UK Community Gives Up Waiting For High Speed Broadband: Digs Its Own Fiber Trenches

from the nicely-done dept

Providers of high speed broadband love to talk about how they’re providing private networks that shouldn’t be regulated at all, but they tend to ignore the fact that they usually rely on government subsidies in the form of rights of way — the legal ability to dig the trenches (or string cables on poles) to run the key infrastructure. Now, of course, we’ve heard of various muni-broadband projects, but one community in the UK apparently got so fed up with waiting for a big broadband provider to bring service to their village that they not only started setting up their own system, but they literally got dozens of residents to help them start digging the 51 mile-long trench where the fiber optic cable that connects them to the wider internet will lie. Talk about taking matters into your own hands…

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Comments on “UK Community Gives Up Waiting For High Speed Broadband: Digs Its Own Fiber Trenches”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This has already happened in the USA. Last decade, several cities in Utah attempted to setup a common municipal fiber net called UTOPIA. Then Qworst and Comcast Cabal came in, hoodwinked many of the city councils, and then passed a flaming rotten pork at the state circus, I mean, state legislature.

The purpose of the network was to provide the infrastructure as a utility so that people could choose from a free market of ISPs, but the existing, government subsidized qwest-comcast cartel didn’t approve. Instead, they spewed FUD about the sufficiency of twisted pair and coax while simultaneously proclaiming that fiber was antiquated technology. It was unbelievable how far and wide this paradoxical FUD went when I started hearing these talking points being blabbered about unchallenged by technically illiterate people.

It wasn’t too hard to get the masses incensed against socialist “utopia” since most people here believe already that roads, prisons, police, and government itself should be privatized, so that the free market can optimize our state for us. As Mike likes to point out, however, none of these changes could even work without considerable, dedicated, anti-free market privileges both natural and contrived.

Instead of UTOPIA, we’re stuck with (except for the cities courageous enough to not acquiesce to quest and comcast) an overpriced, underliberated, antiquated, pair of networks now enshrined by political edict.

anon anon anon says:

Re: try to lay your own fiber and get sued!

This has happened before: In 2005 “Joey Durel, mayor of Lafayette, Louisiana, population 116,000, says his town begged its telephone and cable companies for years to wire his city with fiber optic access–to no avail. The city has unveiled its own plans to build a fiber network delivering Internet, cable TV, and telephone service. He says residents will save more than 20 percent on their monthly communications bills. The new network will also allow the city to wire its schools with fast access.

However, Bell South and Cox Communications have filed motions with the courts to stop Lafayette from going forward.

In January 2005, BellSouth threw a wrench in Lafayette’s plans to issue a $110 million bond to build its fiber network. Bell South filed a legal challenge in state court arguing that the way the city was issuing the bond didn’t follow state law.”

After a FIVE YEAR legal battle…

The Mighty Buzzard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think I missed something there. You went too far back for a ranty exaggeration and not far enough back for hyperbole. Ranty exaggeration shouldn’t really go back any farther than the 90s, since widespread Internet access didn’t even happen until the late 80s early 90s and broadband was a pipe dream for pretty much everyone until the late 90s. Hyperbole really shouldn’t be any later than the 1890s and carrier pigeons or the telegraph should be mentioned.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You went too far back for a ranty exaggeration and not far enough back for hyperbole.

I was going for the truth, but guess maybe 70s was a little bit of a ranty exaggeration. The phone companies want to deal with landline phones and the cable companies want the heyday of running cables for television. No legacy company wants to deal with modems, cellphones, data, smartphones, internet, etc. If they did, they wouldn’t be trying everything they can to restrict our capabilities and wind us back to the dark ages (remember, AT&T just not long ago tried to push the several governments to adopt 200kbps as broadband.) I suspect they would be happy with us renting the headsets again if they think they could get away with it.

