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UK Government to Debate Broadband Not-spots on Wednesday

Monday, February 1st, 2016 (2:01 pm) - Score 941

The UK Government’s Minister for the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey MP, will on Wednesday hold a “not-spot summit“, which will bring broadband ISPs, mobile operators, politicians, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and Countryside Alliance (CA) together in order to debate how best to close the remaining gaps in fast broadband coverage.

At present the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme is already working to push superfast broadband (24Mbps+) capable connectivity out to 95% of the United Kingdom by 2017/18 and BT expects that 96% may actually be delivered. But that still leaves 3-4% of premises left to wait for better connectivity, mostly in remote rural areas and a few urban pockets.

The Government have already conducted a number of Market Test Pilots (MTP) in order to trial several alternative network approaches (e.g. fixed wireless access, fibre optic based and satellite etc.) and their £60m USC (2Mbps for all) subsidy for Satellite connections has also been expanded for use by at least one wireless provider (here).

Never the less a coherent plan for closing the gap is still somewhat absent, but now might be the best time to debate this problem given. The Government are already consulting on a new approach to EU State Aid approval for future broadband contracts (here) and will shortly consult on proposals for a new 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO).

Matt Warman, MP for Boston and Skegness, said:

“I am pleased that the Government is listening to concerns from MP and other groups about the variations in broadband coverage in both urban and rural areas, and is hosting the ‘not-spot’ summit to look at ways to improve coverage for families and businesses across the country.

I have no doubt that the range of internet providers and interested groups will provide for an interesting and productive discussion on what we can all do to ensure better coverage going forward.”

Warman originally called for the debate during a related session in the House of Commons last October 2015 (here), although it wouldn’t be the first time that such a debate has been held and we expect many of the usual issues to raise their heads again. Similarly representatives from BDUK, EE and BT will also be speaking at the event.

The debate also claims to be open to “interest groups,” although some sources indicate that this won’t include campaign groups, which is a bit disappointing.

Leave a Comment
16 Responses
  1. Avatar Alloneword says:

    This will be intresting, NOT.

    Just the same old rubbish… were doing our best testing this and testing that yet sod all happens 2016 and i’m lucky to get 4mbits and where do i live about 5 mins walk from Canary Wharf as the crow flies, and no date for anything solid, joke the lot of them

  2. Avatar Dave says:

    This will be the same old rubbish.
    People with broadband are to get even faster broadband and people with no usable broadband are to get nothing except ‘Satellite’
    If a wanted satellite I could have had it 10 years ago, so why should I want it now?
    Nothing has changed. Its to expensive and unusable.

    1. Avatar PeterM says:

      The news from Lincolnshire that the USC vouchers could be used for Fixed Wireless does offer us a glimmer of hope that at last BDUK and maybe even the Government have at last grasped that Fixed Wireless has a big part to play in giving the final 5% decent broadband. Maybe…

  3. Avatar PeterM says:

    The inclusion of the NFU and Countryside Alliance is interesting. Both groups have been very vocal about the need to improve rural broadband but have so far offered very little practical help to solve the problem.
    If Fixed Wireless networks are to thrive they will need transmitter sites and booster sites. The members of the NFU and CA can provide many of these sites and provided they don’t get greedy with high wayleave payments the benefits to all could be very worthwhile.

  4. Avatar MikeW says:

    In the backbenchers debate last year, Matt Warman was one of those that could see beyond the current problems, and focus on the state that will exist in 2017/18 when ongoing projects complete, and a further 2 million premises are covered by superfast speeds on NGA networks.

    The government answer back then was that they’d publish plans for the final 5% by the end of last year – with previous indications that plans would come out as part of the budget.

    It must be a little embarrassing to reach February with little hint of what is to come, the only sign being the consultation on a new EU-friendly procurement. Presumably, the EU will cop the blame for delays, like they did back in 2012.

    These people – the final 3-4% – need a plan.

    The best, gold-standard volunteer project is B4RN, which relies heavily on cooperation with NFU members. If we want commercial projects to stand a chance, they are going to need just as much cooperation. Not every location is going to be able to put together a volunteer organisation to run projects … yet any commercial altnet will struggle with the numbers. I suspect that the places that succeed most will have found the best local interaction with landowners, NFU, CA, CLA and probably more TLAs.

  5. Avatar wirelesspacman says:

    “must be a little embarrassing”

    Nope. The relevant part of the brain is surgically removed as soon as an MP gets elected! 🙂

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      True. Some civil servants might blush a little though…

  6. Avatar Stephen says:

    You can be sure that there will be no sense of urgency whatsoever, a few more survery & studies maybe, resulting in some sort of rollout 3-4 years down the line.

    How about about the government take a few billion out of the superfast railway fund, which only half the country will ever use, & spend it on superfast fibre which 100% of the country could use? Test have proven there is now the technology, the biggest problem now is the funding.
    It’s a shame that none of the decision makers or budget holders live in an area with less than 2MB/S speeds, I’m pretty sure if they did then we would see much quicker results!!

    Apologies for the very negative tone of my post, but I’m guessing 2016 will be yet another year of “exploring solutions”. Along with 2017 & 2018!!!!!

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      Of course, the “which 100% of the country could use” statement isn’t accurate enough.

      Once the projects have finished, 96% of the country will have access to superfast speeds, and 60% will have access to ultrafast – with promises to go further. There is only likely to be 5-10% within that 95% who want access to something faster.

      Why spend government money on overlaying 100% when almost no-one will use it unless it is cheaper? Why not focus on the 5%?

      Otherwise I agree. Cancel those pesky high-speed cross-London train projects, and use the money elsewhere. Don’t cancel the ones that might help the North catch up.

  7. Avatar wirelesspacman says:

    “How about about the government take a few billion out of the superfast railway fund, which only half the country will ever use, & spend it on superfast fibre which 100% of the country could use?”

    Except that the spend would be on superfast fibre for ish 5% of the country, which would make the railways a much more attractive use of scarce funds.

    1. Avatar gerarda says:

      5% of the country is 3 million users per day. How many people will be able to use Hugely Stupid 2 each day?

    2. Avatar wirelesspacman says:

      and how many of those 3 million will use it for much more than streaming video? 🙂

      I dare say that similar arguments were made when the Victorians first built the railways.

    3. Avatar Stephen says:

      I agree that it’s definitely not attractive to help rural people out because it costs too much money.
      But from our pointy of view, we don’t have access to a lot of infastructure that people in the city do, it would be nice if we could have this 1 thing that would make us equal. We don’t have access to trains, buses, taxis are expensive, we have issues with water, gas & electricity. It would just be fantastic if we could have a good internet service just like the rest of the country.

  8. Avatar gerarda says:

    HS2 is the equivalent of investing in the canal network when railways were being built

    1. Avatar wirelesspacman says:

      Well if it lasts as long as the canals, and gives so many people really nice holidays… 🙂

      Am intrigued by what the “railways” are in your example.

  9. Avatar DTMark says:

    Is this the stage where the government, having given BT the money to do the areas that might have been considered the most commercially viable anyway enabling them to cherry-pick the locations to some (perhaps a great) extent, now goes cap-in-hand to alternate providers to do the bits BT didn’t want to do?

    “There’s a fiver in it for you. There’s even a government scheme for you to borrow the money to do exactly the bits that we want. As long as you promise that nothing you build over-builds our preferred partners, who are entirely free to, and probably will, over-build you?”

    That this “debate” is happening now is breathtakingly incompetent. The time to have this debate was at the inception of the BDUK project, had it happened then, there would be no “not spots” now.

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