Government Turns Attention To ‘Final Five Percent’ As BDUK Connects 2m Homes To Fibre

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Government-funded BDUK projects have connected two million homes and businesses to superfast broadband

The government says it is “firmly” turning its attention towards providing superfast broadband for the five percent of the UK population not covered by existing state-assisted rollouts after the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) initiative passed the two million premise milestone.

Four fifths of the UK now has access to superfast broadband thanks to commercial deployments and BDUK and the government says it is firmly on track to reach its target of 95 percent coverage by 2017.

A number of trials of alternative technologies, such as satellite broadband, are taking place around the country to see if they can be used to provide faster connectivity for hard to reach areas and ascertain the amount of state funding that would be required to assist with the rollout.

2m BDUK homes and businesses

splayfoil road fibre cabinetIt says the rollout will accelerate economic growth and drive profits for local businesses, especially those in rural areas which will be able to reach new markets as a result of better connectivity.

“Today there are two million more UK homes and businesses with access to superfast broadband than there were two years ago as a result of this ambitious project,” says culture secretary Sajid Javid. “This is a tremendous result that is already making a huge difference to millions of people. We want everyone in the UK to be able to enjoy the benefits of superfast broadband, that’s why we’ve begun work on reaching the last five per cent of communities not covered by existing plans.”

BT has so far won all of the money available from BDUK, which has up to £790 million to allocate to local authorities, which must match any funding they receive from central government. However the process has been controversial amid accusations that it has been anti-competitive and that BT has been less than transparent about costs and rollout details.

Controversial project

A recent report by the National Audit Office (NAO) suggested that BT was overestimating the cost of rollout by up to £92 million while MPs have said the project is not serving rural areas adequately. Other research has suggested many people don’t know if they can receive superfast broadband or which providers offer such services.

However the government says the rollout “clearly” demonstrates value for money and BT is pleased with its involvement. In addition to receiving the government funding, it has invested significantly in BDUK projects, helping the Openreach fibre network reach 22 million premises.

“We’re proud to be delivering this great British success story in partnership with the Government, and have committed up to £1billion of our shareholders’ money to the projects,” says Openreach CEO Joe Garner. “The programme is on schedule overall and our people continue to work flat-out on connecting homes and business in the UK’s hard-to-reach areas. If we come in under budget, savings can be reinvested to take coverage even further. Funds will also be released if take-up exceeds expectations, all of which is further great value for the taxpayer.”

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