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Wednesday 16 July 2003

Did Houmous change the course of history? You decide! [houmous]

As most of you know I recently heard that my little seaside town would now be getting broadband following my local campaign. A trigger level was finally given which was 200 and since we had 370 registrations, we got an immediate start to the activation process.
What a lot of you won't know is the rather interesting events over the previous few weeks ...and the question I have for you is did I change the course of history or not? :)
A week or so earlier I received a copy of a letter from BT to my local MP which he forwarded to me. It was dated in mid June when I had well over 300 people registered as interested in broadband on the BT site. This is what it said:
'Thank you for your letter dated 28th April, which enclosed correspondence from your constituent Robin xxxx, who is campaigning to bring broadband to such areas such as Bracklesham and East Wittering in your constituency. I am sorry for the delay in replying.
Firstly you may be aware that the exchange at Selsey has reached its threshold of 350 registrations and is due to be enabled to provide ADSL broadband on the 20th August. This is no doubt due to the hard work of local campaigners like Robin xxxx. BT has worked with over 500 local campaign groups to support them in their bid to bring broadband to their communities, and welcomes their support.
The Bracklesham exchange has not had a threshold level set but it has now had over 200 registrations. We have carried out an evaluation of the exchange, which unfortunately shows that it is not currently viable for broadband upgrade. To set a threshold level we have to assess each exchange individually, as each one has different characteristics such as distance from our core network, space within the exchange, ventilation and air-conditioning. This means that the investment criteria vary from case to case and each exchange is evaluated on its own merits. We will continue to monitor demand levels and costs of enabling the exchange and will review again as the cost model changes.
BT, would, of course, like to make ADSL broadband available to every customer in the UK. However, upgrading a telephone exchange is a major investment involving substantial commercial risk. We have to have a sound business case, not only as a matter of good business practice but also to make sure we meet regulatory and competition law requirements.'
Now while that may be slightly ambiguous that reads to me as 'You are not getting broadband regardless of your registrations - end of story'.
That then led me to fire off this email to the Chief Broadband officer at BT:
'Hi Alison
IÂ’ve received a copy of a letter from BT (Tim OÂ’Sullivan) which was sent to my MP (apparently you got a copy) which while a little ambiguous is causing me great concern!
Please tell me I am mistaken in my interpretation that, based on current technology, we will not get a trigger level regardless of the number of registrations. I am staying calm at the moment on the basis that this not the case. However this will certainly not be so if I learn that I have been wasting what limited spare time I have over the past 5 months campaigning on BTÂ’s behalf and, it has to be said, encouraged by BT all the way.
Do ring me if you prefer – I promise not to yell at you!'
The next day I get this email (and she had tried to ring me):
'Hi Robin - thanks for your e-mail. I'll try and call you later on this afternoon if that's ok. Are you around either just after 1600 or just after 1700?
The letter to your MP was drafted at the beginning of June, and at that point your exchange wasn't seen as currently viable for broadband. As you are aware we continue to monitor demand levels and costs of enabling exchanges, as well as looking at different technological ways of supplying broadband. We are to announce the next 400 triggers later this week and the fact your exchange has such high demand would mean that I can assure you, you will not be left out.
Alison Ritchie Chief Broadband Officer, BT”
Now it seems a bit strange that these were her comments re the letter when there were over 300 registrations when it was written and we finally get a trigger level of 200. It is also interesting to note that our neighbouring exchange was also given a trigger level - of 500!
I'm interested in your views but I believe that when that letter was written it was correct and that Alison Ritchie (and I love her for it!) sussed how well we had done with the campaign and what bad publicity BT would get (she was also aware we had got a grant to get wi-fi broadband) and overrode the commercial considerations and instructed that we get enabled.
If thatÂ’s true, then cynic as I am, I now have new faith in the power of civic action, and will shortly be launching my legalise all drugs campaign....hehe


  1. The trouble is, you never quite know do you. These big companies never tell anyone that they've done something because of something you did, that's like admitting that they don't have a department of brains in jars who plan policy with 100% accuracy.
    You might recall the major stink I kicked up with Telewest. I got an apology from their director of consumer operations. Shortly thereafter I got a questionaire in the post with a prepaid envelope asking how well my complaint had been dealt with (a scheme I can only surmise applied to many other people too). That followed considerable discussion with one of the directors assistants where I had pointed out that the biggest failing was that no one took an interest in my complain.
    Coincidence? Who knows. The fuckers are coming around today to pick up a bag full of cables, cable modem, analog satellite box etc. About the same time as a team from Sky turns up to install satellite.

  2. Houmous, is your surname really 5 kisses? You must be popular with da ladies come valentines day :)

  3. I'm Malcolm X's great great grandson :) (wow and I always thought it was my good looks and sparkling personality that made me popular with the ladies!)

  4. it is a question of "how important is web access". Is it a crucial service for 21st century citizenship, like electricity, or is it a luxury recreational or entertainment commodity? Is internet a basic human right? How commercially should the web be approached?