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Isle of Wight Cable Operator Slams Councils Biased BT Broadband Plan

Wednesday, Feb 13th, 2013 (11:25 am) - Score 1,612

The Isle of Wight’s (England, UK) only provider of commercial and residential cable based TV, phone and broadband products, WightFibre (formerly WightCable), has accused the councils delayed roll-out plan for superfast broadband ISP services of being “biased in favour of BT” and of having shunned alternatives.

The Isle of Wight Council (IWC) currently estimates that around 40% of the Islands population will be at risk of having no access to superfast (24Mbps+) connectivity without the use of state aid. As a result the IWC has committed £3m to improve the local infrastructure, while the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office has put another £3m into the pot; the chosen operator would then be expected to match that (i.e. total contract value of around £12m).

Under the original plans the chosen operator, which is almost certain to be BT because Fujitsu UK (the only other BDUK approved bidder) hasn’t been able to make the economics work, will need to ensure that at least 90% of the Island can access superfast broadband by 2015 (note: 2019 for 100% coverage). But the tight restrictions of BDUK’s framework (e.g. smaller operators don’t have a big enough turnover) has made it difficult for providers like WightFibre to compete.

John Irvine, CEO of WightFibre, said (Island Pulse):

The government’s procurement framework is biased in favour of BT and prevents local island networks like WightFibre from bidding. In any event, WightFibre will achieve the objectives the Council states in the Council’s own published broadband plan and it will do this WITHOUT any Council funding.

WightFibre will achieve the objective of providing high speed broadband throughout the island years ahead of BT. The Council’s ‘approved supplier (likely to be BT) will not even start work until Spring 2014 according to the Council’s own timetable. The public should ask the council why it is wasting their money in this way?”

Despite the outburst Irvine still “wishes to work co-operatively with the Council” and noted that its own 100Mbps broadband service was already available to 25% of the population and speeds of 30Mbps should be made available to everybody during 2013 or 2014. Speeds of up to 10Mbps can allegedly already be had by 95% of the island.

If WightFibre’s targets are correct then it would indeed raise questions about the councils plan. Public funding is only supposed to be used in areas where the market is deemed to have failed (i.e. locations that won’t be upgraded through private investment).

Meanwhile the IWC originally anticipated that its broadband project would start to roll out in early 2013, although the most recent update states that an operator will now be appointed in September 2013 and the first work won’t begin until early 2014. This would surely push the original completion date into 2016.

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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