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Following the broadband money

Broadband is ‘national embarrassment’ – MP

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Meg Hillier wants to make urban broadband a discussion topic.

Meg Hillier wants to make urban broadband a discussion topic.

Shoreditch MP Meg Hillier is to hold a Broadband Roundtable at 10am on 31 July at Perseverance Works in Shoreditch, the heart of London’s TechCity district, to discuss the “embarrassing” availability of broadband in central business districts, never mind rural areas.

So far 422 suppliers have registered to service the government’s £150m Urban Broadband Fund, which funds the SuperConnected Cities scheme. Some 149 have have provided quotations, and 90 have won business, says DCMS.

By the end of May the cities had issued 1008 vouchers in 14 months. The fixed/wireless connectivity split was 77/23 per cent, and the average speed per connection went from 11.2Mbps to 70.3Mbps for downloads.

According to Hillier’s blurb, “Broadband is a national embarrassment and action is urgently needed. Government grants of £3,000 have been added in, but that is like a sticking plaster on a broken arm. Businesses are moving out of the area because they simply cannot access high speeds.”

The cities in the SCC programme are Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Brighton and Hove, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Coventry, Derby, Derry/Londonderry, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Newport, Oxford, Perth, Portsmouth, Salford, and York.

DCMS says it will provide a city by city breakdown “this summer”, but declines to say how much money has been paid out so far or to whom.  However, Virgin Media tops a DCMS table of suppliers to whom vouchers have been issued (see below).

BT, which Ofcom says has an effective monopoly on wholesale fixed line access despite Virgin Media’s efforts, declines to say how many vouchers it has won. Its Openreach division is likely to be a big winner anyway. This is because smaller operators like Hyperoptic and TalkTalk rent ducts and lines from Openreach, even as BT’s Business division competes with them at a retail level.

So does 1,008 vouchers issued in 14 months represent success or failure? To be fair, it’s probably too soon to tell, but there’s not much time left – DCMS says the money dries up in March 2015.

It’s appropriate that Perseverance Works (PW) is the venue. Helped by former BDUK consultant Mike Kiely, the firm has just contracted Fibre Options to supply a 16Gbps link into the premises which houses around 90 businesses.

As landlord, PW will own the network. Each tenant will be able to use the government vouchers to order a connection running at up to 1Gbps. Fibre Options will do the provisioning and billing.

It took more than a year to negotiate the deal because the usual suspects were not prepared to consider an aggregated customer base – they wanted to sell a long-term leased line service that most tenants neither wanted nor could afford. PW eventually went to tender, which Fibre Options won.

PW spokesman Paul King says he sees “no reason” why PW’s approach should not be replicated by business parks across the country. Members of INCA are currently targeting business parks, most of which have been neglected in BT’s NGA roll-out.

The details again: 10:00-11:00, Thursday 31 July, 2014 at Eastside Educational Trust, Suite 16, Perseverance Works, 37 Hackney Road, E2 7NX. To book a place call Meg Hiller’s office at 0207 219 5325.

 ISPs cash in on voucher scheme

1 Virgin Media Business
2 Metronet (UK)
3 Spectrum Internet
4 AQL
5 Unitel One Source Ltd
6 Tibus
7 CFL
8 Atlas Communications
9 Venus Business Communications
10 ITC
11 BT plc
12 Optimity
13 Unique Network Solutions
14 Qubic Group Plc
15 Exponential-e Ltd
Source: DCMS  
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3 Responses

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  1. slowly but surely the dinosaurs in whitehall are learning the lesson. some may survive. digitalbritain is a superfarce.

    chrisconder

    2014/07/28 at 14:46

  2. I would suggests there are two good ways a voucher can be spent and two not so good.

    If ten or more customers can aggregate demand in proximity to one another as per Perseverance Works and Cardiff Business Park, then the vouchers can put together for;

    a) Gigabit rings using open neworking – needs an altnet and a olo point of presence within 200m.
    b) incite BT to offer native FTTP as per Birmingham

    Less good is

    c) BT offering a rural solution of FTTC and FOD – where BT assumes there is no competition or too many of their EAD re-sellers are active.
    d) A private circuit – reserved for customers working individually.

    The upside for BDUK is that at least where ALTNETs turn up, they will get examples of what is possible. But more Altnets are needed and Altnets need to formalise resale deals with OLO’s, particularly Virgin and Voda/C&W.

    My opinion is that at least 200 PWs and Cardiff parks are needed before Ofcom can justify re-examining PIA.

    NGA for all

    2014/07/31 at 08:45

  3. Having just (almost) completed an upgrade of my line from TalkTalk WLR to LLU I find that my line speed has gone up from 2.75Mbps to 4.2Mbps – on a good day. What sort of joke is this? Dido Harding and Joe Garner must be laughing all the way to the bank. But who cares? Certainly not the government – we have the best broadband in Europe, don’t we?

    David

    2014/08/04 at 08:55


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