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UK Government Set to Discuss Rural Broadband Cover on 14th January

Saturday, January 4th, 2014 (8:07 am) - Score 959

The Government’s Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey MP, will chair another round table event at Parliament on 14th January 2014 to discuss extending faster broadband Internet connectivity into rural areas. A key focus of the meeting is likely to be the new £10 million competitive fund.

At present the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme aims to make fixed line superfast broadband (25Mbps+) download speeds available to 95% of people in the United Kingdom by 2017, which rises to 99% by 2018 if you also include fixed wireless access and mobile broadband solutions.

So far BT has nabbed all of the funding for the initial allocation of £530m, which was intended to help extend related services to 90% of the UK, while the next 5% is being catered for by an additional £250m and, despite promises of a more “commercial focus” for the BDUK project, it still looks increasingly likely that most of this will again go to BT.

As a result the next meeting, which will involve both telecoms operators and major campaign groups like the Countryside Alliance, is expected to focus on the tiny new £10m competitive fund that was announced during early December 2013 (here).

Little is known about this vague new fund except for the fact that it aims to “test innovative solutions to deliver superfast broadband services to the most difficult to reach areas“, which could include “enhanced mobile services, new fixed technologies and alternative approaches to structuring financial support, working closely with the communications industry“.

The focus is thus less on true fibre optic fixed line solutions and more upon alternative wireless methods, which could be of benefit to operators like Vodafone and EE that have an interest in offering fixed wireless and Mobile Broadband based services (EE’s 4G fixed wireless service was only recently launched).

The new fund sounds like another attempt to do what DEFRA’s £20m Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) has so far struggled to achieve, although it should be said that none of the RCBF money has been recycled into the new scheme and the RCBF itself is still attempting to find solutions to some of its long running problems (example).

Suffice to say that 2014 is already shaping up to be another year like 2013, where the debate over funding and solutions ended up polarising opinions about the best way forward. But the situation could become more interesting late this year when the major political parties move into pre-election mode and start to tout their own proposals.

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15 Responses
  1. Yes can’t wait for the General Election Promises over superfast provision. The current Government failing on their ‘target’. The 95 percent of the UK population target (still 4 years to go), how will anyone know they are in that 5 percent? By getting lower than 24 Mbps? This has changed into 95 percent of the UK in the latest ‘superswitch on day’ attempt at some sort of uplift.

    Superfast Britain with Superslow delivery. With a target of a minimum by this government of 2 Mbps for all via fibre or not – the future for many in the UK is not so much bright but dull. But as long as the fast are encouraged and assisted to get faster to make the UK look good – the job is done for this government…

  2. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

    Maybe we can do a trade. Increased funding for rural broadband if the CPRE and Countryside Alliance stop being rank NIMBYs and spreading FUD to preserve their house prices.

    The CPRE definitely earns the nickname Campaign to Protect Residential Equity.

    If they want subsidy from urban areas the least they can do is stop being so obstructive of urban growth and stop with the hypocritical attitude that it was fine for their homes to go on greenfield but that it instantly became sacrosanct after that.

    Give and take, and all that.

    1. Avatar Gerarda says:

      There are subsidies in both directions in lots of sectors. The council tax support grant to urban areas is 50% higher than to rural ones for example. Increasing the rural grant to match the urban one would in itself release enough funds in the local authorities to provide a proper rural broadband service.

  3. Avatar Rog Burton says:

    I’m glad the government is to review the UK rural broadband situation, it needs to, and allocation of funding needs to be well and truly re-thought out.

    I say this because even at Government level I don’t believe the people making the decisions have sufficient technical knowledge to understand the limitations of transmitting ADSL down copper phone wires. And seeing that BT will not pay for rural fibre connections because of network installation costs versus takeup, it leaves only other wireless technologies to quickly and cheaply fill the gap.

    ADSL has always been unreliable simply because of the condition of most of UK’s telephones lines, not to add the environmental issues that go along with transmitting digital data down copper wires. What most of the decision makers wont know is that BT have to run specially designed automatic line algorithms to make it happen, and most of the time people do not achieve the speeds they have come to expect, and why BT advertise their products using the ” up to” phraseology.
    I know BT has problems with customer care around their broadband ADSL systems because I spent about 4 years on their BT help forum, helping people to fix their broadband, but sadly most people in general have no technical know-how or mindset to even attempt it …. and why would they? … they pay good money for BT to deliver it.
    If the people responsible in government for funding allocation understood what I’m getting at here and really looked at alternatives that work quickly, cheaply and reliably … they would see that high speed wireless broadband is the way to go, and specifically for rural communities like ours here in Lincolnshire where the installation of fibre networks is negated by the remote location of subscribers screaming for high speed broadband.
    My wife is a very well known, experienced travel consultant who for many years has had her own home office from which to operate … and the only reason she is doing it now is because of high speed wireless broadband delivered by Quickline Communications.
    More and more people are working from home, often located in rural areas all over the country.
    Think about the positive impact on the economy if all those people had high speed internet access at their home or office, in rural locations, simply by the government investing more in alternative reliable wireless technologies like Wimax.

    To me .. it’s a no brainer.

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Most of the Uk lines are in bad condition ? What data are you basing that on ?

      And what are the environmental issues with transmitting digital data over copper?

