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Fibre Broadband and BDUK: What’s happening?

What’s happened with Broadband Delivery for the UK? 

Latest news stories on Fibre Broadband and BDUKBroadband Delivery for the UK (BDUK) is one of the many funds set up by the Government to allow for rollout of next-gen broadband in the UK. It has a budget of £530 million (which could rise to £830 million by 2017) to be given to network providers who can connect communities and regions of the UK.

BDUK money is a mixture of UK taxpayer money and funds from the European Union, with BT the winner in every region so far, and the only bidder in the remaining regions.

The DCMS – the Department for Culture, Media and Sports – is the Government body which handles BDUK, the UBF (Urban Broadband Fund) and the MIP (Mobile Infrastructure Project).

What’s the status of BDUK schemes around the UK? 

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport hosts a map of local authority broadband rollout projects under BDUK, which we’ve embedded below.

Green indicates approved plans, amber indicates plans awaiting further information, and red areas have not been submitted or approved.

View Local Broadband Plans in a larger map

What is the Urban Broadband Fund (UBF)? 

The Urban Broadband Fund is a £150 million pot set up to create ‘Super-Connected Cities’ with 80-100Mbps broadband connections rolled out over the next three years.

Ten cities have been selected to receive a share of the first £100m: Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle.

The remaining £50m of UBF is open to bids from Aberdeen, Brighton & Hove, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Coventry, Derby, Derry/Londonderry, Dundee, Exeter, Gloucester, Kingston upon Hull, Leicester, Newport, Norwich, Oxford, Perth, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Preston, Salford, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland, Swansea, Wolverhampton and York.

Eligibility for UBF money is open to to cities with Royal Charters and more than 45,000 core urban dwellings (35,000 for cities in Northern Ireland). Eligible cities must submit to the DCMS a Super-Connected City Plan (SCCP) by the 17th of September 2012.

What is the Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP)? 

The Mobile Infrastructure Project is a separate £150 million pot that’s aimed at improving mobile coverage, filling out the last of the UK’s mobile not-spots and ensuring that 98 per cent of the UK can get 4G by the end of 2017.

This is related to next-gen broadband as fixed-location 4G broadband can be used as a stop-gap solution for areas which won’t see fibre broadband for a while.

What is the Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF)?

As well as BDUK, money has been poured into Defra’s Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF). The RCBF is a £20 million pot aimed at connecting rural communities beyond the reach or large city networks.

What is the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)?

In among all of the reports on broadband funding and BT duking it out with Fujitsu, you might have seen the EU objecting to contracts on grounds of a perceived lack of competition.

The EU has a say in the rollout of next-gen broadband in the UK because of the ERDF, the European Regional Development Fund, and its role in providing money for BDUK.

The ERDF has provided cash for projects such as Superfast Cornwall which has recently connected its 10,000th premises to its new fibre network. Superfast Cornwall is a joint project between the European Union, Cornwall Council and BT and aims to have fibre broadband in 80 per cent of Cornish homes and businesses by the end of 2014.

What is the European Digital Agenda for Europe? 

A Digital Agenda for Europe is a separate plan set out by the EU. The main aims of this plan are to provide:

  •     30Mbps or more for 100 per cent of EU citizens by 2020
  •     100Mbps or more for 50 per cent of EU citizens by 2020

The Digital Agenda proposes funding of high-speed broadband through EU instruments such as the ERDF, as outlined above.

How is the government planning to speed up the superfast broadband rollout? 

The government has promised to create new legislation and use existing powers to remove bureaucratic obstacles to the rollout of superfast broadband.

The main changes will be removing the need for planning permission from local councils, or for ‘wayleaves’ – legal agreements with private landowners to use their land.

Wayleaves are major issue for rural broadband provision, where cables often have to be run across farmland, and there’s often little room on public streets for broadband cabinets.

Only Sites of Special Scientific Interest will be protected from unrestricted underground and overground cabling, or street cabinet installs.

However, the government said it will encourage broadband providers to consult the local community on the siting of overhead lines.

Highway authorities will also be encouraged to work with the broadband industry to make sure traffic regulation doesn’t hinder fibre rollout, with a focus on approving permits for the most traffic-sensitive streets up to 2015.

The energy industry and its regulator, Ofgem, and also being asked to develop a standard power supply contract so that new cabinets can be brought online quickly.

What’s next? 

The UK Government will respond to and rule on this House of Lords report by the end of the year. It’s expected that a response from DCMS will be published later today and we’re expecting statements from BT, Virgin Media and other ISPs.

