Category: Next-generation broadband service

B4RN video which describes how they brought real broadband to the country

Article

VIDEO How B4RN’s Community 1Gbps FTTP Broadband Network Began | ISPReview.co.uk

From the horse’s mouth

B4RN

Promo video – Click / Tap to play

Digging For The Future video – Click / Tap to play

My Comments

If you are wanting to know what B4RN is all about, have a look at these two videos which underscore this effort.

Here, it is about the local community preparing a local fibre-optic infrastructure to bring in Gigabit-class real broadband in to their rural area in the North of England. This was more so where BT Openreach were showing very little attention to the rural areas, with them claiming they would offer 95% coverage of the UK and rural communities questioning which areas will represent the 5% that will miss out.

There is an emphasis on the community-focused effort where everyone pitches in to prepare and lay down the infrastructure for this fibre-optic service. The second video, “Digging For The Future”, even had a glimpse at a network-speed-test screenshot where the application’s needle hit the maximum, showing that there is real high-speed broadband available here.

I would see this and the Gigaclear efforts as a point of encouragement for country dwellers who fear they are being treated like second-class citizens when it comes to next-generation broadband.

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AT&T litigate against broadband-infrastructure-preparation by US local government

Article

AT&T sues Louisville to stop Google Fiber from using its utility poles | ARS Technica

AT&T sues Louisville over utility pole law adopted for Google Fiber | WDRB-TV (41) Louisville

WDRB TV news segment video – Click to view
WDRB 41 Louisville News

 

From the horse’s mouth

Google Fiber

Blog Post

My Comments

A situation that is surfacing in the USA is that AT&T are litigating the City Of Louisville, Kentucky because this local government are implementing a “one-touch make-ready” policy concerning their power infrastructure being made ready for the provision of competing Internet service.

What is “dig-once” or “one-touch make-ready”?

An issue that always surfaces with the “pits, poles and pipes” infrastructure managed by utilities and telecommunications providers is being able to prepare this infrastructure at an early point including positioning the existing operator’s wiring and equipment in a manner that subsequent operators can use those pits, poles or pipes. The idea is to avoid the waiting time that an operator (and their potential customers) have to face along with the disturbance associated with long high-noise construction activity that is needed to prepare infrastructure for another operator’s use.

This policy is know as “dig once” for underground infrastructure or “one-touch make ready” for overhead infrastructure.

The USA situation

Most of the power-line infrastructure between the substations and the end-users in the USA is owned by a city’s or county’s local government or a utility company owned or managed by that local government. AT&T, Comcast and other established operators don’t like the idea of a local government facilitating competitive Internet and pay-TV service so they have had state governments write laws to frustrate the provision of Internet service by local governments such as municipal Wi-Fi hotzones.

The fact that a local government implements a “dig-once” or “one-touch make-ready” policy on the infrastructure it owns is considered a threat to the incumbent operator’s monopolistic behaviour because it is simply facilitating a competitor’s access to the pits, poles and pipes owned by the local government or its public utilities entity. AT&T reckons that what happens with “pits, poles and pipes” is under the control of the state government rather than a local government and that they see it as “seizing” their property if AT&T’s wiring is rearranged by a local government or other entities preparing poles for access by other operators.

Who can effectively provide and manage “pits, poles, pipes and towers” infrastructure?

What is surfacing is a courtroom debate about how a local government or utility company can manage their “pits, poles and pipes” infrastructure in the context of facilitating the use of this infrastructure by other operators. Louisville’s local government, Google FIber and other organisations intent on seeing real competition in the USA’s fixed-broadband market are defending or providing moral support for the defence of this policy.

In some ways, this case could affect how access rights, leases and easements on private land for utilities and telecommunications services are granted; along with how independently-owned “pits, poles, pipes and towers” infrastructure is operated. This can range from a fire brigade providing space on its radio tower or a building owner leasing the top of their tall building to radio-based communications providers; a property owner providing a “once-and-for-all” easement for multiple local telecommunications providers to use; or an apartment block or similar development being wired up for one or more broadband services alongside the established telephony and cable providers.

