Interview with UK Rural Broadband ISP Rutland Telecom - ISPreview
Interview with UK Rural Broadband ISP Rutland Telecom
By: Mark Jackson - May 4th, 2010 : Page 1 -of- 4
"We are a customer of BT Openreach who are also now our competitor - we have raised this with Ofcom, the fact that potentially we have a situation of discrimination"

Rutland Telecom (RT), founded by David Lewis (Managing Director) and Mark Melluish (Director & Rural LLU Consultant) in 2007, is a UK Internet Service Provider (ISP) that specialises in providing Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband to rural areas. The provider is uniquely recognised in industry as the first UK Communications Provider to develop superfast NGA 40Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) broadband with full access to copper lines and into premises.

This recently took place in the testbed rural village of Lyddington and will now be deployed to a number of isolated rural villages in Rutland and beyond, including the tiny Welsh village of Erbistock. As a result RT's boss, David Lewis, has an interesting and often outspoken view of the country's current rural broadband woes.

This interview with David Lewis delves into some of the problems that RT has faced while rolling out its new solutions to rural areas and also reveals the ISPs concerns with other issues, such as the recently passed Digital Economy Act 2010 (DEA) and BT Openreach's conflict of interest.

1. Rutland Telecom has just become the first community ISP in the UK to offer an unbundled style 'up to' 40Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) broadband solution (subloop FTTC using full metallic path[MPF]) in the remote rural village of Lyddington, which is soon to be followed by a similar project in the Welsh village of Erbistock.

BT is also making extensive use of FTTC technology to reach 40% of UK homes by 2012, which should also bring download speeds of up to 40Mbps and uploads of up to 10Mbps. What else makes Rutland's FTTC service uniquely different from BT's implementation?

RT ANSWER: It is Openreach who are deploying FTTC - they are moving more towards being a wholesale ISP. It seems they are deploying in areas which already have reasonable broadband whereas we are focussing on rural notspsots and slowspots. So we differ in that we are a rural niche FTTC ISP.

We are delivering voice service from the DSLAM using full metallic path - pure IP from the cabinet where the copper lines are completely cut off from the telephone exchange. The Openreach model uses SMPF (shared) and WLR (Wholesale Line Rental).

Our cabinets are future-proofed for FTTH (fibre patch panel installed from the outset). We are using private investment from within the community to fund FTTC deployments. We are working on cabinet design which comes up from underground for servicing - like Thunderbirds! This is important in conservation areas like rural villages where we are also looking to offer Sky TV allowing the removal of ugly satellite dishes.

We are a customer of BT Openreach who are also now our competitor - we have raised this with Ofcom, the fact that potentially we have a situation of discrimination, particularly in any area where we both install a cabinet due to the lower costs for BT to deploy using their own infrastructure compared to the prices charged to subloop operators who are their customers. So what we have is a unique situation - to have your regulated supplier competing with you - something of a conflict of interest. We welcome the latest Ofcom consultation which looks to lower the costs for subloop operators to make it more of a level playing field with BT FTTC.

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