Buck stops at councils for poor rural broadband

“A council-run broadband group has been branded “incompetent” for repeatedly terminating contracts and failing to deliver broadband after a decade.

Last month, Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) began its fourth procurement for a new supplier.

Graham Long, chairman of campaign group Fast Broadband for Rural Devon & Somerset, said the problems needed to be “lanced” and suggested bringing in new operators.

Council-run CDS declined to comment.

Campaigners have highlighted the lack of certainty around the roll-out due to funding arrangements with central government.
About £20m is needed to complete the work but this money was not set out in September’s Spending Review.

The review normally covers three years but this year only covered one.

‘Track record’

Farmer, Steve Horner, from Yarcombe, struggles with a slow internet connection.

“The only way they can recover is by replacing the current team in Exeter… they have to be replaced with competent people who have a track record.”

Mr Long said: “This is a boil that needs to be lanced and my suggestion of bringing in other operators is a way to lance it.

“My conclusion is CDS is currently gambling on that problem being solved by November next year when they expect to sign contracts, and whatever government we have at that time guaranteeing that money would be provided.”

The project is also subject to EU state aid rules and under the terms of approval the work needs to be completed by 2020.
CDS, which is run by Somerset and Devon county councils, has terminated three large contracts so far, twice with BT, and last year with Gigaclear.

People in affected areas believe any supplier would face the same problems as Gigaclear of laying cables underground.
“Some of the roads didn’t have proper foundations so they couldn’t use narrow trenches so had to do a lot more work,” Mr Long said.

Gigaclear connected about 3,000 properties before its contract was terminated.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-50490118?

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