Sure the internet didn’t exist until the 90s, but as a bulletin board operator in the 80s and early 90s, I can assure you that the phone companies hated us just as much as they now hate the internet. They tried on numerous times to get me to buy a business data line (at huge markups,) in order to run my BBS, because they couldn’t understand how someone who was doing this for free would expect their modem to work on a regular phone line when the government said that the phone lines must be able to support modems.

They went so far as to move my phone line to the bottom of the stack, so that every time it rained and the switching station flooded out, my lines would die, I would complain, and end up bringing in regulators to check the lines and confirm that the lines were unfit for voice communication. Then they’d “fix” it, and the next time it rained I was back to calling them because I couldn’t even get a dialtone. I knew this because every time a technician was sent out, they would explain to me that they could not guarantee my modem would work and I should upgrade to the digital business line and eventually one of them told me that they fixed it by moving me from the bottom of the stack up to the top, and then came by the next week to tell me that they had an order from the company to move me back down.

They’ve been playing this game since before the world wide web, and before the internet was publicly available.

Anonymous Coward says:

That’s what we should do here in America. Broadband here in America is way too expensive and slow due to government established monopolies. That needs to change. Some communities should just start wiring networks together on their own and if any government attempts to get in their way millions of people should protest in the streets to stop the government-industrial complex’s self serving agenda and they shouldn’t stop protesting until the government backs down. This is unacceptable. The government should represent the people and if the people want to build its own open broadband network that doesn’t charge government established monopoly prices they should be allowed to. The government has no business banning competition whatsoever just so politicians can serve their campaign contribution and revolving door endeavors.

Also see

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Government ran implies it’s being funded by tax dollars. What if it’s privately or community ran? What if volunteers were allowed to freely build their own network (provided they followed some safety laws/standards of course and maybe get some type of safety certification). Or what if people simply built a peer to peer (house to house) type network. Or if competing businesses were simply allowed to form and build a network to houses that wanted to pay for access. It can start small from someone’s house wiring various houses to their house and connecting them with routers and connecting various houses together and it can grow into a business. Kinda like how communication and broadcasting channels initially formed.

The Mighty Buzzard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Privately funded sounds just fine and dandy. Several private individuals is peachy keen. When people start using phrases like “the community” or “the people” though, they either mean local government ran or a huge mess where nepotism, cronyism, and protectionism are the words of the day.

Individuals can be awesome people. The People and The Community are greedy asshats who manage to be both self-serving and self-destructive at the same time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“or a huge mess where nepotism, cronyism, and protectionism are the words of the day.”

Not necessarily, see Wikipedia for one of many many examples. It’s voluntary, funding is voluntary.

If a ‘community’ wants to pass anti-competitive, that should be dealt with separately. But if a community wants to build a competing broadband network I have no problems with that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

(and the government is what’s getting in the way. I’m not asking the government to run the network, I’m asking the government to get out of the way and to allow the community to build its own network and do what it wants, within practical safety standards of course).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“but here we have communities that want to build and maintain their own fiber and I really see no problems with that.”

Yup, then we can have another Harrisburg, PA type situation, where a smaller town invests heavily in putting in fibre, only to discover that the costs to maintain the network and keep everything running is too high, and the end up going broke.

Yup, sounds like a plan.

We need more community owned infrastructure, that would probably be the tipping point to bankrupt most of them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Let me add this. The incumbent businesses wouldn’t be trying so hard to stop competing broadband efforts if they didn’t think they could be successful. These businesses, like any business, are (by definition) profit driven and self interested. They are trying to use our legal system to block competition because they know very well that competition could be successful and bad for their profit margins.

If incumbents knew ahead of time that these alternative broadband efforts would fail they would be glad to allow them to try it out, fail, and say “see, we told you so”. They would have nothing to fear, they would have no reason to use the government to establish monopolies. They need the government to establish monopolies because they know very well that in the absence of their government established monopoly power competition will be detrimental to their profit margins and might even drive them out of business.

