The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) have waded in today with criticism of the announcement Virgin Media made a few days ago to improve speeds and capacity in areas they already have service. The argument they are making would appear to be that this funding would be better spent bringing services to rural areas which the CLA mainly represent.

Major expansion of the cable networks hasn't taken place for several years now and Virgin Media's 'expansion' mainly consists of upgrading any remaining analogue services, utilising any ducts that were put in place without any cabling in them and infill where their network passes an area they could serve easily. They have not really shown any interest in the Government procurements for next generation broadband other than to say that if Fujitsu build any networks, they will come on board as a retail ISP offering services. One has to question why Virgin Media hasn't entered the party directly. If it is for the obvious reason that they can't make the numbers stack, you do have to wonder how Fujitsu can...

Once again, the issue of switching providers has risen at OFCOM (see here). While their consultation is focussed on switching voice and broadband providers on the Openreach copper network, in this post I am looking at porting of mobile phone numbers as well.

Over the last few months, various news and blog articles have been written stating both that smaller companies will be excluded from BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK) tenders (here) and that the Government may invest in areas that have had fully private sector funded rollout already (here, here and here) so I thought I would share my views.

Following on from my work with Great Asby Broadband (GAB) implementing a new high speed wireless network to their now 70+ subscribers, a decision was taken to re-engineer the network somewhat to allow easier remote access.

The Problem
CLEO (Cumbria and Lancashire Education Online), the Regional Broadband Consortium that delivers an internet connection to the village to be shared out between their subscribers, would only provide Great Asby with a /28 block of IP Addresses leaving 14 usable IPs which obviously isn’t enough to give each client an IP thus allowing access to all devices remotely for management. Another reason we wanted to do this was to stop a main public IP being blacklisted on a site or by an email provider for spamming and then all customers having to put up with the consequences of this.

BlackBerry Torch 9800
BlackBerry Torch 9800
Last time I renewed my mobile phone contract, I opted for an HTC Touch Pro running Windows Mobile but half way through, I purchased a 2nd hand BlackBerry Bold 9000 off eBay for testing some software my company had developed. I liked this so much, I decided to use it as my main phone!

Last month, I renewed my contract and opted for a BlackBerry but switched from the Bold to the new Torch 9800. After having a play with one in store, I liked the way it combined the traditional BlackBerry full keyboard and track pad with a touch screen in a slide form factor. While I did have a go with some of the newer Android handsets, all of them were full touch screens and I just don't think I could ever get used to that for typing longer emails / texts.

Ever since Google launched the ability to disable Conversation Mode, I have been considering a move over to GMail. I had previously tried GMail for nearly a month but still couldn't live with the way emails were grouped together.

All my email accounts are domain based and previously I used FuseMail as my email provider and downloaded mail via POP to Thunderbird. The problems I was facing doing this were :-
1. Reliability with FuseMail was becoming an issue which isn't what you want when paying for an email service.
2. I tend to keep all emails sent to me, even after deleting them from my inbox, for future reference. With emails dating back to 2004, Thunderbird was beginning to lag even switching between emails, never mind searching.
3. I had to use Remote Desktop Connection in order to view my emails away from the office. As I am now out of the office a lot more, this was becoming a problem.

BT Openreach today have announced their physical infrastructure access (PIA) product for allowing other providers to use their ducts and poles. While this is a step in the right direction, there are a number of serious problems which I have been pointing out to people waiting on this offer for a while having seen various documents on it previously.

The first is in terms of restrictions being placed on use. Basically, you are unable to use fibre laid in BT's ducts or on their poles for providing leased line replacements. A fibre connection to a business would be considered a leased line replacement so this rules out being able to serve businesses. Also not permitted is providing mobile phone mast backhaul. Providing both of these services can make the difference between a network stacking up in a rural area. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what you are using your own fibre for - this was just a restriction put in to make the offer less attractive. Geo, the dark fibre company, raised this at an industry day several months back when they got word of it but nobody appears to of done anything about it.

Goodlie Hill Node
Goodlie Hill Node
A big push to get the remainder of users in Great Asby connected to the new wireless network happened this week with only a handful of users left.

With further student protests that have happened today over the tuition fee rise and the bill passed through parliament, I still fail to see what all the fuss is about.

Lets examine what is actually being proposed. Instead of funding further education through general taxation and thus people who don't take up FE having to pay for those that do, the government is proposing that tuition fees be increased so they cover the cost of the education received.
While the above sees a trebling of the tuition fees cap to £9,000, this can only be charged if the FE institution demonstrates they are helping pupils from a less affluent background who can see 2 free years of education meaning that on a 3 year course, they would only pay £3,000 a year.

Today the spending review talked about since the election has now been delivered setting out how savings will be made in order to reduce the deficit left by the previous Government.

One interesting point is the spending proposed for broadband. £530m has been set aside from both the BBC and digital switch-over under-spend. This is to get the "final third" that the big players say is uneconomical to deploy faster services (or even just basic services) to without subsidy.

Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Herefordshire and the Highlands have been selected as trial areas each getting £10m. The aim is to have this topped up with EU funding which generally doubles the amount.

Word has it that Cumbria was not planned to be one of the trial areas but got in on the action thanks to the help of Rory Stewart MP, specifically the Rheged conference he organised.

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I am a technology enthusiast living up in Carlisle, Cumbria in the UK and am the managing director of Its Elixir which sells Henna Hair Care Products and Ear Candles, Craig Brass Systems which creates and custom develops quality software and LonsdaleNET which delivers high speed wireless and fibre optic broadband in Cumbria.