The government has been urged to reveal the extent of BT’s rural broadband plans so that any gaps can be met by other ISPs.
A Rural Affairs Committee is spectical as to whether a minimum service of 2Mbps for all will be met by Broadband Delivery for the UK (BDUK) and BT, which has to date acquired all of the regional contracts.
The Chair of the Committee, Anne McIntosh MP, said: “To expedite the roll-out of superfast broadband the Government must publish details showing precisely what areas will be covered by BT under the Rural Broadband Programme in order to allow alternative providers to fill in the gaps.”
Read Recombu Digital’s guides to Rural Broadband and Fibre Broadband and BDUKBDUK provides funding for an ISP to deliver superfast broadband to roughly 90 per cent of premises in a region, with the remaining 10 per cent getting a basic service of at least 2Mbps.
BT has been reluctant to reveal to competitors exactly where it’s rolling out in rural areas. During a grilling before a separate Public Accounts Committee last week, Sean Williams managing director, strategy for portfolio, legal and regulatory services at BT insisted that it was up to local governments to reveal rural broadband information.
When goalposts on delivery of superfast broadband were moved recently, doubts have been cast on whether 2Mbps for all would be achieved by 2015, the original target date set by this government.
But if local governments are forced to reveal this information, ‘at least 2Mbps’ services could be delivered by other companies and the digital divide could be closed.
Last week we reported on how Lancashire County Council allowed BT to make plans for an area that was already due to be served by local broadband project B4RN. Under the terms of BDUK, public money can’t be spent on providing superfast broadband in an area where a competitor is likely to provide services. In this instance we understand that the Council was made aware of B4RN’s plans but has yet to provide an explanation.
In terms of forcing councils to reveal rural broadband maps, it’s now up to the government to take action.