The government must urgently review its Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project or rural communities and businesses will suffer, says the Countryside Alliance. Our comments follow the publication today (26 September) of a hard-hitting report criticising the rollout of rural broadband by BT by the Committee for Public Accounts.
“We have long been concerned about the BDUK project and BT’s monopoly of the 18 local contracts so far negotiated by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport,” said Countryside Alliance executive chairman Barney White-Spunner.
“And we feel the secrecy surrounding the final 10% of rural addresses that will not be covered by the scheme will hold back delivery of broadband to the countryside as other arrangements cannot be made for these areas until it is known where they lie.
“The Committee for Public Accounts’ report is welcome support for our concerns and, coming after the National Audit Office’s criticism of the scheme in July, reintroduces an important debate.
“Broadband has never been a more important tool for business. However the delay in rollout and concerns about the ability of the BDUK project to reach all the countryside, mean rural businesses are at real risk of missing out.”
The Countryside Alliance is also concerned that by delaying rollout of BDUK until 2017 the government will miss its own target of putting all key public services online by 2014. A number of services are now online only – for example animal movement paperwork and HMRC – and are therefore unavailable for those without an internet service.
“The government needs to conduct a full scale review of BDUK, taking on board the comments made by the Committee for Public Accounts and the National Audit Office,” added Sir Barney. “4G offers a great opportunity for rural communities and the Government should consider all technologies, including mobile phone technology, to deliver broadband to the countryside, not just fibre optic cabling.”