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Isle of Wight Council Delay BDUK Broadband Contract by 1-2 Months

Wednesday, Aug 14th, 2013 (11:42 am) - Score 563

The Isle of Wight council, which resides just off the coast of central southern England, has voted to defer the decision on whether to award their £3 million+ state aid supported contract for upgrading the islands broadband infrastructure to BT. Concerns about funding, the lack of “neutral information” (too reliant on BT) and competition were all raised.

The council was attempting to secure a vote on whether to approve a proposal by Cllr Shirley Smart, which would have resulted in the selection of BT as preferred bidder for the contract (On The Wight). But instead four of the seven councillors voted to defer the decision for another 1-2 months until some of the concerns could be properly debated.

The project itself would aim to help around 20,000 rural premises that currently lack access to good broadband connectivity but the island is also home to a local wireless and cable operator, WightFibre (formerly WightCable), which has previously accused the council of being “biased in favour of BT” and of having shunned alternatives (here).

Cllr Jordan in particular said he had an “enormous amount of reservations” about the project and questioned why BT’s contribution to the £3m+ scheme would only equate to about 24% of the total cost and yet “the target for BT was to reach 20% of the 20,000 rural properties” (i.e. just 4,000 premises). Elsewhere Cllr Medland feared that the project could create a “private monopoly“.

However, the government wants to see all of the Local Broadband Plans (LBP) signed by the end of this summer and apparently the council is being put under some pressure to make a decision. At least one person warned that a decision to defer the proposal “could also delay BT’s schedule to complete the work by two to three years which would mean losing the Government funding” (this is an old threat but the government has yet to act upon it).

The issue will now be discussed at one of the two Cabinet meetings in September 2013, which probably isn’t enough time to gather neutral information or to produce an effective counter-proposal. Credits to Thinkbroadband for spotting this.

UPDATE 1:51pm

Corrected the TB link as for some reason it was the same as On The White’s.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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