Sunday, December 30, 2012

Scotland - Conference paper on broadband in rural Scotland identifying the challenges

A conference paper by Jason Whalley and Ewan Sutherland on Rural Broadband in Scotland – Challenges for Scotland and Lessons for Other Countries
There are many socio-economic benefits associated with the provision and use of broadband services. Arguably these are greatest for those living and working in rural areas, as broadband contributes to the ‘death of distance’. This paper focuses on the provision of broadband in rural Scotland, and analyses the initiatives that have been undertaken to encourage broadband availability to identify a series of challenges that need to be overcome. One challenge highlighted is the need to coordinate across the complex institutional landscape that has emerged in broadband provision in rural Scotland, while a second is the relative lack of resources that are available. A third is the focus on availability at the expense of encouraging adoption. These challenges provide lessons for other countries.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

UK - CBI is positive on broadband infrastructure improvements, but mobile broadband still behind other countries

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and KPMG published Better connected, Better business: CBI/KPMG infrastructure survey 2012.

John Cridland wrote:

As technology continues to improve, it is vital that we go further on broadband speed and coverage, providing faster and more reliable web access to companies that rely on it as their gateway to new markets
However, on the quality of infrastructure:
Companies are positive about the current state of digital networks: four in five (82%) report that they have improved over the last five years and a similar proportion (79%) believe that they will continue to improve over the next five years

But more businesses believe that mobile broadband networks in the UK are below average than above it for both speed and breadth of coverage.

The quality of broadband infrastructure is particularly important for the smallest firms who rely on internet communications to reach their customers and suppliers in the absence of extensive operational networks and multiple business premises. Over half (53%) of respondents from companies employing fewer than 50 people state that it has a very significant impact on their investment decisions, compared with 30% of those from companies employing over 5,000 people.

OECD - overview of existing data and statistics in the fields of information security, privacy and the protection of children online

The OECD Published Improving the Evidence Base for Information Security and Privacy Policies: Understanding the Opportunities and Challenges related to Measuring Information Security, Privacy and the Protection of Children Online:
This report provides an overview of existing data and statistics in the fields of information security, privacy and the protection of children online. It highlights the potential for the development of better indicators in these respective fields showing in particular that there is an underexploited wealth of empirical data that, if mined and made comparable, will enrich the current evidence base for policy making. Such indicators would help identify areas where policy interventions are most clearly warranted, and can provide guidance on designing policy interventions and determining their effectiveness.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Akamai - global average connection speed increased 13 percent to 3.0 Mbps from the first to second quarters of 2012

Akamai has launched its latest state of the Internet report.

It noted that:

The global average connection speed increased 13 percent to 3.0 Mbps from the first to second quarters of 2012, continuing a trend of strong growth. South Korea continued to have the highest average connection speed at 14.2 Mbps for the quarter. Japan was second at 10.7 Mbps and Hong Kong was third at 8.9 Mbps.

Only two of the top 10 countries saw an increase in average connection speed during the second quarter, with Switzerland and the Czech Republic rising 4.0 percent to 8.4 Mbps and 0.7 percent to 7.2 Mbps, respectively. The remaining eight countries experienced declines ranging between 0.5 percent in Denmark to 9.8 percent in South Korea.

The most significant quarter-over-quarter increase in average connection speed was in Kenya, which rose 227 percent to 1.8 Mbps. The most dramatic decline occurred in Cote D'Ivoire, where the average connection speed dropped 29 percent to 0.4 Mbps.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Independence - Scotland would need access to services of GCHQ for cybersecurity and signals intelligence

The Royal United Services Institute in a report on independence identifies Scotland's defence requirements.

It notes the importance of cyber-security and signals intelligence. The present facility is GCHQ which has cost £2 billion to create and £200 million in annual running costs.

RUSI suggests:

Accordingly, it would seem likely that, in the early years of independence at least, Scotland would need to come to some arrangement with the rUK to supply the appropriate level of access to GCHQ expertise.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Inner Hebrides - Wireless link for broadband to serve 150 people under the Community Broadband Scheme

STV reports a boost for rural broadband in the small isles:
  • Eigg (popn. 67)
  • Rhum (popn. 22)
  • Muck (popn. 30) and
  • Canna (popn. 6)
They are to be connected to by a wireless relay network with the Sabhal Mor Ostaig, one of the campuses of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) on nearby Isle of Skye.

The service is provided by HebNet. The Tegola project.

A small conference is being held this afternoon in Skye on the launch of the project. The speakers included Alastair Nicolson, Project Manager, Community Broadband Scotland.

BBC visited some of the customers to see the reactions (see video).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Report - DCMS is stating that the EC will soon approve its state aid scheme for rural broadband

The BBC reports that the UK support scheme for rural broadband has finally been approved by the European Commission under the state aid rules. The scheme involves a total of £540 million in payments

A Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) spokesman was quoted as saying:

It is our understanding that the commission is on track to issue its final decision in late October or early November, which will allow projects to get under way,
However, the EC has yet to publish the UK approval on its list.

The designated bodies, local authorities in England and HIE in Scotland, cannot begin projects until full EC approval is given.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Statistics - How quickly is broadband adoption growing in Scotland?

According to the Scottish Household Survey, levels of households using broadband have shown relatively consistent growth in the period 2003 to 2011. While there are a couple of blips where the survey showed more growth or in one case a drop, these evened out over time.
It is therefore surprising to find that the following comment in the annual progress report:
The most recent report from Ofcom published in July 2012 shows a 7% increase in broadband take up, bringing Scotland into line with Wales and Northern Ireland (68/69%.) This is highly encouraging progress towards the participation targets described in our initial strategy and suggests that we are on the right track in ensuring that the benefits of the digital age are not confined to a few.
Whereas, OFCOM conducts a survey at the end of the first quarter of each year.
Firstly, the "growth" of 7 per cent in Scotland is unexplained(e.g., a fall in prices or increase in competition) and out of line with the historical evidence. Indeed, it looks as if a problem was the 2011 sample, which may have generated an unusually low number, but within statistical error ranges, then the 2012 number corrected this. It is highly unlikely that the OFCOM broadband survey in 2013 would show another jump of 7 per cent, a figure of 3 per cent would seem more likely.

This is also important in the comparison with Northern Ireland and Wales, which seem to have seen very little growth in the 2012 figures. Thus they might well be showing the same statistical dip as Scotland in the previous year. To conclude that in 2013 Scotland will remain at a level comparable to Northern Ireland and Wales could be thought a rather risky bet.

The relatively modest levels of broadband adoption in urban Scotland and especially in Glasgow are sufficiently well known that they must by now be influencing decisions by operators who will prefer to deploy networks in the cities of the three other nations.

The proposal to develop a new measurement framework is welcome. It will need to identify factors explaining the lower levels of adoption at sufficiently disaggregated levels to enable interventions. It must also ensure comparisons with other countries in terms of the OECD, Eurostat and the EU Digital Agenda Scoreboard.

Scotland - Govt seeks to identify white, grey and black areas for purposes of state aid investment in broadband

Scottish Government is consulting on the plans of operators to install next generation broadband networks.
In responding to this consultation, operators will need to provide sufficient information to enable the Scottish Government to make a judgement about whether areas should be classified as NGB Black, Grey or White, for the purposes of defining our intervention area.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Highlands and Islands Enterprise - A dedicated head of its superfast broadband project

STV reports the promotion of Stuart Robertson, from head of Digital and Broadband, as well as its area manager for Shetland, to a dedicated role as director of digital Highlands and Islands.

Scot. Gov - Progress report of digital agenda repeats aspiration to be world class, but provides little funding

The Scottish Government has published its progress report on digital Scotland.

Its press release stressed the creation of jobs:

Scotland is set to benefit from nearly 15,000 new jobs thanks to investment in broadband infrastructure, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced today.

Echoing the success of Team GB in the London Olympics, the Deputy First Minister states:

I am also clear that whilst the Scottish Government must continue to provide strong leadership for our digital strategy, we will only deliver the benefits that the Scottish people and Scottish businesses expect, if our vision, and the actions to deliver that vision, are shared and owned by all sections of our economy and society.
The report goes on to assert:
Whilst nobody can predict the future of digital technologies with absolute certainty, this strategy will ensure that, by 2020, Scotland will have a world-class, future-proofed digital infrastructure that enables everyone, regardless of where they live, to get online and connect with people; access a wide range of essential public services; grow their business; and enjoy a wide range of on-demand entertainment options. Our people will feel confident in their ability to use digital technology to improve their personal and working lives.
It is claimed that it:
Lobbied the UK Government and Ofcom successfully on 4G Spectrum to improve the levels of 4G coverage in Scotland that will be delivered following the forthcoming spectrum auction.
This is disingenuous, since it asked for and did not get 98 per cent coverage in every local authority area.

The very broad, rather generic claim is made that:

Participation rates in Scotland now equal Wales and Northern Ireland.
If that means use of broadband, it fails to note that Scotland lags England, dragged down by urban Glasgow and Dundee.

Echoing the FCC broadband plan for the USA:

Scotland wants to be recognised as a country that welcomes and encourages the introduction of new mobile and wireless technologies as a potential stimulus to economic growth.

It is extraordinarily difficult to work out how much of its own money the Scottish Government has put into broadband. Prima facie, it seems to be mostly EU and HM Treasury that is paying.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

EE - formerly Everything Everywhere will launch 4G on 30 Oct in Edinburgh and Glasgow and 14 other British cities

Mobile World Live reports that EE, formerly Everything Everywhere (a.k.a. Orange and T-Mobile) switched on LTE (4G) in London, Bristol, Cardiff and Birmingham for testing on 11 September.

On 30 October it will launch a commercial services in sixteen (16)cities:

  • London,
  • Edinburgh,
  • Cardiff,
  • Belfast,
  • Birmingham,
  • Bristol,
  • Derby,
  • Glasgow,
  • Hull,
  • Leeds,
  • Liverpool,
  • Manchester,
  • Newcastle,
  • Nottingham,
  • Sheffield and
  • Southampton.
It expects to cover one third of the UK population this year, 70 per cent in 2012 and reach 98 per cent in 2014.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wales - House of Commons committee calls for elimination of not-spots and slow-spots in broadband

The Welsh Affairs Committee of the House of Commons notes that:
the UK and Welsh Governments must work together and use all means available to bring broadband services in Wales up to speed with the rest of the UK, and eradicate broadband "slow spots" and "notspots" as a matter of urgency.
Its report on broadband in Wales sets out its views in detail.

Committee Chairman, David T.C. Davies MP, is quoted as saying:

Access to fast internet connection is essential to businesses and the economy in Wales. Broadband will become an increasingly important generator of economic success and a means of addressing social exclusion. It is hard to believe, but in mid-2012 there are still some areas of Wales where people have no connection at all. It is impossible to see how businesses or the economy can develop in these areas.

Sweden - Lessons from Sweden by Benoît Felten about fibre deployment in cities

Benoît Felten of Diffraction Analysis has published a note on Lessons from Stockholm and a more detailed paper on SSRN. .

Scotland - A document has been published on the delivery of public services under the "digital future" brand

The Scottish Government has published a document on "delivery of public services".
Scotland's Digital Future - Delivery of Public Services, jointly introduced by Scottish Ministers and COSLA, is a key part of the public service reform programme.

It signals a way in which public bodies can collaborate to ensure that services – whether at national or local level – can be truly joined up to meet the needs of the users of our public services, the citizens of Scotland.

This strategy sets out a vision for Scotland where digital technology provides a foundation for public services that meet the needs of the user – that means responsive services where organisations are working together across sectors.

It is available in PDF and a variety of more exotic file formats

Shetland - BT has announced a fibre optic link to the mainland, with 10 Gbps service for businesses in Lerwick

The Shetland Times reports BT is to invest £8 million in a fibre optic connection to Great Britain. It will use capacity on the SHEFA cable (from UK to the Faroes).
BT is also offering businesses and public agencies a new Ethernet service in Lerwick to purchase broadband speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second, vastly more than anyone currently requires.

For the rest of Shetland’s broadband users they can expect nothing faster than they currently receive, unless they live in Lerwick, where BT is promising speeds of up to 20 megabits per second.

This was announced at the Northern Isles Digital Forum.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

UK - A report on different groups of young people who discontinued their use of the Internet

Nominet has published a report.

This developed a typology of discontinued Internet use by young people:

  • primarily due to reasons of access and cost;
  • poorer quality of access to the Internet than they have experienced in the past;
  • poorer quality of access to the Internet AND not seeing the Internet as important for finding out or learning new things;
  • a combination of access, cost, skills and interest;
  • some challenges with all five factors: psychological, cognitive, physical, socio–cultural and material.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

4G - EverythingEverywhere (a.k.a. T-Mobile & Orange) will launch in September, followed by 3UK (HWL)

OFCOM has agreed that Everything Everywhere (the joint venture of Orange and T-Mobile) can use its existing 2G spectrum in the 1800 MHz band for 4G or mobile broadband services.
Ofcom’s decision to make 4G available this year is great news for the UK. Consumers will soon be able to benefit from the much greater mobile speeds that 4G will deliver. 4G will drive investment, employment and innovation and we look forward to making it available later this year, delivering superfast mobile broadband to the UK
OFCOM said:
Following a consultation, Ofcom has concluded that varying EE’s 1800 MHz licences now will deliver significant benefits to consumers, and that there is no material risk that those benefits will be outweighed by a distortion of competition.2 Delaying doing so would therefore be to the detriment of consumers.
Everything Everywhere is also to launch a new brand alongside Orange and T-Mobile.

Other operators will be able to bid for spectrum for 4G services in an auction later this year.

Vodafone, which must wait for the auction, is quoted by the Daily Telegraph as complaining bitterly:

We are frankly shocked that Ofcom has reached this decision

The regulator has shown a careless disregard for the best interests of consumers, business and the wider economy through its refusal to properly regard the competitive distortion created by allowing one operator to run services before the ground has been laid for a fully competitive market.

As part of the deal to create Everything Everywhere it undertook to competition regulators to dispose of some of its spectrum. According to IT Pro it has now sold that two lots of 1800 MHz spectrum to 3UK (Hutchison Whampoa Ltd). This will, in time, allow 3 to offer its own 4G services.

Seychelles - Fibre will now reach close to 90% of homes in this Indian Ocean island group

Total Telecom reports that the 84,000 people of the Indian Ocean Republic of Seychelles are benefitting from the undersea cable and local investments.
Cable & Wireless Communications on Tuesday announced that its subsidiary in the Seychelles has completed the rollout of a nationwide fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) network.
It seems a little odd to discuss curb (or kerb) in a tropical island.

Nonetheless:

The FTTC network will be supported by the newly-launched Seychelles East Africa System (SEAS) subsea cable network, the first undersea cable to serve the Seychelles. The 2,000-km cable links the Seychelles' main island Mahe with Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania.

Monday, August 20, 2012

UK - to have fastest broadband in Europe by 2015 says Hunt

The Daily Telegraph as saying:
We simply will not have a competitive broadband network unless we recognise the massive growth in demand for higher and higher speeds.

Although we have loosely defined superfast as greater than 24 Mbps, I have also introduced a programme for ultrafast broadband in our cities that will offer speeds of 80-100 Mbps and more. And we will continue to develop policy to ensure that the highest speeds technology can deliver are available to the largest number of people here in the UK.

Our working assumption must therefore be that the preferred method of going online will be a mobile device – whether linked to high speed wireless in buildings or networks outside them,

But that in order to cope with capacity, we will need to get that mobile signal onto a fibre backbone as soon as possible. So no false choice between mobile or fixed line, between fibre or high speed wireless: all technologies – including satellite - are likely to have a part to play, and our approach must be flexible enough to harness them all.

Get it right and we can be Europe’s technology hub, bringing together the best of Hollywood and Silicon Valley in one country with huge competitive advantage in both content and technology.

This appears to be a revision from "best" to "fastest" in Europe, seemingly inspired by the performance of Team GB:
I am today announcing an ambition to be not just the best overall, but specifically the fastest broadband of any major European country.
Similar story in The Guardian.

See also the text of his speech.

Jersey - ends dial-up in preparation for fibre to every home

ISP Review reports Jersey Telecom (JT) is shutting down its dial-up service.

It expects to complete roll-out of fibre to 42,000 homes within three years.

Finland - Bottlenecks to broadband in rural areas

The Helsingin Sanomat reports complaints about red tape in obtaining broadband in rural areas of Finland.
A number of telecommunications operators, as well as companies and cooperatives set up by local authorities to bring broadband internet service to the most remote villages in rural Finland are voicing frustration at the bureaucracy surrounding state aid for the installation of the networks..

The Finnish government and the European Union have earmarked EUR 91 million to the effort bring high-speed broadband cable to sparsely populated areas. Only a fraction of the allocated funds have been spent.

FICORA puts up EUR 66 million of the funding, and the state centres for Economic Development, Transport, and the Environment (ELY Centres) will put up EUR 25 million. So far, FICORA has distributed EUR 2.5 million.

Apparently the complexity of the process has delayed processing, in particular a failure by applicants to include all information.

UK - broadband speeds up 20 per cent in six months to 9 Mbps

The Guardian reports a rise in average broadband speed to
The arrival of superfast broadband connections from BT and Virgin Media has boosted the average residential download speed by nearly 20% during the last six months, to nine megabits per second.

Speeds have more than doubled in three years, up from 4.1Mbps in May 2009, and are comfortably ahead of last November's average of 7.6Mbps, according to twice-yearly research by the telecoms watchdog, Ofcom.

