News

Recent news items from the Independent Networks Cooperative Association are listed below. Also in this section of the site we have brought together recent news and opinion from a number of respected sources, including SamKnows.com, thinkbroadband.com, and Adrian Wooster's influential blog.

ITS Buys Networks by Wireless

ITS Technology Group (ITS), has today announced the acquisition of the assets of South Yorkshire-based Networks by Wireless Ltd.
 

 

The acquisition, the second that ITS has made this year having bought wireless broadband provider CityServe in June, will see the firm double in size and includes contracts with customers such as Aberdeen Council, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Bedfordshire Police, and Countess of Chester Hospital.
 
Roy Shelton, CEO of ITS Technology Group, said: “Networks by Wireless has built a significant footprint and acquired an impressive client portfolio over the last 15 years. This acquisition will not only enhance our value proposition by providing an even richer end-to-end solution across fixed and wireless broadband networks in both urban and hard to reach areas, but will also build on our managed services capabilities. It will also increase our network assets, for example, we now own the Digital Dales in Teesdale, County Durham which delivers wireless broadband to the area’s hard to reach rural locations.”

 

CityFibre Announces Aberdeen as Scotland's First Gigabit City

CityFibre has announced that Aberdeen will become Scotland's first Gigabit City with a pure fibre infrastructure offering the world class connectivity the city deserves. Aberdeen joins a rapidly growing portfolio of cities scheduled to receive CityFibre investment in FTTP. CityFibre has signed a deal with Scotland-based ICT service provider Internet For Business, to deploy a gigabit-capable dark fibre network throughout Aberdeen, as the first step in the company's plan.

 

On 25th and 26th September Aberdeen will host Transform Digital: Aberdeen a major conference organised by industry association INCA and Accelerate Aberdeen, supported by CityFibre. Delegates will have an opportunity to find out what the Gigabit City opportunity means for local businesses and the wider economy.

The conference has a decidedly business focus, with further important announcements anticipated. These will demonstrate Aberdeen’s status as a world class city, developing world class digital infrastructure and services. We will also explore how rural areas are being included in the next phase of the digital revolution and how small businesses can benefit from new services and funding to help get connected.

PM Launches Gigaclear's Latest Network

Gigaclear launched its latest network in Northmoor, West Oxfordshire yesterday with a little help from the PM. David Cameron and Gigaclear's Matthew Hare held a skype video conference call with INCA's Malcolm Corbett and Hyperoptic's Dana Tobak to declare the nework open.

The Northmoor project is one of the few genuine community-led RCBF projects that finally got the go ahead. Gigaclear already has networks live in nearby villages making the project cost-effective with a 43% subsidy. 

David Cameron, the local MP, switched on a network that will see broadband speeds jump from around 1mbps to 1000 mbps as the FTTH network is built out. Finally the local community will get genuinely future-proofed, value for money digital infrastructure. In the Skype call the PM asked about other local initiatives and Malcolm Corbett explained that there are many independent fibre and wireless providers around the country that are delivering fantastic services in both urban and rural areas, often with little or no public subsidy.

Mr Cameron seemed impressed.

 

 

Independent Broadband Providers Connecting Business Parks

Small businesses are often left out of the national superfast broaband rollout as was highlighted today in a report by the Federation of Small Business.
 
Federation of Small Businesses
 
INCA members are keen to provide high speed broadband services in areas that BT deems commercially unviable, particularly where businesses need the fast, symmetric, low cost capability our members can provide. INCA has teamed up with the Federation of Communications Services to develop a network of projects in enterprise zones and business parks around the country.
 
Surprisingly the first project to go live is not in a deeply rural area, but in the heart of Shoreditch, London.

INCA Members succeed in Innovation Fund bids

Several INCA members are amongst the winners of BDUK's Innovation Fund programme seeking superfast broadband solutions for the hardest to reach areas.

Details of the winning bids can be found on the Gov.uk website.

 

department for Culture Media and Sport

Wireless and satellite projects feature heavily along with a bid to create a model using funding from local communities and another project that aims to develop an ISP aggregator for wireless ISPs.

INCA was glad to offer a supporting statement for the announcment. Malcolm Corbett, INCA's CEO said, "This is a very useful initiative and we are keen to help local authorities and INCA members learn from the trials. There is a huge amount of experience, professionalism and entrepreneurial enthusiasm in the independent sector that can play a big role in creating Britain’s future digital infrastructure."

INCA will help promote the different schemes so that local authorities can use the learning from this process and from other projects to create a more competitive environment for the £500m of government and local funding to extend superfast services - Phase 2 of the main BDUK programme. 

 

CityFibre Tie up York Deal with Sky & TalkTalk

CityFibre has today announced a deal with Sky and TalkTalk to build out gigabit FTTH infrastructure in York with other cities to follow.
 
