While there are three areas of the UK at risk of no BDUK plan, Lancashire County Council is ploughing ahead and has announced who its commercial partner is to be in delivering vastly improved broadband to the county.
A high target of 97% having access to superfast broadband at speeds in excess of 30 Mbps is stated as the eventual completion goal of the project. The remaining 3% will see basic broadband speeds of 2 Mbps or faster which for areas where people have no broadband will still be welcome, to try and reduce this 3% even further a £500,000 fund is to be created for these rural areas with an initial pilot to the east of Lancaster.
"We are determined to ensure that Lancashire continues to benefit from being at the forefront of this technology. Establishing this superfast broadband network will not only open up opportunities for businesses in Lancashire, it will revolutionise the way that people in the county, especially in rural or deprived areas, connect to the wider world"Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council
The size of the public sector pot in the project is £10.8m from BDUK, £16.5m from the European Regional Development Fund (£16.5m) and £4.7m from Lancashire County Council. It is not clear at this time, but given how investment is often restated many times it is possible the £16.5m from the ERDF may be some of the extra £100m announced for broadband projects.
A roll-out with a 97% superfast broadband target pretty much ensures that Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) will be the dominant technology, hopefully Openreach when planning the roll-out will be able to incorporate a mixture of FTTP and FTTC technology, for small villages and towns that have clusters of terraced housing, FTTP deployment costs should potentially be feasible, particularly where ducting is available.
Lancashire already has a community led Gigabit fibre project underway, and while there will be criticism of the Council for choosing BT as a partner, since BT is very likely to rely heavily on FTTC, this leaves projects like B4rn in the position to provide an attractive world leading speed solution, that other rural communities, particularly in the last 3% of Lancashire will be very interested in emulating.