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Alternative Superfast Broadband Plan for South Yorkshire UK Picks BT

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 (11:55 am) - Score 2,032

The South Yorkshire (England) councils of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield appear to have progressed a proposal to roll-out superfast broadband (24Mbps+) connectivity across the region by matching an investment offer of £10.4 million from the Broadband Delivery UK programme, which will help to replace the defunct Digital Region network. BT is set to supply.

The project was first proposed earlier this year (here) after Digital Region (DRL) ended up suffocating under the weight of its own public debt and a failure to attract even a fraction of the customers required in order to make their hybrid-fibre VDSL broadband network economically self-sustainable (here). DRL’s network is currently expected to shut down completely in mid-August 2014, with many users being forced to accept slower ADSL lines on BT’s network.

Since then the Sheffield City Region, which despite its name is actually comprised of the nine local authority areas (Barnsley, Bassetlaw, Bolsover, Chesterfield, Derbyshire Dales, Doncaster, North East Derbyshire, Rotherham and Sheffield), has conducted a public consultation on the BDUK proposal (here) and in March 2014 appeared to give preliminary approval to the scheme (here).

Broadband Meeting Notes (March 2014)

Key points from the discussion:
• The project should continue to be branded as Sheffield City Region to reflect its importance to the whole economic area.
• Private sector members underlined importance of this project to businesses.
• LEP Board asked to confirm length of contract with new broadband provider.
• LEP Board agreed that local authorities and the CA should be fully protected from any future liabilities.
• Leaders have previously endorsed proposals to explore a South Yorkshire superfast broadband extension project, as part of an existing Government scheme.
• The project’s Programme Board has now produced a Local Broadband Plan that identifies the extent of the proposed intervention area and associated costs, as required by BDUK.
• The Plan requires a local funding contribution of up to £10.4 million.
• Due to the extremely tight timescales involved South Yorkshire Leaders had been asked to commit to prioritising broadband within suitable regional funding streams, thereby maximising the likelihood that this local contribution can be secured.
• The project remains on track and, should the decision be taken to proceed, could issue contracts as required by the end of June 2014.
• Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire district areas are subject to separate arrangements with county providers.

Recommendations agreed / noted:
• To endorse the South Yorkshire Local Broadband Plan.
• To endorse the project governance arrangements.

Most recently the central Government has announced an investment of £6bn to help fund the first wave of 39 new Local Growth Deals with businesses and local authorities across England, which included details of the Sheffield City Region Growth Deal and a related mention of their broadband plans.

Inside that document the local authorities stated their intention to, “support extension of superfast broadband coverage to 90% of UK premises by 2016, via existing broadband projects, Sheffield City Region LEP will commit to work with local partners and BT to support delivery. To support extension of superfast broadband coverage to 95% of UK premises by 2017, Sheffield City Region LEP will also work with local partners to help ensure match funding is in place for the next round of projects.

Now a new report on Rothbiz appears to confirm that BT’s tender for the £20m+ project has been accepted by the local authorities, which will come as no great surprise to anybody. As above the investment will be used to make superfast broadband speeds (24Mbps+) available to 95% of the four regions by 2017, which is in keeping with BDUK’s national objectives. No doubt BT will also use a combination of their usual up to 80Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology, which is very similar to Digital Region’s VDSL solution, and possibly some 330Mbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) lines.

Sadly BDUK’s funding won’t be allowed to benefit Sheffield city centre because it’s typically more aimed at helping underserved sub-urban and rural locations (usually to avoid raising EU competition concerns). Sheffield can’t even benefit from the local broadband Connection Vouchers scheme, which offers up to £3,000 +vat to help SMEs install a superfast connection, because they were excluded (possibly due to Digital Region).

However it’s understood that the new project will be managed by Matt Gladstone, whom is the current executive director of Corporate Services at Barnsley Council, although many may also recall that he was once the director of Digital Region Ltd. Hmm.

