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News on UK broadband plan expected before Christmas
Monday 27 September 2010 22:21:39 by Andrew Ferguson

Computer Weekly has run a news item indicating that we may see further developments on the Universal Service Obligation, (or is it a Commitment?). Under the previous Labour Government the USC with a 2Meg target was due to be up and running by 2012, but in July the new Con/Dem alliance announced a delay to 2015. News last week that the European Commission will require basic broadband coverage to everyone by 2013 may have spurred the government back in to action on the USC.

"We are doing everything we can because our broadband policy is one of the most important things that we will be doing, as a Department to contribute to the Government's economic growth strategy. There are 160,000 homes-predominantly in rural and remote areas-that do not have access to broadband at all. There are over 9 million adults who have never used the internet, as compared with 30 million who use it every day. So it is a very important tool of social policy. Before Christmas, we will be announcing a policy that we believe will solve the big question of, first of all, how we deal with the homes that are not able to get access to broadband, or access at reasonable speeds, but will also lay the foundations for the next generation of broadband-superfast broadband-to meet our stated objective that by 2015 we will have the best superfast broadband network in Europe.
The problem really divides into two parts. There is, broadly speaking, the two thirds of the country to which we think the market would provide superfast broadband if the regulatory regime was set up in a smart way. The kind of things we are talking about there are, for example, opening up access to BT's pipes and ducts-something that BT has said that they are happy to do-but also providing regulated access to things like telegraph poles, electricity pylons, water mains, sewers and so on. That is one part of the solution. The other issue that has to be resolved is the third of the country to which we think the market is unlikely to provide superfast broadband. There we will need to find a solution that involves more intervention."

RT Hon Jeremy Hunt MP talking to Culture, Media and Sport Committee

Exactly what is to be announced is unclear, it is pretty much a matter of record that BT is planning to reach around two thirds of the UK with its FTTC solution, perhaps with some ten percent of homes enjoying a full fibre to the home solution. Virgin Media already has its fibre/coax hybrid network in place with UK coverage at 50% of homes for next generation broadband.

The disappointment in all this is that the UK has been here before, the Digital Britain report did not appear out of thin air, and a lot of people invested time, effort and money into this, for the USC element now to be largely dismissed. Enthusiasm and assistance for another year or so of repeated consultation and trials is not what people want. What is happening is that we are seeing more community action, particularly as areas of people find out that with some local effort, solutions can be found and without the meddling from central government.

Of course with the new Ka-band satellite service that launches in November a simple 2Meg USC becomes a lot easier, particularly if you subsidise initial hardware purchase. The Ka-band satellites which can support some 70Gbps of traffic is expected to offer packages of 10Meg down and 4Meg up, with better usage allowances than current satellite based products.

What we need to watch for now, is how the government react to the European requirement of basic broadband by 2013 and see if they make changes to their previous target of 2015. A careful eye should also be kept on wording between the use of 'Obligation' and 'Commitment'. The two words are often confused and mixed up, both by politicians and the press. If we were to see an 'Obligation' this would be a much stronger solution as this carries legal requirements to provide a service. The weaker 'Commitment' generally involves best effort type attempts to provide service, with options to miss out the few hundred homes that are just too expensive to cover.

For those wondering where the figure 160,000 homes that cannot get broadband comes from, it is an extrapolation on the 99.6% availability figure that BT quote for DSL based broadband. The reality may be more or less than this figure but until all those homes have tried to get broadband actually working the figures will always be estimates. Similarly the number of households getting 2Mbps or slower are again estimates, though a figure of three million is generally accepted as reasonably correct.

The previous government target date of 2015, of course means that it is possible that another General Election will have taken place, which could lead to further delays made to any commitments.


Posted by Legolash2o over 7 years ago
Let's hope they decide to scrap the VOA fibre tax and that they come up with something useful...

Not really expecting anything great :(
Posted by Foggy_UK over 7 years ago
give all 5,500 (approx figure) exchanges a league table broadband rating from the most attractive to the least and then make anyone who wants to provide service take at pair of exchange to provide service in, one from the top of the list and one from the bottom. Example a Telco want's to provide service in Central London, for which they also have to roll out the same services to a remote small exchange! Policy like this might stop all the cheery picking, duplication of equipment and services in the bigger exchanges. Some Telco's might even start to favor taking two exchanges from the middle.
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
Posted by SimonWindsor over 7 years ago
Other improvements could include placing a Service Obligation on Virgin to provide service new customers, and to stop BT Openreach charging local loop fees according to an Ofcom Market 1,2,3 category but by quality of service (Line Attenuation). Then BT would get more more money by providing a better service, and not by ignoring remote and small exchanges.
Posted by Legolash2o over 7 years ago
AndrueC, the definitely sums up the UK in one video. Great link :D

SimonWindsor, that's a brilliant idea but i can't imagine it being simple to enforce.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
fantastic video Andrue, I got the distinct feeling I could take the female role in that one.
There is another female here on this link who is trying to wake everyone up, and she has posted a video done by yet another female too. ;)
Posted by Legolash2o over 7 years ago
If BT or whoever gave me the chance to help install the fibre network in the town, i would definitely do it (free).

I'm sure villagers would be more than happy to help out in their villages as well.

Would you guys/ladies help as well if they offered the chance in your area?
Posted by Legolash2o over 7 years ago
Why the hell does it take the government months to talk about something.

1. Remove Fibre Tax
2. Share poles, ducts, pylons, etc..
3. Use 3.5% TV License to help fund Final Third (FTTC).
4. Possible Tax Incentives

10 seconds of typing, I wish they would just get the **** on with it already.

Any objections with the 4 points above?
Posted by MarkHampshire over 7 years ago
No objections - but if we're putting public money into private monopolies like Openreach it's surely time to look at whether they ought to be private or whether it ought to be a recapitalisation programme with the public gaining shares in the company (like the banks)
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
Lego - help doing what exactly?
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
@Lego:That depends. I'd love to be involved in the technical side (head-end basically) but helping put up poles, dig trenches and lug cables around isn't my cup of tea. Then again I'm attached to a Market 3 exchange so I can afford to be standoffish.

If I lived in a village I'd help out in any way I could. It could be a fun project and a way to help foster community spirit.
Posted by Legolash2o over 7 years ago
yeah Andrue i would prfer the technical side as well :D

BT becoming part public via shares like the bank, to be honest i would not know if that's a good idea?

@ Somerset
Help laying cables, splicing, getting a spade and dig, whatever. Obviously some areas you would probably need to of had the training.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
In all areas you might need knowledge and training. When there is access to BT duct and poles it will have to be done by a proper telco and not the 'villagers'.
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 7 years ago
chances are work on BT poles/ducts, even if providing cables/fibre for other telcos, will have to be done by bt staff/contractors
Posted by MarkHampshire over 7 years ago
@AndrueC - showing my age, I remember a scene from Carry On Up the Khyber (?) where the embassy is under siege and Sid James says something like "What are we going to do? We're British. We're not going to do anything. Until it's too late..."
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
^^^ LOL I was gonna rant again but the laughter at that took over.
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