Fresh attack on council's faster broadband scheme

Redditch Advertiser: Faster broadband for Worcestershire - was it a good deal? Faster broadband for Worcestershire - was it a good deal?

WORCESTERSHIRE'S £20 million faster broadband project has come under fresh attack - with politicians claiming taxpayers deserved a better deal.

During fiery exchanges in a Worcestershire County Council meeting, the Conservative leadership was asked if it had made "a mistake" in signing the deal with BT.

The long-awaited scheme will see new cables laid beneath the ground to connect 90 per cent of properties in Worcestershire to faster internet speeds.

It has long been hailed as a massive boost for the economy, benefitting businesses and homes in rural areas in particular.

But some councillors say the authority has paid too much into the pot, stumping up £8.5 million, while £3.3 million has come from central Government funding and the rest from BT.

Critics of the project said the telecommunications giant or a rival firm would likely have made the investment into Worcestershire anyway.

Councillor Paul Denham, a Labour politician, said: "We've been given this figure that 90 per cent of businesses will get superfast broadband, but 75 per cent of them would have got it anyway.

"Yet despite that the whole of Worcestershire's taxpayers are paying for it - how can you justify spending this money and giving it to a large PLC with no return?"

The question was aimed at Councillor Simon Geraghty, the deputy leader and cabinet member for economy, skills and infrastructure, who signed the deal.

During the debate Councillor Luke Mallett, also from Labour, said it was a "mistake" that the deal had gone ahead without the figures being changed.

The comments were the second attack on the project since it was signed off last year.

Worcestershire's broadband scheme is considered one of, if not the most advanced in the country since it includes 90 per cent of businesses, not just homes.

The Government offered local authorities incentives to agree faster broadband deals last year, but most councils have focused on just homes.

The council has also insisted the deal would not have gone ahead without a taxpayers' injection, and it would have harmed the economy had the agreement failed.

Cllr Geraghty said: "Whilst it is true to say BT has rolled out faster broadband to urban areas, the same is not true of rural ones.

"We certainly don't want an urban/rural divide. Take Redditch for an example - there, 50 per cent of businesses will get superfast broadband. Until now it was relatively low.

"It's about being open for business."

Under the deal BT says it will ensure 55,000 properties get superfast speeds in a huge three-year overhaul.

It will especially benefit households in rural parts of Worcestershire where speeds are notoriously slow including Upton, Evesham, Malvern and Droitwich, but also Worcester.

The speed, defined as anything above 24 megabytes per second, is enough to download huge files, watch films or music videos, and flick through web pages instantly.

Work is currently taking place to determine the cable locations.

Comments (7)

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9:25am Wed 19 Feb 14

SgtAl says...

Megabytes or Megabits? There is a huge difference...

Megabits is the usual measurement for data rates. As there are 8 bits in 1 byte the article is suggesting data rates of 192Mbps, speeds that even Richard Branson would get green eyed over.

24 Mega BITS per second (Mbps) is still pretty good though, better than the 1.5Mbps offered at my previous address, so slow that Sky refused to even take my money for a service.
Megabytes or Megabits? There is a huge difference... Megabits is the usual measurement for data rates. As there are 8 bits in 1 byte the article is suggesting data rates of 192Mbps, speeds that even Richard Branson would get green eyed over. 24 Mega BITS per second (Mbps) is still pretty good though, better than the 1.5Mbps offered at my previous address, so slow that Sky refused to even take my money for a service. SgtAl
  • Score: 7

9:54am Wed 19 Feb 14

thesquirrel says...

"Worcestershire's broadband scheme is considered one of, if not the most advanced in the country"

I that case I would consider it money well spent. It's great to see Worcestershire winning for a change and not some forgotten provincial backwater. I know BT would have got round to doing Worcestershire at some point but we'll all be dead by then.
"Worcestershire's broadband scheme is considered one of, if not the most advanced in the country" I that case I would consider it money well spent. It's great to see Worcestershire winning for a change and not some forgotten provincial backwater. I know BT would have got round to doing Worcestershire at some point but we'll all be dead by then. thesquirrel
  • Score: 2

11:27am Wed 19 Feb 14

brooksider says...

