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BT and smaller providers to meet with Culture Secretary
Wednesday 03 July 2013 19:31:03 by Andrew Ferguson

An often raised complaint against BT is that it does not clearly define which areas will benefit from superfast broadband when it wins a BDUK project, allowing the more agile rural broadband providers to identify and target those outside the superfast footprint for a project. The maps of white, grey and black basic and superfast coverage while clearly showing where funds will be spent for the USC (2 Mbps) do not usually show the lines for 90% superfast coverage or whatever target an authority is aiming for.

The Telegraph has revealed that the Culture Secretary Maria Miller is to host a meeting between BT and the smaller broadband provides on the 15th July to give the smaller providers a chance to talk to BT and see if the information exchange process can be improved so that those providers who are applying for funds via RCBF or European Funding can get clear and certain information about where BT will deliver services.

The cause is noble like many situations, but there is a real danger here that if BT is forced to define the areas of coverage for superfast broadband before it finalises network build plans that it may limit the ability for them to expand coverage if the project is under spending. Alternatively if a project proves harder to deliver than originally expected there is the risk that BT might plead poverty to a County Council and request more funding to cover the areas they committed to at an earlier date.

Certainty is needed for projects (both large and small) and avoiding the overlapping of superfast projects from main BDUK funding and RCBF funding is something that the central Government and local authorities should be actively working to avoid already. So while the cult of secrecy that can sometimes be seen to exist at BT is a problem, it is equally likely that there may be confusion at the local authority level as to what information they can make public or share with RCBF projects.

The recent news of £250m between 2015 and 2017 to push superfast coverage to 95% will only make the problem worse as the final 10% shrinks the scope for overlap will increase sharply.

Update 4pm Thursday: The DCMS has published some official details about the meeting now. The confusion and the fact that the Government has allowed this situation to develop says more about their oversight of the BDUK and RCBF projects than what any broadband operator is doing. With BDUK projects working to give a minimum of 2 Mbps to all, it was clear that smaller RCBF projects would clash at some point. The question now is which RCBF projects have been invited and can actually afford to attend.

Comments

Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
The "more agile" smaller providers have of course had ten years to deliver services to those poorly served by BT. During this period it was as clear as day who didn't have an acceptable service yet nothing happened.
Posted by GMAN99 over 3 years ago
:)

Yes no excuses at all. What has prevented roll outs in these areas?

Nothing
Posted by mervl over 3 years ago
As a customer of one it seems to me that altnets have been pretty active over the last decade. But the lumbering giant that is BT does tread on their toes; that's life, and some at least of them complain bitterly. Who wouldn't?
Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
Most altnets deliver more PR than connections, the numbers are piffling by any objective measure.

Vtesse are trenching fibre all over the place around me, with no intent to supply connectivity to poorly served areas (they cut the water supply to a high end estate which only has <2M ADSL - take the pain for no gain). All the money and bluster spent fighting business rates on fibre neither stopped them laying it nor helped them deliver end user services.
Posted by ValueforMoney over 3 years ago
If BT published Exchange maps with Cabs and say 'mostly here' subject to survey, it would be sufficient.

BT is making a rod for its own back. I cannot see the need for the secrecy. The fact they are wasting a Ministers time with this issue is insulting to their office.
Posted by Somerset over 3 years ago
@VfM - the county schemes would appear to be 'mostly here' everywhere. Probably what's left will be relatively isolated properties, expensive to connect other than by wireless?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
Here in lies the problem, the county councils will have ambitions on the coverage level, so without their input too, how can BT say where they will deploy as part of the BDUK projects?

Of course some councils might just hand the money and shut their eyes, but others may have their own priorities and agenda.
Posted by mervl over 3 years ago
Isn't it really about economics? The initiatives skate around trying to make fibre services viable, whilst only BT has the economics of scale to manage the risk at reasonable cost.

Where viability can be addressed then the Fixed Wireless providers and local initiatives like B4RN and the Rutland schemes show what can be achieved. Roll out info is the least of the problems, but stories (legends?) of BT "gazumpting" local providers make good headlines. So in the world of news management it's an "issue".
Posted by bobdelamare over 3 years ago
they "met" him, they didn't meet "with him".
Posted by dragon1945 over 3 years ago
3 months ago my BB "speed" averaged a laughable 2.1 MB. Today it reached 1.87 MB, as it had done when checked every few days since April. I know from bitter experience I am wasting my time complaining to Talktalk. BT was worse. They could only guarantee supplying me with 512 KB. I see in the local town Talktalk were boosting everyone with fibre. I pay the same for my measly 1.87 MB as someone getting a respectable 8 MB. When are the providers going to halt providing super speed BB in towns and cities, and do something for the out of townies like myself? We are paying customers too.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 3 years ago
@dragon1945: We are in a similar situation, no fibre broadband nor copper VDSL in the next 5 years at least. If you really need proper telecom services, you may have only one choice: Move to another place! It is sad, but the digital divide is growing, and for many small businesses moving is the only option.
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