Stitch up in West Sussex broadband?
It felt like a stitch-up, the West Sussex Broadband Summit in Chichester last Friday.
BT, represented by its MD for next generation access, Bill Murphy, was the only communications provider (CP) on the podium, and he was allowed free reign to sell BT’s fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) product to the delegates, mostly parish and local government representatives, plus some civil society bods from organisations like the Country Landowners Assocation.
To be fair, Cable & Wireless’s Ian Fowler with Bill Lewis of Kijoma Broadband, a high speed mesh radio network operator were there to hold up the BT steamroller. But I suspect it was in vain.
This matters. West Sussex is 50 miles from London, but it has three of the four BT exchanges in the county that have not been converted to xDSL. So some of its citizens can’t get any type of fixed broadband. Speaker after speaker from the floor castigated BT for the rubbish service they and their fellow citizens receive. One was getting 28kbps download. Tops.
West Sussex is largely rural. It is also bisected by the South Downs National Park, which means the county’s natural high sites for radio are almost out of the question due to planning restrictions. Defra’s plans to have all farmers submit their paperwork online just won’t work here.
But in case this comes across as just another rant against BT, let me hasten to add that Mike Hicks, the project manager for WSCCs bid for some of BDUK’s £530m budget, says no other CPs seem interested in his problems. He says he phoned Fujitsu Telecom following its dramatic offer to spend billions on network build, provided it has cheap(er) access to BT’s passive infrastructure and what’s left of BDUK’s money. After a run around to find the right person to talk to, he was asked how many people live in the towns?
Clearly, they are looking to do hub and spoke networks from urban centres, says Hicks. “That’s not our idea of rural broadband,” he says.
If you want to watch the whole show go here. But for those with less patience, try my 3.37 min video interview with WSCC leader Louise Goldsmith and Hicks.
Nick Herbert, who hosted the event and promised us an interview, blew us off. Well, it had been a long day, it was Friday and there was culture secretary Jeremy Hunt to shmooze with.