Community Solution

Fibre to the home Council, Milan 2011

25 February 2011 at 16:22 in guest post by Tom Woof

As the only community representative at the Ftth council in Milan, I was definitely in the minority where 3500 delegates gathered to further the cause of Fibre to the Home.  As a potential end user I was also in the minority, as most of the other delegates represented suppliers of a bewildering array of equipment for fibre.  They supplied, ducts, fibre, sub ducts, jointers, splitters, access nodes, manholes, data handling equipment for putting TV and telephone systems into the fibre.

What struck me first of all was the sheer number of ways that fibre can be put around.  It can go through special ducts, existing ducts, sewers, water and gas pipes, buried directly, wrapped around electricity wires, hang off garden fences.  It can go almost anywhere.

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Latest News on Cumbria’s Broadband Pilot

22 February 2011 at 16:09 in News by Louis Mosley

Don’t expect any official announcements until March at the earliest, but Cumbria County Council’s officers have been busy working away behind the scenes. They even have a name for the pilot: Accessible Cumbria!

Here’s what you need to know.

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Part III: The Funding and Service Model for Eden Valley FTTP

18 January 2011 at 12:16 in guest post by Barry Forde

The third and final part of Barry Forde‘s smash-hit series on how the communities of the Eden Valley could get Fibre To The Premises by themselves:


The first thing to get clear is that what we want to do is build, own and operate a fibre optic network to 100% of the properties in the Eden Local Authority District.

This would be a community asset owned and operated for the benefit of the people of the district and not to generate profits for anyone. However it has to be of top quality, highly reliable, future proofed and sustainable.

The fibre layer is a natural monopoly and whoever digs it first will automatically shut out any one else from doing so as the cost of duplicating the network build would be un-fundable. So rather than leave it to the tender mercies of the market it makes sense to do it via a community benefit structure.

However the supply of ISP services to properties in the district over the fibre network is a separate issue and we should encourage the market to take up the opportunities and to compete. There is no reason why a number of ISPs could not opt to offer service either across the whole district or just a small section of it.

Some areas, such as Penrith, might have several ISPs offering a range of different products.

Other parishes might opt to use a local CIC to deliver service. There is a local Cable TV company based in Carlisle and they could offer a full triple or quad play service over the fibre network.

The intention is that the “Fibre Company” takes care of the fibre layer and makes it available to the providers of service in the same way that Openreach makes MPFs/SMPFs or GEA products available to CPs. The model is identical.

Let’s give “FibreCo” a name to reflect its role, Eden District Fibre Co or EDFC. Its structure needs to be designed to allow for four things:

1. The fibre and associated assets needs to be owned by the community in perpetuity
2. The company has to have a social benefit structure acceptable to the rating authorities so it could have discretionary rates relief on the fibre tax.
3. It needs to be able to issue shares or some form of subscription to take in money, but it also needs to be able to repay this if the shareholder/subscriber wants it back in the future. There is no intention to pay dividends but perhaps this needs thinking about?
4. It should be tax efficient

I think from previous discussions on the BroadbandCumbria that this might point us towards an Industrial and Benevolent Society (BenCom) but we need to take advice to ensure the four key points are met.

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“Cybermoor NGA Open Day” Event

13 January 2011 at 23:30 in Events by Louis Mosley

Book your free ticket to the Cybermoor NGA Open Day on Wednesday, 9th February at Alston Town Hall.

Cybermoor invite you to attend our forthcoming open day event (re-organised from 7th December) aimed at giving a greater understanding of how a community can develop its own Next Generation Access Network and the potential pitfalls which could affect your project.

The workshop will cover real life examples, from digging trenches, negotiating with landowners and planning departments, installing and managing home connections, as well as developing a business case and how to set up a social enterprise.

The event will take place at Cybermoor’s headquarters in Alston Town Hall and the day will include site visits to allow delegates to see at first hand the practical issues around laying fibre, ducting etc.

Download the Cybermoor Open Day 2011 Flyer.

Download the Cybermoor Open Day 2011 Booking Form.

Download the Cybermoor_Open_Day 2011_programme.