Here, the question that could be raised is the amount of power established operators can have over the same physical infrastructure when it comes to admitting other operators and whether the infrastructure’s owners can set standards concerning the operators “wires’, antennas and equipment”.

This is a case that is of interest to anyone like public or private entities who are in a position to provide infrastructure along with service providers who want to provide competing telecommunications service.

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Huntsville integrates Google Fiber and a municipal fibre-optic network

Articles Welcome To Huntsville Gig City USA sign courtesy of City Of Huntsville, Alabama

Google Fiber is Coming to Huntsville, Alabama | DSL Reports

Google Fiber comes to Alabama through a city-run network | Engadget

Huntsville, Alabama, has NASA, US Missile Command … and now gigabit Google Fiber | The Register

From the horse’s mouth

Google Fiber

Blog Post

Sign-up / Notification page

City Of Huntsville, Alabama (local government)

Press Release

My Comments

It is easy to doubt that next-generation fibre-optic broadband would show up in Alabama, one of the most conservative of the states in the USA. But Huntsville, a city with 180,000 people, has taken the challenge.

This is because Huntsville has been found to be the best educated metropolitan area in Alabama and has been known as “Rocket City” due to the US Missile Command and NASA setting up shop there, thus leading to an increase in the number of engineers in that city.

The local government in Huntsville have, with the co-operation of Huntsville Utilities are laying down fibre-optic infrastructure as part of establishing a 21st-century smart power grid in that city. But they facilitated Google setting up their Google Fiber next-generation FTTP broadband service by leasing the infrastructure to Google Fiber. Tommy Battle, the Mayor of Huntsville and Jay Stowe, the CEO of Huntsville Utilities has put his weight behind this effort. As well, the arrival of Google Fiber in Huntsville would strengthen that city’s credibility as a tech centre especially where a lot of research data is being exchanged.

If Google were to set up their Google Fiber next-generation broadband network, they either would have to create their own network, purchase an existing fibre-optic network like a “dark-fibre” network or lease bandwidth on an operational network. By leasing the network from Huntsville Utilities, they would be foregoing the control they have over the infrastructure but would be saving on the start-up time and capital expenditure for establishing or increasing their footprint.

Hut Huntsville could explore the feasibility of allowing multiple competing ISPs and telcos to operate on this same infrastructure to open the path for increased service-level competition in that city. This is similar to what is being undertaken in a lot of Europe and Oceania where multiple operators are able to rent space on the same infrastructure.

It also is a way to prove to other US cities and states that municipal-owned or state-owned infrastructure that competes with the established “Baby-Bell” telco or cable-TV company isn’t necessarily a waste of taxpayers’ money as Comcast and AT&T would like us to believe. Rather the government can, through a separate entity, lease the infrastructure to competing operators and milk money from this leasing effort.

As well, this can be a chance for the communications industry to investigate the possibility of European-style service competition where competing services rent space on the same infrastructure and infrastructure owners can compete with each other when it comes to offering service to ISPs or enterprises.

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B4RN progresses on bringing Gigabit broadband to rural North England

Article

B4RN Bring 1Gbps Broadband to 1,600 Rural Homes in North England | ISP Review

Previous Coverage

The soil has been turned for fibre-optic Internet in rural Yorkshire (14 January 2015)

A fibre network to cover Lancashire’s rural parishes (22 August 2011)

My Comments

Yorkshire Dales By Kreuzschnabel (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons

B4RN reaches in to more of North England with real broadband

In 2011, there was a valiant effort that started off to cover parts of the north of England with real broadband Internet service. This was in the form of B4RN (Broadband For Rural North) which is a community effort that is based on local contribution including the contribution of personal effort to deploy the service. The standard of this service is a pure-play symmetrical Gigabit fibre-to-the-premises broadband service but B4RN are facilitating VoIP telephony in conjunction with Vonage, an American pure-play VoIP provider who has set up presence in the UK.

