back to article Infrastructure wonks: Tear up Britain's copper phone networks by 2025

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has told UK.gov it should allow for copper-based phone networks to be switched off by 2025, as well as recommending a host of other expensive broadband-based ideas. The commission, which is a government body that tells it what to build, also called for the rollout of full fibre to …

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha does the NIC really think that it would be affordable to roll out a Fibre network in 7 years? I'm sure most would love this but is there the workforce available to facilitate this? I would agree though that copper shouldn't still be being rolled out with a move to Fibre for new builds (residential and commercial)

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NIC really think that it would be affordable to roll out a Fibre network in 7 years?

Well, if we rolled back our wasteful foreign aid programme to an OECD weighted average value that would save us around £7bn every year. If we spent that same as Italy (a comparably sized and comparably wealthy economy) we'd have about £10bn a year to play with. If we cancelled the stupid, stupid idea that is HS2 we'd have £56bn+ to play with. Then there's other waste that we're on the hook for like Heathrow's unneeded runway 3, a small fleet of over priced nuclear power stations, or the whole F35 boondoggle. The money's there - its just it is being wasted on other poorly conceived infrastructure programmes.

I'm sure most would love this but is there the workforce available to facilitate this?

Cancel some of the other daft schemes above, or stop the smart meter roll out. Or address the UK unemployment count of 1.4m by making job offers they can't refuse.

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If we closed down the NHS we could 'save' even more money.

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Do you trust the average unemployed PFY to install fibre? Dream on.

Do you think all the local authorities will let their roads be dug up to lay the fibre without a hitch (especially in built up cities/historic towns)? Dream on.

What about the islands, mainly Scottish ones admittedly, who'll lay the fibre (specialist boats aren't cheap or readily available).

They need to do it incrementally.

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>Well, if we rolled back our wasteful foreign aid programme

How then would the government funnel subsidies to British Aerospace etc ... ?

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My partners friend just moved into a new build she said that he said "I have to wait for a year for fibre as it wasn't installed when they built the houses".

Great. And that's a new build. Where as the house I just bought, built in 1890 has fibre.

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@Ledswinger

and if we pulled out of the EU we could save £350 million an hour and spend it on all sorts of things. I'd vote for upgrading the domestic water supply network to dispense Gin instead of water.

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Do you trust the average unemployed PFY to install fibre? Dream on.

Most of the costs are in digging and reinstatement that are manual labour. And if you've seen the herberts VM use to "pull" cables, you'll see that's not a skilled job either. The actual skilled labour content of any infrastructure programme is minimal. I've programme managed infrastructure investment of about half a billion quid, and I've worked for a range of businesses that have low skill labour operations. I do know what I'm talking about, and yes, it would be quite feasible to get a significant workforce from the ranks of the unemployed.

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I'd vote for upgrading the domestic water supply network to dispense Gin instead of water.

So you're saying you (and similarly for other objectors) are actually AGREEING with the current spending plans of the shower of piss that pass for a government, and that those plans are either immutable, or offer better value to the country than a national fibre roll out?

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Anonymous Coward

affordable to roll out a Fibre network in 7 years?

If we repealed the Climate Change Act post brexit and phased out subsidies to so called 'renewable energy' that's around another £15bn a year ...to spend on something actually useful*

* Shell energy review revealed that German, doyen of renewable energy and which has more nuclear power than Britain per capita, is in fact the highest carbon emitter per capita in Europe.

Thanks for Energiewende chaps, really worked a blinder.

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Anonymous Coward

That is exactly why in rural areas things like B4RN work. Providing 1Gbit/s to the house to £30/m. I am currently undertaking a similar project to install fiber to every house where i live in a rural area. Its not in the UK, but as labour cost are not needed to be calculated into the initial build if you go the Co-op route (pay them back with the profits), it becomes significantly cheaper to build a network which a telco wouldnt do as it costs them for too much due to 'skilled' labour costs. Fiber is extremely cheap, it costs less than kite string. Its the cost of putting it in the ground.