INCA welcomes this step by major service providers to get behind the provision of alternative ‘transformational digital infrastructure’ in a major British city. 
 
CityFibre is a prominent INCA member and their Director of Regulation & Public Policy, Mark Collins will speak at the Transform Digital Conference on 8th May alongside Grant Forsyth of Sky. Yesterday INCA announced that Virgin Media will also speak at the conference.
 

 

CityFibre logo
 
 
In a statement to INCA members CityFibre said:
 
Today CityFibre, Sky and TalkTalk have announced a joint venture that will deliver ultra-fast broadband services in the City of York. Full details are included in the attached press release. 
 
The new joint venture company will build a state of the art, city-wide, pure fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) network to deliver broadband speeds of 1 Gigabit (1000 Mbps) direct to tens of thousands of homes and businesses in York, offering customers better quality and value. The new network will be entirely independent of BT Openreach's infrastructure, and will leverage CityFibre's extensive metro fibre network throughout the city. 
 
This will be the first time ever that a UK city has been connected with such high speeds on a city-wide basis. The parties will work in partnership with the local community to help ensure the network delivers the numerous benefits better broadband can provide, including helping to grow the local economy and supporting York businesses to better compete in the UK and abroad.

Sky & Vodafone at Transform Digital Conference

Sky & Vodafone Confirmed as Speakers at Transform Digital Conference

INCA is delighted to announce that Grant Forsyth of BSkyB and Matthew Braovac of Vodafone have confirmed they will speak at the Transform Digital Conference on 8th May. As major organisations in the telecoms/Internet space they play a key role in the debate about a new competitive approach to delivering superfast broadband across the UK.

 
Transform Digital Conference www.inca.coop
 
 

They will be joined by leaders from the independent networks sector including Dana Tobak of Hyperoptic, Matthew Hare of Gigaclear, David Cullen of ITS Technology Group

INCA Welcomes Broadband Funding & Launches Superfast Notspot Registration Scheme

INCA Welcomes Broadband Funding & Launches Superfast Notspot Registration Scheme

The Independent Networks Co-operative Association has launched a registration scheme for people who want to access better broadband but can't get it.

Announced today on the BBC Radio 4 You and Yours programme, the scheme encourages individuals, businesses and communities register their notspot information at www.inca.coop.

The information collected will be made available to alternative providers looking for opportunities to serve areas that are left out of BT's superfast broaband roll out plans.

Earlier this week the government announced good news with the distribution of an additional £250m central funding amongst local authorities. Councils are expected to find matching funds making a pot of £500m to extend superfast broadband coverage. Alternative providers delivering fibre, wireless or satellite broadband are well placed to fill in many of the gaps, often more cost-effectively than BT. 

Superfast Broadband Notspot Registration Scheme

INCA provides a Superfast Broadband Notspot Registration service for end users. Broadband consumers can now register their notspot or slowspot here

notspot

INCA CEO Malcolm Corbett is also scheduled to appear on Radio 4's You and Yours programme on Friday 24th Jan to discuss the current state of broadband in the UK. You can listen to the programme online at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qps9

INCA Newsletter January 2014

 
Happy New Year, we wish you a prosperous and successful 2014
 
In this Newsletter:
  • BDUK - Superfast Extension Project covering the Final 10% - Urban Broadband Fund
  • Competition Roundtable 
  • Transform Digital INCA Spring Conference
  • Independent Projects
  • Under-served Business Parks
  • ENGAGE Manifesto for Rural High Speed Broadband
  • INCA Board and Special Interest Groups
  • Your Association Needs You
 
INCA.coop
 
BDUK
No doubt you are aware that BDUK is in the midst of appointing a new chief executive and other officers.

Fibre Garden & ITS Technology Collaboration

INCA members have welcomed this announcement from Fibre Garden in Cumbria and ITS Technology. It is a great example of collaboration between the local community and a private sector supplier to deliver truly next generation connectivity in a deeply rural area.

 

 

Fibre Garden & ITS logos

Fibre GarDen Community Broadband Initiative announces ITS Technology Group as their Partner Supplier


Following an intensive procurement process Fibre GarDen and ITS Technology Group (ITS) are delighted to announce that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to deliver the well-publicised Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) project in one of the most rural parts of the UK. Both parties have formed a strong and exciting partnership which plans to build, deliver and manage this pioneering community Rural Broadband scheme.

Digital Dales (UK) Limited, trading as Fibre GarDen, is a community cooperative which has been working for the past three years towards securing the provision of superfast broadband by delivering FTTP to every property throughout Garsdale and Dentdale in Cumbria.

INCA Statement on Rural Community Broadband Fund

 
 
INCA Statement: Rural Community Broadband Fund
 
Members of the Independent Networks Co-operative Association were shocked to learn that two key projects, due to be funded under the Rural Community Broadband Fund, have been rejected by their local authorities despite receiving strong support from the Secretary of State. Maria Miller made it clear that she thought these and other RCBF community projects should be given the chance to go ahead.
 
