Following on from the National Audit Office (NAO) report Margaret Hodge MP has chaired a meeting of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee to delve into the issues raised by the NAO report and the myriad of other concerns about the progress towards a Digital Britain. The four hour meeting was streamed live online and at this time is still playable online.
Those attending included Sean Williams Group Director Strategy, Policy and Portfolio, British Telecom, Sir Jonathan Stephens, Permanent Secretary and Jon Zeff, Senior Responsible Officer, Department Culture Media and Sport, Dr Robert Sullivan, Head of Broadband Delivery UK who got a fairly tough grilling verging on bullying at times to give the right answer. Other witnesses who got seemed to have got an easier time were Malcolm Corbett, Independent Networks Co-operative Association, Dido Harding, CEO of TalkTalk, Nicholas James CEO UK Broadband and Stuart McIntosh, Director of Competition, Ofcom.
Was there an outcome worth mentioning beyond a few laughs and embarrassing moments, mainly that BT has stated it has no objection to the local authorities releasing the planned intervention area data. This means that the rest of the projects can follow the lead of Northamptonshire and places like Surrey that have published detail on where services will actually be delivered, and thus allow the public to be angry they are missing out and thus pursue other operators and projects to help them get better broadband.
One further item confirmed, though it took a lot of time to confirm was that the national 90% target for superfast broadband only includes those who can actually connect at superfast speeds. Some projects have reflected this by giving figures like 95% connected to fibre broadband, but 92% with speeds above 24 Mbps.
The abiding memory for many will be Malcolm Corbett describing BT as a Vampire Death Squid for the way it can be seen to be behaving at times. Just in case anyone from the BDUK reads our news we would like to point them to our fibre broadband guide, which half way down the guide gives a good guide on the speed distribution for FTTC in the UK and is based on line length data from Ofcom a few years ago and VDSL2 performance charts that take into account crosstalk.
We will end with an offer, if your local authority has published its project coverage data as a simple data dump and you want something that is more searchable then get in touch with us, we can easily enough produce a searchable page.
As with other events there was a lot of live tweeting going on, the hashtag being #pac.