Devon and Somerset

Faster broadband is on its way
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    • UK Umbrella State Aid Granted by European Commission

      Broadband Delivery UK (the organisation responsible for delivering the £52 million of public funding for the Connecting Devon and Somerset Project) has been granted State Aid* clearance by the European Commission. This allows Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) to approve local

    • BT Appointed Preferred Bidder for the Connecting Devon and Somerset Programme

      The Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) programme has announced that it has appointed BT as preferred bidder for the provision of superfast broadband across Devon and Somerset. The next stage of the project involves undertaking due diligence on the tender

    • Procurement Update

      As part of satisfying State Aid requirements, Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) is required to announce the launch of its invitation to tender (ITT) for the selection of its chosen supplier from the recent Framework arrangement set up by BDUK.

Your Experience

Ken Singleton – Co-founder, Broadband Access Strategies LLP

Ken Singleton from Broadband Access Strategies is a technical and commercial adviser to the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme alongside the international engineering company Mott MacDonald. His consultancy has been working with the public and private sector since 2002 to advise on creating the business case for broadband in rural or hard to reach areas. Key clients include Somerset, Devon and Dorset County Council and the business has also worked with Cross Country Trains to trial WiFi; developing the business case for their main fleet of trains.

“Devon and Somerset, like many rural areas, are struggling with an increasing digital divide to their urban counterparts. Whereas the big infrastructure broadband providers such as BT and Virgin are well advanced in providing superfast broadband to urban centers  they feel that business case for rural areas is difficult. The Government, recognising this, set up Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) with funding dedicated to rolling out Superfast Broadband to rural areas. Devon and Somerset was awarded £31m, with both county councils pledging a further sum of up to £10m each.”

“The first issue is those people who are not even getting 2Mbps: Government describes this as a ‘universal commitment’. BDUK funds are committed in two ways, to bring superfast broadband to as many people as possible, and also to eradicate those areas that have sub 2Mbps speeds.”

“It’s a real problem for business as slow connections make them look less professional compared to their urban counterparts. VOIP services (internet phone calls) such as Skype, are increasingly mainstream and it’s increasingly an expected basic requirement. Looking less professional in today’s incredibly competitive environment means you’re not going to get the work. No one wants any further marginalisation of the rural areas. Media and engineering companies are struggling today. They can’t move files about; companies have to drive with a USB stick to upload their files to an urban area as they just can’t do it from a rural address.”

“Just looking at standard websites such as the BBC or other media things have changed immensely in the last 3-5 years. They used to be text based with a few images but it’s clear that pictorial or video formats are the norm now. If your connection isn’t capable of delivering that, the frustration mounts. Whilst that might sound trivial, preventing someone from doing their job because of slow speeds results in disturbance, downtime, aggravation and loss of productivity. That’s not good for either the business or the employee.”

“To work effectively technology shouldn’t be a barrier, it should help us get ahead. It’s a tool to assist, not hinder, and we need to make sure everyone’s able to access services. Businesses looking to relocate want to know we have the infrastructure in place, that’s also why we are looking at a complimentary project to improve mobile networks.”

“What Devon and Somerset have to do with our help is to get the maximum value for their money. £50m will not be enough to solve the problem. Cornwall has twice as much money for a much smaller area and population. We need to use our funds effectively, as well as quickly to ensure that everyone can benefit. As far as businesses and consumers are concerned the need is NOW, so it’s important to move fast.”

“In terms of how this might look the solution hasn’t been determined but we do know we want the best deal. There are different bidders with a range of technologies, including technical solutions that do not use the BT infrastructure and bypass it, or ones that only use limited aspects. It could be a blend of technologies: fibre to the premises is possible, as is a fixed wireless solution, and it’s likely to include an element of satellite solutions.”

“In any case the supplier will have to provide more than 24Mbps and address the issue of less than 2Mbps. We have to provide a level playing field for our communities and businesses.”

“The next steps will be that the framework/legal process is drawn to a close and contractors invited to tender, with the aim of awarding a contract by the end of 2012. The survey evidence that is being collected will be used to help define the demand. Without proof of demand for superfast broadband, these suppliers can’t build their business case. There is gap in funding but the suppliers need to be convinced to invest.”

“Only by people in Devon and Somerset getting on board with this process can we prove that there is real demand within the most rural areas.”

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