See also the OFCOM press release:
In May 2012, over two-thirds of UK fixed-line residential broadband users (68%) were on packages with advertised speeds above ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s, an increase from 48% in May 2011.

The proportion of broadband connections which are superfast (i.e. they have an advertised speed of ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s or above) has increased in recent months with the launch of new superfast packages. By May 2012, 8% of residential broadband connections were superfast, compared with 5% six months previously and 2% in May 2011.

Residential superfast broadband connections are also getting faster, with average speeds increasing from 35.5Mbit/s in November 2011 to 35.8Mbit/s in May 2012.

Full details can be found in the OFCOM report.

Speeds in rural areas had an average of 3.5 and a maximum of 4.0 Mbps, against UK figures of 9.1 and 10.1.

Perth & Kinross - £31 million plan for broadband to be approved, mostly funded by HMG

The BBC reports that Perth and Kinross Council is set approve a broadband plan.
Rolling out the high speed service is expected to cost £31.2m.

The council expects at least 25% of the funding to come from the private sector, with the rest being provided by the UK and Scottish governments.

The plan aims to give everyone in Perth and Kinross the best possible access to broadband where there is currently poor or no access, and provide access to a service of at least 20mbps by 2020.

The council wants to bid for funding for Perth under the "super-connected cities" programme of HM Treasury, but may be too small for that.

Lincolnshire - Consultation on £57 million broadband project by county council

The Peterbrough Telegraph reports a consultation on broadband.
Lincolnshire County Council is welcoming views on its plans to roll out high speed internet access for the vast majority of the county, with standard broadband guaranteed for the remainder.

A £57 million scheme, it be a joint-project between the private and public sector.

The Lincolnshire County Council is investing £10 million and district authorities are investing £4 million.

UK - 16% of adults have never used the Internet, a substantial decline from 2011 and 2010

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has published its latest data on Internet access. The key points are:
  • At 2012 Q2, 7.82 million adults (16 per cent) had never used the Internet. This is 4 per cent lower than 2012 Q1 and 10 per cent lower than 2011 Q2
  • There were 42.52 million adults (84 per cent) who had ever used the Internet at 2012 Q2
  • Men (87 per cent) were more likely to be Internet users than women (82 per cent)
  • By region, the South East and London had the highest rate of Internet users (88 per cent); Northern Ireland the lowest (77 per cent)
Those who have not used the Internet are predominantly older adults, especially those over 75.

For Scotland, the percentage of Internet users rose from 81.1 to 83.1, between Q2 of 2011 and 2012, putting it ahead of NE England, Yorkshire, W Midlands, N Ireland and Wales. The UK figures for the same period were 82.3 and 84.3.

Scotland - Scottish Govt finds £5 million for rural broadband

The Scotsman reports a £5 million programme backed by the Scottish Government.

According to the Kincardineshire Observer, this was welcomed by Nanette Milne, Scottish Conservative MSP for the North East. Cable reports similar support from Richard Lochhead, MSP for Moray.

Despite this enthusiasm, the original press release from Alex Neil MSP is remarkably vague on who is eligible or what the money is to be spent on.

The Community Broadband Scotland initiative will act as a one-stop-shop for rural community groups, providing them with information and advice to find solutions for broadband delivery in their areas.

Communities will be eligible to apply for seed funding under the initiative to enable them to obtain greater access to the internet.

The first round of funding will focus on supporting a small number of community projects, which will be used as case studies for wider roll out across Scotland.

CBS is a partnership between Scottish Government, Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE), Scottish Enterprise, COSLA and Local Government.

CBS will provide a suite of support mechanisms including advice, guidance and toolkits; an online and telephone resource; a network of staff on the ground delivering hands on advice and support locally to communities; and a Rural Seed Fund.

It will initially be targeted at communities in the 10-15% least likely to benefit from a next generation broadband (NGB) solution under the Step Change 2015 Programme and will provide an opportunity for those communities to take greater ownership, progress more quickly and trial innovative technology and business models.

The commitment to invest £5 million initially over the next three years in a Rural Seed Fund was made in the Infrastructure Action Plan. Round 1 (Pioneer Phase) of the fund (up to £1m) will be focussed on providing targeted support to a small number of community projects.

For Argyll notes that much of this is unintelligble, making it is almost impossible to apply for the money, it being unclear how much there is or what you can bid for.

UK - Fibre will be a game-changer for economic recovery

The Glasgow Herald carries an article by Openreach boss Liv Garfield.

The fibre network being built in the UK will be able to offer speeds of up to 330 mega bits per second (mbps) for business and 80 Mbps for consumers. The average is currently around 9 Mbps. She expects BT to have fibre broadband available to more than 50% of the Scottish population by the end of 2014 as part of its £2.5 billion commercial roll-out across the UK.

Ms Garfield said:

The Scottish Government has potentially the most ambitious plan of any government in Europe.

It has said, 'let's not sit on our laurels' and has two ambitious procurements going on: Highlands and Islands and one for all of Scotland.

The ambition is to see whether we can get to more than 90% of everyone living in Scotland having access to fibre.

I would say that if you live in Scotland you have got a really good chance of having access to something which will be a game changer for economic recovery, social awareness and even just social behaviour in terms of networking, and it is not that far away.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Scotland - Population is now 5,254,800, rising by over 87,000 July 2010 to June 2011

The Registrar General reports Scotland’s population in mid-2011 reached 5,254,800 - the highest ever. Rising by 190,600 since the 2001 Census and growing older .
Scotland’s population has seen a continuous increase in recent years, partly because there have been more births than deaths, but mainly because more people have moved to Scotland than have left. This trend continued in 2011, with migration largely responsible for an increase of 0.6 per cent in the population. At 5,254,800 the population is now the highest ever recorded, 14,000 higher than the previous high in 1974.

Behind this headline figure, the pattern of population change is more complex. The population in some areas of Scotland has decreased. Although births still outnumber deaths, there were fewer births than in 2010. In 2011, the number of deaths in Scotland dropped to 53,661, the lowest annual total since registration began in 1855. But life expectancy is still lower than in many other European Union countries.

Despite this, the number of older people has increased and this has contributed to a rise in the number of households. This is likely to continue, with an anticipated increase of 63 per cent in the number of people aged 65 or over by 2035.

In the 12 months between July 2010 and June 2011, around 43,700 people came to Scotland from the rest of the UK and a similar number from overseas. Most migrants to Scotland are young, aged between 16 and 34.

Life expectancy has increased over the last 25 years, from 69.1 years for men and 75.3 years for women born around 1981, to 76.1 years for men and 80.6 years for women born around 2010.

From more detail see GRO Report.

UK - Significant delays in procurement of broadband by local authorities delaying achievement of national targets

The Financial Times reports:
A key target for the UK government’s rollout of superfast broadband will be missed this year, raising doubts about ambitions to build a national high-speed network by 2015.
The problem appears to be that many of the local authorities have failed to commence their procurement exercises.

Shetland Islands - Meeting with BT on broadband in cancelled due to fog

The Shetland Times reports that a meeting with BT organised by Alistair Carmichael MP.
BT Scotland’s director Brendan Dick was to visit the isles to answer criticism about slow broadband connections.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

House of Lords - Reports a very real risk some people and businesses will be left behind

The Communications Committee of the House of Lords has published its report "Broadband for all - an alternative vision".
There is barely an aspect of our daily lives that is not touched in some way by the internet. The revolution in communications witnessed over recent decades has had a transformative effect on commercial and social transactions creating an information world without frontiers. We have found, however, that there is a very real risk that some people and businesses are being left behind, that inadequate access to the internet and all its benefits is actually afflicting their daily lives, prohibiting them from harvesting the fruits of the information revolution.

The Government are to be congratulated for making enhanced broadband provision a key public policy priority, and progress is clearly being made. It is our contention, however, that the Government have proceeded from a flawed prospectus, that the progress being made may prove illusory. There has been an insufficient focus on properly thinking through questions of first principle, and an absence of an all encompassing vision of pervasive broadband connectivity as a key component of national infrastructure.

Government policy has become preoccupied with the delivery of certain speeds to consumers. This, in our view, has had a detrimental effect on policy-making and the long term national interest. In this report, we propose an alternative vision for UK broadband policy, which, rather than being target driven, makes the case for a national broadband network which should be regarded as a fundamental strategic asset, to which different people can connect in different ways according to their needs and demands. The delivery of certain speeds should not be the guiding principle; what is important is the long term assurance that as new internet applications emerge, everyone will be able to benefit, from inhabitants of inner cities to the remotest areas of the UK. Access to the internet should be seen as a domestic essential and regarded as a key utility. The spectre of a widening digital divide is a profound source of concern which requires the Government to address its origin with greater vigour than we believe is currently the case.

