How you define superfast broadband is always open to interpretation, so to see Cumbria County Council talking of a minimum speed of 10Mbps being available across the county, one needs to look at what people in the area already get. 10Mbps is well below the fastest speed of 100Mbps already available in some parts of UK. This speed is expected to reach over half of UK households within a little over a year with speeds of between 30 to 40Mbps being available to 60% of homes. In the context of a county that traditionally has been know for poor broadband coverage outside of the larger towns, 10 meg will seem very fast.
So whilst it's easy to be negative, we have a council that is looking at aiming for something five times the proposed Universal Service Commitment of 2 meg by 2015 that the current Government is aiming for. This improvement on the basic USC is to happen under the umbrella name of Accessible Cumbria and follows on from selection as one of four pilot areas by the BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK body).
Tenders are expected to go out in early 2011 with work starting later in the year. Firms such as BT and Virgin are in the running apparently, but no detail on whether it will be a single county wide bid, or whether smaller initiatives will be able to bid for specific villages.
In line with the government's recent announcement of merging the procurement of next-gen infrastructure and the USC services where possible, we hope Accessible Cumbria will endeavour to get the best speed for the money, rather than simply settle for hitting the 10Mbps figure. We suspect the 10Mbps figure may have been chosen as it is possible to provide this connection speed over satellite broadband connection for the odd property/business that is so isolated that fibre/wireless/copper technologies would prove prohibitively expensive.