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Technology / Data Centre

UK’s superfast rural broadband programme will be two years late, says NAO

The UK National Audit Office (NAO) has found that the government’s programme to make superfast broadband available to 90% of premises in each area is expected to be delivered nearly two years later than initially planned.

The department forecasts that the programme will complete its rollout 22 months later than planned and only nine out of 44 local projects may reach their target superfast coverage by May 2015.

The delay according to the NAO is partly because gaining approval for the project under EU State aid rules took six months longer than expected.

In June this year, the government revised its target, and now intends to secure delivery of the rural broadband programme by December 2016, as well as 95% superfast coverage by 2017.

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The NAO said that BT is likely to win all 44 local projects and benefit from £1.2bn of public money.

NAO head Amyas Morse said the rural broadband project is moving forward late and without the benefit of strong competition to protect public value.

"For this we will have to rely on the Department’s active use of the controls it has negotiated and strong supervision by Ofcom," Morse said.

Recently, UK Culture Secretary Maria Miller has written to small broadband providers seeking to roll out superfast networks to the most rural parts of the UK, encouraging them to work with BT to identify the areas which most need help.

In the letter, Miller said: "The Rural Community Broadband Fund has been established to help provide funding to ensure we reach some of those hardest to reach areas.

"However, we are aware there is widespread concern that projects have not been able to identify the 10% areas necessary to enable applications under the Fund to be progressed," Miller said.

The UK is investing £530m to bring high speed broadband to rural communities.
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