This effort has encompassed Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria and there has been strong local interest and participation because of the fact that BT have been neglecting many rural areas. This state of affairs is something that a lot of people who dwell or work in rural areas sadly experience. The rollout has had the locals face many problems relating to its deployment and had them work out how to solve them.

Just lately, the B4RN effort has connected 1600 premises with 100 connected per month with the figure driven by the available effort. It has yielded a 65% service takeup with the price payable by end users being GBP£30 per month for the symmetrical Gigabit unlimited service and a GBP£150 connection fee.

As well, most of the original network, which encompasses 800km of core network, has been laid but the B4RN effort is expanding to more of rural North England. The same effort has been able to “pick up” areas where other projects have failed like Cumbria’s Fibre GarDen scheme.

I have read some accounts on the Yealands page where this network has enabled small businesses and community organisations. One of these is a small garage (Facebook link) who specialise in tuning cars for performance being able to exchange files with a partner based in Blackpool to modify engine-management units in order to performance-tune those cars. As well, the St. Johns Anglican church in Yealand which is one of those archetypal English village churches, ended up being connected to the B4RN broadband network and took advantage of this technology to “broadcast” a funeral service that they hosted to family members based in Sydney, Australia. They even want to take this further for sharing the wedding and funeral services that they host with participants who are separated by distance.

Like with Gigaclear, B4RN raised the issue of BT Openreach overbuilding their infrastructure but it may be seen as an effort to nawt because of a significant customer base who have invested in it. A question that may end up being raised is whether B4RN will end up becoming wholesale infrastructure for other retail ISPs rather than just an “end-to-end” provider. This would encompass the availability of multiple-play services via that infrastructure.

What B4RN is showing is that the rural areas have as much need for real broadband as urban areas and is highlighting that these areas can be about moving towards the country or starting a business there without losing the concept of real broadband.

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New ISP players working against established players to provide competitive Internet service

Article

Gigaclear and Hyperoptic Highlight Problems with UK Broadband and BT | ISPReview.co.uk

My Comments

Aylesbury Vale countryside picture courtesy of Adam Bell (FlyingDodo)

Questions are now raised regarding independent operators providing real broadband to the countryside

The article I read in ISPReview has highlighted some problems that affect the existence of competitive next-generation broadband Internet service in the UK. These same problems can also affect other countries like those in the North American, South East Asian and Australasian areas to varying degrees.

It is based on interviews with Matthew Hare from Gigaclear, Dana Tobak from Hyperoptic and Scott Coats from the Wireless Infrastructure Group, all whom are running up against an incumbent telecommunications company who effectively owns the infrastructure in most of the country and is effectively given a fair bit of blessing from a national or regional government. This can be through state aid as part of a broadband-improvement scheme or through a legal “right of way” that proscribes competitors from operating in the area of concern. In the case of the UK, it is Openreach who is a BT spin-off that manages the telecommunications infrastructure in that country and they have been dominating the state-assisted “Broadband Delivery UK” projects that provide next-generation broadband to most of rural UK.

Apartment block

.. and apartment blocks in big cities

Issues that were raised were:

  • The dominance of a particular entity when it comes to delivering infrastructure for next-generation broadband in the UK
  • The costs associated with deploying new infrastructure
  • Business-hostile local-government property rates that affect the provision of service infrastructure by a private company, especially fibre-optic cable used for next-generation telecommunications
  • The difficulty of gaining access to the “pits, poles and pipes” infrastructure that BT Openreach owns or has exclusive access to; and
  • Whether BT and Openreach be fully and legally separated such as to make Openreach an entity controlled by the national government or local governments; or have it as a separate company.

Gigaclear are providing a 5Gbps fibre-to-the-premises service in to rural areas and commmuter towns in East Anglia and some of the Home Counties while Hyperoptic are providing a 1Gbps fibre-to-the-premises service to large multi-dwelling units in most of the UK’s main cities.