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Mark Jackson
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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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18 Responses
  1. Avatar Tom says:

    Well, well, well…

  2. Avatar SpencerUk says:

    I suspect that the South Yorkshire funding side will be used to restart the defunct Digital Region network in some areas where there’s no Virgin media or BT FTTx at the moment.

    Cheap and easy expansion when you think about it.

  3. Avatar FibreFred says:

    I’m sure we’ll get the usual haters complaining about this but I bet a lot of South Yorkshire will be cheering about this, just last night on the news businesses were complaining about the collapse of DR and that some would be left facing leased line or relocation costs.

    1. Avatar Raindrops says:

      Could they not use Mobile or satellite services that would easily be more than fast enough?

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      I assume you are taking over trolling responsibilities whilst your alter ego No Clue is sunning itself?

    3. Avatar Raindrops says:

      Not sure what you mean by that it was just a question. We seemed to be agreeing recently on another story that speeds of 10Mb or even less are more than enough for most and faster in most cases is not needed.

  4. Avatar MikeW says:

    I’m just waiting for the usual people to come on here and put in the usual complaint about council/government funding being used to support BT, and that “we” should just have “allowed” private companies to do this themselves. Oh…

    Meanwhile, those 4 councils will be mightily relieved to no longer have the risk (ie the cost) of SYDR hanging over their heads. They might not like it, but they were the guinea pigs that shaped BDUK’s later choices … to go an entirely different direction instead.

    1. Avatar dragoneast says:

      We live and learn. Hopefully.

    2. Avatar NGA for all says:

      @MikeW You have been gracious enough not to point out that that intial subsidy before the shutdown costs were c£90k a cabinet paying much of this for SLU costs. establish several new exchanges, this is before the shutdown costs. This is about the only place the ex ceo of Openeach could have found her £100k a cab cost and millions per exchange costs quoted Autumn and Winter 2012.
      One profound failure should not excuse the inflation of subsidies BT imposed on BDUK although these are at a substantially less level than observed in DR.
      BT’s near non participation in the DR bidding process at least triggered what was a very good and well run BT project in Northern Ireland.

    3. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      Meanwhile £100m of our tax money wasted, shocking really, makes BDUK look cheap!

    4. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Yep… support alternative networks, why pay once when you can pay twice!

    5. Avatar NGA for all says:

      New_Londonder £100m indeed! All the more reason PAC/NAO need to re-double their efforts to insure Gov’s £1.2bn (+ possible £450m) and BT’s capital contribution of c£300m in the form of mostly capitalised labour is spent well with the appropriate levels of transparency.

  5. Avatar PhilB says:

    It could be light at the end of the tunnel,especially for me who is just about to be moved from Digital Regions Network 24mb down/10mb up fibre back to sub 2mb ADSL

  6. Avatar Matthew Williams says:

    Well at least people in South Yorkshire will be able to get a decent connection after all even if it isn’t FTTP. FTTC is certainly far better than crappy ADSL.

  7. Avatar Rothbiz says:

    Thanks for picking up on my Rothbiz articles. It’s a project that certainly needs doing but the previous involvement of local authorities in local broadband was disastrous. In another unfortunate quirk, Sheffield businesses are not eligible for the connection vouchers as it wasn’t named in the Government’s super-connected cities project, probably due to Digital Region…

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Ah good point, I hadn’t noticed Sheffield was missing from the final list as they were present on the original one. Hmm. I’ll update our piece.

  8. Avatar Royford says:

    Relish’s 4G broadband brought to Yorkshire region would be a far more desirable service. No more line rental to pay if you don’t use your land line home phone.

    1. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      The evidence from the Digital Region project is that many prefer services from providers that they have heard of, so why would Relish succeed where Digital Region failed?

      There’s nothing stopping it supplying service anyway, so it’s not an either / or option, should it have sufficient money to build out a network. Although IIRC the company has ran several previous trials, none of which have progressed beyond the pilot stage so far, so I wouldn’t hold your breath.

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