At the NextGen Road-show event in Edinburgh this week, Professor Michael Fourman gave a fascinating talk on the special challenges for delivering broadband in Scotland. At the heart of his work were some maps which very effectively demonstrated the impact the Finnish Government’s broadband policy might have on some of the more remote areas of Scotland as well as a GIS-based estimate of how much it might cost to deliver it.

Heavily summarised, Finland’s policy says that there should be a fibre back-haul connection within 2km of any community; and they define a community as an area containing at least 70 people per square kilometre.

I was left wondering how effective this policy might be across England and Wales, as well as Scotland.  I don’t have to hand the core network details that Prof. Fourman used to calculate the costs of delivering the policy nor the time just at the moment to build the shortest-distance spanning tree model he used, so I’ve restricted myself to simply looking at where Finland’s policy might reach that the market won’t.

[singlepic id=21 w=320 h=240 float=right]The map (click on it to see it life-size) depicts in green the areas which the policy would deliver a fibre to, and the black is the extent of market-led next generation broadband according to DCLG’s 65% NGA model. A first glance says “so what – doesn’t seem very impressive”. However this is where maps have the power to overstate a problem. Using the 2001 census, there would be 11,946,819 (don’t you love computer precision!) English and Welsh people who remained without NGA broadband when 65% of the UK was already enjoying it. Applying the Finnish policy reduces this figure to just 275,451 – or in other words, increases the reach of NGA from 65% to 94% of the population.

The Finnish broadband policy would reach 94% of the English and Welsh population

Of course this is academic without the costs that Prof. Fourman generated, but it is a powerful example of how the village pump model that Rory Stewart MP is advocating. So how many of these green areas are close to a Primary School, Library or GP whose existing broadband connections could be upgraded and converted into a Village Pump?

  1. cyberdoyle says:

    … some of the work coming out of America says that a population density of 10 homes per km works too. It will be interesting to hear Dave Isenbergs talk at the colloquium on Friday night prior to the conference. Maybe he can shed light on what is going on in rural USA. It is only by sharing and collaborating that we are gonna solve this problem.
    Great post. as ever.

    • adrian says:

      Chris, I agree. Remember the Finnish model simply delivers a fibre within 2km of communities with 70 people per km.sq – how that community delivers that into their homes and businesses is open to ideas, and 2km is no distance for many technologies today. If the community can support a fibre or microwave model then you will be connecting the outlying properties much further away than 2km. The power of this model is that the solutions reflect the local community and their ability to pull together. Some communities, like yours, will roll their sleeves up and just get on with it, while other may end up with a couple of PC’s in the local school library simply because they couldn’t didn’t together.

  2. cyberdoyle says:

    Our digital village pump project is to deliver fibre to the actual community itself, and this is financially possible with European support and government intervention – not necessarily money…
    I guess you are right, it is a free country and if the community want to buckle down and finish the last bit at least they are in with a chance if the feed is local.
    Our problem all these years is the cost of getting the feed to the community has been too big. Once we have a fat pipe it is worth the effort of providing connections, and I can see many new businesses springing up to do just that.
    I also think the unemployed could be offered work, as there are enough jobs to suit every level of expertise, education/physical/mental etc.
    We could employ the ones BT made redundant last year?

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