The people in Wales suffering rejected broadband grant applications
Adhering to the rules around State Aid is causing problems for people in Wales. Wales has three broadband schemes that are running, the Openreach commercial roll-out, the investment from Westminster and the Welsh Assembly (and BT) which aims to build on the commercial roll-out and take fibre based (mainly FTTC) broadband to 96% of premises in Wales and finally there are individual grants of up to £1,000 for locations running at under 2 Mbps.
The Daily Post is now reporting on the people who are getting their grants rejected due to the overlapping nature of the three projects and made worse by the lack of certainty over precisely what the commercial and BDUK projects will deliver.
In the past decisions over helping a specific service or industry was easier as boundaries were more clearly defined, but with the broadband roll-outs and the limited funding very few people are willing to commit to a specific cabinet being enabled and its precise footprint. The choice of FTTC as the cheapest way to bring something better than an ADSL2+ service to millions makes this worse, and while FTTP would avoid all the line length distance questions, it would cost a lot more to roll-out and is still not immune to problems of accessing some properties, e.g. wayleaves, waiting for permission to dig up a road.
It is not beyond the ability of people to estimate which properties on a particular cabinet are NOT going to get any FTTC based service, the problem is that in Wales no-one seems willing to spend the time and money doing this. Or maybe they have a hope that if the initial roll-outs work out cheaper than expected the money saved will be available to re-visit the difficult to reach areas. We have the ability to speed plot estimated speeds from individual street cabinets, which if combined with a little knowledge will give people a very good idea what they may or may not get. What is making the problem in Wales worse is that the funding decisions are made on an exchange wide basis, which means it is easy to miss plenty of properties without realising it.
Maybe the problem is that in the UK we are following the EU State Aid rules to the letter and the risk averse nature of the projects means that everything is about minimal risk, rather than absolute best outcome for the individual or business.