rural broadband

Lancashire agrees broadband deal

Lancashire has become the first UK county to agree a deal to roll broadband out to rural areas.

It will use some government money and has partnered with BT which will also be providing funding.

The government wants to improve rural broadband and councils have been given until the end of April to get projects up and running.

Ofcom estimates that 15% of homes in the county currently have speeds of less than 2Mbps (megabits per second).

The government has pledged to provide everyone in the country with speeds of at least 2Mbps by 2015 and has set aside £530m to fund this.

It also wants to see 90% of homes and businesses have access to “superfast” broadband – defined as speeds of 24Mbps or higher – by the same timeframe.

There have been criticisms that the drive to get broadband into rural areas has been too slow with councils ill-equipped to negotiate deals with telecom companies (telcos) and too little money being provided to help them.

BDUK (Broadband Delivery) was set up to administer the cash. Each county was told how much money it would get from the pot although few have yet come up with viable projects.

BT is one of the few telcos bidding to provide networks.

Starting blocks

In Lancashire BT plans to extend its existing fibre broadband to 97% of premises in the county by the end of 2014.

The telco will contribute £30m to the project with the government putting in £10.8m. Some £16.5m will come from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) with local councils contributing £5.2m.

Lancashire county council (LCC) said the broadband project would also boost the local economy by creating about 2,500 jobs and protecting more than 1,200 jobs over the next few years.

In addition, LCC has created a £500,000 community fund to help reach the most remote premises with an initial pilot taking place to the east of Lancaster.

Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “Today our ambition to provide Lancashire citizens and business with a world-class broadband service turns into a reality. It is important that as many areas as possible benefit, and that is why we have ensured that even the more remote areas of the county see a significant improvement in their speeds.”

Bill Murphy, managing director, Next Generation Access, BT, added: “It’s great to see Lancashire be first out of the BDUK starting blocks in this regional race for speed.”

Via BBC News

NextGenUs rural broadband firm runs out of cash

The rural broadband firm Next Genus has signalled that it is on the brink of collapse.

On its blog, the company announced that it had failed to find any “viable sources of finance” and would soon cease operations.

The company tried to bring high-speed net services to rural areas by using local champions and private finance.

Rival net firms have stepped in to keep customers connected in some areas, but others have effectively been cut off.

Local action

Next Genus had been using a mixture of fibre cables and wireless to take very high speed broadband (10-60 megabits per second) to some parts of the UK that would struggle to get it any other way.

It provided marketing materials and support to locals to help them generate interest in getting the high-speed service and, once enough people had committed, began putting infrastructure in place to serve them.

The service had proved popular in parts of Cumbria, Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire, where significant numbers of customers had signed up.

Many were cut off this week when the company revealed that there was “no realistic prospect” of it finding enough money to pay its creditors.

In Hull and East Yorkshire, rival Quickline stepped in to keep net connections running – as did ISP KCom in Hull.

In Cumbria, Next Genus’s service was briefly stopped then restarted as talks began with a potential investor. It said it was working to find purchasers for other parts of its network.

Next Genus has not answered any requests for comment.

Its blog said that: “Customers will be receiving an email in the near future giving more information.”

via: BBC News

UK rural broadband plans move on

Homes in Devon, Somerset, Norfolk and Wiltshire will get super-fast broadband, the government has said.

Making sure rural areas have fast net services is part of a wider drive to make the UK the best place for broadband by 2015.

Each county will receive a portion of the £530m fund the government has set aside to fund rural broadband.

The Department for Culture said that all the UK’s local authorities will receive funding in the next few years.

“This is part of our plan for virtually every community in the UK to have access to super-fast broadband,” said culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The government acknowledges that its £530m pot – which is money left over from an earlier digital switchover fund – will not be enough to give the entire country fast broadband.

Private investment will also be needed.

Fibre homes

The successful counties were among 18 which originally bid for the money.

Devon and Somerset will receive around £30m, Norfolk £15m and Wiltshire £4m and they will then choose a contractor and technology best suited for their needs.

The government anticipates that the technologies will be a mix of mobile, satellite and fibre connections.

Wiltshire Council has already pledged to spend £16m on broadband services across the county.

The government announced the first tranche of its rural broadband plan in October 2010, setting up three pilots in North Yorkshire, the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and Cumbria and Herefordshire.

It has been accused of being far too slow to get the trials up and running. So far none are live and only two have begun the process of finding a firm able to offer services.

Fujitsu has pledged to build a super-fast network across the whole of rural Britain. It has said it will offer fibre-to-the-home technology to around five million homes. That could provide homes with speeds of up to 100Mbps (megabits per second).

In order to do so it will rely on using BT’s infrastructure – the ducts and poles that provide telephone and broadband services around the UK.

Ofcom has forced the telco to open up its network but some have argued that the prices it is planning to charge for access are too high.

Revised pricing is expected in June.

According to BT, Fujitsu has yet to join its ducts and poles trial.

[Via BBC News]