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UPDATE UK Gov Touts £10m Competitive Fund to Boost Rural Broadband

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 (11:47 am) - Score 682

The Government’s Treasury has today announced a new £10 Million “competitive fund” that aims to “test innovative solutions to deliver superfast broadband services to the most difficult to reach areas“, which sounds a lot like another attempt to do what DEFRA’s £20m Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) has often struggled to achieve.

At this stage the details remain sparse but it’s claimed that the new fund would be introduced during early 2014 and some of the options being explored include “enhanced mobile services, new fixed technologies and alternative approaches to structuring financial support, working closely with the communications industry“.

Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said:

This is great news for the people of the UK because after years of neglect, the UK’s energy, road, rail, flood defence, communications and water infrastructure needs renewal. It will boost the UK economy creating jobs and making it easier to do business. It will also make the UK a better place to live for everyone who calls it their home.”

The move might please mobile operators (assuming that’s where some of the money goes), which had been lobbying for a slice of the BDUK pie, although they probably won’t be happy with such a small fund. Indeed £10m is just a drop in the ocean, especially since connecting up rural areas is traditionally more costly due to sparse populations that make a return on any investment much more difficult to achieve.

National Infrastructure Plan (December 2013 Update)

UPDATE 5th December 2013

We managed to get a comment from Vodafone, which as a mobile operator has previously been quite vocal about its desire to be included within the Government’s BDUK strategy.

A Vodafone Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

The government’s decision is a real step in the right direction and signals a willingness to be pragmatic when it comes to rural broadband. Wireless 4G is better value for money and is the best technology to help close the digital divide between urban and rural Britain. We welcome the news and look forward to continuing our dialogue with Government about the opportunity 4G can deliver irrespective of where you live.”

Leave a Comment
10 Responses
  1. DTMark says:

    “The move might please mobile operators (assuming that’s where some of the money goes)”

    I suspect the money will go to BT who in turn may buy those services from the mobile providers making a profit for themselves off the back of taxpayer’s money in the process.

    Come back in a year and we’ll see if I was right.

  2. FTTP says:

    This will be competitive in the same way that RCBF and BDUK were competitive, then?

  3. dragoneast says:

    Is Government capable of saying (and perhaps, thinking) anything not phrased in meaningless marketing gobbledygook?

  4. DTMark says:

    The first thing that needs to be done is to establish what “difficult to reach” means.

    Does it mean:

    1. A single house 30 miles from anywhere else surrounded by large hills?

    2. Any house more than a few hundred metres from the telephone cabinet it’s connected to, or which is connected by rotting, decrepit cabling?

    I reckon most people including those who drew up the document might think the answer is (1) when in fact it’s (2).

    Start here, and then you can map out a plan to achieve the objectives.

    There is no “overlap” between the BDUK and rural funds, other than the one BT likes to think that there is or ought to be.

    1. CrazyLazy says:

      3. It will cost us more than we want to spend and take us too long to make what we spend back so give us lots of free cash to enable them, like a charity only one that gives its bosses millions in bonuses.

    2. MikeW says:

      The word “innovative” is repeated in the 2018 target for 99% coverage using “more innovative fixed, wireless and mobile broadband Solutions”.

      If it is not a coincidental use of language, the hard-to-reach areas are those beyond 95%.

      In a recent article on here, there was an EU report on the state of NGA across Europe. Within this report, Point Topic applied their EKG data (European Kilometre Grid) to determine the population density of every square kilometre across the continent. When they applied their threshold for rural areas of <100 people per square kilometre, they found the UK to have 8.8% of the population living within this definition. By this measure, hard-to-reach is around half of the truly rural.

      By contrast, B4RN's statistics show 14 premises per square kilometre over their service area, or around 34 people per square kilometre. You'd guess they were a pretty indicative area meeting this kind of definition of hard-to-reach.

  5. gerarda says:

    “Difficult to reach” means BT have difficulty reaching it. The technology to do so is out there. Trying to make it viable on the scraps of coverage/money left from the BT/BDUK table is the problem.

  6. MikeW says:

    There is something much more interesting in this infrastructure report than a mere £10m for market testing (which sounds, to me, like funds to test whether the consumer market in rural areas really does want choice of ISP).

    There is a statement: “As set out in July in the government’s communications and media sectors plan for action, Connectivity, Content and Consumers, government will develop a UK strategy for digital communications infrastructure to inform government priorities until 2030. This will consider the measures needed, from government and others, to ensure that the UK can take the lead in establishing a world-class digital communications network.”

    That’s promising – a long term strategy towards fibre. You could read the 2030 date as a target.

    Anyone seen/read this Connectivity, Content and Consumers report?

    1. gerarda says:

      I read as far as the first sentence

      “It can, at times, be hard to remember what life was like before smartphones, social
      networking and catch-up television.”

      This is so far removed from the reality of life the other side of the digital divide I did not read any further.

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