive, as long as the cuts are passed on. In the case of fees, at least, that certainly seems likely. It is expected that the effect will be less pronounced with contracts, because there are a lot of other pressures encouraging ISPs to offer long contracts, but even 12-month fibre contracts would be an improvement in terms of encouraging fibre switching. However, although price seems like an important barrier to signing up households to fibre, the level of that factor’s importance is far from assured.

Let’s pause here to consider the current rates of fibre take-up. As of March 2014, about 14% of UK households who have a fibre service available actually take it. Take-up has been growing over the past few years — just a year before the rate was just 10% — but it is still pretty low. At the same time, infrastructure availability is growing fast. BT FTTC is now available to around 70% of UK premises, and will soon be available to many more as it rolls out services on behalf of the local councils that awarded it BDUK money. Based on current projections, fibre broadband penetration could exceed 90% by the end of 2015. In this environment, price barriers like fees and long contracts may be stopping households from taking up fibre, but taking the popularity of pay TV services as an example, the ‘pain of paying’ explanation can clearly only take us so far. Logo

In a 2012 report entitled Strategies for Superfast Demand Stimulation, the broadband monitoring group Point Topic suggested that the focus needed to shift from building infrastructure to building customers that actually want it. Successful fibre broadband network areas — that is, areas where take up was high, giving companies a return on their investment and hence more impetus to continue expanding the network — were not areas with the most coverage and the lowest prices, according to Point Topic, but instead were places where real and active support from local people made people enthusiastic and excited about signing up for better broadband. And we are already seeing this in some areas with broadband champions, and even more strongly in communities which have taken the initiative to work with a local ISP, such as Frilford, Oxfordshire working with Gigaclear and Forest of Bowland and the Lune Valley, Lancashire working with Broadband for Rural North (B4RN)*. The bigger ISPs, though, haven’t taken the initiative to really stimulate demand in this way, and unless they do we may be waiting a long time for fibre take-up to really increase, even with Ofcom’s cut in wholesale costs.

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Thoughts on the Future of Broadband Down Under from the Australasian News Desk.

Antipodeans are watching what happens in more mature broadband markets — the UK, the USA — and trying to learn from their mistakes while seeking greater value. welcomes “Broadband Week” guest contributor Tom Avern who, when he isn’t pontificating on the internet, can using be found helping his clients sort out their network issues, riding bicycles, or taking photographs. Tom has been network engineering for 13 years, since he was but a lad, and has a CCNA to prove it.

If there is one global constant with regard to broadband it is that consumers will always want more speed and more bandwidth. Another global constant, of course, is the difficulty of managing the traffic.

One advantage that we antipodeans have is that we can watch what happens in more mature markets — the UK, the USA — and try to learn from their mistakes. For instance, the next big thing here in our sunburnt country is the National Broadband Network (or NBN), a roll-out similar to BT’s efforts with the “Infinity” products and their wholesale equivalents. What is interesting about the NBN process isn’t so much the similarities as it is the differences, and when looking into the available NBN plans and technology that an average broadband consumer may purchase I was surprised at what I found.

First, it seems that copper is almost dead, as the NBN Co will be removing copper lines everywhere and replacing them all with FTTP. Under this scheme, a good old analogue phone will function by way of an interface in the “NBN Connection Box”, which in turn will be connected to a power supply with a battery backup built in to facilitate phone calls during a power outage.

Second, the service itself can be delivered to the “NBN Connection Box” in one of three ways: (1) fibre, as detailed above, (2) wirelessly from a mobile tower, via a panel antenna affixed to the roof of the home, and (3) via satellite, for extremely remote locations. Something for all situations.

Third, the NBN has announced a plan with Telstra to provide VDSL FTTC services to 200,000 homes. This is a copper-based product (the only one yet to make an appearance), and thus it seems that not all of the copper is bound for the scrap yard.

I find myself wondering what will happen at the exchange. For one, there will be a lot of space where backup batteries and copper termination equipment used to reside, and if this space was re-purposed to facilitate server hosting — in a location on top of a major fibre node with decent power availability — well, could it all be leveraged as a business? Would people use it? Also, there could be real value in providing cache servers local to customers in heavy-use areas, to provide faster access to popular resources such as VoIP or VoD.

While writing this article, I compared plans in both the UK and Australian markets, and I found myself disappointed by the lack of value in the Aussie broadband market. Down under, your dollar buys you speed but not much in the way of data allowance. In conjunction, because Australia suffers from a population density problem (or, rather, the lack of such, as in comparison the UK has an average of 0.003 km2 per person while Australia has 0.3 km2), when the costs of delivering utilities is extrapolated you simply have to accept the fact that delivery will be more expensive and time-consuming in Australia.