 
 
 
The projects, Cotswolds Broadband in Oxfordshire and Trailways in Dorset, were both in attendance at a meeting involving INCA with the Minister in July. These schemes, in line with many others, aim to deliver future-proofed fibre to the home and wireless services to thousands of rural households for around 34% state subsidy. This contrasts with BT's demand for nearly 90% state aid in similar areas with a focus on its less future-proofed FTTC offering. The difference is explained by the fact that the local schemes have a high level of community and other private investment, reducing the need for state aid.
 
It was precisely these sorts of schemes that the £20m RCBF fund was set up to support. BDUK has attempted to get these and several similar projects 'de-scoped' from the main county plans with BT so they can receive the subsidy. As pilots they are designed to creatively address the 'Final 10%' outside the scope of the main BDUK/county programmes. With no competition in the main BDUK programme RCBF is the only central government funding that can go to providers other than BT.

INCA Members Offer Support for Rural Broadband Programme

Parliament's Public Accounts Committee has slated the Government's rural broadband programme following the National Audit Office report and evidence session in July.

Committee Chair Margaret Hodge MP said, “The programme to extend superfast broadband to rural areas has been mismanaged by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The sole provider BT has been placed in a quasi-monopolistic position which it is exploiting by restricting access to cost and roll-out information. The consumer is failing to get the benefits of healthy competition and BT will end up owning assets created from £1.2 billion of public money."

INCA supports the efforts of Secretary of State Maria Miller MP to improve the situation, inject more competition, thus ensuring that government and local authorities get real value for money in the programme. The Public Accounts Committee expressed real concern about the lack of competition in the programme, BT's lack of transparency over costs, it's deployment plans, the overall level of state aid, the reduction in BT's financial contribution and delays to the programme.

INCA's members are calling for

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

INCA Welcomes Additional Government Investment in Broadband

INCA members welcome the announcement by HM Treasury of an additional £250m of public expenditure in broadband infrastructure, to be matched locally.

 

 

INCA AGM - Seminar - Dinner

 

On 10th July at the Frontline Club in London INCA will hold its AGM, followed by an afternoon seminar discussing a variety of project developments, and an evening dinner. This promises to be a 'must attend' event for those involved in broadband projects.

Speakers

Speakers at the INCA Dinner and Seminar include:

Outline of the Day

  • The AGM will run from 10:00 to 13:00 with elections to the INCA board and discussion of rule changes for membership and fees.
  • Lunch is from 13:00 to 14:00
  • The INCA Seminar will run from 14:00 to 17:00 with panel discussions on rural and urban schemes and technologies.
  • Dinner will be from 19:00 to 22:00 with a focus on developing effective policy interventions

The AGM is open to INCA members only. The seminar and dinner events are open to all INCA members and supporters with an interest in next generation broadband.

A full agenda will be published shortly on the INCA website.

 

The theme running through the Seminar will be a demonstration of how independent operators, public sector organisations and local communities can to work together to achieve great results in delivering cost-effective, future-proofed next generation broadband.

Calling Wireless ISPs

The Valuation Office Agency is developing a rating regime for wireless networks which could land broadband networks with an extra bill for thousands of pounds a year. Where wireless networks are operating in marginal areas, these additional costs could seriously damage their viability. The VOA currently consulting on the best way to organise the charges and INCA's Wireless Special Interest Group is co-ordinating a response from members.

It is up to operators to inform the VOA's thinking, so they understand the impact this will have on a sector of the communications industry which provides vital services.
 
 
VOA

INCA is organising a Wireless SIG meeting on 14th June, 10:00 to 16:00 in Lancaster, open to all wireless ISPs who may be affected. The meeting will be chaired by Daniel Heery, director of the Alston Cybermoor project and INCA board member.

Iain Bennett (DCMS) confirmed for Ultra-Connected Smart Cities Seminar

The Project Director for the Urban Broadband Fund is confirmed as a keynote speaker at INCA's April 30 Ultra-Connected Smart Cities Seminar.

Iain Bennett

There are still a few places left for our latest seminar . Read more about the seminar programme and register for this event. INCA Seminbars have earned a reputation for high quality discussion between expert panel and informed audience, and this will be no exception.

Response to UBF Consultation

DCMS has undertaken a consultation with potential suppliers to Urban Broadband Fund projects. The consultation focused on the principles, models and options being considered within the fund. Download INCA's response here.

Department for Culture Media and Sport

The programme started with big ambitions, with expectations that funding would be aimed at kickstarting FTTH and high speed wireless connections in gigabit 'digital districts' and support economic and digital inclusion objectives. INCA members have expressed concern that these big ambitions are being gradually whittled down to a process of FTTC in­‐fill, wireless concessions and end user vouchers that at best will help get BT’s ‘fibre on demand’ service off the ground. Whilst good for the incumbents' current businesses, this will not create the sort of ground-­breaking projects we are seeing in urban centres in Europe, North America and Asia.

