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MP calls for urgent review of broadband rollout

September 26, 2013 11:41 AM

Cumbrian MP Tim Farron has urged a review of the rollout of superfast broadband in Cumbria after a committee of MPs blasted the Government's subsidy of the scheme as a waste of public money.

The cross-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC) says the government "mismanaged" the project by awarding all 26 rural broadband contracts to BT. It also said BT had "exploited its quasi-monopoly position" as the main provider.

The report by the PAC criticised the government's management of the project: "The Department for Culture, Media and Sport's design of the rural broadband programme has failed to deliver the intended competition for contracts, with the result that BT has strengthened its already strong position in the market." It said that its contract terms were "overly generous" to BT and did not "promote value for money". It also accused the department of failing to check that BT's bids were reasonably priced and said there had been "wildly inaccurate" estimates of costs.

Tim said: "The report by the Public Accounts Committee puts in black and white the concerns that I and many other campaigners have about rural broadband in Cumbria. People in rural areas deserve the same broadband speeds as those living in cities. Commercial firms such as Virgin Media and BT see little profit in rolling out services to areas with few people living in them. We need the government to be stronger and force them to deliver better and quicker broadband for rural communities in Cumbria. I am worried that the broadband plan for Cumbria is not future proof and will ultimately fail local communities. I want the council and BT to look at this again urgently and make sure they deliver the network we need."