BT Vehicle for Change parked in a wet puddle

I was really looking forward to attending the BT Vehicle for Change event this morning. After all the invite had said:

The interactive environment at the BT Centre showcase in London has proven to be an extremely successful tool in  helping different organisations and businesses to gear up for a changing world. But it is not always easy to get to London, so BT have developed the Vehicle for Change – an interactive road show that will bring the showcase to customers throughout the UK. 

imageI sent in my application promptly on the 14th of November and had an immediate confirmation, then nothing until I phoned Oxonline, then quick trip down the M40/A34 but BT weren’t expecting me at the lovely plot on Milton Park, not a good start.


The BT showcase truck looked the part in the damp pot holed car park


I have somehow managed to miss all the Oxonline events so far, for which I apologise to Councillor Roberts who opened the event.

The Councillor gave a brief overview of his BDUK campaign where Oxfordshire have been promised £3m+ providing they match fund it. He has put this forward into next years council budget and is “hopeful”, but this means nothing can be spent until next April at the earliest.

There is also some funding for the Oxfordshire Community Network. My broadband readers will remember the OCN, that great idea of a broadband network linking schools, libraries and public buildings running in a ring round Oxfordshire (but configured in an expensive point to point star configuration). Councillor Roberts mentioned Fire Stations which must be new. In 2002/4 I remember the OCN being trailed by most of the incumbent councillors as Oxfordshire’s way of bringing broadband to the local communities that BT had then chosen to ignore. They couldn’t because, if memory serves, the BT educational products they had used to provide it, at subsidised prices, had contractual clauses that prevented them being used for non educational uses, thus precluding the local business community from entering the broadband era. It looks like those contracts must still be in place as the OCN still cannot be used as back-haul for the rural communities it was intended to serve (though this morning Councillor Roberts blamed the EU).

As Councillor Roberts gave his presentation it brought back memories of 2002/4 when BT needed “broadband champions” to do their unpaid marketing for them and help their local communities have their exchanges enabled for ADSL. I have a certificate from BT Wholesale (before BT Openreach was created) thanking me for my efforts in enabling the Wroxton St Mary exchange (my campaign website is buried on here somewhere, see here.)

The Oxonline website could have been written in 2002/4 with all its statistics on the 80+ exchanges in Oxfordshire 25 of which (urban) BT has enabled for BT Infinity but has few customers. These 25 exchanges are also the ones that have been “unbundled” so other providers can compete -  the cherries in the network.

Then the presentation moved on to BT Next Generation Access:

For the next hour the Vehicle for Change Team will demonstrate some of the relevant cloud based services that can be enhanced by Next Generation Access methods. For example: BT Cloud Contact Centre, BT Compute (a hosted data centre offering), VPOD: The Government Pod which overcomes the communications gap, how it could deliver real benefits for government, by enabling staff to conduct face-to-face interviews without the need to be there in person. Agile working: how technology is an enabler to allow employees to feel empowered and to work flexibly.

It is no wonder that BT have so few BT Infinity customers, after receiving a lovely email from BT Business, yesterday, saying it had arrived in my area (a small rural exchange) well perhaps notSad smile


I was so looking forward to hearing where the advantages to NGA were, but the whole presentation could have been done much better on my home ADSL connection. First a static display of a corporate network while the presenter told us NGA saved us all the equipment needed to do Video conferencing that Skype has managed for several years and bits about the Cloud saving on hardware upgrades.

A video conferencing session using Microsoft Lync (the corporate version of Windows Live Messenger). This failed because it seemed the truck was only connected to a 3G signal. Even the local Wi-Fi signal was not used for the video display!

One would have thought that the all embracing BT would have parked the truck where they could just plug in to a BT Infinity connection, perhaps one of their exchange car parks – or are they owned by BT Openreach and not available to the BT department making the presentation.

Then a demonstration of BT Cloud Contact that again can be used on a standard ADSL connection.

So the whole event was a waste of time, I learnt nothing about hi speed internet, multiple concurrent connections, video streaming, HD video conferencing to multiple locations.

Oxonline needs our support but it looks like BT do as well, we have a technology that everyone wants but no one is buying because no one knows what to do with it. Until the “killer application” comes along we will be back in 2002 looking for high speed solutions to problems we didn’t know we had. The “killer application” in 2002 was simple it was “always on” giving rise to all the presence applications that abound today



From @BBCRoryCJ:

BT welcomes Osborne’s £100m for 10 superfast cities – "BT is already upgrading large parts of these cities…this could help us go further"

See the full story on the BBC website, why oh why do the powers that be give BT money to do things it would do anyway!!

Some personal thoughts on the current broadband debate

Having followed the tweets on #bduk and the Broadband Industry Event it all felt like déjà-vu and the same debate held in 2002 when BT would not provide broadband to rural communities because they were having difficulty convincing the 70% of the country that had broadband available for a couple of years but were not buying into the high speed access. It was the community evangelists of the 30% who provided BT with the information and more importantly the viral advertising network as to what was available once you had 512k always on broadband. This advertising meant that BT could actually sell their moribund product to the urban communities and make even more shareholder return on their inherited infrastructure rather than using the fibre they had planned to install before privatisation.

BT then also delivered 512k to the majority of the rural communities giving those evangelists the same tools as the rest of country. The advertising continued and Government invested to reduce future costs by creating online services on the premise that the bulk of the country had access. But we still have all the not-spots and not all of them are rural.

see this Telegraph article for some numbers "Delay to rural broadband roll out ‘a backward step’"

So now in 2010 where are we, lots of ideas on usage, lots of plans for the urban conurbations to have super fast broadband while no one yet has the killer application.

there were no killer application in 2002, though peer to peer could be one – not a good one for an asymmetrical like ADSL.

But the poor not-spots and the rural communities are in a similar position to that of 2002, a perception from the incumbent suppliers (BT, Virgin and the LLU companies) that the lines will not be profitable. Yet perhaps we should ask BT how much public money they paid back after RDA’s funded investment in rural exchanges that became profitable as soon as they provided ADSL?

The Universal Service Commitment was being asked for in 2002 it has taken seven years for the powers that be to accept that always on high speed access is the same as water and electricity. We learnt today that it will be another five years before we will have a guaranteed 2mb to every household and business. By then the urban community will have super fast broadband as noted in Jeremy Hunt’s  speech today with BT’s investment.

If everyone has a right now to 2mb surely that right will increase by 2015 for the same reasons the powers that be took so long to accept between 2000 and 2010?

Wonder where we would be if Mrs Thatcher had allowed both BT to put in their fibre in 1979 and Murdoch to have his satellite licences rather than allow one monopoly to grow at the expense of the other?

At #BDUK the not spot information was to be made available if you signed an NDA (is it really competitive information, or market failure data?), in the past the Regional Development Agencies would be able to sign those NDA’s and plan their access campaign’s accordingly, now we have to rely on the non existent LEP’s ……