Following the broadband money

Brussels, UK still at odds over broadband targets

with 12 comments

There are material differences between Westminster and Brussels over what will result from the European Commission’s approval of a blanket purchasing agreement for next generation broadband connections in rural UK.

The differences can be summed up thus, in BDUK/Commission order: ‘Superfast’ equals 24/30Mbps; Investment equals £530m/£1.5bn; Universal access equals 90 per cent/100 per cent.

These were the views either side held at the start of the year when BDUK applied for approval. Culture Secretary Maria Miller’s recent visit to Brussels did not resolve them, but it did unblock the cash flow.

According to the Commission, the total value of aid to be delivered by the scheme is around £1.5bn (€1.8bn). “This will most likely enable the UK to achieve the objective of the EU Digital Agenda of coverage of 30 Mbps networks for all European citizens (see IP/10/581 and MEMO/10/199),” it says.

The commission goes on to say the design of the BDUK scheme contains several ‘best practices’ which will help to ensure more effective, better targeted and less distortive public interventions. A national competence centre will advise smaller local authorities. Ofcom will have a “crucial role” in designing wholesale access prices and conditions.

All information related to projects under the scheme (including mapping, public consultation, tenders, aid beneficiaries) will be published on a central website.

“The UK has also committed to submit an evaluation of the scheme to the commission before 31 March 2015 and to ensure that any forthcoming scheme will take this evaluation into account,” it says.

BT can now start extending its £2.5bn fibre to the cabinet network upgrade, firstly into rural Wales and Surrey. Projects in Cumbria, Rutland and Herefordshire and Gloucestershire should follow shortly. Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire and Highlands & Islands are busy with their procurements.

This will open up the World Wide Web as a potential marketplace for tens of thousands of small and medium sized businesses, and give them access to a wider choice of suppliers. It will allow them to take advantage of technology such as hosted applications and cloud computing, and improve the speed and efficiency with which they do business. In a nutshell, it should make Britain’s SMEs more competitive at home and abroad, and for that we should be delighted.

But the issue of whether Britain’s future networks should be built of fibre or copper is unresolved; taxpayers may have to cough up sooner than they think for a long term network solution to extend fibre to our homes and offices.


Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2012/11/21 at 00:18

12 Responses

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  1. Apart from up to a few km at the local end, and not with all, the UK’s networks consist almost entirely of fibre. FOD or other products help those who have need for greater speeds.


    2012/11/21 at 00:51

  2. @Somerset. No one disputes that the back-bone links are fibre. How could they be otherwise? But “a few km at the local end” of copper is the problem and what makes the need for FTTH even more important.

    • So how do we achieve FTTH? Either individual customers pay or the government funds. Currently FTTH is not that important for those who are/will be happy with speeds from ADSL2+ or FTTC.


      2012/11/21 at 10:14

  3. Ian why have you not chased the money?

    The differences are obvious and have been discussed many times previously.

    HINT: 530m of Gov money then between 530m to 1 billion from the local authorities, some authorities are adding more into the pot than the BDUK.

    The 24/30 done to death previously, and projects have freedom to set a 50 Meg minimum if they want to.

    Andrew Ferguson

    2012/11/21 at 10:15

    • Actually I have, Andrew – I’m waiting for DCMS spokesman to give me the breakdown. So far he’s attributed it the entire extra billion pounds to local authorities. I’m sure that will come as a surprise to taxpayers. However, I understand there could be some BT money in there, as well as contributions from Defra, the European Regional Development Fund, the European Investment Bank and others -m mostly taxpayers’ money too. Let’s not forget the private sector investments that support Gigaclear, B4RN, Kijoma, and a host of other initiatives that play a role in beefing up Ofcom’s broadband access figures, and for which they get little or no credit. If you want my estimate of how much money is really going into next generation braodband in the UK see here. Let’s see your numbers.


      2012/11/21 at 10:38

      • Ian – why waiting on DCMS, plenty of the councils have published what their contribution will be. Its hardly top secret

        Andrew Ferguson

        2012/11/22 at 00:09

      • See the Br0kenTeleph0n3 story at 7.03am.


        2012/11/22 at 00:56

  4. the whole 24/30 thing is futile if the chosen technology is FTTC anyway as reflected in a recent post from Ian. I specifically asked the LA here how they are going to police the “minimum” speed they specify when they choose their BDUK partner (akak BT).

    They assure me they have done the research and seem confident that the “supplier” will deliver 30 Mbps minimum to all the subscribers using the funded infrastructure. They were less clear on the mechanisms in place to verify this though.

    on another note, relating to Ians, the second phase of the consultation in West Sussex still shows areas Kijoma cover as NGA white and basic white. More time has to be spent trying to rectify this misinformation again.

    ho hum

    bill lewis

    2012/11/21 at 11:24

    • What did the commission have to say about the need for a dark fibre product in parallel and to the cabinet.

      Cabinetisation rollouts by incumbents in most countries delivers around 12-24 pairs to each cabinet which leaves expansion room for future pure fibre product with a localised launch capability.

      Tom Parlon

      2012/11/21 at 16:05

      • We are waiting for the detail to emerge. DCMS is busy censoring, sorry redacting, the agreement, Commission spokesmen say.


        2012/11/21 at 20:00

  5. Consider Hampshire – “£5 million of government funding, matched by a further £5 million from Hampshire County Council and district council partners, will be used to intervene in areas where there are too few potential customers to cover the costs of the upgrade to the network infrastructure.” And: “Up to 115,000 households and businesses in Hampshire – that’s just over 20% of premises – will benefit from this public sector funding.” (source – Hantsweb). Note the use of “up to” and the conflicting qualifier “just over”. I suspect that the truth is that nobody – other than BT – yet knows exactly where and when the public money is going to be spent. One thing seems increasingly certain – there is going to be a lot of Hampshire still without NGA come 2016 and beyond. Where’s the plan to remove this long tail? And in five years’ time will we be content with FTTC? The future is in the hands of BT, whether we like it or not, because there is simply no viable alternative that the market is willing or able to implement. The small players don’t seem to want to step up to the mark by, for example, banding together to share the investment risk in filling “Hampshire’s gap”

    David Harrington

    2012/11/22 at 18:21

    • ” The small players don’t seem to want to step up to the mark by, for example, banding together to share the investment risk in filling “Hampshire’s gap””

      so the small players should band together and invest their money at a time when an as yet unconfirmed amount of public money is filling BT’s coffers to provide a “solution” in as yet unknown areas of the county..

      yeah, that makes complete commercial sense..

      bill lewis

      2012/11/22 at 18:28

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