Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Broadband : what is the cause of the cause ?

Why does rural UK get such poor fixed Broadband service? The answers are may fold and I can't really speak for the rest of the UK and my picture is obviously incomplete, but here goes
  1. We have a single incumbent supplier of last step infrastructure[the cable from exchange to your house]  who is in effectively unregulated by the regulator and in complete control of the market, this is OpenReach which is of course a subsidiary of B.T.
  2. Councils and government don't understand the technology and business issues, so rely on information provided by the key players (B.T.) to set their direction. This results in a type of Stockholm syndrome where ministers and public servants become infatuated and absolutely trusting of their capture. Councilors for example don't understand the business or technology to be effective in providing oversight, so they don't. An other example of willful blindness by well intentioned people, but still not an excuse.
  3. Because of 1 and 2, mobile operators have been ignored and left to their own devices. The fact that I now get 14MB over 3G is testment to the eficacy of competition and advancing technology.
  4. Compared to countries like the US we pay too little for fixed line. 
  5. The government subsidy (from Wales or Westimister) is going a fair way to making BT a Sky competitor and not actually providing decent coverage and speeds.

Much like the Railways or Water or Electricity, the last step is highly problematic to implement proper competition, so we have a veneer of competition. Companies like TalkTalk who compete on the bits that don't really matter like the contract and add on services.

So is a solution to phase out fixed line all together over the next 10 years? No public money be put into fixed line at all anywhere in the UK as there is no possible way that fair and effective competition which acts for the benefit of UK PLC can come into play. Let the mobile operators have a shot, they have a better change of providing a decent solution as it is clear BT won't be.

I have certainly come round to the way of thinking that the current alleged superfast roll out should be halted as it is 1) not superfast 2) it lacks coverage 3) we the tax payer are being overcharged 4) BT is able to veto other solutions/innovation and it is aggressively taking that option.

Like so many other sub-optimal (I am being kind) services, I can't see this situation changing while as a population continue to tolerate it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Out of Broadband poverty : the importance of backhaul networks

Last week our Broadband on a pole solution gave us at best about 2Mb and usually about 1MB and sometimes less.

In the last few days 3 have upgraded their backhaul network (I assume since the signal strength on the router remains the same) and now we get

2 important lessons that I take away

  1. The speed of the backhaul network needs government and regulator attention. I suspect the mobile companies want to do the right thing, i.e. give more bandwidth as that is how they make money, they just need freedom to do it.
  2. Don't wait for B.T. and the Welsh Governent to maybe or maybe not improve your Broadband lot as it will be at least 2 years away and may not do anything at all for you in the next 10.
With some luck the next year should see a kick towards 30MB with 4G without having to make any changes to the solution.

If you read this, live in the south Aberystwyth area and think that is the solution for me, I suggest not using Three. Try EE or Vodafone instead. We don't want to contend, do we.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Belfast 28 years on

Just a northern post-industrial town

I last visited Belfast in 1985 for my grand fathers funeral which was probably the most bizzare funeral you can attend on account of packing 9 adult males plus coffin into the hurse for security reasons I still don't understand to this day. A lot has changed since then and it is all for the better.

On Thursday I was part of the British Computer Society Acreditation Panel for Queens University Computer Science. For obvious reasons I can't talk about the visit as the outcome needs to be ratified, but I was very impressed by the overall student experience and in particular by the library complex which is the best student working environment I have seen. If you are visiting Queens, it is well worth a visit.

There is clearly a lot Wales could learn about how to develop a computing sector, but the Welsh Government is unlikely to embrase any of the lessons and to be fair the situation is different.

I was chatting with the taxi driver on the way back to the airport about how different it was since my last visit and he mentioned that people from the north of Ireland, especially youngsters, work harder than their counter parts across the water. I suspect he is spot on.

The only landmark I remember of my previous visit is the Black Mountain and wish I had time for a run up there this week. I shall be taking any opportunity I get to visit again.