Thursday, June 07, 2012

Super connected cities wave 2 guidance published

Further to my previous post, guidance for smaller cities interested in bidding for wave 2 of the Urban Broadband Fund was published on 25 May 2012 by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).

To apply for a share of the UBF Phase 2 funding, eligible cities must submit a Super-Connected City Plan (SCCP) by 17 September 2012, setting out how both full ultrafast coverage of cities' core urban areas with fixed broadband and ubiquitous high-speed wireless connectivity will be achieved. The principle is similar to that underpinning BDUK's rural programme: subsidise the extension of ultrafast services into areas the market wouldn't otherwise reach.

Ultrafast broadband is defined as being "as close to 80-100Mbps as is currently possible – or faster". No further bandwidth definition for "high-speed wireless" is provided, but the the provision/extension of public wi-fi is suggested as a possible option in relation to this aspect.

Bidders must ensure that their plans complement those already underway for rural areas, particularly in relation to preventing any double-funding:
"Super-Connected City Plans (SCCPs) may include additional contiguous connectivity outwith the city boundaries; provided that no premises are included which are covered by a Local Broadband Plan (LBP) and which will receive BDUK Rural Broadband funding – i.e. no double funding...Bids will only be accepted from cities that have submitted, or worked with a neighbouring Local Authority to complete, a Local Broadband Plan and undertaken to match the funding for any premises in their area identified as qualifying for funding under the BDUK Rural Broadband Programme...Projects must be within contiguous urban areas inside the city boundary. Coverage of Enterprise Zones outwith the boundary is appropriate, provided the urban area is also covered. Areas which have been identified as eligible for other BDUK funding should be included in Local Broadband Plans submitted to the BDUK Rural Programme.  No area can receive funding under both programmes for any individual premise."
Timescales are tight: UBF Phase 2 funding is only available for the financial year 2013/14, but projects can involve longer delivery timescales where additional local funding is being provided. From the Q&A for the second round:
  • When will consumers be able to access the new ultrafast connection speeds? Consumers in the cities chosen will be able to access the new ultrafast broadband services in the areas chosen by the cities before the end of this Parliament. It is not possible to say in advance of receiving the plans from each of the cities exactly when this will happen in each city, but the money from this phase of the Urban Broadband Fund must be spent before April 2014.
  • Will everybody in a city be able to access the new ultrafast speeds? The expectation is that, within the city boundaries, everyone will be able to access ultrafast fixed broadband and experience high-speed wireless connectivity.
  • What does wireless connectivity mean? Is it free public wi-fi? It is for each city to decide how it wishes to offer mobile or wireless connectivity. We are technologically neutral.
  • Will this be State Aid compliant? Cities may choose to use money, for example: to fill in gaps where the market will not provide service (in the same way as BDUK money does); to procure wireless infrastructure for publically available services; could choose to design bespoke support for businesses. Bids must be state aid compliant – which means we are not aiming to support network build where the market is already providing these services.

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