Cumbria County Council announces broadband supplier shortlist

3 June 2011 at 10:21 in News by Louis Mosley

Yesterday, Cumbria County Council announced the list of suppliers who have made it through to the second stage of the broadband procurement process.

The contract, worth £120million, is made up in two lots as follows;

Lot one is for the contract to provide ICT services to the council, this includes provision and maintenance of computers, phones and security etc.

Lot two is to support an exciting county wide initiative to improve public sector networks across Cumbria and to implement super-fast broadband across the County, a project known as ‘Accessible Cumbria’.

bidders through to the second stage are:

Lot One – ICT Services (maintaining the council’s computers, phones etc.)

BT Global Services
Commendium Ltd
Computercentre UK Ltd
Tata Consultancy Services Ltd

Lot Two – Accessible Cumbria (installing a superfast broadband network)

BT Global Services
Cable and Wireless
Commendium Ltd

124 suppliers registered an interest in the two ICT contracts with a total of 23 suppliers submitting submissions in the first stage.

The next stages involve the shortlisted companies entering into detailed dialogue with the Council to complete their outline stage 2 submissions for each lot by the end of July, with final detailed solutions by the end of September. The final decision will be taken by Cabinet in December 2011.

The contract start date will be 1st April 2012.

Here is the full press release

What do you make of the list?

Important Notice: ‘Tina Williams’

2 June 2011 at 19:00 in Announcement by Duncan Brown

If you have recieved an email from ‘Tina Williams’ via the site today please delete it.

‘Tina’ is a spam bot ( who managed to create an account on BC this afternoon - ‘she’ proceeded to send messages to everybody. An bot of this sort can do no real damage but can be irritating. Any links in her email, though, may be unsafe to follow.

Please note that ‘Tina’ had no means of accessing email addresses or private messages and its objective was simply to spread an advertisement as broadly as possible.

We’re sorry this happened and I am making some changes that will hopefully bar bots like her in the future. As ever, if you have any concerns please send me a private message, or of course leave a comment below.


Join the East Cumbria Community Broadband Forum

31 May 2011 at 17:30 in Announcement by Duncan Brown

East Cumbria Community Broadband Forum was established in March 2011 with the following aims:

1. Provide a forum for sharing information, experience and knowledge and undertaking peer review in the development of community broadband services in East Cumbria.

2. Undertake representation of community broadband groups in East Cumbria in relation to the Cumbria County Council/Broadband Delivery UK Accessible Cumbria broadband project and other relevant bodies.

3. Facilitate procurement of broadband services shared between community broadband groups in East Cumbria.


The Forum is open to community broadband groups located in East Cumbria that are endorsed by one or more of their local parish councils to campaign for improved broadband services for those communities. Each member group can nominate two people to represent it at the Forum and meetings are held regularly in various locations in East Cumbria.

Further details of the Forum’s terms of reference and a registration form for groups seeking membership are available from the Secretary, Anne Fleck.

The current membership of the Forum is shown below along with the parishes each group is working with. Also shown are their websites. Two organisations have observer rather than member status. Make sure your community joins them!

Dufton Broadband Dufton
East of Eden Fellside Broadband Group Ousby, Kirkoswald
fibreGarDen Garsdale, Dentdale fibreGarDen
Great Asby Broadband CIC Asby Great Asby Broadband CIC
Great Salkeld Broadband Group Great Salkeld
Heart of Eden Community Plan Appleby, Murton & Hilton, Ormside, Temple Sowerby, Kirkby Thore, Long Marton, Milburn Heart of Eden
Broadband Kaber Kaber
Leith-Lyvennet Broadband Group Bolton, Cliburn, Crosby Ravensworth, Gt Strickland, Little Strickland, Kings Meaburn, Morland, Newby, Sleagill Leith-Lyvennet Broadband Group
Northern Fells Broadband Boltons, Caldbeck, Castle Sowerby, Ireby and Uldale, Mungrisdale, Sebergham and Welton, Westward and Rosley Northern Fells Broadband
Patterdale Broadband Group Patterdale Patterdale
Upper Eden Community Plan Kirkby Stephen, Brough, Soulby, Brough Sowerby, Crosby Garrett, Winton, Hellbeck, Stainmore, Hartley, Nateby, Warcop, Ravenstonedale, Mallerstang, Musgrave Upper Eden Community Plan
Waitby & Smardale Waitby & Smardale
Wharton Wharton
Cumbria Association of Local Councils CALC CALC
Dacre Dacre Dacre

Cumbrian MPs’ speeches on the mobile broadband coverage obligation

20 May 2011 at 10:35 in Announcement by Duncan Brown

In the House of Commons yesterday, Rory Stewart MP won support from all parties to press for increasing the 4G mobile coverage obligation to 98%. Cumbrian MPs Tim Farron and John Woodcock also spoke in the debate.

The text of all three speeches is below. You can read the full debate in Hansard.

Or there is a video via the Parliamentary archive here (Internet Explorer only).

