If you live in Essex and are looking for better broadband then it looks like it won't be until late 2013 before the first benefits from the BDUK project for Essex start to appear. The blanket EU State Aid approval has kick started some projects, but in the case of Essex they are not set to start searching for a company to partner with until February 2013, and announcing the final contract signing in July 2013.
A copy of the redacted plan is available on the Essex County Council website and reveals that while the funding via the BDUK is currently set to end in March 2015, they will continue to manage the project until 2020 as they seek alternate funding to work towards the EU Digital Agenda targets. The original plan called for 10% of the intervention areas to have a delivered service by March 2013, but that will now not happen, we estimate that it will be October 2013 before connections are delivered, and this brings into serious question whether a date of March 2015 can be met.
The aim of the project is the normal 90% of properties able to get a superfast service, and the remainder having access to a 2 Mbps connection, though there is a greater target that all properties will actually have access to an 8 Mbps connection by 2020. This appears at odds with the EU Digital Agenda of all premises having access to a 30 Mbps connection by 2020.
The project plan does recognise the work done by various fixed wireless providers across the county, claiming that 3% of households upgrading to a fixed wireless service in Maldon district shows people are eager to increase their speeds. A similar scheme is operating in the Uttlesford area. There are also 36 villages developing their own solutions via the Rural Broadband Partnership.
"It is estimated that if existing market conditions prevail, in order to ensure ubiquitous 30Mbps bandwidth (already routinely available in Essex’s town centres for a number of years), rural areas would have to wait until 2020 – twelve years after their urban counterparts. By this time, urban areas will be enjoying bandwidths many thousands of times that level.
This digital divide will exponentially widen in the future and it is imperative that we act now to prevent the gap in service provision from widening.
Superfast Essex is agnostic on how a solution is developed however it is accepted that a range of solutions will be deployed, both fibre based and using copper, mobile, satellite and wireless connectivity."Extract from Essex Broadband Plan
With just BT and Fujitsu in the race, the probability is that BT will win, and even if the smaller alternate providers were in the race, with the project comprising of £12.92 million of public money and an estimate of needing at least £26 million to meet the targets we doubt very many of them would be able to raise this extra £13 million of funding, while also providing wholesale access to the network. Claiming to have deployed an open access architecture is very different to actually attracting dozens of diverse and well known providers onto a network.