Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) last week published the first version of its delivery model, its purpose being "to bring forward network infrastructure upgrades and to improve the accessibility of services in locations where there is a weak commercial investment case".
It's an interesting read, illustrating how rapidly broadband policy has evolved since the publication last December of the strategy document Britain's Superfast Broadband Future, and even since BDUK's second wave bidding guidance published in March. Here are what I think are the most significant new developments.
The delivery model includes more detail of the range of advice and support available from BDUK:
- Section 7.8.1, page 23 – Broadband Project Toolkit – “a toolkit (guidance, standard documentation and templates) that will provide material from the development of a Local Broadband Plan, through to the procurement or sourcing phase and up to monitoring of the delivery phase.”
- Section 6.3.2, page 16-17 – Programme Milestones – “November 2011 - Report setting out the lessons learned from Superfast Broadband Pilots and the Government’s approach to investment in broadband until 2015”
- Section 5.4.2, page 14 – benefits measurement framework: “BDUK and Defra have jointly commissioned the development of a usable analytical framework based on a robust and coherent set of indicators. This will also include guidance for local bodies on the use of this framework. The framework will allow monitoring to be undertaken on a consistent basis across the country, and is intended to be finalised in the second quarter of 2011.”
- Executive summary, page 2: “BDUK will seek to put in place a procurement framework for the most common commercial delivery approach (investment gap funding) that further projects can call-off where appropriate. In addition, BDUK will procure a separate framework for local bodies to allow consumers and businesses to access broadband services through satellite where it is not economic to use alternative solutions.”
- Section 7.2.5, page 18 – BDUK activities overview: “BDUK has developed an overall sourcing approach to Programme delivery. This allows local bodies in early projects to lead their own procurements, with BDUK support to develop a standardised approach. For subsequent projects, BDUK proposed to create supplier frameworks from which local bodies can call-off broadband services. If the early projects demonstrate that there is insufficient competition in the market place then BDUK will consider putting in place overarching bilateral contracts with suppliers, with provisions to ensure a degree of sub-contracting where appropriate. BDUK will also procure a framework contract for local bodies to call-off broadband services for a limited number of customers for delivery by satellite technology.”
- Section 13.2.3, page 48 – commercial & procurement approach overview: “Early projects will lead their own procurement processes, and BDUK will work with these local bodies to identify the best ways to simplify and standardise procurement routes. BDUK will seek to put in place a procurement framework for the investment gap funded approach that further projects can call-off from where appropriate. In addition, BDUK will procure a separate framework for local bodies to allow consumers and businesses to access broadband services through satellite where it is not economic to use alternative solutions.”
- Section 13.5.3, page 51 – procurement options: “BDUK will prepare for the development of framework contract(s) which local bodies can utilise for subsequent projects based on the investment gap funded model. Local bodies proposing different commercial models, including where a procurement for broadband services is combined with a procurement for public sector enterprise network services, will be expected to undertake their own separate procurements. BDUK will expect that local bodies in England using the investment gap funded model will generally wish to procure through a BDUK framework. It is likely to be a more efficient method of procurement for both local bodies and suppliers, and will be consistent with BDUK’s umbrella State Aid notification.”
- Section 13.5.4, page 52 – procurement options: “Where local bodies intend to procure local broadband services in combination with a procurement for a public sector enterprise network then it may consider combining the procurements under one OJEU, potentially with different lots. BDUK will work with the PSN Programme to develop guidance on issues to be considered when using this approach.”
Whilst there is clearly a lot of commonality across local authorities and regions, which lends itself to the framework approach, the challenge will be enabling sufficient capacity for innovation in the development of local solutions. It isn't a case of "one size fits all". Open (wholesale) access is key to BDUK's plans, to provide competition and choice and also address State Aid requirements:
- Section 4.3.1, page 9 – investing in economic infrastructure to maximise growth opportunities: “Stimulate investment in networks that offer wholesale access”
- Section 11.3.5, page 39 – outputs from local broadband projects: “The retail price of broadband subscriptions will be set by retail service providers (i.e. internet service providers). It is intended that the contracts for wholesale broadband services between local bodies and suppliers will provide for open access to any retail service providers who choose to buy it to ensure ongoing competition in line with the rest of the UK market. It is intended that broadband subscriptions will be available at an affordable price to customers.”