Click on an MP’s name to read their speech

Rory Stewart MP
John Woodcock MP
Tim Farron MP

Rory Stewart MP (Penrith and the Border)
(back to top)

When I last saw Ed Richards, the head of Ofcom, he said that the most powerful argument he required was a political argument. He wanted to hear that Members of Parliament cared about broadband and mobile coverage. If that is all he requires, I might as well resume my seat now. I am not an expert on the constitutional history of this House, but as far as I know there have not been so many names on a motion on the Order Paper for debate on the Floor of the House in recent memory.

What, though, is the motion facing us today? It has three parts. The first focuses on rural need, which I hope Members will address in their speeches. The second focuses on mobile coverage, and the third focuses on the Government’s commitment to super-fast broadband. All three are connected. In a sense, it is already outdated to separate them. It is increasingly clear that a separation between voice coverage and data coverage is a thing of the past; that an attempt to separate the rural areas from the urban areas is a thing of the past. The central fact about broadband and mobile coverage is that it is—not to be too pretentious—a single global universe. Nevertheless, I will hand over to other Members, who will talk about the first and third elements of the motion. I will focus exclusively on the second part—the mobile coverage obligation.

Read the rest of this entry →

Calling all Broadband Champions

17 May 2011 at 16:14 in Announcement by Rory Stewart

Please come to a meeting on awareness of IT and the uses of the internet on Tuesday 24th May from 4-5pm at the Eden Rural Foyer, Penrith. Grow IT! in Eden is looking for community champions to promote broadband use in Eden. The initiative is funded by UK Online and based at the Eden Rural Foyer in Penrith. They are keen to share their training resources with you all. If you are unable to attend the launch there will also be taster sessions on the same day from 5-6pm and on Thursday 26th May from 1-6pm. Please go along if you can, and introduce yourselves to Angela Richardson and the team.

With best wishes,

How to be a broadband champion

15 May 2011 at 12:02 in Broadband Champions by Duncan Brown

Here’s a video from Nick Hall, the chair of Clannet, a not-for-profit association formed in 2004 to deliver broadband to rural areas over the border in Yorkshire. You can read more about them on their website:

They made this video about the Vale of Mowbray Community Broadband Project for North Yorks County Council.

The Big Mobile Broadband Debate

13 May 2011 at 08:38 in News by Louis Mosley

This week is a unique chance finally to get decent mobile and broadband coverage for Britain. At the beginning of next year, the government is holding an auction which will determine what percentage of the population gets mobile coverage. Currently they are aiming for 95%, but this leaves over 3 million people off line and out of reception.

Slow broadband connections and lack of mobile reception damages local businesses, isolates communities, and distances families, most especially in rural areas. We need to urge the government to push for a much higher percentage – preferable 100% .

On Thursday 19 May, the Backbench MPs, led by Rory Stewart, are holding a debate on the subject in the House of Commons.

Now is the time to write to your MP, ring your MP, email your MP, tweet you MP, and urge them to go to the debate and support the motion to increase broadband and mobile phone coverage throughout Britain.

Time is running out and this is our very last chance. Don’t let it slip away!

Competition Hots Up For Cumbria Broadband Contract

13 April 2011 at 14:06 in News by Louis Mosley

At 9am this morning, Fujitsu unveiled plans to rival BT Openreach and build an open-access wholesale fibre network to deliver next-generation broadband to 5 million homes and businesses in rural parts of the UK.

This announcement is terrific news for those of us who are keen to see a fair fight for Cumbria’s £121m contract for broadband and IT services.

The network will deliver fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband capable of 1Gbps (both upstream and downstream) from day one. Cisco technology will be used to underpin the network and Virgin Media and TalkTalk have agreed to use it to expand their next-generation broadband offerings.

Best of all, this Fujitsu-led consortium announced that they ‘will actively support the involvement of local community broadband groups, enabling dynamic and flexible solutions in rural communities for the first time.” That means you!

To read the full press release, click here. Think Broadband have covered it here.

But there is a catch…

The plans rely on getting access to BT Openreach’s underground ducts and telegraph poles on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. As some of you know, this hasn’t been straightforward. Last week, a letter to Ed Vaizey signed by Fujitsu and Virgin Media was leaked, in which they threatened to boycott the BDUK pilots unless BT revised its prices for duct and pole access. Watch this space…

Ofcom - disconnected?

30 March 2011 at 15:51 in News by Louis Mosley

Last week, Ofcom finally opened its long-awaited consultation on the auction of the 800MHz band of spectrum, the bit freed up by the switch from analogue to digital TV.

Why is this so important?

Low frequency spectrum, like this 800MHz band, has an extremely long range – up to a 40km radius from a base station - making it ideal for providing mobile broadband in sparsely-populated rural areas. Using this spectrum, 4G technologies like LTE could offer download speeds of around 5Mbps to 12 Mbps and upload speeds of between 2Mbps and 5Mbps.

