Broadband fling! Rebel Scottish village builds Gigabit network

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Balquhidder, a remote rural Scottish community, is building its own 1Gbps broadband network, after a decade of unsuccessfully trying to get commercial suppliers in the region to provide a better service.

The new network will be among the fastest in the UK – and the world – giving the village and surrounding areas access to broadband that is up to hundreds of times faster than the services available locally at present.

Many in the village have no broadband access at all, or only slow copper connections, or have been relying on expensive, patchy satellite services.

The project has seen local volunteers defy the network giants by digging trenches and laying fibre cables themselves across the landscape in the Trossachs National Park in central Scotland, on the southern boundary of the Highlands near Loch Lomond.

Balquiddher

Community interest company Balquhidder Community Broadband (BCB) will deliver the service to all the premises in the area, working in partnership with Stirling Council and internet service provider, Bogons.

• BCB is encouraging other communities to share their stories of poor connectivity and get in touch via its website, to see if it can help.

Two local residents are behind the scheme: scientist Richard Harris, and retired police officer David Johnston. Harris told the Sunday Post, “For each cluster of connections we are trying to find a champion to organise people in their area.

“The farmers will do most of the digging with their machines and we will have volunteers who will help out with that. After that, we will be looking for particular people to train on how to install the cable.”

Joining the three percent

The community project will see businesses and residents of Balqhidder’s 197 properties joining the tiny fraction of customers in the UK that have Gigabit connectivity.

The UK government said this month that only three percent of UK premises have access to full-fibre broadband connections. There are 27 million households in the UK, so that equates to roughly 800,000 premises.

However, few of those connections deliver 1Gbps, so the actual number of premises with Gigabit access is far smaller than that. As a result, Balquhidder’s businesses and residents will soon have the fastest broadband in the country, and among the fastest in the world.

• The world’s fastest average fixed-line broadband speed is in Singapore, with download rates of 161Mbps. The UK is currently 29th on that list – and falling – with average speeds that are less than one-third of that: just 50.45Mbps. The Balquhidder project is unlikely to boost the UK’s ranking, because so few people in the UK have access to Gigabit broadband as to be statistically insignificant. The UK only ranks 45th in the world on mobile broadband speeds, according to Speedtest.net.

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Funded with £100,000 startup investment from Stirling Council, similar investment from its commercial partner, and rural development money from the Scottish LEADER programme, the Balquhidder project is expected to bring millions of pounds in economic gains to the area.

The network takes shape.

Speaking at the project’s launch, Johnston, now a director at BCB, said: “This project is hugely significant. Residential homes and businesses, some of which currently have no broadband, will be able to cancel existing poor copper-to-the-premise broadband and line rental contracts and enjoy world-class service, for less than most are currently paying.

“This has been a genuine collaboration between local businesses, local government, local people, and our commercial partner Bogons, to lay the foundations for broadband connectivity in Balquhidder on a par with the rest of the world.”

Starting a rebellion

Brandon Butterworth, a director of Bogons, said that the project could be the start of a rebellion, in effect, against slow, expensive service providers:

“We are looking to help other communities where the community is willing to do the digging and other works for us to install the fibre. A DIY dig saves the community a significant part of the installation cost where any fibre, even fibre to the cabinet, has not previously been available.”

Local businesses include the Mhor Group, which operates restaurants and a hotel in the area. Owner Tom Lewis, said: “This broadband scheme is vital to the development of our businesses. The markets we target expect, and demand, a good internet connection.

“Our current satellite feed is really expensive and only lets us provide limited email services to our customers, which has had a negative impact on our corporate conference business.

“It will be transformational once we’re connected, and will finally allow us to manage our businesses in Balquhidder, Callander, and Glasgow from our home in Balquhidder.”

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Internet of Business says

After a decade of campaigning, this community project should be applauded for saying “enough is enough” to the UK’s big service providers. In many cases, those companies have failed to provide anything like a world-class service to their customers – particularly in rural areas, but in other parts of the UK too.

At the heart of the problem is BT. As the big beast that sits, one way or another, on much of the UK’s ageing infrastructure, BT has arguably been the single biggest brake on the UK’s digital ambitions.

This is because instead of investing in upgrading the network to world-class standards for the good of the whole economy – as South Korea, Singapore, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and others have done – its policy has long been to regard true high-speed broadband as an expensive premium add-on.

In short, it has no economic incentive to do better, and the world rankings prove that BT has no basis for claiming that its basic services are “super fast”, as it has been doing for years. The UK barely scrapes into the world top 30.

In some areas of the country, including some cities, standard BT services are anything but super fast, with speeds that are often slower than 10Mbps. That’s 100 times slower than the service that villagers in Balquhidder will soon be receiving. 

Residents in a property in central Brighton – a city that is home to countless digital startups and app providers – told Internet of Business, “We salute Balquhidder for rolling up their sleeves and fixing this problem themselves. It’s brilliant that a rural community, where broadband connectivity is often non-existent, will soon have some of the fastest broadband in the country.

“In the centre of so-called ‘digital Brighton’, in the affluent south of England, the BT broadband in our building is currently 3.5Mbps on a good day – about half the speed that it was five years ago. That’s slower than the average speed available in Venezuela, which has the slowest broadband in the world.

