Openreach Unveil 36 New UK Areas for FTTP Ultrafast Broadband

ISPreview

Network access provider Openreach has today announced that their multi-billion pound “Fibre First” rollout of Gigabit capable Fibre-to-the-Premises broadband ISP technology will – over the next 12 months – be reaching parts of an additional 36 new locations across the UK (total now 74).

The development forms part of the operator’s on-going work to cover 4 million premises (homes and businesses) with “full fibre” FTTP across the United Kingdom by March 2021, which could be extended to 15 million by around 2025 and they may even go beyond that if the conditions are right (e.g. easier wayleave agreements, extension to the business rates holiday etc.).

So far around 1.5 million premises have already been reached and their rollout is continuing to ramp-up (currently passing 20,000 homes and businesses every week). However we should caveat that Openreach doesn’t usually cover 100% of every area they list and unfortunately they haven’t said how many premises will benefit in each location.

In this latest phase Openreach has included the likes of Newcastle, Doncaster, Chelmsford and St Albans, whilst four new locations in Scotland (Kilmarnock in East Ayrshire and Bathgate, Broxburn and Whitburn in West Lothian) have also been prioritised following the Scottish Government’s decision to extend business rates relief on new fibre for a 10 year period; a not so subtle hint that they want the UK Government to follow suit.

As usual you can check out the fibre first roll-out page on their website, which includes a more detailed exchange level roll-out plan for each of the announced locations.

Ofcom begins search for next chief executive

Tech Radar

Sharon White due to leave in 2020

Ofcom has begun the search for a new chief executive to replace Sharon White who will leave her post early next year.

The UK communications regulator has appointed recruiter Russell Reynolds Associates to lead the search and is inviting applications.

“The Ofcom Board now seeks an exceptional leader with considerable skill, experience and strong social purpose to deliver its mission – ensuring people and businesses across the UK have access to high quality, affordable communications services,” said a job listing.

Contractor UK

The Treasury has confirmed what many pubic sector contractors have long-suspected — that the assurance process of 2012 is dead, due to the birth of IR35 reforms in April 2017.

In an ‘off-payroll engagements’ update, officials said that the requirements for public bodies to include contractual provisions and run the assurance process are “no longer necessary.”

For contractors, the removal of the requirements means that, officially, they no longer need to provide evidence of a contract review to assure their engager that they are outside IR35.

For engagers, notably central government departments and their arm’s length bodies, it means they will no longer be monitored for compliance through an annual review process, the results of which used to be presented to parliament.

Instead, both worker and end-user now have their compliance obligations spelt out under the IR35 rules introduced on April 6th 2017, making the ‘PPNs’ of 2012 and 2015 redundant.

Slice of £3.6bn Committed for Great Broadband in 100 UK Towns

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ISPreview

The UK Government’s new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced a £3.6bn Towns Fund to support an initial 100 towns “so that they will get the improved transport and improved broadband connectivity that they need,” although yesterday’s speech to the Manchester Science and Industry Museum didn’t include any detail.

No doubt the above plan will be used to support Boris’s pledge to have “fantastic full fibre broadband sprouting in every household” by 2025 (currently coverage is 7% of the UK), although he is yet to detail how such a seemingly unachievable date can be met using Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) ISP technology that typically takes a couple of decades or more to rollout.

Three’s 5G network won’t cost you any more than 4G

Techradar

Unlimited 5G data for £22 per month.

Three has announced its 5G pricing in the UK, and the good news is it won’t cost you any more than its current “contract, SIM only and PAYG 4G mobile plans.”

That means it will be cheaper than EE, which charges a premium for its 5G contracts, and there are no speed caps – something Vodafone has introduced with its new unlimited plans which cover you for 4G and 5G. However, both EE and Vodafone have their 5G networks available right now (albeit in limited areas for now).

Three will also offer a 5G unlimited data SIM only plan which will cost £22 per month, however one cost you will have to brunt is that of a 5G-enabled smartphone.

From today, July 26, you’ll be able to buy the 5G from Three, and it joins Sky Mobile and Carphone Warehouse as the first UK retailers to sell the handset after carriers temporarily removed it from their line-ups in the wake of the Huawei ban.

 

Matt Warman MP Appointed to Become New UK Digital Minister UPDATE

ISPreview

Yesterday saw the Government choose Nicky Morgan MP to become the UK’s new Culture Secretary (DCMS) – with responsibility for everything from broadband to media – and reporting to her will be a new Minister of State for DCMS in the shape of Nigel Adams MP and a new Digital Minister, Matt Warman MP.

