Connecting Devon and Somerset has published its official release on the recent phase 2 contract debacle and it seems the lack of any reassurance over hitting the 95% target by 2021 or 2022 were a major issue.
"As you may be aware from the media reports over the weekend, BT was unable to commit to achieving the target of 95% superfast broadband coverage by the end of 2017. In addition, BT could not give us any reassurances that the 95% target could be reached by 2021/22....
On behalf of local residents and businesses, the local authority partners of CDS are hugely disappointed and feel let down by BT and their lack of ambition, as well as their unwillingness to agree a good deal for the residents and businesses of Devon and Somerset! What they were offering did not represent good value for money and would not have addressed the issues of providing universal provision....
We are sorry that we are unable to give you better news, but CDS is committed to achieving a better deal and will work hard to secure that in a fresh approach to the market."Extracts from CDS phase 2 decision
The task for who ever bids now is clear, any proposals that do not bring superfast broadband to around 35,000 premises dispersed across the large footprint of Devon and Somerset by the end of 2017 will not be considered worthy. The current phase 1 project is likely to be one of the last to hit the 90% target by the end of 2016.
It should be pointed out that while the UK Government has an ambition for 95% superfast in 2017 that is a UK wide ambition and with some 63 local authority or district councils already past 95% at speeds of 30 Mbps or faster there is plenty of scope for other areas to be below the target and the goal still be reached. We cannot help but wonder based on the various comments of various players involved whether the falling out on the contract was less about the overall target, but guarantees that each specific district council in the CDS project would hit 95%, rather than some hitting 97% and another just 93% and it is unknown whether Plymouth which already exceeds the 95% target was being allowed into the equation.
The clear and present danger for Devon in particular is that small business may see this uncertainty and slip across the border to Cornwall which while still needing plenty of work to improve superfast coverage does have FTTP available to 1 in 4 premises.