Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has once again highlighted the approaching deadline for local authorities to submit their plans for improving superfast broadband coverage in their area, and ensuring 100% access to a basic 2 Mbps service. The deadline is just under six weeks away at the end of February 2012, though originally it was April, so councils that had not prioritised the planning process may be rushing to meet the new deadline.
The Guardian article where Mr Hunt warns about taking away allocated funds uses the figure of up to £530m as the figure the Culture Secretary may remove, but a great many councils have already submitted plans, thus the amount at risk is a lot smaller. The exact numbers are unknown, as some councils may have submitted plans without a great public fanfare, so our advice is if you are worried about your local area having no visible plan, chase your local councilor or MP to find out how things are progressing.
An interesting snippet of information is that Jeremy Hunt has said many authorities are looking at a 100% target for superfast broadband, we have our doubts, as most plans we have seen talk of 90% superfast coverage, some are attempting to push as far as possible into this last 10%, but getting every household and business connecting at 25 Mbps or faster will prove difficult with the limited budgets available.
Procurement processes are never simple, and with some areas using a variety of sources for funding, there can be many rules that have to net to ensure allocated funds are released by bodies such as the EU. While the various local authorities appear slow, it should be remembered that the Delivery Model for Broadband UK published was only published in October 2011 when the BDUK itself started work in March 2010. The change of Governments in May 2010, and subsequent changing of deadlines 2 Mbps USC moving from 2012 to 2015, and the 2017 superfast target coming forward by some two years to 2015 will have accounted for some delays, but there has been very little sign of urgency to date.