When you have unskilled labourers you don't just put armored fiber in the ground directly, you duct it (should do that anyway) and blow or pull the fiber later and splice it, both of which can be taught very quickly not needing fully trained people as they would only be needed to supervise / fault check.

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"The money's there - its just it is being wasted on other poorly conceived infrastructure programmes."

So switch it from one poorly conceived infrastructure programme to another. Right. It'll make us all better off or something.

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dispense Gin Black Bush instead of water

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I think the challenge you respond to

Was more about achievability than money. There are not enough specialists to sink the money into, regardless of the cash being available.

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"labour cost are not needed to be calculated into the initial build if you go the Co-op route (pay them back with the profits)"

ITYF that if you try to do that on a national scale you'll need a labour force that needs to be paid as they go.

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Go

foreign aid is domestic aid

When the UK gives aid to poor countries it is mainly domestic producers who receive the aid. When DFID via CDC invests millions in luxury holiday villages or shopping malls (google it) it is UK companies who get the reddies. So it is not a zero-sum game.

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Unhappy

FTTP

I've recently moved into a new build WITH fibre to the premises. The speed is great but the issue is that the choice of providers pretty much BT only so I'm stuck with their inflated prices and shit service.

I could go with Zen but they don't provide a residential VOIP phone service.

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Re: foreign aid is domestic aid

When the UK gives aid to poor countries it is mainly domestic producers who receive the aid.

If you'd care to submit evidence that more than a fraction of the £13bn wasted goes to domestic interests I'll take your point seriously - but even then it is irrelevant, its a huge sum of money squandered for very few beneficial outcomes.

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Germany is the workshop of the world

Germany does need energy for steelworks, car factories etc. Sadly some are a bit dirty still, also in the East they are still burning brown coal, which is obsolete. Replacing the atomic capacity will also take some time.

On the ground, in Bavaria it is typical to have an electric car and solar panels on the roof, funded by juicy subsidies. There is a public charging point outside my house. The electricity is 100% renewable as it is owned by the city council who have their own windfarm.

The same "city works" have also rolled out fibre to 70% of households in Munich. They own the roads and the utilities so digging up roads is not a problem.

Maybe with Corbyn the UK could one day catch up.

Although Bittorrent is very illegal here, so I'm not sure what people will do with all the bandwidth!

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Anonymous Coward

dispense Gin

I'm all for that as long I get tonic out of the hot tap but not hot of course that would just be silly.

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never biting the hand that feeds it

Giving aid to a country buys more influence than spending more on nuclear weapons. It is a win win for the UK. British companies make profit, jobs and pay tax, and the UK gets more influence in the world through "soft power".

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Re: foreign aid is domestic aid

its a huge sum of money squandered for very few beneficial outcomes.

Just because you can't see the intangible benefits of foreign aid (including, but not limited to: our countries perceived standing in the world (net positive), stabilisation of third-world economies (which reduce conflict, which costs everyone money, worldwide, except those manufacturing and selling weapons), reduction in migration from such countries due to conflict, etc. etc.), doesn't mean they are not there.

Whilst there may be a portion of such budgets which end up in questionable hands, I would expect it to be a minuscule amount of the total. It might make good headlines in the Daily Mail, but if you believe one word of what is printed there (with the exception of the tiny retractions at the bottom of p34, or published on their website at midnight on a Sunday), you are a gullible fool.

The foreign aid budget (like our EU budget contribution) is such a small amount proportionately, that it doesn't even show up in a pie-chart of government spending, except as a tiny sliver, less than, for example, what the UK government 'wastes' on VAT exemptions. Google it and learn something, rather than parroting bullshit spread to you by someone with vested interests.

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Re: Germany is the workshop of the world

"Although Bittorrent is very illegal here, so I'm not sure what people will do with all the bandwidth!"

