Charting the progress of rural broadband, altnets and the future of UK broadband is something of a task - it’s one of the things we try to do here at Recombu Digital.
Thankfully it looks like someone's about to make things a whole lot easier, not only for tech journalists but for engineers, project leaders and basically anyone who is involved with UK broadband rollout whether they’re in the city smoke or the sticks.
ALLc is a new collaborative venture that seeks to unify the UK’s broadband experts, a place to pool expertise, knowledge and resources.
The brainchild of wispa Ltd’s Richard Brown, the guy behind the famous ‘Up To’ campaign, ALLc has already attracted the likes of the Guardian’s Jack Schofield, Ian Grant (aka Br0kenTeleph0n3) and B4RN board members Chris Conder and Martyn Dews.
The main idea behind ALLc is to provide a talent pool where people involved in broadband rollout can meet, connect and share expertise, kind of like a LinkedIn for UK superfast broadband.
"We really need as many people as possible, across the UK, in the talent pool so that every potential customer requirement can be met," says Brown "and I want every single council, government department, community group etc to get their requirements registered on the site so that we can start matching talent to need."
Groups like B4RN have shown that with a clear funding plan and local support fibre optic networks can be set up in rural areas relatively quickly and they’re keen to share their experiences and knowledge.
B4RN’s Chris Conder said: "I’m proud to be part of ALLc. It’s about time we had a resource to turn to for expert advice. Its good to share - this is the real ‘Big Society’ in action."
"We intend to help others by the lessons we have learnt with B4RN and share best practice. It’s good that ALLc is pulling together the best innovators. One person doesn’t know it all, I imagine between everyone involved those just starting out on projects will be able to find the help they need."
Problems B4RN have had include funding, for which they've not been able to secure from BDUK, EDRF, or banks, having instead to rely on donations, self-investment and the rather canny sponsor a metre of fibre for a fiver campaign.
Then there's the elements - the torrential summer has seen B4RN having to resort to ‘extreme digging’ to lay the fibre across the fields in Arkholme and Quenmore.
One other problem B4RN has had is the learning curve it's had to grapple with. Richard Brown is hoping that with ALLc, ISPs hoping to follow in B4RN’s footsteps can learn from the community project.
"We've been talking about superfast broadband for years but so far delivery is being stifled, in part by funding availability, but also in part due to customers not knowing how to easily access the skills they need to make it happen," added Brown.
Like LinkedIn, ALLc runs a tiered service, with basic services being made available for free and access to documents
Sharing knowledge and making professional connections and projects happens also sees ALLc taking a small percentage cut, the immediacy of which depends on the membership levels.
So when documents are time sensitive, the higher paying subscribers will get them before others. Some of the documents and reports won't end up in the free list, so for those who want the latest information there’s an incentive to invest. Documents range from technical papers, academic ports and commercial models for community broadband projects.
ALLc launches today and is free to register - head over here to sign up.