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INCA issues statement on rural broadband concerns
Friday 15 November 2013 13:33:29 by Andrew Ferguson

INCA is a name anyone involved into rural broadband will be aware of. This cooperative association tries to help rural projects get off the ground and provides a collective voice for many in the rural broadband arena. The recent demise of two RCBF projects has drawn a lengthy response from INCA.

"It was precisely these sorts of schemes that the £20m RCBF fund was set up to support. BDUK has attempted to get these and several similar projects 'de-scoped' from the main county plans with BT so they can receive the subsidy. As pilots they are designed to creatively address the 'Final 10%' outside the scope of the main BDUK/county programmes. With no competition in the main BDUK programme RCBF is the only central government funding that can go to providers other than BT. It now looks like most of the fund will be unspent, or indeed be allocated to ... BT.

The fact that the county councils are unwilling to support alternative, lower subsidy, more future-proofed solutions in difficult to reach areas speaks volumes about the process. In at least one case BT is part of the committee that made the recommendation not to support the local scheme. It is obvious why BT doesn't want projects like this to go ahead; they don't want lower subsidy schemes to be supported. It is less obvious why the local authorities are unwilling to get the maximum bang for the taxpayer's buck. Powerful arm twisting? Not all local authorities are succumbing to BT’s bullying tactics and are supporting independent projects alongside their BT programmes. Why not Dorset and Oxfordshire?

The current state of affairs is becoming increasingly untenable. INCA's members large and small have voiced their concerns for two years, predicting that the BDUK framework would end up being very small indeed. The National Audit Office and Public Accounts committee expressed severe concerns about lack of transparency concerning BT's costings, BT's deployment plans and whether value for money can be achieved. BT, despite its protestations to the Public Accounts Committee, continues to claim commercial confidentiality and prevent publication of detailed information about where it plans to go with its £1.2bn and where it won't go. Alternative providers and local communities are frustrated by the secrecy. Several major operators and ISPs are protesting that the terms on which they get access to BT's state-funded infrastructure are too restrictive and too expensive. Meanwhile BT seems intent on using its state funding to kill off any competition and seize even more subsidy. One of the projects currently being ‘over-built’ by BT using state funds is B4RN, the fantastic example of community endeavour in Lancashire. The 'giant vampire death squid' that Malcolm Corbett described at the Public Accounts Committee hearing in July is still lurking, waiting to gobble up its prey."

Extract from INCA Statement about Rural Community Broadband Fund

Cotswold Broadband while not going now see any RCBF funding looks to be trying to continue, with the most likely course being a fixed wireless service, we assume exact service nature and coverage will depend on the level of private investment that can be attracted. The Trailways project in North Dorset has not updated its webpage, and thus is still showing more hopeful news from a Maria Miller meeting in July 2013.

Comments

Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
Is this "lower subsidy" just weasel words - I would rather taxes were spent on a 90% subsidy to a £200/home solution than a 50% subsidy to a £1000/home FTTP project.
Posted by mikejp over 3 years ago
"Is this "lower subsidy" just weasel words" - skunk more probably? I think it refers to the difference between £20mill and £530mill ++?
Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
530m for a big area of map vs 20m for 20-40 dots on the same map ?
Posted by badhat over 3 years ago
It's not large areas of the map that need subsidy funding, it's those small dots without any alternative high speed broadband.
Posted by MCM999 over 3 years ago
@badhat Without BDUK funding there would still be very large areas of the map without any high speed broadband. Such areas also include parts of inner cities including London where there was no BDUK or alternative funding.
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
Only because of the BT monopoly. If the public money that has been wasted over the last 10 years on demand stimulation, consultants, PR etc because BT have been able to decide what is "commercial" and what isnt had been spent on putting in an alternative rural infrastructure we would now be closing the digital divide instead of deepening it.
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
@Gerarda
Please explain what has prevented Virgin and others building out networks? Is it because they get a better ROI by leveraging another company's capex?

And how is the digital divide deepening when the number of premises with access to fibre broadband is at 75% now and still growing?
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
Please explain why millions had to be spent persuading BT to ADSL exchanges?
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
*ADSL enable
Posted by MCM999 over 3 years ago
@Gararda "Please explain why millions had to be spent persuading BT to ADSL exchanges?"
Quite probably because BT isn't a registered charity but instead a private company answerable to its shareholders and therefore unwilling to invest in a commercially non-viable expansion be that ADSL or VDSL/FTTC/FTTP
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
so the roll out of adsl has been unprofitable for BT?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
On the millions spent, I presume talking about projects like

http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/2341-broadband-available-to-99-of-people-in-scotland-by-end-of-year.html

http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/2522-last-two-exchanges-in-essex-to-get-adsl.html
Posted by MCM999 over 3 years ago
@Gerada What specific ADSL subsidy/grants to BT are you referring to? However as a public company BT which is answerable to its shareholders will only incur capital expenditure where they consider this will return a profit. Even though this means I will never see FTTC anytime soon being on an EO line in central London.
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
@MCM9999 yes why bother taking any commercial risks when you can use the public purse underwrite your development?
Posted by Somerset over 3 years ago
@gerarda - so no risk in the 66% FTTC rollout?
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
Only the risk of someone else nabbing all the best bits if they did nothing.
Posted by mikejp over 3 years ago
New_Londoner - good to see you 'popping up' on this thread. I wonder if you could spare a moment to give us the official BT definition of a 'home passed' on both FTTC and FTTP? To avoid thread dilution here, perhaps you could reply on http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/6150-cornwall-economy-starts-to-show-the-benefits-of-superfast-broadband.html#news_comments where this was being discussed?
Posted by MCM999 over 3 years ago
@gerarda It appears that you know little or nothing about commercial reality. Like most companies BT takes a risk with every new project and that includes each FTTC cabinet. This means that they install an FTTC cabinet if they think that over time they will get a reasonable ROI. There are undoubtedly some cabs where uptake is low and they make a loss, others where they hit a goldmine and make a decent profit. There are others where they calculate they'll never make a profit so don't install FTTC. cont.
Posted by MCM999 over 3 years ago
... BDUK funding can help swing the balance. Remember if a BDUK funded FTTC cabinet becomes a goldmine there is a mechanism to claw back BT's profit.
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
@MCM999 BT are an ex public monopoly provider whose management give every impression that they would rather still be in the days when everyone rented a black telephone hard wired into the wall. Thus they systematically attempt to block even a minor threat as shown in the article.

