Following the broadband money

Posts Tagged ‘Urban Broadband Fund

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
5 Unitel One Source Ltd
6 Tibus
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  

Edinburgh tries to rescue £10m from UBF wreck

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Rather than lose the £10.7m earmarked for Edinburgh under BDUK’s  Urban Broadband Fund, The Scotsman reports the city’s fathers have reframed their bid as follows:

£2.7m for wi-fi in public transport and council buildings; £3m for vouchers for small businesses; £4m to support start-up businesses in “key sectors” such as the creative industries; and £1m for an online archive of programmes and reviews from previous Edinburgh festivals.

Edinburgh councillors were forced to this after BT and Virgin Media complained to the European Commission that Birmingham’s Superconnected Cities roll-out would violate state aid rules, and BDUK had to suspend the entire £150m programme while the Eurocrats considered their verdict.

The government’s recent review of major projects warned that both the UBF and the Next Generation Access projects are amber/red-lighted, ie. in danger of failing.

If it’s accepted, it’s hard to see how it would contribute to the UBF’s goal of getting 100Mbps services into the UK’s biggest cities.

The cities that are destined to share the loot may never see it if the decision comes after the 2015 UK election,  so Edinburgh is at least trying to rescue something from the UBF debacle.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2013/06/19 at 21:03

BT goes all-in to win £1bn stake

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Ministers are examining a proposal from BT to include procurements under the £150m Superconnected Cities programme in the BDUK’s £530m rural broadband procurement framework.

BT claims this will reduce procurement costs of the programme, which aims to boost download speeds in up to 20 cities to 80Mbps to 100Mbps. It could cut procurement costs further if public service networks are included.

Speaking at today’s Westminster e-Forum conference on broadband funding, BDUK CEO Robert Sullivan confirmed ministers are looking at the cost, speed of roll-out and competition implications of the proposal.

“The general principle is that they will give cities choice around these things unless they think there’s a compelling reason against that,” he says.

BT and Fujitsu Telecom are the only firms from an initial nine to qualify as network suppliers under the BDUK framework.

If ministers agree to BT’s proposal, they will hand it a winning hand in competing for over £1bn in taxpayers’ money from state aid subsidies to expand coverage and speed of broadband networks.

Sullivan says the government is confident that the state aid elements of the BDUK framework will receive European Commission approval during autumn. Brussels’ DG Competition has been worried about conditions that govern wholesale access to networks supplied under the framework, he says.

However, cities like Manchester and Birmingham indicate that their applications for state aid went through quickly because they want their metro networks to offer dark fibre. Up to now BT has not offered a dark fibre product, nor has it been willing to sell services using other carriers’ infrastructure.

BT is prepared to resell wavelengths on its fibre using a product called VULA (virtual unbundled local access), but TalkTalk’s Andrew Heaney says pricing of this product is presently unregulated. He says Ofcom needs to cap the profitability of VULA before ISPs take a serious interest.


A Fujitsu spokesman says it’s business as usual with respect to the BDUK framework. Fujitsu Telecom remains, with BT, the only two approved suppliers of next generation broadband to the 40-oddcouncils that are working through the framework.