Previous news stories for Fibre Broadband and BDUK 

WightFibre criticises Isle of Wight fibre plan 

Fibre Broadband and BDUK: WightFibre criticises Isle of Wight fibre planThe Isle of Wight might be about to embark on a £6 million mission to get as much fibre broadband deployed but local ISP WightFibre is critical of the plan, calling it a waste of time and money.

WightFibre boss John Irvine said “The council doesn’t need to spend [the money] because WightFibre is going to do it anyway.”

WightFibre already provides fibre broadband, offering speeds up to 100Mbps, unlimited downloads and no traffic shaping. There’s also the offer of TV, including premium Sky channels and landline phone packages to go with your broadband.

The broadband technology WhiteFibre employs is FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) but unlike BT’s FTTC, the last mile is made up of coaxial copper lines instead of the older POTS-style lines. It’s got more in common with Virgin Media’s fibre broadband and TV than BT’s products. 

Irvine told local paper OnTheWight that the council’s fibre plan is “is biased in favour of BT [as it] prevents local Island networks like WightFibre from bidding,” and under EU rules for BDUK funding, state-aid can only be doled out in areas where there is no other operator offering a superfast service. WightFibre’s up to 100Mbps packages would certainly fall into that category.

February 15, 2013

Berkshire to spend £6 million on on fibre 

Fibre Broadband and BDUK: Berkshire to spend £6 million on on fibre​Berkshire councils have pledged to spend a total of £6 million on getting superfast fibre broadband rolled out to the majority of homes and businesses.

Of this £6 million, £1.4 million will come from BDUK, which the six councils topping up the rest with their own funds.

It’s expected that 90 per cent of homes and businesses will benefit from superfast broadband speeds – 24Mbps or higher – with the remaining 10 per cent getting download speeds of at least 2Mbps.

Reading Borough Council is expected to announce a winner on Monday – given the way things have been going with other councils it’s likely that BT will be given the gig.

February 14, 2013

The Isle of Wight’s £6 million quest for fibre 

Despite David Cameron and Co calling time on the EU broadband budget, this hasn’t stopped the Isle of Wight from looking around for someone to connect the island to next-gen broadband.

The job entails 90 per cent of the island to superfast broadband with the remaining 10 per cent getting at least 2Mbps download speeds.

The Isle of Wight council is putting up £3 million for the project which will be matched by £3 million of BDUK money, reports the BBC.

Fibre Broadband and BDUK: The Isle of Wight’s £6 million quest for fibre
FTTB – Fibre to the Beaches

Whoever the council awards the job to will be expected to get the work done by Spring 2014 and start work in September. 

Given that virtually all local contracts have been awarded to BT thus far it’s expected that it will get the gig.

BT recently announced the last few locations due to benefit from it’s own £2.5 billion investment and it emerged that 5,000 homes and businesses in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight are due to get some fibre between now and next Spring. It shouldn’t be too much of a stretch then for BT to kill two birds with one stone – provided they get the job from the council of course.

As well as this, the Isle of Wight is also applying for rural broadband money from Defra’s RCBF (Rural Community Broadband Fund), meaning those stuck in the last 10 per cent might be able to benefit from something beyond the minimum 2Mbps service.

Image credit: Flickr user davidshort

February 13, 2013

Growth and Infrastructure Bill could turn National Parks into Home Counties 

Broadband growth bill could turn National Parks into Home CountiesLabour peer Lord Judd has expressed concerns that the proposed Growth and Infrastructure Bill could see National Parks turned into Home Counties.

Referring to proposals to bypass red tape, Lord Judd is concerned that fast deployment of broadband across the UK’s National Parks could set a precedent for mobile masts and other developments to follow in the wake.

“it is important to have very firm and unquestionable protection of [National Parks]. Once you break that, where is it going to end? One argument leads to the next and, before you know it, you have ended up with a Home County. There are many very delightful Home Counties, but they certainly cannot provide what National Parks and areas of outstanding beauty provide for the nation.”

Under the current proposals, the Bill would remove planning restrictions for broadband deployment in all rural areas save for SSSI’s – Sites of Special Scientific Interest. National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB’s) won’t be protected.

Elsewhere there’s an opinion that current planning permission for deploying broadband in National Parks is fine as it is, if not better than what’s on the table.

Dr Nigel Stone, chief executive of the Exmoor National Park Authority, in a letter to Lord Adonis writes “All National Park Authorities are working with their respective county councils to draw up plans for broadband rollout in National Parks. All are supporting or leading local bids to the Rural Broadband Fund to help go the final mile… There seems little merit in replacing a well-established ‘prior notification’ process that includes local consultation, with a non-statutory code that would also require consultation but with no assurance to local communities that any concerns they raise will be heeded.”

