On Thursday 18th October the Growth and Infrastructure Bill was put to Parliament. The bill aims to boost the economy by reducing the amount of red tape in many areas of business in the UK. The news back in September that the bill would seek to remove the requirement for planning permission in Conservation Areas when broadband and mobile phone/broadband street furniture is being installed was not universally welcomed, with worries that it may give a green light to telco's to ignore local objections and create eye sores on street corners.
The going to Parliament for the first time does not mean changes are going to happen overnight, if the changes make it through Parliament we are not expecting changes until the middle of 2013.
"The Bill will help clear the way for the UK to have the fastest broadband of any major European country by helping sweep away red tape, which in turn will allow broadband street cabinets and other infrastructure to be installed rapidly without requiring lengthy state approval across many local authority boundaries. This will cut the costs and bureaucracy incurred in giving workers and businesses access to high speed internet, and help much needed rural super-fast broadband roll out.
The Government wants 90 per cent of people to have access to super-fast broadband and is investing £680 million in super-fast broadband. It is investing £530 million to take broadband to rural areas and a further £150 million on urban broadband. Approval to install broadband street cabinets and other infrastructure"Broadband component of Growth and Infrastructure Bill - Background
This portrayal of the bulk of the BDUK money is to be spent on rural areas is very misleading, the stated ambition of the BDUK is 'to provide superfast broadband to at least 90 per cent of premises in the UK and to provide universal access to standard broadband with a speed of at least 2Mbps'. Given that the accepted coverage of superfast broadband will be 66% of UK households, then the BDUK website and this bill gives an impression that is confusing members of the public who as they live in towns and other areas of they UK that are not by their definition they believe the BDUK processes will pass them by.
The reality is that the EU defines just 13% of UK households as rural, so the bulk of BDUK funding is likely to not actually go into the rural areas. Some local authorites may negotiate contracts pushing the superfast network deeper into the rural areas, but the central ambition as it stands means that spending on superfast broadband will mainly be a suburban project, the spending to ensure 2 Mbps as a minumum speed will of course extend across all parts of the UK. There is the smaller £20m of RCBF funding aimed at the purely rural areas, but in the grand scheme this is almost a token offering.