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UPDATE Suffolk Signs First Superfast Broadband Extension Contract with BT

Friday, Oct 31st, 2014 (3:26 pm) - Score 1,118

The Suffolk County Council (SCC) today claims to have signed the United Kingdom’s first Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) based Superfast Extension Programme (SEP) contract with BT, which aims to extend the coverage of the operators “fibre optic broadband” (FTTC/P) network to 95% of local homes and businesses “before 2018“.

The Superfast Extension Programme reflects the additional £250m that the Government set aside under BDUK earlier this year, which is intended to help make “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) speed available to 95% of the population by 2017. By comparison the original £40m+ Better Broadband for Suffolk project aimed to make BT’s “fibre broadband” network available to 90% of the county by the end of 2015 and only 85% would actually get speeds of 24Mbps+.

Confusingly Suffolk’s new SEP contract with BT only mentions the 95% coverage figure as being for “fibre broadband” coverage, which as we know from experience may or may not reflect the availability of “superfast” 24Mbps+ speeds. However the Digital Economy Minister, Ed Vaizey, does say at the end, “Suffolk will see 95% of the county able to access superfast speeds when the project is complete.” Take with a pinch of salt.

Another interesting fact is that the extended project alone is worth £30 million, with around £15m coming from BDUK, £5m from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership Local Growth Fund and £10m from Suffolk County Council. But there’s absolutely no mention of any extra funding coming from BT in the official press release, which will no doubt raise a few eyebrows. We can’t help but wonder how those gripes concerning “commercial sensitivity” of coverage and speed data will stack up if BT doesn’t contribute.

Mark Bee, Leader of Suffolk County Council, said:

This extension contract will improve educational attainment and remove a major block to public service transformation in Suffolk. We estimate that public sector organisations will be able to achieve £49 million of efficiency savings within 15 years as a result of better access to broadband and that the local economy will grow by £2 billion with 1,500 jobs created.

Access to better broadband across the whole of Suffolk is at the heart of our economic growth strategy, as it will support future business investment and growth in Suffolk. Recently we reached the halfway mark, six weeks ahead of schedule, as more than 50,000 homes and businesses can now connect to faster fibre broadband as part of the Better Broadband for Suffolk programme.

I am extremely pleased with this milestone but we must continue to lead the way and push on to reach our new target of bringing at least 95% coverage of fibre broadband to Suffolk.”

Bill Murphy, BT’s Managing Director of NGA, said:

We are pleased to have been selected as the preferred partner for this project. This project will build upon the success of both our own commercial roll-out in the county as well as our existing partnership with Suffolk County Council.

In total we’ve already provided more than 250,000 Suffolk homes and businesses with access to high-speed fibre broadband and we look forward to extending this even further to bring the benefits of fibre broadband to even more parts of the county.”

Overall it’s anticipated that the extra investment will ensure that 16,000 more properties in Suffolk will get access to superfast broadband and the council is already looking towards how it can push coverage up to 100% by 2020 (we’re currently anticipating another round of Government funding to be announced around the end of 2014).

Meanwhile we’re off to query with BT why they don’t appear to be contributing to the second round and whether the 95% goal is for general “fibre broadband” availability or actual coverage of “superfast” speeds. We’ll report back if somebody responds.

UPDATE 3rd November 2014

According to the council, 95% is the target for “superfast” speeds and not merely raw “fibre broadband” network coverage. Still no word on why BT has not contributed though.

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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