NB: Anyone who registered for the previous event need not complete a new booking form, but a please email [email protected] to say you would like to attend on the 9th February with any changes in delegates would be appreciated.

12 Steps to FTTP: A Design Methodology for the Eden Valley

11 January 2011 at 21:04 in guest post by Barry Forde

Part Two of Barry Forde‘s smash-hit three part series on how the communities of the Eden Valley could get Fibre To The Premises by themselves:

Barry Forde

Step 1. We would start with a map of Eden District with the 74 Parish boundaries plus the 4 Penrith Wards marked on it. Look at each of the 78 areas and identify a logical central point within each where FTTP hub equipment could be located. For instance, many parishes will have a village or cluster of properties within them, and this would be the logical central place to locate a network FTTP hub.

But it would be wrong to assume that this place would be in the geographical centre as in most instances it would not be. For very small parishes, it might be more logical to attach the properties to an adjacent parish to avoid having too many very small hubs.

It would probably be sensible to set the cut off point at around the 100 property mark, which would take 28 parishes out of the list, leaving 50 FTTP nodes across the district. But this would be up for discussion as the design matures.

Step 2. would be to talk with parish champions to see if they consider it a good location from which to run fibre out to reach all properties within the parish. If so, could they then identify a suitable property to attach the hub to? For instance, might there be a village hall with spare space? Or could a a small annex be built on to house the kit?

If there is no suitable space, then we would need to install a street cabinet instead, and again the best location for it would need to be identified. Space requirements would vary depending on the number of properties being served from the node. I would allow one rack for equipment and then another one per 500 odd properties served.

Step 3. We would also need to identify suitable locations in Penrith and Kirkby Stephen to be the north and south end core nodes for the network. These would need to have additional space as there would be extra equipment located in them. More on this later.

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“Broadband Meets Localism” Event

6 January 2011 at 10:59 in Events by Louis Mosley

Carlisle Racecourse on Saturday 15th January from 10am – 4pm

Get your free ticket while there’s still space!

This conference has been organised by Carlisle Parish Councils Association in conjunction with Carlisle City Council and Cumbria County Council and is funded by North West Together We Can with sponsorship by British Telecom.

The event will be opened by Rory Stewart MP at 10.30am who will talk about the importance of rural broadband in Cumbria to business, individuals and institutions. He will also speak about the government’s localism agenda and how it all fits into the vision of community as enshrined in the Localism Bill currently going through Parliament.

There will be a keynote address by the Managing Director of Next Generation Access at BT after which there will be two workshop sessions.  The first will be entitled ‘Making the most of what you have’. Experts will explain how to boost your existing broadband service.  The second workshop will deal with ‘Community Owned Solutions’ using modern technology linked to existing public sector feeds.

A final session before lunch will cover current developments in Cumbria, with particular reference to BDUK funding, and how communities can use existing tools to raise finance to complement investment coming into the county.

The afternoon session will be introduced by John Stevenson MP and will focus on issues raised for local communities by the De-Centralisation and Localism Bill.

The main address will deal with the implications and opportunities of the Bill for communities and Parish Councils.

The Localism Bill offers many opportunities for community groups.  It introduces a general power of competence, but to qualify Parish Councils will have to meet certain minimum standards.  The Bill proposes planning reforms which could be far reaching and puts Parish Councils firmly in the driving seat.

Parish Councils will be given a number of new ‘rights’ including the right to challenge, the right to build and the right to buy.

In order to benefit from the Bill’s provisions Parish Councils may have to take part in the quality Parish scheme.  There are now almost 700 Parish and town Councils accredited with ‘Quality’ status.

All of this will be discussed in afternoon workshops.  The conference will finish at around 4.0pm.  There are still a few places remaining.  To register, fill out a booking form or ring 01228 817355.

