Blow for broadband bid as BT plan is scrapped
PUBLISHED: 13:30 02 July 2015
COMMUNICATIONS giant BT has been accused of ‘letting down’ Somerset after its superfast broadband rollout proposal was scrapped for being ‘not up to scratch’.
Representatives of BT and the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) broadband programme have spent weeks in discussions about how to extend broadband coverage in the two counties.
CDS now says it has been unable to secure a value-for-money deal with the firm, and has therefore terminated talks over a £35million public-funded contract which had aimed to achieve 95 per cent superfast broadband coverage by 2017.
The body says BT could not meet that target, and pressing ahead with the plan would be ‘high risk’.
CDS will now reissue the tender, but David Hall, a cabinet member for Somerset County Council, described the outcome as a ‘huge disappointment’.
He said: “BT has let the county councils down, they have also let the Connecting Devon and Somerset partnership down, and worst of all they have let residents, communities and businesses in Somerset and Devon down.
“We have a duty to seek best value for all our residents and their tender for the next phase of the programme was just not up to scratch.
“We are actually aware of the importance of superfast broadband for all our residents but we also needed to make sure we got value for money on behalf of our taxpayers.
“In taking this action we have acted in the best interests of those who live and run businesses in the region and we will now do everything we can to minimise the delay this causes to the programme.”
In response, BT said it remains on target for an earlier phase of the rollout – which aims for 90 per cent coverage by 2016 – and is still open to further talks to try to find a solution.
A spokesman said: “We believe we have made the best possible offer to take superfast broadband coverage beyond the current target of around 90 per cent by the end of next year, taking into account the challenging and remote nature of some locations in the two counties.
“Our offer would mean that an additional 34,400 households and businesses in the two counties would have access to superfast broadband by the middle of 2020.
“A huge engineering operation would be required, including the laying of thousands of kilometres of fibre optic cable.
“It is estimated it would take more than 15 years for BT to get a return on its investment.”