Mobile data is a bit of a sore point with yours truly as Australia has yet to get mobile data plans that represent what I would call value. There are expensive plans available, including a “massive 512MB” that I find hilarious when compared with the unlimited plans available elsewhere in the world. The country is accessing the same content as the rest of the world with plans that are woefully behind and, again, density appears to be the issue: lots of mobile towers needed to cover a sparsely distributed subscriber base.

Currently, there are areas of Australia that appear on the three-year forecasted availability list for the NBN, so I think we’ll have to wait a while before the totality of the land down under is online at high speed, at value prices or not.


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Broadband Week on

Broadband week on brings a totally international set of posts that includes contributions from Australia, South Africa and Rochdale.

Broadband Week has, in all, over 15 contributors who have written material that covers a very diverse set of subjects. Editorially we do not ask specific contributors to write on particular subjects unless they can’t think of one themselves. This is our way of trying to achieve a wide coverage of broadband-related subjects on the site.

Guest contributors are invited because in general they are interesting people. We have CTOs, CEOs, Sales Directors, online comparison specialists, regulatory managers, University Professors, entrepreneurs, students, start-ups, community projects, small ISPs, large ISPs, multi-tenant broadband specialists and rear admirals1. Some are people I’ve know for a long time and some I’ve only recently bumped into. By and large, the posts are written by the named person themselves and not the “marketing” department. We don’t accept blatant sales pitches.

Although broadband technology is mass market it still arouses high emotions. This is particularly the case from those who can’t get access to it. This situation is set to continue as even with the Government funded BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK) project many households are being left out of the roll out. Something guaranteed to continue inflaming the senses of a highly vocal minority.

Broadband is with each passing year becoming more and more essential to our way of life and despite being a mature consumer technology always seems to surprise us with new issues.

If the electricity and water supplies were switched off tomorrow the nation would come to grinding halt. The time is surely not so far off where the same would apply were the same to happen to broadband networks. Our growing use of “the cloud” is predicated on the availability of broadband. as a business could not exist without it, even taking away the fact that much of what we do and talk about is related to internet connectivity. Our systems depend on cloud tech: virtual servers, Platforms As A Service (e.g., FreeAgent accounting software) and Google Apps. I have even, at the ripe old age of ahem £$%^^&* started to see the attraction of Spotify where before I have always wanted to purchase physical copies of music that I listen to.

My wife uses eBay WhatsApp, Google Calendar, gmail and now — and you’d better believe this — Snapchat!!! All this points towards broadband being mission critical to our lives and one deserving of regular coverage on This week, being Broadband Week on the site, means that regular coverage is very much what you are going to get.

I hope you will enjoy reading the Broadband Week posts, and please feel free to comment on anything that arouses your interest. We have also, as of last week, rolled out a new unique template on the site. This is an evolving, living entity which will gradually change over the next few weeks to what we hope will be an useful and interesting resource. Look out also for new specialist affiliate sites that we will be introducing during the course of the year.

1 Only joking.

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The Hump Day Five (25-June-2014)

On Wednesday’s Editor-in-Chief serves up The Hump Day Five, a weekly collection of short (and not so short) glimpses of the life in progress.


Bolting to meet My Missus for a Pay-For-Weekend-Well-Spent swim (the value of which we will immediately negate with a hearty follow-up Mexican lunch), and just realized that my mobile phone charge is at 9%. And being that this is my still-hanging-on iPhone 4 that ‘9’ might as we’ll be a ‘2’ as over the three-something years iPhoneKory has occupied my key right-pocket space I have seen it go from 7% to black so many times…

Is seven the new zero?


Despite promising myself I wouldn’t do so, I hung until 02h00 on Sunday/Monday watching the USA-Portugal World Cup match on ESPN via SlingBox, all the way to its bittersweet 95th minute. And in spite of a poor connection and a wildly unbalanced announcer team (Ian Darke = terrific, Taylor Twellman = dead awful), and although France has been my one-and-only International association football team since I moved to Paris in 1999*, I could not help but get caught up in it all. This was helped along in no small measure by social media, as both my Facebook and Twitter feeds were crackling with excitement and the wonderful over-the-top enthusiasm borne of sports spectatorship. Every breakaway, clearance, crossover, save (Tim Howards’s remarkable double-save!), and goal, by the USA or Portugal, had my feeds flying fast. But with that insane last play, with less than 25 ticks left in Injury Time…silence.

