The BDUK process is continuing to move at a pace that pleases some and upsets others, and today we are able to announce that County Durham, Gateshead, Sunderland and Tees Valley has now signed a contract with BT worth a total of £24 million to deliver the 2 Mbps Universal Service Commitment and push faster broadband via FTTC and some FTTP with speeds of 24 Mbps and faster to 94% of premises in the area.
The impact of delays in the procurrement process are evidenced by the fact that the project completion date is apparently the end of 2016, three and a half years away. We are sure that the various projects could complete faster, but as with almost any infrastructure project the cost of construction is a trade off between cost and time taken.
The contribution from BT towards the contract is £5.9 million, £7.8 million from Durham County Council and Gateshead, £1.3 million contribution from public sector partners in Sunderland and Tees Valley and £9.1 million from the central BDUK fund.
As is normal at this time, no figures on the precise split of FTTC versus FTTP coverage is available, but we expect the normal mainly FTTC roll-out, and some native FTTP is expected (native FTTP being an area where FTTC is not available, but the FTTC speeds are available for the same price but over FTTP infrastructure). Fibre on Demand as usual features in the press release, but with its three year minimum term, high install costs and relatively high monthly costs lends itself to business use rather than the average home broadband user.
"Breaking down the broadband divide will give our residents, communities and businesses opportunities that they’ve only been able to imagine up till now. Fast and reliable internet is becoming more important to daily life and going online will soon be the only way to access some key public services. Fibre and improved broadband will help us to strengthen our economy, grow and develop our businesses while enhancing community activities. This is an important milestone for all who live and work in this area."Don McLure, Durham County Council’s corporate director of resources
The director's comments on the digital divide actually hide one aspect that means those who are looking at where they live and county council plans and realising they may only see a 2 Mbps solution are getting ever more vocal and that is while the numbers affected by the digital divide may be decreasing, the gulf that the divider represents for those left on the wrong side is actually getting wider.