Fundamentally, the Government's strategy has fundamentally focused on the wrong part of the network—broadly speaking the outer edge and the margins, not the centre. We argue that the Government should be focusing on delivering a high spec infrastructure which is future proof and built to last; fibre-optic cable, the most future proof technology, must be driven out as close as possible to the eventual user. Then, as well as mandating open access to this optical fibre from the cabinet to the exchange, we need to ensure that there is open access to links between the exchanges that feed the cabinets, and to the higher level links into national and global networks.

Just as there is national planning for the national, regional and local hubs of our transport network, so there should be national planning for a communications network of local, regional, national, and internet exchanges where different operators can site equipment and exchange traffic, all linked by ample optical fibre that is open to use by competing providers.

We do not pretend that any of this is easy, and we welcome the Government's policy focus on broadband, but we believe that the UK can and must do better.

Monday, July 30, 2012

OECD - published a report following up on broadband developments over the previous 4 years

The OECD has published Laying the Foundation for the Internet Economy: Access to the Internet via a High-Speed Infrastructure this follows up on development since the OECD Ministerial in Seoul in 2008.
Since the Seoul Declaration, access to broadband networks and the Internet have constantly increased. In terms of fixed broadband, penetration levels are close to maturity. In addition, further deployments of fibre networks have taken place; however, overall deployment of fibre is still at an early stage. On the mobile broadband side, 3G coverage is high and data traffic is expected to grow significantly. In terms of policies, national broadband plans have contributed to increasing access to the Internet. Some countries have furthermore invested public funds in the deployment of fibre networks.

IT skills - 100,000 people work IT and telecoms industry, with 3,500 vacancies per quarter

Scotland IS reports a study reporting the growing importance of the software sector to Scotland's economy.
The report identifies that the IT & Telecoms industry contributes in excess of £3 billion of Scotland’s total Gross Value Added, and that 100,000 people work in the industry and in IT & T professional roles in other sectors across the Scottish economy where technology is key, such as financial services.

Employer demand has been growing consistently since 2009, with an average of 3,500 advertised vacancies for IT staff per quarter during 2011. The majority of these vacancies are in development, design and support, skill sets which have accounted for an increasing proportion of advertised vacancies over each of the past three years.

See the full text of Technology Insights 2012: Scotland or the UK report (registration required).

UK - Survey finds consumers send 50 SMS/week, doubled in 4 years

OFCOM reports the UK is now using SMS more than talking.
Text-based communications are surpassing traditional phone calls or meeting face to face as the most frequent ways of keeping in touch for UK adults.

The average UK consumer now sends 50 texts per week – which has more than doubled in four years – with over 150 billion text messages sent in 2011

UK households now own on average three different types of internet-enabled device:
  • laptop
  • smartphone and
  • Internet-enabled games console
15 per cent of homes own six or more devices.
Four in ten (39%) adults now own a smartphone, a 12 percentage point increase on 2010. Forty-two per cent of these now say that their smartphone is the most important device for accessing the internet, with over four in ten (42%) regularly using social networking sites and half (51%) using e-mail.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

UK - OFCOM 4G spectrum auction to cover 98% of population by 2017

OFCOM has finally provided more details of the 4G or mobile broadband auction.mobile broadband auction.
The 4G auction will offer at least two spectrum bands – 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz. The lower frequency 800 MHz band is part of the ‘digital dividend’, which is ideal for widespread mobile coverage. The higher frequency 2.6 GHz band is ideal for delivering the capacity needed to deliver faster speeds. These two bands add up to 250 MHz of additional mobile spectrum, compared to 333 MHz in use today.

The spectrum bands will be auctioned to bidders as a series of lots. One of the 800 MHz lots of spectrum will carry an obligation to provide a mobile broadband service for indoor reception to at least 98% of the UK population by the end of 2017 at the latest.

The 800 MHz spectrum is well suited to providing high levels of coverage, and we anticipate that imposing the obligation on one operator will drive other operators to extend their own coverage in response.

Given that it is easier to provide coverage outdoors than indoors, a network meeting this obligation is likely to cover more than 99% of the UK by population when outdoors.

Further details are here.Wales Online reports it should end the problems of "not spots".

Friday, July 20, 2012

Wales - WAG and BT in agreement to reach 96 per cent of premises

Wales Online reports that the Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones, announced a deal with BT to deliver next generation broadband to 96% of homes and businesses in Wales by the end of 2015.
The initiative, which is subject to state aid and major projects approval, will take the total amount invested in Welsh fibre broadband to around £425m.

As a result of winning the contract, BT will create 50 new jobs and 100 new apprenticeships. 320 existing jobs will also be protected. In addition, BT will offer work experience to 900 young people. Up to 2,500 further full time jobs could be created throughout the Welsh economy over time.

Jones said:
As a result of Welsh Government, UK Government, European Structural Funds (ERDF) and private sector investment, a solution has been secured that will leverage the funding available to achieve best value for the Welsh pound. We have leveraged over £6 for every £1 invested by the Welsh Government.
ZDnet reports the funding is:
  • BT £220m
  • WAG £58m
  • BDUK £57m
  • ERDF £90m
The project, which aims to deliver fibre to non-commercially viable areas using government subsidies, is separate to BT's ongoing rollout of fibre services in commercially viable areas, which already included parts of Wales.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

OECD - 314 million fixed broadband subscriptions - Switzerland tops rankings, followed by Denmark

The OECD has collected and published data from all its member states as at the end of 2011 (see press release).
Switzerland tops fixed broadband ranking, while Korea leads in wireless broadband

Switzerland tops for the first time the OECD fixed broadband ranking, with 39.9 subscribers per 100 inhabitants, followed closely by the Netherlands (39.1) and Denmark (37.9). The OECD average is 25.6.

Fixed wired broadband subscriptions reached 314 million in the OECD area at the end of 2011, although growth slowed to 1.8% in the second half. Year-on-year subscriptions rose by 4.1%. Greece, Poland and Chile experienced the highest growth, of 5%, to reach 21.8, 15.0 and 11.7 respectively.

The overall share of DSL subscriptions continues to decrease (55.8%), to the benefit of cable (30%) and, especially, fibre-to-the-home subscriptions that now represent 13.7% of the total number of fixed broadband subscriptions.

Wireless broadband subscriptions showed healthy growth of over 13% in the last six months and Korea (100.6) and Sweden (98.0) continue to top the table. The global number of wireless broadband subscriptions in OECD countries totals 667 million, up from 590 million in June 2011.

Data and charts for the December 2011 broadband statistics are available at: http://www.oecd.org/sti/ict/broadband

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Scotland - Broadband is now in 68% of households, trailing UK average of 76%

The BBC reports Scotland has regained some growth in its fixed broadband market.
But last year's figures also showed a markedly lower level of online connections for Scots, 13 percentage points behind the 74% UK figure. With UK connections up to 76%, that gap has closed to 8 percentage points and Scots are now in a similar position to people in Wales and Northern Ireland.
However, it also notes the strange position of Glasgow:
The Greater Glasgow area has been an unusually slow adopter of broadband, with only 50% of households connected last year, but that has now risen to 60%.

Glasgow - Only 50% of adults have broadband against 76% for the UK

OFCOM has confirmed poor adoption of broadband in Glasgow:
As the Communications Market Report highlighted in 2011 and 2010, broadband take-up is relatively low in Glasgow. Figure 1.7 shows that 50% of adults in the city of Glasgow have fixed broadband, compared to the GB average (as reported by the BPS for this period) of 76%. Fixed broadband take-up in Glasgow was, by some distance, the lowest of all of the cities we analysed.
The Glasgow Herald reports:
Glasgow has the lowest take-up of broadband of any major city in the UK, the communications regulator found in its annual report – a persistent trend it believes is cutting residents off from services and opportunities now available online.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Highlands - HIE is asking operators to identify plans for superfast broadband so they plan for other areas

Highlands and Islands Enterprise is asking broadband providers to confirm any plans they may have to upgrade to superfast, and seeking information from local people and businesses about the quality of their current service.

The Consultation closes on 13 August 2012.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

USA - Speed is no longer enough, servers are not fast enough to keep pace with access

Boston.com reports that speed is declining as a factor in choice of broadband packages.
In the highly competitive cable market, broadband speed is a major selling point for Verizon and broadband rivals like Comcast Corp.’s Xfinity service. Carriers frequently boost the broadband speeds they offer in their relentless pursuit of new subscribers. But while the extra speed can pay off for households with multiple users, it can be overkill for many consumers.
Roger Entner, an Internet analyst for Recon Analytics, commented:
The problem is that most of the Internet isn’t transmitting data fast enough to take advantage of such rapid broadband speeds
A combination of more consumer devices and higher definition video is expected to make the faster transmission speeds necessary.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Scotland - How would telecoms look after independence, an analysis of the issues

I have posted a conference paper on SSRN, which can be freely downloaded, examining the issues for Scotland for a transition to independence. It examines licences, institutions, the possibly short timescale and problems of unequal information for operators and regulators.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Europe - Swedish MEP calls for broadband speeds of AT LEAST 1 Gigabit per second

Public Service reports the views of Gunnar Hökmark MEP:
Europe cannot afford to be reactive and hesitant on this issue, if we want to take the global lead. Our policies must be forward-looking, instead of conserving old structures. Moreover, Europe needs a real push for the deployment of ultrafast broadband - which can deliver speeds of at least 1 gigabyte and beyond. The European Union's current digital agenda targets that stipulate that all European households should have access to 30 Mbps, with 50 per cent of the households having access to at least 100 Mbps, is already outdated. Other global actors, including Japan and South-Korea, are already moving ahead with much higher speeds. If we do not want to continue to lag behind, we must set targets in gigabytes instead of megabytes. Some 50 per cent of EU households should have access to 100 Mbps by 2015 and not by 2020. That should be our target. In the same vein, we need to sharpen the high-speed target for 2020.

