I received an email this week from the NICC’s Ethernet Working Group with links to the finalised Active Line Access (ALA) document. This is very exciting news for all sorts of reasons.
ALA is the industry agreed model designed specifically for the next generation broadband world, and at any number of levels it fundamentally changes the way broadband will work in the the UK.
The documents are not an easy read (this is, after all, a set of engineering standards designed to be implemented by engineers) but its impact should be understood by everyone who has an opinion on the future shape of broadband, the internet or net neutrality.
I attended some of the early meetings as an observer and because, like any opinionated techy, I wanted to help shape some of the early aspects. The Ethernet Working Group under Chris Gallon’s chairmanship is something of a technical dream team – they are the deeply technical architects and engineers from the major vendors and key network operators tasked with working out how their organisations can interoperate.
The work they have done is undoubtedly impressive – they have taken diverse standards from the Broadband Forum, the Metro Ethernet Forum and other standards bodies from around the world and carefully and creatively sewn them together into a single framework which unlocks the potential of next generation broadband across a wide range or network architectures and technologies.
Whether you opt for GPON, point to point ethernet or VDSL from a cabinet, ALA works and can hand over a connection in a seamless and universally consistent way to a service provider. And I see few reasons why it wouldn’t also work for many wireless technologies based around Ethernet and supporting VLAN’s.
Now this brilliant piece of work is published, we have a duty to understand what is possible and to start to consider what is desirable. It is no longer reasonable to opine on net neutrality or the future of the internet without properly appreciating the impact of this work.
If you are a community, commercial organisation or public body thinking of building a network under the BD-UK framework you will need to be open access – by law – and that means you need to understand ALA – no if, no buts.
So before you say another word on any of this, and you are of a technical bent, your homework is to read it!
If you aren’t technical, turn to your favourite geek and do them a favour – tell them to read it and explain what its all about.
The documents are published on the NICCs website: