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By: MarkJ - 27 January, 2012 (6:59 AM)
bduk deadline mapfibre_optic_broadband_internet_cable.jpgThe UK governments Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) confirms that a further £100 Million of European funding has been "unlocked" to support the rollout of superfast broadband ISP services into rural areas. At the same time a new local authority progress report reveals that three "councils seem to have slipped behind schedule" and are at risk of having their funding withdrawn.

The Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office wants 90% of people to be within reach of a superfast broadband (24Mbps+) service by 2015 (the last 10% will get at least 2Mbps). An initial budget of £530m was set aside to support this, although a further £100m was added for super-connected cities (here) and today's extra money gives a new total of £730m.

On top of that it has long been known that BDUK's budget could rise by £300m if the plan needed to be extended until 2017 (total spend of £1.03 Billion). This extra money would be extracted from the BBC's TV Licence Fee (i.e. the 3.5% Digital Switchover Budget), although at present no firm decision has been made.

The UK Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey MP, said:

"Britain needs fast broadband to drive economic growth and connect remote communities. We are making a significant investment in taking broadband to those homes and businesses currently missing out on decent internet access.

I have been impressed by the enthusiasm the majority of councils have shown for seizing the opportunity to roll-out superfast broadband."

According to Vaizey, most local councils look set to have their "draft" Local Broadband Plans (LBP) approved by the governments deadline (end of February 2012) and some, such as the plan for Wales, have already been cleared. The final plan then "needs to be agreed" by the end of April 2012.

Overall most of the 47 related projects are now ready to begin taking superfast broadband to homes and businesses in their area. A new geographic UK map of progress shows this best. Sadly not everybody is doing so well.

The governments report marks 13 local authorities as being at a "medium" (amber) risk of missing the deadline. On top of that 3 local authorities are marked as red and thus most at risk of having their funding pulled due to not meeting the timetable.
RED Local Authorities

* Knowsley, Liverpool, St. Helens, Sefton, Wirral

* Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland

* Bath and North East Somerset
Nobody will be surprised to see Bath and North East Somerset (BNES) listed as their local problems have been well covered in the news (here), although Liverpool and a few of the others will certainly raise some eyebrows.

Mr Vaizey said:

"I am disappointed that a few councils seem to have slipped behind schedule. I will be seeking urgent talks with these councils to ensure they understand the need to make real progress quickly. We do not intend to continue to fund councils if they continue to fail to deliver."

It's unclear what would happen if councils lose their funding, although in December 2011 the government proposed to run a national procurement for areas that were not ready by the end of July 2012. This suggests that the already allocated funding (detailed here) would still get spent, albeit not by the council.

The government expects that most councils will match its funding from their coffers and that this will then be doubled (match-funded) again by the private sector. However several recent reports, such as this week's briefing from Socitm (here), have warned that some local authorities are struggling to find the needed cash.
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