Following the broadband money

PAC opens Act 3 of superfast broadband enquiry

with 10 comments

PAC chairman Margaret Hodge: show me the money.

PAC chairman Margaret Hodge: show me the money.

There are still some people who are interested in seeing what’s happening to the near £2bn of taxpayers’ money given to BT to roll out next generation broadband in the “Final Third”. Many of them probably sit on the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee, which is taking its third stab at finding if BT is delivering value for money this coming Wednesday.

The PAC, chaired by Margaret Hodge, was previously frustrated by the answers it received (here and here), and vowed to keep asking questions until it was satisfied. BT’s director of strategy, policy and portfolio, Sean Williams, who was the source of much of Ms Hodge’s frustration, gets a third act in front of the committee.

Supporting players are DCMS boss Sue Owen, BDUK CEO Chris Townsend and superfast broadband programme director Andrew Field, and Openreach MD for infrastructure delivery Kim Mears.

In its preamble the PAC said its reports on the rural broadband programme in September 2013 and April 2014 “raised concerns over lack of published information on BT’s plans for superfast broadband coverage, the availability and transparency of cost data and the level of competition secured throughout the programme. This recall session will examine the transparency of cost and rollout information and explore whether the department has done enough to promote greater competition for phases 2 and 3 of the programme.”

The curtain for the hour-long show goes up at 2.15pm on Wednesday 28 January 2015, Committee Room 15, Palace of Westminster. If you can’t make it in person you can follow on Parliament TV: Rural broadband: progress update session.


Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2015/01/27 at 06:05

10 Responses

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  1. Go Margaret. Lets hope she can trip them up with their hype this time. Third time lucky?


    2015/01/27 at 08:47

    • To be honest even if they find a complete lack of VFM , what are they going to do ? The single supplier framework has been ratified at all levels and investigated / approved by the EU, thereby washing away all state aid regs and dismissing other solutions.

      For it to appear to fail will mean a lot of prominent politicians and bodies will have to answer some very uncomfortable questions.

      Ultimately as in previous public funded fiascos like this it will become a lesson unlearned and deemed a success. Remember ADSL roll out anybody?

      After all who there is now going to say “well actually there are other solutions out there that are far more cost effective for many scenarios , including community driven projects. Please ignore our reports where we said there were none” ?

      Lets hope it rocks the boat sufficiently to make it easier for non OR dependent providers to take legal action over state funded overbuild. Especially the overbuild that is clearly targetted , i.e. the service present has 100% take up and meets super fast criteria.

      We are amassing evidence here and biding our time… give em enough rope…



      2015/01/28 at 12:05

      • Yes Bill, sad but true.
        If you want evidence of overbuild, we have found cabinets (pcp copper ones, not fibre ones) appearing in our tiny villages, closely followed by ‘fibre cabinets’ next to them. They have to take the phone lines out of the road to put in the old fashioned cabs, then bring the fibre out of the road into the fttc cabs, and all the houses already have a gigabit symmetrical community fibre already, at a far cheaper price. Definite overbuild. Yet just out of our area there are big villages with no cabs, and the BDUK process won’t help them. They will get offered satellites or bonded copper, which will entail laying more copper to them at a greater cost than fibre, just to protect the monopoly’s assets. I will keep taking photos of this superfarce, as will others. Our MP Eric Ollerenshaw is also aware of this issue within his constituency, but hasn’t been able to get the council to stop overbuilding and help the villages that the community network hasn’t reached. Apart from the ones in our build out, there are no other new cabs that we have seen. The bulk of the FTTC work has gone to semi urban areas and not the rural ones, as they don’t have cabinets to start with.


        2015/01/28 at 13:56

      • heh, i think i can trump that for overbuild madness 🙂 , OR are running FTTP to the hamlet of Hooksway in Sussex. there is 4 houses and a pub there, down a single track lane in the middle of a woods.

        ALL the residents have a 30 Mbps service , 100% take up and have had since 2005 (although 16 Mbps at the start).

        Of course the county council at the start of the BDUK fiasco and prior to this kept the firm line that there was NO broadband in this exchange area at all as it is one of the areas OR declared unviable for ADSL.

        Once they started saying this and put it down on their application for funds, that is how it had to stay. The pre-existing service was initially ignored and then discounted as not part of their strategy.

        They will be running FTTP to the other 4 villages/hamlets , widely spread apart that also feed from the same exchange, all again fully served by Kijoma with super fast.

        The cost of this FTTP run must be significant as it looks to run some miles across the downs from Midhurst.

        In other areas of the county people and businesses have been told they (the council) cannot spend BDUK money as “Kijoma cover their area” . Even though we have declared we cannot provide to these particular properties.

