National Audit Office claims rural broadband project is almost two years behind schedule

8 Jul 2013

The UK’s National Audit Office (NAO) has claimed that the government’s programme aimed at bringing superfast broadband to rural areas will not be completed on time, while it has also criticised the level of competition among would-be participants. In publishing a report examining the project, Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: ‘The rural broadband project is moving forward late and without the benefit of strong competition to protect public value. For this we will have to rely on the Department’s active use of the controls it has negotiated and strong supervision by Ofcom.’

According to the report, the programme under which the state aimed to make superfast broadband available to 90% of the country is now expected to be completed nearly two years later than initially planned. Further, it has been suggested that only nine of 44 local projects will reach their original target of providing 90% coverage by May 2015. Competition meanwhile has been ‘limited’, the NAO said, arguing that: ‘The design of the competitive framework had the advantages of ensuring affordability and transferring risk but, together with State aid conditions and other commercial factors, led to potential suppliers withdrawing from the bidding process.’ As such, BT was left as the only active participant in the framework, and the NAO has said that the fixed line incumbent is now likely to win all 44 local projects.