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The Black Country Finally Agree GBP7.5m Superfast Broadband Rollout

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 (8:33 am) - Score 1,349

The Black Country (Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton) in England’s West Midlands has, after sitting out the first round of funding from the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, finally agreed a £7.5m project to make superfast broadband (24Mbps+) services available to 95% of local premises by 2017.

At present much of the area can already access a Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband service and only around 7% are left to suffer with slower connectivity (note: just 0.4% get sub-2Mbps speeds), which is one of the reasons why the related Local Authorities decided to sit out the first round (i.e. the target for bringing superfast broadband to 90% by the end of 2015 was already set to be met via commercial investment). On the other hand, only 60% of local business can access superfast speeds.

But the situation changed when BDUK allocated an additional £250m (funding phase 2) and raised the target to 95% by 2017 as part of the Superfast Extension Programme (SEP), which triggered the relevant councils to pursue a new programme through the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership. A related consultation document can be found here (link).

Ian Austin, MP for Dudley, said (Express and Star):

Constituents got in touch with me after being told by broadband companies that there were no plans for Dudley to get superfast broadband. Places like London have been the first to benefit and I don’t see why Dudley should be left behind, so I’m really pleased 95 per cent of people in the Black Country will now be covered.

I’m pleased the Black Country Consortium and local councils have made this progress, but now I want the Government to guarantee that Dudley will get covered as soon as possible.”

In terms of funding, BDUK originally agreed an allocation of £4.99m to the Black Country, but this has since been scaled back to £3 million and the councils are matching that with another £3m (the remaining £1.99m from BDUK is still available should the local authorities find matching investment). A final £1.5 million is expected to come from the chosen supplier and it’s probably a safe bet to say they’ll pick BT, although this has yet to be agreed (still in procurement).

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar Max360 says:

    Why doesn’t Birmingham city council apply for the BDUK funding? I think there many exchanges that have not yet been upgraded to FTTC in Birmingham.

    Also for any infill work that missed out on the 66% commercial rollout.

    I believe Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Solihull can also get Virgin Media (FTTN) cable internet.

    1. Avatar Matthew Williams says:

      Because they can’t the EU feels that Cities should easily be covered by Commercial rollout and it is surprising how many parts of cities haven’t been covered by commercial.

    2. Avatar Matt Driver says:

      While its true Virgin Media covers large parts of the area any new estates built in the last fifteen years are not covered by Virgin Media. I live on a large housing estate about two miles from Dudley with no cable availiable and a maximum speed of 2.5Meg from the Dudley exchange which has not been upgraded to Fibre. Hopefully this funding will cover the parts of Dudley that are not covered by cable.

  2. Avatar adslmax says:

    But…………Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Solihull already got FTTC enabled ages ago? All my mates live this areas and got FTTC.

    1. Avatar Matt Driver says:

      The dudley exchange covering almost 30,000 properties has not been FTTC enabled. For some reason BT decided not to upgrade the exchange as part of their commercial FTCC rollout despite most other exchanges in the black country being upgraded for fibre.

    2. Avatar Stu says:

      Many of the big exchanges (Dudley, Blackheath and West Bromwich as ones close to me) have not been upgraded for fibre. Dudley is now the largest exchange in the country without fibre either installed or planned.

      Like Matt Driver above, I live on a new build development (built 12 years ago) that has no Virgin fibre available, and they won’t install it (I asked).

  3. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

    That’s perhaps not the most statistically constructive assessment though as clearly there remain some coverage gaps :), but it is indeed a well served area.

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