How Cumbria’s village halls are pioneering a hi-tech revolution

3 January 2011 at 09:18 in News by Rory Stewart

I wrote an article for yesterday’s Observer about our broadband campaign. Here it is, in case any of you missed it:

This winter, 130 activists gathered to discuss superfast broadband in a village hall in Cumbria. They had come from 100 villages, by 100 paths. Ali had presumably travelled north along the shore of Ullswater, rounded Loadpot Hill and turned south down the Lowther valley, until (three miles from where she began, but 45 minutes by car), she could take the narrow track east across the moor. Brian came over Hartside at 3,000ft, down the switchbacks into Eden, and worked his way along the East Fellside. They were joining a community experiment, which is becoming almost a revolution.

Their problems are distance and isolation. They live in Eden, the most sparsely populated district in England, some of whose villages, like mine at Butterwick, have only seven houses. Bus services are going, fuel costs are high and roads are poor. My neighbour with Parkinson’s has to drive to Newcastle hospital – a four-hour round trip – just to talk to a neurologist. There was once a grammar school in our valley but now there is no primary school: children travel further and find it difficult to stay after class. We are struggling to keep young people, partly because of the low wages (some of our hill farmers have incomes of less than £6,000 a year). The activists were gathering because they believe some salvation may lie in superfast broadband.

Broadband would allow our businesses to follow our local fishing supply shop, which does £1m of sales a year out of the door but £7m online. Farmers could fill forms online; Lake District B&Bs could market themselves in Japan; and “creative” industries that depend on fast internet speeds could grow. Parkinson’s patients could talk to their neurologist by videolink without leaving home (and grandparents could talk to their grandchildren in Canada); children could take classes which they couldn’t find in the district. Village shops could collaborate online to increase their purchasing power; village halls could share bookings; medical teams could exchange emergency calls more efficiently. People might decide again to work and bring their families up in villages.

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255,075 reasons to get FTTP (Fibre to the Premises)

28 December 2010 at 08:45 in guest post by Thane Brooker

If community-led deployments are to succeed on a large scale, there must be a clearly thought out sales process and all residents must fully understand the benefits and value that FTTP will bring to them before they are asked for their support and commitment.

There has been much talk of how superfast broadband would enable forthcoming applications such as telemedicine and high-definition 3D movies on demand, and how fibre would be an investment in our children’s future.  However, while this is all true and exciting, it is non-specific and unlikely to convince the average family with already reasonable broadband (by today’s standards) to dig up their garden.

What we need to explain is how fast symmetric broadband, with free inter- and intra-Parish connectivity at 1Gbps, will add value and enrich our lives on a personal and household level immediately and in clear monetary terms.

This post is a first attempt to list some of the tangible benefits that households, schools, and businesses would realistically receive within 6 months of installation.  The ideas listed here will form the basis of a sales process that we can use to will  the community and obtain the commitments necessary for success, so please add all your ideas to the comments at the bottom of this post.

No idea should be considered too whacky or silly, as long as it is realistic.  Remember, 255,075 people live in rural Cumbria, and if an idea convinces just one person to commit effort or a wayleave, it is a worthwhile idea.

Here are some ideas that may strike a chord with residents and encourage them to dig:

1. Increased property prices (this needs to be quantified/cited – any Estate Agents here to help?).

2. Can watch BBC iPlayer HD without stuttering.

3. Can stream iTunes collections/DVD collections with friends and family in neighbouring Parishes.

4. Tele-vet service (many consider telemedicine to be something the NHS should organise and therefore out of local community control, but a local tele-vet service is something that could realistically be offered to local farmers/horse owners).

5. HD Skype to friends and family in other areas/countries with fast symmetric broadband.

6. New classroom activities introduced (this will need to be more specific–any teachers here?).

7. Cheap access to local off-site backup (for backing up video, pictures, music, data)–data wouldn’t need to hit backhaul and could simply be sent to a removable hard drive at a friend’s house, or a more professional service offered by the local techy.

8. Local techys could offer new services to local residents to generate additional income streams (any local techys here with ideas?).

9. Any teens/children (and adults!) would appreciate low-latency for online gaming with friends.

10. Holiday homes and caravan parks could generate additional revenue by charging for fast Internet access.

11. Guest homes/B&Bs could market themselves to a different (and higher paying) clientele.

12. Anybody requiring care could have a direct, full-time video link to a carer in a neighbouring Parish.

13. Training and certification on how to lay and test fibre could help unemployed people obtain employment.

14. If the business model was right, the Parish could obtain a regular income from ISPs paying to offer their services over the infrastructure.

