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Hampshire County Council Slashes Rural Broadband Funding

Thursday, Jan 26th, 2023 (8:50 am) - Score 1,824
Hampshire-Broadband-Map-2022

The Hampshire County Council (HCC) in England appears set to slash its spending on rural broadband upgrades for the coming year, which will see it falling sharply from £130,000 in 2022/23 to just £5,000 in 2023/24. But this change perhaps isn’t as surprising as it might first appear.

Just to give this some context. Last June the council reported that its original Superfast Broadband Programme (SFBB), under the Building Digital UK (BDUK) framework, had – between 2013 and 2022 – helped to lift the coverage of 24Mbps+ capable fixed “superfast broadband” ISP networks to 97.4% of premises across the county (predominantly with support from Openreach). A total of 115,000 premises directly benefitted from this.

NOTE: The figure of £130k is from the original 2022/23 budget, but the council also now gives a revised budget figure of £179k (they change the budget structure).

Since around 2010 the council has invested roughly £13m into the associated Superfast Hampshire programme, while the UK government (BDUK) invested £14.2m and BT has contributed £7.6m to the project. But at the last update, the local authority also revealed that would still leave around 20,000 premises that are unable to access “superfast” speeds.

The council initially suggested that it would aim to tackle the remaining 20k through top-up funding via the Government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS), but that top-up ran dry at the end of last summer (here).

According to HCC’s Director of Corporate Operations, Rob Carr (Advertiser and Times), the council is now trying to “plug the gap” by harnessing the UK’s £5bn Project Gigabit broadband rollout scheme. But funding and contract allocations under that programme is now being centrally managed in England (i.e. not local authority managed, like the earlier SFBB scheme).

On top of that, the value of vouchers under the GBVS scheme have also recently been boosted by the UK government up to £4,500 (here). Previously, homes could only get up to £1,500, although this was often boosted up to £3,000 via top-up funding from councils (HCC did this before).

The situation suggests that Hampshire, and indeed local authorities in general (at least in England), now have significantly less of an incentive to provide match-funding for rural broadband schemes, partly because they’re no longer in the driver’s seat. Not forgetting that many councils now have much bigger budgetary pressures to contend with too. So don’t be surprised if you see other councils stepping back like this.

Indeed, Project Gigabit already has a procurement (LOT 27) running for Hampshire (here), which proposes to commit £104.1m of public funding to expand gigabit-capable broadband to an estimated 88,600 premises in the county (i.e. those that are not expected to be covered by commercial builds within the next 3 years). The contract for this is due to be awarded by the end of June 2023, but it won’t necessarily catch all of the remaining 20,000 premises (i.e. those without even ‘superfast’ speeds, let alone gigabit speeds) in the remotest locations as some of those will simply be too expensive.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
13 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Taras says:

    HCC, was one of the poor communicating councils, with outsourced webpages to poorly worded responses on the website. There was no direct postcode mapping – it was pretty horrible.

    Due to the amount of stake holders in the new forest there was massive delays with BDUK HCC rollout. Part of the reason there has been some consonous with parties now working together (instead of threatening legal action) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-national-parks-accord

    The HCC lot has been split, lot 27 for hcc and lot 27.1 for the new forest. Most councils have slashed broadband(broadband and uniband) budgets because simply Project gigabit takes its place.The consumer hasn’t lost out in the long term. Short term it has meant waiting longer for faster internet along with having to stay on broadband internet contracts instead of full fibre internet products.

    Also the contract dates are estimated for april to june.

    1. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      interesting Hampshire county Council has been one of the most go ahead councils / responsive / proactive in terms of helping and assisting communities with gaining superfast and now ultrafast over now close to 10 years

    2. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      I’d have to second Fastman on that one. I’ve always found them to be better than the bulk of other schemes in terms of communication and how much info. they share, at least so far as the original SFBB programme goes.

  2. Avatar photo Taras says:

    @Fastman not from my experience, whilst communicating to me has been good, actual deployment of fttp hasn’t actually occurred. I was told in 2017 that we would get fttp, its not happened to date.

    Read up on East Boldre’s plight, which is the same for us and others in the new forest

    1. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      hmmm interesting know quite a bit about that area and the support about trying to get FTTC and FTTP in that challenging area over a long period of time . also depends where about in east Boldre you are as well — New forest has its own challenges around siting kit etc especially if verders get involved

    2. Avatar photo Sonic says:

      It’s pretty bleak. Hampshire lags behind, well, pretty much everyone.

      https://labs.thinkbroadband.com/local/E10000014

      FTTP coverage for England stands at 45.3% while Hampshire is currently at 22.77%.

      Have a look at Winchester, and it is downright depressing: https://labs.thinkbroadband.com/local/E14001041

  3. Avatar photo Fastman says:

    winchester will be urban and therefore up to the market to cover as commercial as majority will be in superfast in that are unless your in a few odd places — you would not expect project gigabit to need to cover winchester

    1. Avatar photo Sonic says:

      Except the “market” doesn’t appear to be interested. In fairness, Giganet have said that they will roll out in Winchester but will see if that ever happens. No one else has plans.

    2. Avatar photo NeilB says:

      I am still waiting for Giganet to finish up their build in Totton. They seem to have come to a halt in 2023. Nothing for them on BIDB since Christmas and they have yet to fibre up West Totton.

    3. Avatar photo Cheesemp says:

      NeilB – They are working hard down the A326. Lots of work (Saw them working at 8pm last night). Think they are finishing this strip south of Rushington before moving north. Quite pleased as Hythe/DP have no zero currently above crappy FTTC – at least totton has VM. (Saying that they and Trooli are 6 months behind schedule based on my original contact – think they are rushing to be first now)

    4. Avatar photo NeilB says:

      @Cheesemp I know they are still working around Marchwood, but that should be finished soon.

      After my £7 VM increase email I am desperate to get off VM – £60 pm for their 250meg package is ridiculous.

      OpenReach are still working on the FTTP in my area – their engineer has been at the bottom of our road the past few days to finish off the fibre splicing.

      I am tempted just to move onto a 1 month rolling FTTC product so I can jump straight over to Giganet as soon as they come live.

  4. Avatar photo Taras says:

    @mark and @fastman

    The FTTC rollout was really well done, minus ours where about 60% to 70% had sub 30Mbits speed from the cab.

    The communications team were fab. But ever since wave 2 and wave 2+ there were more and more problems, and of course lack of information appearing.

    @fastman

    Regarding the Verders, they did in the end get their act together. Its pure england that killed some of East boldre, Bransgore, Cadnam fttp rollouts et, along with HCC running out of cash.

    @Mark

    NF had its own fair share of unique shareholders, i won’t ever deny that, but New forest west lagging with only Gigabit (DOCSIS 3.1 or FTTP) @28.41%(via think broadband) and NFE Gigabit (DOCSIS 3.1 or FTTP) @ 43.02% (via think broadband) the New forest is poorly served. Some areas and premises do (to be fair) have high install costs.

    I do think with the semi urban areas HCC has done well.

  5. Avatar photo Barney says:

    Is there an OJEU Tendering notice out for Hampshire’s Lot27? Would be interested to see the wording etc.

Comments are closed

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