We have learned today that all of our worst fears are soon to be announced as part of the Welsh Government’s NGBW (Next Generation Broadband Wales) deal with BT.
BT were left as the only remaining bidder when:
- BDUK rules excluded £20m turnover companies,
- all other bidders withdrew their bids one by one
- it became clear that only BT would ‘do’ for the Welsh Government.
Left as the only bidder (although most of the industry believes they always were the ‘only bidder’), wispa Limited have learned that the Welsh Government have submitted their agreement document with BT to the BDUK for approval.
BDUK have to make their approval to allow the Welsh Government to hand over C£60m in public funds to BT.
It’s important to note that this money is designed to get Wales connected to the (revised) Government target of ‘upto’ 20Mbps by 2015. The stated target is that 90% of the UK will achieve this, and the rest will be left on welfare broadband at around 2Mbps.
We learned today, that it would appear that Wales is going to make up the majority of this welfare broadband.
If what we have been told is correct then expect the following when BDUK and the Welsh Government announce the deal:
- Only major metropolitan regions will be targeted for 20Mbps, with the remainder (most) of the country on a ‘reasonable endeavors’ basis
- Works will not need to be completed by 2015 in order for BT to get paid
- BT may use subcontractors in ‘sub-optimum’ regions to ‘in-fill’ (basically this means satellite, and wireless)
- No pricing control implemented (so if you are getting satellite – expect higher bills)
- No social project implementations enforced (town halls, meeting places, libraries etc will not receive particular focus)
- BT do not need to prove that they matched the C£60m handout from BDUK – just ‘commit to doing so’
- No dated rollout plan will be announced
- Fibrespeed network (North Wales) to be opened up to BT for minimal cost (Fibrespeed cost Welsh Government C£23m to deploy and has delivered virtually no significant benefits to date)
- All Fibrespeed expansion plans cancelled, no further works to be completed (even if planned and budgeted for)
- No commitment required by BT to favour rural areas (which makes up most of the geography of Wales)
- No financial penalties for failure to deliver
- Money to be handed to BT at beginning of contract, with no ‘claw-back’ penalties in the contract
- A few ‘headline grabbing’ areas to get speeds of upto 80Mbps to focus the Press on these areas rather than on the elements above
To be fair to the ICT technical team at Welsh Government, it seems that they tried really hard to make sure that BT would be required to deliver, but it seems the politicians and the Civil Servants just want this to be announced as soon as possible in order to make sure that there is some ‘good news’ in the principality.
Sadly, this is going to result in another huge waste of funding, with little change in rural areas, and simply an improvement in speeds in more urban areas.
Another example of Carwyn Jones’ government being desperate to create ‘legacy’ perhaps, or equally likely, simply a Government that have no clue what communications in Wales need to look like in order for us to have a chance of competing on a Global stage.
BDUK could change this, but it seems likely that the MP that the Press are casting in the light of an oily, dishonest, and dishonorable Minister will be keen for something to deflect the attention from his inability to control a SPad and his cosy chats with media barons.
Seems most areas will get something a little quicker than they had before, with Cardiff getting a lot quicker. Many Welsh residents will simply sigh, and realise that it ever was the case and start looking to help their children move before the country slips permanently into obscurity.