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Community centered broadband - a solution for next generation roll-out
Thursday 06 November 2008 15:04:40 by Andrew Ferguson

Community broadband networks once held out great promise for getting broadband to all parts of the UK, alas just as they were rising up from ground level, the BT Group decided it could afford to roll-out the current ADSL services to almost all the country.

Some community broadband solutions do continue to thrive, especially in parts of the UK where Virgin Media have no network and the BT local loop means ADSL performance will be poor or non-existent. The BBC has run an article which is based on the view by Francesco Caio that the future of broadband may be a patchwork of different fibre or wireless networks covering the country.

The roll your own approach to broadband networks that can deliver speeds of 25Mbps or more is certainly feasible, but without some form of framework and common specifications it runs a significant risk of the problem that plagues cable TV in Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes was ahead of its time with its cable TV service, but alas the network has proven to be a difficult one to upgrade to keep up with the times.

If the government were to push community lead solutions, then it would be a clear sign to BT, Virgin Media and other commercial telcos that they can just concentrate on the densely populated areas and not budget for the remaining 30 to 40% of households in the UK. This would then mean people will be at the mercy of the enthusiasm of people locally to create their own solution, or else be too reliant on a single person in the community.

Rolling your own fibre network is much more than getting fibre to every home. Linking this network to the Internet may prove expensive, particularly if each home has access to speeds of 50Mbps. With these sorts of numbers the uplink would need to be perhaps 1Gbps or faster if you want to avoid the actual experience feeling like current generation broadband.

Perhaps in another 6 years we will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about in 2008 as we all sit there with a choice of broadband speeds from 1Mbps through to 200Mbps. Looking back at 2002, when 0.5Mbps was the common speed and lots had no broadband (yes we know some still cannot get it, but this number is a lot less than 2002), one can see the similarities. History suggests that once one provider takes the risk and it starts to pay off all the others will follow to ensure they do not miss the boat.


Posted by c_j_ over 8 years ago
The corporates get all the easy (therefore cheap, therefore profitable) bits, leaving the "community" outfits to pick up the trickier and expensive (but more challenging and therefore more interesting) bits (and still feed business in to the big boys for backhaul!).

Mind you, is the Francesco Caio running this review the same Caio that was once in charge of C+W and from there moved on to the board of recently-bankrupted credit crash "victims" Lehman Brothers?

Obviously the right man for the job, yes?
Posted by Aqualung over 8 years ago
Our government is quite happy to sit back and allow the network to be built sporadically rather than taking a forward thinking approach which would have seen us all get the same....

Perhaps they should be made to connect a pro rata number of line lengths rather than just cherry picking the easy short stuff.As for the high speeds they aint worth a damn if only a select few have them.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
PART of the idea doesnt sound bad to me... If we all want super fast broadband and all have to contribute to get it in our area, that sounds fine to me.
Posted by Gzero over 8 years ago
At least someone in power has a dream:
[url=]Obama @[/url]
Posted by Gzero over 8 years ago
ops tags don't work? :(
Posted by hairyman over 8 years ago
Whats all this about looking back at 512k most people outside of large towns and cities are lucky to get more than this even now.
I live in a town near the M5 with 6000lines at my exchange which is less than half a mile away and get 600kbps most of the time this is only slightly faster than five years ago when I paid £140 to get bb activated and paid £24 a month. At least its usually free to activate and £15 to 25 a month. Speeds ie actual throughputs are averaging no more than 2meg in my county.
I look forward to 21CN ( maybe) unfortunately thats 4 years away here as well.

Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
The incumbent will cherrypick, the rural areas will get nothing. Perhaps this time govt won't be tricked by bt into thinking everyone has chance of a connection and will stump up the funding to provide access to all? Or perhaps not. Govt should make the incumbent provide what it says it will provide and do it for everyone, the same way the electric company does. Yep, shades of 2002/3, history repeating itself.
Posted by upperholme over 8 years ago
I would much rather be a customer/shareholder of a community owned network than pay the incumbent over the odds for a second rate service (which is what they seem to be prepared to offer). And as for reliance on a single person, what's wrong with a community owned cooperative model as used very successfully in Neunen, Holland, which had 100Mbps symmetric for some years now, for about EUR30 per month?

Roll on roll your own.
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
hairyman: five years ago, there wwas far far less people using BB... thanks to the salesmen forcefeeding 'unlimited', now there is 6000% ;) increase in those wanting massive unlimited downloads...

so it all balances out, to the same level!!

and people wont pay the price to improve it...
- people in europe are not that greedy, and realise the economics involved to keep the net going..
Posted by herdwick over 8 years ago
"the same way the electric company does" - ie where you pay the price of providing it and there is no obligation on the utility to do so ?
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