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Small UK ISP Frustrated at Lack of Public Broadband Funding in Oxfordshire

Monday, Dec 31st, 2012 (12:02 pm) - Score 1,167

Countryside Broadband, a small fixed wireless broadband ISP (WISP) that delivers internet access to a number of rural areas in South Oxfordshire (England, UK), has complained that it is unable to expand the reach of its network because the government’s public funding is only going towards big providers (e.g. BT).

The tiny service provider currently covers Goring Heath, South Stoke, North Stoke, Ipsden, Moulsford and Kingwood but it would also like to expand into Binfield Heath. Sadly the ISPs requests for support from the government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office have so far been rejected.

Bill Pechey, Director of Countryside Broadband, said (Henley Standard):

We are expanding as quickly as we can but find that we cannot access the government funds from Broadband Delivery UK and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. We have tried to develop a good relationship with Oxfordshire County Council but find that now it has started the process to distribute funds from Broadband Delivery UK we are too small to be considered as a broadband provider.

This illustrates a paradox in that we, almost by definition, best serve the widely scattered and most disadvantaged but do not attract funding as we do not offer to serve a big number of homes with a single project.”

The situation is by no means new and it’s already widely known that BDUK’s Framework has only named two operators, BT and Fujitsu UK, to deliver the relevant services. In addition Fujitsu appears to have withdrawn from most of the related contracts and thus BT is expected to dominate the process.

Unsurprisingly BDUK’s framework is often perceived to have set the economic bar too high for smaller ISPs (altnets) to get involved, which has resulted in many of the original bidders (e.g. GEO, Vtesse, Cable & Wireless etc.) choosing to leave the process (example). During July 2012 the Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) moved to tackle this problem by forming a consortium of smaller ISPs to challenge the big boys, although so far no further updates have been released.

It had been hoped that the European Commission (EC) would put pressure on the UK government to make its BDUK funding more accessible to smaller providers. Sadly no significant changes were noted in the EC’s recent funding approvals. Some hope is still being held for a future post-2015 strategy, which might deliver the needed changes, yet many smaller ISPs remain deeply pessimistic.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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