The Executive Director, Economic Development and Communities, presented a report which provided an up-date on the first phase of the Government's national superfast broadband programme in Middlesbrough and to determine whether the Council wanted to participate and commit additional match funding to a second phase of the national programme.
The Government launched the national programme to extend access to superfast broadband in 2011. Superfast broadband has download speeds in excess of 20 mega bits per second (mbps) as opposed to "standard" broadband which generally had a maximum speed of 8 mbps. The programme's original objective was to deliver the infrastructure to allow at least 90% of homes and businesses access to superfast broadband by 2015, with the remaining 10% having access to speeds of at least 2 mbps. In the summer of 2013 the Government announced it wanted to deliver superfast access to 95% of UK properties by 2017.
The Superfast Broadband Programme has no direct impact on the Council's ICT network.
The report outlined in detail Middlesbrough's approach to delivering superfast access, together with details of funding allocations for phases 1 and 2. Work was due to start on Phase 1 at the end of 2014 and completed during 2015. This would take Middlesbrough's coverage to just over 93% of premises.
Broadband UK announced in 2013 that an additional £250m of Government funding was to be made available for a second phase of the programme, to deliver superfast coverage to 95% of premises in the UK by 2017. Middlesbrough's allocaton for Phase 2 was £590k with match funding the same as the first phase.
If the Council decided to participate in Phase 2 of the programme, work on the ground would likely take place in 2016 and 2017. The detail and timing of this would be subject to further discussion and negotiation.
The report outlined that there were three options available:
Use and match proportion of the investment to target superfast broadband for business premises (recommended option)
Use and match the full BDUK phase 2 funding allocation to maximise general coverage.
Approve option 2. Commit £197k of capital funding from the Council to support phase 2 of the national superfast broadband programme. This would be matched by £197k of funding from government (Broadband UK) and £99k from BT, taking total investment to £493k. This would be on the basis that at least 500 business properties would have access to superfast broadband as a result of the investment and that the Council would be able to prioritise the investment options. BT would be required to provide plans for use of different levels of the remaining grant funding for consideration by Council.
The decision was supported by the following reasons:
the delivery of Outcome 1 would be supported; and
propose a pragmatic approach to use of the available funding, leading open the option for further investment.