INCA's response addresses issues of different aspects of the consultation including funding mechanisms - e.g. MEIP (market economy investor principle), demand side aggregation and procurement.
 

INCA News February 2013

 

NEWS from INCA
 
Greetings from the Independent Networks Co-operative Association. In this newsletter we bring you exciting news about 
  • Celebrating a Brighter Future Conference, 19-21 February, London
  • INCA's Rural Community Broadband Seminar, 6 March, London 
  • The new INCA Marketplace
  • New members of INCA.

 

INCA News January 2013

Greetings from the Independent Networks Co-operative Association. In this newsletter we bring you exciting news about 

  • Meeting Maria Miller MP, the new Secretary of State at DCMS
  • The new INCA Marketplace
  • 'Celebrating a Brighter Future', the FTTH Conference 2013 in London, 19-21 February
  • The FTTH Council / INCA UK Workshop on 19th February, London
  • Advance notice of INCA's Rural Community Broadband Seminar in London, 6 March.
Maria Miller MP

 

Mutual & Co-operative Models

INCA and Manchester Digital are running a joint workshop: Mutual & Co-operative Models in the Digital Economy, 1st November at Manchester Digital Development Agency. 

Speakers include Jon Souter, LINX, Kees Rovers founder of the Onsnet FIbre to the Home Co-operative in the Netherlands, Barry Ford from the B4RN FTTH co-op in the UK, Dave Boyle author of the Good News report and Tad Deriso, CEO of the Mid Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation. For more information and to register see http://www.inca.coop/events/mutual-co-operative-models-digital-economy

INCA State Aid Seminar Reached 32000 Twitter Users

The INCA State Aid seminar 'Negotiating the Maze' held at the end of July reached more than 32,000 accounts according to a Tweetreach report.

Feedback from those physically present at the Frontline Club in London was very positive. Presentations from event are now available along with the liveblog.  

Presentations include those by:

  • Duncan Gillespie, DLA Piper
  • Tony Shortall, Telage, Brussels,
  • Richard Williams, Birmingham
  • Chris Holden, FTTH Council Europe
  • Mark Collins, CityFibre Holdings
  • David Cullen, INCA
  • Felipe Florez Dunca, Oxera
  • Dave Carter, Manchester

Thanks to all the speakers, to Brian Condon for live-blogging, to Lorne Mitchell for help with organisation and to DLA Piper for providing sponsorship for the event.

Herve Dupuy, Deputy Head of Unit, DG Connect, European Commission

Broadband for All

INCA members have developed thinking on future policy for digital infrastructure. Lorne Mitchell gave evidence to the House of Lords committee, putting forward a summary of the 'INCA Papers' (details of our full submission).

The House of Lords Committee has now issued its hard hitting report. This is INCA's response.

INCA Statement re: House of Lords report 'Broadband for All'

INCA members have welcomed the House of Lords report 'Broadband for All - An Alternative Vision' as a very useful contribution to the debate about how we get the best next generation broadband infrastructure available to as many of our citizens and communities, as quickly as possible. Two areas highlighted in the Lords Report are particularly significant: open access and community hubs.

The Lords Report proposes that state funding should only go to operators that are prepared to provide open access down to the passive layer - i.e. dark fibre. This is strongly supported by INCA members, many of whom are keen to contribute towards building this new national infrastructure, but only on terms that don't disadvantage them in competition with BT. The European Commission shares this perspective as demonstrated in the new European state aid guidelines published in June 2012 (See INCA's commentary).

New Rural Broadband Report Calls for Action to Support Communities

A new report from rural development specialists Plunkett Foundation and Carnegie UK Trust warns that more must be done to inspire and empower community-led broadband initiatives.

The issue of high speed broadband for rural communities is about more than just technology; communities themselves will  need to play a crucial role in bridging the gap between government and market plans and lack of provision, but the debate so far has failed to empower communities.

This is the message from Plunkett Foundation and the Carnegie UK Trust -  who have worked together for over 90 years on a range of rural issues across the UK and Ireland - in a jointly-produced new paper on the issues of rural broadband provision that calls for more support for communities setting up their own broadband services.

Current government plans to address the issue of broadband provision for the UK’s population could leave around 10% of rural communities struggling to get access to high speed broadband -rendering many of these communities unable to play a full part in 21st century life. This will force communities to take on the challenge themselves - something they currently feel unable to do.

Accelerating Next Gen Deployment: How the AltNets Plan to Help

As the BDUK process moves slowly forward, the non-incumbent operators are coming together to offer their help and support to the process.

 

New Draft State Aid for Broadband Guidelines

INCA asked two of our experts - Louise Lancaster and David Cullen - to consider the new draft ‘EU Guidelines for the application of state aid rules in relation to the rapid deployment of broadband networks’.

