UK rural broadband gets the green light from Europe
The roll out of fast broadband to rural Britain has been given a boost after the EU competition commissioner approved the state-funded scheme.
The introduction of faster broadband in rural areas has been in doubt due to concerns that the procurement process might break EU competition rules. All of the bids to deliver the service were won by one private company, BT.
Councils with large rural populations have been prevented from starting broadband rollout programmes until full EU approval was given.
The government has set aside £530m [€660m] to ensure that rural areas do not miss out on the faster networks that are being installed in towns and cities.
Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), the body set up to oversee the process, has been criticised for slow progress. BDUK is a unit within Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) and is responsible for managing the Government’s broadband funding. Individual projects are the responsibility of local authorities and the Devolved Administrations,
When BDUK made the money available to councils, it was expected that a number of companies would bid for the delivery work. However only a handful of companies actually entered the bidding process, including Fujitsu and BT.
Later Fujitsu and others withdrew, leaving BT as the sole bidder in most areas.
"Fujitsu don't get out of bed for less than one million households and we only have half a million," a Cumbria County Council spokesperson told the BBC, a broadcaster.
DCMS has said that it is their understanding that the European Commission is on track to issue its final decision in late October or early November this year and that this will allow delivery programmes to get under way.
BDUK will also invest £150 million [€190m] in ‘super-connected cities’ across the UK and a further £150 million [€190m] to improve mobile coverage in the UK for consumers and businesses that live and work in areas where coverage is poor or non-existent.