Another BDUK contract goes to BT, but the European Commission continues to dig its heels in
BT is set to deploy superfast broadband across Wales as it won its fifth Broadband Development UK (BDUK) contract in a row today, yet the project won’t go ahead until Brussels officials say so.
No other provider has won a BDUK bid yet – something which has attracted the discerning gaze of the European Commission’s competition arm, which told TechWeekEurope earlier this month it had opened an official investigation into the process.
All but one BDUK project announced so far has been put on hold as Brussels determines whether to allow regions and private ISPs like BT to benefit from state aid. North Yorkshire has already started its rollout as it got its application in early, before the European Commission started scrutinising the process more closely, the county council revealed earlier this week.
BDUK is the government-backed fund pumping £530 million into local authorities so they can take superfast broadband into remote areas.
The Welsh project will also remain on hold until Brussels gives the state aid green light, as well as “major projects” approval. John Moore, corporate director for finance and central services at North Yorkshire County Council, said he thought it was unlikely the EC would give any other state aid applications for BDUK state aid the thumbs up. “I think the system has probably caught up with them,” he told TechWeekEurope.
If the project does go ahead in Wales, plenty of money will be exchanging hands. A total of £425 million is going into fibre broadband development in the country.
BT is pumping £220 million into Welsh fibre with most of that going towards this specific BDUK-based project. The Welsh Government is contributing £58 million and has secured additional funding of £57 million from BDUK and around £90 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
The aim is to bring broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps to 96 percent of Welsh homes and businesses by the end of 2015. Ultra-fast broadband speeds of up to 330Mbps will also be available in certain areas where BT decides to lay its Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) infrastructure down.
BT believes there will be a big economic benefit for Wales, as it will create 50 jobs, 100 apprenticeships and offer 900 young people a week’s work experience in support of the roll out. It predicted another 320 existing jobs will also be protected as a result of the project.
“Our partnership with BT will see to it that Wales does more than simply catch up with our neighbours; we intend to catch-up, overtake and then set the pace that others will strive to match,” said Wales’ first minister, Carwyn Jones.
“The project will transform the broadband landscape across Wales and ensure that local businesses can become global businesses. It will ensure that firms remain in Wales and it will also attract a more diverse range of high growth, high value companies to the country across all our key sectors from tourism to high end manufacturing.”
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