Thursday, 16 March 2017

Brexit Broadband

More questions than answers here, and I would not be surprised if nobody really knows the answers (yet).

UK leaving EU should not, in itself, have an impact on the broadband services A&A sell. We only sell broadband in the UK. There is quite a bit of regulation of communications providers, and some of that may change once we leave, but should not be a massive impact, we hope.

But what of Northern Ireland? We provide services there. If NI leaves UK and becomes part of a united Ireland (and presumably part of EU)?

And what of Scotland? If Scotland separates from England, do both parts stay a part of the EU as they were before, and then England leaves EU, leaving Scotland still in EU? Or does Scotland somehow leave EU as part of breaking from UK? No idea. But either way, what if Scotland is a separate country?

At present, BT plc operate the local loop and exchanges, and (trading as BT Wholesale) sell us circuits that link premises in England (and Wales), Scotland, and Northern Ireland to host links in London. We sell to people in all three areas.

We do not know if a split would be a BT Scotland as a separate company? And we do not know if circuits in Scotland can continue to connect to a host link in London? Would we need a POP in Edinburgh to keep selling to Scottish customers?

As a business we do very little international trade. We have been known to sell the odd piece of equipment, paid on a card, in advance. We got stung on at least one occasion. It is quite rare. But would we want to provide broadband to someone in another country?

Issues, off the top of my head...
  • Currency - how to price things in Euros, or Scottish pounds? Bitcoin anyone?
  • Direct Debit and payment - how to get the money to us?
  • Disputes and legal issues - bad enough Scottish courts now, but what of Scottish ADR?
  • Regulations - meeting all EU communication provider regulations even though not in EU?!
  • VAT, how much, who paid to? EU stuff is bad enough now, and we managed to avoid it.
  • Export tariffs even? Not just on broadband as a service but routers we sell, etc?
It may be that we have to stop selling to people not in the county we are in even? Or maybe it will be easy somehow? Or maybe we have to create a separate Scottish company?

Right now - I have no idea!

15 comments:

  1. Other than that Brexit has created an opportunity for the SNP to call for a second independence referendum, this all seems much more about Scottish independence than about Brexit.

    Even if they hold one and it goes for independence this time, that's most unlikely to actually happen before Brexit, so the situation of them 'staying behind' in the EU as the rest of us leave seems improbable.

    "Export tariffs" are a bizarre idea - I think you can stop losing sleep over them.

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    1. OK import tariffs or something, god knows.

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    2. Whether they have a referendum before or after brexit Scotland can't remain a member of the EU. They would have to leave, and then re apply for membership which would mean joining the EURO.

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    3. Joining the Euro would officially have to be part of the long term intention; however Scotland does not currently meet the pre-requisites for joining the Euro, so it wouldn't be for some time (or perhaps at all).

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  2. I think I'm right in saying BT Openreach does not exist in Northern Ireland.

    Does this not mean you have different processes in some ways there already? At the very least I'd assume wholesale can't blame openreach there!!

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    1. We place orders for PSTN lines and broadband in Northern Ireland with no problem. Remember, at present, "BT Openreach" don't exist anyway, it is British Telecommunications plc company 1800000.

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    2. I believe that Openreach have no actual staff in Northern Ireland and that all activities there are performed on their behalf by BT Ireland staff.

      Also note that BT has no 21CN RAS in NI at all and typically every ADSL/VDSL user in NI is connecting to either the Edinburgh or Sheffield RAS - so if there is Scottish Independance (but not NI) then what impact would that have on RAS selection for NI users? In additional BT NI's telephony network in general is dual-plumbed to Scotland and to England (via Isle of Man) so how would that change? There is a link from BT in Belfast to BT in Dublin but I think its really only used for NI <--> Ireland traffic and not for onward transit purposes.