        The same is happening in other parts of the county , i could show you the impressive FTTP runs around Sutton in Sussex, they have even run a lump of cables down to “Sutton end” which again is 4-5 houses , spread out .

        Needless to say there is almost 100% take up there, the only property not taking up the service we provide is one owned by a Mr Gordon Owen , an ex parish council chairman and ex big cheese for cable and wireless (as he loves to keep telling people) who’s professional advice the county council have used to make their decisions.

        He also happened to be behind the desk at the 2011 WSCC Broadband Summit that Ian attended and I oddly enough was not originally invited to. As I and probably Ian remember well his only purpose there was to talk rubbish about Kijoma. As he did on email to WSCC numerous times before the meeting (a FoI request unearthed these).

        If this is how a county council treats a business that was formed and operates in the same county, then there isn’t much hope for outsiders.

        To make it worse, my county personal and business taxes are going towards this fiasco . So much for localism 😀



        2015/01/28 at 15:35

  2. Having watched it through for the second time, I can honestly say that as far as digital goes, this country is b0rked. Sue Owen doesn’t know a bit from a byte. Sean didn’t answer a single question. Chris is still floundering trying to pick up the pieces of this shambles. Andrew Field gave a good impression of answering, but didn’t answer owt, apart from the blunder where he said upload wasn’t important and couldn’t be delivered anyway. Satellites as predicted are the final solution. Vast profits will be made by BT. Because they have spent all the money on the easy bits, it has now made the hard bits even more impossible to reach because they have mopped up the market of low hanging fruit. I think the PAC has missed this fact. So everything we predicted would happen has happened. And because the wrong technology has been used (FTTC) the digital divide has grown ever wider. BDUK should hang their heads in shame. Councils deserved better advice, and are now having to cover themselves with BT fig leaves as they are left with no clothes. Transparency is still a joke. There is no way a council can fully check up on BT, they haven’t the resources, but BDUK will send them data. Yeah right. Total cover up of a superfarce, but history will remember this. And I hope the PAC keep on until they get to the truth of the matter. It is obvious what the next stage is going to be, more begging bowls for BT to do the hard bits. Far better to give the money to altnets and get some competition going! Also altnets do a far better job, as we have seen. Also the advertising of fibre broadband that isn’t fibre should have been mentioned. FTTC is such a sham. Disappointing event, but like I said, it’s now part of our history.
    Time to move on, nice try Margaret.


    2015/01/28 at 19:33

  3. Also one of the key questions dodged. PAC asked if BT knew the places by postcode where the current funding could never reach. BT said yes, then PAC said could they have them please? BT said they couldn’t give them but would give statistics by percentage for every council. What flamin good is that? ffs.


    2015/01/28 at 19:49

  4. A pathetic performance by all participants grumbling about trivialities over their own Broadband instead of grilling BT.

    Where was Margaret Hodge’s Rotweiller?

    Mel Bryan

    2015/01/29 at 10:06

    • reminds of me of some parish councillors who asked us for service with the tagline of “get me connected and we will tell everybody how good it is, get them to sign up” etc.. Only to fall very silent once their immediate needs are met.

      We have a couple like that, we see them in parish meeting minutes pushing for gaining funds/BT in their parishes , sympathising with their fellow parishioners over their broadband woes but wholly failing to mention they have 30 or 40 Mbps via a long established and available source .

      I can imagine central gov people are no different when it comes to service where they live. Me me me!, then the rest can rot ..


      2015/01/30 at 10:34

      • Yes you do see a bit of that Bill, but we have some parish councillors who have worked tirelessly for their communities. We have many county councillors who have fallen for the BT hype, and assure their constituents that superfast is coming, even those on lines over 11km from exchanges. As IF. We see it all the time, they walk amongst us, and are brainwashed. We had one city councillor who refused wayleaves to the local village school for our fibre. The whole village turned out with spades and dug across a big field and a car park to divert the route to the school. I bet he doesn’t get voted in next year.


        2015/01/30 at 10:45

      • It is good you have experience of those who work tirelessly for their communities , i was wondering if they existed to be fair 🙂 . I am not saying some of the parishes around our patch are not working hard on this, but i know some are and have been single minded as to the solution to the exclusion of all others which is a shame.

        I again am not blaming them neccessarily as they receive guidance from district and county councillors who push that view upon them. the parishes have to make their case as strong as possible to attract the BehemoTh !

        They are also advised to discourage the take up of alternative solutions as this will reduce the demand head count for the chosen one, so to speak. Solidarity in the quest ! or something..

        The net result is many parishes go without for many years while the people are constantly re-assured that the BT plan will come to fruition.

        In some areas where the people have broke ranks and signed up with Kijoma , the Parish still records these properties as having NO service when it comes to pushing for the BT golden calf.

        ho hum..


        2015/01/30 at 11:42

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