The comments sections for the broadband improvements under the BDUK programme are always interesting, and even more so as the many projects start to deliver, since the law of averages mean that the majority of people will not have benefited from the project yet if they are outside the existing commercial superfast broadband footprint.
The press in East Anglia has been closely following both the Norfolk and Suffolk projects, and on Saturday published the progress report for Suffolk, with the news that some 10,000 premises can now order a superfast broadband service if they want to. This is from 44 cabinets that have been installed, and while these are probably not in the deepest most rural parts of Suffolk yet, the nature of modern communications networks is that you have to build the core network first. You could do it the other way and install all the most rural cabinets first, but without the core network no-one will be able to order a service.
The stated aim at the contract signing for Suffolk was for 85% of premises to have access to a superfast broadband connection, the remainder getting 2 Mbps as a minimum. The difference between the urban and rural parts of Suffolk have been covered previously.
One of the big unknowns in Suffolk and other counties is what will the exact invoice amounts be to hit the contract targets and whether there will be money left over to go further and it is this attempt to catch the lower cost cabinets that need smaller gap funding that means a lot of the time it is not the most rural areas benefiting first. This behaviour is almost implicit if using a gap-funded model, i.e. if you can deliver improvements to 10,000 premises for £1.5m or improvements to 3,000 premises for the same sum which do you do?