4G mobile broadband could be the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to get everyone in rural Britain a basic broadband service.

The problem is that Ofcom doesn’t see it that way.

Ofcom will auction licences to use the 800MHz band to the highest bidders. These licences will come with conditions, the most important of which is the coverage obligation.

Ofcom is proposing to oblige licensees to a build a network that is capable of “providing mobile broadband with a sustained downlink speed of no less than 2Mbps with a 90% probability of indoor reception to an area within which at least 95% of the UK population lives.”

The first problem with this is that Ofcom has stopped at 95% of the population. That means 3m people won’t get mobile broadband.

The second problem is that these 3m people are the same people who don’t currently have access to decent fixed line broadband because they live in the most rural parts of Britain.

The third problem is that Ofcom has decided not to use this opportunity to address existing mobile phone notspots. Instead, it’s proposing to map the 4G network onto the current mobile network, i.e. if you can’t get a mobile signal where you live now, you won’t be able to get 4G.

So, Ofcom has decided that 3m people aren’t worth bothering about.

They reckon that the cost of obliging mobile companies to build more base stations, and thereby extend their mobile voice and broadband coverage in rural areas, is greater than the economic and social benefits that such coverage would bring to rural communities.

But Ofcom has no evidence for this conclusion. In paragraph 6.15 of the consultation, it admits to not even having tried to quantify the costs of obliging mobile phone companies to extend their coverage. And it’s made even less effort to quantify the potential benefits. When asked why it hadn’t done this work, Ofcom replied ‘it’s not our problem’.

So, what can we do about this?

Respond to the consultation. Questions 6.1 to 6.5 are the relevant ones.

First, we must explain to Ofcom what kind of coverage we need, both in terms of range and specification, i.e. do we need coverage indoors? On our roads? In our fields? Everywhere? Is 2Mbps too little? (Bearing in mind that the costs rise exponentially). (Question 6.1)

Second, we must set out the benefits – the necessity - of extending mobile phone and broadband coverage into rural areas. The costs can best be estimated by the mobile phone companies themselves, but it will be our job to provide qualitative and quantitative evidence of the benefits. (Question 6.2)

Third, we must persuade Ofcom that this auction is a unique opportunity to tackle both the roll-out of mobile broadband and the existing lack of mobile telephone reception in rural Britain. (Question 6.4)

Ofcom and the Treasury will want to argue that the costs outweigh the benefits. To forego some of the billions of pounds that an auction could raise will be painful for the Treasury at a time of austerity. It will be hard to persuade these economists that investment in rural areas is justified: the costs of major infrastructure projects are easy to measure, the benefits are notoriously unquantifiable.

So, we need to make sure that the question of mobile voice and broadband coverage in rural areas becomes a political one.

The social and economic welfare of rural Britain is at stake. If Ofcom and the Treasury are determined to argue that an investment in rural infrastructure is uneconomic, we should demand that they put some robust figures on this graph:

And, simultaneously, we should begin the political campaign here. How do you think we go about doing this? Besides, responding to the consultation, I’d suggest a petition, a website, and a social media campaign for starters. Anyone got any good ideas for an awareness-raising publicity stunt? Let us know!

PS. Here’s a useful report from the Broadband Stakeholder Group on Wireless Broadband with costings.

Case Study: Nilfisk UK

15 March 2011 at 15:42 in Case Studies by Duncan Brown

Nilfisk distribution centre, Penrith

The Nilfisk Group manufacture, sell, and service cleaning equipment, from vacuum cleaners to road sweepers. When it opened its British arm in the 1970s it made sense for its distribution centre to be in Penrith with its historical links to the farming industry. It now employs about thirty people in distribution, sales, manufacturing and administration. The UK office is one of the largest in the group and it would like to grow.

But slow broadband is cramping it. The Penrith office has been marooned because of its feeble connection. “We pay £10,000 a year for our 2Mbps connection,” says Gary Edmonson, Nilfisk’s Finance Director. Even at that price, there is no guarantee of service and speeds are inconsistent. In Nilfisk’s native Denmark, he notes, they pay less than that for a 100Mbps connection linking the two principal offices. Videoconferencing between Europe and the US has become part of the normal run of business for Nilfisk, but there is no hope of joining these virtual meetings from Penrith. “They wouldn’t dare attempt to implement videoconferencing on our network,” says Gary. But if it were possible, he reckons the installation would pay for itself in savings on flights abroad alone.

Next generation IT services like teleconferencing were long considered the luxuries of a high-tech future, but for many international companies this is no longer the case. Next generation services can save them money, and the pace of change is accelerating. While it is only in the last two years that network speeds have started to affect business, Gary estimates that his company has fewer than 12 months to solve its network problems before the Nilfisk business will really start to be left behind other parts of the Nilfisk Group and this will have major implications for the UK business. “We’ve been based in Cumbria for many years, we’re desperate to stay in Cumbria,” says Gary. “The ability to access high speed broadband will be critical to our business going forward”.