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
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.