wispa Limited issued the following Press Release today:
On Thursday 19th July 2012, the Welsh Government will have attempted to orchestrate the ‘Grand announcement’ that they are to award the £50m+ Next Generation Broadband contract to BT (the only remaining bidder).
The BBC have been secretly pre-briefed regarding the announcement, and AMs have received significant briefing of their own, in an attempt to push as much ‘good news’ into the Press as possible, about the deal with the UK’s largest incumbent Telco.
Europe have already made it clear that funding under the DCMS allocation via BDUK is extremely questionable, and is under investigation for legality under State funding/Competition rules. More significantly for Wales, Neelie Kroes (VP in charge of the European Digital Agenda) has made it clear that it is very unlikely that the BDUK schemes will significantly affect rural availability of fast broadband. Wales has most of its population in rural areas.
“It is an entirely cynical plan to attempt to ‘big up’ what the Welsh Government are doing, but it is totally clear that the contract will not deliver the levels of improvement necessary within Wales, and in fact it seems that even BT admit that they will not be able to deliver to all of Wales themselves,” stated Richard Brown, wispa Limited COO.
“Sadly, it is typical of this Government that they will claim a huge win for Wales, but the devil will be in the detail,” he continued.
wispa Limited have been given to understand that:
- BT will not be subject to any performance related payments (all payments of the funding will be contractual)
- No penalties will be included in the contract for failure to meet coverage requirements
- No penalties will be included in the contract for failure to meet time requirements
- No contractual obligations shall be included to meet 100% population coverage
- BT will be committing to spend at least what they receive under the contract (so called ‘match funding’)
- No structural requirement will be imposed on BT to ‘do the hardest first’ which will see headlines for cities and large towns, whilst rural areas continue to languish in Broadband minor leagues
“We had an opportunity to shape the economic and digital future of Wales, but we are about to squander it on the largest white elephant in town: More speed improvements in areas that would have received funding anyway, but where it is desperately required, will continue to receive little or no interest. I’m simply disgusted,” said Richard Brown.
It seems that the UK government is determined to announce funding of BDUK projects (see Yorks announcement yesterday), despite the fact that the European competition investigation prevents them issuing the funding to awarding councils/devolved Governments. Regardless of tomorrow’s announcement and the attempt by the Welsh Government to orchestrate a ‘good news day’, the money (and so the works) cannot commence until the European investigation concludes. If (as wispa Limited suspect) the European opinion is that BDUK monies ARE state funding and so illegal, then….