BT has agreed to reveal exactly where it will be deploying superfast broadband in rural locations.
After heavy criticism of the Broadband Delivery for the UK (BDUK) process by the National Audit Office, a Public Accounts Committee and a Rural Affairs Committee, it emerges that culture secretary Maria Miller has struck a deal with the UK’s biggest ISP.
The UK’s biggest ISP has so far won every BDUK contract and will almost certainly win the rest. The BDUK money requires BT to connect around 90 per cent of a county or region to superfast broadband, defined as providing download speeds of at least 25Mbps. The remaining 10 per cent, typically people in remote, rural areas, will get a much slower 2Mbps service.
Read Recombu Digital’s feature on Rural BroadbandMiller wants BT to reveal exactly where it’s rolling out superfast broadband so that other companies can provide a faster service to the 10 per cent. In a letter obtained by the FT [paywall], the culture secretary says:
“This information will help other broadband providers and community groups determine whether it is worth their while to develop local broadband projects to fill in the gaps in coverage. My strong preference is for this information to be made available.”
In the face of past criticism BT has repeatedly said that it is happy to reveal information on where the 10 per cent are, but has insisted that it is up to local authorities to release this information. A spokesperson reiterated this point, saying: “We are happy to work with local councils who wish to publish the details of their respective BDUK deployment plans. Local councils will decide if and when to publish the outline plans on their website.”
So far, Northamptonshire has published details of where the 10 per cent live, meaning alternative suppliers of superfast broadband could start planning right now. Council-based confusion has seen BT and Lancashire’s local broadband heroes B4RN cross wires, leading to a situation where the two groups will end up building on top of each other.
Given what the likes of B4RN and Gigaclear have achieved with deployment of FTTP (Fibre to the Premises)-based lines providing speeds of up to 1Gbps, it’s possible that people in the 10 per cent could end up getting a faster service before than those in the 90 per cent.
Image: Mike Cattell/Flickr
Update: Line from BT spokesperson added above.