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BT in £52m contract tussle: West Country bumpkins hit with broadband delay

Somerset and Devon still trying to agree terms with telco

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A £52m government-subsidised superfast broadband project in rural parts of Somerset and Devon that was won by national telco BT has been delayed over "contract issues".

"Significant" problems have arisen between the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) programme and the telecoms giant that are yet to be resolved by either party.

In October 2012, CDS confirmed that BT was the preferred bidder for the provision of superfast broadband across Somerset and Devon. But since then finalising the finer details of that contract has proved to be something of a sticking point.

A BT spokesman told El Reg:

We had hoped to make an announcement, but a few outstanding matters still need to be resolved.

Whilst the contract is being finalised we are unable to give details due to commercial confidentiality. An agreement is expected shortly.

Similarly a spokeswoman at CDS, whose website hasn't been updated since late last year, said she couldn't tell us specifics as the councils were still in procurement.

The contract was originally expected to be inked on 21 January. Somerset County Council deputy leader David Hall said:

Connecting Devon and Somerset, together with the preferred bidder, BT, decided to postpone the contract signing until agreement could be reached on some outstanding issues.

Until the contract is finalised, we remain in active procurement and are unable to give further details due to commercial confidentiality. Both parties are working to resolve these elements and an agreement is expected to be reached shortly.

In December 2012, the fixed-line provider landed government funds from the Broadband Delivery UK pot to lay fibre for a £56.6m joint local authority project between Herefordshire and Gloucestershire and immediately admitted that the work wouldn't be completed until 2016 - a whole year behind Whitehall's 2015 "challenging target". ®

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