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EEF calls for digital infrastructure 'Network Rail' to deliver FTTP
Friday 03 June 2016 11:55:23 by Andrew Ferguson

The pressure for a massive change in how broadband operates in the UK continues, as the EEF which is a manufacturers organisation has published its submission that it has made to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills which is the process of undertaking a review of business broadband in the UK.

"15. Another made similar comments about businesses being squeezed, as unlike households they have a fundamental need for reliable internet connections and therefore more of an incentive to pay over the odds where no alternative exists:

Broadband is too far away from exchange to be of use, and Openreach shows no interest in upgrading the cabinets near our sites to FttC while they can fleece us for £6900 a year for leased lines (3 of them), as is the same across the majority of business parks. If Openreach could also stop faffing around in the countryside connecting villages to finish off upgrading the cities they abandoned half way through, perhaps we could get some of our staff working from home as well.

31. Manufacturers’ experience on the ground paints a picture of businesses historically being deprioritised for upgrades with the focus instead being households in high density areas. As one respondent to our survey notes:

a. Current Government initiatives are based around B2C and getting the 'number' of connections up, rather than quality connections for business. Putting the same line in for five business users on a business park would get the provider 100 users on a housing estate. Government will need to alter the incentives to change behaviours."

Extracts from submitted evidence by EEF

The call is not about increasing broadband speeds but rather the reliability and the frustration from manufacturing firms who feel they have been ignored by existing projects. The availability of Openreach native FTTP at just 1% of UK premises is highlighted, but while its not massively higher there is another 0.7% of FTTP available via alternate providers at low prices. Though there are serious questions that need to be asked over whether GEA-FTTP and other low grade contended FTTP services are actually ideal for manufacturing. Leased lines are costly for several reasons, the custom nature of each install, the bandwidth purchased, the guaranteed capacity, routing to ensure low latency plus the extra monitoring by providers that make leased lines so reliable and due make faster fault repair times should a router, fibre or optical hardware die.

The idea of creating a national broadband equivalent of Network Rail might actually appeal to Openreach and at the same time scare Government as it might enshrine in stone ongoing subsidies to roll-out broadband infrastructure, but would likely be heavily opposed by others such as Virgin Media and CityFibre. CityFibre is very much focussed on FTTP for businesses but because it is only connected on demand their footprint does not normally feature in the FTTP coverage across the UK, the CityFibre model is possibly much more appealing to manufacturing as the dark fibre aspect means site to site connectivity can provide limitless capacity.

We know of some BDUK projects that have targeted business parks, either with VDSL2 or FTTP so hopefully the BIS review will be able to access relevant take-up data for those areas.

The sense that the last three decades of regulation that has focussed on increasing competition in the telecoms arena is coming back to bite with a vengeance now and that earlier successes in the retail side are actually hampering the ability to start from a clean sheet. Or put another way the success of Virgin Media and now continued expansion means there is not the same ability for a new FTTP entrant to quickly expand and have a guaranteed customer based.

Comments

Posted by AndrueC 6 months ago
Meh. So some businesses don't know the difference between 'broadband' and a 'leased line'. 3 leased lines at 6900pa is less than £200 a month per line. That's actually a pretty good deal.

I have no sympathy for businesses. They have deeper pockets than consumers and if they can't justify the expense they should probably close down or relocate.
Posted by New_Londoner 6 months ago
The EEF members on business parks could of course co-fund fibre cabinets themselves rather than wasting time lobbying government. If it matters to them that much then surely it is a simple matter to calculate the cost of funding a cabinet versus a leased line and deciding which is best suited to their needs.

Of course broadband is totally unsuited to some manufacturers, and doesn't usually make sense for medium sized businesses either. Be interesting to see if the EEF report recognised these points.
Posted by Llety 6 months ago
Could not download the report. My OpenReach provided broadband kept timing out.

I don't get the either/or mentality. Both are equally important. Many people work from home or do on-call and are expected to log in from home. A healthy economy requires both aspects to be covered across the whole nation.
Posted by AndrueC 6 months ago
Teleworking doesn't have to need a brilliant connection. Windows Remoting Desktop in particular is a very efficient protocol. It's designed to work over analogue modems. All you need is a thin-client setup and you can telework over a 1Mb/s ADSL line with no problem.
Posted by fastman 6 months ago
Broadband is too far away from exchange to be of use, and Openreach shows no interest in upgrading the cabinets near our sites to FttC while they can fleece us for £6900 a year for leased lines (3 of them), as is the same across the majority of business parks.

is this Mill Hill Alton ?
Posted by 961a 6 months ago
The broadband equivalent of Network Rail? That really would be going from bad to worse!

