Tuesday, February 17, 2015

News: Broadband money coming down the line


The £22m project to ensure 97.9% of South Yorkshire will have access to superfast broadband by the end of 2017, has cleared another hurdle in securing the public money needed to make it happen.

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 (LEP), 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.

Due to its involvement in the failed Digital Region project, South Yorkshire is the last in this current round of BDUK, the government project with the goal of delivering a fibre point in every community in the UK by the end of 2015.

Rothbiz revealed first that BT's tender for the project was accepted and the councils have already agreed to fund the project in order for the contracts to be signed to meet BDUK deadlines. It is hoped that their share can be met by the LEP's Sheffield city region investment fund for strategic infrastructure investment (SCRIF).

The bid is for £8m from SCRIF with £7.56m coming from BT.

SCRIF brings a range of funding streams together to deliver essential strategic infrastructure to increase economic growth and jobs in the Sheffield city region. The broadband project is making its way through the assessment and prioritisation approach and is concluding "Stage 1A" of its development which tests the commercial viability of a scheme and reviews the deliverability and strategic fit.

Set to be approved this week, the project will then go onto Stage 1B which includes further work to develop a full business case. The Sheffield City Region Combined Authority has asked that this includes a number of conditions that need to be met before a funding agreement is reached. These include details of the full extent of the market coverage, clarification over the BDUK funding and details of the market's plans for broadband in the region.

Other issues to be addressed focus on the economic impact of the project, analysis of the demand for broadband, BT's winning bid and whether it offers value for money, and a detailed business plan to provide confidence on delivery of the roll-out programme.

The later stages of the process for securing the funding include tendering and procurement, but in the case, this is already complete.

The first communities across South Yorkshire can look forward to improved access to online services and better connectivity for businesses from summer 2015 onwards. It is hoped that 20,000 premises will be passed by the end of 2015/16.

Auditors, KPMG recently published a report on the same four councils' involvement in the failed £90m Digital Region project which had many assumptions in the business case that were never close to being realised and no robust and coherent sales and marketing plan, especially early in the process.

Superfast South Yorkshire website

Images: BT


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