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Full Copy of DCMS Guidance on BDUK Broadband Maps and Altnet Funding

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 (11:59 am) - Score 1,155

A recent Freedom of Information (FoI) request, which was served upon the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), has managed to extract a full copy of some recent Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) guidance; this was issued to councils in order to encourage the release of better broadband coverage maps / data and clarify the approach for alternative ISP projects.

The update guidance was first released to Local Authorities on 11th February 2014 and reflects part of the Government’s response to the outcome of January’s Public Accounts Committee event, which criticised BT and many of the local councils involved in the BDUK project for failing to publish detailed coverage maps and related data down to the 7-digit postcode level.

Sadly the latest PAC report for April 2014 has revealed that some of the old problems continue to remain (here), while Local Authorities and BT often appear to be playing a game of pass the buck. So in that respect it’s good to be able to see one of the actual communications behind the reports, which was secured by Martin Campbell of the Grasmere Broadband Initiative. This particular guidance was sent to Cumbria council but others also received a similar copy.

UPDATED GUIDANCE

CLARIFICATION FOR LOCAL BODIES ON MAKING IMPLEMENTATION PLANS AVAILABLE

11 FEBRUARY 2014

Mapping Data

The Secretary of State wrote to Local Bodies in July 2013 to encourage publication of indicative deployment plans from BDUK funded projects on project websites. Publishing plans will help other stakeholders to gain an understanding of the expected coverage of the county level projects and potentially propose complementary local broadband projects. Based on the experience since July BDUK are publishing this update note to confirm what is permitted under the call-off contracts.

Local Bodies are able to publish information, such as in the form of maps, to show the expected geographical coverage of the BDUK intervention areas, together with timing of planned deployment. Most Local Bodies have now done so, including for example Northamptonshire as referred to in the Secretary of State’s letter, and Dorset County Council:

http://mapping.dorsetforyou.com/superfast/availability/map

These are particularly helpful, as they enable searches by areas, towns or 7-digit postcodes and in the Northamptonshire case provide information on the phasing of planned deployment. We support sharing this level of detail and encourage the remainder to do likewise.

As we previously advised, the details of coverage are likely to change during surveying, planning and deployment progress. It is important that anyone using this information understands that it is subject to change and that this information is updated periodically to reflect any changes to implementation plans as roll-out progresses. The extent to which the information remains subject to change should therefore be made clear.

Local Bodies should also advise community groups and potential suppliers on the availability of such maps and respond to reasonable requests for guidance as to whether specific areas are within the areas scheduled for coverage.

Community / supplier proposals

Taking this approach will enable other parties to develop proposals for projects in areas which are not currently scheduled for coverage with BDUK support.

If a community or supplier develops plans, supported by public funding from whatever source, for superfast deployment in areas that are not currently scheduled for BDUK coverage, DCMS’ view is that the Local Body should undertake an appropriate level of due diligence to assess such proposals promptly. For instance, it is important to avoid overlap between proposed schemes, so that multiple sources of public money are not used in the same area.

It is also possible that a commercially funded deployment without public intervention emerges in areas contracted under the BDUK scheme. DCMS’ view is that as a matter of general principle – and subject to value for money considerations – BDUK funding should make way for viable commercial investments in the same areas. In deciding how to proceed in any individual circumstance, local bodies will need to perform an appropriate level of due diligence to assess the viability of such deployment, end user benefits and any financial impact of a change in committed build plans.

Local Bodies should determine how to proceed in the light of the circumstances, communicating progress clearly and promptly with relevant stakeholders.

Following the appropriate governance arrangements in the contract, they may then use the Change Control Procedure and associated mechanisms provided under Schedule 6.2 of the call-off contracts in the BDUK Framework to request an Impact Assessment of the operational and commercial implications of changing the contracted Intervention Areas. If applicable, the Local Body can then proceed with a Change Request to implement the proposed change. Subject to the nature of the change, it may be necessary to seek approval from BDUK as set out in the Change Control Guidance issued to Local Bodies on 6 December 2013.

