Friday, June 30, 2017

News: Councils look to end broadband disparity

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There may be light at the end of the tunnel for the "white areas" of South Yorkshire that struggle to receive decent broadband speeds as another multimillion pound project is in development.

Superfast South Yorkshire is a partnership between the authorities of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield and BT, which secured £22m to ensure 97.9% of South Yorkshire will have access to superfast broadband by the end of 2017. Securing additional funding, plans are in place to reach 98.7% by 2018.

The project is part of the government's BDUK initiative which is based on a gap funded subsidy approach, where the private sector invests alongside a public subsidy to provide broadband to areas where there is not otherwise a viable commercial market.

There are an estimated 30,897 premises in South Yorkshire that will be without broadband up to 30MPS when phase 1 ends and now Superfast South Yorkshire intends to conduct a further procurement in respect of the remaining areas without next-generation access (NGA) broadband infrastructure.

It comes after BDUK received approval from the European Commission on a new National Broadband Scheme for the UK. Following scrutiny over how BT secured almost all of the tenders for the work up and down the country, a new approach has been developed that includes a number of measures to support competition at tender stage, as well as promote open access networks intended to encourage long term competition on the state sponsored network.

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Superfast South Yorkshire has already conducted a review, consulting with prospective or current broadband infrastructure providers, to establish existing and planned coverage of NGA broadband infrastructure across the South Yorkshire region in the next three years.

Public consultation is now taking place on the intervention areas for the next phase of the superfast scheme. Public intervention can only take place in white NGA areas - those in which there are no NGA networks and none likely to be deployed in the next three years.

The consultation explains: "The four local authorities of South Yorkshire Region (Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster), with support from the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (SCR LEP) are striving to further extend the availability of NGA broadband infrastructure in the region to improve the quality of life for residents and create a connected region for businesses. In our region we already have plans in place to reach 98.7% of superfast broadband connectivity by 2018.

"To extend coverage to as many of the remaining areas as possible, Superfast South Yorkshire which is led by Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (on behalf of the South Yorkshire authorities namely Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield) intends to procure further coverage of NGA broadband infrastructure (capable of delivering speeds of at least 30Mbps) in areas within its programme area where such broadband is currently unavailable by the end of 2020."

A gap funding investment model approach, similar to the first phase, is set to be used for phase 2 which will seek to commit an overall investment of public funding up to £10m.

£795,000 is available as residual funding from the existing Superfast South Yorkshire contract and a further, minimum amount of £770,000 is being sought from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. Further additional funding is being sought from a variety of local, national and European sources to secure the investments identified.

The consultation adds: "The intention is to award a contract at the end of 2017. The related extended deployment plans for broadband infrastructure must begin early 2018."

Superfast South Yorkshire website

Images: Department for Culture Media & Sport / Superfast South Yorkshire


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