- Section 12.5.5, page 43 – retail access platform: “To address the potential outcomes, BDUK will encourage, as State Aid dictates, open retail access that is allowed to grow as more homes and businesses are able to access broadband services. This will be achieved by embedding the associated commercial and technical provisions within the core requirements outlined in section 12.3 above. BDUK will explore further with industry whether any further actions are required to ensure that sufficient open retail access is available for local broadband projects.”
- Section 4.2.2, page 9 – facilitating local delivery: “Provide advice and guidance on making use of available or planned networks for public sector use.”
- Section 4.3.6, page 10 – investing in economic infrastructure to maximise growth opportunities: “Principle 9: Facilitate the re-use of network infrastructure in which the public sector is investing:
- Work with the Cabinet Office Public Sector Network (PSN) Programme to encourage the re-use and re-usability of public sector networks which form part of the PSN;
- Ensure that best practice advice and guidance is disseminated from previous and current local body contracts for PSN and other wide area network projects; and
- Ensure appropriate linkages are made with other public sector investments (e.g. Grid for Learning and JANET) on a national and regional basis.”
- Section 7.11.3, page 26 – links with other government policies: “The Broadband Delivery Programme is also discussing with the Department of Health and the Department for Education the opportunities and benefits for individuals to access services over Superfast Broadband, particularly for individuals in rural and remote areas.”
- Section 8.2.4, page 27 – activities for local bodies – overview: “Re-use of public sector enterprise networks. Local bodies should identify where it is possible to leverage on the value of existing planned investments in infrastructure or services which provide enterprise networks for public sector use.”
- Section 12.8.3, page 45-46 – use of enterprise networks in the public sector: “Local bodies will need to gather adequate data on the assets that are available for re-use, whether under a single contract, or under multiple smaller contracts. This could usefully include information on public sector investment in route upgrades by network operators over the last 5-10 years. The provision of broadband access to education establishments in particular means that a significant number of routes have potentially been readied for fibre rollout.”
- Section 7.8.4, page 23 – broadband project toolkit: “The toolkit will contain…advice and templates for state aid applications.”
- Section 13.2.4, page 48 – commercial & procurement approach overview: “BDUK will seek an umbrella State Aid approval from Europe for the programme of procurement activities, so that BDUK acts as a competency centre assuring the European Commission that individual projects adhere to the principles of the umbrella notification.”
- Sections 9.2.5 & 9.2.8, page 32 – the importance of demand: “While access to Superfast Broadband is available to nearly 50% of the population through the Virgin network and a growing percentage of the population through BT’s fibre to the cabinet investment, national take-up is still very low…The Broadband Delivery Programme is supporting a survey being undertaken by the Communication Management Association (part of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT) to Federation of Small Businesses members to better understand their demand for Superfast Broadband.”
We tend to focus on stimulating demand, which is clearly important, but shouldn't we also be investigating where current broadband infrastructure is a constraint, for homes, businesses and public services? Some instances are clear, like poor availability in rural areas, but others are less well defined and understood. For example, the constraints current broadband provision places on delivering public services like healthcare. We need to understand better all the things that we can't do (but would like to do) with our current infrastructure.
I think we should look to organisations like Australia's Institute for a Broadband Enabled Society (IBES) for assistance here:
"IBES is a cross-disciplinary research institute dedicated to innovations in products, services and end-user experiences that maximise the benefits of new broadband technologies to Australian society. The Institute's activities covers a wide range of fields including Education and Learning, Health and Wellbeing, Business and Service Transformation, Network Deployment and Economics, and Smart Communities and Infrastructure."As I've said before on this blog, the broadband debate needs to move on from the theoretical ("broadband is important") to the specific ("next generation services enable applications x, y and z, which can't be delivered over current generation services for reasons a, b and c").
If we develop and share our understanding of the breadth of new services and applications that next generation services will support, this can only help to stimulate demand? As in "I want some of that too"?