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Are BDUK projects really delayed by EU State Aid rules?
Monday 23 July 2012 19:59:47 by Andrew Ferguson

There has been a lot of discussion recently on the delays in getting BDUK funding schemes rolled out. Public procurement processes are never fast and whilst some councils may have mistakenly thought that by following the BDUK framework, EU State Aid approval was a simple rubber stamp process, others have planned for a significant delay. It is worth noting that approval of a plan by BDUK does not imply automatic approval from the EU either as each plan is assessed based on EU targets.

The Argus reports that the leader of East Sussex County Council apparently blames the European Commission for the delay in roll out of its broadband programme following its failure to sign off on the contract. However the county's own broadband plans which were published in February indicate that the State Aid public consultation would take place in June 2012 with final approval to be confirmed in October 2012, raising some questions over why the council was assigning responsibility for the timescale at the door of the EC.

The Argus coverage suggests some 40% of East Sussex will benefit from a 20 Mbps minimum service as part of the East Sussex broadband plan, but this does not seem to tally with the aims of the BDUK projects which aim for speeds over 24 Mbps (revised to 30 Mbps to help meet EU targets) to 90% of households. The 40% figure we suspect refers to the percentage of homes the plan will help, the immediate concern was that the council may have had a plan that was destined to not be approved. The actual plan when you read it is much clearer, and highlights the desire to meet the BDUK targets and to go well beyond this with the project running until 2017. The specific being aim that when finished all properties and businesses in East Sussex will have access to a 100 Mbps service. Also new build property projects should actually make use of full fibre (FTTP), as the most sensible thing to do.

Assuming State Aid approval is successful, East Sussex plan to announce the delivery partner contract winner in October 2012, with delivery work commencing in December.

There is a wider question to be asked on whether the complaints about EU delays are really justified, or whether they are merely a smokescreen for what would always have been a lengthy procurement processes. Perhaps the bigger problem is the lack of clear technical specifications, defining really what the various speed targets refer to. For example, is the EU 2020 target met by a VDSL2 service that can offer a variety of speeds based on distance to the cabinet, or must the minimum connection for ALL lines be 30 Mbps? This flaw also applies to BDUK project specifications. It's possible there was an expectation that the commercial market would exceed these targets by a large margin, rather than do the minimum to meet them.


Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
The EU target can't be met by FTTC. I hope that the commission are techy enough not to fall for the hype the councils have. Also FTTP at openreach prices are far out of the scale normal people and small SMEs can afford, so saying its 'available on request' is a bit of a porky innit?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
FTTP is same price as FTTC services from Openreach per month. Only on demand will have the higher install fee.

Available on request is what the gas and sewer industry is allowed to do, so why is this utility any different
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
I'm not convinced you have to apply for State Aid clearance in advance anyway. Do other countries do this ? I suspect we could go right ahead and see if anyone wants to take us to Court afterwards, which is probably what the French would do.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
The going ahead depends a lot on whether drawing on any EU funding, or whether the commercial bidders are wanting to avoid any possible legal challenges in the future.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago talks of a risk based approach. With the EU guidance on black/grey/white areas and requirements for wholesale access etc etc the risk is surely minimised ?
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago then says "We have decided, with encouragement from the European Commission, to put in place an umbrella scheme for the benefit of all local broadband projects. This means that one (rather than 40+) State aid clearance need be obtained from the European Commission. "
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago " it would seem that legal challenges from incumbents could not be ruled out and we understand that one such challenge has already been submitted by the body Broadband for the Rural North (“B4RN”). The outcome of that challenge is eagerly awaited." LOL - cyberdoyle is an incumbent.
Posted by fibrebunny over 5 years ago
Blaming the EU is something of a national pastime. Not least as most seem to fall for it and start foaming at the mouth. Well maybe only dailywail readers.

Fttp on-demand is not wholly unreasonable for a home owner. For those on a low income it might be somewhat harder to achieve. But then so will most things and it is after all a question of priorities.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
"so saying its 'available on request' is a bit of a porky innit? "

Will it be available on request? If so, its not a porky. Does your "average joe" need FTTP at the moment? Based on the uptake of Virgin's services and BT's FTTC which both offer higher speeds, I'd say the answer is no

For those that do want it, they'll pay I guess.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
Fibre on demand is an investment in your property, so no it isn't a wholly unreasonable price if you live near a cabinet. Its just a shame so many of us don't, and the excess charges put it out of reach. Also if you live near a cabinet the upgrade to 80meg will probably suit you fine for a few years?That is where altnets could win, build local networks and let householders contribute a fair price to increase the value of their properties. Let them be the shareholders in their own future.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
80meg for a few years? 5-10 I would think

And many of us do live near a cab, 90%+ I'd call that many
Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
Exactly Gman, so you get what you wish for, and then the whole job will be to do properly, but it could be too late. Too late for smart grids. Too late for much of the stuff that is on the horizon. Expensive mistake we are making and history will remember what we did to the next generation when the UK is miles behind and a third world country in the digital revolution.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
I don't it as a mistake? Its a case of deploying tech that is needed now with the money available now for the next 5-10yrs with the ability to upgrade it (FTTP on demand) to meet the requirements of the period beyond that.

Hardly a mistake?
Posted by nickkcin over 5 years ago
"We have decided .. to put in place an umbrella scheme for the benefit of all local broadband projects. This means that one (rather than 40+) State aid clearance need be obtained from the European Commission." But unfortunately wrong!!!!

This is why there are problems, each project is unique and therefore cannot be done in an umbrella way. And therefore you will get delays as every project now needs a separate application.
Posted by Somerset over 5 years ago
cd - why is it too late for smart grids?
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