Thanks to Simon Geraghty's finely honed negotiation skills,
Worcestershire taxpayers are directly contributing 43% of the cost of this scheme whilst Gloucestershire and Herefordshire taxpayers only contribute 31% and rural Cumbria only 5%.
BT must be very pleased with the deal.
Thanks to Simon Geraghty's finely honed negotiation skills, Worcestershire taxpayers are directly contributing 43% of the cost of this scheme whilst Gloucestershire and Herefordshire taxpayers only contribute 31% and rural Cumbria only 5%. BT must be very pleased with the deal. brooksider
  • Score: 3

12:19pm Wed 19 Feb 14

Tavistock Superfast Broadband says...

This has been a mess in England at least. The rush is now on to get more fibre delivered in Scotland for the Vote, Northern Ireland is more or less done, about 96% and funding in place for 100%. Wales is on target for 96% fibre.

With England taking up the slack of non delivery, without its own devolved government to raise the profile of being last on the list in the Union.

I have no problem with the BT Contracts - this could have all be done centrally not farmed out to local authorities who flap about and will not say how it is.
This has been a mess in England at least. The rush is now on to get more fibre delivered in Scotland for the Vote, Northern Ireland is more or less done, about 96% and funding in place for 100%. Wales is on target for 96% fibre. With England taking up the slack of non delivery, without its own devolved government to raise the profile of being last on the list in the Union. I have no problem with the BT Contracts - this could have all be done centrally not farmed out to local authorities who flap about and will not say how it is. Tavistock Superfast Broadband
  • Score: 1

1:36pm Wed 19 Feb 14

Ted Elgar says...

Rural Worcestershire desperately needs this boost.
I am not convinced that all the areas that will benefit from this scheme would have automatically have got fibre rolled out without incentives. Wasn't 5% in Cumbria secured with futher central Government funding?
Rural Worcestershire desperately needs this boost. I am not convinced that all the areas that will benefit from this scheme would have automatically have got fibre rolled out without incentives. Wasn't 5% in Cumbria secured with futher central Government funding? Ted Elgar
  • Score: 2

2:10pm Wed 19 Feb 14

voledog says...

Can't we just sack BT and sub out the contract to an Indian company instead? I can't see BT minding in the slightest seeing as those incompetent idiots think that's the best way of doing business these days.
Can't we just sack BT and sub out the contract to an Indian company instead? I can't see BT minding in the slightest seeing as those incompetent idiots think that's the best way of doing business these days. voledog
  • Score: 0

6:50pm Wed 19 Feb 14

brooksider says...

Ted Elgar wrote:
Rural Worcestershire desperately needs this boost.
I am not convinced that all the areas that will benefit from this scheme would have automatically have got fibre rolled out without incentives. Wasn't 5% in Cumbria secured with futher central Government funding?
Cumbria received an EU grant and the proportion of money from the Government via BDUK was roughly the same as the Gloucestershire/Here
fordshire scheme.
For for some reason Worcestershire received a much less, around 50% less, from BDUK and we local taxpayers are having to foot the bill.
[quote][p][bold]Ted Elgar[/bold] wrote: Rural Worcestershire desperately needs this boost. I am not convinced that all the areas that will benefit from this scheme would have automatically have got fibre rolled out without incentives. Wasn't 5% in Cumbria secured with futher central Government funding?[/p][/quote]Cumbria received an EU grant and the proportion of money from the Government via BDUK was roughly the same as the Gloucestershire/Here fordshire scheme. For for some reason Worcestershire received a much less, around 50% less, from BDUK and we local taxpayers are having to foot the bill. brooksider
  • Score: 0

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