The Government has remained confident over hitting its broadband targets of having the Best Broadband in Europe by May 2015, with the scoring system announced in January 2012, though as yet we are unaware of any baseline figures to allow us to see how the UK is progressing.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has expressed doubts about whether the broadband speed and coverage targets will be met, and if their press release wording is taken at its word, then we would agree. The CLA have interpreted the target as 90% of rural areas getting broadband faster than 24 Mbps, when in reality the target is 90% of the UK. These two figures are vastly different, as DEFRA defines 80% of the UK as urban, and 20% as rural, thus the BDUK projects only need to get superfast broadband to half the rural areas to meet that goal, if all the urban areas see 100% coverage. The 2 Mbps USC is actually the easy target, as the more difficult areas can be offered the option of live with what you have now, or take a voucher for a subsidised satellite connection.
"The BDUK process is too bureaucratic and the allocation of the £530million funding too slow. It would be much simpler if the funding was allocated centrally rather than giving it directly to local authorities because they do not have the resource to plan for a superfast broadband network.
An over-reliance on fibre optic is also a factor in the Government's poor chance of meeting these deadlines. The CLA advocates a patchwork quilt model that uses the most appropriate technologies for a certain area, rather than using a single technology, so everyone can benefit from broadband."CLA President Harry Cotterell
The press release from the CLA falls into a very common trap with the BDUK projects, that the final third solution is to fix a rural problem, when the reality is very different in that it crosses the rural/urban divide. Figures on the BDUK website show that even in urban areas there are significant gaps in receiving 2 Mbps currently.
|Local Authority||% receiving less than 2 Mbps||Total dwellings|
While the BDUK process has been annoyingly slow, procurement works like this to try and avoid authorities short cutting the process and handing money to the usual local suspect. If BT and Fujitsu is clever in areas where coverage is harder to achieve, they will sub-tender to providers who already offer fixed wireless or other solutions. One hurdle that needs to be cleared is the EU State Aid one, and the European Commission has made it clear that 30 Mbps should be the target speed where at all possible.
While the CLA and NFU engaging in a national wayleave broadband agreement is worthy, in its attempt to encourage infrastructure providers, the UK seems to have a dearth of these, and as soon as the BDUK project was announced in 2009/2010, many potential large commercial investors vanished. A wayleave agreement may help community interest solutions operating in the final 1 to 2% of the UK, but it is perhaps five years too late at helping competitors to BT create a network that reaches beyond the 20 to 50 major points of presence that the current UK fibre backbone networks reach.