Some £12 million of investment is to be made improving broadband speeds across the Black Country and fingers crossed by being the last of the projects to sign the lessons on how to communicate plans and strategy will have been learnt.
The collaboration between the City of Wolverhampton and the district councils of Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall has seen the councils put £2.9m towards the project, matching £2.9m from Westminster and another £6.4m from BT. Interestingly back in June 2014, the LEP was talking of a 95% superfast target, but if the quotes are correct the project has signed with a more impressive 98% with superfast speeds target.
"Today marks the beginning of an incredible transformation of broadband in the Black Country.
Government fully appreciates that access to fast and reliable broadband is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity, which is precisely why we are funding projects like this one all over the UK.
As a result of this £12m investment, 98 per cent of the Black Country will be able to access superfast speeds by 2017 and this will provide a terrific boost to the local economy."Culture Secretary Sajid Javid
The councils did not sign up to the original BDUK projects because of the already high superfast coverage in the area, but the 2017 target shifted targets such that the councils have gone ahead. Delivery should start late in 2015 and is planned to be complete by 2017. Our speed test gives us an insight as to the median speeds across the four councils.
|Local Authority||Median Download Q1 2013||Median Download Q2 2014|
|City of Wolverhampton||17.1 Mbps||30 Mbps|
|Dudley District||13 Mbps||15.6 Mbps|
|Sandwell District||14.7 Mbps||23.5 Mbps|
|Walsall District||14.7 Mbps||20.6 Mbps|
We will keep an eye out and verify the coverage target, to ensure that it really is 98% with superfast speeds, rather than a 98% on fibre based service with 95% at superfast speeds. The official announcement does not appear to have made it onto the LEP website yet.
Update 7:30pm The full press release is now online at the BT site. We have also had a response on the coverage levels and the 98% refers to availability of a fibre based service, i.e. includes no speed qualification. No exact figure is available (yet) on the contracted superfast coverage, but we would expect 95% to be the goal. A little embarrassing to have the Culture Secretary saying its 98% with superfast when it is not, but then long time followers of the BDUK story will know the problems with people misinterpreting figures and what superfast, high-speed, fibre based means, a classic was a minister once announcing a Universal Service Obligation with advisers having to quickly correct this to a USC.