“Once we complained to the Chairman’s office at BT. They told us, ‘Broadband isn’t a utility and it never will be’. That’s an unbelievable statement for a company like BT to make, but it says it all. They don’t believe it’s an essential service, and they’re only interested in their premium customers.

“We’re stuck with BT until a cable provider moves onto our street. Unfortunately, we can’t just grab some spades and dig up the road ourselves, much as we’d like to. It’d be simpler for us to move to rural Scotland.”

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The post Broadband fling! Rebel Scottish village builds Gigabit network appeared first on Internet of Business.

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‘Florence’ Review – A Brief Fling

Mountains has been an interesting studio to watch as their team has some serious industry street cred- Particularly with their involvement in both Monument Valley [$ 3.99] and Cuphead. Backed by Annapurna, it seemed like Mountains had the luxury to release anything they wanted. What they decided on was an interactive love story and after waiting what feels like an eternity, Florence [$ 2.99] is finally here. Florence is a tricky game to review, as it’s the sort of project that invokes all those annoying arguments surrounding what is and isn’t a game. (I’m not sure it’s possible to lose, it’s fairly difficult to not progress, and you can “beat” it in 30 minutes.) I think a better lens to examine Florence through is not as a game, but rather, as a really clever evolution of a visual novel. In that respect, Florence succeeds on a level that’s really just sort of absurd.

The game, or visual novel, or interactive experience, or whatever we want to call Florence starts off with a day in the life of Florence, who lives a pretty boring adult life. It’s fascinating what a good job Florence does at driving home monotony, in fact, that’s really the magic of the whole thing- Through these individual micro-games Florence manages to flawlessly convey that emotion. For instance, one of the first things you do is wake up and brush your teeth.

To wake up, you tap your alarm clock, snooze a bit, tap it again, then the game transitions to the bathroom where you’re rubbing the screen back and forth to fill up a bar for how long you need to brush your teeth. Not long after that you’re riding public transit on the way to work, and the game has you mindlessly liking and retweeting a faux-Instagram sort of thing. Then, at work, you play a number matching game as Florence does her accounting work. It seems intentionally dull, and does a great job of mirroring what it feels like when your days just sort of melt away doing the same monotonous things over and over.

Eventually, Florence’s phone runs out of batteries, her music cuts out, and she hears something playing in the distance. It turns out to be Krish, who quickly becomes Florence’s new love interest. From there, it’s straight up weird how good of a job Florence does at capturing exactly what a new relationship feels like. You go out on your first date with Krish, and to have your first conversation you’re putting together jigsaw puzzle pieces to form full speech bubbles. Initially these puzzles are complicated, with a bunch of pieces that you need to put together. As the date progresses, they get easier and easier until they’re not even a puzzle at all- Really mimicking what a great first date feels like, when by the end of the night everything is just easy and comfortable.

Florence is a short experience. As mentioned, it took me about 30 minutes to play through it, so I really don’t want to spoil many more of the things you’ll do as interacting with these different set pieces is a big part of the whole thing. I’ll share my favorite moment though: When you eventually move in together, the game has you deciding where your stuff is going to go. The micro-game couldn’t be more basic, but the feelings it conjures of deciding what stuff comes out, what stuff gets put away, what might be important, what might not be, and whose things get put into storage to make room was so unbelievably spot on it’s eerie.

That’s just sort of how Florence goes.

I really like to avoid wishy washy conclusions in reviews, but Florence is a hard one. If you were waiting for Mountains to release the next Monument Valley gamer-y game, you should probably steer clear of Florence. You’ll blow through the game quickly, and likely be left with a “That’s it?” sort of reaction. Different strokes for different folks and all, but for me, Florence is going in the same mental folder as games like Reigns [$ 2.99] which I seem to just be constantly recommending to non-gamer friends of mine.

Experience-centric games like That Dragon, Cancer [$ 4.99], Gone Home and others have found massive audiences of people who love the experimental side of gaming that focuses more on conveying emotions than they do high scores. If those are the sorts of things you’re into, chances are you’re going to wish Florence didn’t end so soon.

TouchArcade

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Craneballs Release First Trailer for ‘Fling Fighters’ and Announce a January 11th Release Date

Back in June developer Craneballs, who you likely know from their mega-popular Overkill series or the colorful top-down driving game Splash Cars, revealed an upcoming game called Fling Fighters with an extremely vague teaser trailer. A follow-up teaser screenshot indicated that this would be a physics-based fighting game of some sort, or at least that’s what I figured. They actually soft-launched the game on Android not long after that, so if you were on that platform and in the know, you’d already know what Fling Fighters was all about. That wasn’t me, though, so when Craneballs released the first official trailer for the game today, it was a surprise to me, and a very pleasant one at that.

As you can see, Fling Fighters is most definitely a fighting game, but not in the traditional sense. As the “fling” in the title alludes to, you’ll actually launch projectiles at your enemy as you move and jump about in some exceedingly dangerous environments filled with traps and hazards. It looks like you have a rapid fire projectile attack as well as one that’s flung similar to how you pull back and fling birds in Angry Birds. With all the chaos going on and your opponent constantly gunning for you, Fling Fighters looks like some seriously frantic fun. Alongside the trailer Craneballs have also announced an official release date of January 11th, 2018 so be sure to have this one on your radar for next month and drop by the forum thread for some discussion.

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