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April 2, 2014

BT in monopoly position over rural broadband contracts

BT have been left in a monopoly position over the rollout of rural broadband across the country that has been part funded by £1.2 billion of public funds according to  a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme was set up by the government to help fund the rollout of fibre optic broadband to rural areas where it was not financially viable for BT, Virgin Media or other providers to roll out to with just their own money. The £1.2 billion BDUK pot of money to help with the roll out to these rural areas has in effect just been sent in the direction of BT as they are the only provider to have won any contracts.

The report by PAC initially raised concerns over the way the contracts were being awarded back in 2013, at this point 26 contracts for BDUK schemes had been awarded to BT, since then the other 18 contracts that have been put out to tender have also gone in the direction of BT too. Initially there were nine suppliers who were looking to bid for the BDUK funds but most of these dropped out and left the only real remaining one as Fujitsu, however they themselves had pretty much given up too which left BT to clear up all the contracts.

Another issue is the secrecy surrounding the contracts, BT stipulated that there was non-discloser agreements in place so councils could not talk to each other to see if they were receiving a good deal or not, this then makes it likely that more tax payers money will have gone to BT than perhaps needed to if there had been more openness surrounding existing contracts in place.

The other issue raised by PAC was that the broadband maps lacked detail which made it hard for other organisations to see where exactly BT would be rolling their fibre network out to and this hindered other schemes coming in to potentially fill in the gaps or offer faster speeds. They have said that the government needs to work with local organisations to make these broadband maps able to be searched down to post codes to help make it clearer where exactly will and won’t be covered.

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- Filed under: Fibre broadband,News
- Tags: BDUK, Broadband Delivery UK, BT Broadband, BT monopoly
Author: Mark @ 10:14 am

February 27, 2014

£250m rural broadband fund dished out

The £250 million extra funding by the government for superfast broadband in rural areas has finally been divvied up between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The extra £250m which was announced by the government last year is on top of the £1.2 billion already to be given out by the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project which was set up to fund the roll out of superfast broadband to more rural areas that the likes of BT & Virgin Media themselves wouldn’t roll out too on their own because of it not being financially viable to do so.

The £250m is to be split up as follows:

  • England £184.34m
  • Scotland £20.99m
  • Wales £12.11m
  • Northern Ireland £7.24m

The extra funding is being spent to help make sure that the government meets their target of reaching 95% of UK homes with superfast broadband by 2017. Superfast broadband is classed as broadband that works at 24Mb or above. A further fund of £10m has also been set up to look at connecting the final 5% with other technologies that the standard fibre optic network isn’t suitable for. This fund is due to open on the 17th March 2014 for any potential technologies that can be piloted via this scheme.

Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary said:

Superfast broadband will benefit everyone whether they need it at work or to do to homework or simply to download music or films, thousands of homes and businesses now have access and it’s helping people with everyday tasks. We want to make sure that Britain is one of the best countries in the world for broadband and with this extra £250m that we are investing we will help ensure communities around the UK aren’t left behind in a digital slow lane.

In previous reports and studies the government believe that for every £1 invested in the BDUK scheme that £20 will be delivered back to the UK economy by 2014. Along with this there is also expected to be many tens of thousands of new jobs created because of this in rural areas.

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- Filed under: Fibre broadband,News
- Tags: BDUK, Rural broadband, £250m rural broadband fund
Author: Mark @ 11:02 am

January 15, 2014

£10 million to reach final 5% with superfast broadband

A £10 million fund from the government to help get superfast broadband to the predicted 5% of the country that will not be covered by the existing Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funded programme has had more details revealed about it today.

The fund was originally announced in December by The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and today they have released a few more details as to who they want to bid for the funds. They are after companies who can offer alternative technology to help reach those in the final 5% of premises that will still need connecting. The potential technologies that will be looked at may include 4G, fibre direct to premises, improved fibre to the cabinet and extending it further down the network and also satellite.

Maria Miller, Secretary for State and Culture, Media and Sport, said:

If we want to ensure that that all communities can benefit then we need to think imaginatively about alternative technology, and the pilots enabled by the £10m fund will be instrumental in helping us overcome the challenges of reaching the final 5% of premises.

Currently the UK has a target of 95% coverage of premises with superfast broadband by the end of 2017, much of this has been done by BT & Virgin Media with their own fibre optic networks, however for the areas that BT & Virgin didn’t deem financially viable to roll out their networks to there has been a £1.1bn fund from the government to help extend the superfast broadband network to cover 95% of the UK. On the whole it is BT who has won the contracts for the government funds along with local councils having to match some funding too.

Chris Townsend has become the new Broadband Chief Executive, he was one of the people beind the London 2012 Olympic Games and will take on being in charge of the Broadband Delivery UK programme which also includes the extra £10 million for the remaining 5%.

