Broadband UK moves to exclude Big Society community consortia

I am told that Broadband UK has issued a pre-qualification questionnaire for its procurement framework for rural access networks that contains all  the “usual” clauses that prevent organisations without a relevant trading record from bidding for public sector business in the UK. Meanwhile the framework is designed to exclude local authorities and businesses from participating in the co-ownership of networks that they can themselves use, including to provide PSN compliant access to public services. 

Am I wrong in believing the Framework, and perhaps even Broadband UK itself,  are unfit for purpose – if the purpose is, as Ministers have clearly stated, to use the funding available to help deliver that which market forces will not?

P.S. Still have not found the PQQ text on-line but Ian Grant’s blog now carries a critique 



Am I also wrong in believing they are incompatible with overall Government policy -if that is, as claimed by Minister, to be to pass authority from Quangoes to “Big Society” initiatives that reflect the ways local communities wish to organise themselves – not the way that Whitehall think they should..

I would particularly welcome comment from readers who have compared the PQQ (due to be published today but I cannot find a reference) and OJEU entry with policy as stated by Ministers and DCMS officials.

I fear that rural broadband will become another battleground in the rearguard action of Whitehall against Town Hall and we, as taxpayers and customers, will be the losers.

P.S. But perhaps the framework will be overtaken by events as:

1)  the civil engineering contractors, who account for 80% of the cost of new networks, start to bring their customers together under the aegis of Infrastructure UK in order to copy the savings being made across the rest of the world.

2) we also copy the rest of the world in going mobile, using the technologies that are now rolling out across Asia, Africa and the Middle East, courtesy of Huawei, Samsung, China Mobile, China Pay etc.

How long before we see also regulatory convergence to match that happening to Utility regulation in other parts of the EU?

I was helping the late Geoffrey Dodsworth MP with a policy study on Gas and Electricity privatisation in the late 1970s when I was invited to look at the liberalisation of communications and the privatisation of the relevant activities of the Post Office and of Cable & Wireless. The current regulatory structures and processes are very close to what we wanted to avoid  – and are having the consequences we feared – regulators trying to compensate for market failures that they had themselves created. 

Will a rationalisation of regulators, with charges cut and capped and objectives focussed on customer (including business customer) protection, help improve the situation – including enabling us to once again become globally competitive – or will it make it worse.