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UPD2 Smaller UK ISPs Asked to Help Find the Final Rural Broadband Areas

Thursday, Jul 4th, 2013 (7:46 am) - Score 777

The government’s culture secretary, Maria Miller, has written to a group of smaller UK ISPs (altnets) and called them to a 15th July 2013 summit with BT where she will attempt to find a solution to the “final 10%” problem (i.e. nobody is quite sure where it is).

As most people know the government is spending £780m through its Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office to help “nearly” 90% of people in each local authority area gain access to a superfast broadband (25Mbps+) service by the end of 2015, which is now also intended to hit 95% by 2017 (here).

But so far BT has won all of the major state aid supported contracts and it views roll-out data as confidential. This is important because, as Ed Vaizey said, “publicly-funded projects are prevented by the state aid rules from overbuilding other projects which have been notified at that point”.

In other words smaller ISPs that seek to target the final 5-10% often struggle because they’re not sure where it is or will be after BT is done (we covered this in more detail here), which isn’t helped by councils that refuse to recognise related altnet services that have already been deployed. The new meeting is an attempt to resolve that impasse.

Maria Miller said (The Telegraph):

There is widespread concern that funding is not being allocated to certain projects because there is not sufficient clarity on which premises actually find themselves in ‘the final ten per cent’.

I am determined to find a way of remedying this situation, by ensuring you have access to the information you need. I would therefore like to invite you to a session with myself, Ed Vaizey and senior representatives of BT to ensure we can provide you with the information, and the support, you need.”

In fairness BT itself can’t always be sure which areas will be left off its roll-out until later in the process, yet this can result in a situation where the goal posts are almost always in flux. As a result getting any answer, without direct government intervention, could be extremely difficult.

Meanwhile a spokesperson for BT reiterated its commitment to improving national broadband services and added that “we are yet to receive full details of the proposed summit but we will of course be supportive“. Many smaller ISPs argue that anything being deployed through the use of public funding should not be protected by the usual commercial sensitivities.

UPDATE 10:52am

Here’s a comment from the Independent Networks Cooperative Association.

INCA Statement

It is completely crazy that funding has been allocated and good projects are ready to go, but they are being held back by BT’s insistence on secrecy. BT’s BDUK funding is from the public purse, it must be in the public interest to know which areas will be covered and which need to seek alternative provision. RCBF projects can help us show the way to good, future-proofed solutions in those areas. We say let’s get on with it.”

UPDATE 3:02pm

Here’s the full letter from Maria Miller.

Maria Millers Letter

I am writing to you because of your interest and involvement in developing broadband solutions which will help us reach the final ten per cent – those premises which are not due to receive superfast broadband under the Government’s £530m Rural Broadband Programme.

The Rural Community Broadband Fund has been established to help provide funding to ensure we reach some of those hardest to reach areas. However, we are aware there is widespread concern that the projects have not been able to identify the 10% areas necessary to enable applications under the Fund to be progressed.

I am determined to find a way of remedying this situation, by ensuring you have access to the information you need. I would therefore like to invite you to a session with myself, Ed Vaizey and senior representatives from BT to see what can be done to provide you with the relevant information, and the support, you need to determine how your applications should be progressed.

I would be grateful if you come to a meeting at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s offices at 12.30 on Monday 15th July to discuss this matter.

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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