New £10m broadband fund under National Infrastructure Plan
The latest National Infrastructure Plan for 2013 and onwards has been published by the UK Government which provides a summary of current projects and what sort of investment is currently planned for the next few years.
Innovation and disruptive ideas have been the key to the success of Internet and has allowed UK companies to compete on the world stage and other countries to sell to the UK consumer at very cheap prices. As such broadband is a key infrastructure and the investment since the current Government come into power is starting to become apparent, but is also attracting increasing amounts of complaints as people wonder when the improvements will reach them.
"42 out of 44 local projects have now completed their procurements
- Final two projects due to complete procurement before the end of the year
- First superfast upgrades have now gone live in a quarter of the projects
- As at the end of October, nearly 140,000 premises have been passed with superfast broadband as a result of public funding
- Premises were being passed at a rate of 10,000 per week in October 2013 as a result of the programme
- By spring 2014, premises passed will rise to 25,000 per week and to 40,000 per week by the summer
- Rutland, Surrey and North Yorkshire are anticipated to complete current rollout programmes within 2014Progress update from National Infrastructure Plan on BDUK projects
The new part of the 2013 plan is that a new £10m fund will be created in 2014, with the aim to test innovative solutions to deliver superfast broadband services to the hardest to reach parts of the UK. This is in addition to the current BDUK projects, and the other £250m previously announced for the 2015 to 2017 period which should see 95% of UK premises able to order a superfast broadband service.
"...opening a £10 million competitive fund in 2014 to market test innovative solutions, delivering superfast broadband services to the most difficult to reach areas of the UK; the government will continue to support local bodies to develop appropriate strategies to procure additional coverage in areas not covered by current plans, using the £250 million allocated at Spending Round 2013"The new £10m rural innovation fund
Extra investment is welcome, but to be totally honest it is not clear if we need another test bed, unless this is to help the civil service understand what many people have been saying for some years. The choices as we see them for the most rural areas are:
- Satellite broadband, potential for up to 20 Mbps currently and potentially every rural farm could have this deployed in a few weeks/months
- 4G via mixture of fixed antenna and standard mobile tech, which EE are about to launch
- FTTP will provide the ultimate future proof reliable connection (apart from JCB or rat damage) but running this 2km to a lone property is very expensive
- Fixed Wireless, a range of frequencies available and can cover a fairly wide area quickly, provided enough mast capacity is installed
- Extra FTTC hardware, e.g. adding small sub cabinets closer to properties than existing cabinets, suitable for clusters of perhaps 50 properties within 500m of the new node
- G.fast could work for clusters of 8 to 12 properties all within 100m, but in the most rural areas this is very rare
We suspect that the £10m is probably what the Government expects to be left from the old Rural Community Broadband Fund, which has largely failed, either due to BT playing a clever game, or more likely the joys of taking part in a Government procurement project which are generally never cheap to take part in. The complex rule systems to avoid people embezzling money that have built up over hundreds of years make it easier for a firm with large teams of lawyers to bid, rather than a small community project.
A final thought, one can only wonder what rural broadband projects could achieve if funding of up to £3,000 per connection was available to them in the same way as the voucher scheme trial for super-connected cities worked.