Is the Devon and Somerset 95% target for 2017 in trouble?
Once more we are back in Devon and Somerset talking about problems, Bath and North East Somerset council played around with being part of the original 90% superfast broadband project, eventually joining the party, but there are doubts about whether the combined projected across the two counties of Devon and Somerset will be able to find the match funding to benefit from £22.75 million of extra funding to push superfast broadband coverage to 95% by the end of 2017.
The Western Morning News covered this problem at the weekend highlighting the problems the authorities involved are having in finding the match funding and are to make an appeal for a deadline extension as they delve deeply to try and find the funds. To some extent one can understand a cautious approach from those in public office since they are yet to see the real benefits from the £20m they put into the existing £94 million project (£41m BT, £32m BDUK). The CDS project has delivered its first cabinets, but there is a long hill to climb to reach the 91% with 24 Mbps or faster broadband by the end of 2016.
If the central Government was to let a large project fall by the wayside and refuse the cash if the deadline is not met, then it is expected that the cash would be re-allocated to other parts of the UK and the further improvements hopefully meaning a national 95% target is reached. For Devon and Somerset it could prove to be commercial suicide, as on one side they have Cornwall which is well organised on the funding and broadband project front and Somerset could easily lose lots of digital economy business to Bristol.
The scale of the task is revealed when we look at what would be possible in the four main authorities that form Devon and Somerset. These projections as usual take existing cable coverage and add our own projected speeds if every Openreach street cabinet was to be FTTC enabled.
|thinkbroadband.com estimate of superfast coverage in Devon and Somerset, based on the assumption every green street cabinet offers FTTC and/or cable broadband.|
|Authority||% at 30 Mbps or faster||% at 24 Mbps or faster||% cable present||% Exchange Only lines||% needing extra USC help|
|Bath and North East Somerset Unitary Authority||89%||93%||35%||8%||1.4%|
|City of Plymouth Unitary Authority||97%||97.5%||90%||4.5%||0.8%|
|North Somerset Unitary Authority||81.2%||84.5%||21.4%||13%||3.3%|
|Torbay Unitary Authority||92%||93.5%||43.6%||3.7%||0.5%|
These figures show that really the only way the project can hit the 91% with 24 Mbps or better figure is to (a) convert some Exchange Only lines by adding a green street cabinet or (b) deploy FTTP as the superfast option where it makes sense on the value for money scale.
Unfortunately for the residents of the rural parts of both counties work on EO lines and FTTP deployments tends to be in the later phases of the BDUK projects, so may not be until 2016. While it is easy to criticise over the lack of information from the projects one can understand the reluctance at times and central Government is not helping by announcing extra rounds of funding which if they had been included in the original funding splits of 2011 would probably have meant more projects planned for very close to 100% coverage at superfast speeds rather the current rationing where it is not about making those who complain loudest happy or technical excellence, but about ensuring the most bang per buck within the remit handed down from Westminster.
Update 9pm Have added Torbay Unitary Authority that we had missed from the projected coverage list earlier. North Somerset was missing from the list so also added.