Bexley aims for its slice of £200m Local Full Fibre Network fund
Full fibre is something the UK has held back on and while the obvious response is to blame big bad BT, the reasons are much more nuanced and in terms of attracting new firms with the money and no legacy to hold them back the UK has had several entrants for a few years now. Back when Matt Hanock MP was Minister for Digital the Local Full Fibre Network fund was announced as part of a push for full fibre to be the much more default connection technology but as we've seen this fund is rapidly turning into either a pet project fund or ways of improving council connectivity with the promise of savings further down the line.
The London Borough of Bexley is one of the latest to make a bid for full fibre funding and in a bid worth £8 million (£5 million from the fund and £3 million from the council) they are aiming connect some 300 council buildings (includes CCTV, libraries and GP surgeries. The bid is a joint one with Bexley Clinical Commissioning Group. £7 million will be used to create a private fibre network, with £1 million for vouchers which are meant to help existing and new business coming to the area to connect to Gigabit broadband.
There is a four point Digital Infrastructure Plan:
- Digital 'in fill' to help most existing homes in Bexley to have access to super and ultra-fast broadband.
- Ensuring that all new developments are built with access to a choice of ultra-fast broadband infrastructure providers.
- A new Bexley Growth 'fibre' network to serve public buildings, partners and businesses.
- Borough-wide coverage of high speed, high capacity wireless and mobile services.
Bexley is currently sat at 96.6% superfast coverage and ultrafast coverage is at 75.8% so point one of the plan can be ticked off since most existing homes do have an option, there is some 3.4% of premises that still fall below the USO standards though. The new developments is interesting, since it a number of London Boroughs when new flats are built it is common to see both Openreach and Hyperoptic full fibre present, so it will be interesting to see how Bexley ensures this is the case for all developments, across the UK some sites have lock outs (SeeTheLight - INFL commonly) so point two of the plan is ruling that out.
This is still just a bid, but if successful it is said that procurement will take place in 2018/2019 and we would based on the description expect to see CityFibre as the front runner.
For local authorities looking for ways to improve legacy networks the fund is clearly useful, but at the time the fund was announced lots of people thought it was a sign of big change in direction for the Government in terms of ensuring more full fibre is delivered to the residential market, but as yet that swing has not created any big changes, beyond a feel good factor.