Rural Broadband Boost As EC Set To Approve BDUK
EC competition commissioner suggests approval for BDUK is likely
The European Union is set to give the green light to the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme, a move which would allow work to begin on bringing superfast broadband to rural areas.
EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia has indicated that he is happy for the government to provide £530 million in state funding to be used in the scheme so long as some relatively minor changes are made to its design.
BDUK is a key element of the government’s plans to ensure that 90 percent of the UK population has access to superfast broadband by 2015 and to have the best network in Europe.
The decision still needs to be approved by other commissioners, but FT sources have indicated that this is a mere formality and that an announcement should be made by the end of the month.
Rural broadband coming
The EC had been investigating as only two companies, BT and Fujitsu, had signed up to a framework agreement with the government last July, which gives councils a quick way to carry out their BDUK tendering process.
Councils can use other providers, but they must set up their own procurement process and hope the government backs it. However, BT has so far won all the BDUK-based contracts and in some cases, has been the only bidder.
BT has been forced to deny reports it was overcharging the British taxpayer by inflating the costs associated with deploying superfast broadband to rural areas under the BDUK scheme by as much as 80 percent. A leaked document suggested that if the telecoms giant’s subsidy was cut by between £400 and £500 million, there would be no effect on BT’s plans. BT labelled the accusations “ludicrous.”
4G next spring
EC approval for BDUK would be the second major boost for the government’s digital economy strategy in the past week. Talks between regulatory authorities and the major mobile carriers resulted in an agreement which will see the launch of 4G Long Term Evolution services brought forward by five months.
The talks were part of a month long ceasefire brokered by the government during which no network could be launched and no lawsuits filed. EE had been given permission by Ofcom to launch a 4G network on its existing spectrum ahead of the bandwidth auction. Its rivals were infuriated and threatened legal action, a move which could have prolonged the UK’s long wait for 4G.
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