Agenda item

Broadband (Agenda Item 8)

Report of the Leader of the Council.

Minutes:

The Chairman presented the report which sought the release of the £950,000 previously approved in principle, to increase Broadband coverage in the District to 94%.  He noted that some areas would still not be covered and the Council would rely on the expertise of BT to model viable areas to provide maximum value for money.  He asked Ms O’Kane to explain about locally funded schemes, grants and the Universal Service Commitment.

 

Ms O’Kane advised that European rules applied to locally funded schemes and the correct procurement procedures would have to be adhered to if other sources were used.  Although some grants were available it was not possible to mix private money with public money. 

 

The Universal Service Commitment had two parts.  A Satellite Voucher Scheme would provide a basic 2MB per second but was only intended for users that would not be covered by the current programme.  The Government had also committed to providing 10MB per second to everyone by the end of 2020.  That would be provided by BT Open Reach and was likely to entail the use of 4G mobile technology.

 

The Executive Member for Finance asked for more detailed maps for Members.

 

Ms O’Kane confirmed that bigger maps could be provided but they were only modelled down to postcode level and did not include details of individual property speeds.   The map just provided an interpretation.  After the scheme was implemented detail could be provided to property level.  Members could visit the website http://www.betterbroadbandnorfolk.co.uk/ and use the Post Code checker which would give information on whether an area was/would be covered and https://www.btwholesale.com/includes/adsl/adsl.htm to find out the speed once a cabinet had been fibre enabled.

 

More information would be on the website once the number of Councils that were participating was confirmed.  That information would be known by the end of February.  Breckland was the first Council to be making the decision.


The Chief Executive asked what would happen if other Councils decided not to contribute and it was confirmed that the ‘clawback’ money would be redistributed between those that did participate.  There was also an underspend from the first tranche of the programme which would be added to the pot.

 

It was confirmed that the Council’s money would only be spent in the District.

 

The Executive Member for Governance asked about Beachamwell and Shingham.  They were willing to pay into a local scheme or carry out a self-dig and he wanted assurance that they would be covered in the next phase.

 

Ms O’Kane explained that there were many such examples in the County where one part of a community was covered and a smaller satellite hamlet was not.  The best way to provide value for money was to use the BT model to ensure maximum coverage for the money available.  Otherwise Members would have to make the difficult decision of which communities to include and which to leave out.

 

Councillor Borrett supported the proposal which was exactly what residents wanted and would draw in a huge amount of grant money.


The Chairman concluded by saying that in future the Council should work to ensure that developments took Broadband into consideration as it was as important as other utilities.

 

REASONS FOR RECOMMENDATION

 

Members will recall agreeing to a contribution of £950,000 to further extend broadband coverage within the district, which was subject to being satisfied that value for money was achieved. Appendix A has been provided by the BBfN officer who will be attending the Cabinet meeting to answer any questions.

 

Every county’s first contract included dedicated funding for a ‘Phase 9’ to meet the Government’s commitment to offer at least a Basic Broadband speed of 2Mbps for every property.

 

The Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) team has been developing a single national Satellite Voucher Scheme which will be available in mid-December. The scheme will:

 

-        Run for two years from December 2015 to December 2017

 

-        Be available for premises that have access to speeds of less than 2Mbps, and where a fibre solution is not yet confirmed following survey

 

-        The scheme will be accessible via the Better Broadband for Norfolk website. Eligible applicants will be issued with a subsidy code that can be used with a number of approved satellite providers

 

This is not intended as a substitute for Superfast Broadband, it is for those people who do not even have access to a Basic broadband speed. If a Superfast solution becomes possible it will be implemented

 

OPTIONS

 

Option 1 - Release the funding for the BBfN, Super-fast extension programme to enable delivery, which will contribute to 6% uplift in coverage in Breckland, taking Breckland to 94%. This is detailed in the table within Appendix A.

 

Option 2 - Do Nothing – Do not agree to release the funding then Breckland would remain at 88% coverage and would not benefit from the 6% uplift.

 

RESOLVED that:

 

1)     the £950,000 for the Better Broadband for Norfolk Programme (Super-Fast Extension Programme) that was agreed in principle at Council on 17 July 2014 be released.  This funding will enable delivery of the programme and achieve 95% broadband coverage in Norfolk County; and

 

2)     the concept of participating in the Satellite Voucher Scheme be agreed.

 

Supporting documents: