So another six weeks have gone by friends and I must admit I was hoping to have a lot more to tell you about my mission to publish the post code data on where the BDUK project will be rolling out superfast broadband.
Alas, this update continues in the previous ones’ negative tones as barriers continue to be placed between the citizens needing broadband and those set to provide it.
Since I last updated this blog, I have at least had several more responses from councils. Some came willingly but the majority were in answer to the reams of Freedom of Information requests I sent out after being ignored. In fact I wondered if I had anything to do with this – http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/requests-freedom-information-jump-year-2326926.
However, FOIs do not equal honest answers it seems. My major concern is over the number of local authorities refusing to give me post code data on their plans due to protecting the commercial interests of BT – something they are allowed to do under section 43 (2) of the FOI Act.
This number has now hit 13. That is just under a third of all the local authorities involved in the BDUK project putting the supposed needs of a corporate giant above those of local residents who just want to know when, and more importantly IF, they are going to get access to broadband, in some cases for the very first time.
I have checked again with BT and the DCMS about whether they are happy with the post code data being published – as was initially stated in the Public Accounts Committee hearing that spurred this whole investigation – and both have said they are still more than happy for councils to go ahead.
So why the hold up? There have been many theories thrown around with the people I have been talking to, both on the private and public sector side. Some claim the authorities are using it as an excuse as they haven’t got their acts together and put the data in an accessible format. Some blame BT and claim the bullying tactics it has been accused of are still going on behind closed doors. Others claim both sides are lying and just don’t want it to come back and bite them on the behind when they don’t stick to the plans they have signed multi-million pound contracts on.
I am still unsure which of these sides to put my bet on or indeed if there is another side in existence we have yet to think of to explain this ludicrous behaviour. But I am not one for giving up.
I am in discussions with some prominent politicians, campaigners and other such public figures to ensure these details don’t remain a state secret and we finally get to know who is for connectivity and who will have to wait.
I will keep who close to my chest for now but, as ever, if you have any extra information on the roll-outs and want to share it, either named or anonymously, email me at email@example.com or contact me over Twitter @NifS.
Oh, and by the way, there are still five councils who haven’t even signed contracts yet. Good job the coalition put back the deadline to 2017 hey?