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BDUK Expand FTTC Broadband Rollout in Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire

Monday, November 25th, 2013 (2:20 pm) - Score 502
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The £14.57m CSW Broadband partnership of 8 local authorities, which aims to ensure that BT’s “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) network is made available to 92% of Coventry, 96% of Solihull and 91% of Warwickshire in England (overall 91% will get speeds of 24Mbps+) by spring 2016, has been expanded by +6,480 additional premises.

The original announcement envisaged that the new investment would help an extra 40,776 local homes and business gain access to the faster Internet access. But the project’s latest newsletter reveals that a further £1,422,264 has been found and thus the roll-out can be increased to help a total of 51,000 premises on top of the commercial deployment.

CSW Broadband Newsletter

Because of the quality of the data that we collected through our Local Broadband Champions we were able to bring in an additional £1,422,264 through the procurement, which needed to be added in to the contract. In order for that to happen, the proposed coverage for the additional money had to be modelled by BT. Revised data was received from BT on 29th October and approved by the Project Board. This has now been sent to BDUK for State Aid approval. The revised data has resulted in an additional 6,480 premises being connected to the fibre network over the number that was in the original contract – which is excellent news!

As a result of this change the CSW project has also published an updated version of their NGA Coverage Map, although like most BDUK projects it remains quite vague.

Interestingly the newsletter also mentions the fiasco that surrounds DEFRA’s £20m Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) and in particular it warns that “to proceed with RCBF bids would put the main project at risk, may not be deliverable within the timescales and any benefit would be deducted from the next tranche of main funding“.

CSW’s RCBF Concerns

1. The timescales involved. All work to be carried out under RCBF must be complete, invoiced and paid for by March 2015. This would be extremely challenging bearing in mind the length of time it has taken with the main contract just to get to the stage we are now. We also still do not yet have State Aid approval for the main contract, and do not know when BDUK will issue that. Therefore, the chances of being able to roll out a superfast network to what are by definition the most difficult parts of the county and to complete the contractual work within 15 months are virtually zero.

2. The Government has announced that £250m additional funding will be made available to reach 95% superfast coverage across the country. We do not yet know how much of that money will come to our project, or when, or whether match funding will be required (which will be a challenging ask given the state of Local Government finances!). If we were able to proceed with RCBF bids then it would mean taking resource away from the main project (a significant risk) and it would appear that the additional percentage gained through RCBF funding would simply be deducted from our share of the £250m.

The CSW Broadband scheme has therefore decided not to proceed with any RCBF bids unless the criteria are given a “considerable” change. Credits to Thinkbroadband for spotting the newsletter.

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