One of the big reasons that the BDUK projects are perceived as being so far behind schedule is the extra months it took to get EU State Aid Approval and a key part of this was that each area completed an Open Market Review. The OMR as it is known requires current roll-outs and those planned over the next three years to be declared so that a project can exclude the areas, so yet again we have the situation where a more demand led project that cannot submit a firm plan under OMR is getting a BDUK build.
Gigaclear announced at the end of last week that it will NOT build its pure FTTP network in the Dun Valley or the Tytherleys parts of Wiltshire as the area has been announced as part of the county led BDUK roll-out.
"It is really quite a surprise to us the GWB have made the announcement that they have. We have kept them fully informed of where we are engaged with communities and making progress on securing the demand we need to make what is a sizeable capital investment. Given the scope of the job that they have to do and their limited funding, you would think that it would be in their interests (GWB, ratepayers, taxpayers and BDUK) to prioritise areas where there is no realistic chance of commercial NGA, rather than prioritise the areas where there is a reasonable chance of a commercial solution.
Many of the locals are unhappy with this solution. Although they accept that *on average* their area will be better off in terms of broadband speed should they choose to upgrade to FTTC/FTTPoD/FTTP, all are worried that some of their communities on long drop lines will not get a great result. Of course, if the intervention was FTTP as standard, the opposition would be very muted. However based on current experience, the residents expect FTTC.
We will still look seriously at this project if GWB and HCC agree to move these areas into a later phase of their plans pending the emergence of our commercial solution. From GWB/HCC's point of view, if we then build, then it releases funds for them to deliver NGA elsewhere. If we don't build (and our build is dependant on achieving pre-order levels where we have a viable commercial business), the only impact is a re-prioritisation in time of NGA delivery areas."Matthew Hare - Chief Executive Gigaclear
We do not know the reasoning as to why the council (or was the driver BT?) is rolling out to this area. Wiltshire is aiming for 91% of premises with access to a superfast broadband connection, which means that once you allow for the longer lines to cabinets, almost every cabinet in the county would need to be enabled. So some overlap was maybe to be expected, and it also reflects the danger of trying to fix a broken commercial model, when the model that is broken really only affects BT and Virgin Media. The presence of fibre operators suggests that there is a model that can work but at a different scale to the large projects that civil servants will understand.
The Dun Valley scheme had cleared the initial demand registration scheme and was on the way to collecting enough payment details for orders to actually go ahead with construction.
The point made by Mr Hare that the council could have spent the money elsewhere is valid, but without knowing their exact plans, it is difficult to say too much. It may be that the Gigaclear footprint left out properties that the council wanted to serve and the only viable option was enable a cabinet inside the Gigaclear footprint.
The headlong rush to hit the national 90% target as close to the original 2015 deadline (yes it will be late but around May 2016 by NAO estimates) means that long meetings and careful planning to avoid overlaps are put to the side, as councillors are under pressure from Westminster and the majority of the population who are busy writing to councillors and their MP seeking more information on where and when. Add to this the new target of 95% superfast coverage by 2017 and you can see the problems for alternative providers are going to get worse not better.