Government "unlikely" to hit 2015 broadband target

Rural campaigners claim Government will fall short of universal broadband target

Stewart Mitchell
3 Jul 2012

The Country Land and Business Alliance (CLA) has warned the government is likely to miss its 2015 deadline for universal broadband.

The process being organised by Broadband Delivery UK should see £530 million of public money invested to ensure 90% of the UK has superfast broadband of at least 24Mbits/sec, with everyone else guaranteed 2Mbits/sec by 2015.

Yet, almost two years after the project was announced, actual deployments remain scant, and the CLA blamed the convoluted process of regional project tendering, management and procurement for delays.

"We recognise that delivering this type of infrastructure is not easy, but it is unlikely the government will meet these objectives,” said CLA president Harry Cotterell.

“The BDUK process is too bureaucratic and the allocation of the £530million funding too slow. It would be much simpler if the funding was allocated centrally rather than giving it directly to local authorities because they do not have the resource to plan for a superfast broadband network.”

However, the government insisted it was making progress and that the procurement process was moving towards contract negotiation with suppliers.

An over-reliance on fibre optic is also a factor in the Government’s poor chance of meeting these deadlines

“I have now approved 37 local project plans and nine projects are in procurement,” Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said last month in response to similar MP concerns. “A number of these are now almost ready to begin delivery, including Northamptonshire. The other projects are preparing for procurement with support from BDUK, which is also finalising details for the broadband delivery framework contract.”

Slow progress

Yet the protracted process was highlighted last month when Cumbria council rejected its only two bidders for the state-sponsored superfast broadband rollout, leaving the project on ice for another four months.

Council officials had been negotiating with BT and Fujitsu for a contract worth up to £40 million for the winning bidder, but the council said neither could meet its ambitions and sent them away to reconsider their proposals.

The warning comes ahead of a Department for Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee evidence session on BDUK later today. The CLA said the rollout was too focused on major fibre projects at the expense of alternative measures that could better serve outlying areas.

“An over-reliance on fibre optic is also a factor in the government’s poor chance of meeting these deadlines,” Cotterell claimed. “The CLA advocates a patchwork quilt model that uses the most appropriate technologies for a certain area, rather than using a single technology.”

The target of universal 2Mbits/sec connections was initially set for 2012 under the previous goverment, but was put back three years soon after the coalition took power.

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