PAC hits out at rural broadband rollout again header image

The Public Accounts Committee has criticised the government and BT's rollout of rural broadband once again. 

Last year, the PAC warned the coalition about the lack of competition in its Broadband Delivery UK project and suggested BT, which is the only company approved to receive funding, was being allowed to establish a monopoly. This week, a new report from the organisation has criticised the scheme on these grounds again.

PAC chair Margaret Hodge stated: "Despite our warnings last September, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has allowed poor cost transparency and the lack of detailed broadband rollout plans to create conditions whereby alternative suppliers may be crowded out."

She claimed contractual agreements with BT mean local authorities are unable to share information showing residents if and when they can expect to receive an improved service. Without this information it is harder for people to know whether they should look into alternative means of high-speed internet such as satellite broadband.

Ms Hodge called on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to work with local councils to ensure detailed information about the rollout is published. 

"If we don't hear that the department is making significant progress on our recommendations we will require a further hearing to find out why," she added.

The PAC said some £1.2 billion of public funding has been spent on the Broadband Delivery project to date and it is "not good enough" that there is still a lack of clear information regarding important parts of the scheme.

It wants the government to work with councils to produce maps that are as detailed as possible as soon as it can and these should include connection speed information if available. The PAC also wants the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to co-operate with authorities to ensure their attempts to improve broadband are providing value for money and to look at alternative solutions if needed.