I’m missing tricks here. Yesterday I came into the office with the intention of writing something highly entertaining yet informative around the subject of February 29th – leap day as it seems to have been labelled on Twitter. Instead RaspberryPi came along and hijacked the slot. Fair enough, though I did follow the Twitter deliberations of one female friend as she mulled out loud the prospect of proposing marriage to her partner. It didn’t happen. She is content with waiting another 4 years 🙂
Today is March 1st. St David’s Day or Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant as we say in the principality. It is also a beautiful spring day though there are no daffodils out in the garden yet for me to have wantonly torn the heads off to wear into work. Also my wife didn’t like the idea of my nicking a leek – she has been tending to them with loving care all winter and they are destined for the table.
So here we are pinching and punching into March and I have no idea how to weave the fact into a technical blog post.
In other news yesterday afternoon I was an unwelcome attendee at a Community Lincs update on Superfast Broadband in Lincolnshire. I say unwelcome. It was a packed house and it was only half way through the proceedings that I spotted the email telling me that my request to attend had been declined due to demand. Oops. There were a few empty seats and also all the biscuits didn’t go so I didn’t feel too guilty.
The event was arranged to inform the good citizens of Lincolnshire what their County Council was doing to secure some of the BDUK grant money for superfast broadband. Lincs CC is putting up around £10m, District Councils and the European Regional Development Fund are stumping up £4.3m and this will be matched out of BDUKs available £530m. Private industry is then expected to match the total making it a grand total in the region of £58m.
The guy from the county council1 was almost rubbing his hands with glee at all the cash that would be coming his way2. Normally the spending of this much money entails 18 months of EU red tape3. However by adopting the BDUK framework this can all be sidestepped and the council expects to be kicking off the procurement process in May with first network build outs expected in January 2013.
Two things sprang to mind yesterday – apart from all the footnotes generated by the previous paragraph.
One is that our Council man was careful to mention that the private partner had not yet been chosen but that it was expected that the business would not go to local companies because of the scale of the project. Local companies might be able to feed on scraps. Realistically because of the way the framework has been set up there are only BT and Fujitsu involved in the project. All others have pulled out except for one satellite company and satellite ain’t the way forward except perhaps for the very occasional very remote dwelling.
Everyone is also going around quoting that the sum of £530m available is going to take the country to 90% penetration of superfast broadband by 2015. You get the impression that this has all been scientifically worked out. The reality I believe is that BT has announced that if the government gives it all the £530m then 90% of us would get FTTC with the remainder getting 2Meg. A ploy to restore its monopoly some would argue. So whilst the private partner hasn’t been selected one of the candidates at least has already been doing some hard manoeuvring and don’t be surprised if it is BT.
The second observation is that Adrian Wooster (excellent talk) was there on behalf of BDUK to discuss how the 10% not getting FTTC could be serviced with their 2Meg bone4. Your community doesn’t have to settle for 2Meg but it became pretty apparent that few if any Parish Councils are going to want to take on the project in the same way that B4RN has done in Cumbria. The room was full of Parish councillors and let me tell you I felt positively youthful. The skills aren’t there. The desire to take on the financial responsibility isn’t there.
So reality is that most rural dwellers are going to get whatever the winning contractor and County Council tells them they can have. Lincolnshire has a laudable aim of trying to get everyone a 24Meg superfast broadband line but I find it hard to believe that’s this will happen because it will need local support that isn’t can’t be there. The chances are you will end up with a 2Meg BET line that you will be saddled with for the rest of your life because it will be a long time before anyone comes along waving bags containing enough gold.
It’s a nice place the countryside, unsullied by the effects of modern life and the internet…
1 sorry his name ain’t on the handouts and I didn’t write it down
2 this does worry me he also spoke of a marketing campaign to generate awareness – my last involvement with LincsCC was with the OnLincolnshire Broadband intitiative where they got huge EU funds to roll out a 2 meg symmetrical wireless broadband service in the county. I attended the regional launch meetings and it seemed that a lot of the money was spent on keyrings, mousemats etc. When the £200 a month subsidies they were giving end users ran out after two years most of their subscribers vanished (2 megs at £249 a month!) and BT, who had allegedly received £4million worth of funds to build out the network pulled the plug on the project.
3 in this case and for this one occasion only replace words “red tape” with “safeguards”