I braved the elements of a windswept rural Lincolnshire on Saturday to visit the Digby Fete. Digby is in the middle of nowhere. It’s two main distinguishing features are the fact that it is the home of RAF Digby and that it is the next village on the map to Ashby De La Launde.
The proximity to Ashby has become an irritant to the good parishioners of Digby because their neighbouring village has just announced that it is getting 100Mbps Fibre To The Premises (FTTP). Up until now neither village could get decent broadband connectivity.
Now Digby faces the prospect of becoming the poor cousin of its neighbour, falling behind in house valuations and having an uncool populace because none of them has a Facebook profile (other social networking sites are available).
The residents of Digby should not however worry. Their future is in their own hands with a little help from a friend called Guy Jarvis, his company Fibrestream and NextGenUs.net.
NextGenUs is the organisation that has put broadband into Ashby. The project is financially viable because the recipients of the connectivity are doing most of the digging themselves.
When the Caio Report was published outlining the cost of implementing a full blown fibre roll out in the UK this cost was stated to be in the region of £29Bn, of which £24Bn was digging up the roads.
There are I am told roughly 18,000 communities like Digby and Ashby in the UK – the so called Final Third. Digby has 240 or so homes. The £29Bn Caio number represents £1.611M per community or in Digby’s case £6,702 per home, assuming they all want broadband. The business case doesn’t work. Even if we assume that all digging is done for nothing, by the community, the cost is still £1,157 per home which is £3.86 per month depreciation over 25 years.
This doesn’t sound much but it is compared to the likely cost of the service. If say there are 5,500 telephone exchanges in the UK and 20million homes (don’t know the actual number but it doesn’t matter for the purpose of this discussion) that works out at 3,636 homes per exchange. It is easy to see how the depreciation cost, and thus the up front capital outlay is going to be far lower in the more populated areas.
NextGenUs was at the Digby Fete at the request of local parishioners to tell them how to copy Ashby and enter the Digital World. How the company does it is their business but this is not something that the likes of BT and Virgin are going to get interested in. The Caio numbers are based largely on inputs from the incumbents with their high overheads and hidebound structures.
What is clear is that there is a digital vacuum on the periphery of our centres of population. This represents a huge market opportunity for a business that can get the recipe right. That’s 18,000 communities. Once the first fibre goes into the ground there is never going to be a second. Then it “really” won’t make commercial sense. What’s more once these communities have their high quality connectivity they will want to buy telephony, TV and other services based on that connectivity.
I say good luck to Guy Jarvis and NextGenUs. If your community is looking for help with getting connected you can contact him via the Fibrestream website.
Note although I am wearing rugby shorts in the picture below it’s the fleece that tells the truth. Still, I am happy to say I won a durable plastic shopping bag in the tombola.