Sean Williams from BT faces Public Accounts Committee again
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.
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.