Final 10% left in broadband dark
So, what was that about, the well-unpublicised BDUK meeting to get fresh ideas about how to tackle the roll-out of broadband in the Final 10%? As someone said yesterday, the resulting silence has been deafening.
Which must be music to BT’s ears, seeing that it attended but didn’t care to share its ideas, not even the Build and Benefit nonsense it was peddling via consultants Analysys Mason ahead of the Conservative Party conference.
According to one of the 60-odd delegates, BDUK presented three scenarios (incidentally, Andy Carter, who is nominally in charge of the so-called F10 project, was as chatty as BT):
1. A completely new procurement
2. Extend the present BDUK-funded roll-out i.e. give BT another £250m to go with the £1.2bn it is likely to pocket from the present scheme
3. Find a third way that involves the altnets in some way
Malcolm Corbett, who speaks for the altnets under the INCA banner, says there was talk of alternative funding models. He believes the civil servants, ever keen to minimise their risk, prefer Option 2 with its gap-funded grants. Altnets and some local authorities generally prefer a funding scheme that would lower their cost of capital, and probably require less cash than the 90% BT seems to need to build in the Final 10%.
Corbett has been offered a follow-up meeting because so much was were left unclear, such as what is “superfast”? In this neck of the woods, it appears 15Mbps may be it. Build deadlines were also undefined, so broadband-deprived farmers and pub landlords might have to wait until the existing roll-out is complete before work starts on their patch.
That is unlikely to please Lancastrians who have a scrutiny meeting with the Lancashire City Council today. They have been waiting two years for answers to the following questions:
- What has happened to the £500,000 “Community Broadband Fund” that County announced at the start of their project?
- Why were the recommendation and specification submitted to County by City subsequently changed and who did it?
- “That the County Council be requested to re-affirm that Lancaster rural is the pilot of the project and will be undertaken first. That the County Council be requested to re-affirm that Lancaster rural is the pilot of the project and will be undertaken first.” There’s no evidence that this is happening.
- Has BT/LCC now supplied City with full coverage maps and postcodes and details of how SFBB will be delivered?
- What happened to the community meeting that (assistant CEO) Eddie Sutton promised the City Council back in July 2012?
Two other matters may arise. A corespondent writes:
The committee may want to question LCC/BT about the recent reports which suggested that BT had confirmed to residents of Dolphinholme that they would be deploying a full fibre service as their traditional fibre/copper service would not be adequate, coincidentally shortly after the community there had started to deploy the B4RN service.BT have now installed a two new broadband cabinets in Caton & Brookhouse. The committee may want to ask BT/LCC what the maximum capacity of these cabinets are, given the models installed have a maximum capacity of 256 lines (they may even be 128). Caton has 1400 properties served by the exchange so this means that what is being deployed may not serve all that need it.This has happened elsewhere in the country so the City Council need to be assured that this will not happen here. There are also many lines in Caton served directly from the exchange so you might want to ask what is happening to these properties.