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MP tells Vaizey to "pull finger out" on broadband

Road closed

By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 9 Feb 2011 at 07:30

MPs and industry officials are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress with four pilot schemes that are intended to pioneer next-generation broadband in the UK.

Last October, the Government named four remote areas of the country that were intended to “establish the commercial costs and challenges involved in rolling out superfast broadband across the UK”.

The pilots were part of the Government's plan to spread superfast broadband to areas of the UK expected to be left in the slow lane by market forces, in line with promises to provide the UK with the "best broadband in Europe by 2015".

But more than three and a half months after the pilot schemes were announced, the projects have yet to even be put out to tender, leading politicians to question the likelihood of meeting those goals.

I'm trying to press the Government to pull its finger out and get this moving as quickly as possible

“You've got to start from the premise that these are pilot projects that were announced in October and there's only four or them,” said Ian Lucas, Labour MP for Wrexham.

“Before we can make any progress, the pilot projects have to be commenced and assessed. At the moment they haven't even been tendered for, let alone commenced.”

Lucas has been pressing broadband minister Ed Vaizey for more details on the roadmap following complaints from the internet industry that it has been left in the dark while Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), the Government organisation charged with next-generation rollout, ponders the options.

“What I'm picking up from industry is that they are becoming impatient over the length of time that it is taking – these are very large companies that are becoming very frustrated,” said Lucas.

“I'm trying to press the Government to pull its finger out and get this moving as quickly as possible. No progress can be made as the particulars of the trials haven't been specified from the Government.”

"No fixed dates"

Vaizey recently fielded parliamentary questions about the pilot timetables, telling Lucas that: “Broadband Delivery UK is working closely with the local procuring authorities on the timetable for commencing the pilot procurements. No dates are fixed at this time, but will be made public at the earliest opportunity.”

When we contacted Broadband Delivery UK over the delay it admitted industry was waiting for the tenders, but said it would have to wait a while longer. “BDUK is currently working with the pilot projects so that they are ready to start procurement,” the organisation said in a statement.

“Each of the pilots is at a different stage of development, but we expect that the first of these will begin at the end of Q1 or start of Q2 this year.”

With such a timetable in place, BDUK would have spent the first six months of the four-and-a-half year roadmap to European broadband supremacy putting together the tender for the first pilot for the first project.

Second round frustration

The Government is also facing pressure over the fact that Broadband Delivery UK has not yet even published its criteria for local authorities wanting to apply for funding to be involved in the second round of pilots.

Conservative MP Peter Aldous last week asked what date Vaizey expected "the criteria for application to the next round of Broadband UK funding pilots to be published".

Vaizey responded: "No specific date has been set. Broadband Delivery UK is working with local authorities throughout the UK to give them guidance on how to apply for the next round where bids will be invited from April 2011".

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User comments

typical politics...they need more than a finger out!

politicians do what they do best, stall and procrastinate. put an engineer/technical person in charge or someone who takes no prisoners (like Lord Sugar or Sir Richard Branson) and it would be done by April 2011, when BDUK are still pondering!!

By IainNIX on 9 Feb 2011

Why, why have we got a government organisation, probably staffed with people with no experience of the industry or technical backgrounds dealing with a purely market led decision?

Government is incompetent. It is irrelevant. Get out of the way and let the market decide by deregulating and removing BT's idiot, inefficient monopoly.

By bubbles16 on 9 Feb 2011

vaizey

is a deeply incompetent man. that is the whole issue. nothing more, nothing less.

By gavmeister on 9 Feb 2011

Private monopoly

@ bubbles16
BT is a PRIVATE monopoly and was deregulated and de-nationalised precisely because the then Thatcher government subscribed to the view you have expressed.

Think on't.

By wittgenfrog on 9 Feb 2011

Incompetence

Writing as an ex-civil servant, I am aware that public bodies often seem to work slowly, but the delays described rank as pure incompetence. It will be a miracle if all the pilots are finished by 2015, let alone the whole country connected up to superast broadband by that date. It was, and is, clearly a huge mistake to set up a quango to try to achieve what (meanwhile) the private sector and some local communities have done. That is, developing and implementing alternative methods for obtaining 'superfast' broadband connectivity.

By Niadra on 10 Feb 2011

No Engineers to run things

Ever since Margaret Thatcher decided that there were too many Civil Servants the administrators have been cutting down and guess what, they did not get rid of administrators. They believe that experts should be "On tap not on top". Having got rid of the experts they call in consultants, give them the wrong brief and get the wrong result. Vast sums have and will be wasted this way. The many millions lost in NHS IT is only one of many examples.

By misceng on 10 Feb 2011

Not a chance

Best broadband in Europe??? Well maybe we should check out the likes of Lithuania, Czech Republic, Romania, Turkey who all have been building fast broadband. You have to ask why such an advanced economic society as the UK struggles to implement new technology and ultimately it has to be down to self-interest. The incompetence of politicians who are generally interested in making sufficient positive 'noise' to get re-elected and the strength of the incumbent providers. Why spend vast sums of money when people are willing to pay for a sub-standard service. I thought this government were going to break up quangos not create more of them ! These developing economies have the advantage because they are starting wiith a blank sheet of paper. That's where we need to be. We usually have a speed less than 512k to our home, no BBC iplayer for us - progress ?

By onside on 10 Feb 2011

... like DAB

Its a bit like the decision to go to DAB digital radio. Why did we do it? Who else uses it in preference to IP radio?

Oh -- I forgot -- we ain't got the bandwidth!

By Dairs on 10 Feb 2011

Why Pilot?

What is the point of a Pilot scheme and Tendering, to find out the best technology method? Surely simply observing other countries' successful implementations should provide all the technical info necessary, which can then be implemented in the UK. All this is just political back-patting and guff, which is surely costing a huge amount, what with all those meetings (champagne) and lunches (more champagne, and limo's). The UK is simking under this kind of spineless meandering, and has been for years, wether it was Labour or Conservative - the problem is they're Politicians, and most Politicians are Lawyers, and as everybody knows, Lawyers get paid even when they lose. But if you've made the Laws yourself, how can you lose?

By Wilbert3 on 10 Feb 2011

2Mb is enough for everybody

That was the last Government's UK wide minimum target to be reached by 2017. Set the target low enough and you'll achieve it.

Meanwhile other developed countries have no difficulty in offering a 100Mbs service as a premium product. I wish...

We get BT Infinity at a max of 40Mbs if you are lucky.

Out here in the sticks we don't even get the chance to dream of Virgin's offerings.

By jontym123 on 11 Feb 2011

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