The final third project that is meant to hit a nationwide figure of 90% availability of Superfast Broadband has had another few gaps filled in today. Hampshire County Council has announced the areas that will form phase 2 of the roll-out, and the inclusion of Basingstoke is sure to raise the blood pressure for some rural campaigners.
"Phase Two of the Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme will start in April 2014 and once completed, by the end of June 2014, more than 8,000 additional premises will be able to access superfast broadband speeds.
The programme will visit Ashurst, Basingstoke, Cadnam, Downton, Fawley, Gosport, Hythe, Lee-On-Solent, Lockerley, Long Sutton, Lymington, Lyndhurst, Milford-On-Sea, Odiham, Overton, Romsey, Totton, and West Wellow, and enable 56 roadside cabinets during the three months to June 2014.
Working with our neighbours in Wiltshire we have managed to bring forward delivery of superfast services for the villages of Woodgreen and Braemore in the New Forest by 12 months.Phase Two announcement for Hampshire BDUK project
The vast majority of Basingstoke exchange which has over 100 street cabinets was covered in the commercial roll-out, but areas like the cabinet serving properties in Abbey Road (RG24 9ED) has so far missed out, a number of cabinets serving properties in other postcodes such as RG24 9TP and RG24 9RX are also due to go live very shortly.
Phase two should see some 56 extra cabinets deployed and a map showing the rough areas for the cabinets is available, but this does not appear to show the areas of Basingstoke that will benefit.
For the very rural areas of Hampshire they may feel aggrieved by what look very urban estates getting help, but when the aim of the BDUK process has always been to get as many properties as possible onto something that is superfast broadband or at least better than current ADSL/ADSL2+ services with a limited pot of funding, those areas where 100 to 200 properties could be served with minimal funding were always going to benefit.
The real question for the gap-funded cabinets in the Basingstoke area for cabinets deployed under the BDUK process, is how many properties benefit from the enabling of the cabinet that do not have access to a Virgin Media cable service. Without access to the invoices and thus able to tell how much gap funding has been applied to a cabinet there is a lot of guesswork and scope for outrage. Basic coverage information for Virgin Media services are available, but sometimes these over state coverage, with people ordering a service being refused as the tubing was not installed to that property in the original roll-out and the cost to hook them up is outside the current budget limits.
I think most people will not complain, if the gap-funding level is in line with the new cabinet benefiting the 20 properties unable to already get Virgin Media services, with Openreach taking the full costs for the other 100+ properties, but if the funding is based on public money going to all 120+ premises then the objection is clear and would also appear to break EU State Aid rules, which could both be expensive and very embarrassing for both BT and the UK Government.