• Brussels approves BDUK £530M, but still at odds with UK Gov Broadband targets

    Today, the BBC and other press outlets announced that the EU in Brussels has permitted the £530M of UK BDUK money to be spent on delivering a 2 Mbps service commitment to rural areas. Or was it £1.5bn? They don't seem to agree.

    Material differences:


    1. ‘Superfast’ equals 24/30Mbps
    2. Investment equals £530m/£1.5bn
    3. Universal access equals 90 per cent/100 per cent


    On the left of those numbers we have our government's view, and on the right the view from Brussels. Culture Secretary Maria Miller's trip over to Brussels seems to have freed up the £530M from BDUK, but it hasn't established consensus on WHAT that will deliver, or how. A strange deal to ask taxpayers to pay in a downturn. Here's some money, now what do I get please?

    More detail HERE from the ever observant Ian Grant.

    An article in The Register provides more detail on the "horse trading" that was required by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (Maria Miller) in order to secure the approval. Reports on the effectiveness of the policy and approach are required, by 31st March 2015. Well, there's plenty of scope to mess up and fall further behind before that deadline arrives. How will the service be measured and validated, to understand whether promises have been delivered? Nobody knows. We at B4RS in partnership with Speldhurst Parish Council and Sam Knows know precisely how to do that - we have 60+ Sam Knows Whiteboxes out there, configured specially for us to report on the REAL effects of any upgrades to our rural Kent broadband infrastructure.

    Our Google Map plots the performance of each box for your viewing pleasure - HERE.

    If only other public authorities understood the benefits of such a monitoring service in underpinning any contracts they may or may not award to ISPs who want some of the BDUK public money. It might make the ISPs that respond to the tenders a little more realistic about what they will ultimately deliver, rather than provide FUD and nonsense which confuses the end customers - you and I. Perhaps we should ask TWBC for a statement on how they intend to validate what was promised to win a contract, against what is actually delivered? It's not clear to us here at B4RS how that will happen. That's our tax money being gambled. We digress ...

    On the same day Brussels approves the BDUK 2Mbps future for the rural UK, it approves a 50 Mbps future for Bavaria, Germany.

    We'll report back here when we find more facts in this ocean of ambiguity. We haven't yet had an update from the Speldhurst Parish Council BB Working Group which is tasked with reporting on the activity regarding the tender being run by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. As soon as we get any update, we'll be sure to let you know.

    Regards,
    B4RS - By the Community, For the Community

    UPDATE: On 4th December 2012 we received a document via TWBC, passed to the Speldhurst Parish Council BB Working Group (it needs a shorter name), then to us, with a "Make Kent Quicker" update. There is no clear ownership of the document but it appears to come from the KCC team working on the BDUK project, and we believe it is related to the TWBC Invitation to Tender in October for RCBF for funds. We will publish this in a related article shortly.


    Comments 2 Comments
    1. stonewall100's Avatar
      stonewall100 -
      Hi Rob,
      The BDUK initiative within our parish is the one that provides fibre to the cabinet for 3 of the 4 street cabinets in Langton Green. That is not 2Mbps but more like 70Mbps download for those living close to the cabinets. Based on my son's experience in London, he is getting 68Mbps download and 15Mbps upload about 200 yards from a cabinet. If you have some distance tables I would be interested to see them. No-one in Langton is far from a cabinet - I would guess 2km might be the typical max, with perhaps top of Groombridge Hill being the farthest (perhaps 3km).

      The RCBF initiative will probably be FTTC and there could be a few distant connections there. It is still not clear to me how Ashurst and Old Groombridge will be handled.

      Lawrence
    1. RobL's Avatar
      RobL -
      Quote Originally Posted by stonewall100 View Post
      Hi Rob,
      The BDUK initiative within our parish is the one that provides fibre to the cabinet for 3 of the 4 street cabinets in Langton Green. That is not 2Mbps but more like 70Mbps download for those living close to the cabinets. Based on my son's experience in London, he is getting 68Mbps download and 15Mbps upload about 200 yards from a cabinet. If you have some distance tables I would be interested to see them. No-one in Langton is far from a cabinet - I would guess 2km might be the typical max, with perhaps top of Groombridge Hill being the farthest (perhaps 3km).

      The RCBF initiative will probably be FTTC and there could be a few distant connections there. It is still not clear to me how Ashurst and Old Groombridge will be handled.

      Lawrence
      Hi Lawrence - let's be careful with if's, but's and maybe's regarding the KCC RCBF initiative. They've told us nothing official about the actual implementation or performance promises. With your son you've got a statistical sample of "one", in a city - I've got a few others in Brighton using 50Mbps Virgin about 50 yards from a cable connection who get abysmal service, so we're even? ;-)

      Back to the BDUK/KCC project ... we're not being permitted to see any of the performance conditions for the recently announced (an article coming here soon) RCBF Invitation to Tender results, nor are we being given the geography of which cabinets or when they will be upgraded. If Langton Green is to benefit from 3 out of 4 cabinets being upgraded (hear-say until someone tells us), what about all the poor folk connected directly to the exchange in the centre of Langton? Is the lucky recipient of the RCBF public funds going to deal with them in an economical way? We wait ... and we can guess the outcome.

      If FTTC is to be used, then we remain reliant on copper cable in the ground, and another commercial grab for public funding in the future when 70 or 80 Mbps one-way is deemed "too slow". It is a sticking plaster over a fundamental problem - a single incumbent owner of the copper broadband infrastructure, answerable only to their shareholders, and who must deal with those shareholders' demands long before a rural community's needs.

      There are many distance graphs for VDSL2+. BT use various profiles, but mostly 8c. Look at page 5 of this PDF. What is clear, is that at about 1.5 Km (5000 ft) of COPPER from the cabinet you should get around 35Mbps downstream. If the copper is in good condition, no water ingress, no work hardening, no bad connections and the wind is blowing from the east. With a copper bearer there are too many variables to get consistent performance, other than statistically analysing sufficient numbers to account for a standard deviation which isn't too large. These variations make it all too easy for a provider to hide behind insufficient backhaul, i.e. having too many people sharing a limited amount of bandwidth, so that even if everyone got "40 Mbps", they could only every really get 10 Mbps because they were all sharing the same restricted bandwidth back to the internet at peak times. To be fair, the time involved in diagnosing an individual ADSL/VDSL line isn't justified by what an ISP gets paid to provide it, so customer service levels have to reflect this. It's not their fault, but a commercial reality of reducing prices and still make margin on the Openreach fees for a broadband line.

      Try and ask your ISP about bandwidth contention - the usual answer is "commercial confidentiality", as this relates to profit. Some more helpful ISPs are willing to provide some details - Zen have been good to me in recent years, even in trying to fathom what the Openreach infrastructure is providing over my multiple ADSL lines.

      I've prattled on for too long - hope the graphs in the PDF linked above help to explain the "theory" around what BDUK/KCC may or may not provide in 2013, to a limited number of residents, and why B4RS will truck on to deliver a community owned, future proof FTTH (fibre to the home) solution, despite this distraction.

      --RobL.