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MP calls for broadband investment to go to slowest areas first
Tuesday 21 January 2014 10:27:06 by Andrew Ferguson

The debate over whether to build from the edge inwards, or the core outwards is back into the frame as Anne McIntosh the MP for Thirsk and Malton has expressed her outrage that after the current North Yorkshire BDUK project completes later this year some 22% of her constituency will be left with no superfast broadband coverage.

This is another of the joy of statistics and the problems of working with a fixed budget, i.e. you need to plan the roll-out in such a way that you can be pretty sure of hitting your target without exceeding the budget and anyone will tell you the way to do this is to go for the low hanging fruit first and hope that these are cheaper to harvest so that you can reach further later.

There may be a little posturing in the outburst in the Yorkshire Post, as North Yorks has been given an extra £3m of funding by the BDUK, which is likely to take superfast coverage to 93%, i.e. benefit an extra 11,370 homes if initial estimates are correct.

We think the real question about this BDUK project and others is what is happening on the USC front, everyone was promised a 2 Mbps connection or faster but the race to extend projects to hit a nice 95% superfast coverage figure for 2017 may actually mean that this minimum speed is delayed as councils want to avoid deploying something in 2015, that they will replace in 2017.

North Yorkshire apparently has over half the telephone cabinets offering a FTTC based service now, and 90% of premises should have access by October 2014. The state of play in terms of what our speed test is showing for councils across North Yorkshire is shown below:

Broadband Speeds Across North Yorkshire
District Council Median Download Median Upload %'age < 2 Mbps %'age > 30 Mbps
Craven District Council 6.5 Mbps 0.68 Mbps 17.2% 7.5%
Hambleton District Council 8.9 Mbps 0.86 Mbps 16.1% 16.1%
Harrogate Borough Council 10.5 Mbps 0.99 Mbps 9.6% 22.1%
Richmondshire District Council 5.2 Mbps 0.62 Mbps 23.5% 3.7%
Ryedale District Council 6.5 Mbps 0.83 Mbps 22.7% 15.1%
Scarborough Borough Council 11.4 Mbps 0.91 Mbps 8.7% 20.2%
Selby District Council 9.0 Mbps 0.89 Mbps 15.8% 17.5%
York City Council (outside BDUK project area) 10.4 Mbps 0.98 Mbps 9.9% 26.4%


Posted by PhilCoates over 3 years ago
Of slightly more concern is the fact that councils are waiting for the main BDUK projects to complete BEFORE pursuing solutions for the remaining 3 or 5%.

Given that most projects run over it may be some time in the future before anything happens.

Why can't the projects proceed in parallel, especially when the coverage areas for BT are well established?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
In the case of North Yorks as it is close to completion on original goal, suspect areas are defined enough that the next phase can start.

Trying to run BDUK process, RCBF and commercial roll-outs at the same time is one reason why EU State Aid introduced delays, and also why RCBF has so many issues, i.e. impossible to say with absolute certainty which areas will/won't be covered.
Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
Well that should ensure the stable door is firmly bolted, two years after the horse left.
Posted by AndrueC over 3 years ago
'Slowest first' is usually not compatible with 'best value for money'.

Discuss :)
Posted by PhilCoates over 3 years ago
Whereas 'fastest first' may add not much to what people already have in the first place and by the sound of things as take up is quite low, not that great value for money either.

If you provide Fibre to the 5% I bet the uptake would be phenomenal. B4RN seems to be predicated on a very high uptake rate in the Lancashire hotspots.

If you have quick ADSL or VM, your motivation to make it a bit quicker may not be great. If you have little or nothing its strong, believe me!
Posted by Plankton1066 over 3 years ago
In East Sussex we're now 8 months in to our BDUK project. The sum total of the information published has been the names of 9 exchanges, with not even an indication of which cab might get VDSL in these areas. This is a three year project; it's going to be it will be 2017 before anyone can figure out if they have been left behind. This deliberate obfuscation by BT prevents the possibility of parallel projects to cater for the last 5% as we don't know who they are.
Posted by csimon over 3 years ago
Superfast Cymru is almost a year into its cycle (a third completed) & they still won't say what areas they will cover,it seems they still have no future plans & it all happens on a whim. Daily they are responding to requests & complaints with "we do not give cab-specific info".The official reason is that dates can change.However they announce exchange info in advance which also can change, & this actually raises false hopes as it means nothing whatsoever. As far as I am concerned my exchange, even tho it went live last Sept, has missed its target because I still can't order fibre.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 3 years ago
Slowest first is compatible with value for money, because if funding was put into the really hard to reach areas like Dolphinholme then you would find the incumbent brings fibre to them for you? Competition is king, and giving money to BT to prop up their obsolete copper is not value for money. Give the money to the altnets and watch BT stop pratting about with cabinets and lay fibre.
Posted by finaldest over 3 years ago
With BT's copper network valued at between 25-50 billion in scrap value it would be foolish to not rip it up and lay FTTH to everyone.

These go slow areas across the country will have to wait for the altnets to come before BT intervene and suddenly deem an area viable.
Posted by lessthan1mbps over 3 years ago
Government's response to Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee latest report on Rural Affairs, Broadband - The Government agrees that the universal service commitment is an important component of the current roll out. Making broadband accessible to those currently with no or a slow service as soon as possible remains a Government priority. Government is maintaining pressure on suppliers to deliver to time and indeed earlier where possible.'
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
@finaldest - got a source for that scrap value as looks very high compared to previous estimates
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
Slowest first was ruled out when the only bidder left was a company that could not reach these areas using the technology they employ elsewhere
Posted by finaldest over 3 years ago

This is a 2011 article however there are others on the net. 25 billion would be a conservative estimate as 50 billion is on the high side. Current spot prices and extraction costs would need to be taken into consideration so even 20 billion would be a reasonable estimate which would pay for a national FTTH network rollout.
Posted by ccxo over 3 years ago
@ finaldest

You need to read the full article as the original estimate was wrong, the footnote gives the truer estimate of £2.5bn to £5bn of copper.

The sooner the goverment releases the final £250 million to the councils the sooner stage 2 and coverage for the final 5-10% can be planned.
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
my view is that almost all the subsidy so far given has been wasted. If it had been spent on providing innovative solutions to the final 10% then the threat of competition from those would have made BT extend their commercial rollout program to grab as much of the remaining 90% as they could.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
@gerarda and that carried with it the risk that the UK would have 10% on reasonable and 66% on commercial reasonable. With the middle 24% waiting on BT...yes they might have grabbed that 24%, but if no-one was looking to roll-out in the area why bother rushing?

Civil service is all about minimal risk, and playing safe
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
BT used the same argument with ADSL and ended up with 90%+ coverage. The risk of the way they have done is that savings from digital by default do not materialise, and in any event does it really matter as your 24% already have a 2mb plus service?

Posted by Gadget over 3 years ago
Actually BT used a pre-registration scheme with trigger levels to get from the end of the commercial rollout and still left some 600 exchanges (with less than around 300 customer on each) to be done by partnership
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
and millions of public money spent/wasted (£5million in the Eastern region alone) on "demand stimulation" exercises to encourage the registration scheme.

Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
@Gadget - but the pre-registration scheme was in due course abandoned and a large swathe of exchanges that hadn't met their trigger were enabled.
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