Flag of the European Union

 

Time for a Rethink

INCA comment on Cumbria's decision not to award broadband funding.

Cumbria County Council logo

INCA members are very supportive of the Government's ambitions for next generation broadband but have long been concerned about the process. Cumbria's decision to reject both BT and Fujitsu Telecom's bids is a symptom of serious underlying problems with the government’s procurement process. There are currently only two participants remaining; other potential bidders concluded relatively early on that the process is too heavily weighted in favour of the incumbent to make it contestable. What the UK needs is a more competitive process to encourage investment and innovation. Alternatively we need to find a different way of funding next generation infrastructure and that almost certainly leads down the route of full structural separation of BT.

News from INCA - June 2012

In this INCA Newsletter:

  • A Report from the Manchester Ultra-Connected Smart Cities launch event 
  • BSG Get Connected Conference
  • Rural Broadband - BDUK framework and local schemes
  • State Aid
  • INCA's 2020 Vision Policy Paper
  • Quality Marque
  • Next Gen Events
  • Join INCA
INCA Ultra-Connected Smart Cities Launch

 

INCA Ultra-Connected Smart Cities

On 16th May Manchester Town Hall hosted the launch of INCA’s ‘Ultra-Connected Smart Cities’ special interest group. More than seventy representatives from cities, the private sector and community projects participated in a high-powered event designed to push forward the agenda for urban ultra-fast projects.

Transformational Digital Infrastructure

Ultra-Connected Smart Cities

INCA launches Special Interest Group for 'Ultra-Connected Smart Cities'.

INCA Ultra-Connected Smart Cities SIG

 

Today INCA launches a Special Interest Group for 'Ultra-Connected Smart Cities' - those cities in the UK working to improve their digital infrastructure. The launch event at Manchester Town Hall has attracted a large audience wanting to find out what cities like Manchester, Bristol and Derby are planning. They also have an opportunity to hear about major private sector initiatives, including City Fibre Holdings plans for commercially-funded urban fibre to the home (FTTH) networks, and new wireless broadband initiatives.
 
The Special Interest Group brings together public, private and community organisations in a dialogue about how our cities can get the best digital infrastructure for future prosperity and economic growth.
 
For more information contact info@inca.coop
Twitter: #incacities

DEFRA Announces New Funding Round for Rural Broadband

The second round for Expressions of Interest under the Rural Community Broadband Fund has opened today - 10 May. 

UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs

 

New applications are  invited together with any reworked applications which were deferred from the first round where fundamental issues need to be addressed. 

The £20m Fund is jointly funded by Defra and BDUK, and complements BDUK’s mainstream broadband rollout programme. The Fund enables the funding of superfast broadband projects in the most hard to reach areas in England, bringing superfast broadband to a greater number of communities than would otherwise be reached. This will ensure that a greater proportion of businesses and consumers in those communities can take advantage of the benefits of superfast broadband. More information about the fund and details about how to apply can be found on Defra’s Rural Development Programme for England Network webpage

More on ... House of Lords Superfast Broadband Inquiry

 

The House of Lords Select Committee on Communications has published the written evidence submitted to its inquiry into Superfast Broadband. Download the full report.
UK Parliament logo

 

Submission to House of Lords Select Committee

INCA has made a submission to the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications looking into broadband policy.

House of Lords Committees photo

INCA's response consisted of three elements:

  1. A brief document setting out INCA's answers to the specific questions raise din the call for evidence. Download the PDF.
  2. A vision paper - '2020 Vision' - proposing a different approach to public policy-making for digital infrastructure development. Download the PDF.
  3. 'Financing UK NGA' - a paper based on a series of interviews with key players in the NGA space, carried out under the Chatham Hpouse rule. The report gives a 'warts and all' view of the current process from a non-incumbent perpsective. Download the PDF.

Information on the select committee call for evidence.

Spring 2012 Newsletter Published

Catch up with the latest news and information from INCA about membership, the INCA Marketplace and Quality Marque projects, and our new Smart Cities interest group.

Download the Spring 2012 edition of our newsletter (PDF).

INCA News February 2012

In this newsletter we cover the 2nd edition of the Beyond Broadband guide, the new INCA Marketplace for suppliers and consultants the Quality Marque project for local schemes, Events including INCA's Industry Day in February, a 'Dutch Light' study tour in March and the Next Gen Roadshows. We also discuss national broadband plans and local schemes including B4RN, Cybermoor and Goudhurst

 

Defra Launches the Rural Community Broadband Fund

RCBF launches with £20 million designed to enable more rural communities to access faster broadband services.

Typical Rural English scene

Defra has today launched the Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF), with confirmed funding of £20m. The RCBF is jointly funded by Defra and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), and complements BDUK’s mainstream broadband rollout programme.