Yes, silence. The stunned heartbreak of that gorgeous equalizer — its sheer beauty cannot be denied — led to what may very well be the loudest imaginable Internet silence I’ve ever (not) heard. I have no doubt that goal was replaying on constant loop through the minds of a great many Americans on Monday, I am just as certain it was doing so in a soundproof vacuum.

*No true lover of the “Beautiful Game” will ever forget France’s unbelievablyf*ckingamazing come-from-behind last-gasp victory against Italy in the Euro2000 final, a game…no, an experience that galvanized this transplanted American’s association football fandom.


Readers going back three months — my long-term dyed-in-the-wool fans — will remember my enthusiasm for the latest Marvel Studios film, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, and perhaps even the near-pathological (pathetic) need I had to see the film after having to wait 10 days following its release to find my way to the cinema. (And no matter if you aren’t one of those readers, because my preface sentence sets the table for where I am heading, regardless.)

With all of the build-up, all of the hype, the fact that I so thoroughly enjoyed “Captain America: First Avenger” (I expected to hate that first film as the character is an all-time favorite of mine — since I started reading super hero comic books at the age of eight — and just figured there was no way Hollywood could get it right), the scads of terrific reviews I was so careful to scan-without-spoiling, you would think that disappointment was inevitable. Not only was this not the case, though, but the film so deeply captured my imagination that I soon after found myself pondering a newed look in on the comic book itself, figuring the source material for such a great flick might be worth my time.

In days of yore (and up until actually not all that long ago), it was a lot more difficult to find and read back issues of comic books than it is today. In fact, without admitting to anything here or anywhere, I will say that despite my predilection for riding near the cusp of the Internet for lo on 20+ years now, I still find myself utterly floored by the ready digital availability of comic books new and old (and extremely old). A minimal amount of surfing revealed that “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was based on Ed Brubaker’s run on the “Captain America” title from 2004-2012, and a single google-bing turned up the following torrent:

Brubaker Cap Torrent



In less than a year I will turn 50, a number on the age scale that I know is supposed to mean…something. A greater sense of dignity? Less prone to silly excitements? Better perspective on what was and is and will be? Conversations turning ever more towards health issues? Yadda yadda yadda. To all of that, I have to call “Bunk!”, because (1) in my mind’s eye I am not balding, overly thick in the middle, saddled with mild hearing loss, or in need of glasses to read, (2) I feel no less a thirst for life than I did 10 years ago…or 20, and (3) I still get all kinds of giddy in the lead up to putting my mitts on new techy toys…such as the new KoryChrome (Samsung Chromebook 2), which I look forward to running my fingers over for the first time at some point tomorrow!


Today is the first day of summer vacation for The Boy, and he is marking it in style, sitting on the couch in front of the TV while simultaneously playing both “Minecraft” and “SimCity 4” with friends on his MacBook, and also looking in on “Clash of Clans” via the family iPad. Now if only he could get his toes engaged in some kind of input manipulation My Missus and I would have one reasonably efficient and well-entertained child! The drums, perhaps?

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Why Broadband isn’t Always the Problem

Broadband traffic management may be to blame for your problems suggests Lindsey Annison

I know, I know. It seems anathema, really, in a world of hyperfast comms, but sometimes it’s not the broadband pipe to your place at fault.

Let me apologise for my absence. Part of it was indeed the pipe. It broke. Big style. Then, once having realised the connection was non-functional, my next problem was actually reaching the people who could fix it. I rang and rang. And rang. Which is not so easy when you have no mobile coverage and have been relying on t’interweb for VoIP. (When did all the phone boxes get taken away to be showers in boutique hotels, anyway?)

Since being fixed, (which I say glibly, like it was some menial task and that all is well again; which it wasn’t and it isn’t) the problems have continued and have become, as many have discovered when buying from a different service provider than those in charge of the pipes, a whole new kettle of fish. Stuff doesn’t work, though of course I am paying for it to work. This has now become a debate sinfin with a World Cup level of ball passing prior to someone paying for a penalty to occur going on.

It seems we are now into the phase of network and traffic management issues. Is this the precursor, the “getting you adapted phase”, for the real sting in the tail of what is going on with net neutrality?

You can run a squillion speedtests. None of these will prepare you for how an app, a service, SAAS, a program, a feed, etc. will work because YOU, the consumer, cannot possibly know where the resources are being directed by your provider or any of the other servers on the network you traverse as you meander round the net. However righteous your purpose, or however much you pay per month, those ol’ servers may not play ball with you if they are set to a different mission.