For a start, the whole thing would close down every holiday
Posted by Llety 6 months ago
@AndrueC I can't disagree. Lets say 2mb for a few years future proofing and then aim for 4mb because it drops to 1mb at busy times anyway.

Many people don't get a reliable 1mb today, so what you suggest would be a huge step forward.
Posted by TheEulerID 6 months ago
Last time I looked, Network Rail had £38bn of debt and most of their projects were heavily delayed and several were deferred several years.
Posted by MCM999 6 months ago
I just love how some at EEF expect BT to upgrade commercially non viable cabs at a loss, probably due to the low number of lines, whilst themselves making a profit. I suggest they might consider starting with business 101.
Posted by Fromthesouth 6 months ago
"If Openreach could also stop faffing around in the countryside connecting villages to finish off upgrading the cities they abandoned half way through, perhaps we could get some of our staff working from home as well."

So EEF members don't have staff living in the countryside?

Ref the three businesses paying £6900 wa for a leased line. Ask Openreach for a cofunding quote. Why should Openreach, or the taxpayer, subsidise the rentable value of business parks and business units.

Landlords should make this investment.
Posted by tombartlett 6 months ago
How do you ask Openreach for a quote? Is there someone you can email/call?
Posted by Gadget 6 months ago
Tom http://www.homeandwork.openreach.co.uk/OurNetwork/CommunityFibrePartnerships.aspx
Posted by fastman 6 months ago
tombartlett which business park are you interested in !!!!
Posted by chilting 6 months ago
The simple answer to this is that businesses have to pay if they want FTTP.
Those of us located a long way from a node may have a grievance, when it comes to the cost, but the majority of businesses are quite close to a node. They will have to pay for an Ethernet line.
To go OTT and suggest a digital infrastructure equivalent to Network Rail is rather stupid.
Posted by chilting 6 months ago
In the long term it is wholesale competition for Openreach that will bring down prices.
CityFibre are going from strength the strength with new capacity coming on line all the time. Reading and Bracknell are the latest.
The city clearly thinks that they have the potential because their shares are increasing in value rather well at the moment.
Posted by fastman 6 months ago
the biggest problem is everyone wants cheap broadband and FTTP Is not cheap and very few ISp's want to sell it
Posted by comnut 6 months ago
"digital infrastructure equivalent to Network Rail"
you may be forgetting, that up to the 1950s or thereabouts, BRITISH RAIL was the best most connected system of going places...

THAT is what these old guys think of, they are too busy being driven to meetings, to realize that it is **govt** that has messed around with it, reduced its funding, and sold it off to be further run into the ground by megacorp getting rich...
Posted by comnut 6 months ago
If you wonder how rail got so bad... Here is what *actually* happened when I was using British rail..
Train stopped in the distance.. Guard said 'ah, he has a fuse blown'... walks down the track, gives it to driver, train moving again in 5 mins!!

Now, with Network rail, they DO NOT OWN the track, so it is 'illegal trespass' - he could be sacked for interfering..
they have to wait for a rep, to come and sort out the problem..

same problem with BT, OR, etc, etc...TOO MANY middlemen, much time wasted on bureaucracy!
Posted by fastman 6 months ago
comnut -- the business now as 150,000 less people in it in the UK that when it was privatised in 1984 where it then had 249,500 employees !!!

the biggest issue is everyone wants cheap broadband and FTTP Is not cheap and very few ISp's want to sell it
Posted by fastman 6 months ago
currently around 6-10 out of around 530 I think at the last count
Posted by comnut 6 months ago
I think you slipped, it was 1994 it was privatized :)
the rich bosses got richer, blamed others, now many stations are basically empty, ticket gates wide open..
Posted by comnut 6 months ago
too many idiots getting cheap stuff, and wondering why it fails...
Posted by DrMikeHuntHurtz 6 months ago
No solution will trump the free market option, continue to wallow in your poor statist alternatives.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
@comnut No BT was floated onto the stock market in 1984, having been split off from Post Office back in 1981.
Posted by comnut 6 months ago
well I was taking abut this :)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail#Privatisation
Posted by comnut 6 months ago
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BT_Group#Controversies
is good reading... to say nothing about PHORM.... :O :O
Posted by PhilipVirgo 6 months ago
Is Zayo getting to be close to the communications equivalent of Network Rail - providing global backhaul for most (?) all of the UK's co-location centres while leaving it to others to provide local connectivity. And what about Network Rail's own communications network itself - one of the UK's most under-used but supposedly high reliability facilities.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
UK is pretty well served by fibre backbones and metro-networks, the issue generally is stretching it from there to the final couple of miles to premises.
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