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Giving BT £24m for Cumbria broadband is ‘nonsense’, says MP

Giving BT £24m for Cumbria broadband is ‘nonsense’, says MP

Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale also believes government's ‘Big Society’ has resulted in money not being spent

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A Cumbrian MP has slammed the ongoing broadband debacle in the region, saying that there is no way that BT, the last remaining bidder to rollout fibre in the area, should be given the full £24 million funding.

Speaking to Computerworld UK, Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale Tim Farron also expressed dismay at David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ initiative, claiming that it was stifling action in Cumbria.

This news comes as it was revealed this week that Fujitsu has pulled out of the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) bidding process to secure funding from Cumbria County Council to deploy fibre in the area, leaving BT as the last remaining supplier.

The Conservative-led council was allocated £24 million over a year ago to get broadband into rural areas, but after a drawn out procurement process it recently rejected both BT and Fujitsu’s bids for the project, effectively sending them back the drawing board. This has now resulted in Fujitsu pulling out altogether.

“I don’t think that Cumbria Council has done the wrong thing by playing hard to get with large multinationals – there is a great fear that they will have rings run around them by these huge outfits,” said Farron.

“Having said that, they have been awarded over £24 million and they haven’t spent a penny of it yet. That’s a bit pathetic.”

He added: “In the last 12 months the whole of Norway has been connected to 100Mbps and we are still messing about. What I have called upon them to do is use the money intelligently. Don’t just think you have to have a big contract deal with one company.”

Farron is keen for the council to work with Network Rail to allow communities to get connected to superfast broadband using cable and connections along some of its lines running through the region. BT would then be allocated some money to work on regions where this is not possible.

“You can make a whole bunch of smaller schemes come to fruition by working with people like Network Rail. This will create a sense of ‘neighbourhood envy’, whereby other surrounding communities will want to follow suit,” he said.

“The idea that BT should be handed the entire £24 million is nonsense. It’s quite clear that BT was planning to use some of that money to do things that it would do anyway. The idea that a penny of that money should go into deploying broadband in Carlisle, for example, is outrageous.”

Farron also complained that the prime minister's plan to allow councils to be in charge, rather than being pressured by plans from Whitehall, has resulted in little action.

“We have been too hung up on this idea of ‘Big Society’, where we have allowed a county council to pontificate and twiddle its thumbs for over a year,” he said.

“Central government should be concerned about that; it should be worried that money is not only being spent badly, but that it’s just not being spent.”

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  • RobL Hmmm mostly agree with Tim Do we expect County Councils to have the skillsets and experience to understand a complex bid process and technology that certainly isnt core to a County Councils skillset How would they know when the wool was being pulled over their eyesThe commerical model that has served BT and a few others very well does not work when deploying fibre to rural areas Communities digging themselves is the only way to costeffectivelypenetrate far enough into rural areas Once the government realises the value of fibre under grass FUG in place of fibre under concrete do the math then moving public funds to rural community projects should make much more sense Lets all take a deep breath and look at BDUK again round two please
  • cyberdoyle I agree with much of what Tim says though I do think the council like all the other councils in the country has been trying to work with both hands tied behind their backsI agree that BT should not be given the money to patch up their old phone network we tried that 10 years ago with project access and that was a washout For the past decade until more funding appeared BT have claimed Access was a success and all the country had access to broadband As soon as funding appeared they acknowledged the final third existed I do not think they should be given a second chance This is the final bite at the cherry if we mess up this time well never get a connection to everyoneThe way to make it work is to get fibre to all the rural parishes get it to the mountain tops ready for 4g get it to the farms and get femtocells on them so mobiles work for tourists Use the funding for altnets support them with help on planning law mapping Soft loans would make more sense than funding as these networks once established could pay back the investment Surround the towns and cities with fibre broadband and then start to harvest the people in the urban fringes BT will soon stop pratting about with cabinets and deploy fibre too Market forces will never work until there is some competition
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