The Fund enables the funding of superfast broadband projects in the most hard to reach areas in England, bringing superfast broadband to a greater number of communities than would otherwise be reached. This will ensure that a greater proportion of businesses and consumers in those communities can take advantage of the benefits of superfast broadband.

The Fund is being delivered as part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE). More information about the fund and details on how to apply can be found on Defra’s RDPE Network webpage http://rdpenetwork.defra.gov.uk/funding-sources/rural-community-broadban...

(Photo © Copyright Ron Hann and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence)

Is BDUK on the Right Track?

Whilst not unexpected Geo UK Ltd’s announcement on 16 November that it is withdrawing from the BDUK Framework and future NGA procurements marks a sad day.

Is BDUK on the Right Track?

INCA Statement on Geo’s withdrawal from the BDUK Process

Whilst not unexpected Geo UK Ltd’s announcement on 16 November that it is withdrawing from the BDUK Framework and future NGA procurements marks a sad day. Even more so since Cable & Wireless Worldwide has apparently pulled out of the Cumbria procurement and there are rumours that BDUK’s shortlist may be getting shorter by the day.

Geo is a well-organised and effectively-led company that is actually delivering fibre networks in both urban and rural settings. In fact they are just the sort of company that government should be encouraging in the context of next generation networks. However Geo can’t make its model work under BDUK’s current approach.

Climbing Out of the Silos

Whilst the government agency BDUK is in the process of deploying £530m to support broadband services in the ‘final third’ another part of government, the Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC), is planning to spend around £11.3bn on a smart metering system for all homes and businesses, of which £1.5bn will be spent on the communications element.

At the Parliament and the Internet conference on 13th October the Information Society Alliance (EURIM) ran a workshop to discuss joining up the broadband and smart metering/smart grid energy agendas. It was a timely and useful debate. Whilst the government agency BDUK is in the process of deploying £530m to support broadband services in the ‘final third’ another part of government, the Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC), is planning to spend around £11.3bn on a smart metering system for all homes and businesses, of which £1.5bn will be spent on the communications element. So far it seems that government has been unable to join up these two agendas.

Even at the level of sharing existing infrastructure (ducts, masts and poles) linking the broadband and energy agendas seems to be difficult in this country. Efforts by civil servants to bring the utility companies into this debate appear to have borne little fruit so far.
 

European Commission Proposes €9bn fund for Broadband

On 15th October the BBC reported the European Commission’s plan to invest over €9bn in broadband infrastructure roll out. These plans were first mooted to INCA members at a seminar in July by representatives of the Commission. More details emerged at the European ‘Open Days’ event in Brussels on 12th October.

The heart of the proposal is €9.2bn of funding for broadband from a proposed ‘Connecting Europe’ facility of around €40bn covering transport, energy and digital networks for the period 2014-2020. The directorate in the Commission responsible for the digital agenda, DG Infosoc, will formally put forward its proposals on 19th October. They then go into the EU’s decision-making process involving the Commission, Council of Ministers and European Parliament, before any funding becomes available.

Ken Ducatel of DG Infosoc explained at the 12th October meeting in Brussels that the plan envisages committing €7bn for infrastructure investment and €2bn for support services platforms. The aim is to help member states reach the EU 2020 targets of 30mbps for 100% of the EU population and 100mbps for 50%. Informed commentators expect the UK’s allocation to be around €1bn.

The proposals envisage some grant funding for projects, but channeling the bulk of the funding into financial instruments designed to lever in substantially more private sector investment. DG Infosoc estimates size of the funding gap in Europe to be €270bn, so €9.2bn needs to do a lot of levering.

INCA announce Quality Marque for independent networks

INCA today announce a quality cloud system at the Technology Strategy Board's Collaboration Nation event, designed to offer a checklist and scoring system for independent networks. Part-funded by the TSB, the Quality Marque provides a common set of standards to improve the quality of services offered and allows networks to attract more ISPs and potentially more customers.

Government and industry estimate that commercial roll-out of next generation access (NGA) will cover about two thirds of the population (Digital Britain Report, Britain's Superfast Broadband Future).

Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) has been set up to help local authorities fund the capital costs of schemes to cover the remaining third with an expectation that a variety of non-incumbent projects will cover between 10% and a third of the population, mainly in rural areas.  BDUK will invest £530 Million.

Physically putting fibre in the ground is only one aspect, few communities will have the capacity to develop their own network management, provisioning and billing systems.  The cost of providing dedicated local support person for each of these networks would be prohibitive.

At the moment, independent networks are springing up and developing their own solutions, however, given the complexity and scale of these networks, it would make it easier if they could work in partnerships. So, how can we manage to get the patchwork quilt of independent networks working more closely together and aggregate demand for services?

CMA warns lack of superfast broadband is hampering UK business innovation

The Communications Management Association (CMA), part of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, and Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) are today warning the Government that business innovation in the UK is being seriously hampered by the lack of superfast broadband (SFB).

