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£10m spend to find out real cost of getting superfast broadband to final 5%
Thursday 03 July 2014 16:32:58 by Andrew Ferguson

The innovation fund has had its cause redefined in the House of Commons, in response to a question by Julie Hilling the MP for Bolton West, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey) has answered indicating that the eight projects currently sharing the £10m innovation fund will be used to assess how much money will be needed to give that final 5% of the country a superfast solution.

Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab):
This issue is not just a rural problem. At my recent business event, companies told me how lack of access to fast broadband is seriously hampering their businesses. How will the Minister ensure that areas on the edge of major urban centres also get superfast broadband?

Mr Vaizey:
The whole point of the rural broadband programme is to help the areas she speaks about. Local councils are in charge of the roll-out, so they should know best where the money should go first for the most impact. As I say, we have had phase 1 to get to 90%; we now have phase 2 to get to 95%; and the money we have allocated for new technologies will give us the figure we need to get to 100%.

Hansard Extract from House of Commons Debate 3rd July 2014

It is interesting to see the minister who has with the BDUK process the longest referring to the use of WiFi, satellite, LTE and sub loop unbundling as new technologies which have all been proven technically through trials, commercial services or use abroad and really the only unknown is things like how costly power and backhaul is for the various locations chosen and whether the businesses and residents actually buy into the new faster service or remain with their existing providers, even though existing speeds are less than perfect.

We would like to see a politician stand up and finally admit that what is needed rather than continually pushing on with overlapping projects is to provide a safety net where those who through no fault of their own are thought to be covered either commercially or by a project but have speeds still that are not superfast or below the USC can have their plight officially heard and existing projects made to consider that property once more, i.e. an ongoing open market review system.

The big question is which project will prove popular and how many properties will be served by each, only then we the Government have some idea for the final cost which might be £200m or could be £1.5 billion and the hope may well be that the problem of finding the money not be theirs in a few years time.

Another often overlooked fact is that until coverage hits 100% in reality, it will be the case that the better served parts of a county will be increasing the average coverage for the hardest to serve areas, certainly the aim of the 90% superfast target is not that every village will have 90% coverage, but that at the county level projects will aim for this once combined with existing commercial coverage.

Comments

Posted by NickDuffill over 2 years ago
"Broadband is vital for economic and social interactions in rural communities. The Government aims to bring superfast broadband to 90 per cent of UK premises by early 2016." Putting these two statements together creates the illusion that they are related. 90% of premises does not mean 90% of rural premises, far from it - so what does "vital" mean? A lot is made of the economics of "hard to reach" areas but we do have telephone lines, mains water and mains electricity. It can be done. The problem is localised economic models rather than national ones.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 2 years ago
The difference is the time scale, if the commercial operators were left alone they'd have probably reached you with superfast broadband, but perhaps 5 to 15 years later than .Gov wants.

The other services all took a good few decades to roll-out.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 2 years ago
The funding should have been given to altnets like gigaclear, hyperoptic ect to put real connections in, not prat about with obsolete copper as the monopoly are doing in this total superfarce. Then we would have had competition, working from the outside inwards, and the incumbent would have upped their game. Instead we are condemned to being a third world digital country. With a growing digital divide.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 2 years ago
@cyberdoyle the funding has gone to altnets this time, but not FTTH heavy ones.

Which FTTH operators applied for funding? Nothing stopping them saying is there.
Posted by Desmond over 2 years ago
All this talk of rural premises is somewhat acedemic when the best some can get within earshot of Westminster is under 1 Meg and when proximity to the exchange amounts to willful denial of service for fibre.
Posted by FTTH over 2 years ago
Agree with Cyberdoyle. If the commercial operators were left alone we would be moving much quicker.
Everyone has been forced to await BTs intentions.

Some will wait out the 2015 date, for others the game starts now.
Posted by nickweavers over 2 years ago
@Desmond speaks for a small number on each urban exchange including myself who's neighbours are enjoying speeds of 50Mbs and greater while we who are unfortunately directly connected to the exchange due to "close" proximity can't get anything above 16Mbs and many such as myself and @Desmond get far less that that.
I'm told that BT could put a cabinet outside their exchanges and rewire customer like us into that which would fix the problem, but will any money be available for this?
Posted by galacticz00 over 2 years ago
This is a rewriting of the Government’s intent. The government and Europe gave extra funding for better broadband to rural areas but the monies from the Rural Communities Broadband Fund won’t be used to provide good speeds to the most isolated areas. My County Council, Cumbria have already stated that their roll out policy will be to spend the money where they can deliver to the most people, i.e. to exchanges serving the most numbers not those most difficult to get to. Mr Vaizey is saying the same thing it is just a numbers game which rather defeats the object of the RCBF.
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