Councillor Howard asked the Leader of the Council (Councillor Halliday)
"In the Harwich & Manningtree Standard on 22nd February, regarding the proposed high speed fibre upgrade to Harwich, you were quoted as saying 'Services such as superfast broadband are absolutely vital for us to secure new investment in our towns and the district as a whole to ensure that our residents and businesses don't get left behind in the digital revolution'.
Currently almost 400 homes in Little Oakley receive an average broadband speed of below 1.5 Mb/s with a sizeable number of them receiving no more than the old dial up speed of 54 kb/s.
The government has stated its aim to ensure that everyone has 2 Mb/s by the 2015 General Election and to this end has made £530m of BDUK funding available nationally and £6.46m of that funding has gone to Essex County Council. This money is intended to enable the delivery of broadband to areas that would otherwise never be upgraded, as like Little Oakley it is uneconomic for a service provider to deliver an upgrade due to it being a market failure area.
As Tendring is working with Essex County Council on the BDUK project, can you assure me that Tendring District Council is fully committed to ensuring that everyone in the District can receive at least 2 Mb/s in their homes by May 2015, and that you will be doing what you can to ensure that areas within the district, such as Little Oakley, are not left on the sidelines with sub 2 Mb/s while BDUK money is used to produce ever faster super broadband speeds for the towns?"
Thank you Chairman and thank you Councillors for your questions. I can confirm that TDC is fully committed to working with partners to ensure that all residents and businesses achieve a minimum broadband speed of 2mbps by 2015.
We have lobbied strongly for BT to extend its rollout outside of the main towns and have achieved success in this regard with the inclusion of the cabinets in Great Holland, Kirby Cross and Kirby-le-Soken in BTâs programme. Residents in these rural villages can now achieve speeds of up to 80mbps compared with an average of under 2mbps just a few months ago.
TDC have two officers on the Essex Broadband Board (this is more than any other Council excluding ECC) whose sole objective is to ensure that those areas most in need of additional investment i.e. the rural parts of the District including villages like Great Bromley and Little Oakley are the focus of the Broadband Delivery UK money.
It is our aspiration that the BDUK money is used to ensure that more villages like these see this level of service improvement by 2015 or earlier if possible.
On 18th March, ECC published a map of the draft intervention area for BDUK funding which shows that Great Bromley and Little Oakley are identified as priority areas for BDUK intervention.
This intervention area is now out for public consultation to ensure that the right areas are included. This consultation will finish on 18th April when the final intervention area will be published.
Assuming that this will still include these villages, this will mean that the BDUK money will be used to upgrade services in these areas. TDC will continue to work with Essex County Council to ensure that this upgrade is delivered as early in the process as possible.â
"Parts of rural Tendring are still receiving broadband download speeds of less than the 2mb/s, which is considered to be basic broadband. 40% of Little Oakley is served by a single cabinet that falls within this category. This is quite unacceptable given that these houses fall within the 21944 houses defined as the basic broadband market intervention area by BDUK and given that 32.9% of these houses in Little Oakley registered their interest in the market stimulation exercise carried out by Essex County Council. This was one of the highest response rates to this exercise. Despite BDUK upgrading many nearby areas to superfast broadband with public funding, they have failed to upgrade a block of 200 houses in Little Oakley, instead apparently preferring the cheaper quick wins in more urban areas. In part this appears to be due to an alleged cap on BDUK spend per household imposed by Central Government.
Will you assure me that you will be pressing for all of Tendring to receive a minimum of 2mb/s at the earliest opportunity, and also join me in pressing Central Government to either confirm or deny that they are giving out hundreds of millions of pounds on one hand to upgrade areas of market failure, and on the other hand capping the investment programme and actually preventing the investment in those areas of most need?"
In response, Councillor Page confirmed that he was pressing Essex County Council (ECC) for all of the Tendring District to receive a basic broadband speed of 2mb/s at the earliest opportunity. He informed Members that ECCâs contract with BT, using BDUK funding, guaranteed that 100% of properties in Essex would receive at least 2mb/s by the end of the contract period in mid-2016. Councillor Page stated that he was happy to assist Councillor Howard in taking up the issue of an alleged cap on BDUK spending with central Government. Councillor Page further informed Members that the Rural Projects Panel, at its next meeting, would discuss the issue of rural broadband with an Officer from ECC with a view to taking this matter forward