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Cornwall UK to Approve 99 Percent Superfast Broadband Coverage Goal

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 (1:43 pm) - Score 1,483

The Cornwall County Council (CCC) in south west England looks set to approve a new Superfast Extension Programme (SEP) next week, which will aim to expand the coverage of “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) connectivity from the currently level of around 95% and make “superfast” (30Mbps+) services available to 99% by March 2019.

The existing £132m Superfast Cornwall project, which is funded by £78.5m from BT and up to £53.5m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), has effectively already achieved its existing target of making “fibre broadband” services available to 95% of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly by the end of 2014.

Sadly the final completion for that project has slipped slightly, which means that the last 1-2% of the 95% target will now be polished off by March 2015. But take note that only 85% (estimated) of Cornwall will actually be able to receive “superfast” speeds of 30Mbps+. Put another way, approximately 38,000 premises are expected to be below 30Mbps, of which an estimated 13,000 premises will be beyond the “fibre footprint“.

Last year the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme announced that it intended to help Cornwall tackle this gap by contributing £2.96m of its budget to a Superfast Extension project. Securing this funding is conditional on 50% public sector match funding and contracts being signed with a supplier by June 2015.

As a result of that the follow-on programme, commencing in July 2015, will aim to deliver over 99% coverage of superfast speeds by 2019. The estimated total cost of this will be £18.747m and Cornwall Council’s contribution is expected to sit at approximately £3.115m (£2.573m capital and £0.542m revenue), although final funding sources and levels have yet to be agreed (dependent upon the contract negotiations).

Cornwall Council Statement

In order to meet the BDUK timescale, the overall project will be split into 2 phases. Phase 1 will focus on the 5% of premises that remain totally beyond the fibre footprint and would be up and running as quickly as possible (BDUK £2.96m, CC £1.878m, Growth Deal £1m, Regional Growth Fund (RGF) £0.5m and private sector) and Phase 2 would follow on once EU funding is secured (EU, CC and private sector).

Moving ahead quickly with the BDUK funding will maintain Cornwall’s leadership position and keep some of the Superfast Cornwall momentum. The alternative of waiting for EU funding to become available would mean a possible further 1-2 year delay, as well as losing the option to draw down the £2.96m allocation from BDUK.

According to council documents, which have been seen by ISPreview.co.uk, Europe is likely to fund the bulk of Phase 2 with a contribution of £9.401m and at that point another £1.113m is also predicted to come from the Private Sector. It probably goes without saying that BT are highly likely to win the contract, just as they have done for every single other major public broadband delivery plan across the whole of the United Kingdom.

Overall Phase 1 will aim to reach 13,000 extra homes and businesses (total of 99% “fibre broadband” and 89% “superfast broadband” coverage by March 2017), while Phase 2 will focus on the next 22,000 premises and by March 2019 should have ensured the 99% coverage goal for “superfast broadband“. Cornwall’s digital strategy is thus roughly in keeping with Europe’s Digital Agenda (i.e. 30Mbps for all by 2020, with 50% subscribed to 100Mbps+).

A final decision will be taken on Wednesday next week, although most expect the plan to be approved. It’s predicted that an additional 815 jobs could also be created, while 3,500 extra enterprises would benefit from the new connectivity.

As a side note, Cornwall is also home to more ultrafast BTOpenreach Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) lines than almost anywhere else in the UK (62,000 at the last count in mid-2014). Not bad considering there are a total of around 253,000 premises in the entire county.

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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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7 Responses
  1. Avatar Matthew Williams says:

    Wow very nice to hear this is happening kind of sad that 1% will still miss out on Superfast Broadband but it’s certainly going to be the best connected county in the UK for a while to come.

  2. Avatar Tim says:

    The 1% homes will be come worthless… or priceless retreats for internet technophobes.

  3. Avatar NGA for all says:

    It’s good, just need the transparency. TV signals are less than 100%, yet there is MIP, 4G and satellite.
    The high FTTP should be applauded and duplicated. I am certain a true mixed economy solution is better than an obsession on cabinets and easy subsidies.

    1. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      It’s a matter of money. The (all in) budget for the phases, public and private, looks like it’s going to be of the order of £150m, or perhaps £600 per property using mixed FTTP and FTTC. It is, of course, over some tricky terrain. But scale that up to the UK and it would look like £16-17bn. There are some easier places of course, but also more difficult ones.

      As it stands, then UK wide expenditure (public and private) is going to be more in the £5-6bn level, although a 99% target (using a rough calculation) might put that up to £8n or so).

      So, about half of what Superfast Cornwall is spending, and that’s probably a reflection of most of the UK using FTTC. (It looks like Cornwall might be heading for around 30% FTTP coverage – far higher than I expect to see in the near future in most of the country).

      So this is not an “obsession with cabinets”. It’s economics. Personally I’m not sure we are going to see a lot of FTTrN though as, with the exception of moderately large settlements (50+ properties?) I have doubts about its financial viability).

      nb. even where FTTP is installed it looks like fibre isn’t run to all the remote properties, just because the local village has been enabled. Not great news if you are in a farmhouse a mile or two away.

    2. Avatar NGA for all says:

      @Steve Here’s my opinion on the numbers you referenced.

      BT notified it’s analysts that its commercial invetsment was closer to £1.3-£1.6bn of which 60% was capitalised labour. This contrasts with the £2.5bn regularly used but which was set when 20%+ was FTTP. ( I am happy to amend if you point to either a regulated accounts or BT Group accounts where this number is signed off independently.)

      BT’s self certified capital contribution to match the £1.2bn public cash contracted was calculated at £350m by the NAO – probably capitalised labour. The elusive uncertified operational costs can and are gamed on top.

      So your £5-6bn, we can see c£3.5bn to reach 90% with 3/4% FTTP. This excludes the elusive operational costs. This also excludes the significant savings referred to by BDUK at EFRA select session on DEC 10th, and excludes surrendered premiums for USC (8-20% of contract value) and clawback which LA are calculating at least 12% of contract value. All this can extend FTTP if BT had the resource to do the work, but the excess monies will sit in BT’s accounts.

      If you divide £3.5bn by 90,000 cabs you have a very healthy budget and plenty for 3-4% FTTP.

      The odd thing is if the transformation ambition was higher, more FTTP, more FOX’s – with more transparency, then more public money would be easy to justify – £500 contribution per property in blocks £500m for 1m properties. Instead the milestone payments averaging £46k subsidy for a cab and the use of commercial confidentiality agreements to prevent a reasonable level of scrutiny are good for bonuses and cash flow, but creates an aveage outcome (less than New Zealand and Ireland but for more money). Ok so BT does not have the resource to do FTTP, nor even fulfill USC technically but the opportunity was there to do more than currently will be achieved. That’s not to belittle the logistical exercise in delivering 160-180 cabs a week and 300-400km of fibre layed to connect them. But the public financial resources are within the programme to achieve more.

  4. Avatar ziggy says:

    I’ve been told by superslow Cornwall that my home will never receive superfast broadband, apparently I fall beyond the ‘fibre footprint’ this is despite living on a major road 2 miles out of a medium sized town and 1.8 miles from the nearest fibre enabled cabinet (also on the same road). I’m paying the same price for what is essentially as slow as a dial up connection as other customers are paying for fast speed and while ISP’s can get away with charging the same price regardless of speed I can’t see anything changing. Whoever gave the rural broadband contract to BT should be shot.

    1. Avatar Dave King says:

      I agree. I am in the same situation. You should only pay for what you get. Then watch BT jump!

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