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BT inks 2 more gov-funded broadband deals

But work WON'T be done 'til 2016

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

BT bagged two more government-subsidised broadband contracts on Wednesday, when it confirmed that work on those separate rural projects would not be completed until 2016.

A pattern is now clearly emerging that shows communications minister Ed Vaizey was right to describe the Ministry of Fun's target to ensure all Brits get at least 2Mbit/s broadband, and super-fast connections for 90 per cent of properties across Blighty, as "challenging".

National telco BT - whose Openreach men and women have to deploy the cabling - appears to be more realistic about how long the work will take.

Meanwhile, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has recently been blaming any perceived delays on foot-dragging by Brussels officials in clearing state aid for the deployment of faster broadband in rural parts of Britain at a cost of £530m.

But a spokeswoman at competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia's office told The Register late last year that the EC had always treated the matter as a priority and said it could carry out its assessment of the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project only after the UK authorities had provided the necessary information. Apparently, it took Maria Miller's department many months to do this.

As for BT's latest BDUK contract wins, the telecoms giant said it had finally settled on a £93m agreement with Devon and Somerset. The company had been wrangling with the councils over the fine print, but that has now been smoothed out.

The company, which is investing £41m into the rollout in that region, said it would bring mainly fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) broadband technology to 90 per cent of premises by the end of 2016.

The two councils are divvying up the costs, coughing £10m a piece, while a further £32m will come from the BDUK pot.

But while representatives of Connecting Devon and Somerset were willing to be a bit chatty about disagreements with BT last week, now that the deal is done the group's spokeswoman has declined to comment outside of the official press release.

Vaizey, meanwhile, appeared to be in denial mode about delays. He said:

"It is projects like 'Connecting Devon and Somerset', the largest of all the English Local Authority projects and encompassing six different local authority areas, that will help us achieve government's aim for the UK to have the best broadband in Europe by 2015."

Separately, Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire announced that it had inked a £35.6m deal with BT. That work won't be completed until March 2016, either. ®

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