Following the broadband money

Did DCMS get legal advice on Final 10% NGA borders?

with 15 comments

Br0kenTeleph0n3 has used the Freedom of Information Act to ask the department of culture, media & sport whether it has sought and received legal advice on the publication of speed and coverage details contained in next generation broadband contracts now kept secret under non-disclosure agreements between local councils and BT.

You can follow its progress here.

It is hoped that DCMS responds quickly, for these details are essential to help communities finalise their bids for the third round of applications for funds from the £20m Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF), whose deadline looms.

Applicants are not presently allowed to know what areas BT has agreed to cover, or what speeds it will deliver to those areas. Recent guidance to local councils stated, “Local Bodies must note that under the terms of the (BDUK Framework) Call Off Contracts the elements of the SCT (speed and coverage template) provided by the Supplier (including the ‘no build’ tags) cannot be disclosed to any Community Project.”

This means would-be community operators must work blind in making their proposals. Nor are local councils allowed to say where or by how much a community proposal overlaps a planned BT area.

According to the guidance, BT is allowed to conduct an impact assessment of the proposal on its own roll-out. If most of the homes in the proposal will be covered by BT, the application will fail and those homes will receive a service from BT.

If the proposal has a ‘material impact”, the local authority can either negotiate a variation to BT’s contract or run a new procurement. This could pit BT against the community project, but with asymmetric knowledge of each other’s speed and coverage plans. For the community project to go ahead at all, it must “be clearly established that premises are eligible premises for funding under the RCBF”.

The RCBF hopes to cover 70,000 homes in the so-called last 10%. These are homes that will not receive a broadband service of at least 24Mbps download either from BT’s commercial roll-out or the local county council’s NGA procurement, all of which so far have gone to BT and cover half the country.

So far just four RCBF applications of around 80 have been approved, and 52 have been asked for more details. Some have been waiting 18 months for approval. The approved schemes, covering 1,537 homes, are Rothbury, Northumberland, which will get £460,000, half the total project cost; Tove, Northamptonshire, £117,000, also 50% of the total project cost; and two in Cumbria.

In essence it means RCBF is rapidly becoming another fund for BT as BT alone can determine the impact. Why would BT  demonstrate a low impact for handing over the reins to a community, thus creating a competitor, when it could have the money itself?


Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2013/06/05 at 06:00

15 Responses

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  1. By far the better solution for a strong community is surely to DIY without wasting effort on funding applications ? That way schemes such as the splendid B4RN can clearly demonstrate a superior solution so far in advance of any BT offerings that almost all will select this solution.

    Sadly where BT have destroyed the competition, for example as in Ewhurst, the impoverished remainder are now in a commercial wilderness with no prospect of a practical solution. Around 25% of the premises are unlikely to achieve the EC lower limit of 24 Mbps.

    Merrow Drover

    2013/06/05 at 06:18

    • I tend to agree. However, it raises the question of the universal service obligation and the government’s role in that. Elsewhere in the world, nations appear to be decommitting to that idea. Do we as a nation still need or expect USO, and is broadband fit for such an undertaking? BT says broadband does not fall under the USO, but is using its USO privileges to hold on to its rural monopoly.


      2013/06/05 at 07:12

    • Is the 25% due to distance from cabinets?


      2013/06/05 at 08:23

  2. Can’t they just learn from successes in other countries and…FINISHED???


    2013/06/05 at 21:00

    • A summary of what other countries started with, how their rollouts were funded and what they will finish with would be helpful to understand the comparisions.

      2 examples recently quoted have been funded by the local council, something we don’t do in the UK.


      2013/06/05 at 21:54

      • The FTTH council Europe has a number of useful case studies here:

        It is indeed a mystery why local councils don’t buy their own carrier-neutral networks. Could BT’s Vital Vision programmehave something to do with it?


        2013/06/05 at 22:22

      • Local councils don’t cut the grass, they outsource it. Why would a council want to buy/build a network when there are commercial companies around?

        How is Vital Vision relevant to the final 10%?


        2013/06/06 at 07:25

      • Local councillors and BT have to vet Final 10% projects; Vital Vision was a BT jolly for local councillors.


        2013/06/06 at 09:57

      • Would you really want your local council running a broadband data network and would it mean they would install FTTP to every property? How much on the council tax…


        2013/06/13 at 12:12

      • They seem to manage in Scandinavia, Chattanooga, Cape Town, etc. Are you saying our councils aren’t up to it? Assuming a FTTP connected cost of 1000/premises, 2% interest rate over 20 years, would add just over 5.00/month to rates. I’m sure you could get that cost down too.


        2013/06/13 at 12:25

      • Maybe 10 years ago but now with VM, BT, C&W etc around. Also in other countries the local power companies are involved. With >90% coverage coming soon it’s a bit late to start.


        2013/06/13 at 13:55

      • If it’s only 90% coverage let BT publish the speed and coverage details of its existing and future NGA contracts so the rest of us can get on and do what we need to. Isn’t that fair and reasonable? if not, why not?


        2013/06/13 at 18:10

      • There are 3 broadband projects wanting funding on FundTheGap, do they know they will not be covered by BDUK?


        2013/06/13 at 19:55

      • Do you? Does BT? If so, say. Let’s get on with it.Or not.


        2013/06/13 at 20:00

      • They must think it is worth fundraising. 15 days to go.


        2013/06/13 at 20:04

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