INCA News - September 2013

News from INCA: Rural Broadband and the Public Accounts Committee; INCA's policy position: Autumn Seminars, and more...

Independent Networks Co-operative Association www.inca.coop

News from INCA Rural Broadband

While the country has been enjoying summer sun, the Rural Broadband Programme has come under the heat of public scrutiny.
 
In July Parliament's Public Accounts Committee took evidence on the BDUK programme from BT, INCA, UK Broadband and Talk Talk, along with senior officials in DCMS. This followed the highly critical National Audit Office report castigating delays, lack of competition and lack of transparency over BT's costs. Committee chair Margaret Hodge memorably described evidence from BT as like 'Alice in Wonderland'. The session can be viewed on parliamentlive.tv and there is a full transcript.
 
In August Newsnight broadcast a report questioning whether we are getting rural next generation broadband deployment right. Expert commentator Peter Cochrane was interviewed alongside Bill Murphy from BT and Malcolm Corbett from INCA. Other media including Channel 4 News have continued to highlight the shortcomings of the programme.
 
INCA members think that the Government needs to urgently resolve four issues:
 
1. Greater Transparency
We are calling for greater transparency regarding BT's costs and deployment plans. With no competition in the BDUK framework and no real transparency over costs it is very difficult to work out whether we are getting genuine value for money from rural broadband projects. This goes to the heart of the Public Accounts Committee's concerns about the Rural Broadband programme. Furthermore without transparency over BT's deployment plans it is difficult to properly identify the final 10% excluded from current plans and to start planning alternative projects. Despite BT's assurances to the Public Accounts Committee that they would be open feedback from INCA members shows that the Speed & Coverage templates, included in local contracts, are still being kept secret. Why? The templates outline the BT's publicly-funded local deployment plan by postcode including the areas that won't be covered. Secrecy raises the suspicion that BT might want to prevent local authorities, communities and private sector operators from starting to make alternative plans for the Final 10%.
 
2. No Overbuild
Where communities and private sector partners are prepared to invest in delivering next generation broadband they should not risk of BT turning up with state funding to scupper their plans. State aid is designed to address market failure, not to suppress competition. INCA members believe that a policy of 'no overbuild' should include operators of fibre and high speed wireless networks and should apply any time up to BT's actual deployment in an area. BT wouldn't lose any of the grant funding, it would simply be somewhere else to help solve the Final 10% not currently covered by superfast broadband plans.
 
3. Fully Open Access
Where state funds are being granted to BT - or any other supplier - they should only be granted on the basis of full and open access to the infrastructure, including the passive elements of dark fibre, duct and poles. This would mean that alternative providers could access the infrastructure to create their own new competitive products, rather than simply retailing a wholesale service designed by BT. 
 
4. Allow New Funding Mechanisms
The European Commission recognises a variety of funding models for public authorities investing in extending next generation broadband access. In the UK we have fixed on just one: offering  public grant based on BT's existing network and commercial model. Other forms of investment will encourage competitive providers to get involved rather than kicking their heels on the bench. INCA's analysis shows that not only would this encourage competition, but that the level of state aid could be far lower since other suppliers use different commercial models, have very different costs to BT and can attract additional investment.
 
Let us know what you think of these policy positions. Email info@inca.coop with your views.
 
 
INCA Seminars
INCA runs highly acclaimed seminars focusing on the key issues facing industry, public sector and community broadband projects. This Autumn our seminars will focus on both rural and urban broadband projects.
 
Value for Money - 2-5pm, 25th September, Frontline Club, London
With so much political attention, this is a hot topic for local authorities contracting for rural broadband. The seminar aims to be a highly practical session covering benchmarking costs, contract support, issues of speed, coverage and quality.  
 
Participants include local authorities broadband officers, private sector analysts and community schemes
 
INCA's board would like to thank Nova Incepta for kindly sponsoring this seminar. Details and registration here.
 
Connecting Networks, Services and Businesses -  30th October, Fronline Club, London
The Urban Broadband Fund voucher scheme pilot is moving into gear. INCA members are getting involved, despite reservations that the fund could simply end up as another subsidy to BT or in some cases Virgin Media. This seminar will discuss the latest state of play in public funding, the development of new carrier neutral Digital Exchanges to connect networks and businesses, Fluidata's ISP aggregator platform offering choice of service providers.
 
Participants will include private sector operators, service providers, aggregators and urban local authority officers. Further details and registration to follow.
 
The Final 10% - 20th November, Frontline Club, London
As rural broadband schemes move into delivery, addressing the final 10%, becomes a big issue. This seminar will examine competitive business models for private and community investment, RCBF schemes and technologies that can deliver services into the hardest to reach areas.
 
Participants will include rural broadband officers, representatives from RCBF and other local schemes and private sector operators. Further details and registration to follow.
 
NextGen 13
 
NextGen 13 National Conference - Changing Agendas: shifting broadband futures
London 14 - 15 October 2013
 
This important annual landmark event will build on the Digital Scotland 2013 and Intelligent Cities conferences and provides the focus to take forward the UK’s digital access requirements debate. An exhibition and trade show will run alongside the conference.
 
The speaker line-up includes: Lord Inglewood - Chairman of the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications, Rashik Parmar - President IBM Academy of Technology, Mark Kellett - CEO Magnet Networks, Rohit Talwar - CEO Fast Future Research, The Earl of Erroll, Paul Hadley - Deputy Director Information Economy Department for Business and many others.
 
INCA members can benefit from a discount on the attendance fee. Register here and select the 'Partner' option.
 
 
 
The Economic Benefits of FTTH
At INCA's AGM in July, Acreo Swedish ICT presented their studies on the socio-economic benefits of FTTH and super-fast broadband. Their study of the Stokab network in Stockholm is a fascinating piece of research that demonstrates the genuine economic benefits accruing to the local economy from a project that started around 20 years ago.
 
INCA has formed an agreement with ACREO which means we can now offer you a dedicated study of your municipality/region based on the Acreo model, and done in direct collaboration with Acreo's researchers. This is designed to provide you with a solid case on the value of ICT infrastructure investment to support you in policy and financing decisions.
 
You will find a summary of the Stockholm study performed by Acreo Swedish ICT here. While every case is unique and a dedicated analysis of local conditions is needed, the study shows that in the case of Stockholm, the socio-economic return is at least three times the investment. The full report is available from Acreo.
 
Representatives from Acreo will be in London on 24th September to meet interested organisations. Please contact info@inca.coop if you would like to discuss the possibility of a study in your city or region.
 
 
Value for Money in Rural Broadband Projects
INCA board member David Cullen is leading an expert team to assist local authorities establish the genuine costs involved in delivering rural broadband projects. Our aim is to develop this project collaboratively with a group of local authorities working to ensure value for money in their broadband contracts. Project information is available here or you can email info@inca.coop.
 
 
Congratulations Goudhurst!
Congratulations to the people of Goudhurst in Kent whose hard work has paid off. They are one of the very first rural next generation broadband projects to receive funding that isn't going to BT. Goudhurst will benefit from a mixed fibre and wireless solution provided by local company Callflow Solutions, selected in a competitive process. More information is available on the Goudhurst website.
 
 
Get Involved
INCA is the voice of the independent next generation broadband networks, local authorities and communities. At our AGM in July we welcomed several new board members - Nick James and Louise Lancaster from UK Broadband, Michelle Findlay from ITS Technologyand Mark Collins from CityFibre.
 
We are overhauling our membership services and introducing new benefits and membership categories. We plan to have these changes in place by the start of October and will issue a special newsletter giving you all the latest info.
 
If you have any questions or suggestions please contact us at info@inca.coop.