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EU gives the polite nod that allows UK BDUK projects to continue
Tuesday 20 November 2012 16:11:41 by Andrew Ferguson

The protracted worries about whether the blanket EU State Aid Approval would be granted to the BDUK is now over. The DCMS website has announced that Brussels has given a green light.

"Finally getting the green light from Brussels will mean a huge boost for the British economy. Superfast broadband is essential to creating growth, jobs and prosperity and the delay has caused frustration within Government. Today’s announcement means that we can crack on with delivering broadband plans, boosting growth and jobs around the country.

Britain is in a global race today. To succeed in that race we must have the infrastructure to match our aspiration, providing people who work hard with the tools they need to get on and prosper; this green light will benefit both businesses and communities across the UK.

Our broadband plans are hugely ambitious – to connect 90 per cent of homes to superfast broadband and ensuring the rest have access to at least 2Mbps. The Government will not allow parts of our country to miss out on the digital age."

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Maria Miller

There has been much hand wringing and pent up glee from some quarters hoping that the EU would NOT actually grant approval, so there will be some disappointed people, but also many people happy that projects can get moving once more.

In theory now projects in Wales, Surrey can move towards connecting the first customers under the project some years after the BDUK was formed. Other areas like Cumbria, Rutland, Hereford and Gloucestershire should follow shortly thereafter.

While Lancashire has announced BT as the contract partner, they are still waiting on State Aid approval as they pursed it outside the blanket BDUK system. North Yorkshire was the only area with a BDUK project that had already received approval by circumventing the BDUK process, which is allowed under the scheme.

The timetable is such now that by summer 2013, we should know whether Fujitsu has gained any of the projects, or will BT walk away with them all.

While many will see this news as a triumph for rural areas, and we can already see newspapers lining up the picture of cute sheep in a field, the reality is that the 90% superfast broadband target will largely benefit non-rural areas, only 13% of the UK is actually rural if EU definitions are followed. Those who stand to benefit are those in the larger villages, market towns and parts of cities that Virgin Media and Openreach have declared as commercially unviable in the foreseeable future. The 2 Mbps Universal Service Committment is really the part that should have pictures of hills and streams linked to it.

Comments

Posted by rtho782 over 4 years ago
Well, if 13% of the UK is rural, and 10% are on EO lines and will never get FTTC, then even if we allow for a slight overlap between the two, say 10% of EO lines are rural (so 1% of all lines), there are a lot of people that will benefit from this that would otherwise be left out.
Posted by Selcoms over 4 years ago
BT need to be honest with us all from Day 1 about the areas that they are unlikely to hit with NGA or that are 'commercially unviable' so we can do start doing something about them now. We support many WISPs providing high speed services in rural areas RIGHT NOW that receive no financial support whatsoever. If they had only a small amount of this available funding the difference they could make would be huge.
Posted by Dixinormous over 4 years ago
This project is fundamentally flawed and a disaster as well as being poor value for money.

Handing the cash to BT, on top of the mass of regulatory breaks they received on FTTC/P, would've saved a few million in consultancy fees.

The next government intervention after this will probably be to try and re-introduce competition to areas outside the Virgin Media footprint.

After a step forward with LLU now 2 steps back, BT dominating Retail via internal cross-subsidy, and wholesale again, via Openreach.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@rtho782 BT has started to cover EO lines in Cornwall already, so EO is not a game over for superfast at all.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@Selcoms This is why tracking your local authority project is important, as they have the merged data from all providers to provide this information.

Most are making maps that would allow a competing WISP to see where to roll-out.
Posted by Selcoms over 4 years ago
@Andrew Unfortunately they have not included data from ALL providers as many of the aforementioned WISPs have been ignored. This means that BT could get BDUK money as the area appears to have no NGA coverage and possibly put these WISPs out of business. The other elephant in the room is that these maps are estimates based on post code mapping from exchange locations, there are bound to be large areas that BT claim they will cover that in reality will miss out. According to BT I can get Infinity in my exchange area, but I can't.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@Selcoms Ignored, as in the WISP did not submit information to the Open Market Review or ignored as in providers did submit and then it was rejected?
Posted by Selcoms over 4 years ago
@Andrew Both. Technically 'wireless' does not count as NGA technology according to the EC, although I think this may be about to change. For this reason some WISPs didn't bother submitting and some did submit but were rejected. To be fair, some LAs did acknowledge the WISPs as providing NGA speeds and removed the covered areas from their plans.
Posted by chrysalis over 4 years ago
I still dont get why this is rural only, large % of cities are also no go areas for broadband.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
Who is saying it is rural only?

if rural only it would be the final 13% project, not the final third :-)

See my last paragraph about cute sheep
Posted by csimon over 4 years ago
Cute sheep was the reason I moved here, sod the broadband. :-)
Posted by darrenbrown over 4 years ago
The whole thing is crazy, our coverage is effectively being ignored as the EU does not recognise wireless as NGA although it does meet the criteria in speed terms. The worst bit about it is KCC have funded areas themselves and now they are going to be funded again with public money for customers to have the same end result. Crazy
Posted by rtho782 over 4 years ago
@andrew : EO has only been touched by BT as part of the Superfast Cornwall project, which involved EU funds. Without that, we will be left to have nothing or pay thousands for FTTP on demand.

This announcement of 90% Superfast at least means either fixing ALL the EO lines, almost all the rural lines, or something inbetween (most likely) and is still a big jump.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@darrenbrown, actually this may have been own of the sticking points with EU, as for the final 10% work some projects are looking at using fixed wireless.

EU is much more pushing the FTTH philosophy, even less agnostic than BDUK is.
Posted by Selcoms over 4 years ago
@darrenbrown - Well said Darren, this is exactly what I was referring to!
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
For me, wireless can only count as past of BDUK's SFBB if spectrum can support SFBB speeds for *all* residents in (white) coverage areas (as if they all signed up within the 3 years), and the operator has committed to plans to provide the spectrum/hardware in the 3 years.

If not, the W-ISP can't hope to prevent BDUK-funded competition from doing so.

Without both capacity & firms plans, the W-ISP can only be considered for the mop-up 2Mbps provision - even if the headline speed is enough for SFBB.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
@rtho782
Agree - EO has only been touched within the Cornish project *so far*.

But it is being included within the NorthYorks project too - that is mostly BDUK, with some portion EU funding.

To me, it looks like BDUK funding might be enough to push a good proportion of the EO lines over into a "commercially viable" state.
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