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Sean Williams from BT faces Public Accounts Committee again
Monday 27 January 2014 19:14:03 by Andrew Ferguson

The Public Accounts Committee may not necessarily solve the UK's financial problems, but it can help to drive public policy and is one of the ways for Parliament to ensure the public can gain an insight into how public money is spent.

For those keen to spend 50 minutes watching the meeting visit the archive page and the Rural Broadband segment starts at 16:53:26. Our summary of the original session is still available online.

The issue of speed and coverage templates was raised, and it looks like the committee has never actually seen one (not even one holding fake data) so other than some map waving by Margaret Hodge MP and lots of complaining it is not clear to viewers what is expected. Sean Williams from BT was trying to explain that the level of coverage information published has varied from area to area based on what the local authority has published, so apparently Dorset has a lot more information out in the public domain than Cumbria (which got many mentions). We did learn that the contracts only require BT to supply postcode information down to the 5 digit level e.g. AB12 3, rather than the full 7 digit format of AB12 3CD.

The closest thing to a resolution was the information that the BDUK is writing to all the local authorities to remind them of the level of information they can publish, in an effort to get more postcode look-up systems or spread sheets out into the public domain.

Sean Williams (BT Managing Director, Strategy, Portfolio, Legal and Regulatory Services) did reveal that under the BDUK projects some 320,000 premises now have access to a fibre based service and 19,000 have actually ordered a service.

The fact that BT has won all the BDUK contracts irked the committee and in response to some comments from the BDUK on BT only accepted the contracts with the inclusion of its various confidentiality clauses, the committee response appeared to be one of the contracts should not have allowed the clauses even if this meant BT withdrawing leaving the BDUK process with zero bidders.

Perhaps the hardest issue with the BDUK process is that it is not a totally public subsidy system, i.e. it is a gap funded model and this means that BT or any other bidder does still have a modicum of commercial interest.


Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
Interesting about the 5-digit postcode data.

The current maps on the Superfast North Yorkshire website have a map per exchange area, with superfast coverage super-imposed on Ordnance Survey maps.

Some of the coverage areas are odd shapes, following some kind of boundary.

However, many are obviously circular, showing the reach from a single cabinet. These circles are, from comparison with other maps, roughly 1200 metres in radius. Definitely not following postcode boundaries!
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
Better mapping as an area has had its planning completed seems a reasonable expectation.

It is the question of do you plan project to completion before delivering anything, or do it in phases?
Posted by Plankton1066 over 3 years ago
Looking forward to seeing Sean Williams in front of the committee again, they should sell tickets, it's was such good telly last time. My money is on Margaret.
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
The usual showboating from Margaret Hodge again. Perhaps it would work better if the witnesses talked more that the committee chair, but then that would mean less screen time for her!

It seems as is she does not understand 5 vs 7 digit postcodes, wants "sped and coverage templates" published, but doesn't know what they contain. Pricesless! Not funny when you think these people work for us, we taxpayers pay their wages, depressing really.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 3 years ago
"reveal that under the BDUK projects some 320,000 premises now have access to a fibre based service and 19,000 have actually ordered a service."

So if I got it right, that's less than 6% takeup! How pathetic, what a waste of taxpayer's money!
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
Better than what Digital Region managed and in a shorter time frame.
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
A little premature to be commenting about the lack of take up given some of the cabinets may only just have gone live.
Posted by PhilCoates over 3 years ago
The Staffordshire map shows excellent Fibre availability in many fields occupied by cattle and sheep but no dwellings. 400m from my triangle of 'wait till 2016 and hope there is more cash' is a crazy 5 sided geometric shape, accompanied by a blob in the middle of a field about 200m further on. Perhaps I should enquire about building a barn there.
Posted by csimon over 3 years ago
> "So if I got it right, that's less than 6% takeup! How pathetic, what a waste of taxpayer's money!"

From yesterday's news story, Ofcom recongioses that there will be a higher uptake in Market 1/A areas where the premises are currently a long distance from exchange. Since rollout appears to have been done on the basis of less cost first, i.e. those closest to the exchange, and everyone appears to think that this was the right thing to do, then uptake is bound to be low & no-one should complain about it.
Posted by csimon over 3 years ago
If you want higher uptake then rollout to the slowest/most deprived/furthest areas first! You can't have easy deployment as a priority and also high uptake at the same time - they're mutually exclusive, as the "easy" areas already have good broadband.
Posted by Gadget over 3 years ago
Any map based on postcodes will show a result for individual postcode areas (or sectors depending of the level of detail aka 5digits as mentioned in the report) and commercial postcode data creates these polygons to cover the whole country, not just the letterbox locations.
Posted by PhilCoates over 3 years ago

I KNOW that! Just pointing out that for those of us gagging for any improvement, its a bitter pill to swallow knowing that cattle with laptops could access a service denied to us.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
This is why I've published a few postcode overlays to the county maps in the last year.

No one has chewed my arm off though to do more of them though. Cross my palm and it can be done.
Posted by ValueforMoney over 3 years ago
@New_Londoner - At this session BDUK reported 1/3 BT project management savings for Norfolk/Suffolk now needing to be copied elsewhere.
PAC is only body calling BT to account.
So much more costs to come out. No PAC and we would be at the £100K per cab and millions per exchange!

Posted by ValueforMoney over 3 years ago
@New_londoner Is overcharging for project management more important than improving the earning potential of the network? What the priority here, customers arpu shareholders returns or inflating project management fees for middle managers?
The more regularly drags BT back the more will be identified for many many months. I hope it the BT supply chain to inform PAC direct as how little they each receive.
Posted by ValueforMoney over 3 years ago
Sorry correction to last entry.
@New_Londoner The more regularly PAC drag BT back in the coming months the Better. Sean Williams confirmed NI+12% - which keeps the subsidy per cabinet path to c£15.6k. This would be a good outcome but Table 11 in NAO reports states its £47k once you fill out the numbers.
Posted by Gadget over 3 years ago
But has BT falsely invoiced, or are we complaining that they are spending less and claiming less?
Posted by David_OConnor over 3 years ago
Please look at the postcode checker and other info at This was live from the day Lincolnshire's BT contract was signed in March and enables 5 digit postcode lookups with phasing and projected speeds.
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