USA - AIR.U to bring white spaces wireless to rural colleges and universities

Google and Microsoft are to bring "super" Wi-Fi to campuses in rural USA according to ExtremeTech. AIR.U, hopes to bring between 20 to 100Mbps of wireless bandwidth to rural educational institutions, which will then provide internet access to local communities.
Super Wi-Fi (a term coined by the FCC and strongly frowned upon by the official Wi-Fi Alliance because it isn’t Wi-Fi), or IEEE 802.22 as it’s technically known, uses the TV channel frequencies that were originally used by analog TV, but which were freed up by the digital switchover in 2009. These channels — 6MHz blocks in the VHF and UHF ranges (54-698MHz) — are capable of carrying up to 20Mbps over a distance of 18 miles (30km). Multiple channels can be banded together to create faster links.

The reason 802.22 white space connectivity is so desirable is because low-frequency signals (such as 54MHz VHF) can travel very long distances, bend around mountains, and pass through obstacles. These low-frequency signals are the reason that single, huge TV transmitters can broadcast a signal to millions of homes — and why higher-frequency services, such as cellular radio, require broadcast towers every few miles.

Moving forward, the AIR.U (it’s the world’s most banal acronym, by the way: Advanced Internet Regions) consortium plans to start rolling out some pilot Super Wi-Fi networks in 2013, as and when white space networking equipment becomes widely available. Once the wireless links have been made to universities and colleges, a wired network or normal WiFi can be used to provide internet access to the rest of the community.

New Zealand - Adoption of broadband relates to costs (connecting and use) and availability of video-on-demand

Scoop reports that the NZ Commerce Commission has released the results of a study on the adoption of broadband.

Ross Patterson, Telecommunications Commissioner, said:

The intention of the study has always been to identify factors which might slow down the uptake of high speed broadband by consumers and businesses so relevant parties can make informed decisions. Following feedback from interested parties, we are still seeing two main areas identified as being important to consumers – costs relating to connecting and using high speed broadband, and the availability of video-on-demand services
The full report is available from the Commerce Commission.

The key points that have emerged in the course of this study are:

  • The costs related to connecting to the network, and using high speed broadband services, have been identified by many parties during our study as a critical factor. As these costs (non standard connections, re-wiring, upgrading equipment and subscribing to the services) appear to be significant, they are likely to reduce the initial uptake of high speed broadband services for both consumers and SMEs.
  • Video content is likely to be the primary driver of consumers’ uptake of high speed broadband services over the next few years. The rate of uptake is likely to be higher if there is a diverse range of video on demand options available to consumers. Currently, there are limited online video on demand services in New Zealand compared with many other comparable countries.
  • Potential issues relating to data caps, backhaul capacity and IP interconnection are likely to be resolved by market forces.
  • Rural users have the same appetite for fast broadband as urban users, but have a more fundamental need, which is to be connected to basic broadband. Theyare concerned that they could be left behind as New Zealand moves forward with high speed broadband services. This issue has been recognised in the RBI initiative and in the five point government action plan for faster broadband.
  • In this report the Commission identifies issues related to the uptake of high speed broadband services. Where these issues are currently being considered or planned to be considered by other parties as part of their future work programmes, the Commission has stated so in this report.
  • In submissions received on the draft report, some parties commented that the Commission was not explicit about what actions should be taken by which external parties, or that the Commission did not make specific recommendations. Policy decisions and regulatory recommendations fall outside the Commission’s jurisdiction under section 9A of the Telecommunications Act. The purpose of the report is to raise public awareness of the issues, to enable the relevant parties to make informed decisions.
  • The Commission notes that submissions made by some parties commented on the need for this report to be updated in the future, and for the need to be more specific about the Commission’s monitoring processes.
  • The Commission is currently reviewing its monitoring strategy and will take into account all the submissions received during the study in redesigning its future monitoring programme. The revised programme will include the monitoring of the rate of uptake of UFB services, changes in data caps, and the range and price of services offered over UFB. The Commission will consult on the scope and regularity of the monitoring reports.

Oxfordshire - A rural wireless ISP set up to increase speeds and business opportunities

The BBC reports three entrepreneurs in rural Oxfordshire have set up a new ISP, Sugarnet.

Founder, Oliver Helm, said:

We had become so frustrated with the big companies' unfulfilled promises and our unworkable internet speeds. We decided to take the bull by the horns and create the solution ourselves. Crippling speeds make it very difficult for businesses to grow, particularly now that everything is going online, and it makes them look to move to places where they don't have that issue.
It installed a wireless network with it claims has increased some connections from 0.2Mbps to 300Mbps, though it offers speeds of 5, 10 and 20 Mbps.

Oxfordshire County Council was also spending £3.86 million on improving broadband services in the county.

OFCOM - Consultation on copyright infringement and proposed code for regulating infringements

OFCOM has launched a consultation ending on 26 July 2012 on a proposed code relating to the online infringement of copyright and the Digital Economy Act (DEA) 2010.

Stranraer - BT to extend superfast broadband to 4,000 in this exchange area

The Galloway Gazette reports that BT is make superfast broadband available to 4,000 homes in Stranraer.

Jim Hume, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for South Scotland:

I’ve long campaigned for fast and reliable broadband in the region and I welcome the news from BT that Stranraer has been earmarked in this latest round for high speed fibre broadband.

There are obvious benefits of having a better broadband connection and this is excellent news for householders and businesses alike.

The internet plays a vital role in the local economy and in a digital age where most business is conducted online, it’s crucial that our rural areas can compete in the marketplace.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said:
: Stranraer is really suffering because of the economic downturn and this news gives our local firms a boost. These improved links will really help local businesses, and will attract investment and new jobs. Residents will also benefit from being able to do more, better and faster, online.

However, even after this announcement far too many people in our area remain on painfully slow internet spends. We need to roll out superfast broadband to smaller towns and villages too because everyone in our region needs to be benefit.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

BT Openreach - Testing a service to extend FTTC to the home, but at costs of over £1,000 (wholesale)

ZDnet reports that BT Openreach is testing service described as "fibre on demand" that will provide speeds of 330 Mbps from Spring 2013.
The problem isn't the technology but the cost of the deployment, which involves laying a fibre optic cable from the local cabinet to the home or business premises. This is a variable cost, but could well be over £1,000.
Mike Galvin of BT Openreach was quoted as saying:
FTTP on Demand has great potential and so we are proceeding with these pilots. Whilst we believe FTTC will be our mass market consumer product for some time yet, FTTP may be of interest to small and medium sized businesses and so we want to make it accessible throughout our fibre footprint. This development can potentially help SMEs to compete both at home and abroad as well as maintain and create jobs across the UK.
Computing identifies the eight exchanges as including: parts of High Wycombe, Bristol South and St Agnes in Cornwall, the Waverley exchange in Edinburgh (from September 2012), then parts of Watford, Cardiff, Basingstoke and Manchester Central (from March 2013).

UK - Virgin Media criticised for adverts claiming to double speeds, but sometimes just cutting the price

The Inquirer reports that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had criticised Virgin Media over claims it was doubling speed:
The ASA said the ads implied that Virgin Media was doubling broadband speeds across the board, when it was in fact only doubling speeds for some, with 100Mbit/sec customers seeing a price cut instead of a speed upgrade.
The ASA said:
We considered consumers would interpret ad (b) to mean that all consumers who have or could get the Virgin service would have their broadband speed doubled. Because we understood that not all non-Virgin customers and Virgin 100 Mb and non-cable broadband customers would have their broadband speed doubled, we concluded that ad (b) was misleading and that the exclusions contradicted the main claim. On these points, the ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 and 3.8 (Substantiation), 3.9 (Qualification) and 3.22 (Prices).

Scotland - a further 150,000 premises to have access to superfast broadband in 2013

The BBC reports that BT is to roll-out "superfast broadband" to a further 150,000 Scottish homes and businesses in 2013.

