Londonderry (Derry City) in Northern Ireland already holds the crown of having enviable superfast broadband available with a higher than average Virgin Media cable presence and all its Openreach cabinets offered FTTC services, which according to Ofcom means 99.1% can access superfast broadband. This is reflected in the city having an average speed of 15.4 Mbps compared to a national figure of 12.7 Mbps, remember this includes people buying the cheapest possible services and those not bothered with faster broadband services.
"We are delighted that Derry City Council’s bid has been successful. We are confident that we will now be able to support the development of ultrafast broadband networks within a number of key economic development zones across the City (Digital Zones) and put in place the infrastructure required to provide fibre to the premises (FTTP) to make them capable of supporting ultrafast services at affordable prices."Derry City Mayor, Cllr Kevin Campbell
Londonderry is obviously very pleased with receiving funding from the second wave of super-connected funding, though when we asked the DCMS via twitter about when the amounts of money each city will receive we were told that no date had been set and that state aid approval will be a factor.
As with the other cities details are sparse on what they plan to do with the money, the indications are that it will be spent two ways; enlarging the councils free WiFi zone that is currently centered around Strand Road and Queens Quay and making sure FTTP is available to businesses.
With FTTC at every cabinet across the city, in 2013 fibre on demand will mean anyone willing to pay the fees will be able to get a full fibre connection, so the most likely result is that rather than the council tendering for yet another ultra fast network (remember Virgin Media cable services already qualify) subsidies to reduce the average £1500 Openreach install fee will be made. Whether this subsidy will apply to just key development zones or all businesses across the city is unclear.
The market for broadband in Northern Ireland is a complex one, as generally more subsidies have been spent than for other parts of the UK, stretching way back to 2003 when 100% broadband coverage by 2006 was a goal.
With the Rural Community Broadband Fund languishing at the bottom of the pile with just £20m to kickstart rural projects for the most rural 2.5 million properties in the UK, one has to question the policies of the government as to whether it is about fair and equal access to good broadband across the UK, or are we just chasing metrics to put us at the top of multiple league tables.
If broadband is central to the Governments ambitions to show the UK is a good place to come and invest, work and live it would have done well to have increased the size of fund available to the RCBF. Many RCBF projects are also resulting in the expansion or creation of new companies to run services funded by the project, so can be seen a creating new business opportunities and jobs in addition to the main goal of improved broadband.