Mr Townsend, said:

Ensuring that broadband can reach businesses and consumers across the country is one of the most important policies in Government. Faster connections will improve the way people live, work and spend their leisure time. I look forward to starting my new role as chief executive of BDUK and building on the good work being done to get superfast broadband to people all over the UK.

 

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December 18, 2013

Fibre broadband “Super Switch On Day”

Today is “Super Switch On Day” when it comes to fibre optic broadband in rural areas as 5,000 homes  were turned on to be able to receive fibre optic broadband this morning.

The 5,000 premises cover homes and businesses across Cheshire, the Cotswolds, Hampshire, Kent, Medway, Shropshire, South Gloucestershire and Wiltshire that will have their new green street side boxes set live today according to the Telegraph newspaper.
Much of the money that has been invested to reach parts of these areas is from the government and local councils as part of the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project, with BT covering the extra funds. It is these areas that BT themselves wouldn’t roll out their fibre optic broadband too with just their own investment as they said it didn’t make financial sense for them to do so.

It is now estimated that more than 200,000 premises are connected to a fibre optic enabled cabinet as part of the BDUK scheme.

Initially the UK government had planned to have 90% of the UK with connections to fibre optic broadband by the end of 2015, however this target isn’t going to be met and the revised target is to reach 95% by the end of 2017.

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- Filed under: Fibre broadband
- Tags: BDUK, Fibre optic broadband, Super Switch On Day
Author: Mark @ 12:29 pm

November 19, 2013

Government claim fibre broadband spending will return £20 for every £1 spent

The government have defended their £1.2 billion investment of tax payers money to help with the roll out of next generation fibre optic broadband claiming it will return £20 to the UK economy by 2024 for every £1 it is investing, even though many claim that it is once again helping BT become a monopoly broadband provider since they are the only company to win any of the public funds and are the only company left in the bidding process for the remaining funds.

However, the government say that for every £1 that they are investing in the broadband deployment the UK economy will benefit by £20 by 2024. The Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme was set up to help distribute the government funds to the various areas where fibre optic broadband roll out was needed but would not be covered by BT Broadband or Virgin Media with their own funding because they were not deemed to be financially beneficial to the companies to do so.
Originally the government put £530m in the pot with local authorities who bid for funding expecting to match this amount for each of their own individual schemes, a further £250m is to be put into the pot after 2015.

These findings were made in a government commissioned “UK Broadband Impact Study – Impact Report” and other benefits that were detailed were that households could save £45m per year by 2024 with more people being able to remote work from home and that by 2014 that it would help with the creation of 11,000 jobs and a net increase in jobs of 20,000 by 2024.

Some will wonder if BT really needed the extra funding in light of their recent high spending on rights for both Premiership football which has cost them £738 million for 38 live games per season for 3 seasons and their 3 years of exclusive UK rights to the Champions League football from 2015 which is to cost them £900m.

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June 25, 2013

BT wins £18m Hertfordshire & Buckinghamshire fibre broadband project

BT have won the contract to deliver fibre optic based broadband to Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire in a project that is worth £18.06 million.

The news that BT has won the contract is not really of any surprise since they are the only company left bidding for the projects that are receiving funding from the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) projects which is government funding to help get fibre based broadband to more rural areas where BT themselves won’t deploy to on their own because it not being financially viable to do so.

The “Connected Counties” project will see fibre broadband being made available to more than 90% of premises in both Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire and should be completed in 3 years, by the end of March 2016. This will mean that an extra 52,500 homes and businesses in the counties will benefit, with 38,500 in Buckinghamshire and 14,000 in Hertfordshire. This is on top of the 153,000 in Buckinghamshire and 400,000 in Hertfordshire that already have access to BT’s fibre projects through their own commercial roll out.

On top of this the remaining 10% or so who won’t be receiving the fibre broadband should receive a minimum of 2Mb broadband speeds as part of the governments pledge that that should be the minimum everyone should have access to in the country.

The £18.06 million is being funded in the following way: BT £8.6 million, Hertfordshire  County Council £1.61 million, Buckinghamshire County Council £3.7 million (this includes funding from the two Local Enterprise Partnerships) & the Governments BDUK giving £4.15 million.

Broadband speed tests run by Ofcom earlier this year show that currently the average broadband speed in Hertforshire is 16Mb with 9.5% of premises there receiving less than 2Mb speeds. Buckinghamshire has an average broadband speed of 12.4Mb and 11.6% of premises receiving less than 2Mb.

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April 30, 2013

Cheshire to get 96% coverage with fibre broadband

96% of Cheshire premises are set to be covered  with high speed fibre broadband after BT won the contract from “The Connecting Cheshire Partnership” that will help fund the addition rural infrastructure needed with money from the government funded BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK).

