Today Cotswolds Broadband passes a milestone in its long journey to ensure everyone in West Oxfordshire has access to superfast broadband – today it is launching the open procurement process to find an organisation to build and maintain their broadband infrastructure.
So what makes it different?
Firstly, the project is a community-led public-private partnership with investment from local people, external professional private investors, and public bodies. The project has so far secured £6.4m for the project with all the stakeholder groups represented – the community alongside the financial and public sectors as true investors.
In addition the state funding is only partially in the form of grants. While BDUK are making a significant grant available, West Oxfordshire District Council are lending their share with the expectation of receiving repayment with interest. The procurement will finalize the level of public subsidy but it is expected to be less than 30% of the total investment, much lower than might typically be expected for such a rural area.
With a trend in the industry towards more integrated delivery models, the resulting infrastructure will be owned by Cotswolds Broadband who will only wholesale services to other providers. An independent community service provider and a mix of other internet and media offerings will offer homes and businesses a rich choice of services.
Some years ago Brian Condon produced his thinking on the different models needed to deliver superfast broadband, encompassing what he called the “Big Me” monopoly, isolated “Islands of Connectivity” and the “Patchwork Quilt” with multiple providers tightly sewn together. Any market is likely to have elements of all of these but West Oxfordshire is rapidly becoming the archetype for the universal patchwork, leveraging a variety of different business models and technologies to ensure no-one is left behind.
West Oxfordshire will have the most diverse and competitive infrastructure in the UK with Cotswolds Broadband, BT, Virgin and Gigaclear all delivering innovative superfast services across the full extent of one of the South East’s most rural areas.
But the bottom line is that when it’s finished, West Oxfordshire will be the first district in the UK with universal superfast broadband, and that is ground-breaking.
NB: The Cotswolds procurement page is here: http://cotswoldsbroadband.co.uk/procurement/