Gigaclear has effectively invested GBP£1000 / property and has found that the operating costs for pure-fibre setups are less than the costs for fibre-copper because there is no need to run electricity down the line and it is a modern robust technology. But they have paid many times the projected cost for some deployments like in Kent due to shodddy workmanship.

Matthew Hare from Gigaclear was highlighting BT swallowing up most of the BDUK contracts but he has picked up a few smaller Phase 2 contracts like projects in Gloucestershire, Essex and Berkshire. He had noticed a few of the local authorities being helpful about these rollouts like in Kent where Kent county council de-scoped (provided exclusive access) for Gigaclear projects compared to Rutlant where the Rutland county council and BT overbuilt Gigaclear with FTTC service.

This comes to the big question about whether an overbuild by one or more competing operators permit real infrastructure-level service competition. Some countries, most notably France have found that an overbuild by a competing infrastructure provider can achieve this level of competition.

Dana Tobak from Hyperoptic highlighted that fibre-copper technology like fibre-to-the-cabinet is a short-lived asset. She also highlighted the issue of access to the “pits, poles and pipes” owned by Openreach being a burdensome process for competing operators. This ranged from costs to onerous procedures and restrictions sucn as not being able to provide business broadband services.

There was also the issue of business-level property rates and taxes levied on the infrastructure where the workflow associated with these costs was onerous thanks to the Valuations Office Agency. This made it difficult for an operator to factor in the property rates due on the infrastructure when they are costing a rollout. To the same extent, the property taxes levied by a local government could be seen as a bargaining chip especially where the local government is behind the rollout in order to see effective increase in their local land value and tax base.

The question associated with an independent Openreach managing the infrastructure was whether this would breed real service competition. An issue that was highlighted was that Openreach could focus on the premium pure-fibre-based service and make life hard for small-time operators like regional-focused operators or startups who want ot serve the British market. But Matthew Hare reckons that it is better for the UK, especially rural areas to see Openreach as an independent operator.

Here, ISPReview have raised the issue of competitive next-generation broadband provision with independent “own-infrastructure” operators and covered some of the main hurdles facing these operators. This includes proper management of costs including infrastructure-based property taxes and rates; the creation of sustainable competition including build-over rights; incumbent operators’ behaviour including preferential treatment by governments; and access to the same  “pits, pipes and poles” by competing operators.

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Make the next-generation broadband infrastructure beautiful

Painted street cabinet

This is how you can make those cabinets part of the street fabric

Whenever any new infrastructure is laid down, there is an increase in the number of street cabinets that will appear as the result of this infrastructure. This is more so with next-generation broadband especially if the service is based around fibre-copper technologies, implements active components or is prepared to do so.

But these cabinets attract a “not in my backyard” comments or activism from local residents or neighbourhoods because of them looking ugly and becoming a surface for the local graffiti artists and gangs to scrawl their “tags” on to. Similarly, the street cabinets can effectively become obstacles in their own right.

There can be something better done about this. One way would be to encourage or commission local artists to paint these cabinets with designs that complement the neighbourbood or a local effort. They then look beautiful in their own right rather than as ugly boxes. Such paintwork can be directly applied or painted on to a vinyl “skin” or “wrap” which is applied to the box. The latter approach can apply to seasonal efforts like Christmas decorations or advertising campaigns if the “skin” can be removed.

Another approach would be to design the street cabinets to be integrated to other street furniture. This would work well if there isn’t a need to provide maintenance access or equipment ventilation from all sides of the cabinet. Examples of this could include a cabinet that is integrated in to a street bench or litter bin. Simply an infrastructure cabinet could benefit from being equipped with a closed rail especially if it is located close to a café or bar with a street dining area. This is because it can be used as a hitching-post for a patron’s dog or bicycle.

What needs to be done to prevent the NIMBY attitude concerning next-generation broadband and similar infrastructure in urban areas is to look at ways to integrate the cabinets in to the neighbourhood area’s fabric so they effectively blend in.

