Local authorities could pay double that of central government to fund the broadband roll-out across the UK.
The European Commission gave the green light to the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme, which will see a £530m pot of central government money split between counties for the installation of broadband infrastruture.
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However, the estimated figure the government told the EC would be spent by the state was £1.5bn, meaning almost £1bn could fall at the doors of local authorities, despite a spokesman from the department for culture, media and sport (DCMS) confirming they had only been expected to “match government funding.”
The spokesman tried to play down the numbers, saying: “You shouldn’t pay too much attention to that figure as it might not be that much. We had to give a figure to the EC for the purpose of the investigation.”
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The EC, however, said it trusted the figure it published as it was provided by the UK government.
The DCMS also confirmed an aim of getting 50% of the funding from the private sector, which means those companies bidding to provide infrastructure might need to make up a further £1.5bn of funding.
Earlier this month, Liv Garfield, CEO of BT Openreach, confirmed one of the stipulations of joining the BDUK programme was having “a certain level of contributed funding” and said many of its competitors dropped out in the early stages of the scheme as “they hadn’t got the cash to put on the table.”
This left BT as the sole contender in many areas of the country, which led to the EC investigation in the first place on competition grounds.
Garfield defended BT’s dominance, adding: “These are just bids and it is a complete matter of choice – choice for every buyer.”