Broadband Pipe

Oh yeah, you have a fat pipe all right, but it is only to the tap in your garden. Beyond that, the water pressure can be raised and lowered as the supplier chooses, and that can include dribble as much as flow. And for this there is no regulation. If your supplier decides to divert all resources to watering pitches in Brasil whilst you look to prepare the wicket at Headingley — tough. This ain’t cricket, you may shout. (Hooray, it’s finally the season for whites and willow and sandwiches on the green.) Your complaints will go unheard and actually your supplier may be entirely unable to solve the problem, however fat the fibre optic pipe (more likely slim and tired Victorian copper) to your house. If a server somewhere across the network has decided to …um…not serve, then the bits wot you need to do whatever it is you wish to seem to go into hiding. Not available., time out, server not found, etc.

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Rural Broadband — a Lesson in JFDI (Part 3)

Rural broadband service deployed by Tim Robinson has made a difference to his local community – Part 3

Readers who not yet read Part 1 and Part 2 of Tim Robinson’s post will want to do so now, whereas those who have done so and who are no doubt eager to plunge right in should get on with it!

The success of the farm project has encouraged us to deploy into other rural areas. For the less financially promising locations we have taken a very conservative approach to funding, generally getting most of the installation costs for new repeater sites paid for upfront by the very customers who are driving the deployment. This ensures our ability to remain profitable and also ensures a level of commitment from our customers. Also, early on we took the decision that all services would be provided on a one-month contract. People seem to like that. A lot.

We have so far chosen areas that that Big Telcos will have real trouble covering with FTTx but that we can easily reach from our existing backhaul. We are also deploying into a local business park that has particularly bad ADSL service Such facilities are a lucrative area for us and seem thus far to have been deliberately avoided by Big Telcos, but we cannot be complacent as they are likely to be targeted in the future. We have sought to be very supportive and provide a good level of customer service, and business users tend not to be lured by the promise of high speeds and free sport channels. People seem to like that. A lot.

Since 2010 nearly 100 customers have connected to the network. In answer to such demand, we have expanded from a single VDSL2 backhaul from AAISP to multi-homed Ethernet transit over VDSL2. More recently, we added an EAD fibre backhaul. Our VoIP service has been widely used by our customers as a way of reducing cost and improving audio quality, as even phone calls over 8km lines sound rather muffled in comparison!

Some random thoughts and lessons learned:

  • Don’t just sit there and moan at Big Telcos. Do something creative. Nothing will happen unless you do.
  • If you don’t ask, you don’t get. People are much more accommodating of having a rather ugly 60cm dish on their chimney than you might at first have thought.
  • Farmers and landowners are great to work with. They have a can-do attitude to most things, unlike the naysayers of Big Telcos and the local authorities. They also have cherry pickers to help with link tests, and 4x4s to pull you out of muddy fields.
  • It’s easier to seek forgiveness than (planning) permission. We are operating on the basis that our antennas are ‘de minimis’ and the local council have been extremely supportive of our service.
  • When FTTx becomes available, not everyone leaves. A lot of people actually have a strong dislike of Big Telcos and welcome the alternative!
  • Use a professional aerial contractor for all ladder work. You know it makes sense.
  • A bridged Layer 2 wireless network will eventually end in tears. Route, Route, Route!

Things that are holding back small ‘alt-nets’ from deploying more coverage:

  • There is no such thing as ‘BT Retail’, ‘BT Wholesale’ and ‘BT Openreach’. These exist only in the minds of the regulator and BT plc’s internal processes. They are all part of BT plc and they can juggle profit centres to suit their shareholders, keep the wholesale prices high and retail prices low. Until BT Openreach is physically and legally separated from the other two, there will never be a ‘level playing field’ in this market. I call upon the government to force the Openreach division to be hived off into a totally independent, Network Rail-like, not-for-profit company.
  • Cost of backhaul. With the incumbent monopoly charging for fibre backhaul in the way they do, there will often not be a business case for installing service to some of the more remote places – wireless represents the only sensible way of delivering the connectivity.
  • By all accounts, the BDUK government funding of rural broadband is an utter fiasco. The whole process has been shrouded in secrecy, deliberately restricted to BT as the only real participant, and is thus holding back our wireless deployments. This is because we as small operators don’t know where the taxpayer funded FTTx footprint is to be extended next. It’s like the government building a road but not telling anyone where it is going to be until the diggers arrive! Government funded FTTx is part of the national infrastructure and there should be total transparency of which cabinets will be upgraded, which postcodes are served by these cabinets, and which will definitely not be done.
  • Fibre business rates and proposed business rate liability on wireless internet antennas. These are not progressive taxes, and as such makes it hard for small telcos to invest in fibre or wireless infrastructure. I call upon the government to overhaul this iniquitous situation and instead find a way to raise funds in a more progressive manner, based on profit. Oh wait. It’s called VAT and Corporation Tax.

