I am told that BDUK engaged Pinsent Mason to write an umbrella state aid exemption for the entire UK. This is unlikely to be in place (assuming it is approved which is unlikely) before the Summer. Each county by county procurement must then seek individual state aid approval. No wonder several counties are said to be about to tell DCMS Ministers where they can put their funding.
Was that the objective? to be able to announce a programme but not have to spend the money. Hmmm.
Meanwhile the data regarding broadband cover is said to be being massaged down, by excluding fixed wireless services from Ofcom and BDUK analyses, as well as up, by showing land-line cover which is impossible with the equipment and lines currenlty installed.
Hence the problems faced by those trying to use evidence of market failure to justify state aid – as opposed to providing support to local authorities planning mainstream economic development programmes which can be put out to open tender locally. No wonder Local Authorities are thinking of going direct to Brussels to get a slice of the EU funding available for the latter.
I should also add that my sympathy for BT is increasing, having to be nice to BDUK while more profitable and sustainable business is postponed and, in some cases, lost for ever – because the business users who would have underpinned the investment case, with UK-based call centres and data hubs, have given up and gone overseas.