It quotes Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, as saying:

Local firms and households who make the switch to fibre broadband will be able to do so much more with their connection, whether they're using it for business, entertainment, education, social networking or shopping - or all of these at once. They're joining more than 10 million premises now passed by our fibre network and becoming part of one of the fastest roll-outs of the technology anywhere in the world.
ZDnet reports the UK announcement covering 98 exchanges, some of which are in Scotland, with a full list.

Highlands and Islands - HIE is contracting BT to build broadband networks worth £120 million

The Northern Times reports a £120 million boost for broadband to bring "superfast broadband" to communities across the Highlands and Islands. The programme, funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) will be undertaken by BT.

The Stornoway Gazette quotes Western Isles MSP, Alasdair Allan:

HIE, who are in conversation with BT at present are drawing up plans which will include in some areas major works such as new sub-sea cables, and which will, I hope, now ensure next generation broadband comes to the islands over the next few years.

“I will be keeping in touch with the project to establish further details about works to be carried out locally, as the contract for the Highlands and Islands will be awarded as soon as August. Work will start shortly thereafter to address the ‘backhaul’ issue – in other words the huge amount of work that needs to be done between the Western Isles and the central belt before we have any chance of improved broadband speeds here.

See also the press release from HIE. Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HIE, said:
This funding puts the Highlands and Islands on track to deliver the largest and most challenging rural broadband project in the UK. By bringing together the expertise and investment of both the private and public sector we want to roll out a service which will change the face of the region. Businesses and communities will see benefits where they matter most including in education, in supporting healthcare services and by opening up new markets. Our ultimate aim is for all parts of the Highlands and Islands to benefit and this news brings us a step closer to our goal.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ireland - EC reported it was doing well on mobile broadband but not on high speed fixed broadband

Inside Ireland reports the European Commission finding Ireland ranked fifth in the EU for mobile broadband but well below average when in fixed line high speed broadband.
Ireland is now however leading the EU in the field of eGovernment.

USA - Senate adopts changes to the broadband part of the Rural Utilities Service

the National Journal reports that the U.S. Senate passed an amendment to the broadband section of the farm bill changing the way broadband grants and loans are distributed by the Rural Utilities Service (RUS).
The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Mark Warner, D.-Vir, with a bipartisan group of co-sponsors including Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and the ailing Mark Kirk, R-Ill, sets up a competitive bidding process for broadband loans and grants, and eliminates the rolling application process that was previously in place.

The amendment requires a minimum level of grants for areas that are currently not reached by any broadband service, sets minimum broadband speeds for funded projects, encourages new entrants to the rural broadband sector and requires RUS loan recipients and grantees to map the reach of their broadband projects. Additionally, the amendment directs the Department of Agriculture to devote 1% of RUS appropriated funds to oversight and administration.

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association welcomed this:
Given the scarcity of federal dollars, it is critical that government use its resources efficiently by limiting subsidized overbuilds and focusing its efforts on extending access to the roughly 18 million Americans currently without broadband

OFCOM - Two new members appointed by OFCOM to its Advisory Committee for Scotland

OFCOM has announced the appointment of two new members of its Advisory Committee for Scotland (ACS).

These are Stuart Gibson from Edinburgh and Peter Peacock from Inverness.

UK - Civil Service should be !digital by default" and exclusively online where possible

Public Service reports Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude announcing that many public services would be delivered solely on-line as the civil service overcomes the lag it has in digital offerings, as part of the Civil Service Reform Plan.

Maude said:

"We need to embrace new ways of delivering services. We need to be digital by default. Digital by default will become a reality, not just a buzz phrase.
Services that could be delivered online "should be delivered only online".

See the Civil Service Reform Plan.

Global - Broadband subs rose 16 million in Q1 to over 200 million, with Asia in the lead

The Broadband Forum in a press release reporting that the global broadband subscriber base rose 16 million in 2012 Q1 passing a total of 600 million as growth accelerated.

Asia is leader with 262 million and is growing faster than other regions. China alone represented 164 million lines. China, India and Brazil achieved double digit growth.

Europe - A report analysing the obstacles to ICT-led growth and those which can best be removed

Bruegel has produced a policy contribution on the obstacles hampering ICT-led growth in Europe and the main areas in which policy could unlock the greatest value.
According to the literature survey and the collected estimates, the areas in which the right policies could unlock the greatest ICT-led growth are product and labour market regulations and the European Single Market. These areas should be reformed to make European markets more flexible and competitive. This would promote wider adoption of modern data-driven organisational and management practices thereby helping to close the productivity gap between the United States and the European Union.

Gains could also be made in the areas of privacy, data security, intellectual property and liability pertaining to the digital economy, especially cloud computing, and next generation network infrastructure investment.

Standardisation and spectrum allocation issues are found to be important, though to a lesser degree. Strong complementarities between the analysed technologies suggest, however, that policymakers need to deal with all of the identified obstacles in order to fully realise the potential of ICT to spur long-term growth beyond the partial gains that we report.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Scotland - What are the regulatory structures and licences after independence?

I attended the @ScotsmanDebate on the economics of independence. Alongside much discussion of a future currency (Pound, euro or something new) and the associated organisational arrangements, I raised the question of the need for a new institutions to replicate the Office of Fair Trading, Competition Commission, the Competition Appeal Tribunal and the various sector regulators, including @OFCOM . There seems to have been little thought given to this.

I have a short paper setting out some of the issues.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Europe - EC has published Digital Agenda Scoreboard

The European Commission has published the Digital Agenda Scoreboard (see press release and memo). It found:
  • Broadband is nearly ubiquitous in Europe. 95% of Europeans have access to a fixed broadband connection.
  • Consumers and businesses are moving fast to mobile. Mobile Internet take-up grew by 62% to 217 million mobile broadband subscriptions.
  • 15 million Europeans connected for the first time in 2011, with now 68% of
  • Europeans online regularly and 170 million on social networks. For the first time a majority of economically disadvantaged Europeans have used the internet, but one in four Europeans have still never used the internet.
  • Greece, Portugal and Ireland have turned to eGovernment to help maintain quality public services. Alongside the Czech Republic, the greatest increases in eGovernment provision and use have been in cash-strapped economies, underlining the valuable role of eGovernment in successful structural reform.
Up to 80% of the costs of rolling out high speed broadband networks are related to civil engineering, such as the digging up of roads to lay down fibre. The Commission believes this high percentage calls for harmonised measures to reduce these costs and is envisaging an EU initiative in the beginning of 2013.
See the Digital Agenda Scoreboard.

UK - Regulator is designating BT with SMP in wholesale leased line services above 1Gbit/s

OFCOM on measures to meet growing demand for fast data services from UK businesses, mobile operators, internet providers and consumers.

A review of the leased lines market led to proposals for changes:

The review proposes to maintain and extend some existing regulation on BT, the major provider of wholesale services in this market. But Ofcom also proposes lighter regulation in the London area, where BT faces greater competition from other providers.

Outside of London, Ofcom is proposing to regulate very high-bandwidth, wholesale leased line services above 1Gbit/s. BT is proposed to have ‘significant market power’ in this relatively new market, in all parts of the UK except London and Hull.

See the Business Connectivity Market Review and consultation.

BRIC - the rapid progress in the adoption of mobile broadband

ZDnet reports the rapid progress of Brazil, Russia, India and China (but not South Africa) in the adoption of mobile broadband.

Infonetics reports the number of global mobile broadband subscribers increased by almost 50 per cent between 2010 and 2011, to 846 million. It estimates that the figure will reach 2.6 billion — an increase of more than 300 percent — by 2016. BRIC countries will continue to do the driving.

Infonetics analyst Stéphane Téral said:

We anticipate Asia Pacific to account for over half of the world’s mobile broadband subscribers by 2016, while Latin America will see the fastest growth.

Everything Everywhere - Speculation that it might be acquired by venture capitalists or a high street retailer

Telecoms.com speculates that venture capitalists are interested in acquiring Everything Everywhere.
The bid is reportedly being masterminded by former EE CEO Tom Alexander, who is said to have held discussions with KKR and another private equity group Apax, according to the Financial Times. The operator, formed by the merger of T-Mobile and Orange in the UK, dismissed the reports in a statement.

The idea that EE might be an acquisition target for a high street retail specialist reflects the operator’s evolved position. It no longer manages its own 3G network, having devolved responsibility for this to the MBNL shared venture with 3UK, which has seen T-Mobile, 3UK and Orange pooling together infrastructure equipment and tower sites.

China - Ministries progressing in the development of a national broadband plan

CRI reports on the national broadband plan for China.
The project, which was selected as a national strategy by the State Council on May 9, means that China has got a development plan for its broadband network at the national level. The ministry, the National Development and Reform Commission and nine other ministries have been discussing specific aspects of the "Broadband China" project since February, according to Zhang Feng, head of the telecommunication development department of the MIIT.
Last week, Shang Bing, vice-minister of the MIIT, said:
China is embracing a new round of investment (in its telecom sector)," Chinese telecom operators are expected to invest 370 billion yuan ($58 billion) in broadband construction this year, an increase of 10 percent year-on-year.

