February 19, 2015
Burnham MP calls for watchdog to probe Somerset broadband roll-out

Burnham-On-Sea's MP Tessa Munt has this week called for an investigation into the speed of the roll-out of super-fast fibre Internet access across Somerset, including in the Burnham area.

She has asked the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to look into BT’s refusal to join an open bidding process to deploy more super-fast fibre Internet access in Somerset amid concern that the scheme faces delays.

Tessa says she's concerned that 100 percent coverage is a distant dream, and that the 2018 target for 95 percent coverage will not be met.

MPs are now calling for a Westminster debate on the issue and want the Competition and Markets Authority to look into the decision to hand the lucrative second phase of the contract to BT.

Tessa says she has written to the watchdog overseeing anti-competitive activity asking it to investigate the process, a move that has been backed by the powerful Public Accounts Committee. She is concerned that the roll-out date may slip to 2018.

Critics say the 'secrecy clause' imposed on the first deal means data on which areas remain without coverage has been kept under wraps.

Tessa said: "The biggest problem is getting accurate information from BT – I have been asking for a couple of years about which parts are not going to get coverage so that people can make decisions. You cannot just muscle your way around when it is tax payers' money being spent on something that is now essential – not a luxury. There are vast swathes of Somerset without coverage."

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee this month criticised the goal to get the fastest internet connections to 95 per cent of premises. The committee said the "hard-to-reach five per cent" are missing out on speeds enjoyed by homes and businesses in urban areas.

However, Connecting Devon and Somerset insists that it remains "firmly on track". BT says the timescale appeared "tight" but was still achievable.


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