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back to article UK.gov told not to subsidise superfast broadband

Francesco Caio, the former top cable and Wireless beancounter tasked by the government with an economic analysis of next generation internet deployment in the UK, has come out against subsidies for fibre. In his widely-trailed report for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, released today, Caio said the …

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Ian

So in other words.

To get fibre to the home wont cost £28.8bn it'll cost £5.76bn.

If 80% of the £28.8bn is in street digging then that cost is wrong because you don't need to dig the street. Fibre via sewers, overhead fibre, the method a company advertised years ago that just cuts a narrow fibre width cut in the road whilst laying the cable behind it and filling it in afterwards so that you can lay miles of the stuff in a day with 0 disruption all do away with well over £20bn of the £28.8bn figure.

Quite why therefore the £28.8bn figure is being banded about I don't know, the only reason I can guess is that the person behind this report has some vested interest in not seeing next generation broadband rolled out because again, the real figure of deployment isn't even a quarter of this amount he has stated. Presumably also fibre to cabinet can also be decreased by a similar ratio dropping the cost of that to around £1bn.

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Railtracks

"The report recommends that investment should be encouraged by an array of initiatives, including establishing standards so local groups can press ahaead with their own deployments."

Yeah, right. S'pose it'll create a whole new "market" for companies to supply "connectivity" between several hundred incompatible fibre networks. Preemptive Balkanisation - just great.

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Frankly...

while I agree that money should be spent on the backbones, getting the advantage to the door of every joe blogs instead of just the hight-paying business users. I like, I would guess, many other businesses use a typical residential ASDL or ASDL2+ line (cable being harder to get hold of), and the prospect of someone digging up the driveway to put in Fibre fills me with joy!

Sadly I'll have to keep flicking through the BT catalogue at all the nice things I can't afford.

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Competitor Nations?

"The UK's internet infrastructure should be benchmarked every year against competitor nations"

<hopeful>

Is South Korea a competitor nation, by any chance?

</hopeful>

Thought not...

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Anonymous Coward

Sharing ducts...

"...digging up roads would account for up to 80 per cent of the expense of laying a fibre network. Sharing ducts with other utilites could significantly cut that..."

Surely most of the ducting is already in place for existing suppliers. Cable companies have ducts to a large proportion of urban properties, and BT have ducts pretty much everywhere (though the bit about aerial cables to hop from the telepgraph pole across the pavement is a *good* idea) already.

Surely the first step is fibre to the street cabs. All of them, if they aren't already. Pulled through the existing ducting. Then lots of people can have Gbps speeds without needing fibre to the doorstep, another tranche can have 100Mbps cos they're further from the street furniture.

But the bottleneck would still be at the ISP's backbone, as the report says, and the ISPs would still be oversubscribing their capacity and lying about it to the consumer. It's not investment in the last mile that's needed, it's investment in the backbone.

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Like it matters.

Remember the report on Cannabis - paid for by the government and completely ignored.

Why should anyone believe the government will pay any attention to this report?

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Coat

Vested interest to the hilt

Mr Caio still holds tons of CW stock. The majority of CW customers are SMB and corporates with lots of branches like Tesco. These customers will be the first to benefit from higher speeds. CW is the first lose as they will migrate to fiber in droves.

Wonderful choice of a person to screw the broadband future of Britain. He has also done a great job at defending his vested interests,

Me coat, the one with the "shoot all corrupt sleazy quangos" on the back.

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Of course..

why should the government help us with the money we gave them? Let the market do it's thing and charge us to death. We're in an economic boom after all, might as well enjoy it.

Let's go buy some more consultant's time!

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£28.8b?

That's what the Olympics is going to end up costing us so we must decide - superfast broadband for all or two weeks of unpopular sports?

I think we should choose the one that'll leave the best legacy..

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Unhappy

UK Broadband

What can I say were in the Darkages with our broadband and this doesnt help matters.

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Anonymous Coward

"sharing ducts with other utilities"

like existing phone lines perhaps?

Step One

¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯

Dig up the existing cable and use some sort of small robot (if neccesary) to determine the integrity of the duct.

Step Two

¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯

Tie piece of string to end of existing cable and end of fibre

Step Three

¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯

Pull far end of cable. Stop when fibre appears.

