Superfast Berkshire is a very ambitious programme initiated in 2013 and using state aid assistance to give properties in even the most rural areas of Berkshire access to superfast broadband.
To date, Berkshire’s overall superfast broadband coverage has risen from 87% to around 97%, exceeding the UK average of 95.4%. The story in Reading is even more favourable with the coverage figure improved locally to 98%. Further work is planned to close the final gap.
When the Superfast Berkshire Phase 3 contracts were signed in July 2017 with BT Group and Gigaclear, it was promised that superfast broadband coverage would exceed 99% across Berkshire by September 2019. However, due to a lack of engineering capacity in the broadband industry and the rapid expansion of commitments on the relative newcomer Gigaclear, both suppliers are unable to meet their original contractual delivery targets in Berkshire.
· Gigaclear’s Phase 2 delivery, in West Berkshire, scheduled for completion by October 2017 is now forecast for May 2019, 20 months behind schedule, with 1,530 of 16,011 premises still awaiting their fibre broadband connections.
· Gigaclear’s Phase 3 delivery, for Berkshire, scheduled for completion by September 2019 is now forecast for December 2019, 3 months behind schedule.
· BT’s Phase 3 delivery, for Berkshire, scheduled for completion by December 2018 is now forecast for December 2019, 12 months behind schedule.
Councillor Jason Brock, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Corporate & Consumer Services, said:
“We are clearly disappointed with the Superfast Broadband delivery delays incurred by BT OpenReach (who are the main contractor for our local Reading delivery area), but we are working closely with them to minimise these delays and to meet the broadband expectations of our community.”
“On a more positive note, BT OpenReach have submitted and had agreed a credible remedial action plan against which they are now delivering and we will continue to closely monitor progress to ensure to our best ability the planned installations are fully delivered by the revised December 2019 completion date”.
“Any extra programme costs associated with this late delivery and other remedial works will be borne by the contractors and will not come from public funds.”
Mike Surrey, Chief Executive at Gigaclear plc, said:
“Gigaclear apologises for delays encountered with these deliveries, we are confident that under new ownership and with a new management team in place we will work with the Superfast Berkshire team to complete these projects without further operational delays, delivering Ultrafast broadband to all the properties in our contracted areas.”