The Connecting Cheshire Partnership is a project between the four Cheshire councils, Cheshire East Council, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Halton Borough Council and Warrington Borough Council. The partnership was set up to secure funding to help with rural broadband and the new deal with BT which will cost £28.5 million over the next 3 years will help bring broadband to 80,000 rural premises that BT would themselves not have been covering without the funding. On top of this BT are continuing to roll out their fibre broadband across the county and over 400,000 premises across Cheshire, Halton and Warrington should be connected to fibre broadband services offering up to 80Mb speeds by the end of 2016.

The remaining 4 % that won’t be covered by fibre optic broadband should still see their broadband speeds increase to at least a minimum of 2Mb in line with the governments target to having a universal broadband of 2Mb per premises available across the whole country.

The £28.5 million contract is being funded from 4 places: £9m from BT, The Connecting Cheshire Partnership £1.85m, BDUK £4m and £13.6m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Councillor David Brown, part of The Connecting Cheshire Partnership, said:”The award of this contract to BT marks the end of a comprehensive process to secure the best broadband deal for Cheshire. The four councils across Cheshire are committed to providing reliable high-speed fibre broadband for both our home and business users. From children doing homework to caring for our elderly population and from social media, to ecommerce and home entertainment – fast broadband is the critical enabler. The social, environmental and economic benefits will be huge, making Cheshire one of the best connected regions in the country.

In most places BT will be rolling out FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) rather than full fibre to the premises (FTTP) which is able to offer even faster broadband speeds.

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December 13, 2012

First BDUK funded fibre cabinet installed

The first place to have their broadband upgraded to fibre through the BDUK funding is the village of Ainderby Steeple in North Yorkshire.

The unveiling of this new cabinet is the first to be done through funding from the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) pot of money that was set aside form the government to help roll out fibre optic broadband to areas where it was not commercially viable for BT to roll out to on their own.

BT won the contract for the funds for North Yorkshire in July earlier this year, having beaten Fujitsu to secure it. The pot of money set aside by the BDUK is £530m. The North Yorkshire contract was worth £17.8m from the BDUK, £10m invested by BT and £8.6m coming from the European Regional Development Fund. More areas of North Yorkshire are likely to have the new fibre cabinets also installed as part of the scheme.

Overall, the BDUK scheme has received criticism as so far all contracts for funding have been won by BT with Fujitsu even pulling out of contract negotiations in some instances.

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September 17, 2012

BT set to win £40m fibre contract in Suffolk having already secured Norfolk

BT look set to secure a £40 million contract to roll out fibre broadband to Suffolk as the only other bidder for the contract, Fujitsu, pulled out of the race.

BT is set also to become the confirmed bidder for a similar deal in Norfolk which will see them as the first local authority to choose the partner they want to improve their broadband internet access with funds from the Governments Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme.

The Better Broadband for Norfolk campaign should hopefully see more than 80% of the county’s homes and businesses have access to superfast broadband by June 2015 which is double the amount who would receive it without the extra government funds, the remaining homes would also see the minimum broadband connection they receive being 2Mb. The council have already got £15 million of the BDUK funds available to them to match the £15 million they have made available for the project too, BT themselves put forward £9.3 million “capital” contribution towards the cost of installing the new broadband infrastructure.

It is expected that around 49% of properties will be able to access broadband speeds of between 50 and 100Mb and a further 6% able to receive speeds over 100Mb.

The Suffolk county council worked alongside the Norfolk county council on their bids, despite officially being separate, so it is likely that if BT get’s one contract then they are likely to also get the other contract. It is increasingly showing that BT are getting the favour on most of the BDUK funding schemes with Fujitsu having previously pulled out of bidding in other areas to deliver superfast broadband such as Cumbria (read here).

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July 11, 2012

Fujitsu pull out of bidding for Cumbria broadband funds leaving just BT

Japanese tech firm Fujitsu have pulled out of bidding for the superfast broadband delivery in Cumbria leaving only BT left to bid for the funds.

Fujitsu believe they need to be able to reach 1 million customers for it to make economic sense for them to invest, they need this number to be then able to market their network to the likes of Virgin Media.

The governments “Broadband Delivery UK” scheme  was set up to help fund the deployment of high speed broadband networks in rural areas of the country. There has been lots of criticism about the funding process for BDUK funds by other providers as it is just BT & Fujitsu who were whittled down to be able to put in tenders for the funds from an original 9 suppliers who had started out wanting to be involved.

Fujitsu themselves have only bid for 2 areas so far, Cumbria (which they have subsequently pulled out from) and North Yorkshire which is expected to see BT win the funds for anyway.

In June, Cumbria Country Council rejected bids from both BT & Fujitsu and gave them until September this year to provide a better proposal for, BT are now sitting in a far prettier position since they are left as the only contender for the contract now which is expected to be worth around £40 million when private investment has also been accounted for too.

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