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Happy “Gimme Fibre Day” 2014

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 (12:30 am) - Score 753
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Advocates of true ultrafast fibre optic (FTTH/P/B) broadband connectivity from across the world have declared that today is officially Gimme Fibre Day 2014, which started last year as an annual event to help promote the benefits of related connectivity as the “only future-proof solution” for Internet access.

The decision to hold such an event on 4th November every year is also intentional because it corresponds with the birthday of Nobel Prize winner Sir Charles Kuen Kao (aka – the “Father of Fibre Optics“). Kao was jointly awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics for “ground-breaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibres for optical communication“.

Sadly Kao himself has been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for the last 11 years, but his name continues to be known thanks to today’s event and support from The FTTH Council Global Alliance, which consists of the FTTH Council Africa, FTTH Council Americas, FTTH Council Asia Pacific, FTTH Council Europe and FTTH Council Middle East & North Africa.

As usual various events will be held around the world to help promote fibre optic connectivity as the way forward, although at the time of writing we only know of two such activities taking place in the whole of the United Kingdom (although there may be others that, at the time of writing, haven’t yet been listed on the website).

UK Gimme Fibre Day Events (2014)

1. B4RN and sibling B4YS will be attending a meeting with the owners of the Leighton Hall Estate and their tenants to tell them all about fibre optic broadband, which the operators are currently rolling out around rural parts of Lancashire in England, with some areas of Cumbria and Yorkshire likely to follow in the future. Oddly the Gimme Fibre site doesn’t include much information on timings etc.

2. Cybermoor Networks, which also operates a partially community built fibre optic broadband network in Alston Moor (Cumbria), is organising a range of events in conjunction with Gimme Fibre Day (here).

A. Demonstrations and information about how new Cybermoor services can help elderly people who wish to stay fit and healthy at 12pm in the Cumberland and how new technology can support carers and help older people remain in their homes for longer at 3pm at Grisedale Croft.

B. Big Cumbria will be explaining how fibre broadband can boost businesses in Cumbrian Pantry between 2.30-4pm.

C. Local Links at AlstonTown Hall will be giving a fibre theme to their Knit and Knatter group at10.30am and will be demonstrating how easy and quick it is to download e-books at 1.30pm.

One day we’d love to see true fibre optic connectivity become the norm, but first the issue of funding needs to be resolved (somebody has to figure out where to get the needed £20bn to £35bn – depending upon which report you read) and then we’d have to be prepared for what could be a decade long deployment project, where rural areas might once again be the last to benefit.

Granted it might make more economic sense over the longer term to put that investment in now, yet sadly that’s hard to do when the country is still standing on a knife edge mountain of national debt (around £1.4 trillion), which accounts for most of our GDP. On top of that the problem is actually getting worse, not better, thanks largely to weak tax revenues (i.e. too many low paying jobs and fewer people who pay income tax etc.).

Meanwhile many other people are still stuck waiting for even decent standard broadband to arrive, which needs to be solved ASAP.

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26 Responses
  1. Avatar GNewton

    “first the issue of funding needs to be resolved”

    No problem, see e.g.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/20/high-speed-broadband-not-hs2

    • HS2 seems to have quite a lot of political support and so I suspect this approach wouldn’t be taken, but here’s to living in hope.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      Funding a national fibre optic network would be the equivalent of adding about £3 per month to wholesale line rental cost (£3.60 with VAT) which would yield about £30bn over 30 years. (The rollout needn’t take that long although, realistically, it’s difficult to see it taking less than 10-15 yrs). During that interim period, there will have to be interim solutions (like FTTC) so investment in the copper network couldn’t be stopped completely, especially as there would be parallel networks for a considerable time and, hence, reduced costs. Of course there will be a reduction in costs from that peak as the copper network is gradually decommissioned, but in the short/medium term, costs will be considerably higher due to the dual networks and the increased capital that the combined network will represent (and the financing costs).

      So this would be (roughly) the equivalent of £50 per year per premises. Not a massive bill in the big picture of things, but I can imagine it would be less than popular. Of course, it would be possible to amortise the cost over more than 20 years, but given than I’m sure that some elements of even a fibre network would have to be upgraded during the period I rather doubt it.

