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Government Threatens to Withdraw UK Superfast Broadband Funds from Councils

Posted: 20th Jan, 2012 By: MarkJ
fibre_optic_broadband_internet_cable.jpgUK DCMS internet copyrightThe Secretary of State for the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Jeremy Hunt MP, has "put the fire up everyone's backsides" (Insert Julian Clary Joke Here) after he warned that the UK government would "consider" taking back its superfast broadband funding if local authorities failed to meet the deadline for action.

The governments Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office has already set aside £530m (rising to £830m by 2017) to help 90% of people gain access to superfast broadband (24Mbps+) ISP services by 2015 (the last 10% will get at least 2Mbps). The regional allocations of BDUK's fund have already been detailed.

Back in December 2011 Hunt gave local councils until the end of February 2012 to submit their draft 'Local Broadband Plan' (here) and a final plan then "needs to be agreed" by the end of April 2012. Any delay could cause the tender process to slip and Hunt is using tough love to tackle that problem.

The DCMS Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt MP, said (The Guardian):

"There is £530m on the table to help deliver this, but I have to had to say that if broadband contracts aren't actually signed by the end of this year I will consider taking this back. I do not want this to get bogged down in paper procurement.

I have always been a committed localist. I have always believed that we will solve the big problems in society if we harness the energy of the people at the grassroots, councils and their communities."

Apparently Hunt also told the local government focused All Party Parliamentary Group that many councils were claiming they could reach a superfast coverage target of 100%, which would be incredibly difficult by 2015. We won't say it's impossible but the current pace of development isn't exactly favourable.

It's important to contrast Hunt's comments with the government's official plan, which in December 2011 proposed to run a national procurement for areas that were not ready by the end of July 2012. In other words, the money would still get spent but not by any affected (late) local authorities.

A crucial local progress report, which will cover each UK local authority, is expected to be published before the end of January 2012.
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