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New Minister delighted with project that may only offer 82% superfast
Tuesday 19 May 2015 09:41:44 by Andrew Ferguson

Essex was never going to be at the front of the pack for superfast broadband roll-out, particularly when the project started with the lowly ambition of 87% with access to a fibre based broadband solution, well below the targets announced in 2012 of 90% with access to superfast broadband. The Essex BDUK project is half way through its roll-out with the new Culture Minister John Whittingdale MP taking to twitter to express delight.

"Delighted to be with Superfast Essex to congratulate them on enabling 32,500 more premises across the county to access Superfast broadband."

John Whittingdale MP - twitter

There is no denying that the project has not delivered, our checks on the coverage show that yes they are around half way through the project, and with the next 32,500 representing around another five percentage points the project should hit its original contract goal of 87% with access to a fibre based connection, but that will be just 82% to 83% with access to superfast broadband.

So yes congratulations may be due, but a lot more work to do otherwise parts of the Essex economy are going to suffer in the competition with the other parts of the UK where superfast broadband is more widely available. Hopefully as the new Culture Minister gets to grips with the roll-out and what the figures actually mean on the ground, e.g. Essex may be at 77.7% superfast availability but his own constituency of Maldon is in the bottom 10% of UK constituencies for superfast broadband coverage with just 52.8% coverage at superfast speeds.


Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago
The irony of this talk about the economy of the area suffering is that it is often those very well off rural villages in Essex with affluent inhabitants who have the least access.

In contrast, less well off parts, like Southend or Dagenham, tend to be better served.
Posted by mervl about 1 year ago
Talk's cheap; and often of little value, too.
Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 year ago
He could have said,
'WTF 13 cabinets a month'? Can you train more apprentices?
'Of the £3m so far, how much has BT paid?'
'I thought the intervention area was 190k premises.'
Posted by camieabz about 1 year ago
Well we have had Jeremy Hunt, Maria Miller, Sajid Javid and now John Whittingdale. It would appear that all are/were good, as none were sacked or demoted due to their efforts (or lack thereof).

I wonder just how much a minister actually contributes to the industry they appear to lead/serve? Do any of them know the difference between a LAN, a WAN and a DSLAM? Do they travel to rural communities to experience the service? Do they visit slowspot or notspot areas?
Posted by SLAMDUNC about 1 year ago
And after all those press releases saying you're aiming to be the best connected county in the country!
Posted by mdar5 about 1 year ago
I used to know John a very long time ago.
He has a background in Maths and Physics so it is rather curious to me that he has ended up on arts/culture side of things!
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
It will be interesting to see how he reacts when they miss the 2Mbps USC target at the end of the year or will we see a satellite voucher hand out?
Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 year ago
@chilting - the USC will be ignored by which I mean it is too easy to fudge. The money exists for NGA to reach a very long way, as long as those funds are not lost. Camp outside council offices until your village/hamlet appears on a planning/planned list.
Breaking the intervention aeas into phases and reporting against the phase is a bit dodgy.
We would be better off understanding the resource constraint and stretching the dates so you can get the solution needed rather than the pretence around USC.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
A case of who shouts loudest gets upgraded first. The local MP must be an essential part of this process.
Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 year ago
@Chilting If gap funding was functioning then it should be easier, but the state sid receipts in BT accounts suggest BT is contributing little cash at this stage, so at least for now it looks biggest and easiest go fist, most difficult last. Unfortunately a combination of these factors and little transparency means most difficult becomes more difficult as motivation and cash dries up. So yes keep shouting and chasing until your get on the list.
Posted by ahockings about 1 year ago
@mdar5 @camieabz Well a background in Maths & physics is a good start. It's possible he may just be able to grasp KBps, MBps, Kbps, Mbps, Gpbs ect..
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
BT's accounts tell you that Openreach capex for the year was £1082m, plus the grant of £378m. They tell you that one reason the capex increased by 10% in Q4 was because of extra BDUK rollout.

I'm not sure where you can read that as "BT is contributing little cash." Mind you, you can't read it that they are contributing cash either.

All you can see is that there is ongoing spending of some sort, and that spending is higher than last quarter/last year (even without including the grant). Meanwhile the bulk of the rollout has swapped to subsidised cabinets.
Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 year ago
@WWWombat clause 3.83 p44 of the Oxera state aid report, ..BT makes no capital contribution for three years.. so that gets clearer. So we are looking at total costs.

That's another WTF for the Minister to ask?

..and costs get re-balanced during that time.

To own the asset you should contribute £50 a premise passed, or £10k each for these first 12,500. Let's see what happens on state aid.
Posted by alwall about 1 year ago
@ahockings Whittingdale has a 2.2 Economics BSc
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago

Para 3.83 p44 says absolutely nothing about the level of capital contributions. It's all about the mechanism of the BDUK claw-back operation under three scenarios. It's not even specific about BT (albeit that point is moot given the failure to attract other bidders).

I really cannot see how you've interpreted it as not contributions were made by BT.

Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 year ago
@The EulerID - what are the intervention levels if not capital contributions? These are less than the total amount referenced in the PR.
I am not sure how your wish intrepret any other way?
Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 year ago
@TheEulerID - aid intensity is specified in Table 2.1. If you aggregate through against the £1.2bn - BT promises £57Xm match capital or £750m if you include what we assume are operational costs which are listed in the Press releases.
Oxera also state that BDUK are expecting £261m less in match funding so I am unsure whther that is netted off the £750m or the £57Xm.
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago
I repeat, the section you referred to says nothing about BT's contribution. Just how claw-back operates.
Table 2.1, it gives the level of state intervention, both in absolute and as a % of the total 7 year cost in each area. However, those are the numbers at the time of purchase and not actual out-turns.
Nowhere in the report does it give figures for BT's capital contribution. Those are subject to non-disclosure.
Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 year ago
@TheEulerID not the case, but you provide an interesting perspective. Many counties got BT to split capital from the 7 year cost.
We are not expecting BT to contribut anything as self cetification permits costs to be re-calculated and re-balanced.
But BT's bid price will be a sum it is willing to invest independent of the outurn. As it stands it appears to be £230m-£300m of the £1bn offered.
Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 year ago
@TheEulerID a £50 per premise passed investment in the form of credits from LA bills would be good enough. For 200 premises passed that's £10k of the £24k being observed by NAO.
It would match the commercial investment, provided that get re-stated to reflecct the changes in the programme.
Posted by JNeuhoff about 1 year ago
The only good think about the Essex BDUK is the newly updated coverage map at

Other than that, the Essex BDUK is a super-farce, and the website is highly misleading. E.g. it talks about 'fibre broadband', which for the vast majority of premises it claims to have passed is simply not true. It is mostly based on yesterday's copper-based VDSL lines. The coverage in North Essex and Suffolk is very patchy. In summary, what a waste of money!
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