Half-measures May Threaten Eden Valley Big Society Vanguard Broadband Expansion

Here is the link to the article in Cumberland News

http://www.cumberlandnews.co.uk/news/superfast-broadband-to-link-whole-of-cumbria-1.789156?referrerPath=home

I was very disappointed to read in the article linked above that Cumbria County Council’s Maria Fallon appears to be undermining efforts to bring very fast, future-proof symmetrical broadband to rural areas of Eden, the areas that are most isolated and thus most in need of fast reliable connection.

I understood that the Big Society Eden Vanguard Area is rural Eden. Why is Marie Fallon including urban areas in the fast broadband pilot area?

The major focus of the Rheged conference was on connecting the rural areas that are currently experiencing market failure. How did this message get warped into what Marie is proposing? Please can you let Marie know how you feel about her attempting to co-opt our Vanguard status and threatening to dilute the BDUK funding to the point where we will experience inferior benefit.

At our MP, Rory Stewart’s Broadband Champions’ Meeting in Great Asby we heard from BDUK representatives directly that their funding is intended to correct market failure not to provide state aid to companies that already operate profitably. It is also unlikely that the EU would provide match funding for that as it would contravene EU rules, so that would be an additional £10,000,000 of potential funding lost to the area.

There is market failure in rural Eden. There’s no market failure in Carlisle. I understand that Small World and BT are successfully operating there on a commercial basis already. Ms. Fallon’s proposal might even undermine free market competition.

BDUK funding should surely serve the remote rural areas first, because we make up the area that is experiencing market failure and would otherwise be the very last people to get fast future-proof symmetrical service. It is our very remoteness that makes fast broadband more necessary here.

I recommend you to read “A minimum income standard for rural households”, by Donald Hirsch and others (23 November 2010) http://www.rsnonline.org.uk/Community/Rural-life-is-20-more-expensive.html

The report shows that people in rural areas typically need to spend 10-20% more than people in urban areas. That’s an important reason why we need the help of fast broadband. Petrol prices hit an all-time high today – better access to online services and work from home would reduce costs and our carbon footprint.

I recommend that readers also see a report on rural broadband newly released by the Centre for Rural Economy at the University of Newcastle.  The report talks about how the rural broadband gap needs to be recognised as dynamic and in need of on-going interventions, and that target speeds and quality that address future needs should be defined. This is important because the 10 Mbps that Ms.Fallon is proposing will not address future needs. We already know that we’d need at least 50Mbps with low latency in order for telemedicine to properly function.

http://www.ncl.ac.uk/cre/publish/Policy%20and%20Practice/pdfs/Rural%20Broadband.pdf

At a superficial level, Fallon’s proposal looks like progress. It is possible that she is unaware of the wider implications of her proposal, but there is a danger that it will widen the rural-urban broadband gap and not diminish it as she most probably intends.

We need to close ranks and make our voices heard. Please could you read the article linked below and add your voice to the comments? What we need is a series of exemplary pilot projects that will bring future-proof networks to rural communities, not half measures that will make little real difference to anyone’s lives and may even serve to set back efforts to establish Community Broadband projects that tie-in with the prevalent Big Society Ethos and that could lead to more prosperous sustainable rural communities.

We need the intervention from BDUK funds more than urban areas do. I’m worried that some people are attempting to hijack efforts to connect the rural areas of Eden and are perverting the message of the Rheged Broadband conference in order to give us a facsimile of what’s happened in Cornwall, a watered down solution that won’t provide anybody with future proof, fast symmetrical Next Generation Access until far into the future!

Please see http://broadbandcumbria.com and read The Eden Declaration petition. Please sign it too, if you agree with what it says. We are asking for a long-term investment in future-proof symmetrical broadband, 100 Mbps Fibre To The Premises for most homes in Eden. Our MP supports our desire for fast, symmetrical, future-proof rural broadband, it seems a shame that Cumbria County Council’s Ms. Fallon is proposing to substitute a short-term and comparitively feeble alternative solution. If we don’t tell her what we would really like, she may feel that we’d be satisfied with her proposal.

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