Digging Stronvar

Having finally got the health, safety and insurance bureaucracy out of the way, we’ve been able to get properly stuck in with the network dig. Now, there are a couple of ways of going about this: from picking the smallest, least disturbing tools possible and proceeding in a sensitive and non-disruptive manner, to throwing the biggest damn digger you can find at the job, on the principle that it won’t find anything it can’t handle. So guess which we went with?

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North Skye, BCB, CBS and R100

In March 2017, following a second failed procurement run through Community Broadband Scotland, we formally withdrew from that public funding process and reverted to seeking de minimis (up to €200,000) public support for our project. This followed more than three years effort in engaging with CBS, and that after its taking two years to establish whether or not we would qualify for funding. So the decision was taken with the greatest reluctance, not least because doing so would create a significant shortfall in our project budget.

Now, a parallel community project, with similar goals to ourselves and itself with a great deal of expertise, North Skye Broadband, has also been forced to withdraw from the public funding process, issuing this press release, one that we could have issued practically unchanged to describe our own experience.

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And We’re Off…

It’s been quiet on the broadband news front, too quiet. But that’s not been because nothing’s been happening: quite the opposite. The silence has been born of not wishing to depress and bore people with details of the ongoing conflict we’ve had with Community Broadband Scotland and of our not being allowed to officially ‘start’ our project – apparently that could have prejudiced some of the public funding.

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The First Cut is the Deepest…

…or it is when the first segment of the network has to run along an unmade track. But here’s the first demonstration that we’re finally turning years of effort and planning into reality: this, today, is the very first section of dig for the first network segment.

It’s slightly ahead of the rest of the project – our local property developer needed to surface the track to his plots so has kindly offered to dig in the ducting for us, to save us (and him) from having to dig up his newly surfaced road again in a few weeks’ time. 

But this is going to serve the first segment of network from the access point to the fibre backhaul at Stronvar, from where the network will be radiating out to the rest of the glen, just as soon as we can get ourselves and suppliers organised – that’s an ongoing job.

We’ve also got the final network design review happening next week, after which we should have everything nailed down, routes and equipment chosen. Then we’ll really be ready to get going.

B4RN Storming

As many will know by know, the pioneer project in self-assembly broadband isn’t Swedish, but from Lancashire, where the staff and volunteers of B4RN have now rolled out true fibre broadband, so far to 2600 properties, with the number growing by the day. Their service is truly future-proof, delivering 1Gb/s now, rising soon to 5Gb/s for those who want it. To put that into perspective, that’s 3x as fast on download and 17x as fast on upload as BT’s fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) service, even in the few areas where that is available. And it’s 12.5x as fast on download as BT’s so-called “Superfast Fibre” (which it isn’t). And, when there’s a demand for even more performance, all B4RN has to do is turn up the wick, not dig up the ground.

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Walking Forwards for Christmas

As we head into the seasonal oblivion of  Christmas it’s nice to be able to do so on some good news, after the interminable bureaucratic setbacks of the last eighteen months. 

Firstly, we were finally able to issue our new tender on Wednesday, through the usual government and EU mechanisms. All 62 separate documents of it. And, rather to our own surprise, no civil servants were permanently harmed during the production of it. Some ears did get singed though. Continue reading Walking Forwards for Christmas

BT Moving in Mysterious Ways

We set up BCB after years of trying to persuade BT to do something – anything – to improve local broadband. Where they’ve been consistent is their contention that our area is not a viable commercial proposition even for their half-baked FTTC service. They wouldn’t even engage with us to help develop our model through their community outreach programme, although they did tell The Telegraph that we’d turned them down. Not so. Continue reading BT Moving in Mysterious Ways

R100

The original R100 was the most successful British airship of the 1930s, insofar as it never actually crashed and burned, unlike rather too many of its contemporaries. So let’s hope that’s a good omen, as the Scottish Government’s new broadband programme has been given the same name. In this case though, it stands for “Reach 100%”. By that, they mean provision of coverage of 100% of properties with “superfast” broadband by 2021.

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You Can’t Get There From Here: Rural Broadband in the 2020s

This is the text of the talk given by Richard Harris at 2016’s Broadband World Forum, on 18 October 2016. As it happens, we were on immediately after the director of BT’s Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) project in Cornwall, who, after summarising the good work done there, regrettably went on to immediately perpetuate the spurious and readily debunkable claims of digital leadership that have helped give BT such a bad name.

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