Rural broadband projects behind schedule.
The BBC has covered a release from the Countryside Alliance, where they are calling for the current BDUK and local authorities procurement system to be simplified because of the problem of the Digital Divide widening every month.
The state of the Superfast Pilots is not really a big secret, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport did release an update on progress for the Superfast Pilots. Alas the summary is pretty much that no actual ground work has commenced, but lots of paperwork has been consumed in meetings. Alas this is all part of the procurement process, which can include points in time where nothing happens as they wait for objections to plans and potential bidders try to formulate plans.
So does the fact that we are probably only going to see actual connections late on in 2012 from the pilots mean the UK will miss its broadband target? Probably not, as assuming the firms that win the process can roll-out quickly it will be feasible to get things moving. BT Openreach is rolling out its FTTC/FTTP network to the commercial two-thirds of the UK fairly rapidly now, and the recent acceleration of this, means that by 2014 there will be lots of capacity for them to work on local authority projects where BT has won the bid. Fujitsu is building its experience of PIA in the Wirral, so should be ready to get going, as for other potential bidders, we know of the high profile withdrawals by Geo and C&W, but there is still possibly others out there.
So it is not time yet to man the lifeboats, and ignore what at time are annoyingly slow procurement processes, to some extent a fast track approach would lead to BT being the most likely candidate to win the majority of bids.
Of course there is another way to approach the Digital Divide, and we report on small initiatives regularly, B4rn which will launch its shares next work, and is basically starting in an area that even with BDUK funding would probably see only the 2 Mbps USC being met. Some local authorities are also using funds from non-BDUK sources to fund wireless projects and the largest is the Cornwall project, that some 15 months after its announcement is connecting customers. Though while Cornwall appears to be moving very fast, there was a couple of years of work to reach the point where they could announce the project.
Compared to many infrastructure projects, the broadband projects are actually moving fairly fast. Consider the length of time it takes for a town road bypass to go from an idea that is thought about, to the first vehicles travelling down it.