Superfast Berkshire was initiated under the Government's Rural broadband programme, run by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) part of Department for Culture, Media & Sport in 2011. Public sector funds from national and local government plus Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) have been invested in three phases through a 'gap funded model' to secure an expansion of superfast broadband coverage. As it involves public sector funds, Superfast Berkshire needs to comply with State Aid processes and rules agreed with the EU Commission under the National Broadband Scheme.
In September 2013, Superfast Berkshire procured a solution through BDUK's framework and. This saw SFB commit a capital investment of £4.6m of public sector funds to secure superfast coverage to 21,213 properties across the county and bring the overall coverage to 92.3% by the end of 2015. Over 97% of these properties were upgraded with a Fibre-to-the cabinet (FTTC) solution across offering speeds of up to 80Mbps.
In July 2015, following a decision to seek solutions from the open market, Superfast Berkshire invested £4.2m of public sector funds andto Gigaclear in West Berkshire and Call Flow Solutions in Windsor & Maidenhead. This has seen Call Flow complete their delivery of superfast speeds to 1,947 properties in September 2016 and May 2017 through a FTTC solution, offering speeds of up to 100Mbps. Gigaclear is building a new ultrafast fibre network to fill in all rural gaps and serve almost 17,000 properties by the end of 2017 offering a Fibre-to-the premise (FTTP) solution with speeds up to 1Gb.
This will see coverage rise above 99.9% in West Berkshire, 92.7% in RBWM and 95.6% across Berkshire as a whole.
Superfast Berkshire originally intended to award contracts for Reading and Wokingham but was unable to get these approve before BDUK's State Aid authorisation expired.
In June 2016, Superfast Berkshire embarked on Phase 3, utilising £3.2m of project under spend and contractual clawback from phase and £1.0m of new money held over from Phase 2 contracts that could not be let. One contract has been awarded to BT anticipating an increase of 11,147 properties in Berkshire towns through a mixture of FTTC and FTTP solutions. Another contract has been awarded to Gigaclear anticipating an increase of 11, 447 properties in the Berkshire countryside through a new FTTP network.
On completion of these two contracts, superfast coverage is expected to exceed 99% in all Berkshire districts and drive the county to 99.6% overall.
In addition to the investment of public sector funds above, Superfast Berkshire has also continued to engage with broadband providers who operate in the county to encourage and facilitate expansion of coverage under their own commercial plans. This has both extended superfast broadband provision where there was none (allowing public funds to be used where they are most needed) and/or increased choice for consumers where provision already existed.