THE UK GOVERNMENT has been criticised in Parliament for handing British Telecom (BT) a "monopoly" in the rural broadband market, having reportedly given all of the 44 contracts from its £1.2bn broadband scheme to the telecoms giant.
A group of MPs have spoken out about BT's monopoly, the Financial Times reports, and have slammed the Department for Culture, Media and Sport £1.2bn UK broadband project (BDUK) for failing to foster competition in the market.
Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee (PAC), said, "Since our hearing in July last year, when 26 of the 44 contracts to deliver this were with BT, all remaining contracts have now also gone to BT.
"Despite our warnings last September, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has allowed poor cost transparency and the lack of detailed broadband rollout plans to create conditions whereby alternative suppliers may be crowded out.
"The government has failed to deliver meaningful competition in the procurement of its £1.2bn rural broadband programme, leaving BT effectively in a monopoly position."
Hodge also criticised BT for "exploiting its monopoly position to the detriment of the taxpayer, local authorities and those seeking to access high-speed broadband in rural areas", and said that previous warnings to the government had not stopped it from allowing "poor cost transparency" and a "lack of detailed broadband rollout plans".
BT isn't very happy about the news, and was quick to shoot back at the claims. A spokesperson said, "It is frustrating that the committee continues to try and pick holes in the programme.
"BT is delivering value for money and the National Audit Office acknowledged there are 'robust' processes in place to ensure that. As for maps, most councils have published coverage maps with our support. More detailed data will be released by them in due course once surveys have been completed and we know for sure that we are going to an area."
Communications minister Ed Vaizey responded, "The government's nationwide broadband rollout is ahead of schedule; multiple robust safeguards are already in place to ensure value for money, and thousands of homes and businesses up and down the country are already getting the benefits." µ