Broadband growth bill could turn National Parks into Home Counties

The House of Lords is debating the Growth and Infrastructure Bill today. The Bill is currently at the Committee stage, after which is has to pass through a report and final reading stage before any final changes are added by the Commons and the Lords before it’s passed into law.

Assuming the broadband element of the Bill isn’t scrapped entirely, we could see protection extended to cover National Parks and AONB’s.

The consultation paper of the Bill states that there are over 700,000 homes and businesses located in National Park and AONB land. Whether these stand out to lose in the race to superfast broadband or whether aesthetics and national identity need to be considered before deployment could change the shape of the Bill as it currently stands.

February 4, 2013

Fast Start Initiative aims to accelerate rollout 

Fibre Broadband and BDUK: Fast Start Initiative aims to accelerate rolloutCommunications Minister Ed Vaizey has spearheaded the Fast Start Initiative, which aims to streamline the rollout of superfast broadband as much as possible.

The essence of the Fast Start Initiative is, once BDUK funding has been allocated, to get local government representatives together at the start of the process and work on any potential clashes. This should stop broadband rollout from interfering with civil engineering works, road repairs and the like.

Norfolk has agreed to act as a pilot for the plan, and will be working closely with BT which has pledged to connect 80 per cent of the county to superfast (24Mbps and higher) speeds by 2016.

“Norfolk is on track to double access to superfast broadband for homes and businesses,” said Vaizey “and by having these discussions now, we can help ensure that the people of Norfolk will receive all the benefits that superfast broadband has to offer at the very earliest opportunity.”

While eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that some of the BDUK areas won’t now see completed jobs until the end of 2016, something the Government has tried to blame on the EU, the Fast Start Initiative should hopefully see a faster rollout of superfast broadband up and down the country.

January 31, 2013

5 year poles and cabinets planning free-for-all could speed rural rollout 

BT Openreach, Virgin and other broadband providers could have five years of freedom to build fibre cabinets and telegraph poles without having to ask local planners.

National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty will be opened up to easier broadband building, but Sites of Special Scientific Interest will still be protected.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has launched a third consultation on relaxing planning rules which have in several cases seen BT Openreach delay or cancel superfast broadband plans.

Fibre broadband and BDUK: 5 year poles and cabinets planning free-for-all could speed rural rollout
Now all we need is broadband

The consultation says: “As up to 80 per cent of the cost of deploying broadband infrastructure is in civil works, reducing these costs is essential to enable commercial broadband deployment to go as far as it can, and ensure that public funds are invested efficiently. 

“Allowing new telecoms lines to be deployed overhead has the potential to reduce deployment costs by as much as 50 per cent in some areas.

“We want to ensure that planning related barriers to [cabinet] deployment are minimised at a time when upgraded broadband infrastructure is being rolled out to the more rural or remote areas where connectivity is needed the most.

“We hope that local authorities will encourage their planning authorities to work closely with communications providers to agree cabinet and pole sitings quickly.”

The UK’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are home to more than 83,000 businesses – the majority small or medium sized – and more than 623,000 homes, most of which have very poor internet connections.

Yet across the UK, while 84 per cent of urban premises have superfast broadband, the figure drops to 65 per cent in semi-urban areas and 19 per cent in rural areas.

BT Openreach, Virgin Media and other broadband infrastructure providers will now have to consult a wider range of planning bodies about poles and cabinets – they just don’t have to tell them in advance and, ultimately, they can’t be refused permission to build.

They will also have to work with planning bodies to develop a detailed code of practice, and share poles and ducts with each other and other utilities such as electricity ducts and poles if possible.

The changes will be brought in as part of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, which is due to pass through the House of Lords this week.

January 30, 2013 (image EIFL/Flickr)

Government ‘overly focussed’ on superfast broadband 

The UK Government is too fixated on superfast broadband speeds, claims a report by think tank Policy Exchange.

The report out today, punningly titled The Superfast and the Furious, argues that the government has become ‘overly focussed on speed,’ and should be helping people make the most of their broadband.

Chris Yiu, the report’s author said that once 2Mbps for all was achieved, the government should instead ensure that “we are putting this to good use,’ rather than spending more money on speed boosts, adding “it’s far from clear that your taxes should help to pay for me to have an even faster connection.”

Fibre Broadband and BDUK: Government ‘overly focussed’ on superfast broadband

Hyperoptic’s Managing Director Dana Tobak disagrees, saying that both speed and reach are essential, saying “in 2015, 2Mbps will not be enough to take advantage of the latest services, tools, and applications that will permeate the online world.”

“Part of getting people to use the internet effectively,” Tobak added “is ensuring that they get a positive experience, and for that speed is essential.”

