Govt-backed rural broadband rollout gets EU green light

by Kenny Hemphill on November 20, 2012

The EU has given its formal approval to the UK scheme to improve broadband in rural areas. MacUser reported last month that the EU’s Competition Commissioner ruled that the plans did not infringe upon EU competition law, despite every contract awarded so far having gone to BT. Now the EU has given its formal approval, following lobbying in Brussels last week by Culture Secretary, Maria Miller.

‘Finally getting the green light from Brussels will mean a huge boost for the British economy,’ said Miller. ‘Superfast broadband is essential to creating growth, jobs and prosperity and the delay has caused frustration within government. Today’s announcement means that we can crack on with delivering broadband plans, boosting growth and jobs around the country.’

In a statement, the Commission said that ‘best practices’ contained in the desingn of the scheme would ‘help to ensure more effective, better targeted and less distortive public interventions.’ It also noted the ‘crucial’ role of Ofcom in setting wholesale prices and conditions.

The Government, Broadband Delivery UK – the organisation tasked with co-ordinating the scheme, and local councils have all been criticised for the slow progress in allocating funding and starting projects. When the funding was announced in 2010, the target set was that everywhere in the UK should have a minimum 2MB/sec broadband connection by 2012. That date was quickly put back to 2015 and both Fujitsu and Cable & Wireless pulled out of the bidding because of problems with the process.

Other problems with the scheme have included disagreements between Ofcom and BT over access to the telecoms company’s poles and ducts, and a lack of expertise among councillors tasked with allocating funding to contractors.

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