In a gift to the critics of the BDUK projects, the Culture Secretary Maria Miller has requested an urgent meeting in Brussels for today (8th Nov 2012) to express concerns over delays on receiving the blanket State Aid Approval for the BDUK projects.
The Financial Times covers the story in depth and highlights that some of the delay has been down to slow presentation of data from the BDUK to the EU mandarins, with the last piece of information not presented until October. As things stand now the final rubber stamp that will unleash the avalanche of work that the BDUK projects will produce is expected at the end of November 2012, though we suspect that local authorities will are possibly happy with the delays as this gives them more planning time.
North Yorkshire which decided to file its own EU State Aid application already has its approval and is expected to be the first area to deliver a connection, and as we have not seen lots of politicians huddled around an iPad on TV yet, we presume this has not happened.
Some attribute the delays to the lack of open access to dark fibre in the project plans put forward, but while some projects across Europe offer this, it does not look to be a show stopper. Openreach is offering wholesale access, and while this access draws criticism it has been adopted by TalkTalk and Sky (the majority of other retail FTTC/P offerings via Openreach using BT Wholesale), which in terms of names the public have heard of is many more than some other open access projects that exist in the UK.
So will the UK now miss its 90% of properties able to receive a superfast service, and 100% able to get a 2 Mbps service? Well the question really is what exact date are we chasing in 2015? Is it May 2015? 1st Jan 2015 or 31st December 2015? We believe a date of around May/June so that politicians can use the success of the project as a campaigning point at the next General Election, of course the high profile complaining about EU delays will provide an easy escape route if the projects are delayed into 2016.
In one respect the 2 Mbps USC deadline has already been missed, as Labour wanted this target met in 2012, only in July 2010 did the Con/Dem coalition adjust the date to a vague 2015.