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Dorset UK Council Propose £5m to Extend Rural FTTP Broadband Cover

Thursday, August 29th, 2019 (8:05 am) - Score 1,337
fttp node openreach 2019

The state aid supported Superfast Dorset (SFD) project, which has so far worked with Openreach (BT) to extend the reach of FTTC/P “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) to 97%+ of the county (including Poole and Bournemouth), has proposed a £5m extension to its existing Phase 3 contract.

The existing £7.4m Phase 3 contract is enabling Openreach (BT) to expand the reach of their Gigabit capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based broadband ISP network to an additional 3,800 rural home and businesses in the county, although that work is due to end this summer 2019 (here). BT committed about £3.4m to support the Phase 3 contract, with £3.9m coming from public sources (council etc.).

We know from an earlier report (here) that this will still leave upwards of 10,000 premises spread across the county (mostly in remote rural areas) in need of an upgrade so as to be put them within reach of a fixed superfast broadband network. On this point the Dorset County Council have long said that they want to get “as close as practicably possible” to 100% coverage and have been considering a Phase 4 contract (here).

The future Phase 4 deal is expected to harness around £10m of clawback (gainshare), which is public money that BT returns as take-up in intervention areas rises (reused to help improve coverage and speeds). However Phase 4 is still a future prospect and in the meantime the council is proposing an extension of their existing Phase 3 contract.

The original Phase 3 contract included the potential to expand its public funding contribution up to a maximum of £8.9 million (roughly a £5m boost over the £3.9m so far agreed). Part of the funding for this extra £5m is proposed to be filled by last year’s provisional award of an extra £3.7m from DEFRA’s Rural Broadband Infrastructure Fund (RBI).

Dominic Fitzgerald, Programme Manager of Superfast Dorset, said:

“The proposal for Phase 3 contract expansion via the Change Control process would require additional public funding.

This would be drawn from the £3.7M RBI grant award from DEFRA (RPA), public funding released from the initial Phase 3 build from descoped structures (structures cancelled on cost considerations, areas now provisioned by third party or other in life changes) and existing capital underspends in the SFD programme.

It should be further noted that the DEFRA grant award remains conditional pending assurance by Building Digital UK (BDUK) on behalf of DEFRA and final approval by the RPA of the modelled coverage and delivery specifics put forward under the Change Control process by Openreach.”

The conditions of the RBI grant require completed draw-down of all grant funds by December 2021, which the council said means that extending the Phase 3 contract is “the only viable mechanism for the utilisation of the RBI grant award within this timeframe.” As above, all of this remains contingent upon council agreement and approval by BDUK, RPA etc.

The council is expected to green light this project at a cabinet meeting, which is due to be held on Tuesday next week (here). Once approved the rollout itself will focus on extending “full fibre” (FTTP) cover into some of the most remote rural areas, although the additional funding may only be enough to tackle an extra 2,000+ premises (c.£2,500 per premises).

The final details will no doubt follow once everything has been agreed.

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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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6 Responses
  1. Avatar Mike Kiely

    These are the best type of LFFN projects pushing fibre to the edge of the network.

    • Nothing much to do with the LFFN programme, that’s all about incentivising wider investment in fibre/FTTP (e.g. such as by connecting public sites via anchor tenancy), while this is actually rolling it out to homes under the BDUK/Superfast Broadband framework.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Mark, .most public sector sites already have multiple fibre bearers. Using LFFN to switch anchor tenancy agreements is really odd. Hitting 98-99% fibre services in rural means a lot more rural full fibre networks. Project Stratum when delivered should be the biggest.

    • Yes but saying again, the above extension is nothing to do with LFFN.

  2. Avatar FibreBubble

    BDUK is state aid to build fibre to places where the market is not able to.

    LLFN is state aid to a player to roll out their network to places that already have fibre and in many cases fibre from multiple competing players.

    • Avatar Gary

      LFFN so far as I can see so far is a Budget con/dodge to get fibre to Gov/Council buildings.

      Happy to see evidence to prove that wrong, where an LFFN deployment actually provides Domestic penetration into communities.

      I have no objection to these places being fibre connected But the claims that its going to help others….well.

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