If you are looking to improve your broadband or get it for the first time and live in rural Wiltshire, Norfolk, Devon and Somerset then today's news of £50m being handed out to these areas via Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) will be welcome news.
BDUK has £530m available to spend on getting broadband to as many parts of the UK as possible and trying to ensure the money is providing a next generation style service (widely assumed to mean 25Mbps or faster). So far with running costs and pilot schemes some £100m has been spent, with additional amounts being provided in each of the pilot areas by local authorities and private investors.
What is worrying is the time it is taking to get the existing pilot projects up and running. None of the pilots are yet live, though for projects involving local government this is not unusual. The Digital Region project in South Yorkshire took some years for customers to start appearing. Interestingly a similar wholesale approach to the Digital Region appears to be underway with the pilot schemes, as in building the networks and then offering wholesale access, which can result in patchy take-up from retail providers.
The momentary hope of the Fujitsu fibre network, or even BT's earlier promise to match funds and build a much larger FTTC/P network around the UK are looking ever more in doubt. The various councils will be looking at what is best for them rather than what will work as a coherent project across larger swathes of the UK.
BDUK itself was originally seen by many as a good idea, acting as a technical lead and clearing house, but its website hardly inspires, with little to no actual detail of what is happening, the latest news currently listed being Cumbria starting the procurement process.
The amounts given to the areas today are Devon and Somerset £30m, Norfolk £15m and Wiltshire £4m. A further 18 local authorities who submitted bids will receive their funding at a later date, but before the next General Election in 2015.