Review of the year
As we approach the end of the year this is a good time to reflect back on all that has happened over the past 12 months, so here is a quick round-up:
After a lot of work on the part of the project team, including an extensive Open Market Review to understand what the commercial providers’ plans were, the project entered the procurement phase and the Invitation to Tender was issued. The website was also restructured to reflect the new stage of the project.
Call for final locations of cabinets so that we could challenge the information that we were receiving from bidders. Detailed maps published showing the information that we held right down to individual property level. This was dependent on the cabinets being in the locations where we thought they were!
Responding to queries from potential bidders and preparing for tender evaluation.
Tenders returns received and evaluation commenced. The information from Champions and from survey returns was extremely useful in helping us to test the information that we were given in the tender documentation. This was particularly helpful in challenging the distance of properties from the actual locations of the cabinets – and therefore the speeds that are likely to be achievable.
Evaluation and challenge of tender return documents continued. Champions map went live on the website showing where the champions are located and survey returns. Businesses were invited to register as potential sub-contract suppliers to the project. We started to hold consultation events in each area. 10,000th survey response received – the sender of that survey won £20 in Amazon vouchers.
Contract with BT announced. £14.57m project to achieve 91% fibre coverage by spring 2016. Additional 40,000 premises to achieve superfast speeds over and above the commercial broadband rollout. Launch event held at the Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick and mini launch events continued in the five Warwickshire Districts. We started the project initiation activities, including the start of the modelling work for the additional £750 public funding that we attracted to the project through the procurement process
Website upgraded to show the current status of the project now that contracts were signed. The CSW Broadband team visited the BT Network Academy to learn about how broadband infrastructure has evolved over the years, and how the new network is to be installed. Project initiation activities continued.
New maps on the website show the areas that were under investigation for superfast broadband and which were awaiting additional funding. The Expression of Interest for the potential Rural Community Broadband Fund bid was accepted by DeFRA
Launch event held in Solihull. A major overhaul of the website took place with a new look and structure and lots of new information, including a video showing how the network will be rolled out. The changes were very well received. We also explained the strategic CuRe process that BT were undertaking – Cu = copper, Re = re-alignment. This is where BT are looking at the existing copper network that has evolved over more than 100 years to ensure that the copper runs are as short as practically possible as broadband does degrade very quickly over runs of copper wire.
We carried out the first physical surveys for cabinets. This was an instructive exercise and enabled the team to see at first hand the variables such as the availability of power, planning considerations and highways regulations that can impact on the siting of the new cabinets. At the very end of the month we received new data from BT confirming an additional 6,480 premises above those that were in the original contract would be connected to the fibre network, bringing the total project coverage to over 51,000 homes and businesses – and this is on top of the BT commercial rollout.
We applied for State Aid approval for the data that we had received from BT at the end of October. This is necessary to meet our funding requirements and, among other things, ensures that we are not spending money in an area that is to be covered under one or more commercial providers’ rollout plans. New maps published on the website depicting the new data.
We are still awaiting State Aid approval from BDUK, which we are informed will be received before Christmas. Also eagerly anticipating the first 12-month rolling plan and, as always, we will make the information available as soon as we are able to. In the meantime, we are continuing to respond to specific queries, working on the data that has been received, and actively seeking out additional funding. On that note, we are hoping that an announcement will be made in the Autumn Statement that is due on 5th December about the additional £250m Government funding – more news about that in the next newsletter
Rightmove to show broadband speeds on property details
Rightmove is an online property sales and rental database and now shoes “typical” speeds for each of the 1 million+ homes listed on its website. The data is provided by Point Topic and will show what the average speed is and what can be achieved with it. If superfast is not yet available but a go-live date has been announced this will also be shown. This is a very positive move as we have several instances of people who have moved from towns into the countryside only to find that the broadband that they had come to take for granted was not available. It should be noted that there are local variables that mean the data may not always be accurate, for instance distance from the cabinet and all the other factors that we have mentioned previously.
Key dates looking forward
There is some confusion over dates for different targets for broadband so here’s the key dates:
|2014||CSW Broadband rollout starts|
|2015||Original Government target for 90% superfast ie 24Mbps (this is no longer achievable since it took so long to get European approval for State Aid issues)|
|2016||CSW Broadband rollout under current funding completes by end of the year, 91% superfast availability|
|2017||Government target for 95% superfast|
|2020||EU target to achieve 100% 30Mbps availability (although there is no funding on the horizon at present for this)|
It only remains to say a massive THANK YOU to all of our Champions, to those who have completed surveys and to those who have emailed or contacted us through social media with your comments and questions. Your input and feedback has been brilliant. Together we have shaped the project thus far and, to be honest, have become equally frustrated at the rate of progress. It now feels as though we are on the threshold of a real leap forward. Thank you for your forbearance – 2014 promises to be an exciting time!