The pace of progress for the BDUK projects as far as the general public is concerned has been that of a snail, but for those involved in procurement processes it may actually appear to be a fast process. Today sees the announcement of the contract signing for the first of the BDUK pilot projects, with North Yorkshire signing a contract with BT, that will see some £70m invested in providing better broadband to England's largest rural county.
"North Yorkshire is a large rural county with many remote premises. As a result, deploying broadband is a particular challenge.
We believe the technology is vital to our economic future however and so we are delighted to have signed this agreement. The project will help local businesses to be competitive and ensure they remain in the county. It can also play an important role in attracting even more firms to the county thereby helping to create jobs for local people."County Councillor Carl Les, the Deputy Leader of North Yorkshire County Council
The press release reveals the BT contribution is £10m (in addition to the £23m being spent by the company in the commercially viable parts of the county), £8.6m from the European Regional Development Fund, and £17.8m of BDUK funds. The target for the project involves 90% of premises receiving superfast broadband, via a mixture of FTTC and FTTP, the press release wording indicates some FTTP will be deployed, in addition to the launch of Fibre on Demand (FoD) in 2013. The remaining 10% of the county will see an uplift to 2 Mbps or better by the end of 2014 and crucially engagement with communities via collaborative projects to try and push faster broadband deeper into this final 10%.
While we are certain there will be criticism of this decision to go with BT, it is unclear whether holding out for an alternate solution would have improved things, there has been more than two years when alternatives to BT could have positioned themselves for these projects.
The use of FTTC is an incremental change, and the launch of Fibre on Demand in 2013, should show this interim solution is not a total dead-end, and that once the economy picks up, the numbers converting to full fibre may skew the economics enough for Openreach to announce a timescale for the next logical step, which will be to end-of-life copper based xDSL.