Rural Broadband

October 2014 update:

High Speed Broadband (BT Infinity) is now available from the Hildenborough Exchange and BT Openreach has, from 1st October, been accepting orders for upgrades from some residents of Leigh village. If you would like to see if you are eligible for an upgrade, please see http://www.superfast-openreach.co.uk/where-and-when.

High Speed Broadband

Following many enquiries regarding broadband services in the parish, Leigh Parish Council is supporting an initiative being undertaken by Sevenoaks District Council, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Kent County Council to secure funding for high speed broadband in rural areas.

Make Kent Quicker Update: December 2012
Kent County Council is working with the government’s broadband agency, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), to bring better broadband to Kent.  The Make Kent Quicker Project aims to bring broadband to every property in Kent and Medway – and will ensure that most will be able to access superfast broadband services.
Without this project many rural businesses and communities would continue to have either no or very slow broadband services as there are no market‐led plans to upgrade infrastructure in many rural parts of the County.
Kent County Council is investing over £10 million to enable this upgrade, which has been matched by £9.87 million from the Government. It is expected that the network operator who is appointed to build the network will make a substantial contribution towards the costs of the project.

Progress to date
Excellent progress has been made in taking forward the Make Kent Quicker project, including:
• Successful implementation of the ‘Make Kent Quicker Campaign’ to evidence the demand for better broadband services. Over 16,500 registrations from businesses and households have been received and
feedback from BDUK has indicated that this is an excellent response rate.
• Early slot on the Government’s broadband procurement pipeline secured – the Government has made it very clear that not all authorities can undertake their procurement at the same time due to capacity constraints within the market. Kent County Council has managed to secure an early slot in the Government’s procurement pipeline meaning that Kent businesses and residents will get better broadband ahead of many other areas.
• Invitation to Tender (procurement) launched at the end of October according to plan.
• Open Market Review with suppliers completed to ascertain the extent of current market deployment plans. This work is essential for meeting state aid requirements and confirming where there is market failure to finalise the
intervention (delivery) area for the project. 
• BDUK audits on readiness to procure completed and passed – Kent County Council has passed a number of BDUK audits inspecting our ‘readiness to procure’. These have assessed our Invitation to Tender documentation, the quality of our demand registration data, open market review processes and pre‐application state aid work.
• Working with BDUK on the Kent and Medway State Aid Notification – the national BDUK rural programme constitutes State Aid under EU law. The Government has now achieved approval from the European Commission for a UK State Aid Notification which will agree the parameters for all local authority schemes. We are currently working on the supporting information that will be required to accompany our state aid application to the Department of Culture, Media and Support following the completion of the procurement process.
• Supporting District Councils and communities submitting bids to the Defra Rural Community Broadband Fund. This scheme has made an additional £20 million available nationally to provide superfast broadband solutions to those in the hardest to reach areas that are only likely to benefit from a basic 2mb service under the UK BDUK funded programmes. Kent has performed well to date with five ‘Expressions of Interest’ being approved in the first and second rounds.

Next Steps
The key tasks for the project team over the next six months are:
• Evaluation and clarification of Tender Submissions (January 2013)
• Submission of local state aid application to DCMS (February 2013)
• Completion of DCMS Checkpoint C ‘readiness to contract’ (March 2013)
• Contract award (April 2013).
• Supporting Defra Rural Community Broadband Fund Applicants in the development of their full applications to secure further funding for providing superfast broadband in the hardest to reach areas (ongoing)
• Achieving further registrations on the ‘Make Kent Quicker’ campaign and developing new demand stimulation workstreams with partners (ongoing).

We are currently refreshing the broadband pages of our website (kent.gov.uk/broadband) where we will be providing further progress updates about the Make Kent Quicker Project.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Make Kent Quicker Project
1. Why is this project needed?
This project is focusing on delivering better broadband services to rural parts of Kent and Medway that will not benefit from commercial roll out programmes because of the costs involved in upgrading rural broadband infrastructure.
 
2 Who is involved in delivering this project?
This project is being led by Kent County Council, in partnership with Medway Council and the Government’s broadband agency, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).

3. What is this project seeking to achieve?
This project has two aims:
a) to ensure that all properties have access to a basic broadband service of at least 2mb/s – the minimum speed that the Government says should be available in every home and business.
b) to provide significant levels of speed uplift to provide superfast broadband (i.e. a speed of least 24M/s) for as much of Kent and Medway as possible.

4. Which areas will benefit from the project?
Kent County Council has undertaken extensive consultation with operators to map existing and planned coverage for basic and superfast broadband over the next three years. This has enabled us to identify which properties will benefit from current commercial roll out plans and which properties are in areas of ‘market failure’ ‐ where it is deemed not viable by commercial providers to fund infrastructure upgrades.  The ‘Make Kent Quicker’ Project will focus on providing upgrades to those properties – which would not receive better broadband services without Kent County Council’s intervention.