Nigel (MP for Selby & Ainsty) has previously held political positions related to the Treasury, Housing / Local Government and the Wales Office. On top of that he voted Leave in the EU referendum, which could make for some awkward chats with Nicky Morgan who voted Remain.

Govtech Innovation – the market needs action not just words

Government Computing

In this blog about fostering greater innovation in central government, Rob Anderson, Principal Analyst for Central Government in the GlobalData Public Sector team argues that whilst the recently published strategy offers hope, it fails to inspire confidence that any radical change in buying behaviour is imminent.

Insofar as it goes, the recently published Government Technology Innovation Strategy should be welcomed as an honest statement that Whitehall recognises the benefit of innovative govtech, and is an endorsement of public bodies looking to drive a step change in transformation through the adoption of new technologies. However for a number of reasons, it’s unlikely to stimulate an immediate upsurge in the procurement of such solutions.

Whatever Oliver Dowden and his people in the Cabinet Office would like to think, they are not recognised by front-line departments as Government HQ, so in the current structure will never have a mandate to dictate how and where those bodies spend their money. And for all that Philip Hammond has said on the era of austerity ending, HM Treasury still has a vice-like grip on the public purse strings, so there are insufficient funds to invest in unproven technology.

That’s not to say that departments are ignoring innovation; by no means is that the case and there are plenty of examples of small- to medium-scale programmes in progress. DWP has its Intelligent Automation ‘garage’ and its Innovation dojo; the Home Office has set up an Accelerated Capability Environment (ACE) in conjunction with over 150 partners; HMRC even has a Director of Architecture & Innovation dedicated to addressing the issues. Some of these and other examples from Defra and DVLA are cited as case studies in the strategy document, so the direction of travel is undoubtedly forward. The pace of adoption is lagging though. While the larger government agencies that can squirrel away funds to invest are doing so, those facing the more severe budget cuts can ill afford to take risks, so arguably more central funding needs to be made available.

Playing catch-up: An update on the NHS digital revolution

Open Access Government

Here, Andrew Gardner discusses what is really going on under the surface of the NHS digital revolution and what further needs to happen.

In the last year, there have been several moves by NHS England towards increasing the provision of digital health services. It comes amidst pressure on budgets and services, with the NHS now looking for ways to both save money and continue providing high-quality services for patients. With healthcare one of the last sectors to adopt technological change, it is far behind other industries.

The recent NHS 10-year plan and the 5-year GP contract signify a shift in policy thinking; how we can explore the possibilities that digital health has to offer, such as through digital triage and video GP consultations. I’ve worked in tech and digital healthcare for many years, now serving as CEO of Doctorlink, a digital health start-up working with the NHS. In my career, I’ve seen how digital and process transformation can benefit organisations significantly, improving quality and reducing cost at the same time, so this focus on digital has been a welcome change.

Of course, it is one thing to promise that digital health can improve the NHS, it’s another to deliver it. To achieve its goal, the NHS can learn a lot from how other countries have used digital innovations to improve healthcare. For example, Israel has become a world leader in storing health data. The Israeli government recently announced a $300 million initiative to build upon decades of progress in collating health data. The large grouping of anonymised data can be made available to medical institutions and academics, assisting researchers in developing new treatments and ascertain more accurate information, utilising machine learning algorithms to do so.

GDS uses machine learning for GOV.UK links

UK Authority

The GOV.UK product team in the Government Digital Service (GDS) has been testing a machine learning algorithm to generate links of related content during a search.

It says it should help users to find information that comes from sources beyond GOV.UK pages, otherwise known as its ‘Whitehall’ content.

Senior product manager Ganesh Senthi has outlined the project in a blogpost, which says it is part of the effort to help users move on from information they have landed on easily, largely from an external search engine.

The Whitehall content accounts for about 98% of what can be found on GOV.UK, as opposed to the ‘mainstream’ content that accounts for just 2%, but 57% of the page views.

Senthis says the machine learning algorithm is aimed at identifying the Whitehall content and related links, giving content designers much more time to make sure it is well written and user focused.

GDS has A/B tested three algorithms across all of the GOV.UK content, looking for signs of them generating an increase in clicks on related links. This led it to identify one through which it has now run all of its content over three weeks to obtain a view of user journeys.