BT are offering to match £830 million of government funding to provide super-fast broadband to 90% of the population by 2017. The news reported by The Times says that BT will ask the government for funds from the TV license fee to allow it to deliver faster services to much more of the country. The company is to formally make the offer next Monday when the government broadband strategy is released.
It was thought that the license fee contribution from the BBC would be less than this but The Times say that £150 million a year will be contributed toward broadband projects and combined with ab additional £230 million that has been made available from the surplus funds from the Digital Switchover underspend. A department of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), has been tasked with helping industry meet the governments plans for universal broadband and to stimulate private investment.
One of BDUK's business aims is to create a level playing field between incumbents and new providers, and this means it is unlikely that they will handover all their money to BT to help fund the rollout. There will be competition for the funds, particularly with small rural projects proving that they are able to deliver services economically that BT were unwilling to do (e.g. Rutland Telecom's FTTC deployment). Trials are to begin in four areas to evaluate technologies that could be used for broadband deployments.
The Times also report that BT will roll out fibre-based broadband to an additional 40 rural market towns that were previously seen unviable. They will also begin a pilot begin next year in Kesgrave, Ipswich, close the BT's technology base at Adastral Park, to pilot 1 gigabit (1Gbps) per second broadband. This trial will mean that we are looking forward toward faster speeds similar to those seen in Japan and Korea. Although a business case for these kinds of access speeds is currently lacking, any investment in to future proofing the network for years to come should be welcomed.