“The important thing is that the Government continues to spend funds on long term infrastructure, rather than wasting taxpayer’s money on a programme that will immediately require further investment when it is finished.”

Yiu isn’t saying that investment won’t be a long-term boost for the economy, but argues that it’s up to individuals, businesses and ISPs to set the agenda, not the government:

“There is no doubt that broadband… makes a major contribution to the economy. But the right person to decide how much speed your family or business needs is you – not the government.”

When BT finishes its rollout of FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) connections in 2015, it’s FTTP On Demand programme should be ready.

This will let individuals and businesses future-proof their broadband connection by upgrading the copper last mile of an FTTC line with a fibre optic connection, which could in time give you 10Gbps speeds.

The problem is that this is expected to cost around £1,500 each time – not a problem for some small businesses, but perhaps beyond the reach of your average UK household.

It’s been argued before that as broadband speeds increase as they come into the home, unless home networks are managed properly there’s almost no point in spending money on superfast. If you’re using a router that can’t handle speeds beyond 100Mbps, it doesn’t matter if the line outside your house can give you 100Mbps, 1000Mbps or 10Gbps.

“People also need to be educated on how to best take advantage of this infrastructure,” said Tobak, adding that “there isn’t any reason that funding can’t achieve all of these objectives.”

Image credit: Flickr user roflekolbe

January 7, 2013

Bucks and Herts cleared for £16m superfast partnership 

Bucks and Herts cleared for £16m superfast broadband partnership, St Alban's Cathedral by James Cridland, FlickrA £16 million plan for superfast broadband in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire has been greenlit by Broadband Delivery for the UK.

The Connected Counties joint programme will see 90 per cent of homes and businesses in both counties able to access broadband speeds at more than 30Mbps.

The councils expect to award a contract in April 2013 and see cables being laid to rural areas by 2014, with a minimum of at least 2Mbps for the remainder of the counties.

Buckinghamshire County Council leader, Martin Tett, said: “The Chancellor emphasises the point we have been making in Buckinghamshire, that high speed broadband is essential for economic growth.

“It’s one of the greatest drivers of jobs and economic growth, and I’m delighted we’ve now got Europe’s clearance to drive forward with our plans in Buckinghamshire.”

Connected Counties is one of the first UK broadband plans to be approved after European regulators cleared Broadband Digital UK to release state aid and unlocked European funding.

The campaign has already received more than 7,600 expressions of interest in faster broadband through its registration website.

December 17, 2012 (image: James Cridland / Flickr)

First BDUK fibre cabinet connected 

Fibre Broadband: First BDUK fibre cabinet connectedThe village of Ainderby Steeple, Yorkshire has become the first location in the UK to directly benefit from BDUK funding as BT connects and powers up its first fibre cabinet.

Installation of the cabinet will provide speeds of up to 80Mbps to local homes and businesses, with over 250 extra locations in nearby Selby benefiting from the faster speeds by Christmas.

This is the first stepping stone of BT’s Superfast North Yorkshire plan, a partnership between North Yorkshire County Council and BT, which will see 90 per cent of North Yorkshire’s homes and businesses having access to fibre broadband by 2015.

In Spring 2013, BT will also be launching its FTTP On Demand program whereby customers on an FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) connection can pay around £1,500 to upgrade to FTTP (Fibre to the Premises).

FTTP provides faster top speeds of up to 330Mbps compared to FTTC’s 80Mbps and it doesn’t suffer from the ‘last mile’ problem that sees speeds dropping off the further away you are from the cabinet.

December 14, 2012

Essex £6.5m superfast plan approved 

Essex superfast broadband plans approved by BDUKEssex County Council is looking for its superfast broadband priorities after its £6.46 million plans were approved by the government.

The council hopes to award a contract by the end of July next year so that work can start in Summer 2013 alongside planned road maintenance and utility work to reduce disruption.

Following approval by Broadband Digital UK at the DCMS, the next step is to identify the places where there’s most demand for superfast connections or the county’s broadband not-spots.

The Superfast Essex Broadband Survey is open to all residents and businesses who want a say in the plan.

Essex County Councillor Kevin Bentley, cabinet member for economic growth, said: “It’s great that our hard work has been recognised by BDUK and we may be able to begin work on rolling out our Superfast broadband sooner than originally thought.

“We have written to Essex MPs and with their help, we have shown that Essex is ready to provide these services to residents that are currently unable to access them.

“Faster broadband speeds will bring benefits to our residents and local businesses which in turn may have a positive impact on Essex’s economy.”

The council hopes to begin procuring a contractor in early February – BT has so far won every local broadband bidding contest.

