Broadband update from EDDC, July 16, 2014

This update on fast broadband provision to 100% of properties in Devon, the Superfast Extension Programme and the provision by CDS of detailed implementation maps was received July 16, 2014 from EDDC Councillor Phil Twiss following a meeting between Phil Twiss, EDDC Council Leader Paul Diviani and Keri Denton, head of Connecting Devon and Somerset on July 15, 2014


I thought I would give you an update on recent progress towards providing or improving Broadband access at acceptable speeds for our communities and also very happy for you to share this with your various contacts as steps in the right direction in delivering a reliable and affordable service to all who need it.

EDDC have been acting as the co-ordinater between local authorities in Devon and Somerset representing their views to Connecting Devon & Somerset (C,D & S) on the direction of travel and delivery of the next phase of Broadband delivery in our areas and more specifically where and when, (particularly in the last 5%/infill/not spots/no build/white areas or whatever term you prefer to use!).

This next procurement phase is completely separate from the current contract C, D & S has with BT and a new procurement will be run using Superfast extension Programme (SEP) funding of approximately £40m (including LEP, County Council match funding etc), the lions share of which will be spent in Devon. There is still some work to be done in persuading some local authorities to provide match funding to boost this figure to a slightly higher level. C,D & S are yet to hear formally that the Government share of the SEP funding is confirmed and in the pot (this should be any time now and I am as confident as I can be that this will happen).

On behalf of the local authorities the EDDC view of how and where the SEP funding should be spent has been made plain to C,D & S, where they now accept that the procurement process should provide back from 100% i.e. the most isolated premises least likely to get any sort of service back to meet the BT/C,D & S commercial and publicly funded delivery around 95% of premises, in other words the final 5% to bring overall provision up to 100%.

Our view has been that this is most likely to be achieved by a mixture of technologies which might include fibre, fibre and wireless/high speed wireless fibre, fibre to the remote node (FTTRN is basically small signal repeater boxes on existing poles and cheaper and quicker to roll out than digging holes in the ground and blowing in fibre), but no Satellite provision in East Devon.

FTTRN is currently being trialled in north Yorkshire by BT (although why I am unclear as this in not new technology working perfectly well in other parts of the world where distance from the exchange is a challenge) and needs to be in the Openreach portfolio before it can be included in the BDUK framework used by C, D & S to include additional services within the current contract.

I recently met with the SW regional partnerships Director for BT who tells me that FTTRN will be included in the Openreach portfolio by the end of their financial year i.e. the 31st of March 2015. The point of this is that there is a £3m ring fenced pot within the current C,D & S contract for new technology to be added in to the mix and this would be an obvious use for that funding. I will continue to engage with BT for a definite date that is earlier than the 31st of March 2015.

A new web site showing mapping down to 7 post code digits will be launched in the next few days and whilst it might not give you the answer you want it will tell you the state of things where you live or work prior to the outcome of the SEP procurement and delivery of services. I am currently trialling the BETA version of this site and the only reason it won't be publicly launched for a few days is to give the "tecchies" time to iron out a couple of bugs relating to operability and ensuring low speed access to the site is possible (ironic!) and to upload some more content.

EDDC has also represented the view to C,D & S that there should be no Non Discloure Agreements (NDA's) relating to the SEP procurement accepting that there may be the odd commercially sensitive pieces of information which rightly need to remain confidential, but not as the general rule which has been an irritant with the current C,D & S/BT contract

Summarsising from a note the C,D & S position below from a meeting attended by Cllr Paul Diviani and me yesterday this validates the above position.

CDS have submitted a Funding Request to BDUK's Superfast Extension programme and are awaiting the outcome.

· The project partners have raised significant match, including contributions from the LEP and local authorities and are requesting from BDUK the full SEP allocation of £22.75m

· The plan is to run a new open procurement to deliver the next 5% to premises, with the target premises being those currently scheduled to receive an infill solution under the main CDS programme and those areas that are outside the scope of the area.

· The CDS team and its funding partners are undertaking engagement with suppliers to support the development of the new tender which is anticipated to launch in September with a view to a new contract being in place in the early New Year.

· The Funding requests states the CDS partners approach is be open to all types of commericial models, including community ownership and gap funding options. It also states a technology neutral position

· The SEP funding is for a wholesale, open access network and delivery needs to be concluded by the end of 2018.

I appreciate that the above is bound to generate a number of questions and I am sure there will be areas of interest and circumstances that are specific to you and please use me as first line support for these and not C, D & S so I can reply with the answer if I have it to hand or seek further information and come back to you with the answer as I would like C,D & S to focus entirely on early stage engagement with suppliers of all "flavours" over the summer without undue distraction.

From a personal point of view I would naturally like us all to be in a position where there is 100% high speed (defined as 24Mb per second downstream) "yesterday" but realistically this is clearly not going to happen and even though the SEP funding and delivery objectives for C,D & S are now where we would all want them to be it is going to be a few years and not a few months before the high speed figure is achieved in some rural and urban areas.

That said there are grounds for more immediate optimism as private enterprise in the form of wireless Broadband providers are now offering a more resilient 10Mb down, 5Mb up to premises in e.g. East Devon and South Somerset with coverage now extending in to Churchinford and very shortly Upottery parish on the Blackdown hills with the promise of wider geographical provision and higher speeds towards and beyond the 24Mb high speed threshold by way of wireless fibre.

Kind regards


Phil Twiss

EDDC Councillor

Honiton St Michael's ward, Portfolio holder, Corporate Services