Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Rural broadband programme a 'train crash' watchdog will say.

We’re sharing a blog written by Jonathan Werran from LocalGov.co.uk

Spending watchdogs are poised to release a highly critical report on the Government’s £530m rural broadband rollout programme next month.

According to reports in today’s Financial Times, the National Audit Office (NAO) report is set to attack the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for establishing a procurement programme which lacks openness and favours BT as the incumbent telecommunications provider. 

BT is currently delivering superfast broadband networks for 40 local authorities as part of a national process overseen by Broadband Delivery UK - the agency responsible for ensuring 90% of premises throughout the UK have access to superfast internet speeds above 24 Mbps and for universal provision of speed speeds of at least 2Mbps.

The NAO is set to criticise the rural broadband rollout programme.

However, other broadband providers have criticised the procurement process, arguing only BT possesses the economies of scale to bid for contracts in sparsely populated parts of the country.

Last June, only one other telecommunications firm, Fujitsu, joined BT on the supplier framework awarded by the DCMS. But this February BT was left as the only supplier after Fujitsu withdrew saying it couldn’t compete in areas of market failure. 

Due to be released in early July, the NAO report will scrutinise how well the DCMS designed the rural broadband programme and the extent to which its safeguards assure value for money. It will also consider whether the 2015 targets for rural broadband provision are likely to be met. 

A spokesman for the DCMS said the Government is absolutely confident the programme would deliver value for money projects and result in a transformation of broadband in the UK by 2015.

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