A big part of the government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme was the expectation that local authorities and communities would conduct citizen focused surveys and petitions to help inform the decision about where better internet connectivity was needed. But in the end all that effort might be absolutely worthless.
It’s certainly been a rotten month for the £1.2bn BDUK project, what with the National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee both picking the government and BT’s approach to state aid supported superfast broadband roll-outs to pieces (here and here), and sadly it’s not going to get any better today.
In a not entirely unexpected or surprising development the Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Kent County Council (KCC), Mark Dance, has told frustrated locals that all the petitions and surveys they’ve created would effectively be “pointless” because BTOpenreach would ultimately base its decision on the engineers perspective of viability. According to This is Kent, Dance also remarked that it was “not a popularity contest“.
Michael Stokes, Sundridge Councillor and Broadband Campaigner, said:
“If we have been wasting our time getting people to sign the petition it would be a disgrace. Kent County Council should be ashamed of itself. We have persistently asked the council if it was worth us carrying on, though I’m not at all surprised at this news.
I had come to the conclusion that as far as the council and BT were concerned we might be wasting our effort but it is still so disappointing to have it confirmed. We consistently asked both parties what the criteria were regarding which areas would be included in the superfast rollout and we never got a straight answer, in fact we never got an answer at all.
But they did keep giving us feedback showing the number of votes in each ward – if they were meaningless why did they keep spending their resources on producing them. If we had known we had no say we could have spent all that time looking into alternatives.”
Surveys and petitions can be a very useful tool and in the right hands the information they reveal is extremely beneficial. But in this world of tick-box politics it’s no surprise that their value has been neglected and indeed we suspect that this will be the case for most of the other Local Broadband Plans (LBP).