• BDUK and BT in front of the Public Accounts Committee, again

    On January 27th, BDUK and BT were answering questions from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee. Hot topics were Speed & coverage templates. As BT, and unfortunately BDUK who are naively supporting them, are preventing the release of the Speed & Coverage templates no local communities are able to plan alternatives where BT is deploying their cabinet upgrades to make the copper go faster.

    The ever diligent Rt Hon Margaret Hodge (Labour, Barking) was in the chair for this repeat of the performance in July 2013.

    HOC Public Accounts Committee - Rural Broadband, January 27th

    On the committee with Margaret, and asking questions, were:

    Mr Richard Bacon MP (RB) Conservative
    Amyas Morse (AM) Comptroller and Auditor General
    Meg Hillier MP (MH) Labour/Co-operative
    In the witness hot chairs were:

    Jon Zeff (JZ) - Director and Programme Senior Responsible Officer (BDUK)
    Sue Owen (SO) - Permanent Secretary
    Sean Williams (SW) - BT Group Plc, Director of Strategy

    The inquisition starts at 16:53 and 27 seconds through the recording. Here's a quick guide to the more interesting comments:

    16:54:06 MH asks SW - "Are you releasing the Speed & Coverage templates?". to which SW eventually says, "no". Clarity at last, possibly?

    16:56:00 MH reviews a letter from the LakeDistrict National Park Partnership ...
    BT has providedpostcode data
    BT will not allow afurther dissemination of data, claiming commercial sensitivity
    EuropeanCommission (state aid) recognised thatthere was NO COMMERCIAL MARKET in our rural areas. Why can BT claim that the S&C data iscommercially sensitive?

    17:16:22 - SW saysthat local interest groups (and Parish Councils) need to lobby the CountyCouncil if they want to attempt to influence the planning and roll out, as BT speak only to the County Council.

    17:20:53 SO -"I certainly think they could have the coverage maps now". She continues, "we are planning to writeto all local authorities". We'llsee!

    17:23:30 SO - Afterbeing asked by MH "why on Earth …" BDUK has not allowed LocalAuthorities to view their respective BT contracts, therefore permitting bettercost transparency, … she responds …"we in BDUK are able to see the costsin each Local Authority".

    17:23:55 RB asks"What's wrong with letting every Local Authority see everyoneelses?" The obvious question!

    17:24:03 RB, MH andSO all agree that there is a contractual restriction, forced by BT. Something SW goes to great lengths to avoidanswering clearly.

    17:25:00 RB asks"Why would you not want other eyes on it", referring to the contractsbetween BT and the Local Authorities. Towhich SO replies the Las are happy to let BDUK do it for them. Smacks of arrogance from BDUK thinking theyknow more about the local area of each LA, and of laziness from an LA whodoesn't want to execute at least a cursory validation of BDUK subsidised BTproject costs! Of course … this is whatBDUK is saying, which may or may not be correct.

    17:26:30 RB -"It does beg the question of why the costs were there in the first place,and because people weren't able to compare each others project managementcosts", after SO volunteers that BDUK may be able to reduce the BT projectmanagement costs by at least 33%.

    17:26:40 RB to SO -"You said just a moment ago that cost transparency is reallyimportant. Why don’t' you follow thatthrough?"

    17:27:56 AM -"Do you think there is some commercial harm that could befall BT byrevealing".

    17:35:26 RB to SO"If you had some economics students, and you ended up in a bid round forsomething, where at the end of the process there was only one bidder, whatwould you tell your students about the characteristics of what it was that thebidders were bidding for?" SOresolutely refuses to produce the "monopoly" word.