BT and Fujitsu have been sent back to the drawing board this week after their bids to roll out superfast broadband in Cumbria were rejected by councillors.
The news comes almost two years after Cumbria was selected by BDUK, the government body armed with distributing public subsidies for broadband rollout, to be a pilot to demonstrate how extremely rural areas in the UK could effectively get connected to fibre.
The UK government has said that it hopes to have the best broadband network in Europe by 2015, and has committed a minimum of £730 million up until 2015 to support the rollout. Cumbria was allocated some £17 million of public money as one of the initial pilots.
Cumbria’s original tender notice for broadband rollout highlighted that the council wanted to “deliver optimum geographic coverage, aiming for 100 percent coverage across the Cumbria sub-region, including rural, remote and sparsely populated areas to a minimum speed of 2Mbps.
It also hopes to have at least 90 percent of all properties in the county connected to superfast broadband, with speeds of at least 25Mbps, by 2015.
The tender notice indicates that the total cost of the rollout could reach over £61 million and take up to three years to complete.
However, according to a statement provided to the North-West Evening Mail, BT and Fujistu’s bids have been rejected by Cumbria Council after it decided that “neither of the final tenders had completely fulfilled the original, and full, requirements of the procurement process”. Both suppliers will now be invited to take part in new negotiations, with the council aiming to make a final decision in September.
Councillor Elizabeth Mallinson, the leading cabinet member involved in the project, also commented that the refusal of the tenders was the right thing to do for the county.
“Although we have not identified a preferred supplier at this stage, we have made significant progress in terms of our overall broadband strategy for Cumbria, both in this procurement process and in attracting public and private funding to help deliver superfast broadband across rural and urban Cumbria,” said Mallinson.
“The programme is a very complex initiative and one that we need to get right if we are to meet the needs and expectations of Cumbria’s communities and businesses.”
Fujitsu was not available to comment at the time of publication, but a spokesperson for BT said: ““We will continue to work with the authority to try and secure what is a highly contested tender”.
It wa also recently revealed that parts of Cumbria will be cut off from broadband this month as public subsidies to operate it have run out.
Cable & Wireless Worldwide is cutting "uneconomical" broadband services in the Duddon Valley and Branthwaite in the Lake District because public subsidies have ended.