December 12, 2012 (Image: Ines Saraiva / Flickr)

Broadband take-up is the new rich vs poor divide 

Point Topic Broadband Take-up Q2 2012Southern England is soaring ahead in the UK’s wired-up race as wealth becomes a major issue holding back broadband adoption.

Many people can’t afford broadband even where it’s available, placing a new obstacle to Britain’s plans for universal broadband and digital government.

Point Topic’s Laura Kell looked at who’s using superfast broadband as well as where they live, with everywhere except London, the South West, East and South East of England falling behind expectations.

In Mapping broadband in the UK – Q2 2012 (registration req’d), Kell adds: “The digital divide isn’t just urban versus rural – it is becoming more and more another case of rich versus poor.

“Accessibility isn’t just about the physical availability of a network but the desire and financial ability of local populations to adopt broadband. This isn’t an issue just in remote rural areas but affects take-up in poorer inner cities too.”

The report examines broadband take-up by postcode, and concludes that parts of poor boroughs like Southwark in London, Handsworth in Birmingham and Tuebrook in Liverpool all have low broadband take-up even where though it’s available.

Northern Ireland lags furthest behind the expected take-up for the people and businesses who live there, followed by Wales and Scotland.

This might be blamed on availability in Wales and Scotland, but Northern Ireland – while ahead for the UK overall – has the best superfast services and should be forging ahead.

In England, Yorkshire and The Humber are the areas furthest behind Point Topic’s expectations, followed by the North East, West Midlands, East Midlands, and North West.

Kell adds: “Whist ‘superfast’ in Northern Ireland is doing well relative to the rest of the UK the picture isn’t so good when it comes to total broadband take-up.

“Still under 60 per cent in many areas, it is a concern for BDUK, the DCMS, but most of all for the populations in those areas.”

December 5, 2012

EU accuses BDUK of 7-month delay to rural broadband approval 

EU flag by ReindeR D RustemaTardy British bureaucrats took more than seven months to supply information that European competition regulators needed to approve rural broadband spending.

EU competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia said his staff asked Broadband Delivery UK for more details in February – and received them in October.

Almunia’s rebuttal follows culture minister Maria Miller’s recent trip to Brussels to rescue the UK’s rural broadband projects from ‘stifling EU bureaucracy’.

He told the Financial Times (paywall): “Politicians on both sides of the Channel must avoid red tape, but the real origin of the delays should also be made clear.

“We asked the UK government last February to supply the necessary information to us and only received a complete answer in October.”

Broadband Delivery for the UK comprises a series of contracts with private providers to build rural broadband networks, whose investment is matched by aid from local and national budgets.

The national BDUK fund is worth £530m, and state aid for the first seven projects was finally approved by the EU earlier this month.

The real bottleneck appears to be at home, with more than 40 local authorities yet to complete negotiations and the deadline for signing contracts now pushed back to Summer 2012.

Despite this, the government remains committed to achieving 90 per cent UK population coverage for superfast broadband (over 24Mbps) by the end of 2015.

November 28, 2012 (image: ReindeR D Rustema/Flickr)

£7.6bn saving on FTTP for UK if we use new tech 

Aerial cabling and new digging technology could save almost a third of the cost of delivering fibre-to-the-home broadband for the UK.

With the cost of providing fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) across the UK estimated at £24.6 billion, communications regulator Ofcom has asked if new technology could cut the bill.

Carrying aerial tables on telegraph poles instead of underground could bring the greatest saving, with slimmer, lighter and more reliable self-supporting cables that can be put up faster with less maintenance.

Pole-mounted cables would be most useful in rural areas, particularly with new ways to join cables at heights to speed the operation.

Urban fibre broadband will still require digging – unless planners are willing to allow the kind of overhead cable jungle seen in some Asian nations.

But new excavation techniques could help, using underground ‘moles’ that burrow through soft ground, and slot-cutting to speedily bury ultra-slim cables without major excavations.

Fibre broadband cabling techniques Analysys Mason for Ofcom

“The use of slot-cutting in hard surfaces could potentially deliver a cost saving of £3 billion (12 per cent of the total cost), whilst mole-ploughing could deliver a saving of £2 billion (8 per cent of the total cost),” telecoms consultants Analysys Mason told Ofcom.

Their Review of Civils Technology and Adoption adds: “If aerial cables were to be used instead of slot-cutting and mole-ploughing in new build routes, a maximum cost saving of £7.6 billion (31 per cent of the total) could be realised if aerial was used everywhere.

“However, it is questionable whether aerial could be used at such scale efficiently, and this would represent a major change in current policy which favours underground installation.”

Analysys Mason drew up the £24.6bn cost of UK-wide FTTP for the Broadband Stakeholder Group before the launch of the government’s Broadband Delivery UK plan.