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Competitive next-generation broadband arrives in Massachusetts

Article

Fall setting in Minute Man park - picture courtesy of Ian Britton (FreeFotos.com)

Competitive next-generation broadband arrives at Massachusetts (Photo courtesy of Ian Britton (FreeFotos.com))

 

Massachusetts Town Builds Itself 2 Gigabit Fiber for $75 a Month | Broadband News & DSL Reprots

From the horse’s mouth

LeverettNet

Project Page

My Comments

Another attempt has taken place to erode the established telcos’ and cable companies’ dominance of the US fixed-broadband landscape. Normally, this would be Google rolling out their Google Fiber service but it is a local government rolling out a municipal fibre-optic infrastructure and selling a retail broadband service to the communities under their remit.

US Flag By Dbenbenn, Zscout370, Jacobolus, Indolences, Technion. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

More it’s about access to real competitive broadband in the USA

This kind of activity has had to face legal measures in the form of statewide laws drawn up by lobbying groups representing the “Baby Bells” and large cable-TV firms that prohibit or make it difficult for local government and others to set up competing broadband service.

This time, it is Leverett, a town in Massachusetts, who have established a municipal fibre-optic network with retail service. This network snaps at the heels of Comcast and co by offering unlimited symmetrical 2Gbps downloads for US$75 a month. This is compared to Comcast offering a similar service for US$300 a month with a myriad of installation and activation fees totalling US$1000 along with the cost of poor-quality customer service.

This was an effort to deal with a black hole concerning the provision of high-speed broadband Internet to Massachusetts communities. The LeverettNet network is the first to take advantage of the new statewide broadband backbone known as MassBroadband 123 which could easily light up the state with real broadband.

There will be people who will say that this is public money wasted and it could lead to an increase in local taxes levied by the community’s local government, But it isn’t so because the townsfolk approved a ballot measure put forward by the Leverett council to borrow US$3.6 million to start this project. As well, a local ISP called Crocker Communications was contracted to provide the retail service to the neighbourhood. The council’s tax base would increase because of the property values increasing due to availability of proper next-generation fibre-optic broadband.

I always reckon that this could bring Comcast and others to attention because of a broadband service that offers more “bang for the buck” being available and this results commonly in those companies offering improved service in to those neighbourhoods. Similarly, this effort could be a chance to wake up other local communities in Massachusetts to have next generation broadband across that state.

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Gigaclear’s Epping Forest coverage is now underway

Article

Epping Forest © Copyright tim and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence tim [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Epping Forest – to get fibre-to-the-premises Internet

UK FTTP ISP Gigaclear Starts Rollout of 1Gbps Broadband in Essex | ISP Review

Previous Coverage

Gigaclear increases their Essex footprint

From the horse’s mouth

Gigaclear

Press Release

My Comments

Previously I have written an article about Gigaclear working with Superfast Essex Rural Challenge Project to put a foot in the door to provide next-generation broadband in to parts of Esssex, especially Epping Forest.

Gigaclear fibre-optic cable - picture courtesy of Gigaclear

This is what is to come for some Essex villages

Now they have stared to turn the soil on this project to cover the first tranche of communities in that area with the fibre-optic infrastructure passing at least 4,500 premises. This project is seen as a pilot project to identify whether an alternative path can exist for providing next-generation broadband in to Essex rather than relying on BT Openreach to fulfill this task using their fibre-to-the-cabinet technology. It will underscore whether infrastructure-level competition can achieve better results and value for money when it comes to covering rural areas in the UK with real broadband.

Part of the rollout will include Gigaclear and Superfast Essex running public-relations events at local community events to put the fibre-to-the-premises network  “on the map” as far as the locals are concerned. This is with the first phase of this project being complete by May 2016 and the possibility for subscribers to go live within the next couple of months.

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Gigaclear raises the maximum bandwidth to 5 Gigabits

Articles

Gigaclear fibre-optic cable - picture courtesy of Gigaclear

5Gbps comes on the scene courtesy of Gigaclear

Is 5 Giga bits a second enough broadband for you? | ThinkBroadband

Wowzers – UK ISP Gigaclear Trial 5000Mbps Fibre Optic Broadband Service | ISPReview

My Comments

Gigaclear are stepping out of the norm when it comes to providing Internet service in the UK.