    2. Avatar CrazyLazy says:

      Probably the data that shows BT speeds still get nowhere near Virgins and the current yet to finish poll on this site which shows how shockingly slow broadband actually is in this BT government funded country.

  4. Avatar Gadget says:

    I’d suggest that wireless has its place, but also has limitations, mostly line-of-sight, interference (of all sorts) and finally capacity for a given channel is shared across all users tuned to that channel.
    I’m sure you’ll also have been aware that many end-user speed faults are simply not of the ADSL technology making but poor customer wiring, even trying to use WiFi instead of Ethernet.
    It is precisely the final “5%” that has the problems and the costs at if unlimited money is not available either from private enterprise or government then it is a balancing exercise which currently favours number of connection for a given budget over anything else.

    1. Avatar Gerarda says:

      Wireless may have its limitations but so does FTTC. In rural areas, based on Suffolk’s experience, 30-40% of those outside the commercial roll out areas will not be able to recieve a superfast service. Wireless may not get to all of these but it would get to most.

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Wireless should not have been ruled out of BDUK, all methods have their limitations, even FTTH, not a technical one but a cost one.

      What is the latest with BDUK these days anyway, wasn’t it put on hold after enquiry in terms of future contracts/decisions? Or is it still going on

    3. Avatar Rog Burton says:

      In my (agreed) relatively short experience of using Wimax, as to compared to using ADSL for years …. Wireless has very few pitfalls, in fact during gale force winds of over 80mph recently my mast did flutter in the breeze, yet the signal was never lost, as it’s not like satellite with an exact set position to line of sight to the parent mast. The footprint is broad and your wireless dish can move, within limits obviously. Rain, snow, fog, frost do nothing to impede it, it’s microwaves.
      On the other hand ADSL down copper wires is impeded by REIN (google it) high resistance joints causing line crackle, atmospheric radiation from the ionosphere with short wave radio, radio ham transmitters, high output sodium street lighting causing REIN, transformers and HV cables causing hum, even cattle wires reducing linespeed because of noise induction into ditch buried underground ~BT non-ducted cables … oh .. and cable theft.
      The final part of FTTC is also copper from the street DSLAM to the EU socket and falls prey to all these things also, like I said, a no brainer. And if you add all the problems with home owned equipment that has the capability to upset BT’s line algorithm, because of REIN in the home, speakers, lighting, router placement, plasma TVs, arcing thermostats and central heating pumps ….. to name but a FEW, AND … BT are not, and will not fix these issues for you, again … a no brainer.
      If the government reached an agreement with the Church of England Diocese for Wimax transponders to be placed on every town and village church in England, or similar high positions, especially villages like ours in Eastern England, BT could be told to disappear. And your house telephone can then be changed to VOIP and you avoid any sort of line rental at all, I know, I’ve done it.
      And to finish, the cost of Wimax plus the cost of VOIP from Vonage is cheaper than any offer of broadband (used losely) from BT. And both broadband and calls are truly … unlimited.

  5. Avatar X66yh says:

    @Rog Burton
    People in the UK are not “paying good money to BT to deliver it”
    They are paying a pittance per month.

    You want good broadband – goto say San Francisco for example
    There you pay something like TWO HUNDRED dollars a month for it
    I’ll bet they get good service.

    You want better broadband – well start paying for it.

    If you actually knew the costs of renewing defective telegraph poles and cables to a group of houses for example you would know that these houses paying a few £10 per month in BB/voice call charges cannot possibly provide BT with a viable basis to upgrade anything for them.
    Each repair costs represents several years of revenue from the houses.

    1. Avatar CrazyLazy says:

      “You want good broadband – goto say San Francisco for example
      There you pay something like TWO HUNDRED dollars a month for it
      I’ll bet they get good service.”

      Rubbish you can get down speeds in excess of 100Mb for $80 a month or less

    2. Avatar Rog Burton says:

      But that’s exactly the problem …. I don’t mind paying, if the OPPORTUNITY was there, but in rural England you’ve more chance of winning the lottery than getting BT to install fibre networks. And anything less, like ADSL is not reliable because it is run by line algorithms on telephone lines that are prone to interference.
      Digital information does not run well down copper pairs, with interleave error correction further slowing it down, it’s slow enough as it is.
      It suffers from multiple issues, including thunderstorms.

    3. Hi All,

      To get a decent speed living far from the exchange, you need to pay a price. Unfortunately people disagree that this should happen and I hear it constantly “why should I pay xyz when in the city I can get FTTC for the same price?” Well, you are not in the city is my response.

      However there is a solution that many do not know (probably 99.99% of the population) and that is what we call ‘long line broadband’ basically high quality DSL up to 11.5km from the exchange.

      If I was to say you would high stable speeds, no contention, no FUPs, no contracts, prioritised traffic at peak times; how much would you pay?

      There is only one ISP who can provide this, others try and fail, others try to copy our technology and fail, we have been doing this for ten years and we have thousands of loyal customers in rural areas.

      We aim to please, not rip people off.


  6. Avatar Rog Burton says:

    And I also forgot to mention (silly me) that not only does my Wimax wireless broadband give me a low latency connection, from 10-45 msecs, it also gives me a symmetrical connection, whereas ADSL by BT is asymmetric.
    So instead of getting 2-3mbits down and 480kbps up, (whoopy-do)
    I now get 24mbits+ down and up to and typically 10mbits up, making sending files or uploading to Youtube a breeze. With BT you could grow a beard.

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