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.