Isle of Wight peels back layers on the BDUK process
The Isle of Wight deferred their decision on picking BT as the commercial partner in their BDUK project last month and the decision has now gone back to the cabinet and is generating a lot of debate on the island.
onthewight.com has a copy of the committee report on its website and it is this that will be of interest for those following the long running soap opera that is the BDUK process which started with the original publication of the Digital Britain report four years ago.
The interesting snippets from the report are:
- Demand stimulation to help push through the 20% take-up barrier, including IoW branded website, flyers, posters, business workshops to cost £98,000 over 18 months. Council appears to be opting out of this and using BT based marketing instead.
- The BT proposal does not use all the £6.18 million of public subsidy available, but a lower figure of £4.98 million along with its own investment is expected to meet the targets mentioned.
- The clawback mechanism is based around 20% takeup by the end of seven years. For every 5% of take-up above 20% over the seven year period the amount of £375,000 would be placed in an investment fund to fund further work over the next seven years with anything left being returned in seven years.
- Where BT cannot align any roadworks with the highways PFI contract when installing NGA it will not be allowed to dig up the newly repaired roads. BT has to accept this clause, or not sign the contract.
- There is a risk that the contract may be challenged by a Judicial Review, but the council maintains it has given sufficient time for competitors to make their plans available and this has always been the key to ensuring no overbuild, i.e. competitors declare their plans for the next few years in confidence with the local authority.
The project on the Isle of Wight if the council go for the current proposals from BT will see 99% of the premises benefit from NGA broadband access and all of them have access to broadband at 2 Mbps or faster by September 2015. Obviously this does not mean 99% will get the headline speeds, but so long as you are within 700m of the green street cabinet you can expect a speed above 30 Mbps (EU definition of superfast) or 1000m for 24 Mbps (old UK definition of superfast).
The debate on the Isle of Wight is interesting because with WightFibre present, who are very vocal opponents to the project as obviously a strong superfast BT based presence on the island will affect their business, as it may already be in the areas where the commercial roll-out is providing faster broadband. This is very different to most of the UK where Virgin Media has been largely silent in the BDUK process, apart from an initial backing of the Fujitsu bid and declaring its commercial areas to avoid over build. The gamble really is how well will BT deliver on its promises, versus whether WightFibre will follow through on its ambitious but spare on detail roll-out plans.
What we do not know and cannot spot in the committee report is any clear indication of what sort of mixture of FTTC/FTTP that BT is proposing and whether the council could push for a higher proportion of FTTP if it was to commit the full public subsidy and BT were willing to accept the risk of it costing more. Here in lies the problem with the BDUK project, it is more about risk management to the public purse than producing the best technical solution.