Monday, July 28, 2014

News: Broadband project detailed as decision called in


BT's successful tender for a new £20m project should mean that 97.9% of South Yorkshire will have access to superfast broadband by the end of 2017.

Developed by a partnership with the leadership of the four partners' authorities in South Yorkshire, alongside the support of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, the plan has been approved by BDUK, the government project with the goal of delivering a fibre point in every community in the UK by the end of 2015.

Approximately 80% of South Yorkshire premises currently have access to superfast broadband (excluding the failed Digital Region network), well below local and national targets.

Rothbiz revealed that Rotherham Council has agreed to underwrite the required local funding contribution of £1.596m in order to allow a contract to be signed with BT in August. It is also set to contribute a contingency budget of £124,000 and £112,500 towards the costs of employing staff to manage the provision of superfast broadband to the rest of the region.

Further details have now been revealed after the council's decision was "called in" for further scrutiny. It is the first time a council decision has been called in since UKIP became the official opposition following the elections in May.

Previously exempt reports state that BT's proposal is acceptable and represents good value for money for Rotherham despite BT being the only company in the running for the tender. The project aims to focus on so called "white areas" that do not have access to next generation (fibre optic) broadband and are not likely to in the next three years. BT is contractually committed to the 97.9% figure although specific areas and properties are not yet known.

Over 102,000 additional premises would be served by superfast broadband infrastructure if the South Yorkshire network was extended to 97.9%. But 2,550 properties within the intervention area are set to miss out. As are around 7,000 properties in Sheffield city centre which cannot be included in the project as BDUK will not fund broadband in "dense urban" areas.

In a bid to boost business, BT's proposed solution is also set to cover approximately 79% of the South Yorkshire business parks and Enterprise Zones put forward as part of the tender exercise. It is estimated that the project could boost the economy by £271.6m.

The project leaders have been quick to point out that the project is different to Digital Region and that the operational risk lies with BT. Work to stimulate demand will be required to encourage providers such as Sky and PlusNet, to offer services across this infrastructure. Rotherham Council has set aside £9.58m to cover its share of the costs of the failed Digital Region project.

The broadband scheme is seeking £8m of funding from the Sheffield city region investment fund for strategic infrastructure investment (SCRIF) over 2015/16 and 2016/17. Rothbiz understands that £7.56m will be provided by BT and £7.425m each by South Yorkshire partners and BDUK. Public sector payments will only be made when certain milestones are met.

South Yorkshire will be the last region (of 45) to go through this phase of the BDUK project.

The report states: "Overall, this project will provide significant benefits to Rotherham's businesses and residents with, it appears, only a very small contribution likely to be required from the Council. A corporate priority for the Council is to support the local economy, and the provision of superfast broadband will ensure our businesses are not disadvantaged in this respect, when compared with competitors outside of South Yorkshire."

The report also reveals that "Sheffield City Council continues to lead the development of a potential solution to provide superfast broadband in the city centre as part of the wider South Yorkshire broadband extension project, with a view to submitting this for potential SCRIF or other regional funding in the future."

Images: BT Openreach


Anonymous,  July 29, 2014 at 11:27 PM  

digital region announced 5 years ago fast fibre optic in yorkshire

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