Liverpool FC’s Renaissance

Over recent years, other than several significant Cup wins, Liverpool’s record in the Premiership, or the old League Division One as I still like to call it, hasn’t been great. Specifically, they’ve not won it since the 89/90 season.

I am lucky enough to have experienced the “glory years” as some call it, where winning the league, was almost taken as a given, and if we didn’t win, second was more or less a safe bet. Since then of course, things have been a little different.

While there have been several false dawns, the current squad, under Brendan Rodgers, and more specifically the way he has the team playing, is certainly bringing back memories of how the Liverpool teams of old used to approach games. And I’m rather liking it.

A top four finish this year was my hope. Beyond that, maybe in a couple of years or so, with a handful of games to go, if there was technically a chance we could be in the mix for the title, I’d take that as a huge leap forward. Well it appears we are already there. If Utd beat City this week, and Liverpool win all their remaining games, we’ll be Champions. Do I think it’ll happen? Almost certainly not, but to get this close, and to see the way we’re playing, gives me great confidence for the years ahead.

I’ll subscribe to Rodger’s “only focussing on the next game” approach, but I’m sure there are many supporters who are already daring to dream?

Happy days….



Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC)

So, while I’m on my hobby horse, one other thing to mention. The deployment of “Super Fast Broadband”.

There’s a government target of 90% of all UK households to have Super Fast Broadband by the end of 2015. Super Fast means in excess of 24Mbps. Well at least there was. According to this piece by PCPro magazine, that’s increased to 95% by 2017 and is now 99% by 2018. Although they’ve now allowed that to be achieved by wireless too.

Trawl the internet and you’ll find countless stories detailing how we’re falling behind on these targets, here are just some:-

There are plenty more too if you want to take a look, but I think the last article by Rory Cellan-Jones sums things up rather nicely.

So where’s it going wrong? Well take my local exchange for example. Churchtown in Southport. If you go onto any ISP’s site and do an availability check to see if Fibre to the Cabinet is available (read Super Fast Broadband) from this exchange, you’ll get a resounding yes. In fact check it from the horse’s mouth, BT Openreach. This link downloads the latest list of exchanges that are “accepting orders”, you’ll find Churchtown on there. However using information provided by the excellent site at Code Lock, you’ll see that the exchange appears to have 43 cabinets feeding into it. Of those 43, 12 have not been provisioned for FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet). If you look at the details of these 12, there are two common themes that crop up. One, is that they all “serve” a far lower number of postcodes than those that have been enabled, and two, that even where the number of postcodes served is relatively high, local knowledge tells me (looking at the “coverage” maps of each cabinet), that the populus in those postcodes won’t be very high.

What does this mean? I can only assume, that in an effort to get to the target levels BT Openreach are prioritising solely based on how quickly they can ramp up availability. I guess a sort of 80/20 rule. By “hitting” 80% of the cabinets (with the most subscribers) off an exchange you get the biggest coverage. I suppose if I was incented to reach coverage targets, I may be inclined to do exactly the same?

All this means is that the teams that were deployed here a couple of years ago to provision those high utilisation cabinets, are, at some point, all going to have to come back to eventually finish the rest. Surely that can’t be cost effective? If you’re here doing some, why not do them all?

So what about my plight? Well if I look at the cabinets still to be provisioned, and you assume the priority is based on how many post codes are served by a cabinet, of the 12 remaining, I’m in flat last position. Only five post codes served from my cabinet (P39). So by the news clips above I can (presumably) safely assume that it’ll be 2018 before I finally have the option to order Super Fast Broadband. Six years after my exchange was enabled for it. No doubt by which time, technology will have moved on to the point where today’s “Super Fast Broadband” will already be a couple of generations behind whatever will be the new standard then.

There’s now a site where you can register your Super Fast Broadband “Not Spot”. It’s run by INCA. Click here to register yours if you find yourself in a similar position as me!

Looks like I’m confined to a life in the slow lane. Bah.


