Following the broadband money

Posts Tagged ‘BSG

Broadband talk sparks questions over BSG lobby role

with 12 comments

Richard Brown, who last week gave a presentation on “superfast broadband in Wales” to the Mid-Wales branch of the British Computer Society, was invited to provide a report-back on the meeting. He writes:

A little while ago, one of the Chartered Institute of IT (BCS) members got in touch, after he had spotted some of my comments in your blog. He got in touch to ask whether I would consider doing a presentation to members, about broadband in the UK and more particularly expand on the area of superfast broadband and public funding to deliver it.

Obviously I was pleased to be invited, but talking for around an hour about any subject is rarely easy – particularly when the audience is likely to be far more knowledgeable about how the tech works than I could hope to be. The thing is – they (the institute) didn’t want to increase their knowledge about the tech – they wanted to understand why the relatively large sums of money didn’t seem to be making any difference to the outcome.Wales is still wholly underserved for broadband, and mobile communications.

I took the BSG report as my inspiration for two reasons:

  1. I think that the assertion that the median requirement for broadband in 2023 at 19Mbps is more a self serving announcement for the members of Broadband Stakeholders Group (BSG) than a true reflection of the likely growth and potential for fast communications
  2. 19Mbps as a median suggest many need much less, but the report clearly states that only 1% would require 35Mbps-49Mbps in the same year

BDUK was originally set up to fund the ‘gap’ between the commercial rollout of the major ISPs (primarily BT) and those that would appear to never be able to receive superfast (24Mbps+) broadband.

I think that BDUK is failing, and BSG being a primary lobbyist to Westminster is part of the problem.

At the point that it became clear that my presentation had attracted the attention of (Public Accounts Committee chairman) Margaret Hodges’ office, (BT’s NGA MD) Bill Murphy’s interest was predictably high.  He seemed overly desperate to make sure that I ‘told’ Margaret Hodges that 100k premises in Wales could now benefit from superfast broadband because of the BT/Welsh ministers’ contract.

I’ve made my opinion of that quite clear in the presentation – and trust that both Bill and Margaret have been able to hear me clearly state the same.

1250 views of the presentation have accumulated since I added audio (BCS tech failed to record the presentation on the night), which is around the same number of views that the 25 most recent presentation BCS have on their YouTube feed have accumulated in total.  I think this demonstrates how important this issue is, and just how serious a sage institution such as the Chartered Institute of IT take this issue.

There were live examples of properties that had been passed by and are included in the premises passed figures (probably as bad a measure as Up To for broadband download speeds), and utter confusion (and a little irritation) that the Welsh ministers refused to be open about what the contract they have signed is likely to deliver.

The focus on the Welsh government failing to deliver on public promises was to be expected, as most of the attendees are Welsh residents – but, I did make an effort to point out that Wales is not unique in it’s failings.

I have been asked outright if I would consider setting up a public broadband interest group, along similar a vein to the NRA for gun users in the US.  I am not sure that the two are necessarily analogous in anything other than the potential threat to a group of the public who have no collective voice.

I am not even sure how I would go about funding something like that. I am seriously considering it though – we desperately need a counter lobby to BSG, which is  not serving the public well.

Do I think the future of broadband communications in the UK is bright? Not particularly – that is why I think that it might be time to bring the public together with a single voice.



Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2014/02/03 at 10:04

VOA ready to bung BT billions

with 7 comments

Happines is a warm bung.

The Valuation Office Agency review of business rates on fibre-based communications networks is shaping up to be a massive bung to BT, which already enjoys a cost advantage over its competitors because of the rating regime.

In a statement to Br0kenTeleph0ne, HM Revenue & Customs said “The VOA (Valuation Office Agency, which is responsible for setting business rates) hopes to publish the results of the NGA (Next Generation Access) final third Receipts and Expenditure valuation model (for rural areas) before the New Year in 2012.”

In the HMRC statement, a VOA spokesperson said, “We are aware of concerns about business rates in the telecom sector and we wish to see greater transparency and clarity in how rateable values are set.

“The VOA is working with the Broadband Stakeholders Group (BSG) to develop a new Receipts and Expenditure-based valuation model for Next Generation Access (NGA) networks in the final third (rural areas). This is not a review of how fibre networks are taxed and no such review is being undertaken by the VOA.”

The BSG declined to comment ahead of HMRC’s publication of the review.

BT is the only telco evaluated under the Receipts and Expenditure basis (ie on profits); VM’s valuation is based on “homes passed” and the others on the length of their networks and the individual lit fibres.

The VOA says, “BT and Virgin Media are assessed on the same statutory basis of rateable value as all other rateable properties.”

It is unclear whether the VOA review will look at fixed and mobile wireless infrastructure such as base stations, masts and towers, which are currently subject to business rates. If they are not included, the cost of delivering high speed wireless broadband to rural areas, via the mobile networks, microwave or even satellite, on a per kilometre basis may be higher than need be for purely competitive or economic reasons.

This would give BT’s wires, now 40 years old in many cases, a relative advantage, even though BT has said some areas will not get high speed broadband, and that “a mix of technologies” is needed.

It is also unclear what areas are considered “final third”. If it is Ofcom’s Market 1 regions, BT already enjoys either a monopoly or “significant market power” in these areas.

In 2006 an independent report commissioned by the government recommended that fibre be zero-rated to persuade network operators to invest in it. The then minister Stephen Timms ignored the report.

Subsequent reports showed that large network operators such BT and Virgin Media enjoy a consistent price advantage over smaller network operators as a result of the VOA’s different pricing formulas.

The formula for smaller operators uses distance, making it prohibitively expensive to install and light fibre in rural areas. For a grpahic view of the effect see the bottom of this page.

While in opposition, the Conservative Party vowed to review the so-called fibre tax, but soon forgot its promise.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/12/16 at 07:02