Superfast broadband roll-out ‘running late’

July 8, 2013

A programme to roll-out superfast broadband is running almost two years behind schedule, according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO).

In 2011 the Government announced plans to give 90% of the population access to superfast broadband by May 2015.

Yet the NAO has reported that just nine out of the 44 local projects are expected to achieve this target. The organisation also criticised the ‘limited’ competition among suppliers, with BT now the only firm expected to win all contracts.

BT has defended its position in the programme, stating that the process of deploying fibre broadband was ‘an expensive long-term business’, and that it was ‘no surprise that others dropped out as the going got tough.’

The scheme, which is being overseen by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is designed to improve broadband access for rural communities throughout the country and to give Britain the ‘best superfast broadband network in Europe’.

However the programme has been hampered by delays, with the EU State Aid process taking six months longer than expected.

Commenting, Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: ‘The rural broadband project is moving forward late and without the benefit of strong competition to protect public value. For this we will have to rely on the department’s active use of the controls it has negotiated and strong supervision by Ofcom.’

Meanwhile, the Public Accounts Committee chairwoman, Margaret Hodge, claimed the DCMS had ‘failed to get a good enough grip on its rural broadband programme.’

The Treasury recently announced a new target to roll-out superfast broadband to 95% of properties by 2017.


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