Following the broadband money

Archive for June 2013

BT has a veto on RCBF rural broadband projects

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BT is determined not to allow competition in rural areas. That’s why the speed and coverage details of their NGA contracts are kept under non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and why would-be RCBF-funded community networks in the Final 10% are not allowed to see them.

This is clear from BDUK’s guidance to local authorities who may have eligible RCBF projects in their area.
In addition BT is permitted to do an impact assessment on RCBF projects, and hence holds an effective veto on them. Or it can use its own taxpayer-funded roll-out to ‘white-ant’ the projects’ coverage areas, making sure it will be hard or impossible for the projects to attract enough subscribers to be viable.
Will the NAO enquiry at least glance at this situation? I’m hoping DCMS will reply to my FOIA question on it in time to do some good.
It seems an awful lot of trouble to go to over £20m, but it demonstrates BT’s attention to detail.


Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2013/06/12 at 21:27

EFF founder to seek protection from US govt snoopers for non-US citizens

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The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF)  will do more to seek protection for non-US citizens from the US government’s electronic snoopers , co-founder John Perry Barlow said yesterday.

The commitment came in the wake of a week of revelations of widespread collection and trading of private electronic messages by US and UK security agencies.

Barlow, EFF co-founder with former Lotus Corp CEO Mitch Kapor, committed the digital rights organisation to the action under pressure from delegates to ORGcon13, the Open Rights Group‘s annual conference in London.

It will seek to persuade the US to extend Fourth Amendment rights (no search without a warrant) to non-US citizens.

The pressure came particularly from Caspar Bowden, privacy advisor to Microsoft from 2002 to 2011, who found that the US Foreign Intelligence Service Act Amendment Act 2008 (FISAAA) removes all ‘safe harbour’ protection of non-US citizens’ data from US global surveillance.

This makes all non-US citizen’s data stored in the cloud vulnerable to a Section 1881(a), also known as a S.702 order. It allows US agencies to scan, without a warrant, all communications traffic entering or leaving the US, and to target anyone outside the US. Most of the traffic is likely to relate to terrorist, criminal or political content. However, there are no safeguards against commercial or other intellectual property data.

Bowden has spoken of this before, but been roundly ignored by mainstream media.

Barlow, who consults to the US National Security Agency (NSA), said the NSA and GCHQ, the UK’s electronic surveillance agency, have swopped information on each others’ citizens for decades. This is a ‘gentlemens’ agreement’ that allows both agencies to get information that would be illegal for either to acquire directly.

Barlow was at pains to say the people he deals with at NSA are deeply concerned that some of the work it is asked to do borders on illegality.

He said one of the problems was to get the courts to recognise the EFF’s “standing” as a representative of non-US interests. “I will see that we say that a lot more obviously and visibly, and here’s me saying it now,” he said to applause.

Sir Paul Kennedy, the UK commissioner of communications interception, said in his latest annual report (for 2011), that under the UK’s main interception legislation (RIPA 2000) there were nearly 500,000 requests for communications data, 11% down on 2010. “Communications data must only be acquired for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime and where there is an intention to gather evidence for use in legal proceedings,” he said.

Soundbites from the conference are available below.

Listen to Barlow on PRISM, a more nuanced view than simply endorsing it. (3.30mins)

Barlow on Privacy & Surveillance  (3.00mins)

Barlow on Bilderberg (36s)

Barlow on Rights & the NSA

Barlow on the Fourth Amendment rights

Barlow on the Future of the Internet

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2013/06/09 at 17:39

Ethernet – Openreach’s struggle continues

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From the OTA2 May 2013 report

EthernetMay13“Ethernet – The service levels for the delivery of Ethernet products continue to be a concern for both Openreach and the CPs. Openreach are reviewing the issues which are impacting the delivery of service such as problems in planning and ADSL management links delivery. Openreach are looking to deliver fixes to the problems, we await to see if this improves the situation.

“As previously reported the EST programme remains suspended and the CPs are waiting to see what the proposals for remedy look like and to review if they can support them. This increases the pressure on the Lean Programme and the attempts to improve the order journey on the ECOx platform”

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2013/06/06 at 20:39

Did DCMS get legal advice on Final 10% NGA borders?

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Br0kenTeleph0n3 has used the Freedom of Information Act to ask the department of culture, media & sport whether it has sought and received legal advice on the publication of speed and coverage details contained in next generation broadband contracts now kept secret under non-disclosure agreements between local councils and BT.

You can follow its progress here.

It is hoped that DCMS responds quickly, for these details are essential to help communities finalise their bids for the third round of applications for funds from the £20m Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF), whose deadline looms.

