Digital infrastructure - Session 1
The Senior Economic Development Officer gave an overview of what is currently happening with the Digital infrastructure.
The full presentation can be accessed through the following link:
The main initiative is around high-speed connectivity. There are three parts:
• Commercial roll-out – there are lots of new companies rolling out connectivity quickly. That work is being privately funded
• Work that KCC is taking forward which is taking longer to resolve
• The Broadband voucher scheme - There has been a voucher scheme for 10 years. Residents can come together to take advantage. There are concerns around connectivity, speed, dealing with large amounts of data. It is primarily focused on rural areas where they don’t get commercial roll-out because there aren’t enough properties. There are a number of criteria to access the vouchers. It depends on where your speeds are currently to what level of support you get. Business and residents and community groups can bid for the scheme. There does have to be a contribution but if there is a larger contribution it becomes more affordable. There are a number of organisations who can help with applications.
There are now more options for the consumer as there are a lot less well-known but quite active new providers. The role for central and local government is being on the front foot of when new development comes on the table to make sure they are compliant and for social housing it is about acting responsibly and proactively making sure fibre is plugged in to our developments. It is a legal agreement that allows transit over our land to plug in fibre. There is more onus on landlords to respond in a timely way. It doesn’t require investment from us other than clarity about how we will engage with residents, making sure they have access to everything that Broadband brings with it.
Following the presentation the Senior Economic Development Officer responded to questions as follows:
• By the end of the year it is hoped to bring a paper to Committee setting out information on where we have providers and where more information can be found
• Generally speaking, there is a concentration of Fibre in the urban areas owing to economies of scale. Discussions are taking place with a company providing open access where they are putting their own ducts in. If the council engage with them now they can plan their roll-out most effectively, particularly for our social housing stock and multiple dwelling units which require access over our land. The more we engage with commercial roll-outs, the more areas locally will benefit from additional infrastructure and improved broadband services.
• A question was raised about the viability of schemes in more remote rural areas, even allowing for financial support through Broadband voucher schemes. In response, there was an undertaking to circulate details of the latest government-backed Gigabit voucher scheme which it is hoped will address some of these issues. While not always practical, community schemes where trenches or other basic works are carried out by local volunteers, were also mentioned as aiding viability by reducing direct installation costs of cabling and other infrastructure.
• Kent County Council were hoping to be the beneficiaries of a procurement exercise being undertaken by BEIS in connection with the wider Project Gigabit initiative but so far this has proved unsuccessful
Members noted the update.