In investment decisions it is the underlying assumptions that make or break it not the ROI hurdle. If you assume, as BT did, that this new-fangled broadband would have a low take up you can convince yourself, and the government, you are taking a risk.

A truly innovative company would have had a different view.



Posted by fastman over 3 years ago
FYI Careful investigation of the locations of these areas you would soon realise both of these Projects were partly in Commercial Build (66) and partly in the intervention area (so in intevention area wich is determined by Local Authority) So the intervention arease were available to be funded BDUK so why would you gain additional public money to build another network where BDUK money already able to be spent (in the intervention area) or commercial has already deployed
Posted by cyberdoyle over 3 years ago
Fastman, if the money goes to an altnet then that area would see a better use of public money, more bang for buck and a futureproof solution for the whole area instead of a quick speed fix for a few that probably won't even bother taking it up without hard marketing. If an altnet exists then the area should be de-scoped and funding go to that, not to the incumbents obsolete fttc.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 3 years ago
And Gfast is another cul-de-sac. That will be the next scam once they realise fttc is a dead end. How can we continue to waste money on copper in this way? Ask not what ftth/p will cost, ask what its going to cost us not to provide a fit for purpose connection to all. The future waits for no man. Short sighted politicians and a company protecting its assets at a great cost to future generations. https://neil-fairbrother.squarespace.com/blog/2013/7/1/gfast-a-high-speed-cul-de-sac
Posted by Gadget over 3 years ago
@CD - and do you apply the same "don't worry about the cost" to your decision to purchase a new tractor for the farm, or even a 4-Wheel drive vehicle for B4RN?
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
@new londoner Average national speed when BDUK set up in 2011 6.8mb. Average speed now 14.7mb. Increase 7.9mb. Average speed of final 10% is
still well under 2mb. Even if we take 2mb as average and 0mb as the 2011 speed the divide has deepened by 5.9mb.
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
@Gerarda
Sources? Actually the last Ofcom report showed the greatest % increases were in rural areas.

Remember many of the BDUK projects encroach into the final 10%, as do others such as Cornwall etc. So there will be benefit as these build out.
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
@CD
QUote "if the money goes to an altnet then that area would see a better use of public money, more bang for buck and a futureproof solution"

Tell that to those areas served by wifi altnets that went under when the public subsidy ran out! Assuming that an altnet is automatically better does not tally with reality.
Posted by lyncol over 3 years ago
http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2013/11/15/technology/why-copper-isnt-going-away-hurry
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
@CD
Quote "And Gfast is another cul-de-sac"

Sources? One blog from 2012 is not exactly trying very hard.

What would you do instead, how would you pay for it and how long would it take? I know you said "ask not what ftth/p will cost..." but someone will have to pay so I think you do need to answer this question.
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
@new londoner I said deepening - it may or may not be narrowing - and the source was Ofcom
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
Only way to NOT deepen the divide is not allow anyone to order until all premises connected
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
or to use public money to address the worst places first rather than last.
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
@Gerarda
That's a good way to spend all the money quickly without many benefitting as the "worst" places tend to be the most expensive to address.

The current approach seems to leave the worst till last, which covers the most people in the shortest time. Would you honestly ignore all them in order to benefit a relatively tiny minority?
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
Tell me why places that have seen money spent elsewhere for last 10 years without any benefit should continue to be left out? And please give some some evidence for your assertion that it would be more expensive to broadband enable the not spots and slow spots first?
Posted by Gadget over 3 years ago
Well here's what happened when a well-known not-spot made plans and contracts to get faster broadband....
http://www.sellingparishcouncil.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Notes-of-public-BB-meeting-04-Oct-2012.pdf
Note the reason for closure!
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
This is the usual story of lack of economies of scale when trying to infill round areas BT deign to go and the ridiculously disproportionate cost of backhaul from BT. Had the BDUK contract simply required a solution that would ensure a mimimum 2mb service to the not spots and slow spots the cost equations would be very different.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
@lyncol
Thanks for the Business Spectator article. There hasn't been much reporting of the BBWF meetup, so good to see something, especially with (anonymised) quotes from operators.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
@gerarda
The reason any property benefits from broadband is because technology allows it to happen. And doing so economically pretty much depends on re-use of the existing network as much as possible.

Economically deploying the technology is what leads to "close" properties benefiting from "phase 1" of tech. When "phase 2" comes along, it benefits people further away, but also happens to benefit the closer ones again. This will be true in every phase.

And in any deployment, building-out is more economic than building-in.
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
@WWWombat
Please give an analysis of the comparative cost of fixed line broadband versus fixed wireless in intervention to support your argument
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
*typing too fast - should read "in intervention areas"
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