UK Government Publishes Full BDUK BT "Fibre Broadband" Uptake Figures - ISPreview UK
After repeated Freedom of Information (FoI) requests we’re pleased to report that the Government has finally agreed to release the full consumer take-up figures for their Broadband Delivery UK project’s national roll-out of faster “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) connectivity, which is dominated by BT. The tiny rural county of Rutland dominates with an impressive score of 32.7%.

Regular readers will know that and in particular the tireless efforts of Patrick Cosgrove, from the Shropshire and Marches Broadband Campaign, have both been working hard to push for the release of more take-up data, which is useful in order to judge the project’s progress and asses how much benefit might be derived from the claw-back mechanism.

The BDUK contracts vary, but most state that take-up beyond 20% could trigger a return of some of the original investment (claw-back) and this might then be used to further extend coverage. One particularly optimistic estimate predicted that if 50% take-up were ever achieved, across the whole of the United Kingdom, then that could be worth as much as £270m.

Unfortunately gaining access to this data has, until only very recently, been incredibly difficult due to the often flat refusals of BT, BDUK and Local Authorities to publish it. More often than not we’ve been told that the related groups simply didn’t hold such data or that the information was considered “commercially confidential” (i.e. not publishable under the Freedom of Information Act 2000). This is despite state aid rules making it a requirement to track and report such data transparently.

But as readers know we finally had a breakthrough last month when, after repeated attempts, several BDUK projects (e.g. Wales, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire etc.) released the data they held via several FoI requests (here). The development meant it was possible to pursue the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and ask them to publish all of the currently available take-up data to September 2014, which they initially refused due to the usual “commercial interests” catch.

The good news is that at the start of this week the DCMS finally agreed to investigate “whether the balance of the public interest lies in our providing you with the information or in maintaining the exemption and withholding the information” and has now “determined that the information should be released“.

BDUK Take-up Data (Sept 2014)

Berkshire Councils 2.6%
Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire 14.6% **
Cambridgeshire, Peterborough 13.2% *
Central Beds, Bedford Borough, Milton Keynes 4.9%
Cheshire East, Cheshire West & Chester, Warrington, Halton 12.6% *
Devon & Somerset (including, Plymouth, Torbay, North Somerset, Bath & NE Somerset) – No data currently available
Coventry, Solihull, Warwickshire 7.8%
Cumbria 13.3%*
Derbyshire 3.4%
Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole 7.2%*
Durham, Gateshead, Tees Valley and Sunderland 6.3%*
East Riding of Yorkshire 1.4%
East Sussex, Brighton and Hove 5.8%
Essex, Southend-On-Sea, Thurrock 4.7%*
Greater Manchester 0.4%
Hampshire 16.5%*
Herefordshire and Gloucestershire 13.4%*
Isle of Wight 1.7%
Kent and Medway 7.7%
Lancashire, Blackpool, Blackburn with Darwen 10.2%*
Leicestershire 8.11%**
Lincolnshire 11.2%**
Merseyside 2.7%
Newcastle upon Tyne 2.4%
Norfolk 9.7%*
North Lincolnshire, North East Lincolnshire 4.2%
North Yorkshire 17%
Northamptonshire 5.1%
Northumberland 8.2%
Nottinghamshire 1.5%
Oxfordshire 7.9%
Rutland 32.7%
Shropshire 7.9%*
Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent 3.7%
Suffolk 16.3%**
Surrey 19%
West Sussex 6.5%
West Yorkshire 3.3%
Wiltshire, South Gloucestershire 7.1%
Worcestershire 3.2%*

* Data provided directly by the Local Authority.

** Data provided directly by the Local Authority, albeit for November 2014.

Some of the take-up figures are considerably lower than others, although this can be due to a combination of factors. For example, some BDUK projects are at a later stage of development (e.g. Rutland, with the highest take-up, finished BDUK phase 1 earlier this year).

On top of that other issues can also play their part, such as the higher prices of FTTC/P “fibre broadband” connectivity, consumers being locked into long contracts with their existing ISP, a lack of general awareness of the new connectivity or interest (i.e. if you have a decent ADSL2+ speed then you might be less inclined to upgrade immediately) and concerns over the ease of migration etc.

Ultimately take-up tends to grow more slowly with general deployments, which compares with the higher adoption under demand-led schemes. However strictly demand driven projects are more targeted, but also suffer due to limited coverage.

Broadly speaking the figures are perhaps what we’d expect to see at this stage of development, with most BDUK schemes running for 3 years until 2016 and then another extension is likely to take them to 2017/18 in order to meet the 95% coverage target for superfast broadband speeds.

We anticipate that the Government will now publish regular updates on this side of the project.