Since I wrote about the impending BDUK procurement framework, there seems to have been a little movement which I think it right to acknowledge.

I wrote that a source told me that the framework would require revenues of at least £40m in each of the last two years – in the “final draft” I understand is due for publication tomorrow (Thursday 30th June) this has been reduced to £20m, and it includes the following paragraph:

“In line with the Coalition Government’s policy on supplier diversity, DCMS is designing the framework agreement to maximise opportunities for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to form part of framework suppliers’ supply chains for projects where appropriate”

Does that mean SME’s and the bulk of the industry currently building and operating NGA networks will be able to join? Almost certainly not!

There is just a four week window proposed in which companies can form partnerships and consortia, leaving the smaller, specialist companies that are already busy building networks very little time to negotiate the terms any sub-contracting agreement – most probably with a much larger company that has far less experience of building networks than they do.

In theory, excluded companies could club together to form a consortium of fantastic expertise BUT if the consortium isn’t formally incorporated then each member has to demonstrate the same requirements as if they has applied individually. Which in addition to requiring at least £20m in revenues, I understand may also require that you have delivered services to at least 30,000 premises excluding back-haul (so that’s major names like Geo and Vtesse probably disqualified).

So unless something radical happens in the next 24 hours, assume that the Government won’t be supporting the nascent NGA industry:

“The framework agreement is expected to be the procurement vehicle for the majority of local broadband projects once they have been allocated BDUK funding. There may be a small number oflocal broadband projects that do not use the framework agreement and this will be agreed with BDUK.”

It would seem that the best we can hope is that the contracts BDUK let won’t simply roll over the much more creative, ambitious and forward thinking projects that are already under-way from the bulk of the industry this process appears to be excluding.

Yesterday I wrote about the hopes and ambitions of Chipping Norton in David Cameron’s constituency. This framework may well turn out to be a significant threat to Big Society community actions like theirs. The gap between policy and action is now becoming a chasm.

(I’ll let others tell you how “superfast” appears to redefined, making it easier to achieve)

Let’s hope the next coming hours see a serious re-think!

  1. Guy Jarvis says:

    Excellent post Adrian.

    As the market delay induced by BDUK #failing to deliver extends beyond a year already, it becomes more and more unlikely that Government policy targets for broadband will be met if the current path is persisted with.

    Applying the Cui Bono principle then who benefits?

    Hmm, hard to say, beyond incumbent interests being able to maintain existing revenues a while longer, or is that the point of BDUK after all?

    Worth a look at happenings stateside methinks – http://www.fibrestream.co.uk/2011/06/30/kudos-to-ecfiber/

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