Commonly known as a solution in search of a problem.

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@Ledswinger -

I don't know why all the downvotes. 33bn sounds like a massive number, but over 10 years that's £3.3bn/yr. UK GDP is around 2 tr/year. As a policy that requires some government funding, surely "having a 21st century communications infrastructure" ranks fairly high compared to "giving our soldiers new shiny toys to play with that are only marginally better but cost ten times as more than the ones they already have"

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Meh

Do you trust the average unemployed PFY to install fibre?

Why not - the incumbents seem to.

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Re: I think the challenge you respond to

I think the challenge you respond to...Was more about achievability than money. There are not enough specialists to sink the money into, regardless of the cash being available.

Most of the cost and effort of a programme like this isn't delivered by specialists, it is trenching, ducting, traffic control, reinstatement, access points and cable pulls, putting up cabinets and the like . You have a valid point about the fibre optic joining, termination and connections, and any power connections, but even in that case Openreach could get off their arse and train people.

This isn't unique to telecoms - when the government "invested £700m in bio-medical sciences" to create the Crick Institute, £465m was just building construction cost, not even including fit out - so a thin profit for the constructors, a fat profit for some property consultant or developer, but the vast majority into bricks, mortar, rebar, concrete and navvies, and bugger all really invested in science.

There's some easy wins anyway - legislate for common carriage access to all residential-serving networks larger than (say) 3,000 properties served. That'd take about three years to achieve, but at one swoop that allows access to VM, Hyperopotic et al networks on the same terms they offer their own "telecom retail" business, so they don't lose out. That then means no further action other than asset upgrades in well served urban areas, and Openreach can focus on serving areas not currently getting FTTP or cable. So far from being a £30 billion programme, we're down to about £7bn for what is primarily a rural broadband rollout plus selected urban areas that don't have FTTP or cable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: foreign aid is domestic aid

And a very large proportion is actually spent in the UK, on British firms, doing the work overseas. So a lot of the money stays in the UK.

Anon, for obvious reasons.

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Re: foreign aid is domestic aid

The foreign aid budget (like our EU budget contribution) is such a small amount proportionately, that it doesn't even show up in a pie-chart of government spending,

Are you terminally stupid? Anything and nothing can show up on a pie chart depending upon its scale and the de minimis segment size.

Just because you can't see the intangible benefits of foreign aid (including, but not limited to...

Simple fact is that the UK is the second largest foreign aid donor in the world, despite having an economy that is what, the sixth largest in the world. In return for that we get all this prestige....hold on, I hear nothing about that. Ok, so we get lots of trade....oh, no, that goes to China, the US, Germany. Well, maybe we improve things over there....doesn't look like it, all the proper work on say ebola was delivered by MSF, not sluggish, incompetent national aid programmes from any nation. Maybe we prevent conflicts...oh dear, top beneficiarties of British aid were Pakistan, Syria, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Jordan, South Sudan. So nope, not preventing conflicts one fucking bit.

less than, for example, what the UK government 'wastes' on VAT exemptions

What's that got to do with it? I take it you are advocating reinstating VAT on women's sanitary products, and raising VAT on residential energy from the current 5% to 20%? Idiot.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: affordable to roll out a Fibre network in 7 years?

* Shell energy review

Oh, good. A nice unbiased survey then.

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>are actually AGREEING with the current spending plans of the shower of piss that pass for a government,

I despise Theresa May and all her works, but, yes, I would rather she made these decisions than you.

Our Foreign Aid amounts to 0.7% of our GDP. For a rich country like ours, that's just decent behaviour.

I'm not a fan of HS2 (I'd rather it was significantly faster), but rail capacity is sorely needed.

I'm not a fan of Heathrow's interminable blackmail - but that's not govt money (Heathrow will soak the passengers, not govt).

F35? Well, can't argue with you on that.

