IX Liverpool has raised a number of concerns regarding the recent tender that Liverpool City Council has put out regarding use of its street level ducts and various assets, which we believe could be beneficial to the community as a whole, instead of a single provider whom could create another monopoly within the region.
IX Liverpool Limited
22F Jordan Street
Liverpool City Council
Commercial Procurement Unit
4th Floor Cunard Building
25th November 2016
CC: Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Joe Anderson, Cllr Gary Millar, Louise Ellman MP
Open Letter Re: Grant of Concession for Commercialise Capacity in LCC owned NET ducts and Supply of Public WiFi
To whom it may concern,
I write to you concerning the recent tender for the above. While we have been given the opportunity to respond in tender form, as a nascent membership driven organisation we unfortunately do not have the time or resources to do so. Instead we wish to record the needs of our community, especially given the short notice and the impending deadline.
IX Liverpool (ixliverpool.net) is a not-for-profit company, set up by volunteers, based in the Baltic Triangle, whose mission is to run and maintain an Internet Exchange Point (IXP) on behalf of the community.
Our specific aims are:
- To make Liverpool the best digitally connected city outside London
- To support the development of connectivity (based on openness, transparency, mutuality and neutrality) throughout Liverpool by the creation of a network of Internet Exchange points so that members can exchange traffic locally; making the Internet faster and more reliable for end users
- To be a voice for digital organisations through the monitoring, informing, educating, persuading and participation and representation in local and national public policy
Internet Exchange Points
Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) are critical components of the internet which enable different providers to connect their networks and exchange data.
Until recently, the only UK IXP was located in Telehouse in London. This required all internet traffic in the UK to be routed through that point. This IXP is run by London Internet Exchange (LINX), which is, like IX Liverpool, a not-for-profit membership organisation.
However, there was a major risk to internet resilience and new IXPs have been created in Manchester, Leeds, Cardiff and Edinburgh. Even newer IXPs are now being created in Brighton and Birmingham, supported by their City Council, whom bring together the various stakeholders and interested parties and providers and develop a long term plan that is beneficial to everyone.
The growth of high tech in both London and Manchester is significantly driven by the speed and cost benefits of an IXP. Bandwidth costs in London are half what they are in Liverpool and 1 Gbps access is normal.
Telecoms Cloud, a Liverpool-based telecoms platform, and other local digital businesses has recently relocated its hardware into Telehouse in London precisely to benefit from the reduced costs, greater speeds and superior resilience of the London internet.
A fully fledged IXP in Liverpool will result in benefits such as:
- Increased provider competition, dramatically improving speed, quality and availability of Internet Access while lowering costs and improving service (therefore attracting major tech providers such as Google, Twitter Facebook and Akamai to the region)
- Lower latency (Internet exchanges play a huge role in helping latency sensitive applications such as gaming, online banking, Virtual Reality and gambling
- Greater Internet resilience (regionalised Internet Exchanges help to improve the UK’s resilience by moving dependency away from London)
- Establish Liverpool as a world-leader in areas such as the Internet of Things, Smart Cities, renewable energy by creating the UK’s first Internet Exchange for the Internet of Things
IX Liverpool has been interested in using the NET Ducts for some time now, in order to create an Internet Exchange Point in the city. An IXP will benefit not only the digital community but the whole population in the city region.
Our concern is that the current tender for these assets will create a monopoly which will lead to higher costs and poorer service levels for businesses and consumers. This has already been the case for far too long.
While the specific asset of the NET Ducts will provide a revenue stream for the city council, the much bigger opportunity to drive economic growth and prosperity will be lost.
Liverpool will remain a digital backwater while London and Manchester will continue to dominate the new technology space.
By having a narrow focus on the financial gain from awarding the tender to a single provider, the city will win the battle but lose the war.
We believe that the city NET Ducts are a major asset, that if leveraged right, could bring huge benefits for its economy. This is especially true given that the Hibernia Atlantic subsea cable lands in Southport but bypasses Liverpool and goes to Manchester. The major investment to bring a direct link to Liverpool will only happen if Liverpool has an IXP and with that access, will come the major technology and content providers.
As Hibernia write on their website: “Network latency has become a critical performance factor for financial firms, content providers, and web-based companies among other industries reliant on latency-sensitive applications to run their businesses.”
If we want successful digital companies to be based in Liverpool, we need the high bandwidth, low latency infrastructure to support them.
Request for open access to the city NET Ducts
We ask the city council to revise their tender for the NET Ducts to instead provide stewardship of the network which will allow access for all providers. Such a pluralistic approach will create competition for services and reduce costs for businesses and consumers alike.
Such an access model already exists in Leeds and Bristol where, in Leeds the council have allowed open access for an Internet Exchange to be connected using councils assets, and Bristol whereby the council has made a concession to a consortium to use the B-Net (Bristol Network) of underground ducts and fibre optic network to help bring ultra-fast broadband to more Bristol businesses.
We therefore urge the city council to rethink the strategy regarding the use of its NET Ducts, and, consider the wider and potentially grave implications of the current tender, instead considering a new model (possibly led by IX Liverpool) that is based on openness, transparency, mutuality and neutrality with an Internet Exchange at it’s core.
We look forward to your response.
Prof. Matt Wilson, Chair
IX Liverpool Limited