Seriously, though, their idea seems to be "we recognise it'll be a problem later if we don't do anything, so we'll not do anything- knowing full well that BT will hold back until we finally cave in (by which time fibre, petrol (used to transport it) and manpower in general will be more expensive).

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Happy

Why dig up bloody roads?

Pretty much every house in the country has a connection to the sewer (I apologise in advance to those poor sods with a septic tank) Sewer pipes already run the length & breadth of the country. Fibre through the sewer has been tested & works.

Job-jobbed.

Would also remove the likelyhood of JCB-fade. :-)

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The summary is....

Your stuffed unless you live in a city centre.

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Overhead Cabling

All overhead cabling must go. It's the dumbest thing in the world - ugly, dangerous, and keeping it maintained (here in the States anyway) is responsible for over half of a utilities annual budget.

Whatever you do don't let them relax rules, or make it easier to hang new overhead cable. It's the ultimate poor mans solution.

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No need for subsidy

Just pair up urban and rural franchise areas - if you want the central London gig, you have to connect the whole of North Yorkshire first.

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Franchise

"Just pair up urban and rural franchise areas - if you want the central London gig, you have to connect the whole of North Yorkshire first."

Works for me long as us northerners get it before the softie south :-)

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The Old and the New SurReal Grand Master Pilots .... LoveLazyLacey Pirates

I would be rather keen to follow the Dutch model of Building Virgin Future Infrastructure to the Highest Global Standards of Integration through Immigration Channels/Scenarios..... Active Simulations in XXXXCeptional ProgramMIngs

That way you always have Brand Spanking New and Imaginatively Different rather than just Repaired Old and Rickety for Historical Shows/Heritage Rallies.

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Alert

So the summary is

1) we want broadband, faster if you could please

2) we don't want to pay for it

3) we don't care if the constructing companies need to declare bankruptcy half a dozen times to become viable.

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Anonymous Coward

I dont get it

Both the cable and telcos in US are laying fiber in urban areas with out gov money. Why cant that be done in the UK with out them being on the gov dole

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Should have been done years ago.....

Back in the 80's BT offered to run fibre to the premises for the whole country ... on the condition that it was allowed to provide broadcast services (TV). Thatcher's government said no. An opportunity to be a world leader sadly lost.

Back to now - I think a lot of you are missing how hard it is to run fibre to the cabinet. You run your fibre in existing ducts from the exchange to your cabinet but then you need a load of hardware to split out (de-multiplex) back to the individual lines. Perhaps another whole cabinet full of stuff. I'm not sure how they propose to power it - existing lines are powered from the exchange (50v backed up by batteries and generators), I imagine the new cabinet hardware will probably want mains? In which case when there's a power cut everything goes...

I could be wrong - I was replaced in BT by an Indian contractor many years ago.

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shortet here...

"All overhead cabling must go. It's the dumbest thing in the world - ugly, dangerous, and keeping it maintained (here in the States anyway) is responsible for over half of a utilities annual budget."

Overhead cabling here is normally quite short - in most towns it's only a few metres, even in small villages it tends to be only tens of metres.

There are some significant lengths, but they are fairly uncommon and often well protected, nothing like the sprawl encountered in the states - we just don't have room to make that much mess ;)

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Paris Hilton

Sweden has been DTRT for years

I remember a long time ago (~5 years) a friend telling me that his Dad, living in rural Sweden, was getting his broadband put in. The government were running a 4km fibre line from the main road direct to (only) his house.

Apparently, when something is an essential service - like water, electricity, porn - the best way to ensure fair and even access is to either do it all by government, or fix the installation and running costs to set amounts.

This is done in the UK for things like phone lines - wherever you are in the UK, it only costs (around) £117 to install a new BT line, whether it is just connecting a few wires in an exchange, or running a new line from the exchange.

Paris, because she is gagging for a fat pipe to be laid in front of her

AC, because that Paris joke was so bad....

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Magic word the market

The free market has brought us our world class train service, a bus service you could set your watch to, competitive airports which bring knee trembling joy to all its users

Where as if we let the government build it our newspapers will constantly bemoan the whole shambolic affair as a white elephant with rabies, run by larger drenched Chavs packed to the gunnels with the most horrendous pron

The next-but one government will then sell the lot for a knock down price to some close friends and the newspapers will suddenly start to describe it as a world beating super mother fucer worth every penny of the 3 times over subscribed share price

A series of "Complex" finacial arrangments involving 1 ball and 3 up-turned cups will mean that only the banks can walk away with everyone elses money

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Coat

@Martin Lyne

.

