The superfast extension programme is making old divisions resurface and also is exposing the state of local authority finances to the gaze of many people who normally have little use of council services beyond rubbish collection. For the forty four BDUK projects underway they are all undergoing a crash course in social media engagement with a population used to information being at their finger tips.
The problems for councils in terms of what do they do and they raise the match funding to push coverage from the old 90% superfast target to 95% by the end of 2017 is highlighted by some comments made to ISPReview by a Shropshire campaigning body who is worried that the council will not be able to match the funding. The comment about one cabinet in Clun being enabled and the other not, is not a unique issue, the reality of a gap funded model means that you will get this patchy roll-out, rather than a slow steam roller that moves West to East across a county pausing until every complexity in an area is solved. The funding model basically means that cabinets that require less public money to install, run the fibre to and power up are being given priority, rather than the most difficult.
The extension programmes are not all having funding problems, Suffolk looks set to vote on approval next week and start work towards 95% with access to superfast at some point in 2018. Suffolk though has seen lots of anger over where the roll-out is taking place, with people in towns seeing cabinets upgraded and infill work on commercial exchanges, when those in the rural hamlets and remote properties had got the impression that they were in the 85%.
The lesson to be learnt is that the PR machine for Government has not communicated the project goals very well and grandiose statements make brilliant sound bytes but the impact of broadband is so personal that a much larger effort is needed to help people understand what the targets and actual roll-out mean to them. Some councils are fairly good at this so long as you can get online to do your research, but others are still following the planning department blueprint from The Hitchhickers Guide to the Galaxy.