A lot of this ground has already been covered before and so we won’t go over it in detail again, although it is interesting to note how DCMS actively encourages councils to put their BDUK areas to one side if “a commercially funded deployment without public intervention emerges in areas contracted under the BDUK scheme“. So far we’ve seen examples of the opposite happening, with councils sometimes appearing to target areas where an opportunity for a rival commercial approach might already exist (e.g. Gigaclear, B4RN etc.).

Leave a Comment
11 Responses
  1. Avatar dragoneast

    Change control is essentially a mechanism to protect the interests of the contractor i.e. BT.

  2. Avatar MikeW

    As I read the PAC report from April, it appeared to be detailing the committee work done in January. If that’s correct, then you wouldn’t expect the report to reflect any changes highlighted in this (February) document.

    Instead, it ought to be the other way around. This document should reflect what DCMS said (in the transcript, usually referred to as ‘the department’) they would send out to the councils.

    The extra note about overlapping with a commercial rollout is interesting. The part that says the council must perform due diligence as to the viability of the rollout, and end user benefits; essentially it gives the council a get-out clause if they feel worried. That fits with the Analysys Mason report last year questioning financial viability of community projects; it also fits with what some councils seem to be reporting – that people want the wholesale access to allow their regular ISPs to supply service and (especially) bundles.

  3. “it also fits with what some councils seem to be reporting – that people want the wholesale access to allow their regular ISPs to supply service and (especially) bundles.”

    I think you have hit the nail on the head here Mike. The councils et al seem intent on preserving (no, strengthening) the current BT-Sky-TalkTalk-Virgin oligopoly.

    One day, Ofcom will wake up to this fiasco…

    … oh look, flying pork! 🙂

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Why is it a fiasco to have the choice of 40 ISPs?

    • Avatar JNeuhoff

      “WhyWhy is it a fiasco to have the choice of 40 ISPs?”

      More stupid questions again from TheFacts.

      The taxpayer-funded BT monopoly will end up in a fiasco for all users, with heavy investment in yesterdays copper technology, with virtually no ROI for the taxpayer’s money spent.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @JNeuhoff

      Quote “virtually no ROI for the taxpayer’s money spent.”

      From previous posts, you appear to have a very narrow definition of ROI, based on a standard private sector investment model – nothing wrong with that, except it’s not a private sector investment.

      To remind you, the most basic ROI is simply gaining delivery of fibre broadband in areas where no private sector investment in this was planned at the time the project started. This is I believe the primary propose of the programme. Then there are the economic benefits realised by businesses through greater competitiveness etc (there are academic studies on this), as well as the social and economic benefits realised by individuals (there is research on this too).

      Some of the above will ultimately deliver higher taxes and lower social spending, so give a further, financial ROI in due course. And that’s before we consider the income tax paid by those employed to deliver the infrastructure. I could go on – supply chain impacts and so on.

      None of this is new information. So why do you continue to state there is virtually no ROI?

    • Avatar Gadget

      Just because you do not end up owning a part of the infrastructure does not mean there is not an ROI. You could make the same argument about subsidised bus services – you do not end up owning part of a bus, but people get a service that they would not otherwise have – in fact in the case of subsidised bus services it appears that the subsidy is on a recurring basis, every year and not a one-off.
      one alternative is the direct building of an infrastructure by the council who then own the assets – but wait wasn’t that the Digital Region model?
      I believe there is a precedent for subsidising a service without infrastructure acquisition and broadband is no different in my view.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      I’ve told Jn numerous times that the government have stated £20 for every £1 spent . And he’s ignored this numerous times.

      The point about wholesale and selecting from many ISPs is crucial, people do not want to be locked into a single ISP they want access to the bundle deals others can get

  4. Avatar hmmm

    SUPERSLOW THEY MEAN !!!!!!!!!!! SUPERFAST DONT MAKE BE LAUGH

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