The Kent County Council in England has confirmed that 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband from Openreach (BT) is set to reach an additional 5,000 rural premises. On top of that they’ve boosted the value of the UK Government’s rural Gigabit broadband vouchers from £1,500 to £2,500 per household.
The original Phase 1 and Phase 2 Making Kent Quicker (MKQ) programme, which has been jointly supported by the local authority, BT and the government’s Building Digital UK (BDUK) scheme, have already succeeded in extending the local coverage of “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) to 95% of homes and businesses.
NOTE: The MKQ project has so far put an additional 138,000 premises in Kent within reach of a faster broadband service.
However we noted last year (here) that KCC were looking to reinvest £4.5m of gainshare (i.e. a clawback of public funding from BT due to high take-up under the BDUK programme) in order to extend the current Phase 2 rollout contract. The aim would be to further reduce the 32,000 premises in Kent that are still unable to access a fixed superfast broadband ISP network.
At the time KCC were estimating that the average subsidy for tackling those homes and businesses in the final 5% would be in the region of £1,300 per property (compared to £146 for Phase 1 and £608 so far for Phase 2). However today’s announcement confirms that the deal will enable Openreach to build their ultrafast “full fibre” FTTP network out to cover an additional 5,000 premises (better than we expected).
Mark Dance, KCC Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said:
“I’m delighted to announce this investment that will help thousands of rural homes and businesses get better broadband connections in Kent.
I believe this will make a real difference and encourage as many of our rural residents as possible to take up these opportunities to get the connectivity they need.”
On top of that the local authority has also committed up to £2.8m of additional funding to help “top-up” the UK Government’s Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme in local areas, which means that remote homes looking to get 1Gbps capable broadband (e.g. FTTP) installed – those that fall outside of any existing rollout plans – will now be able to take vouchers worth up to £2,500 instead of £1,500.
Such vouchers are designed to help cover the installation cost of new ultrafast broadband services. The deployment of such networks into rural areas is often prohibitively expensive, although the vouchers (these can be aggregated by communities to fund bigger builds) are one avenue for tackling this. Such schemes are often used to help co-fund new deployments in remote areas.
Matt Warman, UK Minister for Digital, said:
“The Government is investing over £650 million on full fibre broadband and we’re prioritising rural areas to make sure they get a gigabit-capable connection first.
I very much welcome further investment from Kent County Council that matches our ambitions and helps local businesses and homes take advantage of this connectivity.”
Admittedly all of this will still leave a fairly big gap left to fill, although Mark Dance said the county council remains “committed to working with the government to help those that still cannot get better broadband.” At present though KCC only seem to be pointing toward next year’s somewhat watered-down 10Mbps+ Universal Service Obligation (USO) as a solution for those who can’t get a access via vouchers or existing rollout plans.
We should point out that a number of alternative network ISPs are also conducting deployments of new broadband networks in Kent, such as Trooli, Vfast, BitStreme and Gigaclear. Some of these may be able to provide a solution that others cannot and are always worth checking.