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Spending Review and Autumn Statement - the impact on Broadband
Wednesday 25 November 2015 14:31:59 by Andrew Ferguson

The Spending Review and the Autumn Statement was a politically charged event and while the Chancellor George Osborne did not speak on broadband itself, economies from a digital revolution in the HMRC and online filing of returns hit at the effect the Government is hoping from vastly improved broadband speeds across the UK.

The full written statement that is now available online confirms that the spending of the £1.7 billion of public money to take superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by the end of 2017 will continue there was a small mention of a new broadband investment fund but as this is in the exploration stage no-one will be getting too excited.

"Competition between broadband providers supports the delivery of the fast and reliable broadband a modern, productive economy needs. Innovative approaches to supporting the market will help deliver ultrafast speeds to nearly all premises. The government will explore setting up a new broadband investment fund, to support the growth of alternative network developers by providing greater access to finance. The fund would be supported by both public and private investors, and would be managed by the private sector on a commercial basis."

Extract from Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015

Improving access to finance if done in a way that is easily accessible could boost the number of alt-nets investing in FTTH/P infrastructure and with full fibre being very labour intensive it offers a classic trickle down approach. The ultrafast mention has no clarification of what constitutes nearly all premises, and it is worth remembering that part of the Virgin Media Project Lightning expansion to two thirds of the UK from just under half is underwritten by Government money and it is possible that if a need is seen for ultrafast to go to 90% or higher a similar funding system may be put in place for BT or others rather than the existing gap funding model.

With no mention of the broadband vouchers for the Universal Service Commitment (USC) it is likely that this may be devolved to the various local authorities for piecemeal announcement or may be lead by the DCMS nationally.

Our main disappointment is that nothing was mentioned in terms of allocation of funding for taking superfast beyond 95%, it may be that more analysis of the existing pilot projects is needed or if you want to take a negative view it may be that the 10 Mbps obligation (USO) may take priority.

Mobile broadband does get to see some £550 million set aside for use between now and 2020 to ensure the 700 MHz spectrum is cleared of its existing uses making it available for mobile broadband, whether that is 4G or 5G will depend on the development cycle of 5G. Announcing availability of money means that for example if there needs to be another digital TV help scheme to ensure people know about retuning or the need for new hardware as FreeView shifts downward the money will be available.


Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
Nice to see that they're planning to improve our "national offensive cyber capability".

Equally disappointed to see no mention of the funds for completing superfast coverage.

And intrigued by the ultrafast fund, and its placement as an aid to improving competition. Does it include the VM funding/backing? Does it allow for equivalent behaviour with BT? Or does its scale imply small altnets only?

So many questions, no answers.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
I think that Local Authorities hold the key to solutions for the final 5%. West Sussex CC for example, know what needs to be done to solve the problem but they are so tied up in red tape that they are unable to act as they wish.
If the Government could give local authorities more of a free hand to encourage the altnets then a lot could be achieved commercially without much cost to the taxpayer.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
No proof but willing to bet it includes the existing Virgin Media arrangements.

Of course Ofcom review on Openreach future could change everything with a new national standalone local loop operator answering to Sky/TalkTalk needs.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@chilting There was the LA disposal of assets and keeping that money to help with things, and can foresee broadband investment matching funding or all on their own being an option from there.
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago
"HMRC and online filing of returns hit at the effect the Government is hoping from vastly improved broadband speeds across the UK"

I've used online filing for a few years now and it really doesn't require much bandwidth. Like many such services it requires a functional level, not superfast, ultrafast, hyperfast or whatever else follows. It's more about a USC for a usable level.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
That is good news. I remain convinced that solutions to rural broadband problems can be found locally. B4RN has shown what can be achieved when communities get together.
Posted by jumpmum about 1 year ago
I have been doing tax returns on-line each year from 2005, I can't find a speed test from back then but in 2009 was on ADSL The forms are all text based so even people with low speeds can use them. ( Under 1Mb)
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
With Surrey running at 95.7% at 24 meg (Thinkbroadband) there can't be many customers not able to fill in their Tax returns and farmers / small business not to send information to Defra ,and the clawback money for the OMR has not even been spent yet
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
"the spending of the £1.7 billion of public money to take superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by the end of 2017 will continue" or as that really means "a third to a half of rural premises will continue to fall further and further behind for the indefinite future"
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
You love to spin more than the politicians, don't you?

