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Powys Council Raise Concern Over Project Gigabit Broadband Plans

Tuesday, Mar 21st, 2023 (5:04 pm) - Score 1,600
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The Powys County Council in mid-Wales has expressed “concerns” about a change to the UK Government’s £5bn Project Gigabit broadband subsidy programme, which they fear could result in hard-to-reach households and businesses in the county being “negatively impacted“.

The statement doesn’t go into a lot of detail, except to highlight how the Building Digital UK (BDUK) agency’s current intention under the project is to “designate all of Mid Wales as a Category C procurement area“, which they fear “could potentially exclude many Broadband Alternative Network Providers installing broadband schemes in the county, leaving only the largest providers capable of installing ultrafast broadband.”

The council is perhaps more alive to such issues than most because their local Digital Powys project has invested a lot of time and money on working with alternative networks, such as Voneus and Broadway Partners, to help push Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) lines into some increasingly remote rural communities.

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In contrast, other areas of Wales are expected to be placed into a different category, which the council said will “provide greater competition for all providers to deliver their full-fibre networks within shorter timeframes.”

Cllr Jake Berriman, Cabinet Member for a Connected Powys, said:

“Access to high-speed internet is critical for the economic and social development of rural communities. The lack of adequate broadband infrastructure is a major challenge for residents and businesses in Powys, with many struggling to access basic services and opportunities.

I believe that competition from alternative network providers will ensure that our residents can access the highest quality services at affordable prices. Having one provider deliver ultrafast, fibre-based broadband will not serve well our most hard-to-reach residents and businesses, who are already disadvantaged.

This potential change will only exacerbate this situation, limiting choice and hindering the deployment of alternative broadband networks that could provide a lifeline to those in need.

I fear that any changes will have long-term negative effects on the region’s economic prospects. I have written to the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, The Rt Hon Michelle Donelan MP, about these concerns and have asked that she reconsiders these changes to better reflect the views and needs of our local communities.”

The “Category C” being mentioned above is a reference to BDUK’s Cross-Regional Single Supplier Framework (details), known colloquially as Type C, which will award call-off contracts over the life of the Gigabit Infrastructure Subsidy (GIS) programme.

The new type is intended to target premises that are unsuccessfully delivered either via Type A and B procurement or contract delivery within the programme (i.e. this may happen if, for example, no or no appropriate market interest has been received for Type A and B procurements). But realistically there may only be a few big “single” suppliers, such as BT (Openreach), that could go for something like this.

However, the council has not proposed an alternative to this approach, but no doubt they’d probably be happy to gain some control over the funding and to try doing the job directly themselves (Project Gigabit is centrally managed in England and Wales). But that might also risk causing further delays to the project.

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At present, Project Gigabit has already conducted an initial market engagement exercise for Wales and is currently busy developing the final intervention areas for the country. The first procurements for this are planned to be launched during the summer.

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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
1 Response
  1. Avatar photo aled says:

    Powys seems to be a bit quiet on the FTTP front

    Welshpool seems to be busy?

Comments are closed

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