By Mark Jackson, ISPreview UK | July 19th, 2014
The Labour-led Telford and Wrekin council in England, which two years ago dropped out of the £24.6m Connecting Shropshire project that was setup with BT to improve local broadband connectivity, are preparing to put a £2m funding request into the related Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme to help 96% of premises gain access to superfast broadband (24Mbps+) speeds.
The council originally dropped out of the national broadband upgrade scheme because they were struggling to find £40m worth of budget savings by 2014 and thus the £700k required to match with BDUK’s local investment was simply deemed too expensive. At the time Ofcom also reported that BT and Virgin Media had already made superfast broadband available to nearly 90%, which meant they were already close to hitting the original target for 2015.
But last year the national fixed-line superfast broadband coverage target was lifted to 95% by 2017 and a further £250m made available across the UK. The local authority now seems to have found a way of funding the expected improvement, although the £2m funding allocation needs to be match-funded with public sector money.
The council has already identified £1.4m of this through a “proactive approach to budget management from last financial year” and the total costs of delivery are estimated to be £200,000, thus the council’s total contribution if successful would be £2.2m. A final vote on the bid will be taken by the cabinet on 24th July 2014 and the expectation is that this will be approved.
Apparently the council will submit a bid for the balance of funding to the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership, although a final decision is not expected for several months. If the bid is unsuccessful, the council will either ask for the amount it is able to match fund or borrow the rest (the T&W cabinet is being asked to approve that borrowing if it is needed).
Charles Smith, Cabinet Member for Development, said:
“This is a much better scheme than the one announced by the government in 2011. It will deliver much better value for money for the taxpayers of Telford and Wrekin and it will help businesses and residents reduce operational costs and access the fastest available broadband.
This will encourage greater e-commerce and interaction through digital communications, which have expanded significantly since the 2011 programme.”
We suspect the “much better scheme” line is just politicians playing politics because not a lot has changed from the original BDUK programme, it’s still fundamentally the same approach, and there’s little doubt that BT will yet again be picked for the job