To consider a report regarding Cabinet granting delegated authority to the Corporate Director of Strategic and Corporate Services, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Economic Development and the Cabinet Member for Education and Health Reform to:
1) Enter into a contract to deliver the Kent and Medway BDUK Phase 2 project;
2) Enter into a grant agreement with BDUK to draw down the £5.6 million of Government funding
(1) In the absence of the Cabinet Member, David Cockburn, the Head of Paid Service, introduced the report about the BDUK programme to date and the proposal to expand the reach of superfast broadband in Kent. He said that Phase 1 of the programme had seen significant investment in infrastructure in Kent as part of a national programme and substantial progress had been made despite challenges. He welcomed the important work that would be continued should Phase 2 be endorsed by the Committee and ultimately agreed by the Cabinet Member.
(2) Liz Harrison, Economic Development Manager, said that:
i. The proposed decision was intended to build on the work already underway to improve connectivity in the county;
ii. Without the programme, 25% of Kent’s homes and businesses would have no, or poor, broadband connectivity as there were no commercial plans to upgrade systems in many parts of the county;
iii. Phase 1 was proceeding as planned and was intended to ensure that 91% of properties in Kent could access superfast broadband and all premises in the intervention area could get a basic service of at least 2mbps. Last month the 40,000 improved premises access milestone had been reached;
iv. Coverage maps could be found at www.kent.gov.uk/broadband and residents could also search connectivity by postcode;
v. The Government had recently allocated additional funding of £5.6 million to be match funded by KCC which would allow Kent and Medway to further increase the rollout of superfast broadband services;
vi. This was part of the BDUK’s (Phase 2) national programme which aimed to get superfast broadband to 95% of premises in the UK by 2017;
vii. It was proposed that the BDUK procurement framework be utilised again to procure the works associated with Phase 2. It was unfortunate that there was a lack of competition in the market but safeguards would be included within the contract, as had been the case for Phase 1, to ensure value for money;
viii. Until the procurement had taken place an exact figure on uplift could not be ascertained but it was hoped that 95% would be achievable;
ix. BDUK had recently announced Kent as a pilot area for trialling new technologies and approaches for extending broadband to the hardest to reach areas (the final 5%).
(3) In response to comments made and questions raised officers confirmed that:
i. Although state aid deadlines were tight, officers were confident that they could be met;
ii. County councils had limited influence on the matter of mobile phone coverage, however, a different BDUK project was looking to address ‘not spot’ areas where 2G coverage was not available from any provider and a number of such areas had been identified in Kent. The Secretary of State had also made clear his desire to introduce roving coverage in Britain, which would present a solution for many areas with partial operator coverage;
iii. Schools in Kent were on the Kent Public Service Network and could access superfast broadband;
iv. Post 90% coverage solutions became substantially more challenging and expensive. KCC continued to work closely with BDUK about the prospect of a Phase 3 of the programme which would tackle the hardest to reach areas;
v. The independent value for money review would be undertaken by Analysis Mason, a leading international expert.
(4) RESOLVED that the proposed decision of the Cabinet Member be endorsed.