Other things worth £25bn include the estimated amount of tax avoidance by UK companies and individuals, the lifetime cost of the 2012 London Olympics, and the loss to UK taxpayers by RBS since it was bailed out in 2008

November 22, 2012 (image: Analysys Mason)

European Commission greenlights UK for superfast 

The European Commission has formally announced that the BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) funding model is in line with the EU’s rules on state aid.

BDUK has been greenlighted by Brussels as a ‘scheme is aimed at supporting local projects in rural and remote areas, where such networks would unlikely be developed on commercial terms.’

Since the majority of rural BDUK contracts have so far been awarded to one company – BT – the Commission had to inspect and approve the process. EU state aid rules dictate that public money can’t be used to create or prop up monopolies in the private sector.

BT has gone on record saying that it doesn’t expect to bid for or win every BDUK contract and once it’s completed its BDUK contracts it will open networks up to competition, something which ‘the UK telecommunications regulator [Ofcom] will have a crucial role in designing wholesale access prices and conditions.’

Areas which have already been earmarked for funding – including Lancashire, Wales, Surrey, Rutland – will finally start to see some progress now the official rubber stamping and gavel bashing has happened.

November 20, 2012

Mrs Miller goes to Brussels – and claims victory 

Maria Miller MP DCMSBritish culture secretary Maria Miller has claimed victory after accusing the EU of delaying the UK’s broadband rollout as it investigates state aid.

Miller had demanded an urgent meeting with Joaquin Almunia, the EU commissioner who enforces state aid rules, to speed the approval of aid for rural and urban broadband projects.

Following the meeting, she tweeted: “Good Meeting with Alumnia today; great to hear his support for our Broadband plans – I’m Looking forward getting EU State Aid approval!”

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said Miller’s Channel crossing would also be used to urge British MEPs to lobby the European Commission to move faster.

Rural broadband projects in Lancashire, Wales, Surrey, Rutland and other areas have been awaiting the green light from Brussels for up to 10 months, which will unlock both UK and European funding.

With only BT and Fujitsu originally approved to bid, and BT winning all of the projects so far, a potential lack of competition has triggered approval from other EU commissioners, the Financial Times (paywall) reports.

November 9, 2012

Growth and Infrastructure Bill reforms to speed up rollout 

Picking out where support for upgrading the UK’s broadband infrastructure is already like wading through acronym soup – now there’s another, the Growth and Infrastructure Bill or GIB, joining the likes of BDUK, EDRF, UBF and the rest.

To clarify, the GIB isn’t yet another pot of money for ISPs and altnets to dip into but a set of reforms that’ll help slash the red tape on broadband rollout.

The GIB applies to lots of things such as cutting back on paperwork for planning permission, sudden hikes on business rates, and “helping remove red tape which hinders superfast broadband being rolled out to local homes and businesses, especially in rural Britain facing a ‘digital divide’.”

Rural rollout in many parts of the UK has already been decelerated somewhat by EU intervention and we’ve seen BT hindered in some places, most notably the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

As well as helping out the big guys, sidestepping bureaucracy ought to also help newcomers like Gigler and Hyperoptic expand their reach beyond Bournemouth and London and rural altnets soldier on without hindrance.

However those worried about ISPs bulldozing local wildlife sites can rest easy; while “misuse of town and village green applications to undermine planned development” will be kicked to the kerb, “approval to install broadband street cabinets and other infrastructure will still be needed in Sites of Special Scientific Interest.”

So if you’re worried that your local shifting sand dome might suddenly have a load of street cabinets popping up nearby you can rest easy. The GIB won’t likely protect it from golf course developments though.

The GIB has been presented before Parliament and will be debated before it becomes law.

October 19, 2012

Worcestershire broadband plan outwits EU aid blockade 

Worcestershire County Council is finally free from the EU red tape that was holding it back from awarding BDUK cash to its chosen supplier.

The council was poised to award £11.8 million – £3.3 million from BDUK and £8.5 million of its own money – to a supplier back in July before the EU hammer came down on the whole process.

This was due to competition concerns – the bidding process had come down to just BT and Fujitsu, as it has done elsewhere in the UK and so the EU was concerned that state aid could be used to create a monopoly. Now the council can get on with putting the job out to tender, a situation likely to be mirrored by councils across the country whose broadband plans have been stalled by regulation.

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said almost two weeks ago that “the commission is on track to issue its final decision in late October or early November, which will allow projects to get under way.”