      Of course there are some really big commercial, legal and regulatory issues. Firstly, if line rental was to to up by this much, there will be a defection of customers to cable which could threaten the economics. Secondly, who would own the final network? It might be made easier with full legal separation of Openreach (essentially what’s happened in New Zealand), but I can see it falling foul of EU laws on state aid. A full state takeover of Openreach would be possible to create a body like National Rail (now recognised in government books as state owned), but that would involve paying out perhaps £15-20bn compensation to shareholders. It would also mean taking on a big pension liability. You might think that OR wouldn’t have to pay a dividend any more, but almost certainly it would have to make a contribution to the treasury to cover the purchase cost (when the PO ran the phone service, that’s what they had to do). Note that charging what would amount to a £3 per month tax on BT lines and using the money to fund a completely independent network would also fall foul of state aid laws.

      Then there’s the reaction of the LLU operators to forced removal of copper services (although that might not be too much of an issue if done over a long enough time frame). However, the biggest issue would surely be from VM and cable if there was any hint of state aid, whether through direct means or regulatory favouring of a competitor.

      Another issue will be that the above approach will be seen as being unfair by those required to pay this levy on their line, but who might not see any benefit for 15 years (or might not even see the need for higher speeds at all). I suppose the former could be dealt with by staging the increased charges according to area roll-out timetables, but it doesn’t help with the latter.

      I rather suspect something will end up being done about the regulatory and legal issues at EU level as Germany has a stated ambition to produce a national fibre network, and they face very similar issues.

      So I think the economic and funding issues can be dealt with. It’s more about political will and dealing with the legal, regulatory and public issues. Overall the costs are modest, but the real-world barriers are massive.

    • Avatar adslmax

      MP’s will support HS2 not broadband. UK will never get 100% fibre to the house in the future, never will.

  2. Avatar Sledgehammer

    “first the issue of funding needs to be resolved”

    I feel certain it wont be resolved, because the government is quite happy to let things roll along as they are now. The HS2 and HS3 will plow on sucking up billions of pounds that will never be recovered. It is more likely the country will go bankrupt before long and no completion of HS2 will happen and we will still be stuck with what we have today by of internet construction.

  3. Avatar Raindrops

    Funding issues? What funding issues BT already make and have been making for years 2+ Billion each year just from line rental (excludes profit from Broadband and most recently BT sport, leased lines and a lot more) they can more than afford a 20 Billion cost. The are like the select few lazy benefit claimants of the Comms world, pretend they have such a hard life and ask government for more money.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      @Raindrops

      You are simply living in a dreamland. BT is not sitting on a huge cash pile (in fact, rather the opposite, they have borrowing and other long term liabilities of about £18bn).

      Openreach’s total turnover (from all sources) is about £3.7bn per year. Capital expenditure is around the £1bn a year mark (and, by far the biggest area of capex in BT). To roll out 100% fibre in, say, 15 years would involve capex going up to about £2.5bn per year, and that’s assuming half of current capex could be re-assigned (there are all sorts of other things which still have to be financed, including the replacement of fixed elements, plant, motor vehicles, IT systems and so on).

      So, very conservatively speaking, another £1.5bn would have to be found. To put that in perspective, it’s well over half the wholesale revenue from line rental).

      The only way to finance this is by borrowing or from shareholders. Quite simply, that isn’t going to happen unless the regulatory environment allows some possibility of increasing revenue to pay for what will amount to something like £25bn of total capital invested.

      No, with the current environment, what you will see is an investment in NGA of perhaps £500m per year, and it’s going to be concentrated on the most promising areas. If the regulatory and government came up with an environment where there was a prospect of a return, then, no doubt, capital will be found. But not as things stand, especially when it’s not possible to decomission the copper network due to regulatory requirements.

      nb. even if shareholders gave up all dividend payments, that’s only about £600m per year, and the pension funds and other investors are hardly likely to agree to that. The prospects of no dividends for 20 or more years isn’t exactly going to encourage anybody to invest.

    • Avatar GNewton

      Shareholders are irrelevant in this picture. Shareholders knew from the very beginning that it was a high-risk investment with a dodgy company, especially when this company has no longterm vision, so you shouldn’t feel sorry for these shareholders. It’s their losses.

      Most importantly, no more public money should be wasted on this wannabe beggar in the form of gap-funding like the BDUK scheme. BT has never had a need for this money! Only revenue-sharing funding models should be acceptable so that the money can be recouped longterm. Also, fibre should REPLACE copper, not be installed in parallel, to ensure 100% takeup among the customers and revenues coming in as early as possibly. Any legal red tape should be addressed and quickly removed by the government.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Oh Steve, Raindrops has no interest in words like debt or return on investment.

