There’s clearly been (and remains) a bit of confusion about how we actually get our connection to the outside world, who provides it and where it actually goes. So the day when that fibre actually got installed to our cabinet seems like a good time to describe it.
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.
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.
…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.
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
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
Amid all the frustrations of trying to follow a public funding process that is clearly being made up by the relevant bodies as they go along, we’ve actually been able to get on with some real work towards the project. We’ve got a model that demonstrates the build cost (we can deliver a 1000+ MB/s network for less than the government’s per premise ‘value’ figure of £3,400 for a 10Mb/s service) and another that shows that the service is sustainable and financially viable. So far, so good.
…Make this stuff up: if what we’re going through had been presented as a plot idea for Yes, Minister, it would have been rejected out of hand as just too implausible.
In a world where uncertainty and idiocy seem to be the new normal, we know we can rely on one thing: the slow-moving nature of British (and Scottish) bureaucracy. We are though, however belatedly, now in the 30-day State Aid Public Consultation window during which commercial operators can rock up and say if they’re planning to do anything in the area. Given that our repeated representations to BT over the years have come to naught and that other commercial operators have refused to consider us – not least for fear of BT deliberately running a ‘spoiler’ project – it seems fairly unlikely that anything will interrupt progress. Continue reading July News
Things may have been a little quiet publicly on the broadband front, but that simply means that, like the swans on the loch, we’ve been paddling furiously beneath the surface, trying to make headway against rising currents. Those currents have been in the form of some hair-rending bureaucracy that’s been belatedly thrown at us by government bodies and which are currently causing us months of delay. So let’s first rewind to this time last year, when we entered into the procurement process required by Community Broadband Scotland for public funding. We followed their process and went out to market to solicit bids for a future-proof broadband service that could be provided at a market-competitive rate. What we got back were a few bids that were mostly poorly prepared, didn’t meet local needs and which offered equipment that would need replacing every few years. Uncool. Continue reading Project Update: June 2016