Vouchers and deals for business broadband in cities
The size of the cheers from some quarters as the super-connected cities projects slowly undid themselves suggests that as much as the broadband campaigners are pushing for better broadband in the UK, there is no consensus at all on how it should be done and that top-down approaches seem to get the most objections.
The Guardian appears to be confirming what has been known for a couple of months and that is that the 22 cities getting a share of the £150m set aside by the chancellor George Osborne will now mainly offer vouchers to subsidise the cost of better broadband for businesses in cities, with the various Wi-Fi schemes to provide better wireless coverage continuing as planned.
A lot has been said about the objections of BT and Virgin Media, as they envisaged that the projects would compete with them, rather than operating in areas where they had no commercial interests and while it is fair to say that both operators are not about to roll-out a blanket 1 Gbps service in the cities, it is pretty clear that £150m would not have been enough to do this anyway. The result would have been re-generation projects with their own Gigabit network, that may have been popular or ignored by businesses moving to an area depending on the range of provider choice and ongoing monthly costs.
The concept of vouchers would at first appear to be a gift to BT with the recent launch of its FTTP on Demand service and thus will draw lots of criticism, but casting the net wider it is possible we may see some providers be innovative and so long as vouchers can be clubbed together e.g. so a group of firms in a building can aggregate the money there may be scope for operators like Geo and FibreCity to benefit.
What we would like to see now though is that rather than the super-connected fund favour just 22 cities, that it be extended to small businesses across the country on a first come first served basis.