Countryside Alliance says only two councils have received BDUK funding so far ahead of potential project overhaul
Only two local authorities in England say they have received any government funding from the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme so far, according to a survey conducted by the Countryside Alliance.
Just £3 million of the £530 million allocated by BDUK to roll-out fibre in areas where it is not considered commercially viable has been transferred to councils who have already awarded contracts.
The Countryside Alliance submitted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to every authority, with only six not responding. It said although it welcomes the funding allocated to improving rural broadband, the government is not providing sufficient support to local authorities.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) told the BBC that most councils were in the early stage of rollout so it should not be expected that they are claiming all the money they are entitled to.
However, privately, the DCMS is understood to be considering an overhaul of the project, with many in the department questioning whether civil servants have the “commercial nous” to deliver.
The Financial Times reports that Culture Secretary Maria Miller, who is bidding for more funds for rural broadband in the current government spending review, wants to put a team of industry specialists in charge.
An internal report conducted by London 2012 CIO Gerry Pennell found that a number of companies in the telecoms sector were frustrated by the unnecessary costs and complexity associated with the scheme.
Miller is considering spinning off BDUK as a private company to encourage commercial investment, which would help the government achieve its aim of having the best broadband in Europe by 2015.
BDUK is central to this target, but the project has been fraught with difficulties. So far all of the money has gone to BT, which is the only bidder in the procurement process after Fujitsu withdrew, leading to accusations that the company was overcharging the government – a claim vehemently denied by BT.
The European Commission also investigated to see whether BDUK effectively amounted to state funding for BT, but the project was eventually cleared. However, the National Audit Office (NAO) is expected to criticise BDUK in a report to be published next month, questioning whether the scheme provides value for money.
Earlier this week, BT secured yet another BDUK deal, winning an £18.6 million contract to bring fibre to 90 percent of homes and business in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire by the end of 2016.
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