September 18, 2015
Burnham-On-Sea MP calls for BT to forfeit rights to broadband roll-out

Burnham-On-Sea's MP James Heappey has this week called for BT to forfeit its rights to deliver a commercial broadband roll-out if they fail to complete the upgrade in Somerset within a certain time limit.

Large areas of the county, particularly in and around the towns, were ring-fenced for a commercial roll-out by BT but there are many cabinets that have yet to be upgraded, leaving residents without superfast connections.

Speaking in a House of Commons debate, Mr Heappey said: "There is a group of people for whom I feel very deeply: the people who live in areas that were grabbed by BT for the commercial roll out but who BT has not yet got round to delivering. Those who live in villages just on the edge of town. When BT’s eyes were bigger than its stomach; it said 'we’ll take that'. Villages all around them have since been helped by the state aid programme but they are still waiting."

He asked: "Will the Minister consider imposing a time limit on BT for the commercial upgrade of cabinets? If BT fails to do so within that time, it should be made to forfeit so that the village can benefit from the state aid programme."

Minister for the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey, agreed to look into the matter so that those areas could either be released to a competitor or included in the Government’s programme.

Also in the debate, Mr Heappey raised the plight of those connected to long lines or directly to the exchange which means they are unable to receive the same superfast speeds that are increasingly available to their neighbours.

Speaking afterwards, Burnham's MP said: "Many cabinets have now been upgraded under the Connecting Devon & Somerset programme. However, I am still being contacted by people in those areas who are complaining about their broadband speeds. It quickly becomes apparent that they either did not know that their cabinet was live or that they didn’t realise they wouldn’t automatically receive the fibre service."

"I am encouraging everyone to check the Connecting Devon & Somerset website to monitor the progress of their cabinet and to contact their Internet Service Provider as soon as it turns green to upgrade their broadband package."

"However, not everyone will write to me and so I am hoping the Government might be able to fund some publicity to stimulate a greater uptake. It seems silly to spend so much money on upgrading the cabinets but for uptake to be supressed because people don’t understand what they need to do to take advantage."

"It’s a win-win anyway as there are pay back clauses in BT’s contract which means that if uptake exceeds expectations, the upgrade in that area becomes a commercial activity and so BT pays back some or all of the taxpayer’s money they received to upgrade the cabinet in the first place."

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