      More interestingly I've not seen anyone questioning the Brexit implications for cloud providers such as AWS and Google (and Azure?). Until recently the only AWS European region was in Dublin and even with the FRA and LON regions the DUB one is probably still the biggest & busiest. If you look at Ireland's connectivity to the outside world ("http://www.submarinecablemap.com/#/") you will see that apart from a couple of links to America *everything else* goes via UK. There is a France link due to be turned on in Jan 2018. Even when this new link is operational the majority of Internet traffic between those cloud zones in Ireland to other EU member countries will have to flow via the UK - who may not be required (or want) to follow some or all of the EU's data privacy regulations.

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    3. "I believe that Openreach have no actual staff in Northern Ireland and that all activities there are performed on their behalf by BT Ireland staff."

      That's all changing as part of the recently agreement with Ofcom. Previously, Openreach was just a brand used by a part of BT, so whether the engineer had an "Openreach, part of BT Group" van or another BT van was little more than cosmetic; now there is an actual Openreach Ltd being set up, BT are going to separate their NI operation in the same way as the rest of the UK.

      Logistically, it's not just data flow: Ireland is largely connected to the rest of the EU via the UK, which could well be problematic if customs and other details get involved: Irish exports and imports will be leaving and re-entering the EU via the UK. Just passing data through probably isn't a big issue (anything sensitive should already be encrypted anyway, so the UK bit shouldn't matter. Physical goods are much harder.

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  3. I've had to work out business contingency plans for a company. UK based company, most clients in UK, All hosting is currently in Germany, covered under reasonably consistent EU data protection. Will services attract VAT in different ways? Import duties on intangible services? Who knows. One thing for certain is an in-country backup is taken with a plan to rehost on a similar platform in a different territory if the politicians play silly buggers.

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  4. I wonder on the frontiers how often some subscribers local loop crosses the border.

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  5. Absolutely, and the same questions need to be asked not just of BT but of all the other institutions such as the Post Office, DVLA, Inland Revenue, mobile phone, energy providers etc. that we rely on in our daily lives.

    Scotland and RoUK are far more closely joined economically and physically than are the UK and the EU. If you think BRexit is badly architected and impossible to deliver wait until you see SCexit!

    What percentage of your customers would you lose if you could not supply to Scotland and NI (if not a commercially sensitive question)?

    Its a lose-lose proposition. Businesses who do not take on the additional burden of cross-border trade lose an arbitrary X% of their income and consumers with specialist needs may find there is no one able to supply them in a greatly reduced marketplace.

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  6. Independent Scotland, broken union with Northern Ireland?

    Eventually, people would have to choose whether their mobile phone was registered in England and Wales or in Scotland or in Northern Ireland.

    No doubt stringent roaming charges when operating in one of the others.

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    1. "No doubt stringent roaming charges when operating in one of the others."

      Hardly likely - my current provider doesn't charge me roaming fees in Australia or the USA, why would they suddenly start doing so for England?

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  7. 1) Currency - how to price things in Euros, or Scottish pounds? Bitcoin anyone?

    Whichever is most favourable for you. This isn't rocket science Adrian. I'm sure you've come across services (online games spring to mind) quoted only in dollars/euros yes? People still manage to pay them :)

    2)Direct Debit and payment - how to get the money to us?

    Same way as now. Card/DD/bank transfer/whatever. You can do DD to other European countries/banks/etc you know - they just don't call it that.

    3) Disputes and legal issues - bad enough Scottish courts now, but what of Scottish ADR?

    I don't see ADRs changing Adrian. If it does then it probably won't be the fucked up mess Ofcom created so that'd be nice mmm?

    4) Regulations - meeting all EU communication provider regulations even though not in EU?!

    I suspect you'll end up doing this anyway as (compared to the rUK) it'll probably be best practice to adopt their privacy stuff etc as a default.

    5) VAT, how much, who paid to? EU stuff is bad enough now, and we managed to avoid it.

    The "one stop VAT shop" (MOSS) is considerably better than it used to be. You might want to revisit it?

    6) Export tariffs even? Not just on broadband as a service but routers we sell, etc?

    Quite possibly. Depends on whether the tories get a clue & stop telling the rest of Europe that they're shit without England. Don't hold your breath for that BTW ;)

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