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Worcestershire UK Cheers BDUK and BT Fibre Broadband Uptake Surge

Monday, January 26th, 2015 (8:03 am) - Score 780

The £20m Superfast Worcestershire scheme in England, which is using state aid to help BT deploy “high-speed fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) services to 90% of local premises by June 2016, appears to have seen take-up of related services skyrocket since its seemingly dismal showing of 3.2% in September 2014.

Readers might recall that Worcestershire’s project came in for some arguably premature criticism from local politicians last month (here). The Labour Councillor, Paul Denham, even questioned whether it was worthwhile spending millions of pounds to improve broadband connectivity “when people are homeless, struggling on benefits and relying on food banks … the rate of sign-up is very low and that rather questions whether there is demand in the first place“.

In fairness we often caution readers not to use take-up, particularly within the first year, as a tool of singular judgement because there are often other more complicated factors at work (See the Full BDUK Uptake Figures for All Areas). The fact that Worcestershire’s scheme only got started last year is also a key consideration.

General wide-area deployments often take a bit longer before consumers a) become aware of the new service, b) see a need for it (especially if they live in areas that can already benefit from good ADSL2+ speeds) and c) are willing or able (e.g. locked into existing contracts) to spend the extra £5-£15 per month premium in order to receive it.

Worcestershire’s scheme had only managed to reach an additional 6,833 homes and businesses by the end up September 2014, when it scored the take-up figure of 3.2% (note: this reflects take-up in BDUK upgraded areas only and does not include commercial deployments), but happily the project appears to have ramped up.

The latest data states that, in the three months from September to December 2014, Worcestershire ended up massively exceeding its original year-end target of 10,000 premises upgraded and achieved a total of 15,014 with take-up jumping to 10% (note: as of last week the project had reached 16,110 premises passed).

Simon Geraghty, Deputy Leader of Worcestershire County Council, said:

While the Superfast Worcestershire programme deployment is still in the very early stages, we are pleased with the rise in take up levels from three per cent in September. Take-up of the new infrastructure is steady and reflects where we are with the roll-out. The nature of the roll-out programme means we’re connecting communities in phases and the take-up figures are a reflection of this.

In the meantime our project teams are working hard to raise awareness of the benefits and stimulate demand in communities where we are rolling out faster fibre broadband and reminding local people they have to choose to upgrade – it’s not something that happens automatically. We are looking to focus on stimulating demand over the coming months and throughout the programme.”

The project is currently well on its way towards achieving the goal of helping to upgrade an additional 55,000 premises by the completion date and it’s likely that a second contract in the near future will see “fibre broadband” coverage pushed even further (the government wants 95% to be within reach of fixed line superfast broadband by 2017). Take note that BT’s separate commercial investment has already helped the same service to reach 176,000 premises in the county.

Since the end of last year the Government has also invested around £8 million into a big advertising drive for its Broadband Delivery UK scheme, which aims to raise awareness of the new connectivity options and encourage take-up.

Crucially many BDUK schemes may be able to “claw-back” some of the public investment in order to expand coverage once take-up passes the 20% market, although it’s still too early to assess this.

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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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