Faster Broadband for Hampshire
Hampshire County Council gained Government approval for its countywide broadband plans at the end of January 2012. Since then we have been hard at work developing our programme.
Progress with our plans
You may recall we are to receive £5 million of government funding and that the key conditions are that it has to be match funded, can only be spent on capital investment and that the targets are met by 2015.
Matched funding secured
I am pleased to be able to report that we have subsequently secured match funding from all the relevant district councils.
Broadband programme aims
The core aim of the broadband programme is to ensure 90% of premises in Hampshire have access to 24Mb/s (Megabits per second) or faster broadband and the remaining 10% have access to a minimum of 2Mb/s by 2015.
Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is currently finalising its procurement framework process. We anticipate it will be June or July 2012 when we are ready to invite suppliers to tender with the procurement process being completed by the end of the calendar year. Between now and then we will be ensuring we have the plans and data in place to ensure we achieve maximum value from the funds available. Crucially we remain on track to commence the implementation phase early in 2013.
Information and clarity
A key priority is to give households and businesses in Hampshire information about proposed upgrades from the commercial companies together with clarity around what broadband speeds communities might expect over the lifetime of the programme. In particular people want to find out if they are included in ‘the final 10%’ and how to establish if they were to be upgraded through the market (e.g. by BT or Virgin) or through the Hampshire County Council led wider broadband programme.
Everyone will get a standard minimum speed of 2Mb/s (Megabits per second)
The HCC broadband programme is tasked to give everyone in Hampshire access to at least the standard minimum broadband speed of 2Mb/s by 2015. Whilst this may be an improvement for some communities that have very slow speed or, even worse, no coverage at all, it is clear to us that communities may well feel left behind when they see how the majority of the country benefits from the economic, social and cultural advantages that much faster broadband brings. We would also like to reassure communities that may be within the hardest to reach 10%, that 2Mb/s is the minimum guarantee, we will be doing all we can to ensure that we push as far as we can beyond within the funding available.
Enhanced speeds increasingly necessary
These enhanced speeds are becoming necessary for seamless streaming of films, downloading of music, internet banking, shopping, teleconferencing, and other health, social and cultural activities that are increasingly available online. Household are also increasingly finding themselves with more than the traditional PC connected to the internet. It is becoming common practice to have phones and tablets like the IPad all using bandwidth at the same time.
Consequently one of our main messages will be to bring to life the value of these benefits and encourage communities to continue to register their support. We hope that this evidence of demand for faster broadband will help our gap funding go further and allow enhanced broadband speeds to more communities. Whilst we are encouraged and grateful for the 11,000 registrants so far, we would like to aim for up to 5 times this number before we go to market to really articulate the demand and support from within our communities.
Progress with maps and broadband checker
I am pleased to report that we are making good progress with developing and creating an online postcode broadband checker. Hampshire County Council’s dedicated broadband pages already contain information about the county-wide broadband programme and the forthcoming addition of relevant maps and the broadband checker will indicate, based upon the best and current data we have :
if you are in an area that will be upgraded and get faster broadband through the market by 2015,
if you are in an area that will be upgraded and get faster broadband through the Hampshire broadband programme by 2015,
whether you may only receive standard broadband with a minimum speed of 2Mb/s (Megabits per second).
We will let you know when these enhancements are added. We will be able to give you more detail on the programme rollout when we have selected our commercial delivery partner and they have commenced area by area analysis from 2013 onwards. We are committed to sharing with you the information we have at each stage.
Community Workshops, and Supplier and Business Events
In the coming months we plan to hold a series of Community Workshops to gauge demand and hear about specific issues in Parishes. We will also be holding Supplier Events to show broadband infrastructure suppliers the evidence of demand for faster broadband and thereby help to persuade them to invest in Hampshire.
The programme team is also now gearing up for the process to appoint a commercial implementation partner. This will involve public consultation to comply with legislation. We have a target to complete this and be ready to publish our invitation to tender to suppliers during June or July this year. This will keep us on track to be ready to appoint a partner by the end of the year and begin the implementation process early in 2013. Being able to demonstrate demand remains critical to achieving best value for our plan.
In the meantime continue to sign up!
The roll out schedule will be based upon the best use of public funds and will be co-ordinated with other local utility and road works to bring the least possible disruption to communities. Public demand will also be important in planning the delivery, since this will help fund the ongoing investment in the network infrastructure. Individuals and businesses are encouraged to continue to register their interest at www.hants.gov.uk/broadband-signup
Hampshire County Council Broadband Programme Manager
For further information
Hampshire County Council broadband web pages www.hants.gov.uk/broadband
Rural Community Broadband Fund
£20 million of government funding has been made available to help rural communities across the UK access faster broadband. Businesses and communities wishing to explore this funding option can find out more: http://rdpenetwork.defra.gov.uk/funding-sources/rural-community-broadband-fund