      And GNewton, this “. Shareholders knew from the very beginning that it was a high-risk investment with a dodgy company” is probably your best BT hatred comment to date, priceless.

      That’s just how the city see BT isn’t it… a high-risk dodgy company 🙂

      Everyone knows FTTP is the future proof solution but no-one is willing to pay the price, not the telco’s and certainly not the end customer, they are used to very cheap deals.

      There is good news though, if the Cityfibre venture in York works then we won’t have to rely on BT to rollout FTTP country wide TalkTalk and Sky can do it

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      @Fibre Fred

      Cityfibre will not fibre up the country. The best that might happen is to accelerate fibre rollout in the more promising areas. If a clear business case appears to invest in fibre (based on experience), then money to do so will appear, but it will be cherry-picking. Clearly BT would have to respond in those areas. It won’t do anything for the “digital divide”. Indeed, it will accelerate it.

    • Avatar GNewton

      It always amazes me to see how the trolls here accuse others of being BT haters whenever someone expresses a different opinion. Customers have good reasons to stay away from this company, they are not a minority, a quick look at e.g. ISPReview’s http://www.ispreview.co.uk/review/products/7.html shows the poor ratings. Or see also BTs own business forum at https://business.forums.bt.com/t5/Feedback-general-chat/bd-p/Intros (BT is to be commended for having set up this forum!)

      The BT Sports suite is to remain capital intensive because of the Sky competition. E.g. British Sky Broadcasting does its own Sky Sports 5 channel, dedicated to European football including UEFA Champions League and Spanish La Liga top flight football. And in a bid to undercut BT, Sky offers (or will soon) unlimited broadband to its Sky Sports customers completely free for two years.

      Add to this the BT Pensions palava, a ticking time bomb. Broker Macquarie has put the firm’s pension deficit at an eye-watering £8.1bn, according to the Financial Times.

      Last not least the failure to have a longterm plan into futureproof nextgen broadband services is bound to lead to more problems to come.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      @Gnewton

      There is no regulatory or legal framework that allows for the withdrawal of the copper network. As BDUK is a government project with politically set objectives (not BT defined ones), then it’s up to the

      Also, there’s the issue of coverage. The BDUK funding would have only provided a service for, at most, 10-15% of that using FTTC.

      Also, BT was not seen as a “risk investment” by the city. It was always seen as a low-risk utility. As it is, it has has it’s commercial prospects heavily limited by very heavy regulation which was not in prospect at the time of privatisation. (At that time, competition was to be from cable companies – who had local broadcast TV monopolies and from Mercury).

      So the regulatory environment is now very different. It’s subject to controls way beyond what are required by competition law. That has strengths and weaknesses. It keeps prices down of course, but it’s a huge disincentive to major infrastructure investment when it is unable to exploit them. As it is, Openreach (who have to make the investments) cannot make money from exploiting expensively installed fibre. If, they could benefit from upstream revenues, it would have heloed finance the investments. As it is, they can’t so can only be funded from line rental income and so far, the number that would be prepared to pay extra for the fibre simply does not come close to financing it. Just see how difficult VM are finding the costs of expanding their network when they have complete control of the services offered and don’t have the expense of being required to provide wholesale services or support networks in rural and lightly populate areas.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Steve it was a tongue in cheek comment I don’t think my expectations for York will be far off at all.

      GNewton, different opinions are fine but you just come across as trolling when you just post anything to pull down BT regardless of the original topic.

      I don’t know why you are ashamed to admit you hate BT? You are in good company there are others out there too as well 😉

      Regardless of what sensible comments are posted (Steve’s for example, showing is Openreach that have to invest and they don’t make enough to invest in full fibre) you won’t have any of it.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @Steve Jones: “As it is, it has has it’s commercial prospects heavily limited by very heavy regulation which was not in prospect at the time of privatisation.”

      Agreed. It probably made sense back then to privatise that telecom company. However, since then it has made a number of catastrophic choices and chosen the wrong course, leading to today’s mess, as can be seen on any customer forum. The regulators (Oftel/Ofcom) were not responsible for all its failures, BT still had some choices.

      As it stands, BTs non-telecom adventures, and its pension burdens, and the lack of proper futureproof nextgen telecom services are strong indications for shareholders to get rid of their shares while they can.

      It’s survival will depend on non-telecom businesses, landlines will only be useful for broadband services for a transitional period until the next disruptive technology displaces that company from its telecom monopoly.

      And you are right, Virgin Media wasn’t doing well either as a business.

