Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is today holding an “industry day aimed at companies and organisations that have skills, capabilities and assets that they believe could be used to help deliver the government’s Universal Service Commitment and superfast broadband market testing projects”.
The agenda for the day, which is being held within the BIS offices at 1 Victoria Street, London is as follows:
09:30 – 10:00 Registration & Coffee
10:00 – 10:10 Introduction and Welcome – Ed Vaizey
10:10 – 11:00 Setting the context – Jeremy Hunt
11:00 – 12.05 Policy & BDUK update – Adrian Kamellard
12:05 – 12:15 Session roundup and comments – Ed Vaizey
12:15 – 13:15 Lunch
13:15 – 14:15 Industry Exercise – Matt Agar
14:15 – 14:45 Infrastructure Paper – Simon Towler
14:45 – 15:00 Coffee
15:00 – 16:00 Superfast broadband pilots – Adrian Kamellard
This is a hot ticket with far fewer places than people wanting to go. Part of me is a little sceptical of this – I suspect a lot of people will just be there because of the prospect of a trough to stick their snouts in.
Having said that there is clearly a serious purpose to this day as is witnessed by the seniority of the speakers. For UK plc and the broadband impoverished dwellers of the Final Third (BT has considered it only worth investing in NGA for 66% of the populace) it might almost be considered to be a matter of life and death. Certainly life and death of their communities.
Let’s hope that BDUK is successful.
Unfortunately the track record of public organisations in delivering technical projects in this space is not good. Witness my own county of Lincolnshire where around £15m of EU money was scattered liberally on a wireless broadband project only to be blown away by BT when then realised that the whole project was going to be uneconomic beyond the initial subsidy phase. End users were being asked to pay £250 a month (plus VAT) for a symmetrical 2Mbps service! That was £15m down the pan.
I am not sure that any public money should be spent on this type of project and certainly not given to BT which is quite naturally only there to serve the interest of its investors.
We should be concentrating on helping communities in the Final Third to help themselves. Take Ashby de la Launde for example, again in Lincolnshire, where the villagers have reduced the costs of their NGA roll out by digging their own trenches for the fibre conduits. It remains to be seen how successful this project will be – it goes live in September – but it is an example of how to go about it.
If the government can do anything it should be to help make it easier for communities to get NGA up and running for themselves.
Rather than spending moneys up front the government should be providing tax incentives and reducing the rates burden on private investors providing infrastructure to these communities. All after the fact benefits that would help with up front investment decisions.
Jeremy Hunt is today announcing three Market Test Pilots. I sincerely hope that these are driven by third party commercial interests, or by the communities themselves and not simply by dangling money in front of anyone who wants to take it to implement a Public Sector devised plan. I’m sure that we will find out as we work its way through today’s agenda.
A little more information, though not much, is available on the BIS website here.