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Rural Broadband — a Lesson in JFDI (Part 2)

Rural broadband service deployed by Tim Robinson has made a difference to his local community – Part 2

Readers who have not yet read Part 1 of Tim Robinson’s post will want to do so now, whereas those who have done so and who are no doubt eager to plunge right in should hesitate no longer.

More often than not it pays to keep your mouth shut, however sometimes it pays more to be a blabbermouth! Had I kept quiet about the VDSL2 connection my friend Dave and I jury-rigged from his house to mine I’d have had a 40 Mbit/sec internet service all to myself. Alas, though, I was unable to keep such a good secret. I told my neighbours, who were immediately intrigued and wished to know more. Significant help was offered in exchange for a slice of the pie, so we ran an ethernet cable to the next door neighbour, and a cantenna-based 2.4 GHz link across the road to the other neighbor, and needless to say they were both chuffed to bits. Looking back on it all now, too, I think it is fair to say that without their encouragement and loads of assistance that just might have been the end of the story.

The roof of my house has a bird’s eye view of large swathes of the town, and this inspired us to consider the opportunities that this might open up to serve to the broadbandless burghers of Basingstoke. We decided after a couple of months that it was time to take things a bit further, to spread the net wider so to speak! With the addition of a cheap Mikrotik router, a Freeradius server, some clever MySQL queries from one of the neighbours, and a couple of rooftop antennas, I was able to get a basic configuration running that would allow us to bill users in a way similar to AAISP’s rather complex billing plan. And so, with just a few hundred quid’s worth of kit was born. It may not have compare to the American WWII effort at Iwo Jima, but it felt good nonetheless to get that first base station up and running, with the help of one of my pioneering neighbours. The first paying customers were all members of the Basingstoke Broadband Campaign who lived in my area and who were prepared to put their money where their mouths had been. And the rest, as they say, is history.

During all of this time the leviathan had not completely gone to sleep, as while I was extending the network out to Chineham and Beggarwood — which had even worse broadband speeds than we had over in our neck of the woods — BT and BDUK were plotting to use government money to overbuild my commercially deployed network and steal my customers. Well, that’s how it felt, anyway.

BDUK have since overbuilt a major part of my footprint, and it has been interesting as there was not a sudden and mass exodus from our 8 Mbit/sec service to VDSL2. As such, we had breathing space in which to look for ‘pastures new’, and we started to look further ‘afield’. (Puns very much intended – read on.)

Rather more recently, I was invited by Hampshire County Council to attend a Country Landowner’s Association meeting held in Winchester, to discuss rural broadband. The keynote speakers were Bill Murphy of BT and Maria Miller MP, (who was also Minister for Media Culture and Sport at the time), and needless to say the meeting did not go particularly well for either of them (though the lunch was quite good). There was a lot of animated discussion and, being a member of the awkward squad, I asked a few pertinent questions from the floor.

After the meeting a farmer and his wife approached and told me their long and sad tale. He had a load of farm buildings he’d converted into industrial units, and BT did not have enough copper to provide phones to all of them. The lines that did exist extended 8km to the exchange, too, so broadband was slow and flakey. Word on the street was that one tenant had been quoted £12,000 in excess construction charges to get one analogue line installed, and the farmer was having trouble letting some of the units as a result. He asked me the question I was waiting for: “Could I do anything to help?”

We looked at Google. I told him there was a problem in the way, that being a huge hill that blocked line of sight to his farm from my house. The response to that will forever remain ingrained in my mind. “That’s not a problem. That’s MY hill! Why not stick a repeater on top of it?”

The farmer took me around to his land and showed me what could be seen from where. He spoke to his neighbours, and quite literally elevated us and our survey antennas to new heights in his cherry picker, with cows looking on suspiciously from below. He generally oiled the wheels of progress in such a creative and ‘can-do’ way that within a few months I was connecting his farm, his home and the first of his tenants to our network!

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Rural Broadband — a Lesson in JFDI (Part 1)

Rural broadband strategy- sometimes a community will haver to jfdi & sort their own solution welcomes guest blogger Tim Robinson, Director of TxRx Communications Ltd. Tim’s post will run in three parts, beginning today and extending through to week’s end.

It is an onerous task to write a guest blog for one with as much credibility as @Tref, however this tale needs to be told, and the opinions herein need to be aired.