Of the 5% left, only 4% are rural, and covered by BDUK.

The government's money will take things to 95%, but the advance clawback of £129m from BT will, they reckon, meet another 1%.

So we'll be down to 3% of rural left untargeted.

As the 2011 census reckoned on 18% in rural areas, I make that one sixth, not one half.

With an undefined future, rather than indefinite.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Gerarda.
If you check Thinkbroadband results for your area (XX) you will find that the 24 meg is closing very quickly as the money is being spent and Cab,s become available ,remember the clawback money will be from your area customers.
Posted by fastman about 1 year ago
Blackmamba not sure how you have any view on how Gerada is being Served or likely to be served -- because what ever your view is its wrong
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
@wwwombat I do not count towns with a 10,000 plus population as rural, so the rural population is 9% of the UK. These areas have suffered from a series of broken promises/missed targets, even when they have been defined.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
I don't think that you can argue that BDUK hasn't delivered as promised. The problem is that the copper network was never built with broadband in mind. FTTC has papered over the cracks in many places, especially in urban areas, but in rural Britain the results are in many places less than spectacular. G.Fast has the potential to finish the job if it can be done commercially but in rural areas the digital divide is set to get much wider without very substantial government cash.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
I guess that going forward, if G.Fast becomes the norm, the definition of a "rural area" will be any locality more than 500m from a cabinet.
Posted by CecilWard about 1 year ago
The government just needs to stop talking about 95% or whatever. The figure should be 100% delivered by non-satellite wholesale provider like BT Wholesale so that the last few percentiles of users have a full choice of ISP. We simply need to be talking about full FTTP, which can be part-funded by a small levy on all users who enjoy extremely high data rates. Accept no substitute. We need a technological roadmap geared to the needs of the country, not to BT's agenda which centres around flogging the dead horse that is copper to an utterly ridiculous degree.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi CEcilWard.
In Surrey SCC the Goverment was looking at 99.7% at 15 meg with the other .3 (1250) customer covered by other options which may come available EG G/fast plus other innovations this should give a good choice of ISP,s if the customers wish to buy.
Posted by RuralWire about 1 year ago
Whatever happened to the strategy and funding proposal for Phase 3 that Chris Townsend (CEO of BDUK) claimed had been submitted to HM Treasury for consideration as part of the Spending Review? Axed, delayed, or something else? Right now, this is looking like a satellite broadband 2Mbps USC and a satellite broadband 10Mbps USO for the final 5%.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
Digital Strategy paper due in early 2016 based on what has been said, so might expand on final 5% fate.
Posted by RuralWire about 1 year ago
@andrew - In other words, the strategy and funding proposal for Phase 3 that was in the pipeline has been been axed, which given the overall nature and scale of the Government cutbacks is not entirely surprising.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
I think that BDUK and the Government have got themselves so tied up in red tape from the EU and of their own making that they simply cannot act.
Hopefully the Government will cut the red tape and hand the implementation of BDUK3 over to the local authorities to find local solutions.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@ruralwire while you may feel that way, given the final 5% pilots are still underway it would seem boring but prudent to wait until something has been delivered.

Time pressure on the phase 1 projects meant delivery went ahead elsewhere before even the first cabinet had been delivered.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@chilting There was hints that asset sales by councils (which they will keep all money from now if I recall announcement correctly) might be used for infrastructure work e.g. broadband match funding or their own projects.

Its worth pointing out that councils have always had the option of going it alone, some schemes have worked and some have not.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
It does seem that councils have the intent but until the bureaucratic blocks are sorted out very little is likely to happen.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Chil.
I think SCC has the vision to get the best results from the contract you can see that from the results on Thinkbroadband maps (94% at 24) as showing good results and improving even after the phase 1 was completed 9 months ago. The improving results most have been in the commercial section or change over lag.
The 5% will be determined by the OMR and the overview of the council either good results or bad at 15 meg down at the post code.
Posted by PhilipVirgo about 1 year ago
Everyone seems to forget those stuck in inner city tower blocks with 50 year old aluminium phone lines. Fibre to the cabinet, or even a set of Gfast boxes on the outside walls will not help them much.
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