Watchdog slams rural broadband rollout

The rollout of superfast broadband across rural Britain has been likened to a "train crash" by the government's spending watchdog.

In a "deeply critical" report due to be published next month, the National Audit Office will slam a process that lacks competition and transparency, according to the Financial Times.

Politicians failed to deliver a proper bidding process after only British Telecom decided to bid for a £530m government subsidy to build superfast rural internet networks, the FT reported.

"It is certainly a train crash waiting to happen, and that train appears to be accelerating rather than slowing down," the newspaper reported one person close to the process as saying.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is spending £530m to subsidise investment in broadband infrastructure in rural areas of the UK.

Its primary objective is for the UK to have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015.

The department's rural broadband programme aims for 90% of premises in each area of the UK to have access to superfast internet speeds of above 24 Megabits per second (Mbps).

All premises will have broadband speeds of at least 2 Mbps.

The report will examine how well the department has designed the rural broadband programme and the extent to which its safeguards assure value for money.

It will also consider whether the 2015 targets for rural broadband provision are likely to be met.

BT told the FT it was "delivering value for money via the BDUK process". Various auditing measures were designed to ensure that was the case, it said.

The DCMS said told the newspaper it was absolutely confident that the programme would deliver value for money projects that resulted in a transformation of broadband in the UK by 2015.

"From the very start, we have built multiple controls into our contracts to ensure value for money, including independent assessment and clawback clauses."


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