MPs ridicule slow rollout of superfast broadband
MPs ARE demanding action over the “dire” performance of a taxpayer-subsidised broadband project led by two county councils.
In a joint letter, the eight MPs take Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) to task over the handling of the largest Government-funded broadband programme of its type in the UK. The project to bring a superfast service to hard-to-reach rural areas has actually had the opposite effect, delaying the delivery in many cases, the MPs say.
The total budget for the two phases of CDS is £117 million, with investment from the Government, other public bodies and the private sector. However the project has been hit by years of delays with the latest problem coming earlier this month.
Gigaclear, which is contracted to deliver a £62.25m roll-out of fibre broadband with speeds of up to 1,000Mbps, announced the project was “significantly behind schedule”.
That has prompted the letter, written by Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish and signed by seven other MPs in Somerset and Devon.
They say they have fought “tooth and nail” to deliver government funding and given “time and patience” to CDS.
“Unfortunately, there is nothing superfast about the CDS rollout programme. In fact, its lack of resource and inflexibility, have served on many occasions to delay better broadband for our constituents,” the MPs say in the letter to Keri Denton, head of economy, enterprise and skills at Devon County Council.
Campaigner Guy Cashmore said he bought a holiday home business near Okehampton four years ago on a promise that his customers would have fast broadband within six months. “CDS is a mess,” he said. “They should have brought in professional managers to handle this.”
However, Somerset County Council economy portfolio holder David Hall said the MPs were “hypocritical”. The contract bid process was to criteria laid down by Government, which was overseen by MPs.
“Gigaclear were the only contractor to meet the criteria. They were hit by the collapse of Carillion which was doing work for them,” he said.
“We have not paid them. We are working on a solution.”
Rock House has large rooms which offer fine views over Tor Bay