Europe’s competition commissioner, Joaquín Almunia, has publicly criticised the UK government’s Culture Secretary, Maria Miller MP, after she blamed the European Commission for holding up the release of State Aid funding and thus delaying the country’s national roll-out of superfast broadband (25Mbps+) services.
The EC finally approved the UK’s use of State Aid last week but it didn’t take long for Maria Miller to seek a political boost by suggesting that she had saved “the rural broadband programme out from under stifling EU bureaucracy“.
Meanwhile long-term observes of the process will be only too aware that the UK government must share in the blame for the delay, while Millers recent lobbying trip to Brussels will have done little to change the timetable because preliminary approval had already been confirmed during October 2012. Joaquín Almunia separately confirmed that her trip made no difference.
Joaquín Almunia said (Financial Times):
“Brussels bureaucrats worked faster than their London colleague. Politicians on both sides of the Channel must avoid red tape, but the real origin of the delays … should also be made clear.
We asked the UK government last February to supply the necessary information to us and only received a complete answer in October.”
The FT article also carries a somewhat bizarre comment from one of Millers aides, whom casually redirected the criticism by randomly and vaguely suggesting that “some of her male counterparts” would not have been able to do as well as her. Meanwhile the related local procurement processes, which were originally supposed to be completed by the end of 2012, have already had their deadline for completion put back to July 2013 (6 month delay).
In any case the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office can now get back to helping 90% of UK people gain access to a superfast broadband (25Mbps+) service by spring 2015, while the bigger competition concerns with the process look set to be swept under the carpet (e.g. BT being the only viable bidder).. for now.