Robert Sullivan is hardly a name known to the public, but as chief executive of the BDUK he is in charge of the body that overseas the creation of the framework that should see some £530m of central Government money spent on broadband in the UK. The amount spent once local authority contributions and commercial investment in projects is taken into account may approach £2.5bn. There is another £150m for super-connected cities, and £150m for mobile coverage, but this should not be used to meet the 90% superfast goal.
Total Telecom covers what the Mr Sullivan said at a recent Westminster eForum. It is enlightening to hear that the BDUK is encouraged by having just two bidders on its framework of approved suppliers, suggesting it was challenging to get even just those two.
"The investment case for rural broadband networks is incredibly challenging.
We can't force the private sector to invest billions of pounds in new networks...the business case is genuinely challenging."Robert Sullivan, CEO of BDUK
This has been the problem with the BDUK funding, it was intended to reduce the risk of investment, rather than remove it totally, and the presence of just two firms suggests the risk reduction is not enough, in addition to the other usual complaints about restrictions in terms of size for bidders. The withdrawal of Fujitsu from Wales and Cumbria was highlighted as down to them struggling to convince retail providers to come on board, given the Fujitsu project was originally backed by TalkTalk and Virgin Media this raises questions whether that backing is still there.
The biggest hurdle for BDUK projects in terms of delivering is EU State Aid approval, which is holding up things, but Mr Sullivan is apparently confident that clearance for the projects will come from the EU in the autumn, or that may be this month.