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Re: foreign aid is domestic aid

CDC is not foreign aid. It's a bank (a development bank, but a bank, nonetheless). It's purpose is to develop - and that includes everything from fish farms to, yes, shopping malls (and it doesn't use any govt money).

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Anonymous Coward

I know, my point wasn't about paying people later it was about the people not needing to be skilled. Meaning they don't need the full trained nor the higher wages associated with it.

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Victory Gin, perhaps?

We were never at war with...

Wait, how does it go again?

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"it would be quite feasible to get a significant workforce from the ranks of the unemployed"

Nah, the the seasonal turnip pickers from Eastern Europe would just switch to the fibre-laying season.

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"Nah, the the seasonal turnip pickers from Eastern Europe would just switch to the fibre-laying season." Meaning that it would be work done by people who actually want to graft - let's face it, those fruit and veg could have been picked by UK citizens for years - but they haven't.

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Anonymous Coward

Fruit and veg picking

It’s all too easy to mock the “feckless unemployed” (and there is doubtlessly a minority who are that), but if fruit picking doesn’t pay a wage that you can properly live off, can you really blame them?

Yes, we should be grateful for the hardworking Eastern Europeans who do come here to take on fruit picking jobs, but for the main part, even they can only manage it by cramming themseleves into overcrowded accommodation (more people per room than probably entirely legal) and by knowing that it’s a temporary job that they earn and save at least some money from, before returning to the cheaper cost of living in their home countries for the rest of the year.

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The problem is that 7bn aid money is borrowed money.

It's no money laying around.

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Trollface

Thirty three BILLION Pounds?

Does this projected cost include the rebate for weighing in all the copper?

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Re: Thirty three BILLION Pounds?

That's actually a pretty serious point - yes it's an old article but the argument still stands if BT own 75 Million miles of copper https://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/09/22/bt_copper_cable_theft/

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Maybe a compromise is required - optical copper fibre?

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Thumb Up

Maybe that's what Australia have been planning all along, use transparent aluminium as phone lines, then they don't even need to lay fibre to use optical communications.

Wait, what do you mean transparent aluminium is fiction?

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Boffin

It's very real. Here you go: Wikipedia.

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This post has been deleted by its author

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Meh

Affordability is only part of the problem. Fibre doesn't lay itself and requires a reasonable level of skill - if you want it done properly. We're going to struggle to find enough engineers even if we import them from other countries - not forgetting that the current network will still need some until it's retired. It'll mean ramping up training (starting with colleges) as well. And when it's all done probably 90% of the workforce will be useless because one of the benefits of fibre is less maintenance.

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>>benefits of fibre is less maintenance<<

Less cable maintenance yes, JCB induced outages will continue as normal and the hugh amount of hardware scattered around the countryside will need a lot more TLC.

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Joke

re: hugh amount

I don't believe it! {see Icon}

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BT would happily spend £33 Billion on football rights

BT would happily spend £33 Billion on a few seasons of football rights on their poorly performing TV venture rather than spend it on infrastructure.

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Re: BT would happily spend £33 Billion on football rights

Sometimes I think Openreach are the original sharks with frickin' laser beams.

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"Without infrastructure competition, the existing provider has poor incentives to build new fibre networks, as this undermines its existing copper based services."

Except that there is competition. Virgin Media, Hyperoptic and some others that I may be unaware of have built (or inherited) their own infrastructure. Issue is that It only makes sense for them to build out in densely populated areas. Can't make enough ROI for more sparsely populated areas.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: competition

Oh yes, Virgin Media, the cost of their service makes even BT seem cheap.

Oh yes, Virgin Media, the ones that have not touched the cable (aka CoAx) in my street since NTL Laid it decades ago.

Oh yes, Virgin Media who are just using the Virgin brand name and have nowt to do with the 'beardy one'.

Sort of out of the frying pan and into the fire?

Posting AC as I get enough VM junk mail as it is. (3-4 items a month).

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