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Cherry-pickin’, Freeview failin’ and kung-fu fightin’: Digital Voices 14/07/2012

Maybe it’s the suckiest summer in 100 years, but you lot have been busy commenting on our work this week, and if I’m not mistaken, you’re getting as grumpy as the weather.

Welcome to Digital Voices for the week ending July 14, 2012.

Voice of the week: BT rural broadband: “We don’t cherry pick the easy areas”

When Fujitsu pulled out the bidding to build a rural fibre network in Cumbria, it left BT as the only contender.

BT responded by accusing other broadband providers of ignoring hard to reach areas while it is committed to serving everyone.

Cyberdoyle, also known as B4RN’s Chris Conder, doyenne of the UK community broadband movement, could barely believe her eyes: “BT don’t cherry pick? LMTO. FTTC is the biggest example of cherrypicking in the whole world.”

Hot topic of the week: 4G vs Freeview and the question of filters

The British public is waking up to the bad news that while the mobile operators squabble over the frequencies for 4G, there’s no doubt that almost two million Freeview homes will suffer some kind of interference.

It looks like the government will model their measures to solve the problem on the Digital Switchover Help Scheme, fixing just one TV per home and leaving millions out of pocket to get their second or third TVs working.

This half-baked measure has popped a few blood vessels of readers who’ve made a serious commitment to Freeview, such as Peter Jarrett. He’s got several Freeview DVD and Blu-ray recorders, and is looking warily at the two mobile base stations within 300 yards of his home.

“It looks as if I may get interference from 4G. If so and I have to go to Freesat I insist that all of my Freeview DVD and Bluray recorders are replaced with Freesat equipment.

“I have written to my MP suggesting that test transmissions are started BEFORE licenses are sold so that viewers and potential 4G licensees know where they stand BEFORE 4G is rolled out. I am getting perfect Freeview reception at the moment and I do not want this compromised.”

Funnily enough, Freeview boss Ilse Howling suggested a similar trial this week, so it may happen.
The obvious alternative to Freeview is Freesat, but Simon Perry isn’t convinced it’s a fair swap: “The range of channels on Freesat is nothing like that of Freeview. The ‘terrestrial’ five channels are on Freesat in abundance with regional options for the BBC. You will find the odd news or music channel on both but not much more!.”

Last week, Mike suggested that 4G isn’t the problem, it’s actually an alternative to broadcast if you can’t get TV via a fixed broadband connection.

John Haddock doesn’t think mobile broadband is any sort of solution: “I live in a rural area and the data transmission rates are too low to cope with video. I suspect I am not alone. My computer won’t even play medium quality tube videos without buffering after the US goes on-line.

“My exchange is fully digital and uses fibre optics so it isn’t an old technology issue. Over air broadcast will always be cheaper than running new cabling to every house in the UK.

“Open the window and look out of your ivory castle, your bacon is burning…”

John Smith wonders what will happen to those on low incomes: “Will the unemployed get a filter for free or pay for one? I’ve only got my JSA to live on so if 4G affects my tv signal and I can’t watch tv that’s it, I won’t be watching TV again, but then again it’s rubbish most of the time and at least I don’t have to buy a TV Licence if I can’t get a signal.”

Which sparked the eternal question: do you need a TV licence if you can’t get a signal? This answer from Wotcha is technically correct: “I understood that if you have a TV you have to have a TV Licence, whether or not you can watch it or choose to watch it.”

Clarrie is also correct: “The TV Licensing website is quite clear: You need to be covered by a valid TV Licence if you watch or record TV as it’s being broadcast. This includes the use of devices such as a computer, laptop, mobile phone or DVD/video recorder.”

In practice, TV Licensing will always try to threaten you or prosecute you to get the Licence Fee, because raising money is their thankless task. You’ll have to convince a magistrate that you don’t have the means to watch TV via broadcast or broadband, not just a lack of intention.

Virgin Media: TiVo and Kung-fu Fry

Is TiVo better than Sky? Light the blue touch-paper and stand well back. Our profile of Virgin’s flagship digital TV recorder didn’t impress TiVo user ‘gazzzzz’ (a former user, we suspect):

“Cost of Pay-per-view for the movies is too high, and are only paid for a 48 hour period – Netflix is far cheaper and available through my Xbox 360. Interface on Tivo is old tech, having to search for anything takes ages and you have to go through loads of menus – simply going navigating back is not obvious.

“Pausing a movie while the pizza arrives/you take a phone call etc? Well expect the TiVo to take you back to noisy movie adverts after five minutes of pause.”

Good point gazzzzz, why does it do that?

The latest TiVo ad campaign features Twitter megastar Stephen Fry in a comic kung-fu tussle with Richard Branson, but it didn’t impress Ian:

“Oh no, another platform going for the quirky ads to pull in punters! VM would do better from investing the money in trying to increase their geographical spread!

“If VM aren’t capable of picking up work for 1000+ new homes being built then they aren’t looking forward, just at what they have.”