In the beginning there was ADSL. Historically, most of Basingstoke has suffered from bad broadband speeds. This all comes from having a telephone exchange in the town centre, and having most of the residential areas built in a doughnut-shaped ring around the centre of the town moving out 4-7km (as the copper runs) from the exchange. Thus, broadband was doomed before it was even a twinkle in BT’s eye.

As broadband became more of an essential utility and less of a luxury, campaigns were lead by frustrated people (including me) for whom 1.5 mbit was simply not adequate for doing one’s job, or keeping the offspring up-to-speed with the latest cat videos. We raised the issue with the Big Telco and others, but they all said nothing could be done. Unbeknown to us, though, there was activity between BT and our local council, and in 2010, there was a fanfare of excitement when it was announced that Basingstoke was going to be one of the first towns to get VDSL2 – colloquially (but incorrectly) known as ‘fibre broadband’.

The poor residents on the outskirts of Basingstoke breathed a collective sigh of relief, basking in the ‘knowledge’ that finally BT was doing something to help us. There was elation, and delight. Things were not all that they seemed, though, and the elation lasted only until the actual deployment plans began to be made known. That elation, in fact, quickly turned to disbelief, anger, and frustration. It seemed that BT were cherry-picking the cabinets in the already well-served Virgin Media areas close to town, plus a few others that met some secret internal criteria. The worst served parts of the town would continue to be unserved by the new technology! We were furious that BT had chosen to deploy VDSL2 into places that didn’t really need it, and omitting the places that did!

There were meetings. Beer was cried into. Letters to our MP written. There were Big Meetings with the campaign groups, the council, our MP and important people in BT. Above all, though, there was the spark of an idea. If some areas were to be served by VDSL2, why not pick up the backhaul from a VDSL2 connection and use wireless to provide internet service to the parts that were not included? Thus, this was the start of the JFDI* approach to broadband provision.

I live at the top of a hill. It transpired that a friend — let’s call him ‘Dave’, as it is after all his name — lived exactly 981 metres away, and was one of the ‘chosen ones’ set to receive VDSL2. With an element of stupidly unnecessary risk on Dave’s part, involving antics with a torch and a drill at the top of a three-section ladder, my friend and I determined that we had line of sight to his chimney from my house. Leveraging that knowledge, we managed to get an 80 mbit wireless link from Dave’s house back to what was to become a data centre in my garage. Our excitement was palpable, akin to the feelings of those pioneers who made the first London to New York phone call. Soon after, one of my neighbours lent me an old laptop, which we set up in Dave’s loft and from which we ran constant iperf and ping tests to see if our contraption would actually work.

Convinced over a couple of months that this wireless lark might actually fly, I took the plunge and ordered a shiny new phone line for Dave’s house from AAISP, along with a shiny new VDSL2 connection. (Installation was not exactly smooth, but that is another story.) Finally, once the connection was installed, I linked the Openreach VDSL2 modem straight into the wireless link and fired up a PPPOE connection at my house. Bingo! Suddenly what was 1.4 Mbit/sec on a good day became 40 Mbit/sec…and this was a very good day, indeed.

*To the uninitiated, JFDI stands for ‘Just Flippin Do It’. There are other alternative interpretations of JFDI but this is the one I am using.
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VoIP not working over your broadband connection? We may have the explanation.

VoIP over broadband not working? It may be the router.

Routers provided by some major ISPs are preventing their customers from using VOIP services such as Skype.

For some time now members of the Internet Telephony Service Providers Association have been keeping a list of routers through which VoIP doesn’t appear to work. The routers themselves include functionality or elements of firmware that are either not user configurable or there are elements of the ISP service that mandate their router without an obvious means of using an alternative. This means that if a customer wants to use Over The Top VoIP services such as those provided by ITSPA members they usually can’t.

Unfortunately whilst this may well not be a deliberate act of anti competitiveness on behalf of the ISP it has the same effect as if VoIP was being blocked in the ISP network – interesting considering that some of these ISPs offer VoIP services of their own.

If you have such a router you probably can’t use Skype or any other VoIP service offered by the 100 or so independent providers in the UK. Whether this is deliberate or not is a moot point. The end result is that the ISP is affecting your ability to use the broadband service you pay for.

Most major ISPs are signatories to the Broadband Stakeholders’ Group Code of Practice and have undertaken to respect what is known as Net Neutrality or the promise not to favour any one type of traffic over another. This is a fundamental principle of how the internet works.

If an ISP provided routers over which 3rd Party VoIP services did not work whilst their own VoIP service continued to work perfectly well they would be flouting these principles. Effectively they would on the one hand be saying they are “good guys” which comes with obvious PR benefits whilst in practice being “bad guys”.

