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BDUK Pilot Consumer Led Approach to Gigabit Broadband Vouchers

Thursday, July 30th, 2020 (12:46 pm) - Score 2,806
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The UK Government’s (DCMS) Building Digital UK team, which is responsible for implementing much of their “full fibre” and gigabit broadband deployment plans, has begun piloting a new consumer led (instead of supplier led) approach for the Rural Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme.

As most people know the £200m Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme is designed to help homes and businesses in some of the most remote rural UK locations to access significantly faster broadband. One part of that involves a voucher scheme, which offers up to £3,500 for small businesses or up to £1,500 for residents to help them get an ultrafast or “gigabit-capable” broadband ISP connection installed (at present 22% of UK premises can access a gigabit-capable service – here).

NOTE: The RGC voucher scheme is due to run until March 2021, but a larger follow-on scheme may follow.

All of this is helping to keep the rural (outside-in) focused build of new Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) networks going, at least until the Government’s new £5bn programme begins to take over in the near future (here). But as part of this strategy BDUK are keen to make their vouchers even more accessible and as such they’re piloting the addition of a consumer led approach via a new website.

According to a social media post by one of BDUK’s Programme Directors, Justin Leese, the new website enables individuals or communities to register their interest in getting a voucher. By doing this the community becomes visible to suppliers and they in turn can then express an interest in providing the service (sounds a bit like a dating / match-making site.. for vouchers).

Justin Leese said:

So, whilst remaining supplier agnostic we essentially walk the customers up one side of the hill, the suppliers up the other side and let them make their own introductions at the top! The pilot is in West Wales, Cornwall and Borderlands.

Because we hope to launch this nationally at a later date we’ve talked about the standard Rural voucher values (£1,500 res and £3,500 biz) but of course for this pilot there are top ups available in Wales and Borderlands that further increase the voucher value. (And of course a growing number of top ups in other parts of the UK such as Kent, West Sussex, Dorset and Hampshire).

The new Broadband Upgrade Fund website is already live and, as above, is initially only available (as a pilot) to rural premises in Cornwall, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Cumbria and Northumberland / Borderlands (suppliers can separately register their interest). Consumers can check their eligibility via a postcode before applying.

Overall this looks like a clever approach and one that should be much more accessible for ordinary people, provided they’re made aware of it (hopefully this article will help).

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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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19 Responses
  1. Guy Cashmore says:

    Well it’s a nice idea in principal, but as the only ‘bride’ realistically available in the vast majority of rural areas is Openreach, I do question what tangible benefit this scheme might deliver?

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      There are quite a few rural focused providers around across different parts of the UK, as well as Openreach ofc. Obviously if you provide a tool that makes it easier for communities to express and attract an interest then you increase their chances of being connected. Surely that is the most important outcome, regardless of who gets it done.

    2. A_Builder says:

      I think it is a great idea.

      Opens the whole thing up.

      There are lots of players out there with fibre in the ground.

      If network builders can scan the lists and see opportunities that is how an effective market works. Depends of course on how clear a view of their own assets there is. Up till recently BT/OR were not too clever at recycling bits of fibre that were already in the ground (defunct leased mainly) – others may have better systems – or no system at all other than ‘Bill’ who has the whole thing in his head!

  2. Stephen says:

    What about LLANDYSUL It’s in Ceredigion, We got FTTC the crappy version a couple years ago, how come we can’t get FTTP… I mean surely all they’ve got to do is slap some new cables in or something.. and I live in a damn VALLEY!

    1. CarlT says:

      What makes you so special that you should take precedence over the other 85% of the UK with no FTTP?

    2. AnotherTim says:

      If you’re in Ceredigion then you are probably eligible to apply – unlike my are which has to make do without even FTTC, and is ineligible under this pilot scheme.

    3. Fastman says:

      What about LLANDYSUL It’s in Ceredigion, We got FTTC the crappy version a couple years ago, how come we can’t get FTTP… I mean surely all they’ve got to do is slap some new cables in or something.. and I live in a damn VALLEY!

      thap crappy version as you call probably funded at great expense by welsh goverment

      ps you could also fund it yourself through a fibre on demand

    4. Meadmodj says:

      @Stephen. So you have had Superfast broadband provided in under 3 years and you want this investment and public subsidy to be written off and replaced by FTTP when in reality most of the residents will probably subscibe to the entry level FTTP product. Why should Openreach lose money and more tax payers money be spent when there are premises in the surrounding area around LLANDYSUL that still have poor ADSL and no alternative Outdoor 4G signal.
      As USO requirements improve and OR seek to replace copper your time will come but not now, join the queue.

    5. Illicit Penguin says:

      CarlT what makes the tiny list of people this scheme is for so special compared to the rest of us too ?

  3. Nobroadband says:

    It’s not much good if you can’t get Openreach to complete the contracts they already have.
    They can’t get a cable across a railway branch line, a year later still waiting.
    Being a very small rural community of no consequence (30 residents) how cares, let’s just get another scheme going and give some more money to Openreach so they can use it to further upgrade the cities or larger towns.

    1. Meadmodj says:

      This type of situation could befall any communications provider or main utility if there is either none or insufficient duct available. I assume there is Telephony provision. Openreach would need to sign some form of Asset Protection Agreement regardless of how simple the task appears and may need to take on excessive liabilities (especially on old bridges and tunnels) which they simply would not want to do. If the works are not straight forward it will require significant negotiation with National Rail, acredited contractors etc. and scheduling to National Rail’s convenience. There are always technical alternatives but the costs would simply escalate.

  4. Nobroadband says:

    How about just use the telegraph poles either side of the railway track. Which already have telephone copper cables on
    And wait for the 2 hour gap between trains.
    Or let’s make it as complicated as possible

    1. Tony says:

      They are not allowed to put any cables above a railway line, if it comes down it could cause a massive accident.
      It has to either cross at a bridge or go under the line in a duct, but all work has to be done on a strict timescale and has to be agreed on, (not just “get it done in the gap between the trains schedule).

    2. nobroadband says:

      Oh my apologies I understand now.
      You can have a high voltage electrical cables and large copper telephone cables across the Railway track but one small fibre cable.
      That make perfect sense.

  5. Hexham FTTP Wannabe says:

    What a great idea. I have signed up and will be encouraging my neighbours to do so too. Anything which gets the latent demand made visible is a good thing, as is the funding!

  6. Hoola hoop says:

    I had one of those insane quotes for FTTPoD they all laugh about on thinkbb
    I applied for a gigabit voucher to fit it. The reply I got back was that I had to find more people to get it along with me. I don’t think that was right

  7. Chris C says:

    if BDUK is for rural areas, what is the government scheme for cities with no FTTP?

  8. Jean says:

    Are we obliged to use the company who fits the system under the voucher scheme as our supplier? We have been approached by a local company who are saying they can obtain the voucher and complete the work but only if we sign a contract with them for 12 months supply.

  9. anon456 says:

    This scheme looks more promising than existing national voucher schemes. I hope it becomes available to my area soon (Bewdley). I’ll be happy to contact everyone in my street to gauge interest when it does.

    Only just found out about it, hopefully, the word will spread once the pilot scheme is complete.

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