Alan suggested that Virgin will only build where there’s a demand, adding: “”While you’re at it tell Tesco I need a new store at the end of my street.”

That might not be the best analogy, Alan. Where I live, there is a Tesco Metro at the end of almost every street.

90 per cent 24Mbps broadband coverage won’t happen by 2015, says CLA

The Country Land and Business Association this week added its voice to concerns the government won’t meet its rural broadband promise on time.

No-one know this better than Tavistock Superfast Broadband, who’s stuck between Superfast Cornwall in the neighbouring county, and Sweet FA at home:

“It is a very weak show by the UK Government on superfast broadband roll-out. They are on target to fail by May 2015 however that 90 percent target is set.

“There is no passion and BDUK are willing to amble along as directed by the DCMS. Waste millions of pounds on administration and consultations when that money could have supported straight forward roll-out.”

Gary Lineker may transfer from BBC’s Match of the Day to BT Vision

If you care about football (we don’t, FYI), you’ll have an opinion on Gary Lineker’s performance as the anchor of BBC coverage. Could BT tempt him to their new Premier League channel? Should they?

Don’t do it, says Cliniserve: “He would be make a massive mistake to join BT. There is no better braodcastor than the BBC.”

He’s on his own, though. Rob, for instance, thinks Lineker will be better off with BT because the BBC has a history of technical cock-ups during live games.

Arklington just wants him off the Beeb: “I hope he takes the other dullards with him too.

“Martin Keown might not have the face for television, but his role in the coverage of Euro 2012 showed him to be passionate, eloquent, animated and much more down-to-earth, and I think they could build a much more energetic and entertaining team around him.

“His appointment would provide the perfect balance between the dour smarminess of Lineker & Co on the BBC and the pack of ex-Boro Hyenas on Sky Sports.”

YouView trials opened to all discreet tech junkies

I signed up for the YouView tech trial, but as a journalist I didn’t expect an invitation. Janice Mulcahy suspects the whole thing is just for those in the TV business:

“Did anyone normal get a chance to trial it apart from the bigwigs with giant TVs and internet connections?”

The answer, says M.Orford, is that wigs of all kinds are welcome: “I’ve just been signed up for it and am no bigwig.

“I’ve been assured it’s entirely free, including installation and new router and that my charges remain the exactly the same, and have had this confirmed by email. I can’t see a catch (yet).”

Cable theft make Hulk angry. Why theft cable?

Cable theft is a serious problem and attracts a lot of attention, although a lot of it comes from people with an axe to grind about gypsies and East Europeans.

We get a few sensible comments about tackling the issue, as well, with many suggestions that we should swap copper for fibre as soon as we can, as proposed this week by Davrosa.

Even if we could do it overnight, says Trenel99, it’s not that easy, especially for undersea cables: “Fibre optic cables have large section copper cables which supply current for the regenerators. The quantity of copper exceeds the fibre optic strands by a significant amount.”

BT’s RABIT technology could help to catch the copper thieves by alerting police within minutes of an attack on the network, or can it, asks MBGPW: “All of which assumes that the police will react as fast as the rabbit.”

Littlenan doesn’t even think the police are very interested: “I have some photos of thieves with copper cable round their necks and in their hands. I phoned the police within minutes of seeing them. A friend got me the number of the lorry they drove away in. I found out their names from asking around and STILL the police did not get them.

“The police left it a WEEK before they got back to me. The constable who called had not even been told I had photos. However, he got back to me shortly afterwards saying that they could not make any arrests because all the copper had been stripped down or something and the victims could not identify which was theirs. Sickening!!!

It makes you wonder why you bother or take the risk. Especially taking photos of suspicious men.”

Speaka de English put-down of the week

We all know that comments on ‘teh interwebs’ aren’t the greatest example of finely-crafted English language, but not everyone with an opinion is a wordsmith.

We tidy up most of the poor English in Digital Voices to make it easier to read, leaving the occasional angry capital letter or illiterate football fan for your amusement.

Noch (and others) have been arguing with Pottsy189 over the role of Mrs Thatcher in the state of Britain’s BT-managed telecoms infrastructure. Pottsy’s English isn’t very poor by online standards, but it became the perfect target for an ad hominem sideswipe from his nemesis, after Samways suggested Pottsy was ill-educated:

“What school got to do with it ? our members of parliament went to posh schools and look at the state of the nation now,” complained Pottsy.

“I think it’s in reference to your appalling English,” responded Noch. “Your spelling is dreadful, you don’t punctuate in the right places (which makes your run-on sentences ambiguous and hard to read) and you ramble with no real purpose. Sadly it’s hard to take the opinion of someone who is barely literate seriously.”

What a way to win the moral high ground, Mr Noch.

Unoriginal ‘witty’ comment of the week

There’s a law of online comment which states that in any story about people losing their TV signal, someone will say it’s not worth watching or is going out of fashion.

Even though tens of millions of people watch TV, every day, and audiences continue to rise, this week, Will P wrote: “People still watch TV?”