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Oxfordshire UK Extend “Fibre Broadband” Rollout to 2,000 Extra Premises

Monday, March 20th, 2017 (9:55 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 305)
telegraph pole rural broadband openreach engineer

The Better Broadband for Oxfordshire project with Openreach (BT), which is currently working to roll-out “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) services to “at least” 95% of local premises by December 2017, has confirmed that a further 2,000 premises will benefit thanks to contract clawback.

The original (first) contract had a total value of £25 million (£10m from Oxfordshire County Council, £4m from Broadband Delivery UK and £11m from BT), which helped to extend “superfast broadband” via Openreach’s network to reach 90% of local homes and businesses in the county via predominantly ‘up to’ 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) technology.

Since then there have also been two extension contracts. The first is worth £5.1m (£1.2m from BT, £1.95m from BDUK and the rest from local councils) and aims to reach an additional 6,500 premises (here). After that the second £5.58m extension hopes to add another 4,600 premises (£2m from the Oxfordshire LEP, £120k from the South East Midlands LEP and Cherwell District Council, £168k from Oxford City Council, £2.2m from BDUK and £1.1 million from BT).

Coverage Ambitions of the 3 Contracts

* Baseline commercial coverage 69%
* Phase 1 coverage 22.5%
* Phase 2 coverage 3.9%
* Phase 3 coverage 0.9%
* Total c 96.3% coverage

However the Oxfordshire County Council estimates that approximately 8,500 premises will not have access to such connectivity improvements, which are particularly tricky due to their high upgrade cost. Like many other local authorities the Oxfordshire council has currently only agreed to fund deployment of “superfast broadband” up to the threshold of what contractually is described as a high cost structure (currently £1,700 per premise).

The good news is that £2.55m of public investment clawback from the original contract, which was last year confirmed (here) as being returned by BT, plus a further £4.2m will also come back via savings (total £6.75m), has now been allocated to a fourth extension that should benefit an additional 2,000 premises.

Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said:

“We expect at least 95 per cent of Oxfordshire premises to have access to superfast broadband by December, and I’m delighted to announce an ambition to improve on this. In partnership with BT, we are finalising plans to make the technology available to a further 2,000 premises as a result of contract savings achieved in this successful programme to date.

We’re also about to launch a co-funding scheme whereby Oxfordshire County Council will support those very rural or very small communities which are too expensive to upgrade using public funds alone.”

Hopefully by now we shouldn’t have to explain what clawback is again but in simple terms it requires BT to return part of the public investment once take-up of the newly deployed FTTC/P service in related areas goes above a certain level. More investment from clawback may also be returned in the future and all of this can be reinvested in order to further boost local broadband coverage.

The Oxfordshire project is making good progress and we’d expect them to complete the existing contracts as planned (they’re very already close to 95% coverage), although a precise timetable for the new phase 4 programme has yet to be confirmed.

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