Here, they are offering 5Gbps as a bandwidth option for all of their fibre-to-the-premises area as well as their regular Gigabit or lower-bandwidth options. This is due to them implementing a point-to-point fibre network as their data infrastructure which they fully own.

At the moment, a home user could sign up for this bandwidth at GBP£399 including VAT or a small business could sign up for a business-grade service for GBP£1500 excluding VAT. The bandwidth could theoretically allow 100 4K UHDTV channels to be concurrently streamed or allow a 1.5Gb file like a film to be downloaded in 5 seconds.

At the moment, most current download and cloud-computing services can’t provide the throughput necessary to allow these high-performance services to run to their advantage. Similarly, there aren’t any routers on the market affordable to most home or small-businesses that would take advantage of these high-performance services.

The cost was considered to be too rich for most residential consumers except for a few wealthy early-adopters but could appeal to some small businesses like busy food/beverage/hospitality places such as cafes and bars running well-used wireless hotspots. These places can benefit because many users can concurrently transfer data including “high-demand” data like high-grade multimedia. videocalls and large file transfers.

What Gigaclear is showing is that 5Gbps could be ne next step for a high-performing Internet that can satisfy householders’ and small business users’ needs in the future.

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Rockhampton to consider own FTTP network

Articles

Queensland council plans own optical fibre network | The Register

Council goes its own way on NBN, plans cables and telco | Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Queensland)

My Comments

Local government has been instrumental in improving broadband coverage for its citizens by encouraging the installation of the necessary infrastructure. This may be a public effort funded primarily by council taxes or rates that are levied on property owners; or it could be a public-private effort where a company also funds the same effort.

These efforts may be used as a method of providing data infrastructure between the local government’s buildings but they have been used to provide broadband infrastructure to citizens and businesses in that area in a manner that competes with established operators. It can also be about the establishment of a company or co-operative that is focused on providing telecommunications or Internet services to the local community.

But such services have raised the ire of incumbent telecommunications and cable-TV businesses and this has had the powerful incumbent operators in the USA like Comcast and AT&T lobby for state-level legislation to strangle community telecoms and Internet infrastructure projects.

Australia has taken a new stab at this effort with the local government that governs Rockhampton in Queensland putting forward the idea of high-speed fibre-to-the-premises infrastructure to cover the city’s central business district (downtown) area.

Rockhampton Regional Council’s mayor, Margaret Strelow showed dissatisfaction with the National Broadband Network heading down the fibre-copper path which would lead to substandard broadband. Instead the council established their own high-speed fibre-to-the-premises infrastructure in Quay Street alongside other council-owned road and water works. This is a “dig-once” effort to bypass the NBN in order to achieve that “smart-city” goal that Rockhampton wanted.

The council will own the infrastructure but create a local non-profit community telco who leases that infrastructure and sells telephony and Internet service to the local community. It is in a similar manner to how some other cities have provided utilities and telecommunications services to their communities.

A question that will be raised regarding these community-focused deployments will include the ability for the NBN or other next-generation-broadband infrastructure providers to build infrastructure parallel to this infrastructure; a practice that is described as “build-over”. This may allow Rockhampton or similar communities to benefit from infrastructure-level competition.

Another question that I also see raised is whether other retail-level telecommunications or Internet providers will be allowed to lease the council-supplied infrastructure in order to sell their services in to that town. This could allow consumers and businesses to benefit from retail-level communications-service and can also include mobile-telecommunications providers using this infrastructure as a backbone for their base stations.

As communities, ISPs, developers and other entities lay down their own infrastructure for their own next-generation broadband services, it could be a chance to raise the issues of “build-over” infrastructure-level competition for locations along with the ability for retail ISPs to compete with each other on the same infrastructure. If these issues are worked out properly, it could lead to increased value for money when it comes to broadband Internet service.

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