Procurement projects have never been particularly fast, and move at traditional civil service pace, hence the extension of the Broadband Support Scheme in Wales earlier this year. Today we have Welsh MP's on the Welsh Affairs Committee criticising the fact that Wales still has areas with no broadband connectivity.
BT was announced as the commercial partner in July 2012, with a massive £425m project (includes £220m from BT). The aim being to deliver an up to 80 Mbps service to 96% of homes by 2015, this will feature a majority of FTTC, but some FTTP is expected independent of the fibre on demand launch in 2013. The criticism of the FTTC services is that not everyone connects at 80 Mbps, we estimate around 45% should connect at 42 Mbps or faster, and 90% at 24 Mbps or faster, which for many will be a significant improvement. What will happen to the remaining 4% is to be confirmed, some may receive a FTTC service but at slower speeds, or use alternate technology.
What is most concerning about the criticism from MP's is that this means the Broadband Support Scheme which offers a grant of up to £1000 for an individual, community or SME has not delivered. The scheme operates such that a community could apply individually and then aggregate their money to help deliver a service to all those properties that applied, thus meaning the scheme is much more than a subsidy for satellite broadband installation.
The report received evidence from various parties, and follows a similar theme to the House of Lords report, in that some have concerns that with the focus on the superfast roll-out, that those not covered in this may see the money roll-out before it gets to them, and thus be left with no broadband or current slow (under 2 Mbps service). Therefore there are calls to reverse the existing plans, which focus the majority of money on the 25% who are in the gap between existing commercial roll-outs and UK Government targets to those in the final 5 to 10% of the UK.
While a switch of focus would address the total not-spots (estimated at 90,000 homes in Wales), if solutions deployed there are costly, the reverse of not having enough money for more populated rural areas will occur, and we may see whole communities of 100's left on ADSL or ADSL2+ speeds rather than just isolated clusters of two or three properties.
At the end of day, given limited resources hard decisions need to be made on how resources are made, and while politicians like to try and keep everyone happy this is not possible all the time. The decisions in the end will probably be made by an anonymous accountant who calculates the economic benefit to improving broadband in different areas.