      Private companies are not suitable for large-scale infrastructure projects, this will be a public task, and there are ways to do it without burdening the taxpayer’s longterm, see for example the original Australian NBN. The key to success is REPLACING copper with fibre, not running multiple infrastructures. You don’t have multiple gas pipes in your house, nor multiple powerlines, from different infrastructure providers. That’s where the telecoms sector has gone wrong, competition should be on the services level.

    • Avatar Raindrops

      “You are simply living in a dreamland. BT is not sitting on a huge cash pile (in fact, rather the opposite, they have borrowing and other long term liabilities of about £18bn).”

      Someone is living in dreamland and it is not me. If that statement is true there is no way they could had spent their OWN MONEY to the tune of 2.5bn on FTTC in the first place. Which you and the BT love children are always on about.

      Or are you now saying they haven’t actually even spent 2.5bn but simply added it to their pile of debt?

      A bit like here….
      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2014/09/first-bt-trial-future-g-fast-copper-broadband-hits-nearly-720mbps.html
      It appears once again you can not even when talking to yourself and trying to pretend to be a handful of people explain where their money goes.

    • Avatar GNewton

      The BT Group profit for the year ending in March 2014: £2,018 Million
      The BT Group profit for the year ending in March 2014: £1,948 Million

      I think that answers the questions about whether BT can invest in nextgen broadband. This company certainly has no need to act like a poor beggar, scrap the BDUK!

    • Avatar GNewton

      correction, it should have read:

      The BT Group profit for the year ending in March 2013: £1,948 Million

    • Avatar Raindrops

      So they are and have been making millions in profit each and every year, theres a shocker the BT fan made up crap again.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      lol, and if they invested every pound in fttp

      How long until they complete the rollout
      How long until they recoup the investment

      Back to dreamland fellas 😉

    • Avatar GNewton

      @Raindrops: Agreed. Anybody can do the maths, unlike those BT trolls on this forum.

      BTW.: Fibre should replace copper, not be implemented in parallel. The initial old copper investment has been paid for multiple times by now, and with a proper longterm business plan you’d recoup the investment into fibre as soon as possible. The BDUK gap funding model is the totally wrong approach. Running multiple last mile network access infrastructures is as mad as if someone would get the idea of doing multiple power lines or gas pipes or water pipes to each property, and then have the audacity to ask for taxpayer’s money for this, too.

    • Avatar Raindrops

      “lol, and if they invested every pound in fttp

      How long until they complete the rollout
      How long until they recoup the investment

      Back to dreamland fellas”

      If they have a deficit of 18bn like your guise before your meds today how did they even invest 2.5bn in FTTC in the first place? How long till they recoup their current 18bn plus the 2.5bn for FTTC (which shock of shock equates to the 20bn FTTP would cost)?

      Perhaps you would find an invention called a calculator handy.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Clearly replacing fibre is an ideal, but what are the steps to achieve it?

      Dealing with copper based services.
      The issues of battery backup.
      Writing off LLU kit.
      What would happen in VM and others locations. They might object. Would end the business of existing fibre providers.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Your other glorious foot in mouth moment is quoting BT “Group” figures and not BT “Openreach” figures, Openreach run the infrastructure

      And you already know why copper has to be run in parallel, so why keep bleating about it?

    • Avatar FibreFred

      …and I’ve never been and never will be a Steve but you can see on their annual report how much they owe, didn’t think it was £18bn but if you are bothered check their report

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: “Clearly replacing fibre is an ideal, but what are the steps to achieve it?”

      Why don’t you try to work out at least some answers for yourselves, with a little bit of research? Like battery backup and LLU kit (some can deal both with fibre and VDSL handovers!). Google is your friend. It amazes me to see the prevalent ‘Can’t attitude’ here in the UK.

      Lets finish this discussion thread, a BT troll is already resorting to his daily names calling, like ‘glorious foot in mouth’ or ‘dreamland fellas’.

    • Avatar Raindrops

      “Your other glorious foot in mouth moment is quoting BT “Group” figures and not BT “Openreach” figures, Openreach run the infrastructure”………

      “…and I’ve never been and never will be a Steve but you can see on their annual report how much they owe, didn’t think it was £18bn but if you are bothered check their report”

      Openreach are part of the BT group so that imaginary debt be it 18bn or the extra 2.5bn for FTTC is part theirs. Unless you think somehow you can be part of a business group in debt and not be responsible for any of the debt.

      Then again you probably do think that as its clear in addition to maths problems you have no idea about things like business.

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