Monday, January 27, 2014

News: BT switched on in Rotherham

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BT continues to invest in superfast fibre broadband in Rotherham as the uncertainty continues over the future of the collapsed Digital Region project.

Thrybergh and Wath upon Dearne are the latest areas to receive the broadband boost with a further 9,000 businesses and homes expected to have access to the infrastructure as BT engineers complete the local upgrade in the weeks ahead.

Thrybergh and Wath follow many other locations across Rotherham including Aston Common, Dinnington, Maltby and Wickersley where fibre broadband is already available. By the end of Spring 2014 more than 82,500 homes and businesses in the Rotherham district will be able to benefit from BT's £2.5 billion fibre programme.

The aim of the Digital Region project was to bring continuous 25mb+ broadband to over 97% of South Yorkshire, including 550,000 homes and 1.3 million people. Work on installing the network started in 2009, and by 2012, completion of phase one of the project saw 80 percent of homes and businesses within South Yorkshire able to be linked to the network.

The £90m project includes £30m from the European Regional Development Fund and the project was wholly owned by the now defunct Yorkshire Forward and the four local authorities of South Yorkshire. Last year the remaining shareholders agreed to halt their search for a private sector partner and begin a managed closure of the fibre optic network.

The network is expected to be decommissioned by August 2014. Rotherham Council expects its share of the overall cost to be contained within the total budget provision made in 2011/12 and 2012/13 of £7.6m.

Auditors, KPMG recently recommended that Rotherham Council should ensure that it carries out a review of the Digital Region Project to identify the lessons that should be learned from the initial decision to invest up to the final decision to close the company.

Last year, the Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, Michael Fallon, described the project as "deeply flawed" as it had failed to attract customers. It was also revealed that the government would have to provide at least 45% of the funding to cover a significant proportion of the repayment of the European Regional Development Fund grant which has to be paid back to Brussels, because the original conditions were not fulfilled. It will also pay a proportion of the contract due to the original operator, Thales.

Many believe that it will be BT that will take over the fibre network installed by the project. Ironic given that the project was ahead of its time as BT had no plans to invest in South Yorkshire when it began.

Also since the project began, the government established Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) with the goal of delivering a fibre point in every community in the UK by the end of 2015.

Tom Keeney, regional director for Yorkshire and the Humber at BT, said: "Our roll-out of fibre broadband continues at a world class pace with Thrybergh and Wath upon Dearne the latest places to benefit. More than two million homes and businesses across the UK are already using our new fibre network. Local residents now have the opportunity to join them and find out for themselves why there's such a buzz about fibre broadband.

"Businesses working better with fibre tell us it's helping them in a wealth of ways, from day to day activities like downloading software, collaborating with clients and moving large data files around to big business decisions like expanding the workforce or introducing better quality IT services at less cost."

BT also announced that it will invest a further £50m into its commercial fibre broadband programme over the next three years. The focus is on enabling city cabinets that weren't part of BT's original commercial plans; deploying fibre to cabinets to serve multi-dwelling units such as apartment blocks; and laying further fibre – including Fibre-to-the-Premises technology – to new build sites in cities.

BT Openreach website

Images: BT

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