Peer excluded from government broadband meeting

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Peer excluded from government broadband meeting

Ian Grant

Lord Laird, who is investigating the use of public money to promote rural broadband, was yesterday denied entry to a government meeting to discuss the roll-out of broadband to remote areas of the country.

Desmond Hughes, who assists Lord Laird, was also denied entry despite attending as a replacement delegate for NextGenUs, one of the companies accepted into the meeting.

The event, at which at least 80 firms with an interest in delivering rural broadband were present, was held at the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) in Westminster.

Laird has been asking questions in the House of Lords about the activities of the Community Broadband Network (CBN), and its later incarnation, Inca. He said it was unheard of for a member of parliament or the House of Lords, to be denied entrance to a government building.

Laird told Computer Weekly he was investigating whether the government was getting value for the money it had given to the CBN.

"Why are the civil servants acting guilty if they have nothing to hide?" he asked. Laird said he "would leave no civil servant unturned" in his search for the truth.

Computer Weekly reported earlier that various departments had given CNB £140,500 , and that BIS had given Inca a contract for £150,000 at the end of last year.

The early money was spent mentoring and advising communities and local officials on how to set up broadband. The BIS grant was to set up Inca to promote the adoption of "broadband standards". According to the Inca website, it received the contract, which ran from July 2009 to 30 June 2010, just before Christmas 2009.

Malcolm Corbett, CEO of the CBN and now of Inca, was prominent during the debate on Digital Britain and subsequent run-up to the Digital Economy Act, arguing the case for broadband in rural areas.


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