BT hits back over contract critics

Oliver Smith
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FIXED line operator BT has hit back against yesterday’s report from the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that claimed the government had mismanaged the rollout of rural broadband contracts.

“We are disturbed by today’s report, which we believe is simply wrong and fails to take on board a point-by-point correction we sent to the committee several weeks ago.”

The PAC’s report said that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) had failed to deliver the intended competition for the £1.2bn of contracts which have all gone to BT.

“The result is that BT has strengthened its already strong position in the market,” the report said.

But BT argued that the report had failed to take into account Fujitsu’s involvement in the bidding process during the early stages when prices were agreed, and equally argued that the group had been transparent during the whole of the process.

“The PAC failed to understand the key fact that BT bills the taxpayer after it has spent money deploying rural fibre broadband and has to show receipts and time-sheets.

There is no lack of transparency,” a BT spokesperson said.

The PAC report recommends that the DCMS’s remaining £250m of public money that is earmarked to subsidise superfast broadband contracts should not be spent until it can prove that proper competition can be achieved.

The government’s rural broadband programme, which is designed to bring superfast internet to areas where providers consider it economically unviable to do so alone, is already running nearly two years behind schedule.

Fujitsu yesterday declined to comment on the Public Accounts Committee report.