Two more counties to get gov-funded bumpkin broadband from... guess?
Clue: It starts with a B and sorta rhymes with graffiti
BT won two more government-subsidised contracts to rollout rural broadband on Monday when it scooped up deals in Oxfordshire and Worcestershire.
The telco giant will spend £11m in Oxfordshire installing fibre-to-the-cabinet technology; the local council will cough up £10m and a further £4m will come from the state. The work will bring download speeds of at least 24Mbit/s to 64,000 homes and businesses, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.
Over in Worcestershire, BT is splurging £8.9m - more than matching the county council's £8.5m investment - on faster broadband access in the area, and once again mostly feeding high-speed fibre to street-side cabinets (the rest of the connection is telephone wire). A further £3.35m will be lifted from the government's coffers.
BT said the extra money from the state and local authority will build on the company's "on-going commercial fibre rollout which will reach more than 176,000 premises across [Worcestershire] by the end of spring 2014".
The one-time national telco is the only company still bidding for any of the taxpayer-funded £530m Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) pot, set aside to subsidise the rollout of fast internet access to the countryside.
Fujitsu pulled out of the race for the money earlier this year after complaining of restrictive "conditions" around the process. The Japanese tech giant's exit fuelled anger among critics of BT, who claimed that the entire BDUK project was farcical because it blocked out rivals.
More recently, the government's spending watchdog separately warned that the process was running two years behind schedule, while at the same time failing to demonstrate good value for money for Britain's taxpayers.
BT has since been forced to defend the reasons behind what MPs characterised as climbdown from its promise to throw loads of its own money at the govt-subsidised project. The National Audit Office said BT was in fact likely to contribute £356m - far short of the "further £1bn" the telcoms giant had earmarked for investment.
The company claimed to have been misunderstood, however. Its policy wonk Sean Williams told Parliament's Public Accounts Committee last month that that ten-figure promise did not just refer to capital expenditure on the actual broadband network hardware, but also its own operational costs in the meantime.
BT is now saying it will sling about £700m, which includes capital investment and labour cost, at the BDUK project - which now aims to bring faster broadband speeds to around 95 per cent of Blighty by 2017. ®
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