Summary of Broadband
Public Meeting August 5th 2015, Upottery.
Along with invited speakers, Devon County Councillor Paul
Diviani, Neil Parish MP and Michael Armitage, of Broadway Partners, Devon
County Councillor and CDS Board Member Andrew Leadbetter also came along to the
Upottery Broadband Public Meeting on August 5th.
With the current state of affairs being that CDS has failed to
complete two aborted Phase 2 procurements, all Conservative politicians who
spoke at the meeting were closing ranks, desperate not to talk about the past
failed procurements and only wanting to talk about what they see as the way out
of the hole.
As meeting chairman, Graham Long, Upottery Parish
Councillor, summarised the current situation pointing out that Ian
Liddell-Grainger MP, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Broadband
has described the fact that Devon & Somerset are now the only two counties
in the UK not to have Phase 2 contracts covering the whole of both counties, as
a fiasco and calling for the Board of CDS to be sacked. Neil Parish described
Ian Liddell-Grainger as being “prepared to jump on any bandwagon” and dismissed
criticism of what had happened over the last 18 months as water under the
bridge stating that “we are where we are” - A phrase that has been used at all three
previous public meetings organised on broadband in Upottery.
Michael Armitage, founder of Broadway Partners, the company delivering
the only UK Phase 2 Superfast Broadband programme, that is providing 100%
superfast coverage to all residents and businesses in West Oxfordshire, gave an
overview of their “co-partnership” superfast delivery model. Broadway proposed this
solution to CDS last year in response to their aborted open tender process and
is making the same proposal for CDS’s third attempt at securing a Phase 2
supplier or suppliers. The Broadway approach achieves 100% coverage by bringing
in additional external finance alongside BDUK matched funding. FTTP is
Broadway’s primary broadband delivery vehicle but the programme is technology
The audience warmly received Michael Armitage’s input and
described him as “a ray of sunshine” compared to the “light at the end of a
very long tunnel”, which is all that CDS have offered so far. It was even
suggested that the CDS Phase 2 programme should be handed over to Broadway for
the whole of the two counties outside of the National Parks.
Assuming the CDS Board can obtain EU state aid approval for
a third Phase 2 open tendering process and that BDUK, the LEP and the various
District Councils do all provide the required funding it was estimated that
another ITT will be issued before the end of 2015 with suppliers chosen during
2016. Since BDUK funding was first made available for Phase 2 in January 2014,
this represents a two year delay in delivering Phase 2, and after some heated
debate it was agreed that Cllr Andrew Leadbetter has a duty at that time to
tell residents of Upottery parish and similar “out of programme” rural parishes
across Devon & Somerset exactly when and how they can expect to be offered
a superfast broadband service.
B4RDS (Broadband for Rural Devon & Somerset) was
formally announced at the end of the meeting as a lobby/pressure group that
will from here on monitor, challenge and question the delivery of Broadband in
rural Devon & Somerset and over a dozen of those present volunteered to
join the B4RDS working group.
For more information on B4RDS go to www.B4RDS.org