Dear man.... You appear to be somewhat stressed. What you need is a nice glass of lightly taxed alcoholic beverage and an evening in front of the box watching something original and entertaining.

Hmmmm .... I see what you mean. AARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHH

Mine is the one with a passport in the pocket.

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Anonymous Coward

There is a town

in the states - that has been toying with the idea of putting in their own fibre. They finally got round to amidst warnings the telcos would not be happy, and low and behold they have now ended up being sued by the telco.

We don't even need a group effort to fibre the land, we just need indivudals who want to do it, and this will relate to the price of fibre and routers, both of which are tumbling in price at the moment as production gears up.

The Internet is just a concept really, it is what happens when multiple networks intersect, sure there are backbones, and there is a common protocol suite, but look into it closely and you will see for the main part it is a hetrogenous network.

If the network was owned segment by segment by private individuals it would give us a place where there is no government interference, which would be great. So, I suspect the government doesn't really want this to happen and their lack of funding is more to do with them not having the money.

It is going to happen though, and hopefully the old telcos won't see too much of it, and some of the newer players get a slice of the action. It is going to be through the sewers or just people linking up. It does actually make more sense to link up, stronger network, and less traffic.

The current topology is a bit daft really, everything gets shoved to the center and then shoved back out.

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@Geoff Johnson

>Why should anyone believe the government will pay any attention to this report?

Because while spending government money on IT projects they DO want (more databases) is OK, spending it on something they've already decided is unnecessary (i.e. has no security/war on terror angle) is not OK and the decision should be down to those good old investors.

They are admirably consistent in only listening to those reports that fit in with what they, in their infinite benevolence and wisdom, have already decided they are going to do.

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Damned UK

This is the UK - we all want everything now and do not want to have to pay.

The government wants to brag about our broadband but won't invest. The cable companies want more bandwidth to oversell but wont invest.

Everyone wants the benefit and no wants the inconvenience. The cable co's and the gov' will argue the toss over this until we are near the bottom of the global broadband table and we've become the laughing stock of the world.

Uncapped 100MB each way in Stockholm for less money than I currently pay for a shitty 2MB line that's reduced for 13 hours of the day.

I hate this country so much at the moment. If ever we needed to string a load of useless, sponging, whining bastards up it's the current Corporate leaders and their groveling, shit enabling politicians.

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@ Damned UK

"I hate this country so much at the moment. If ever we needed to string a load of useless, sponging, whining bastards up it's the current Corporate leaders and their groveling, shit enabling politicians."

Damn straight. AC for prez!

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Re: Overhead

There's nothing wrong with overhead wiring and cabling, the only issue is expense. It's cheaper to deploy underground duct and cabling on new sites than it is to provide overhead capacity (poles cost nearly a grand each installed). Also, some routes have recently changed to running overhead rather than underground (such as cabling in areas likely to flood). The only real issue is the vulnerability of the overhead network in terms of collisions with poles and low wires and the exposed nature of cables and joints.

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Alien

What a surprise

The same government who said we see no need for the internet in the 1970s (or was it 60s?) now gets a report telling it that it doesnt even need to lift a finger. Music to the governments ears!

This country is so far behind in terms of internet its just shocking. But then even when we get places with good internet like universities on multi-gigabit links, its still terrible because of the UKs poor routing and even poorer peering.

We used to be at the forefront of technology, it was even a Brit who developed the world wide web (and we invented packet switching - contrary to the irrefutable source of wikipedia - we were the first to have a working packet switching network) but now we are so far behind we are in danger of being over-taken by Mexico and Romainia.... great ceausescu's ghost!

Why is it that we are so slow to adapt to new technology. Like HDTV, why are we only NOW getting Hd channels when the US and Japan have been using it since 2002. This country is a joke when it comes to technology, all them old farts in parliament would rather bury their heads in the sand than solve real problems. But then when you look at the amount of data the government has lost this year....perhaps its a good thing ?

Obviously the govenrment has not heard of encryption OR security... Maybe we can Winnuke MI5 ?

Bottom line... wipe out the ignorant labour government and anyone who is not willing to live in the 21st Century and grab the telco engineers from Sweden/Holland and put em to work in the dark on spliffs and munchies until we have a total fibre network to the house and all the telco bosses are dead.