Fibre Broadband and BDUK: Worcestershire County Council BDUK money approved

The Worcestershire funding will be used to roll out superfast speeds of at least 24Mbps rolled out to 90 per cent of the county. As you can see from the council’s own graphic above (click to enlarge) its pimpled with sub-1Mbps not-spots crying out for an injection of superfast internet.

No details on who will be undertaking the rollout across Worcestershire but given the way things have been going it’s highly likely that BT will get the job. More on this as and when we get it.

October 17, 2012

Wireless broadband reaches out to South Wales communities 

Two Gower communities Pennard and Southgate are to benefit from wireless broadband provided by ResQNet IT.

ResQNet’s Wireless Broadband services can provide speeds of up to 100Mbps, but it’s not yet known what level of service will be made available to Pennard and Southgate residents.

The project came about after the Welsh Government released £115,687 of funding from the Broadband Support Scheme, aimed at getting remote communities connected. The BSS has been criticised by residents for delaying the project.

Jamie Francis, of Pennard Stores, told the South Wales Evening Post that communities were disappointed the application for funding took five months to approve. “The Welsh Government seems not to be towing the line that people such as Business Minister Edwina Hart are pushing that super-fast broadband needs to be in communities,” said Francis.

The BSS is a funding scheme that’s separate to BDUK and the EDRF and is exclusively for community broadband projects based in Wales. 

October 2, 2012 

BT names 163 new locations for fibre broadband 

More UK homes and businesses are due to get FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) and FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) broadband as BT announces that 163 more exchanges are to get upgrades in 2013.

Homes and workplaces from Torquay in Devon to Kilbirnie on Scotland are in line to get FTTC and FTTP lines installed, providing top download speeds of 80Mbps and 330Mbps respectively.

This equates to another 1 million places to get fibre broadband next year; right now, BT fibre broadband is available to over 11 million UK homes and businesses.

BT have pledged to spend £2.5 billion of its own money on upgrading its network, bringing faster speeds to two-thirds of the UK.

September 25, 2012

CLA Broadband report

CLA wants state-funded ISPs punished if they can’t deliver 2Mbps 

Taxpayer-funded broadband providers and local government should be punished if they fail to deliver at least 2Mbps connections to everyone, says a rural business lobby group.

The Country Land Association wants a Universal Service Obligation of 2Mbps by 2015, which will give residents and businesses a guarantee with a legal fallback if they’re left with a slow connection.

The Broadband Delivery UK scheme needs to be overhauled so that local authorities can encourage competition between fibre and different technologies such as satellite and 4G to reach the most remote locations.

CLA president Harry Cotterell said: “Until a fixed-line broadband infrastructure is put in place, other technologies must be used to bridge the rural/urban digital divide.

“The CLA advocates a ‘patchwork-quilt’ model whereby other technologies, such as wi-fi and satellite become widely available and used. But the Government must create the right conditions for this happen.”

The CLA’s report, Broadband Fit for Rural Growth, also advocated performance-related payments for broadband providers who meet their goals. 

September 24, 2012

London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast in latest superfast cities boost 

Culture secretary Maria Miller has announced the final amounts of funding to be allocated to the UK’s first ‘super-fast cities’.

All of the UK’s regional capitals are in line to get extra cash to fund rollout of next-gen broadband with London getting the most – a cool £25 million. Edinburgh will get £10.7 million while Cardiff and Belfast get a little more – £11 million and £13.7 million respectively.

The amounts of funding allocated to the first 10 super-fast cities are as follows:

  • Belfast: £13.7m
  • Birmingham: £10m
  • Bristol: £11.3m
  • Cardiff: £11m
  • Edinburgh: £10.7m
  • Leeds & Bradford (joint bid): £14.4m
  • London: £25m
  • Manchester: £12m
  • Newcastle: £6m

This money will be used to provide funding for the rollout and deployment of fibre broadband to 230,000 homes and 55,000 business locations as well as high speed wireless broadband to areas where installing fibre isn’t viable. Speeds available across the new fibre-based lines will provide speeds of ‘at least’ 80-100Mbps.

September 20, 2012

£8 million cable will link Orkney and Shetland isles to UK broadband 

BT has announced that its to connect Orkney and the Shetland isles to the mainland with a £8 million cable.

The new link will run from Inverness through the north of Scotland before diving under the waves to bring next gen speeds to the islands. The 1000km cable will be one of the UK’s longest optical transmission lines, with around 400km of the cable running along the sea bed.

While this will help boosts speeds on the islands and help out with the Shetland’s persistent communications breakdowns, the “fibre spine” as BT Scotland’s director Brendan Dick says, will form “the building blocks for any future deployment of fibre broadband” in Scotland.

The two capitals Kirkwall and Lerwick will be the first places on the islands to benefit when the link comes online early next year, as will Alness, Dingwall, Invergordon, Tain and Thurso on the mainland.

