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There’s a great article on ISPreview about the criticisms of the Government and BT by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in its report on the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme.

Neil Watson, Head of Service Operations

Neil Watson, Head of Service Operations

It’s interesting to note the strengthening tide of negative opinion and both cynicism and criticism relating to the scheme and especially toward BT which has clearly become the main commercial benefactor of the roll out. We’ve wondered for a while how long it would be before these feelings would start bubbling to the surface.

On the face of it, it does look like BT is profiting from the use of public money. The criticism about contracts between local authorities’ and BT preventing them from disclosing cost and roll out information inevitably raises suspicions and it’s interesting to note the combined £430 million advantage it will realise through local authorities additional £230 million contribution that will continue to be awarded to BT contracts and the reduction in BT’s own commitment of £200 million, if Margaret Hodge’s statements are correct and not just political spin.

£1.2 billion somehow seems to feel an even greater gain when you see just one supplier being awarded all the contracts, seemingly by default. As a wholesale communications provider it’s natural for us to expect to benefit from the resultant roll out of fibre to new locations, especially where they’re rural and less likely to be subject to competition from other large broadband players in the UK. In discussions with some of our industry peers though, there’s always been and continues to be speculation and wonder at the commercial gain that BT Retail achieves off the back of the BT Group brand being promoted on every press release, news article and street cabinet as it becomes fibre enabled. Consumers and businesses who may not know of all their options can be easily led by branding after all…

Naming no names among our industry colleagues of course, we’ve even heard opinions that BT’s massive financial gain from all the BDUK contracts it keeps ‘winning’ may allow it to somehow subsidise BT branded broadband, whether that be through enhanced marketing budgets or some other measure. They may say that, we couldn’t possibly comment. It’s certainly interesting though that Ofcom doesn’t seem to be perturbed by BT’s dominance of the BDUK scheme…

The PAC makes some very interesting recommendations for BDUK, although we wouldn’t particularly want to encourage further delays in the roll out because of yet another review of a Government scheme at even greater cost. We certainly think there should be greater transparency to industry and customers alike about the costs and roll out details and that local authorities should not be prevented from making this information available as part of non-disclosure agreements. Customers in more rural areas, and those in urban areas that still haven’t a clue if or when to expect superfast broadband availability, are sure to be eager to know the detail.

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As always we’re keen to hear the views of readers so, whether you’re a reseller or a customer of one, please let us know what you think.

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