INCA issues statement on rural broadband concerns
INCA is a name anyone involved into rural broadband will be aware of. This cooperative association tries to help rural projects get off the ground and provides a collective voice for many in the rural broadband arena. The recent demise of two RCBF projects has drawn a lengthy response from INCA.
"It was precisely these sorts of schemes that the £20m RCBF fund was set up to support. BDUK has attempted to get these and several similar projects 'de-scoped' from the main county plans with BT so they can receive the subsidy. As pilots they are designed to creatively address the 'Final 10%' outside the scope of the main BDUK/county programmes. With no competition in the main BDUK programme RCBF is the only central government funding that can go to providers other than BT. It now looks like most of the fund will be unspent, or indeed be allocated to ... BT.
The fact that the county councils are unwilling to support alternative, lower subsidy, more future-proofed solutions in difficult to reach areas speaks volumes about the process. In at least one case BT is part of the committee that made the recommendation not to support the local scheme. It is obvious why BT doesn't want projects like this to go ahead; they don't want lower subsidy schemes to be supported. It is less obvious why the local authorities are unwilling to get the maximum bang for the taxpayer's buck. Powerful arm twisting? Not all local authorities are succumbing to BT’s bullying tactics and are supporting independent projects alongside their BT programmes. Why not Dorset and Oxfordshire?
The current state of affairs is becoming increasingly untenable. INCA's members large and small have voiced their concerns for two years, predicting that the BDUK framework would end up being very small indeed. The National Audit Office and Public Accounts committee expressed severe concerns about lack of transparency concerning BT's costings, BT's deployment plans and whether value for money can be achieved. BT, despite its protestations to the Public Accounts Committee, continues to claim commercial confidentiality and prevent publication of detailed information about where it plans to go with its £1.2bn and where it won't go. Alternative providers and local communities are frustrated by the secrecy. Several major operators and ISPs are protesting that the terms on which they get access to BT's state-funded infrastructure are too restrictive and too expensive. Meanwhile BT seems intent on using its state funding to kill off any competition and seize even more subsidy. One of the projects currently being ‘over-built’ by BT using state funds is B4RN, the fantastic example of community endeavour in Lancashire. The 'giant vampire death squid' that Malcolm Corbett described at the Public Accounts Committee hearing in July is still lurking, waiting to gobble up its prey."Extract from INCA Statement about Rural Community Broadband Fund
Cotswold Broadband while not going now see any RCBF funding looks to be trying to continue, with the most likely course being a fixed wireless service, we assume exact service nature and coverage will depend on the level of private investment that can be attracted. The Trailways project in North Dorset has not updated its webpage, and thus is still showing more hopeful news from a Maria Miller meeting in July 2013.