Mearns - BT is making 20 Mbps available from spring of next year

The Mearns Leader reports BT is extending faster broadband to Netwonhill and Laurencekirk. From spring 2013 homes will have access to 20 Megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds, more than double the speed previously available from BT.

Some 94 Scottish exchange areas covering around 836,000 premises have been included in the fibre upgrade plan to date.

UK - Only 1 in a thousand lines can deliver 100 Mbps and only 2 in a thousand households has signed up that speed

ZDnet reports that only 0.1 per cent of UK broadband lines is capable of 100 Megabits per second and only two in a thousand households have signed up for a 100Mbps service.

It quotes the European Commission:

In terms of the broadband speed targets set by the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE), the UK has one of the smallest shares of lines within the EU at and above 100Mbps. The penetration of these lines in January 2012 was only 0.02 percent and below the EU average of 0.4 percent.

Even at lower speeds, the UK is lagging. Uptake of connections in the 30-100Mbps range was 1.7 percent, compared with 2.4 percent for the EU as a whole. In addition, only 5.5 percent of fixed connections are able to deliver those rates, the Commission said.

Whitby - Robin Hood's Bay Broadband Cooperative has been funded by DEFRA for rural broadband development

The Whitby Gazette reports the Robin Hood’s Bay Broadband Cooperative has been successful in becoming the latest community broadband project to be funded by Defra’s Rural Develeopment Programme for England, with investment also supported by NYnet and the Bay community.

Ireland - Demand for broadband flattening out according to latest figures from the regulator

Silicon Republic reports that ComReg, the regulator, has found that the broadband market is relatively stable with the number of subscriptions holding up, but that there is now little growth.
At a time when broadband is becoming a considerable economic enabler - new jobs available from Apple and Amazon for home-shoring workers require 5Mbps and 4Mbps minimum speeds respectively - broadband subscriptions grew only 0.1pc to 1.66m subscriptions at the end of March.
Less than 20pc of broadband subscribers - mostly cable users in urban areas - are getting speeds higher than 10Mbps. See the full report.

USA - President eases access to federal land, including roads, for construction of broadband

US President Obama has signed an Executive Order to facilitate the deployment of broadband. He said:
Building a nationwide broadband network will strengthen our economy and put more Americans back to work. "By connecting every corner of our country to the digital age, we can help our businesses become more competitive, our students become more informed and our citizens become more engaged."
The Executive Order (EO) will require the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Interior, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs as well as the US Postal Service to offer carriers a single approach to leasing Federal assets for broadband deployment.

The new US Ignite Partnership is to create a national network of communities and campuses with ultra-fast, programmable broadband services, operating at speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second. This network will become a test-bed for designing and deploying next-generation applications to support national priorities areas such as education, healthcare, energy, and advanced manufacturing. US Ignite is intended to challenge students, startups, and industry leaders to create a new generation of applications and services that meet the needs of local communities while creating a broad range of job and investment opportunities.

Birmingham - EC gives approval for €6 million of state aid for broadband

The European Commission approved €6 million of public financing for the construction of an ultra-fast broadband network in the city of Birmingham to be in line with EU state aid rules, in particular because it will be genuinely open to all operators and will therefore promote competition.

Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said:

Investments in ultra-fast broadband networks contribute to promoting growth in line with the EU's Digital Agenda. If such networks are built with the help of taxpayers' money, it is important to ensure thriving competition on the subsidised networks, so that local businesses and citizens can benefit from continuously improving broadband services at competitive prices.

Scotland - On e-commerce while the UK is globally number one for e-commerce, Scotland is well behind

The Glasgow Herald comments on a report on e-commerce in Scotland:
Despite a decade of explosive growth, and the presence of exemplary Scottish-based firms such as Schuh, Toolstop, Black Circles and Skyscanner, so far no Scottish minister or development agency leader has publicly addressed the specialised demands of e-commerce or the lack of training in the technical, design, marketing, supply-chain management and order-fulfilment skills needed to succeed in a global marketplace.

The report was also critical of the Scottish public sector's lack of knowledge and engagement with e-commerce to date and urged a "refreshed" approach by the public sector including "awareness raising activity", publication of statistics, encouragement of further networking and improved training of economic support staff and businesses.

See the full text of the report.

Friday, June 15, 2012

UK - Optimistic estimate of £1.8Bn for costs of interception for the next decade to be met by government

The Guardian reports that HMG plans to spend £1.8bn over ten years for tracking emails, phone use and Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The Home Office has published the Communications Data Bill.

The Guardian notes:

Ministers have already agreed to pay all the costs of the scheme, which will require phone and internet companies to collect and store for 12 months the records of internet and mobile phone use in Britain for access by police and intelligence services.

The communications data that police and intelligence services may seek about an individual under the communications bill includes email addresses and phone numbers of people who have been in contact; when this happened; where; and the details giving the police records of suspects' associates and activities. It will remain the case that they will not be allowed to access the content of emails, texts, mobile calls and other confidential web use without a warrant signed by the home secretary.

[Home Secretary, Theresa] May defended the 550,000 individual requests for data each year made by security officials as a vital tool to catch serious criminals and terrorists.

The House of Lords is separately considering the admissibility of evidence from interception (see progress).

Cumbria - Council rejects the bids from BT and Fujitsu under the govt scheme for rural broadband

The BBC reports that Cumbria County Council has rejected the only two bids it received for broadband, from BT and Fujitsu.
The county had been awarded £17m from a public subsidy, one of the largest amounts given to any UK council.

Both BT and Fujitsu have been given more time to come up with better offers.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Scotland - Additional £32 million for broadband from UK government's BDUK

The BBC reports that BDUK, part of the UK Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), is to provide an extra £32 million for superfast broadband in Scotland.

This is addition to £68.8m allocated for Scotland in 2011.

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore MP said:

Access to superfast broadband means Scottish businesses can expand, develop new markets and compete globally. It also allows local communities to access public services more quickly and efficiently online.

Providing Scotland with high-speed broadband is essential for businesses to grow and to create the new jobs we need. That is why the UK government believes broadband is essential not only for everyday life, but also for the future economic success of Scotland and the UK.

See also the Scotland Office press release.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Europe - Council of ministers agreed on €9.1 billion for trans-European networks and digital platforms

The Council of Ministers approved a new funding instrument for trans-European infrastructure networks.
agreed on the creation of a "Connecting Europe Facility" (CEF) – the future funding instrument for Europe's key infrastructures in the energy, telecommunications and transport. The ministers reached a compromise on the last outstanding question – whether the CEF should provide for more possibilities of funding road development projects.

The draft regulation on CEF, worth €50 billion of investment, aims to help create high-performing, environmentally sustainable and interconnected networks across Europe.

Telecommunications sector: broadband networks can receive funding rates of up to 50%, generic services and cross-cutting priorities – up to 75%, while projects linked to "Europeana" – the digital platform for the European cultural heritage – can receive funding of up to 100%.

See also the Presidency Conclusions.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chelsea - BT is not deploying fibre since the council has blocked installation of its fibre street cabinet

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea had block BT from installing street cabinets used for its fibre to the curb project, according to AP.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Rural Scotland - Broadband is integral to social and economic development and to the delivery of the "National Outcomes in rural Scotland"

The Rural Policy Centre at the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) has published its biennial report on Rural Scotland in Focus.
The population of rural Scotland is growing, accounting for approximately 20% of the population - now over one million people. It also continues to change, becoming more culturally diverse. The employment base is broader than 20 years ago and an improved infrastructure increasingly allows for greater spread of business, home-working and the generation of renewable energy. Community engagement in the ownership of land and assets, together with the delivery of services through partnerships, gives potential for locally-specific approaches. Meanwhile rural towns and businesses play an increasing role in reducing vulnerability by increasing the spread of employment.

Rural next generation broadband: is integral to Scotland’s social and economic development and to the delivery of the Scottish Government’s National Outcomes. Demand is persistent and increasing. While urban Scotland’s connectivity gets faster much of rural Scotland remains in the “final third” with “not-spots” and “twilight zones” hampering inclusion and development. Even maintaining the existing divide will require significant infrastructural investment, including by communities themselves. Next generation broadband enables the realisation of commonly-accepted “rights” for Scotland’s citizens, irrespective of location. National investment remains essential to enable rural communities and businesses to live and work in a fit-for-purpose digital Scotland.

Improvements to broadband in many (though by no means all) rural areas also mean that private sector businesses are able to diversify into, or set up in, new ‘knowledgebased’ sectors, such as web or graphic design or market research.

