Drum roll and obligatory moment of silence and the gold envelope holding the details of the funding split for the next £250m of Government investment in Superfast Britain has been announced. The fact further investment was going to be made between 2015 and 2017 has been known since known since at least August 2012.
|Nation||Funding for 2015-2017|
The mathematically quick will have noticed the total is actually £224.68m, there is no indication in the DCMS release, but a similar contingency fund was retained to cover central costs and fire fight any unexpected issues with projects in the original BDUK process.
This £250m of funding is designed to take the national availability of superfast broadband from 90% to 95% of UK households, though it is worth highlighting that 5% on non-superfast still amounts to around 1.4 million premises. For some local authorities areas the existing BDUK project was already aiming to go beyond 90% so how the money will be further sliced up across the UK is going to be very interesting, particularly since the existing BDUK projects will not complete until 2016 in many cases, thus once more we are spending and allocating money with no absolutely clear method for identifying the areas that need the investment the most.
"Local projects around the UK will now receive additional funding from a £250 million pot, with the hardest to reach locations amongst those who stand to benefit most. This funding is in addition to the £1.2 billion already invested by central and local government and will ensure 95% of UK homes and businesses have access to superfast broadband by 2017."Extract from DCMS press release
Those reading the pr material and quotes from the DCMS could be forgiven for thinking that those that will benefit from this work will be the most rural parts of the UK, but if match funding from local councils doubles the fund and similar funding from the commercial bidder arrives, we might be looking at £500 per property, which given that these properties were missed out of the existing BDUK projects because of their cost is not a lot of money.
For those living in the final 5% of the UK, which is probably the sole properties, with no neighbours for a mile or small clusters of 10 to 20 properties dotted across the UK there is the RCBF MK2 scheme with £10m to experiment with 4G, FTTH, FTTdp and satellite services.
After all this inward gazing it is probably worth considering that there are very few European countries with such widespread projects underway, and while the UK may be at the bottom of the FTTH league tables, there is a sense where by only aiming for 30 to 80 Mbps type speeds that the digital divide in the UK is capped, unlike in some EU countries where 30% can have Gigabit, but the 20% might be stuck with 1 or 2 Mbps and the other 50% on UK type speeds.
So the big question now is whether BT will see all this £250m in new contracts, or will a competitor stand-up and fight their corner to win work in various parts of the UK. Plus how is the DCMS going to square the circle over defining which areas will qualify for which scheme.