MPs 'demand inquiry' into delayed rollout of super-fast broadband header image

A group of MPs have demanded that an official inquiry take place to investigate the handling of the rollout of super-fast broadband in Devon and Somerset, as there are concerns that the completion date may slide from 2016 to 2018.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee has warned that the original deadline, which stated that 95 per cent of premises in the UK would have the improved connectivity, is looking unlikely.

Campaigners working hard in both Devon and Somerset believe that the almost-exclusive deal struck with BT could mean that 100 per cent coverage for the whole of Britain may be a dream that never comes to fruition.

Some MPs seem to have similar concerns, as a group of politicians are calling for a debate in Westminster to hash out these worries, while also demanding that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigate the behaviour of BT.

Tessa Munt, a Liberal Democrat and MP for Wells in Somerset, has penned a letter to the CMA, urging it to look into the actions of the telecommunications company. In addition, Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton in Devon, and Richard Bacon, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, are both pressing for an investigation.

Those calling for BT to be scrutinised believe that the secrecy clause included in the first deal for super-fast broadband means that the areas that will be left out of the rollout have been kept classified.

This means that homes and businesses that will be in the five per cent excluded from the agreement cannot make alternative arrangements for cover, such as organising satellite broadband.

Ms Munt explained: "The biggest problem is getting accurate information from BT - I have been asking for a couple of years about which parts are not going to get coverage so that people can make decisions.

“You cannot just muscle your way around when it is taxpayers’ money being spent on something that is now essential - not a luxury. Rural areas are still getting nothing. There are vast swathes of Somerset without coverage."

Earlier this month, EFRA criticised the goal of getting 95 per cent of premises connected to super-fast broadband, claiming the remaining five per cent will be missing out and put at a disadvantage.