Dan Winfield, CEO of VoIP provider Voxhub says:

“This is an ongoing problem. It can affect customers that work from home at any time even if they have things up and running. A new update is shipped out by an ISP and effectively wipes out their phones. You can see the roll outs happening over a period of time as people call for support. The worse side of this is that customers get angry with us and we cannot do much. We cannot guarantee our service will work on home broadband as a result. When we roll out to offices, we always supply routers to get round the problem but this doesn’t work for home users.”

Not all ISPs are affected. It would be interesting to hear from any reader who has a broadband service but over which VoIP will not work.

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Net Neutrality and Telephony

Net neutrality and VoIP telephony – thorny issues the industry needs to negotiate welcomes “VoIP Week” contributor Rob Pickering, CEO of ipcortex.

Most folks who work in the VoIP industry have at some point been subject to a casual horror story from a new acquaintance about evil VoIP and how they tried it once and that it nearly brought their business to its knees. My heart sinks whenever I realise that this is the direction in which the conversation is going, at which point I usually find myself wishing I’d said that I did something less controversial for a living…like writing computer networking software! I listen, though, nodding politely, already forming a conclusion — after all, it would be unlikely that the problems experienced were due to a fault in their equipment or termination provider, both of which are probably perfectly reliable. No, a lack of a suitable quality of service (QoS) between their premises and termination provider is almost always the culprit in such circumstances.

The UK service provider industry has developed lots of solutions to the QoS problem, and things are far better now than they were just five or ten years ago when the market was in its infancy. The quality and availability of last mile circuits, particularly in metropolitan areas, has massively improved with successive advancements such as LLU, FTTC, FTTP, and cost-effective, high bandwidth Ethernet IAD type circuits. There has also been a trend towards integrated providers delivering the whole service — access circuit, Internet and telephony — as a single package. Behind the scenes, this may or may not translate technically into a full end-to-end in-house QoS-managed solution, depending on the provider and sometimes the geography of the customer. It does, however, assign commercial responsibility for delivering a fit-for-purpose solution to a single party, and this can only produce a better quality outcome for the customer.


Such an approach is certainly not universal. The US market has developed differently, for instance, and most VoIP termination providers don’t get deeply involved in provision of access circuits, instead opting to rely on decent low loss, low jitter transit or peering arrangements, and their customers’ own commodity access circuits. Often they will do a bit of automated “connection testing” as part of their signup process, however in general customers on unsuitable circuits tend to weed themselves out.  This does produce some benefits for customers, including more transparency with regard to costs, as well as a bit less lock-in as there is no commercial linkage between access and over-the-top (OTT) voice service. Today, in fact, several of those US suppliers are entering the UK market with this same business model.

Which brings us on to Net Neutrality. Whenever this subject comes up, we tend to think about its obvious effects on consumer entertainment services. The future development of the telephony industry is, however, intimately linked with this issue. Whilst the raw, per-consumer bandwidth requirements of a VoD service like Netflix is greater, the network characteristics required to deliver a reliable telephony conversation of at least ISDN quality are in some ways more onerous. Though buffering can always be used to counter horrible jitter on the underlying path for a video stream, and content caches are already used to reduce transit requirements, neither of these methods can be used to reduce the pain on a real-time voice conversation. If telephony providers can no longer get good, zero-packet loss, low jitter transit, or peering with many leading access providers, then an entire business model may very well be frozen out.

How do you think the industry will develop? Vertically integrated one-stop shops for network access and telephony, or universal OTT providers? I’d love to know your thoughts.

VoIP Week Posts:

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Vastly Objectionable Ignominious Phrase

What the lone acronym in “VoIP Week” does NOT represent.

As a longtime fan of Marvel’s super hero comic books — 40 years and happily counting — I find myself quite satisfied with the persisting Hollywood trend of putting these Fantastic! Incredible! Amazing! Uncanny! Mighty! characters on the Silver Surfer…er, silver screen. And almost as much fun as seeing these wonders brought to life is the narrative means used to tie them all together, that being the oh-so-shadowy government agency S.H.I.E.L.D., which as acronyms go is one heckuva Marvel-ous mouthful (originally “Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division”, then changed in 1991 to “Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate”…both way-cool).


So what does all of this have to do with VoIP? Well, as great acronyms go absolutely nothing, as S.H.I.E.L.D. is way-cool while V-o-I-P is decidedly not. In fact, though the meaning behind V-o-I-P — Voice over Internet Protocol — is a cause célèbre, worthy of consideration, contemplation, conjecture, and cockeyed optimism, the “word” verbalized evokes images of a thick liquid dripping onto a badly-tuned piece of tin poised alongside a carnival microphone.