The warning follows the publication of results from the CMA’s Internet Opportunity Survey 2011, supported by FSB and Point Topic Ltd, and sponsored by DCMS and Openreach, which shows that nearly 30% of respondents report that they cannot get current generation broadband – internet speeds up to 24Mbps - where they want it. Although this is an improving picture over the last 4 years, it shows that enterprises still do not have universal access – 10% of businesses have no access across any of their sites. Only 14% of businesses report having SFB – speeds above 24Mbps - available at all sites.



AFL Strengthens Rural FTTH Capabilities

AFL has positioned itself as the leading supplier for rural FTTH projects by installing its latest rural project currently in the village of Hambleton in Rutland, UK for Gigaclear, a privately owned company dedicated to building and operating ultrafast broadband networks with fibre technology.

AFL is fast establishing a leading expertise in rural community FTTH projects, installing its latest rural project currently in the village of Hambleton in Rutland, UK for Gigaclear, a privately owned company dedicated to building and operating ultrafast broadband networks with fibre technology.

AFL designed and planned the optical fibre infrastructure network and is also providing fibre connectivity services from recently-acquired TCC Group to connect the infrastructure from the properties to a cabinet in the village. The network is an underground point-to-point solution using blown fibre technology and is designed to reach properties located in the village and outlying areas using the most cost-effective route.

Over 60% of the Rutland village is subscribed to Gigaclears 1Gbps capable network, which is scalable for all future subscriber numbers throughout the community.

Fibre-Optic Gigaclear Network for Rutland Village

On September 12th Gigaclear started the ground-works in Hambleton village in Rutland.  A fast-paced construction schedule is in place, with the first customers connecting in early October and the entire project complete by mid October.

Hambleton is the first community Gigaclear is working with as part of their targeted to build an extensive FTTH network across the country that clearly benefits residents and businesses.

The Gigaclear network is financed from a group of private investors from Hambleton Village. The model sees a long-term loan secured against the network so that the investors reap a triple benefit: a financial return, a stronger sense of community, and an Ultrafast Internet experience.

Every customer will see latest technology installed with fully-supported router capable of 1000 Mbps. Each router comprises:

- Gigabit fibre network interface

- 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports connecting home network devicesf

- Wireless BGN at up to 300 Mbps

- IPv4 and IPv6 Firewall


INCA Statement on BDUK funding

In the absence of a national roll out plan, BDUK's latest announcement is good news. But it's framework could be a straitjacket stifling innovation.

dcms logo

Government funding to help meet the challenges of broadband deployment is welcome. However on it’s own the funding available can't solve the broadband notspots and deliver universal next generation broadband. BDUK has indicated that its funding amounts to £60-£70 per premise in those 'final third' areas beyond the reach of commercial deployment. So Cumbria gets £17m to cover 240,000 premises. This compares to an average cost nationally of about £1000 per premise for a fully future-proofed job - i.e. fibre to the premise.

Broadband Delivery Needs to be More Inclusive

Broadband Delivery UK has announced their pre-qualification questionnaire for the new broadband delivery framework that local authorities will be expected to use when procuring local broadband services. INCA is concerned that the framework will exclude smaller, innovative suppliers and doesn't match our members' ambitions for delivering a truly next generation broadband UK.

 

The BDUK Framework PQQ for next generation broadband is an odd document. On the one hand it says BDUK wants to encourage small and medium sized enterprises to join in, on the other financial and other criteria clearly exclude all but a handful of large players. There are provisions for smaller companies to join consortia, but only if a consortium can be set up and ready to go in a month  - and that month is July.

The document also appears to redefine ‘superfast’ broadband as anything from 15Mbps to 50mbps+. The European targets for 2020 are for 50% of the population to enjoy 100Mbps and 50% to have 30mbps or over. So we could find up to £830m of public funding spent on networks that deliver half the minimum speeds of our European competitors. Previously government officials have said that superfast means anything over 24Mbps – meaning there must be at least some fibre, or high speed wireless, in the access network. BDUK seems to be stepping back from that ambition.

Fujitsu unveils rural fibre plans

Fujitsu today announced plans to work in collaboration with Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Cisco to deliver next generation internet services to 5 million homes in rural Britain.

typical rural location where NGA is likely to be challenging to deploy

The collaboration and subsequent Fujitsu build of a new superfast, fibre optic broadband network is a ground breaking and innovative alternative to BT Openreach and provides an opportunity for any community or local authority looking to access a proportion of the £530 million earmarked by the UK Government to drive investment in superfast broadband in rural communities.

The Fujitsu open access wholesale network will be underpinned by Cisco’s world leading technology. Virgin Media and TalkTalk intend to access wholesale products via this network in order to retail next generation services to customers in remote parts of the UK. The network will also be open to other service providers on wholesale terms.

Fujitsu’s vision builds on the company’s extensive experience in both managing telecommunications networks and in building next generation “Fibre to the Home” (FTTH) networks.