By Spring 2013 BT aims to have 73 per cent of Scottish homes and businesses connected to an upgraded exchange.

September 18, 2012

93 per cent of Cumbria to get superfast fibre by 2015 

BT and Cumbria County Council has signed a deal which will see 93 per cent of the county getting faster fibre-based broadband by 2015.

The deal will see FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) headed out to the majority of Cumbrian homes and businesses, with places not covered getting improved ADSL2+ copper lines installed.

The idea is that once BT launches its FTTP On Demand program, customers will be able to order in the fibre ‘last mile’ providing an even faster and more dedicated service. Details on this are expected to be announced at the end of BT’s FTTP On Demand trial which is due to end in May 2013.

September 14, 2012

Surrey and BT sign county-wide fibre broadband deal 

BT and Surrey County Council have signed a contract which will see a near-county wide fibre network rolled out, reaching almost 100 per cent of Surrey homes and businesses.

The deal will see FTTC broadband rolled out, providing download speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps.

Next year BT will also launch its FTTP On Demand programme, which will see customers who can get FTTC able to upgrade to full FTTP lines, which will give even faster top download speeds of 330Mbps.

September 13, 2012

NIMBY councils quashed in bonfire of broadband red tape 

Openreach superfast cabinet by Stacey Harris/Geograph

Local councils will no longer be able to block fibre-optic broadband cabinets or overhead broadband lines as the government promises to streamline regulations slowing down broadband rollout (looking at you, Kensington & Chelsea and Bath).

The bonfire of broadband red tape will also make it easier to lay cables in streets, and to lay cables or install cabinets on private land without long-running negotiations.

Newly-invested secretary of state for culture, media and sport, Maria Miller MP, said: “Superfast broadband is vital to secure our country’s future – to kick start economic growth and create jobs.

“We are putting in the essential infrastructure that will make UK businesses competitive, and sweeping away the red tape that is a barrier to economic recovery.”

The de-regulation will use a mixture of new legislation and existing powers, and will apply for the next five years to meet the government’s target of delivering superfast broadband to 90 per cent of the UK by 2015. More details here. (Image: Stacey Harris)

September 7, 2012 

£11million to tackle Liverpool’s broadband not-spots 

Parts of Liverpool are to benefit from a £11million cash injection to help roll out faster broadband connections around the city.

Money from both the BDUK and EDRF pots will be used to help local authorities outside Liverpool gain access to superfast speeds and connect up areas of the inner city which are falling behind.

Local paper Place North West reports that parts of Liverpool aren’t currently reached by BT and Virgin Media fibre lines, something which 50 per cent of the £6 million EDRF fund will address.

Elsewhere, ISP Review reports that £5,460,000 of money from BDUK has already been earmarked to help councils plan for rollout of superfast broadband before 2015.

Liverpool, despite housing the seventh most populous conurbation in the UK, missed out on the first round of funding from the Urban Development Fund (UDF) and it not eligible to apply for a slice of the £50 million that’s available in the second round.

August 24, 2012

Broadband Britain: 13 per cent of the UK can’t get more than 2Mbps 

Broadband Britain: 13 per cent of the UK can’t get more than 2Mbps

The UK is looking to miss its target of 2Mbps for all by 2015. That’s according to the latest report from broadband research firm Point Topic.

Despite the 11 million and rising locations connected to BT’s £2.5 billion network, Point Topic’s CEO Oliver Johnson concludes that universal 2Mbps for all will be missed by a wide margin.

“There are currently 3.7 million premises – residential and business – outside the 2Mbps fixed footprint and we are projecting more than two and a half million still outside the reach of superfast broadband in 2016,” says Johnson.

Blaming the commercial interests that have driven broadband rollout until now, Johnson added: “It’s the same old story, where commercial deployment isn’t a possibility there are problems getting the promised coverage to the consumer.”

Recently we reported that even if your local exchange has been upgraded with FTTC equipment by BT, if your nearest street cabinet is in an area that’s deemed to be not commercially viable, then you probably won’t be able to order BT Infinity 2.

Furthermore, if you’re living too far away – more than 3 kilometers – away from an upgraded cabinet, then it’s debatable whether or not FTTC upgrades will make a lick of difference to you.

Currently 13 per cent of the UK can’t get speeds above 2Mbps and these ‘stubborn holes in the deployment’ are likely to remain thanks to cost being a barrier. In summary, the report says:

“Not only does broadband have to be available, it has to be affordable. The UK ranks in the middle of its European partners when it comes to the relative cost of broadband (when taken as a percentage of average income) and subsciption rates.


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