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Government Turns Building Digital UK into Executive Agency

Friday, December 3rd, 2021 (3:58 pm) - Score 2,328
Project-Gigabit-UK-Broadband-Investment

The Government’s Building Digital UK (BDUK) team, which is part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & and Sport (DCMS) and has responsibility for delivering broadband networks across the nation (e.g. the £5bn Project Gigabit rollout scheme), is to become an Executive Agency from April 2022.

The move will essentially give BDUK more operational autonomy to focus on deploying Project Gigabit, as well as the £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme to improve rural 4G mobile coverage. As part of this, BDUK will adopt a new corporate governance structure, including a new board, which will incorporate a non-executive chair, executive members and non-executive members (i.e. an extra layer of scrutiny and technical oversight).

However, BDUK will still remain legally within DCMS and retain a close relationship with DCMS policy officials. Apparently, administration costs for the new Executive Agency have also been minimised by “identifying where shared services can be delivered within DCMS” (part of the Shared Services Strategy) and delivering more streamlined services that maximise value for money.

The Government also said it would “bring the agency closer to the communities it is benefitting,” which you might assume would mean placing it in a more rural location – as that’s the primary focus of both Project Gigabit and the SRN, but.. you’d be wrong. Instead, they’ll be setting up a head office in Central Manchester to “boost the city’s credentials as a fast-growing digital tech hub.”

Julia Lopez MP, Digital Infrastructure Minister, said:

“We are on a mission to make sure everyone can get faster broadband speeds and reap the benefits of internet-fuelled innovations in the coming decades.

We are moving fast and national gigabit-speed broadband coverage has jumped from six per cent to sixty per cent in just two years.

As part of the biggest broadband build in British history we are now giving BDUK greater freedom and flexibility to ramp up rollout and expand its operations to create new jobs, boost economic growth and level up communities in need.”

Executive Agencies were first established in 1988 to allow the delivery of executive functions of government to be carried out separately from – but within a policy and resources framework set by – a primarily policy-focused department.

We suspect that this may, in part, reflect the need for BDUK to expand their resources (e.g. staffing) in order to help them cope with the large number of procurements involved with Project Gigabit and its associated voucher schemes. The long procurement timescales currently being listed for later phases of Project Gigabit may thus offer some indication of why this change is necessary.

In addition, BDUK involves quite a lot of highly technical and specialist work, which is another area that might benefit from giving BDUK a greater say in policy development, albeit not so much that it would impact overarching Government policy. In many ways, we’re actually a little surprised that they didn’t do this earlier.

The government has so far identified up to 2.5 million hard-to-reach homes and businesses in scope of Project Gigabit across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and is in the process of identifying more (i.e. those within the final 20% of premises that may not benefit from commercial FTTP builds etc.).

The first contracts under this (i.e. part of Phases 1 and 2) are expected to be awarded around mid-2022 (build will follow toward late 2022 / early 2023), but other areas may have to wait years longer before they reach this stage. For example, Northern North Yorkshire, under Phase 3, won’t see contract commencement until after mid-2024 and there are more phases yet to even be unveiled.

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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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22 Responses
  1. Jonathan says:

    “The government has so far identified up to 2.5 million hard-to-reach homes and businesses” – is this dataset available somewhere?

  2. Buggerlugz says:

    Its supposed to read “The move will give our Eaton friends an executive seat on the board paying them lots of money for doing very little.”

    Like it’ll make any difference? We all know these are the sort of people who may have a degree in fine art, but have absolutely no common sense whatsoever. Nothing good will come of the move for customers, but it’ll make some folks very rich no doubt and that’s a good enough reason to do it for the government.

    1. MrTruth says:

      I have noticed your posts are getting more and more extreme as time passes 🙁

    2. Barney says:

      *Eton

    3. Anonymous says:

      Absolutely, I totally agree, just watch as folk line their pockets with all managers and very little actually getting done on the ground and nobody is held accountable, just look at all the government projects… hs2, nhs I.t etc.

    4. John H says:

      Jobs for the boys is not unique to the Conservatives, Labour is perfectly capable of the same, setting up unaccountable Quango’s and appointing their own friends.

    5. AntiMrTruth says:

      @MrTruth

      Somebody posts an opinion that differs from mine. It’s therefore “”extreme””. Whaaaa Whaaaa. I’m triggered!!!!

    6. Buggerlugz says:

      JohnH, Indeed. Serco, KPMG, how many of these quango’s exist? Hundreds? Thousands?

    7. TrueFibre says:

      @AntiMrTruth

      Maybe “extreme” is normal for you but not for everyone.

    8. wake up people says:

      Totally agree. Cronyism at it’s best.
      All I hear is blah blah blah, to little to late.
      Some CEO is getting paid.

  3. Optimist says:

    Instead of spending money on more bureaucracy, why not make it simpler to build networks and reduce business rates, VAT etc. to make it cheaper for consumers? The bureaucrats displaced should find alternative employment e.g. in the comms industry or as HGV drivers.

    1. anonymous says:

      What did you have in mind to make it cheaper to deploy to the areas that this funding is intended for?

      Business rates aren’t going to cut it.

    2. Optimist says:

      “What did you have in mind to make it cheaper to deploy to the areas that this funding is intended for?

      Business rates aren’t going to cut it.”

      Let local authorities in these areas give every council tax payer a voucher to go towards the cost of installing broadband. Then let the telcos compete for the business.

      Job done.

    3. Anon says:

      “Let local authorities in these areas give every council tax payer a voucher to go towards the cost of installing broadband. Then let the telcos compete for the business”

      Is that not exactly what BDUK are doing through their Voucher scheme, albeit being administered centrally instead of Local Authorities having to shoulder the burden?

    4. anonymous says:

      So have local authorities spend money on bureaucracy, and lose some of the economies of scale of centralised mass procurement by forcing end users to handle procurement themselves. Alongside that one size fits all vouchers will ensure poor value for money in some cases and no takers for the vouchers in others.

      Vouchers for everything is often touted by libertarians as a route to smaller government but usually just ends up with higher public spending and corporatism as those on the receiving end of the vouchers have more opportunity to take the taxpayer for a ride.

  4. SM says:

    Will BDUK be customer-facing (eg: can people across the county email them about the gigabit rollout, local broadband/mobile network issues, seeking updates and the like), or will they not accept that sort of contact and it to be via the regional areas directly that are in (each of) the locations where the gigabit intervention projects have been announced, with them (local council?) being the go-between between residents and BDUK?

    1. anonymous says:

      Good question.

      BDUK’s ‘customers’ are not the end users that may purchase the broadband products. They work with infrastructure builders and local authorities.

      I would hope they aren’t going to be public facing. Be a waste of their time and our money.

  5. Fibre master says:

    Bduk is a hassle and a waste of money, they should just reduce taxes on companies delivering infrastructure rather than dumping money on overhead

    1. Fastman says:

      fibre master (are you new to ISP review not seen you comment before) i assume its a hassle and a waste of money to you as it has not benefitted you directly then –

      quite a significant proporition of recent premises (last 2 years() will have been FTTP

  6. It's a smash and grab operation. says:

    Fantastic… another way for our ‘Dear Leaders’ to line their pockets and those of their chums, whilst making things worse.

    If there is a god, please can you deliver us from the bungling baffoon Bodger Johnson? You’ve punished us enough!

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      great minds, think alike.

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