Lack of competition has kept parts of rural areas like Lincolnshire …

A virtual monopoly means superfast broadband internet connections are not being installed quick enough in rural areas like Lincolnshire, MPs claim.

And expanding broadband to homes in the countryside is costing households an extra 20 in council tax, they say.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee said there was no real competition and accused the Department for Culture, Media and Sport of giving away public money without a proper system of checks and balances.

The Government insists it did run a fair commercial process and encouraged different suppliers to bid.

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BT has rolled out superfast broadband in Cornwall along existing infrastructure but companies like Virgin Media and BT see little profit in providing services to sparsely populated areas.

So the Government gave a 230m subsidy with an extra 250m after 2015 and awarded contracts on a county by county basis with each county also contributing.

But only Fujitsu and BT entered the bid process, with Fujitsu later pulling out.

The committee s report states: Overall, BT is supposed to deliver at least 90 per cent of coverage in rural areas but the DCMS did not secure sufficient transparency from BT about precisely where it intends to roll out superfast broadband within each area.

Other suppliers are inhibited from developing complementary services so 100 per cent coverage is secured in rural areas.

Details about speed and coverage are treated as commercially confidential in each local project.

This has prevented other suppliers from developing proposals for schemes aimed at reaching the remaining 10 per cent of premises that will be without superfast broadband.

The Department welcomed BT’s statement at our hearing that it has no objection to publishing this data for finalised contracts.

But we are very concerned to hear that local authorities and community based organisations have since continued to encounter resistance from BT to publishing detailed roll-out plans.

The Department should, as a matter of urgency, publish BT’s detailed roll-out plans so that other suppliers can get on with trying to reach the remaining 10 per cent of the population that will still be without superfast broadband.

BT insists it has been transparent from the start and has been willing to invest when others have not.

In Lincolnshire, BT has announced it will give 2,800 more homes access to high-speed fibre broadband in Lincoln, including Birchwood, Washingborough, Louth, Boston, Grantham and Stamford by Spring 2014.

The extra investment is being made in areas already included in BT s 2.5bn commercial roll out of fibre broadband.


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