The Costs of Accessing BT's Infrastructure

It is clear that we need a sustained, inclusive effort on the part of industry, national and local government, and communities to move the UK to a next generation broadband future as rapidly as possible. Industry players, working with local communities, are developinng innovative approaches capable of delivering services more rapidly in both urban and rural areas. Reducing the costs of deployment is one of the keys to making the investment case work better. Where there is existing infrastructure it can help reduce costs, but inevitably, much of this infrastructure is in the hands of BT.

underground fibre-optic cabling and ducting

Serious concerns have been expressed by industry players, including INCA members, about the costs of accessing BT's infrastructure. We need to get this right in order to help create a genuinely competitive market and ensure we maximise the impact of public investment in next generation services. INCA supports the statements made in letters to Ed Vaizey and Ian Livingston and we are committed to working with our members and BT to find a workable solution as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Rural Broadband Funding Timetable

Independent broadband networks are delighted that the Government has announced its plans for the next round of next generation broadband funding, but keen to see progress on pressing issues affecting smaller players. Following on from Jeremy Hunt's funding announcement of £50m for the next round of projects, broadband Minister Ed Vaizey has announced the timetable for the next round of bids, anticipating requests for proposals during April and the announcement of the winners in May.

funding opportunities for NGA

Malcolm Corbett, CEO of the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA) commented, "This is great news for rural areas that often suffer from poor broadband services today and are at the back of the queue for superfast 'next generation' broadband tomorrow. INCA is working with a number of local authorities to help them develop viable projects, build stakeholder engagement and bid into this new round of funding. However there are some outstanding issues that we are keen to work with central government and OFCOM to resolve and make it easier for smaller non-incumbent providers to get involved."

Knotty problems that industry and government are working on include access to existing infrastructure - ducts and poles - that can reduce deployment costs, affordable 'backhaul' connections linking local communities to the Internet, and a business rates regime that currently acts as a barrier to rural broadband investment.

Hunt Speech Welcome But Still Some Way To Go

INCA has welcomed the Government's commitment to creating the 'Best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015'. It is a tall order, but an ambition that we can all get behind. The big players like BT and Virgin Media, plus the host of smaller innovative companies, public sector bodies and communities are all working hard to make it a reality. The Government's new strategy 'Britain's Superfast Broadband Future' and the Secretary of State's speech bring together many of the strands that we need to level the playing field and get competition going in the provision of next generation infrastructure. It is great that the Government has taken up the 'digital village pump' idea that has been put forward by a number of broadband champions and is a central feature of the Royal Society of Edinburgh's 'Digital Scotland' report published in October. This could go a long way to tackling one of the big problems with all rural broadband services - the costs of backhaul - the connection from the community to the Internet.

INCA Welcomes Jeremy Hunt's Ambitious Vision for Next Generation Broadband

On Tuesday 8th June, Secretary of State at DCMS, Jeremy Hunt MP made a very positive speech outlining his policies in media and technology (details and full text here).

INCA Welcomes High Profile Ministerial Appointments

Dave Carter acting Chair of the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA) and Malcolm Corbett INCA's acting CEO today welcomed the appointments of Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey, who will both be responsible for Britain's key technology issues.

Malcolm commented: "Jeremy and Ed have both been closely engaged and have a good understanding of the issues. We were delighted to welcome Ed to the NextGen conference in Leeds last year and look forward to continuing a positive dialogue over the coming months."

Latest INCA Newsletter

New Website Launched

The new INCA website goes live today at www.inca.coop. It contains information about INCA, its aspirations, who can join and how, planned activities and events.

The website is very much a work in progress and will be updated with news, case studies, a map of local projects, information about technical standards and policy documents. If you have comments or questions please contact Malcolm Corbett.

INCA Welcomes Government Commitment to Next Gen Broadband

The Independent Networks Co-operative Association welcomes the government’s commitment in the budget to support the roll out of next generation ‘superfast’ broadband in areas that are likely to be left behind by the market. Alongside major players like BT, independent projects all over the country are working to bring next generation broadband to their local citizens and businesses.

NextGen Events 2010

INCA will be running the NextGen events programme for 2010 kicking off with a series of four Roadshows from May until September, with an INCA membership event in June. These lead up to the annual national NextGen 10 Conference, set for November in Birmingham. The Roadshows will launch in April when registrations open. This year we’ll be visiting new locations and are working on an exciting programme with new partners. Click here to take you to the Events page.

Sewing Together the Patchwork

One of the key tasks for INCA is to work with those developing regional and local projects on the common technical and business process standards that help open networks attract service providers.

This work is being led by Adrian Wooster (read Adrian's blog) and Alexandra Jennings. The high level issues are being debated through the BSG COTS process (Commercial, Operational & Technical Standards) as well as more technically focussed groups like the NICC.