More investment in the broadband arena from either the public or private purse will always be welcome and today as part of a much larger announcement by HM Treasury entitled Investing in Britain's Future, the spending of £250m has been announced for the period 2015 to 2017. The main aim of this extra money be to extend superfast broadband coverage from the original 2015 goal of around 90% to a target of 95% by 2017.
Update 6:30pm The DCMS has confirmed that this £250m is part of the £300m announced in 2012.
It is not clear if this £250m is new money, or is actually a reduction from the original £300m that was announced back in August 2012 when an agreement was reached whereby the BBC TV Licence would be top sliced to finance broadband improvements between 2015 and 2017.
The £250m is crucially described as up to and comes with the condition that it must be locally matched, which might result in some councils not chasing for it until they actually see the benefits from the investments already underway. Stating that the economy if already benefiting from super fast roll-out either commercial or BDUK funded is easy, but having the proof to hand is much harder. There had been some speculation that the picture post 2015, would see the emphasis on the BDUK diminish but the body is set to continue and be re-invigorated with some new blood.
"Broadband Delivery UK will be given greater operational freedom and an enhanced delivery focus, and will be equipped with the commercial skills it needs to deliver a broadband programme that will now extend to at least 2017;
investing up to £250 million, locally match-funded, to extend superfast broadband provision from current coverage plans so that 95 per cent of UK premises will have access to superfast broadband by 2017;
exploring with industry how to expand coverage further, using more innovative fixed, wireless and mobile broadband solutions, to reach at least 99 per cent of premises in the UK by 2018;
7.5 The Government’s strategy is to work in partnership with industry to deliver the crucial digital infrastructure needed to ensure that the UK maintains its position as the best internet economy in the world, underpinning jobs and economic growth. Strategic investment to deliver growth is key, demonstrated by the Government’s commitment to a £1.2 billion programme of public investment in superfast broadband, working together with industry, Local Authorities and Devolved Administrations to achieve a step-change in broadband, enabling the UK to have the best superfast broadband network in the Europe by 2015."Extract from HM Treasury
While many are sceptical of the UK meeting the 90% target for 2015, it appears according to this latest document this scepticism may have been heard as they are now saying "on current plans nearly 90 per cent of homes will have access to fixed, superfast broadband by 2015", which is a slight change on previous terminology but the best in Europe target still stands.
The question now is whether this extra spending will mean a whole new round of contracts, or just extensions to the existing ones, and the potential for delays as councils and their BT partner may reassess how far each county could push its level of superfast coverage.
There is the later goal of superfast coverage to reach at least 99% by 2018 through the use of innovative fixed, wireless and mobile broadband solutions, which is interesting but as with many announcements there is little detail of what it means when they say they will work with industry.