5. Why is this project not delivering superfast broadband for all properties?
The government, through its agency Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), has made £9.87m available to upgrade Kent and Medway’s broadband infrastructure in line with their targets of securing superfast broadband for 90% of properties within each county and the delivery of a service of at least 2mb for the remaining 10%. KCC has committed a further £10m towards the ‘Make Kent Quicker’ Project to secure the funding and it is anticipated that the network operator who wins the right to build the network will make a significant contribution towards the costs of delivering the project. Due to geographical remoteness, it will not be possible to deliver superfast broadband in some locations for either cost or technical reasons. We currently estimate that delivering superfast solutions to all premises across Kent would require additional public sector investment of at least £30m due to the costs involved.  We remain committed to working with the successful supplier to ensure the best
outcome for these areas and will be encouraging the Government to release additional funding accrued from the licence fee resettlement for enhancing solution in these ‘hard to reach’ areas.

6. My property is in the project area. When will I get better broadband?
We will not be able to confirm the delivery timescales until we have completed the procurement exercise and appointed a supplier – although we anticipate that:
o An infrastructure supplier will be appointed in April 2013
o Work will start in 2013
o The first services will come on line in 2014
o Services will become available to all properties during 2015
It will not be possible to confirm the geographical phasing of the rollout until after the procurement has been completed and initial survey work has been undertaken.

7. Why can’t the project be delivered faster?
This is a major infrastructure project and will involve spending almost £20 million of public funding. As a result, we need to abide by legislation surrounding procurement and state aid. We are acutely aware of the frustrations that many rural communities and businesses have with their current broadband connections and are committed to delivering this project as soon as possible. We are working closely with the Government’s broadband agency BDUK to make this happen and are using the Government’s procurement framework which offers the shortest route to select a supplier (under current procurement legislation). We are delighted to have secured an early slot on the Government’s procurement pipeline to use this framework. This means that we will be able to upgrade our rural broadband infrastructure ahead of many other areas.

8. Will my community have to apply for funding to get better broadband from this project?
No – the project will automatically be rolled out throughout all areas of Kent and Medway eligible to benefit from the BDUK project.

9. How will I know when the new services are available?
Once a supplier has been appointed, Make Kent Quicker Updates (available on this website) will keep you up to date with project progress and will tell you when to look out for Internet Service Provider advertising and marketing campaigns. We will also be working with a range of partners, including Kent Libraries, Kent Association of Local Councils and Action with Communities in Rural Kent to disseminate information about the rollout for those people without current access to a reliable broadband connection.

10. Will the supplier who is appointed to install the infrastructure upgrade also offer the new broadband service?
The infrastructure upgrades being funded by this project will be ‘open‐access’. This means that any Internet Service Provider can choose to use the infrastructure to provide customers with new services.

11. Will my existing Internet Service Provider offer me the new broadband services?
Any Internet Service Provider can choose to use the infrastructure to provide customers with new services.

12. Which supplier will install Kent’s new broadband infrastructure?
Kent County Council is required by law to undertake a competitive procurement exercise to select a supplier to build the new infrastructure. Given that we are committed to delivering this infrastructure upgrade as soon as possible, we are using the Government’s national procurement framework established by BDUK as this offers the quickest route for appointing a supplier – and reduces the cost to the Kent taxpayer of undertaking an expensive and time consuming competitive dialogue procurement process.  Fujitsu and BT Wholesale were appointed to the national procurement framework at the end of June 2012 and both suppliers have been invited to tender for the ‘Make Kent Quicker’ project.  Following the submission of bids in mid January, Kent County Council will be undertaking an evaluation of the submissions and working closely with BDUK to achieve final Government sign off and State Aid approval to enable contract award during April.

13. I signed up to the Make Kent Quicker Campaign. What is the next step?
Thank you! We have now had over 16,500 businesses and communities register their demand for better broadband services which is an excellent response. Successfully delivering this project requires us to be able to lever in significant investment from the appointed network supplier – and as part of the procurement process we have been asked by potential suppliers to evidence the demand for better broadband services to provide a business case for this investment. Your help has enabled us to do this.

14. How does this project link to the Defra Rural Community Broadband Grant Programme?
Defra are currently operating a £20 million grant scheme across England for communities in ‘hard to reach’ areas that are unlikely to benefit from superfast broadband services from the BDUK projects i.e. Make Kent Quicker. Whilst we are not able to confirm ‘hard to reach’ areas at this stage of the project, Defra have been willing to accept bids based on estimated geographies where local communities believe that there is evidence that they are ‘hard to reach’. The KCC broadband team has been working closely with local project leads in Kent to ensure successful Defra bids dovetail with the wider ‘Make Kent Quicker’ project plans.

 

Broadband Survey October 2012