Say it with me. Or better yet, don’t.

As awful an acronym as V-o-I-P is, one has to wonder how it came to stick as the most common reference term for the technology it represents. Could it be that as bad as it is, V-o-I-P is actually the best of a really bad bunch? Let’s see…

IPT (IP Telephony)? Difficult double-consonant at the end, and perhaps too easy to rhyme with “gypped”…
IT (Internet Telephony)? Taken.
VoBB (Voice over Broadband? Again, like IPT, too easy to set a negative rhyme to.
BT (Broadband Telephony)? Taken.
BPS (Broadband Phone Service)? Proves that an ugly-sounding acronym is better than one with absolutely nothing going for it.

OK, so maybe I am no longer wondering how V-o-I-P took hold in the tech-y lexicon. After all, nature abhors a vacuum and all that (Horror vacui!). Also, sadly, nothing better was in the ether (evidenced above), and it isn’t as if the average man-on-the-street is going to say “Voice over Internet Protocol” every time they need to refer to the concept (of course, there is no way said average man-on-the-street is ever going to comfortably use the acronymic word “VoIP” either, but let’s not get bogged down in reality’s messy details). Still, it sure would be nice to be able to lay blame for V-o-I-P at someone’s keyboard, but unlike the massive majority of Internet-based whatever-and-whatsis there is absolutely nobody out there laying claim to originating — starting? envisioning? founding? — the term. Even if we could force somebody to take responsibility for this *four-letter-word* of a four-letter acronym, though, a proper punishment could never be levied as any attempt to do so would likely raise the ire of the Kids from C.A.P.E.R.*

At this point the Marvel-literate among you might be gasping (Gasp!) for me to return to espousing on and praising the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe, for those of you not in-the-know who have hung on this far). It is “VoIP Week” at, however, and other than their diametrically opposed acronym quality no other useful correlation can be made between S.H.I.E.L.D. and V-o-I-P (other than the fact, that is, that S.H.I.E.L.D. agents likely make extensive and heretofore unknown — and way-cool — use of VoIP technology). Still, you can’t beat a good opening.

*The Civilian Authority for the Protection of Everybody, Regardless

VoIP Week Posts:

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Broadband traffic management – a thing of the past? #UKNOF28

Broadband traffic management, once an essential tool in an ISPs toolkit is beinsed less and less as the cost of bandwidth decreases.

pirate flagBroadband traffic management seems to have been ditched some time ago by the big ISPs. I may be behind the times here. Had a conversation with a couple of senior tech guys at major UK ISPs who told me they had dropped traffic management up to two years ago.

Traffic management at an ISP is basically where the network employs Deep Packet Inspection kit to examine the type of traffic. Bandwidth hogging protocols such as P2P would be throttled at peak times. They did this to save on costs and to improve the experience for other users. A peer to peer protocol will use all the available bandwidth on a broadband line. It only takes a few users to clog up the backhaul of an ISP.

When DPI was originally deployed P2P traffic represented up to 65% of network traffic. DPI equipment was expensive, didn’t scale well and at the higher end of ISP size never provided a return on investment.

Now with the DPI kit switched off the “problem” P2P traffic remains at the same level in real terms but now represents only 4% of total traffic, the majority being video services such as Netflix and YouTube (I assume). One ISP told me that when they switched off traffic management they saw a little blip in traffic volume but it was negligible in the great scheme of things.

This is quite interesting when considered in relation to the “piracy” debate. Although copyright infringing downloads may well be at the same level of a few years ago is it valid to say that people are increasingly resorting to the use of legal/paid for services instead? If so it makes the whole Digital Economy Act farce even more farcial.

Loads of DEAct related posts here if you want to take a look.

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Broadband funding

Broadband funding for rural broadband projects is not working that well says Lindsey Annison.

Recently, I was part of a very interesting discussion on TechQT about funding broadband, particularly for areas where there has been (or where it is perceived that there will be) a level of failure in the superfast roll-out.


Whilst many will argue that both the commercial deployment and that associated with the BDUK funding are still ‘in progress’ (and, hence, this discussion could be deemed to be premature), it is already becoming clear that there will be a shortfall not only in coverage percentages and the tech being used (FTTC or worse, instead of full-blown, full-fat FTTH or FTTP),  but also in availability even where the area has been deemed covered.

What will people do in areas where the superfast solution is not being deployed? Or in areas where FTTC simply will not technically work? Or in areas which appear to have been forgotten or ignored?