Boot the old fogies out of number 10 and get someone in there who wasnt taught to use a slide rule.....

< peace >

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Only half the battle

The thing is this is only half the battle, because say every single home in the uk is connected with fiber great. That cost x billion's to do, but now ether your connection will be slower than before, or your price for broadband will shoot up.

The reason being is the backhaul and centrals as mentioned in the article. If the current centrals/atm backhaul is left in place, ISP's wont have enough bandwidth to offer even 8mbit because there will no longer be people who get less due to loop loss limitations. Instead everyone will have faster pipes and will demand more of the same size pie. Some exchanges are already stuffed just on VP capacity. I talk to people getting 800kbps throughput on their 8128KBPS sync line (7150 BRAS) and nothing can be done because the line is performing according to BT specs.

So ok BT upgrade the backhaul (probably as part of 21CN), great now the bottleneck is in your ISP's cetral's, if the providers has to get more to keep up then cost's go up to the customer or more and more aggressive traffic shaping has to be applied to mean that the network doesnt choak.

You then have the issue of the ISP's core network, most ISP's core network link's are not as fast as people might think because not many people are maxing out their links 24/7, but and increase on bandwidth is going to mean investment in faster core network's.

Then last of all there's the peering, more peeringing will be needed to carry more traffic which while not the greatest expense is still yet more ISP level cost increase which at the end of the day will end up being passed back to the customer.

Im expecting a customer install cost of fiber at around £1k and average monthly price for high bandwidth line over this (not traffic shapped because thats just lame) to be in the £100's. Its a price id be willing to pay but I doubt most of the UK would.

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Unhappy

History repeats...

Unless my frail old memory is playing tricks, didn't BT - or would it be the post office back then? - propose to start laying fibre to the door throughout the uk? At the tme, I think it was for telephony, TV and the like plus "future services" (which would, of course, become the interwebs).

Again, IIRC, the idea was nixed 'cos Maggie was aghast at the sheer audacity of a state monopoly proposing to steal the crusts from the very mouths of the poor, starving private entrepeneur...

Anyone confirm or deny?

advTHANKSance

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Stop

amanfromMars

Am I the only one who whenever he sees that name skips straight to the next comment, having given up hope of ever understanding a frikkin' word he writes??!

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Unhappy

@Bob Ginger

Yes Bob, BT offered to cable the country in exchange for being able to market TV etc. as you said.

Maggie was very friendly with Mr Reagan at the time and of course private companies and the market are so much more efficient at this sort of thing.... yes?

So anyone remember the precursor to all this NYNEX ( New York New England Xchange )

They were going to cable the country, they did manage to do a lot of the densely populated bits, but before they had the chance to cable the rest they ran out of money and had to be rescued by another cable company which of course took on none of the NYNEX cabling obligations. Now who could possibly have seen that one coming?

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Anonymous Coward

Lets face it

Lets just be honest here: We're never going to get fibre. At the current rate, we're never even going to get what we're already paying for.

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Dead Vulture

hang on there

We already Paid in full for BT's current infrastructure, when it was a public utility, and all it's done since privatisation is up it's prices. I never got any money from the sale of something I paid for, only UK Gov and the shareholders, so why dont the damn shareholders pay for the cost of running fibre? not as if we users will ever see any savings or refunds from it?

It's similar to the road fund licence brigade who assume it's a levy to repair the roads....NO, that changed in the 80's, it's a licence to USE public roads....

Private companies should use their own money, do what northeren rock ahd to do to get more money, issue a rights share, stop expecting the UK taxpayer to fund your profits via "sweeteners", no one pays me a sweetner to put my dustbin out so the private company can empty it

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Anonymous Coward

So UK's Backend Sucks Compared to US?

"Caio said today that broadband speeds are increasing and the current peak time slowdown experienced by consumers was evidence of a bottleneck in the backhaul, not caused by the aged copper last mile."

If I recall correctly, it had been reportedly recently by a study that the problem w/ the US internet infrastructure wasn't the backend (w/c turned-out to be well able to handle the current, and immediate future bandwidth), but thelast-mile. The report basically smacked the faces of the telcos whinning about the the need to throttle the users.

When comparing the two (studies), it seems that UK's backend sucks big-time. Ofcourse, an independent study is in order (unless I misread and the report by Caio IS independent).

Good Luck.

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