15. If the business model was right, the high (but intangible) value of owning “the last mile” could be realised through an IPO.

16. No more hassle: no more microfilters, no need to test different ADSL modems with different chipsets to get the best performance, and no need to remove the BT faceplate each time there is a fault (note: such hassle is likely to get worse as higher frequencies are pushed over further distances using BET).  Unlike ADSL, FTTP typically works or it doesn’t, and speed doesn’t drop off due to incompatibilities or interference.

17. Neighbourhood watch: anybody concerned about crime could use the network to monitor their property from a remote location.

18. Community radio (any budding DJs?  Or could this be offered as a practical exercise in schools?).

How will fast, reliable, symmetric and low-latency Internet access with free 1Gbps inter- and intra-Parish connectivity directly benefit you, your household, your neighbour, Mr Smith from the next Parish and Mrs Jones the local business owner?

Eden’s Broadband Champions meet with BDUK

19 December 2010 at 12:35 in guest post by Libby Bateman

On 16 December, Libby Bateman, UECP project officer and Broadband Champion for Ravenstonedale, convened a meeting between Mike Kiely of BDUK and Broadband Champions from across the Eden valley. Here, she blogs about her experience as a longstanding broadband campaigner and her perspective on the latest developments in the campaign:

Meeting of Broadband Champions at Kirby Stephen, 16 December 2010. Photographer: Lance Greenhalgh

Yesterday, I walked through the snow with a young friend of mine to her home halfway up the Uldale Valley. She is one of three children in their late teens and early 20s and I feel like I am letting her down when I say: “it may be another twelve months before we can get broadband to your home”.  She has now been unable to drive her car for three weeks because of the snow. She has been completely isolated from the outside world with no broadband, a very unreliable landline, and no mobile signal.

Six months ago, it was very simple: we were going to dig in the fibre, plug it in, and switch it on. Our problems were: which route do we take? And how do we make it affordable?

Then, along came the Big Society, which seemed to be purpose-made to help us in what we were trying to achieve, and along came some money from BDUK - another real bonus.

But the result of these two strokes of luck has been delay. Instead of bashing on and building our networks, we now have to wait for the powers-that-be to catch up. The BDUK funding and the resulting government procurement have slowed things down. But, however frustrating this may be, we can’t rush the process: it’s essential that they get it right first time.

To quote a good friend, this is where the Big Society and Big Government come crashing into each other. But remember, we are the Big Society Vanguard, which means that the government is hoping to learn from us how it can work better with communities. And so, yes, we may well go bump a few times, but isn’t that part of any learning process?

Now, my intention is to ensure that, in twelve months time, we really do deliver broadband to the top of the Uldale Valley and that we don’t just get faster broadband to major population centres to satisfy government statisticians.

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Broadband, NGA, FTTC and the laws of unforeseen consequences

15 December 2010 at 19:06 in guest post by Barry Forde

Yesterday, Barry Forde, the brains behind CLEO, blogged on the “WiFiPie & CHIPS… With everything” Group. Lots of people have asked for Barry to expand on his thoughts. So, here - by popular demand - is an extended version.

Going back to basics what are we trying to do? I’d suggest two things:

  1. 1. Solve the problems of not-spots and grot-spots by getting broadband to them
  2. 2. Do that in a way that isn’t a short term solution, but a route to true NGA

If Cumbria does the first of these without the second, then it will end up with a 2Mbps service. This, we all agree, will be a woefully inadequate level of service within a very short period time. What is more, it will have gobbled up money better spent on other solutions.

So, the big challenge is how to procure something that delivers both requirements within the funding available. Is this even possible?

There seem to be two options on the table:

  1. ♦ BT’s FTTC product, within which some bits of the district would get FTTC, a subset would get FTTP, and another subset would get satellite connectivity with some BET connections
  2. ♦ FTTP via commercial or community initiatives

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