Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Can Community Broadband Action Deliver?

As the world migrates to the next generation of digital information no community anywhere can afford to be bypassed from the superfast broadband highway.

In April 2011 the £834 million Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) government grant became available for councils to bid for funding for superfast broadband for underserved parts of their communitis.

Lincolnshire council and Wiltshire council have been amongst the first to submit multi-million bids to upgrade services to rural communities in their areas.

Elsewhere local community broadband action groups are evolving campaigns to attract superfast broadband services to neglected parts of their towns and villages.

Harnessing the power of the government stimulus and frustrated local community broadband action groups could have a positive impact on digital inclusion and local economic growth.

But the challenge remains of how to deliver flexible and future-proof superfast broadband services practically on a sustainable economic basis at the community level.

The possibility of some public funding for community broadband services has already acted as the catalyst it was intended to attract market-led investment and stimulate innovation.

However when funding reaches the local government level, the fulfilment process must remain open and inclusive otherwise it risks being simply hijacked by politicised local broadband campaigns allied with powerful vested interests.

And instead of effective competition and efficient service delivery for underserved communities, the outcome could become uneconomic community broadband "not-spots" leading to high speed "dead ends" in a few years with wasted public funding.

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