Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Little Telecom that Keeping Doing

Last April I discussed a BBC News story about the village of Lyddington in the United Kingdom. These villagers wanted to keep up with the times with a high-speed broadband connection to the Internet; but BT (British Telecom) told them that they could not deliver that kind of connectivity. So a much smaller operation, Rutland Telecom, came to Lyddington and figured out how to deliver what the people wanted. It took two years of hard work, both technical and bureaucratic; but, when the project was completed, Lyddington not only had its broadband but also had independence from the local BT exchange. ("When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to establish their own network connectivity ….") Naturally, Rutland still has its own connection to BT; but that connection is mediated by the BT spin-off Openreach, which also supplied Rutland with much of the necessary hardware.

One might have thought that this would have been a learning experience for BT. However, the punch line of the BBC story was actually about Rutland:

It is on the verge of launching similar schemes in neighbouring Leicestershire and one in Wales.

Well, today there is a new story on the BBC News Web site; and it comes from the Welsh village of Erbistock. Apparently, BT learned that there is no such thing as "no can do;" but that really wasn't the critical lesson. True, BT did not brush off Erbistock the way they had done with Lyddington; but they did quote a £550,000 price tag for providing broadband connectivity. (By way of comparison, the Lyddington solution cost £37,000.) However, as the earlier story suggested, Rutland is "Oscar Mike" in Wales. They provided Erbistock with a £50,000 estimate and a promise to be online by October. Furthermore, the Welsh Assembly Government can provide "up to £1,000 per household or business premises to help with the set-up and installation costs;" so, while in Lyddington's case I had observed that "£37,000 doesn't sound like a sum that can be raised through a bake sale or a booth at the county fair," there may be more of a fighting chance for grass roots fundraising in Erbistock to pay for any expenses beyond what the Assembly will cover. Where, then, is BT in the midst of all of this forward-looking activity? One sentence from today's BBC report says it all:

BT said it was actively investigating alternative solutions for the village.

Considering the dynamics of such a large enterprise, I would guess that they should have an alternative ready to propose by the beginning of the new year!

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