Rural broadband- is BT overcharging the country?
Professional complainers the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have today issued a report into the provision of superfast broadband to rural areas of the UK, and have concluded that BT are taking the piss.
Despite the procurement process being ‘competitive’, of the 26 contracts already awarded, BT have won 100%, leaving the only other permitted bidder, Fujitsu, to stomp off in a huff. Given that BT are the only bidder for the remaining 18 contracts, “are likely to follow suit” and will also be awarded to BT.
The PAC have got their knickers in a twist over the lack of value for money and the secretiveness of the contracts. The Government has already pushed back its completion deadline from 2015 to 2017 and the PAC also claim that details are being kept from the local authorities funding this infrastructure work, so they cannot tell people if they will get broadband or not. The PAC suggest BT is keeping detail confidential in order to prevent “communities and other [providers] from identifying alternative ways of providing superfast broadband.” The project is being funded from Government subsidy and is costing people in rural authorities up to an extra £20 in council tax.
All in all, the PAC concludes that “BT will end up owning assets created from £1.2billion of public money” and recommends that the Government “should not spend any of the further £250 million of public money.” Stern stuff.
However, the Department for Culture and BT have both rubbished the PAC claims.
BT assured everyone that “the taxpayer is undoubtedly getting value for money,” adding that the company wouldn’t recoup its money for around 15 years despite the level of subsidy. But then they would say that.
The DfC seemed baffled by the PAC report “we disagree with the views expressed by the PAC which are at odds with the findings of the National Audit Office report. They found our approach reduced the cost to the taxpayer and reduced risk.”
They added "we are disappointed that the PAC fails to recognise that thousands of rural premises who have never had a decent broadband supply are now getting one, something that is vital for farmers, rural businesses and all those who live outside major cities.”
So do you think the country is getting a good deal? If you live in a city and already have fast broadband are you annoyed the Government is spending money that doesn’t directly benefit you, or is it only fair that everyone can have access to the same technology, even if they decide to live up a mountain?