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Europe Clears £51m Superfast Broadband BDUK Rollout in Cumbria UK

Monday, May 20th, 2013 (8:09 am) - Score 1,506

The European Commission’s (EC) competition authority has officially granted Major Projects Approval to the £50.8m state aid supported Connecting Cumbria project in North West England, which aims to roll-out BT’s superfast broadband (FTTC/P) services to over 93% of the county by the end of 2015. Oh and the speed target is now 240Mbps? Oops.

The Connecting Cumbria contract, which is primarily funded by £15m from BT, £17.1m from the government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office and £13.7m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), was officially signed in November 2012 at Ullswater (here). An additional £5m has also been set aside via the Performance Reward Grant (PRG) from all councils in Cumbria and another £2.5m will be used to promote the new services.

Unfortunately any project that exceeds a total cost of EUR 50 million (VAT included) is automatically subject to an additional level of review, which is called Major Projects Approval and this effectively requires the European Commission itself to sign off on the project before it can make use of public funds. By contrast the majority of smaller BDUK schemes have already received general approval from the EC.

Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Regional Policy, said:

Projects like this will have huge benefits for businesses and citizens. This initiative in particular will allow North West England to seize the opportunities offered by the digital economy. It is a perfect example of how Regional Policy can help Europe’s recovery and directly contribute to meeting the goals of the EU’s growth agenda, ‘Europe 2020’. Providing fast and reliable access to the internet will play a vital role in helping regions in their economic development.”

Thankfully it doesn’t look as if the late approval will delay the project because only last month a spokesperson for Cumbria County Council (CCC) said that “we do not anticipate it will affect the project end date“. In the meantime CCC has been busy “working on the project planning” (i.e. BTOpenreach engineer surveys etc.) and a full roll-out plan has already been promised for the spring (currently anticipated for the end of May 2013).

In a comical twist the EC’s official statement also said that it expected CCC to ensure that at “a minimum of 90% of Cumbria” will be given access to broadband speeds “in excess of 30 megabytes per second (mbps)“. Now what they should have said is “megabits” since “megabytes” would equate to around 240Mbps (Megabits per second); a tough target for Cumbria or indeed any council 🙂 .

The official statement also noted that the United Kingdom has been allocated “approximately €10.6 billion in total Cohesion Policy funding from 2007-2013“.

EC Major Projects Statement – Cumbria (PDF)
http://ec.europa.eu/../Superfast-broadband-Cumbria_17052013.pdf

Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar chris says:

    They could have megabytes if they built a proper fibre network instead of just subsidising BT cabinet deployment. Just sayin.

    1. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      But this would take longer, and either cost more or serve many less people. Just sayin.

      Surely better to provide a reasonable increase in speed to many rather than a large speed increase to a select few.

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