Will UK broadband suffer as political games continue
The National Audit Office is set to deliver a report on the BDUK in July and following the tradition in UK politics we appear to know what is in the report before it has been published if the details Financial Times are correct.
The FT is using terms like 'train crash' and 'deeply critical' for the way the DCMS (Department of Culture Media and Sport) has handled the bidding process run by the BDUK. As we understand the purpose of this audit it is to look at how the bidding process was constructed, the rules associated with it and how the process was handled, and is less of an investigation into the common belief that BT is overcharging councils for the work under the BDUK contracts it has won.
A short history lesson is worthwhile, as the train of thought that BT is charging too much has been a story that has gone on since at least July 2010 a year before the money was allocated to the various regions of the UK as part of the BDUK process.
For the general public and businesses to some extent having BT win all the BDUK projects to date does at least ensure that at the retail level the superfast services they see in adverts will become available to them too. On the other hand though by handing the money to BT it could be seen as helping to strengthen the position of Openreach as the national telecoms infrastructure provider, the silence from Fujitsu is very telling almost as if they never really expected to win any of the contracts.
The BT roll-out is very much an accountant led affair that is largely FTTC based, simply because it is more affordable when you are trying to get superfast to 40,000 projects over a wide area of a county. Fibre to the Home is something we would love to more of in the roll-outs but given the level of complaints about how much public money is already going towards FTTC, it seems impossible to en-vision a widespread FTTH roll-out on the scale of the BDUK process in the UK for some years.
At the end of the day the improvements to UK broadband are now part of the political battlescape and have been since the original Digital Britain report was published under the Labour Government.
The reason so many of those involved in the alt-net scene are so annoyed with the BDUK process is probably the millions spent on unseen consultants and reports that appear to have no real impact for the average person who just wants to know when their broadband connection will go faster.
In a world of soundbites, we feel we should add one which is that the BDUK process is all about accelerating superfast roll-outs, so that rather than waiting till 2019 for 90% coverage of superfast services we should hit that target sometime in 2015.