Was the Pennell report on BDUK a job application?
Gerry Pennell, the former CIO of the 2012 Olympics, delivered in May a secret report on BDUK to culture secretary Maria Miller, the Daily Telegraph reported last week.
According to the paper, the investigation took place amid “serious frustrations about how broadband roll out was operating”, and asked whether “radical lessons could be learnt, particularly as attention turned to delivering the final 10 per cent”.
Pennell apparently suggested DCMS needs more “commercial nous”, and worried whether BDUK has the experience to deliver the project.
According to the Telegraph, “The Pennell Report found that, overall, the current roll-out programme is going well, with 100,000 more homes and businesses getting access to superfast broadband each week, and average broadband speeds more than double what they were in May 2010.”
A job applicant might not want to tell his prospective employer just how bad things are. Accentuate the positive, they say.
Here’s what Pennell says on the inside front cover of the 2013 BT annual report: “London staged one of the greatest Olympic and Paralympic Games ever. Beyond the statistics, technology had a profound effect on how people interacted with the Games, and none of that would have been possible without BT, whose commitment to these Games was quite simply spectacular.”
Indeed, Pennell was the recipient of so much BT love and attention at the expense of the rural broadband roll-out that one blogger, the extremely well-connected Philip Virgo, speculated it might have been so ordered, if not in reality then in practice.
So leave aside the facts that most of the speed increase is due to Virgin Media upgrading its customers to 30Mbps and more, and that BT has only 1.3 million Infinity customers from more than 15 million ‘homes passed’.
If the Telegraph has reported accurately (DCMS refused to pass along a copy of the Pennell report), we will not be surprised if Miller taps Pennell to deliver the Final 10%. He has the credentials and knows just who to call on for help.
BT says the Final 10% is the most expensive part of the country in which to deliver broadband. Pennell will have £250m to cover 1.4 million homes. That is less than £180 per home, or £360, if, as Miller intends, he can squeeze local councils to match BDUK funding. Given that a BT roll-out in Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent is costing less than £58/home, that looks like plenty.