It’s Friday afternoon and the first time this week I have been able to sit down and blog, this time about broadband miscellany. It could be a full time activity if I had the time as so much stuff passes my way.
I note that Minister for Communications Ed Vaizey has been demonstrating his politcal sidestepping skills by answering MP Tom Watson’s request for a definition of “super fast broadband” with:
“Super fast broadband means broadband of sufficient speed and quality to deliver the services that will lead to Britain having the best broadband network in Europe. The technology used to deliver this could be fixed or wireless but will represent a significant upgrade on today’s fixed and wireless networks.”
On the hills high above Wennington in Lancashire the local community is taking its internet destiny into its own hands and is laying broadband fibre.
The Wennington/Wray communities were no hopers when it came to the provision of ADSL so in 2005 they were awarded a £25k grant by the North West Development Agency to roll out a 2Mbps symmetrical mesh wifi network. The initial 12 users charged themselves £25 a month which provided a kitty for further expansion of the network to 22 endpoints.
They are now at the point where the remaining 30 homes/businesses are out of reach of wifi and the only way to get connected is by using fibre. The YouTube video, hot off the press this morning (thanks to Lindsey Annison for that), shows the first cable run being laid.
This is initially an experiment to get to understand the costs involved before deciding when to add more locations to the network.
The network is a huge boost to the quality of life in the community allowing workers to stay put instead of commuting as far afield as Manchester and Edinburgh.
It is clear from the numbers here where the issue surrounding Universal Service Obligations being discussed in the Digital Britain Report reside. That initial £25k served 12 users – just over £2k each – which realistically can never hold down a business case based on £25 a month. Being generous that probably would result in £1,500 Gross Margin pa which will never repay the initial investment.
There are problems for the community in increasing the size of their 2Mbps backhaul. A 100Mbps link to Lancaster would cost £76k to install with a £64k pa ongoing cost. This is almost an order of magnitude higher than the same connectivity in large metropolitan areas that would also have many more users at the end of the line.
It ain’t going to happen without Government assistance and I believe that it is key to the economy for UKplc to provide this. Now is the time to make it happen.