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Dorset UK Updates on Superfast Broadband Cover and Future Plans UPDATE

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019 (9:22 am) - Score 1,238

A new report from Dorset’s (England) Economic Growth Committee has revealed that 97%+ of the county (including Poole and Bournemouth) should now be able to order a “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) service from an ISP, which they say leaves 10,000+ premises spread across the county in need of an upgrade.

At present the existing state aid supported Superfast Dorset (SFD) programme has already extended “superfast” (using the original definition of 24Mbps+) services to cover an additional 85,030 properties (Jan 2019 figure), which has been achieved by working with Openreach (BT) to grow the reach of their Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) network and a little ultrafast Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP).

dorset superfast broadband coverage jan 2019

The current roll-out is on-going and 3,500+ more premises are expected to benefit during 2019 (mostly via FTTP thanks to a £7.4m deal), which equates to another c.1% point of superfast coverage. However Dorset County Council have long said that they want to get “as close as practicably possible” to 100% coverage and to that end they’re still working to agree a Phase 4 roll-out contract (here), which will again focus on “full fibreFTTP and could reach another 4,000+ premises in rural areas (at present only 2.6% of Dorset premises can get FTTP).

The latest Economic Growth Committee report confirms all this and interestingly gives the project a “high” risk rating because it remains “critically reliant on Openreach” and has, like other councils, experienced unspecified “contract management issues through the superfast programme.”

Nevertheless consumer take-up in related SFD upgraded areas is now at 55% (well above the initial contractual target of 20%) and this is expected to result in over £10 million of public investment being returned (gainshare / clawback), which can then be used to further extend “full fibre” coverage. The report also includes a useful summary of estimated economic SFD benefits so far.

Economic Benefits of Dorset’s Broadband Project

An independent assessment of the impact the national superfast rollout has had in its first years (2012-2016) found:

* £9 billion surge in turnover for businesses benefitting from the faster connections now available.

* £690 million net increase in Gross Value Added to the UK economy.

* A reduction of almost 9,000 individuals claiming jobseekers allowance, as well as a reduction in long term claimants by 2,500 in programme areas, accompanied by the creation of 49,000 local jobs.

* Programme has delivered £12.28 benefit for businesses for every £1 invested by the Government and local authorities

An independent assessment of the 2015 SME connection voucher programme delivered £5 of short-term benefit for every £1 invested – across the Dorset project area this equates to over £5m of benefit (at no direct cost to Dorset County Council).

The UK Government’s new £67m Gigabit Voucher Scheme, which provides up to £2,500 per business or up to £500 per resident (when aggregated with businesses) toward the installation of a Gigabit capable broadband connection, has also seen good take-up. At present 220 connections in Dorset have been made as a result of this (worth £533,860) and 298 more are in the pipeline (worth £693,089)

However the rural focused Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme, which has been running for several years and offers grants of up to £350 per property to help get a faster service installed in areas that struggle to get speeds faster than 2Mbps, doesn’t seem to have been as popular. In Dorset, BDUK has so far issued just 68 grants of which only 30 were redeemed (UK wide figures = 1,419 applications, with 1,078 issued and 623 redeemed).

Finally, the Dorset and Bournemouth local authorities also confirmed that they’re jointly bidding for funding from Wave 3 of the Government’s Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme (details), which will focus on building a new high capacity fibre network serving public sector buildings with future commercial opportunities to serve businesses.

UPDATE 20th March 2019

The figures given in the council’s report for the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme seemed surprisingly low to us and we now understand that these are just since the re-launch of the scheme on the new platform in January 2019.

The figures prior to that on the old system were: Voucher Codes issued to Dorset 1,097 and Voucher Codes claimed in Dorset 606. Nationally the number of codes (vouchers) issued was 41,264 and codes claimed was 20,874.

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