The seed funding from the Government via the BDUK fund which totals some £530m is at risk of being withdrawn for the areas Essex, East Riding and Black Country projects if the BDUK and Jeremy Hunt decide to hold the projects to the deadline. The summary of the update from BDUK follows:
- Essex, East Riding and Black Country projects are continuing to work on their plans and we have written to the authorities urging them to complete the work as soon as possible
- Greater Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle are expected to deliver broadband to rural areas as part of their Super-Connected City projects but still need to submit a Local Broadband Plan
- Portsmouth, Southampton and Telford & Wrekin were involved in joint projects but have since withdrawn
- We have given Telford & Wrekin until the end of May to re-join the Shropshire project or their funding will be withdrawn.
- Portsmouth and Southampton are eligible for the second round of Super-Connected City funding but any application will be dependent on them having or being part of approved plans for taking broadband to rural areasDCMS BDUK Update Press Release
With some areas now withdrawing from the project, this may result in other councils starting to question whether to continue their projects, particularly as they are required to put so much of their own money into the projects. The BDUK funding was never going to buy the UK a full fibre roll-out, but fragmentation and areas dropping out will increase the chances of the UK not meeting its target of best broadband in Europe by 2015.
If the Government allows councils to walk away from the BDUK project, it reflects on both the council and Government, due to the lack of commitment by all parties to broadband and the potential growth it represents for the economy. As the current plans stand the 2015 goal is more about ensuring a political 'promise' has been met, than actually providing the best possible service for the maximum number of people.