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New Process as UK Gov Opens £95m to Local Full Fibre Network Bids

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 2,307
fibre optic blue strands cosmetic broadband picture

The UK Government has today opened the final (Wave 3) round of bidding for £95 million in funding to local authorities as part of their £190m Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) challenge fund, which aims to stimulate commercial investment in “gigabit capable” broadband networks (rural and urban).

Last year the LFFN fund was used to fuel a £10.4 million pilot of 1Gbps capable “full fibre” (FTTP/H) broadband connectivity across six areas of the United Kingdom (here). The initial pilots reflected a variety of different approaches, such as connection vouchers for businesses (i.e. up to £3,000 to help get the service installed), aggregated demand schemes, opening access to existing public sector infrastructure and dark fibre builds etc.

At the time the government said that its wider aim was to spread Gigabit connections to “key public buildings and businesses, with the expectation that this leads to broadband providers (ISP) creating additional connections to local homes and businesses.” The above allocation of £10.4m was then followed earlier this year by a second allocation (Wave 2) of £95.5m, which went to 13 different areas / projects across the UK (here and here).

lffn wave 2 fund winners and coverage

Today’s announcement thus reflects the final Wave 3 pot of £95m, which is being opened up for new bids (some bids that failed in the first two waves are also expected to be revised and resubmitted) but will follow a different process.

Margot James, UK Minister for Digital, said:

“We recently set out our ambition for a nationwide full-fibre broadband network by 2033, and initiatives like this will be instrumental in achieving that. We want to hear from any local authority interested in taking part, so we can work closely with them on their plans to help them secure funding.”

We had expected an announcement of the Wave 3 bidding last month, but one reason why it took a bit longer might be because a new process has been adopted for allocating the remaining £95m. As a result there will be no fixed date for formal submissions – instead, local bodies with an interest in bidding are now invited to submit an informal Expression of Interest (EoI) to the programme.

After that Government officials will then enter into a dialogue with the bidders to assess their project and, where appropriate, help them shape their approach. The final decision on funding will be made by the Local Full Fibre Networks Investment Panel (LFFNIP), who will assess the proposals and place particular importance on a number of areas, including:

Rural focus: Projects demonstrating the effectiveness of Local Full Fibre Networks delivery in rural locations and hard-to-reach areas

5G or Barrier Busting: Projects focused on overcoming obstacles to the commercial roll-out of fibre and 5G

Public Sector Productivity: Projects targeting improvements to public sector services, such as enabling schools to access new cloud based educational tools, or allowing medical professionals to remotely monitor patient health

Market Development: Projects deliberately targeting the development of the full-fibre market in a particular area, including incentivising aggregation

The move away from a “competition selection process” with fixed submission dates and adoption of a more “iterative approach” should allow the government (DCMS) and local bodies to identify and develop projects collaboratively in order to “avoid unnecessary abortive work“.

The Government said they are also keen to explore new potential delivery methods and to increase the number of unique learning opportunities about methods that may lead to a further increase in the commercial deployment of fibre. “The benefit of this [new] approach is that local bodies will get early feedback on the viability of a project before going to the expense and effort of writing a full proposal,” said DCMS.

All of this is part of the government’s wider £31 billion National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) aimed at improving productivity. This fund has already earmarked £740 million specifically for improving Britain’s digital infrastructure (5G mobile and full fibre broadband), ensuring the UK is “match-fit for the future as part of our modern industrial strategy.

As it stands most of the related Wave 2 projects are still quite early into their deployment phase, which means it might be awhile before we know what kind of final impact they’ve all had. The LFFN programme is expected to run until 31st March 2021.

UPDATE 7:44am

The new guidance documents are now online here.

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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.
Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar Eric Buckley

    I would hope that the Edlington post code LN9 5RJ being very much a rural location would be near the top of the pile when it comes to the distribution of the Wave 3 pot of £95m.

  2. Avatar David Clough

    Spridlington residents when responding to a Neighbourhood Plan questionnaire said that faster broadband was their main priority. This scored 92.5% of the maximum available rating. The average score on the broadband speed measurer on this website is 1.5Mb/s at the time of writing for LN8 2DD. Residents who work from home find it difficult to cope with this very poor broadband speed. Please help us to move into the 21st century!

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