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David Cameron Defends Broadband Delivery UK from “slightly unfair” Criticism

Friday, Sep 20th, 2013 (12:41 pm) - Score 1,177

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, has told a select committee meeting that some of the recent criticism directed towards his £1.2bn scheme to improve the availability of superfast broadband has been “slightly unfair“. But he is prepared to look at the “possibilities” of BT having an unfair monopoly on related contracts.

Recent examinations by the National Audit Office (here) and Public Accounts Committee (here) have cast considerable doubt over the government’s strategy, related delays, competition (e.g. BT has picked up all of the BDUK contracts and has no viable rivals within the framework) and general funding concerns.

Admittedly some of the criticism has been incorrect (here) and or perhaps even politically motivated, but not all of it is wrong, and the process has surely suffered from many difficulties along the way. But Cameron said that BDUK was now working well towards its goal of closing the Digital Divide between urban and rural areas.

David Cameron said:

If you stand back and look at it, three years into government, when we came to power, there was virtually nothing going on with rural broadband. We now have a realistic programme to reach 95% of premises by 2017 and we are looking at 99% by 2018.”

In fairness, national broadband policy had already been under construction since 2007/8 and so it’s perhaps not fair to say that there was “virtually nothing going on with rural broadband“. We could arguably also point out that BT had already announced its initial FTTC/P rollout during 2009, not to mention Virgin Media’s 50Mbps upgrade, although admittedly those two weren’t “rural” focused.

At the same time Cameron also said, “as we speak today, the rural broadband programme is reaching 10,000 extra premises a week,” although it’s unclear whether or not he has included BT’s £2.5bn commercial FTTC/P deployment stats into those figures. Similarly most of the initial BDUK funding hasn’t actually gone towards the truly hard core rural areas.

But apparently Cameron did agree that there might be a “possibility” of BT having a monopoly on BDUK contracts and said that his government “should be prepared to look at all possibilities of course“, which isn’t quite the same as saying they will actually do something about it; although BDUK’s framework is apparently being reshaped around a more commercial focus (here).

As it stands the government aims for 95% of people to gain access to a fixed line superfast broadband (25-30Mbps+) service by 2017 (the 99% figure includes wireless) and, despite the issues / BT concerns, they might actually achieve that. But some big questions remain, such as whether the end result will be future proof, has BT been handed more of a monopoly and what needs to be done in order to close the last 1-5% and achieve the wider EU target for 30Mbps to reach 100% by 2020.

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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