I was asked to comment last night on Radio 4’s PM programme about the commitment in the Queen’s Speech to 10Mb/s broadband for all in the UK by 2020. The BBC only had a very limited time available, but I did manage to get ‘fatuous’ and ‘insane’ into my piece, which gives you some idea of where I’m coming from. The on-air piece itself is available here on iPlayer (starting 17:37 in).
Yes, these are pictures of a nuclear bunker, this being the forthcoming Bogons data centre near Comrie. It is also where our fibre should meet that of the wider world and will, we hope, achieve economies of scale from aggregation with other users that will make our network ever cheaper to run: if we just bought our backhaul (the link between the glen and the wider internet) at about the same initial cost from a commercial provider, we’d still have to pay Openreach’s Excess Construction Costs to get the link from the Strathyre Exchange to the entrance to the glen, but we’d never thereafter gain any benefit from others using the wider link. With the bunker, the idea is that we start at par and then go down in cost from there.
We’ve had the cabling company that works with Bogons, our preferred supplier, out to look at the glen and they’ve now been commissioned to come back and carry out the necessary detailed survey (taking 4/5 days) to fully cost what’s needed. That’s happening from 8 March. We’ve asked them to provide us with a menu of costs for each part of the network: the 13km that gets to all bar 22 of the 178 properties in our area and for each segment beyond that (totalling another 13km). This will let us work out just how much of the work we need to do ourselves to get to all parts of the glen: we know that the only way we will be able to provide fibre to every house or business in the area will through significant community effort as part of the lay.
The rest of our costs are now fairly firm, so we’re awaiting the survey results that will let us know just where we stand. We’re including in that survey the costs of crossing both the glen road where needed and the A84 where we’re serving Balquhidder Station.
Whilst we and other communities in the UK push ahead with bringing fibre to every property in our area, The UK and Local governments continue to give a good impression of being in thrall to the BT Group, an underachieving and disinterested private monopoly that still tries to pretend that copper-to-premises is a valid service model for the twenty-first century. Continue reading Copper-Bottomed Con
As we paced up and down the glen over Christmas, working out where to bury the fibre for our network, we had a rather helpful reminder from nature: courtesy of Storm Frank, we’ve had the highest water levels here that anyone can remember. Continue reading Damp Reminder
On Friday 20th November we held the first public meeting for Balquhidder Community Broadband: we’ve been working away these past months to get costs, tenders and demand sorted out and now have at least the first steps towards effective, community-driven broadband for our area. And not before time. For any who missed the occasion, a video version of the presentation is on youtube:
Like many other rural Scottish communities, our problem is geography: having a fairly small but highly dispersed population strung out along the loch sides and side glens. Our core funding from Community Broadband Scotland will cover the capital expenditure and setup for our external connection and at least the bulk of our costs for our backbone within the glen, which is great. However, connecting the outlying clusters of properties (most of them farms) might be pushing the limits of available funding.
The Scottish Government makes a point in its goals for the Digital Scotland (DSSB) rollout that there will always be some areas for which provision of terrestrial broadband is impractical and that the fallback for those areas will include satellite-based broadband.
Unfortunately, there is a heavy dose of wishful thinking here: without direct public intervention, commercial operators cannot be guaranteed to provide a reliable and consistent service. This is borne out by experience in practice.
Our exercise of trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot – bringing Gigabit-class fibre broadband to Balquhidder Glen at sustainable cost continues. However, another basic of twenty-teens life is coming to Balquhidder, this time after only moderate whinging from us locals.
We have now set up a community email list for all those interested in the rollout and progress of Balquhidder Community Broadband: please go here if you’re interested in receiving news or asking questions.