Culture Secretary to lead broadband march on Brussels
By Stewart Mitchell
Posted on 8 Nov 2012 at 12:00
UK officials will head to Brussels to berate European competition regulators over delays to the State Aid clearance needed to push ahead with plans to improve the UK's broadband network.
The plans to spend £530 million of funding through Broadband Delivery UK projects are mired in Europe, as officials study whether the funding is effectively a government subsidy.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport had hoped to have approval “in the Autumn”, but as winter approaches many projects remain on hold as they can't complete procurement without the funding being cleared.
According to the Financial Times, Culture Secretary Maria Miller has requested a top-priority meeting with Europe's competition tsar Joaquín Almunia and will seek answers over perceived delays to the process.
Maria Miller is frustrated that EU red tape is holding up the delivery of broadband in the UK, infrastructure that is essential to the country’s economic growth
The UK telecoms and broadband market is relatively liberal with high levels of competition, but with all the BDUK contracts so far being awarded to BT, European regulators have been on high alert.
“Maria Miller is frustrated that EU red tape is holding up the delivery of broadband in the UK, infrastructure that is essential to the country’s economic growth,” a DCMS official told the FT.
“She will be lobbying the commission face to face, as well as urging our elected representatives in Brussels to support what is best for UK businesses and the UK’s economy.”
The process for obtaining an umbrella clearance for the vast majority of projects has been ongoing for 10 months, with the only regional broadband projects so far given clearance being those that applied for clearance independently.
The ten-month delay risks making it impossible for the government to fulfil its goals of getting 90% of the population onto superfast broadband connections – and to have “the best broadband in Europe” - by 2015.
However, part of that delay involved an apparent confusion over paperwork, with the EU blaming the UK for not supplying enough details.
Miller is also expected to write to the UK’s MEPs seeking support, while she'll also ask for a rethink on rules on clearing large infrastructure projects.
Another Project Another Battle
Do we really need more reasons not to trust those eurocrats who cannot ever produce audit worth accounts? Are they trying to hack off everyone in the UK, (that is with or without the bits that may/may not want to leave).
By Jonesr18 on 8 Nov 2012
Time to leave the EU
We hear about how much the EU is worth, but we export £10-15BN per month to Europe and import £15-20BN at the same time, a deficit of -£5BN per month.
Plus we pay the EU 3BN Euros per year with only Germany paying more.
That's a lot of expense to have some unelected bureaucrats in Brussels tell us what we can, or cannot do.
Especially when some of the parties involved have a vested interest in Britain NOT having a better telecoms infrastructure. Like Apple ruling on where Samsung can trade - no conflict of interest there then...
By cheysuli on 8 Nov 2012
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