Will every attempt to build competing broadband services be a success? Of course not, it takes experience to be able to do it efficiently. Early attempts to build broadband and phone lines and cable lines had their failures as well, heck, even now we complain about poor quality cable signals only to have cable companies come and ‘fix’ the problem and have their initial fix not work properly (for them to come again and fix it a second time before getting it right). But if we keep trying and learning we can eventually gain the experience that incumbents have and learn how to efficiently and effectively build competing services, provided the incumbent government-industrial complex doesn’t get in the way in the form of anti-competitive laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I beg to differ gubermint run infra-structure in the case of public networks is clearly the superior solution to the problem, another one is community owned one where ISP’s are services to be hired by the communities, with the government acting as a fiscal agent of the process.

At some point people need to learn to make things work on their own, not trying is not a solution at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

WiFi or fiber or any other network is not private enough, the tunnels you use within those networks though are private, your security and privacy depends on you mostly, even hacked WiFi can have privacy if anything that leaves your machine is encrypted, see the shift in perspective there?

There are no secure networks, only temporary secure ways to communicate.

Greevar (profile) says:

Municipal ISPs would be great.

I live in the ass-end of nowhere in the mid-west and we get one ISP here. It’s DSL and we can’t get faster that 6 Mbps. The upstream is barely 1 Mbps on its best day. Fiber would be great. We won’t get it here if the incumbents have their way. The ROI for deploying fiber to us rural folk is too low and it cannibalizes their competing legacy services (phone, cable, etc.).

A 100 Mbps synchronous connection for everyone would be a huge benefit to society. Such a fast connection would permit us to get all of our communications needs entirely from the internet. Video, web, voice, games, news, education, etc., could be accessed simultaneously from one bundle of thinly stretched glass strands attached to our home.

Berenerd (profile) says:

Verizon and Vermont..

I worked for the state of Vermont in IT several years ago, back when Verizon made this big promise to make sure every town in Vermont had broadband access. In turn, verizon got some nice contracts from the state and a big huge subsidy to cover the cost of running the cables. Adelphia/Comcast/Xfinity also was apart of that deal. Adelphia went bankrupt because the owners used the company’s mony to buy themselves nice things, I wont even talk about Comcast. Verizon, after passing the time limit and the 4 extensions sold all of their wired holdings in VT to Fairpoint who already had gone bankrupt once and from what I hear their service is horrible and they have not even updated their network let alone expand it anywhere. Now what happened to those subsidies? I am sure some exec got a nice little cottage some where.

Anonymous Coward says:

Even when they dig the trenches to install the FIOS it STILL takes over a year, more like two, for them to actually offer the FIOS to you. I know because that’s how long I had to wait after Verizon finally started digging things up around here a few years ago.

And in response to reply #3, yes, people are such idiots at believing ANYTHING government run must be bad and evil, when that’s clearly not the case. Ironically the rural areas, that cry most about the evils of socialism are the ones that most frequently take in more tax dollars in the forms of new roads/bridges/entitlements/benefits then those ultra liberal big cities that keep on voting for ‘socialist’ candidates. They’re also the ones that NEED ‘socialist’ governments coming in and installing phone lines and internet connections for them, because there’s too few people there for a private business to think it’s worth investing any money in.

S (user link) says:

Re: Re:

The amount of money spent on rural areas is a drop in the ocean compared to the amount consumed by cities.

And the general rule is that where it isn’t illegal, country folks tend to build their own infrastructure. You have to remember that things like highways and power lines are tightly regulated — do you really think that’s a coincidence?

Lennart Regebro says:

This is being done in Sweden too.

This sort of thing has been going on for quite a while in Gotland, Sweden.

There many parishes have created non-profits to get fiber to the parish. One difference is that in Gotland there are very few villages, so they never really had any hope of getting fibers in the first place, as there simply aren’t enough people at the end of each fiber. So the farmers who own the land dig their own trenches. In the end each house gets a 100MB connection with cable, telephone and internet. Not bad for the country side. 🙂

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