Finding Fareham’s fibre

With the long lockdown, the calamities and the clapping, the confusions and cracks exposed, some things became blindingly obvious. These things may well have been obvious before – but only with Covid 19 did we really ‘get it’. Now we have a list of urgent actions. Stuff that must not be forgotten. Stuff that must be remedied.

I wonder what’s top of your list. Hands up if you found working from home easy? Keep them up if your broadband was brilliant – no lag on the line, rapid downloads and uploads, smooth video calls with great audio – and the doctor available for remote consultation at the touch of a button.

TV news may well have done more than anyone to show up the weaknesses in the UK’s broadband – the oddly distorted voices, the long gaps and nodding heads, the sudden picture freezing, the collapsing conference call – but, when they got their act together, the brilliant multi-player synchronised productions.

To work properly the networks need fibre – but we knew that back in 1990 when the Tory government barred BT’s plan so as to not queer the pitch for CableTV providers from the USA or Murdoch’s SatelliteTV. Most of the UK’s franchises for Cable have now ended up with Virgin Media (VM). Meanwhile BT has soldiered on with its old copper network. Both BT and VM have done their best to deliver broadband – but both now recognise that taking fibre only as far as their street cabinets is nowhere near broadband enough.

BT’s Superfast fibre was never super, fast, or fibre if the signals must be squeezed through old copper pairs to reach your home. VM faired only slightly better because their copper coaxial cables from the cabinets were a little shorter and able to carry faster signals, leastways in one direction. But both BT’s FTTC and VM’s Cable are still outpaced by ‘Full Fibre’ to your home or office.

Fibre is the foundation for building a better community and its local economy. We can wish for future resilience and greater well-being but without fibre the local fabric will not hang together.

So how can Fareham get Full Fibre?

The good news is that it can be found. The bad news is that it cannot be found everywhere – and it costs a lot. If you really want Full Fibre broadband at a reasonable price, you should move to villages in rural Lancashire where properly engineered very fast 2-way 1000Mb/s low latency services will cost just £30 per month.

So why not here? Because we’ve not been bothered to demand better. Because it’s not been a priority. Because we left it to the market. Because we didn’t think it important – until we really desperately needed it. But we are not alone. The UK’s fibre network is way behind others because of a lack of investment. Far better, they thought, to squeeze that last drop of profit from old copper cables before giving customers a really useful service.

As in so many Covidised quarters, the time for excuses is over. The time for being led by markets that have only short-term profit interests has passed. The time for sleeping on the job and not being fully aware of citizen and business needs has ended. Top of my list is a campaign to bring Full Fibre investment to Fareham without any further delay.

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