Hopefully in the next few months more information will emerge on which areas will be the first to benefit from the BDUK project that has now been signed in Essex, but for now we have to make do with the headline figure that by the end of summer 2016, 87% of households and premises will have access to a fibre based broadband service, with the further aim to ensure that the remaining 13% can access broadband at 2 Mbps or faster.
"This project will see thousands of homes and businesses across Essex gain access to superfast broadband speeds and will be instrumental in driving growth, boosting the local economy, and achieving the Government’s objective of reaching 95% of UK premises by 2017."Communications Minister Ed Vaizey
As ever the politicians over state things when there is a vested interest. The project while it may be able to go beyond the planned 87%, has as yet not published any data to show what percentage will get superfast speeds and while for many people the image of Essex is the urban sprawl of Ilford and leafy suburbs of Buckhurst Hill, there are large areas or rural farmland and old villages that have seen both bus and rail services decline significantly in the last decade or two.
The project is set to use mainly FTTC to deliver services, but some FTTP is expected in addition to the option of Fibre on Demand in areas where FTTC is available. The Essex press release talks of the average speed for Essex at 11.5 Mbps, but this hides the sharp range across the county, with Romford and Ilford both enjoying median speeds 24 Mbps down and 1.6-1.8 Mbps upload; Southend (SS) manages 13.9 Mbps and 1 Mbps, Chelmsford (CM) 8.4 Mbps and 0.9 Mbps and Colchester 8.5 Mbps and 0.9 Mbps. Saffron Walden (CB10 and CB11) is part of the Cambridgeshire (CB) postcode area which has a speed of 6.6 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up even when you include Cambridge.
The £24.6 million contract is split with the County Council and BDUK both adding £6.46m to the fund and BT £11.7m. While we can all wring our hands and worry ourselves over the amounts, the real test will be whether in late 2016 take-up of the faster services is resulting in better speeds particularly in the areas outside the M25.
On a footnote, if you live in Essex and want a chance to win a Dell XPS 10 tablet, then fill in the survey on the superfastessex.org.uk website. It is unlikely that filling in the survey will guarantee you faster speeds, but then if no-one fills these things in the councils might get the idea nobody is bothered.