Applicants are not presently allowed to know what areas BT has agreed to cover, or what speeds it will deliver to those areas. Recent guidance to local councils stated, “Local Bodies must note that under the terms of the (BDUK Framework) Call Off Contracts the elements of the SCT (speed and coverage template) provided by the Supplier (including the ‘no build’ tags) cannot be disclosed to any Community Project.”

This means would-be community operators must work blind in making their proposals. Nor are local councils allowed to say where or by how much a community proposal overlaps a planned BT area.

According to the guidance, BT is allowed to conduct an impact assessment of the proposal on its own roll-out. If most of the homes in the proposal will be covered by BT, the application will fail and those homes will receive a service from BT.

If the proposal has a ‘material impact”, the local authority can either negotiate a variation to BT’s contract or run a new procurement. This could pit BT against the community project, but with asymmetric knowledge of each other’s speed and coverage plans. For the community project to go ahead at all, it must “be clearly established that premises are eligible premises for funding under the RCBF”.

The RCBF hopes to cover 70,000 homes in the so-called last 10%. These are homes that will not receive a broadband service of at least 24Mbps download either from BT’s commercial roll-out or the local county council’s NGA procurement, all of which so far have gone to BT and cover half the country.

So far just four RCBF applications of around 80 have been approved, and 52 have been asked for more details. Some have been waiting 18 months for approval. The approved schemes, covering 1,537 homes, are Rothbury, Northumberland, which will get £460,000, half the total project cost; Tove, Northamptonshire, £117,000, also 50% of the total project cost; and two in Cumbria.

In essence it means RCBF is rapidly becoming another fund for BT as BT alone can determine the impact. Why would BT  demonstrate a low impact for handing over the reins to a community, thus creating a competitor, when it could have the money itself?

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2013/06/05 at 06:00

How Ofcom encourages network ‘slum landlords’

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Because Ofcom’s regulations do not reflect the underlying technology change from time division multiplexing (TDM) to statistically multiplexed packet switching, those who control access to network-based services can and do behave like “slum landlords”.

This observation is contained in a response to an Ofcom consultation on how its regulations need to change so as to not discourage shared works, shared facilities or revenue sharing and rather support mechanisms for this.

Consulting firm Predictable Network Solutions (PNS) told Ofcom “The market and regulatory structure that has emerged is one that requires the monopolist to charge ‘rent’, and where there is no other measure than the rent that is charged, the result is a race to the bottom where monopolists become ‘slum landlords’ and fitness for purpose is entirely lost.

“Money is charged for access to the resource, not for the resultant outcome, and this attitude persists along the value chain, so that all the accumulated risk (that outcomes will not be achieved) is dumped onto the final customer.”

PNS said its work revealed “an emerging pattern that points to structural flaws in the UK telecoms market. In our view, these flaws constitute a substantive risk that many of the potential benefits to the UK of robust, reliable, ubiquitous and cost-effective telecommunications will not be realised.”

It ascribed this to Ofcom’s traditional view that telecoms is about “deterministic and centrally controlled” circuits rather than packets. “The created retail services are, essentially ‘purpose-for-fitness’, in that ‘you get what you get’; there is no specification of what is delivered, and it is the end users’ problem to find a way of exploiting whatever it is. It is this divergence of expectation from delivery that is creating large scale (and costly) hazards,” it said.

PSN said the current market structure has led to a focus only on the rate of financial return on capital investment. This has been to the detriment of service outcomes.

“Where there is fitness for purpose in the current system (eg TDM), it is fitness for a historical purpose, with no flexibility that would encourage innovation. A further consequence of this ‘rental’ model is there is no market for concurrent services to the end user.”

PNS said customers can switch access providers, but they cannot switch service providers, for example one delivering reliable streaming video, one VoIP and one general web access.

To reduce the risk of owning a network but no “tenants” (think Digital Region), incumbents had to work at “large scale”, and rip off competitors with high prices (think of the fight between BT and Sky over TV content) for access to the network.

This also affects wholesale customers. PNS noted that mobile network operators need to backhaul LTE traffic from small cells. TDM circuits are too costly, so they need to use DSL. “However, the lack of any guarantee of the transport characteristics of such connections (ie mass market DSL) makes their use in a RAN [radio access network] problematic, as the protocols employed were developed to work over TDM.”

PNS called for “an underlying carrier that can offer services that are appropriately isolated from each other and differentiated and guaranteed performance characteristics. A competitive market can then develop in delivering concurrent services over this infrastructure (including, but not limited to, non-discriminatory internet access).”

PNS recommended a regime where service providers offer a set of services with well-defined, quantifiable and verifiable outcomes. These could be offered equally well by competing entities, and other players could built further layers of service on top of them.

Note: Other responders were Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Wales, Arqiva, the Mobile Operators Association, Virgin Media, Vodafone, and the Wireless Infrastructure Group.