UK ISP’s – What’s going on?

I’m afraid this post may appear as a bit of a rant. I won’t disagree I’m annoyed with what’s gone on with my internet, the way it was sold and, at least initially, the way the whole “complaint” was handled, but now that my parting with TalkTalk Business is arranged, it’s led me to think more deeply about how broadband is sold and operated in the UK.

For now, let’s keep Fibre to the Cabinet out of the equation, it’s a different animal, and at least for me, subject of another rant, I still can’t get it since BT Openreach have decided that by some criteria my cabinet in not to be upgraded. At least for now.

So, my requirement? From the outset, I’m happy to pay a premium for a better service. And by better, I mean one that has at least some guarenteed levels of service during the evening and weekends when the whole world is streaming, torrenting, gaming etc. In the past, this has always meant signing up for a “business” service. And that usually meant being physically connected to different hardware in the exchange. Hardware that was 20:1 contended as opposed to 50:1 contended. The result was that yes, in the evening, the service certainly did degrade, but it was still usable.

Every ISP I’ve been with (bar Sky since they don’t do it), I’ve always paid top dollar for a better service. I was with Plusnet for ages, but after many years, I had a problem that meant I was left disconnected for serveral hours at a time. Even they acknowledged the only way to get that fixed was to shift provider and get onto a different dslam. That worked, I switched to Sky, my connection remained solid, but because Sky are Sky, they don’t support a static IP address, plus, even though it was sold as ADSL2+, my upload never got above 500kbps. Previously with Plusnet I’d been getting 1Mbps. So Sky got binned, and I moved to BE broadband. Again the best service they had. I’ve nothing but good things to say about BE. I don’t ever recall having an issue. A very reliable service, 10Mbps / 1Mbps, good enough in the evening, and static IP address too. Life was good. Until Sky took them over and made it clear they’d close them down and move everyone to Sky.

No way I was going to back to Sky, so I had to move elsewhere. In the end, I plumped for BT Business broadband. I guess it was sort of ok, but nowhere near as good as BE. My speed gradually fell to around 6Mbps / 600kbps, and at times the service in the evening was poor.Their hardware, the BT home hub was possibly the worst piece of kit I’ve ever had the misfortune to work with. Totally unconfigurable, dumbed down. Its DNS cache server which you got no choice but to use, frequently fell over rendering my entire network unusable. So, hardware was replaced with Netgear, and things improved, but still issues in the evening. Plus, BTwere not cheap. At all. I felt I wasn’t getting value for money.

At this point, I turned to TalkTalk business. The switch was painless, the price, £25 a month for both broadband and phone seemed particularly attractive. And during the day, I couldn’t fault their service at all. However, in the evenings, it’s a completly different story. In short, it’s unusable. I had three conversations with their tech support, and all told me the same thing. Something I found particulary disturbing. And that is that as a “Business” customer, you only get prioritised during business hours. Out of business hours, you’re in the pool with everyone else. To me, that’s not Business Broadband. If I’m paying for business, I expect it 24/7. I’m sensible enough to know that during the evening, things will slow down, but the service should be still usable. I don’t expect to get my service de-prioritised at 5pm.

At that point, I knew my relationship with TalkTalk would be short lived. Less than two weeks to be honest. After having raised a formal complaint, I got agreement on a termination fee that wasn’t the full value of the twelve month contract. I’ve already signed up with Zen Business Office, here’s hoping it’s a good as the reviews at Think BroadBand. I hope it’s going to deliver what I expect. Sure, it’s expensive, but I don’t care if it works.

But I then thought a little deeper. And it now appears that “things” are managed differently. Apparently contention ratios are a thing of the past. Even BT state that everyone is in the same pool. BT explain it here. So how do you “buy” yourself a better service? Lord knows. If Zen doesn’t work out, I’m really getting to the point of thinking, if the service you get delivered is so buttock clenchingly piss poor, regardless of what you pay, you may as well pay as little as possible?

We’ll see.