Section 5 is dedicated to Next generation broadband in rural Scotland, of which the key finding are:
  • There is no doubt that high-speed or next generation broadband is integral to social and economic development and to the delivery of Scotland’s National Outcomes in rural Scotland.
  • However, despite strategies and investments since 1999, much of rural Scotland remains in the “final third” with “not-spots” and “twilight zones” hampering inclusion and development. Urban Scotland’s connectivity, meanwhile, is getting faster, faster.
  • In fact, significant infrastructural investment, including by communities themselves, is required even to maintain the rural-urban digital divide.
  • Next generation broadband enables the realisation of commonly-accepted “rights” for Scotland’s citizens, irrespective of location – and the role of next generation broadband in supporting the delivery of these rights is indisputable.
  • Demand for next generation broadband is persistent and increasing amongst rural businesses and communities, from accessible to remoter areas.
  • This demand for next generation broadband in rural Scotland, and the implications of not meeting it, means that partnership working and ongoing investment are becoming more critical. This is particularly so in times of efficiency budgeting and declining services experienced in many rural areas. National-level investment across Scotland remains essential. Communities, private and public sectors exchanging knowledge and experience - for example through Broadband Delivery UK, Scotland’s Infrastructure Investment Plan, and Scotland’s Digital Infrastructure Action Plan – are critical for rural communities and businesses to experience the advantages of a digital Scotland.

UK - Children use blackberry as a phone as much as fruit and find information by Googling, while showing familiarity with apps

The Guardian reports an analysis of the writing of children by the OUP, using the stories submitted to a BBC writing competition. In addition to a growing Americanisation of English usage, it found that:
The research finds that of nearly 300 instances of the word "blackberry", almost half referred to phones. Technology was also an integral part of plots in the stories, with characters "Googling" for answers rather than looking in books and using apps rather than rabbit holes or magical wardrobes to enter fantasy worlds.

China - for comparison, operators will invest £37 billion this year in optical fibre network infrastructure

Everything is relative. Digitimes reports the three broadband operators (China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile) will invest a total of CNY 370 billion (£37 billion) in optical fibre infrastructure in 2012. This will be an increase of 10 per cent over 2011.

The aim of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) is to increase the fixed broadband by 20 million in 2012 to 176 million (with more than 50% having download speeds of more than 4 Mbps) and FTTx subscribers reaching 35 million by the end of 2012.

See also Total Telecom.

UK - Very little evidence of willingness to pay more for 100 Mbps "superfast" broadband

PC Advisor reports the results of a poll on its web site concerning the willingness to pay for 100 Mbps broadband. Exclusive of the line rental it found:
A whopping 77 percent revealed that they would not pay over £30 a month for such speeds, with only 10 percent claiming they would be prepared to pay over £30 for the superfast broadband.
This is made up of
  • 28 per cent only willing to pay up to £10
  • 28 per cent prepared to pay £10-£20
  • 21 per cent happy to pay £20-£30
  • 10 per cent over £10
  • 3 per cent don't know
  • 11 per cent happy with standard speed and price

USA - Head of NTIA warns of the political challenges around broadband funding in an election year

PC Advisor reports that Lawrence Strickling, the assistant secretary for communications and information at the Department of Commerce and administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) as saying:
We're in an election year," Strickling said. "There are people out there who have as their commitment the desire to try to embarrass this program. And they'll be looking at every little thing that you're doing.

Everyone should understand, we're focused on working with each of you to help evaluate and determine how you can keep your projects going past the end of the federal money arriving," he said

UK - Urban broadband fund - three cities designated as potential recipients

eGov Monitor reports that Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth are listed for a possible share of £50 million for broadband.
Inverness and Stirling have been excluded on the basis that they have less than 45,000 homes and businesses. Glasgow was unsuccessful in earlier rounds and is therefore ineligible to apply again.
Alex Neil MSP complained:
Inverness, as capital of the Highlands, is surely an ideal candidate for this fund. Similarly Stirling could benefit hugely from being able to bid for this funding. I have asked Mr Hunt to look again at how the Urban Broadband Fund could work in Scotland, whether Scotland could be allocated a proportion of this fund, we could ensure all of our cities could benefit effectively.

UK - Significant evidence of regional variations in use of social network services, with Scotland in the lead

The Daily Record reports the results of a BT survey showingthat of those using the Internet there were differences across the UK in the use of social network services.
  • 48per cent in Scotland
  • 20per cent in Northern Ireland
  • 43per cent in Wales
  • 33per cent in the North East England
  • 39per cent in the South West
  • 45.7per cent in London
Social networks are equal to news and current affairs websites in terms of popularity in Scotland.

It is worth noting that there are variations between the nations and regions of the UK in the use of the Internet. This needs to be considered in understanding these figures.

Broadband - £500 million funding for procurement of broadband in Scotland through BDUK framework

The Drum claims that:
The Scottish Government will invest around £500m in broadband for communities and businesses by 2015, cabinet secretary for infrastructure and capital investment Alex Neil pledged today
This appears to a somewhat Brownian description of the financing.

Reading the publication of the Scottish Government the money appears to come from the European Regional Development Fund, from HM Treasury via Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and HMG funding for local authorities, topped up under the antique Barnett Formula.

The Herald notes:

According to the document Step Change 2015 the work will be appointed under the UK-wide Broadband Delivery Framework, rather than a Scotland-only "competitive dialogue" after a review "concluded that [this] would be a faster means of achieving our ambitions".
The investment will be in "white" areas, where there would be no plans to provide such services, something the Salmond Administration will now put to a consultation, seeking details of investment plans by the operators. It will also work with local authorities on their priorities.

It is also publishing details of progress in delivering Step Change 2015.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

UK - Virgin Media argues that BDUK is propping up the BT monopoly

The Guardian reports that:
A total of £980m has been earmarked for improving Britain's broadband network, including £530m during this parliament to get a basic 2Mbps broadband service to Britain's hardest to reach areas. But rivals fear most of the money will go to BT.
It quotes Virgin Media chief operating officer, Andrew Barron as writing in its letters column that:
The noble ambition of locally procured rural broadband networks is protracted and likely to favour the incumbent, freezing out new entrants

The outcome of current government policy is likely to be the subsidy of already dominant infrastructure in areas where we are not, to the sum of hundreds of millions of pounds of public money."

The BT response was that:
BT would be more than happy to compete directly with Virgin for BDUK funds but we doubt that will happen. That is because Virgin have steadfastly refused to provide open wholesale access to their network – a key BDUK requirement – and because they have shown no interest to date in supplying rural areas with broadband.

This is in contrast to BT who offer broadband services on a wholesale basis to 99% of UK premises. Fujitsu have announced their intention to bid for funds and so there will be a competitive process. We are already seeing this in several part of the UK.

The BBC reports that the Labour Party spokesman saw HMG "sleepwalking into another monopoly".

Cumbria - Loss of broadband service which proved not to be sustainable without a subsidy

The Guardian reports the loss of broadband service in part of Cumbria as a consequence of the ending of a subsidy.

The Duddon Valley is losing its Cable & Wireless broadband service, with the alternative being the Ku band satellite service:

Cable & Wireless Worldwide has written to residents to say the public funds raised to pay for the service have expired, and because the connection is "uneconomical", it is to be withdrawn.

Using European money, the North West Development Agency, which was abolished along with all other regional development agencies in March, spent £15m to bring broadband to Cumbria. The investment was made in the wake of the foot and mouth epidemic 2001, which decimated local agriculture and tourism.

About £500,000 was spent on connections for Duddon, Branthwaite and three other valleys that were all too remote for BT broadband. The hardest-to-reach homes were connected to the internet not via the copper wires but using radio masts, with small receivers on the outside of properties to pick up the signal.

BT - 20 Mbps broadband to be available to 3/4 of homes and businesses by 2013 Q1

The Scotsman reports that a further 124,000 homes in Scotland will have access to faster broadband (up to 20 Mbps) by spring 2013. This includes towns such as Bo’ness, Brechin Lockerbie, Scone and Tillicoutry are among the communities to be included in BT’s rollout of new generation copper lines which will be able to deliver broadband of up to 20 Mbps per second.

This services is already available to 1.5 million homes and businesses in Scotland.

By early 2013, three-quarters of premises in Scotland will be able to connect at 20 Mbps, while 40 per cent will have the option of superfast FTTC.

Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director said:

The rapid roll out of faster broadband offers a great opportunity for Scotland. It is an important part of BT’s plans to help ensure the nation is able to take full advantage of the communications revolution.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

UK - Lords Cttee questions witnesses in inquiry into superfast broadband

The Communications Committee of the House of Lords took evidence yesterday, 22nd May, from witnesses in its inquiry into broadband.

Minutes of evidence will be available shortly.

Monday, May 21, 2012

UK - Forecast for 2016 of 10.8 million superfast lines of 25.9 milllion broadband lines

Cable reports an increase in superfast broadband lines. It quotes Point Topic as forecasting there will be 10.8 million of super-fast connections by the end of 2016, while the total number of broadband lines is expected to be 25.9 million.