Maria Miller has written to local councils telling them to publish their plans for broadband roll-out “as soon as possible.”
The lack of detail of areas where the BDUK project – which plans to provide superfast connections to 95% of premises in the UK by 2017 – will deploy fibre has caused controversy in recent weeks.
BT is the only ISP with permission to take on the larger scale installations, with smaller local providers expected to fill in the gaps left by the scheme. However, the other firms have complained that without details of where BT’s footprint will be, they are unable to start work on their own projects.
BDUK, BT and local authorities had been cagey about the plans, with some close to the situation claiming the telecoms giant did not want the details to be published due to commercial reasons.
However, in a meeting with the public accounts select committee two weeks ago, Sean Williams, group director of strategy, policy and portfolio at BT, admitted all the areas had been confirmed, a copy was held by BDUK and each council and his firm had no issue with the plans being made public, although “it [would] be matter for local authorities to decide.”
Now, Maria Miller, the minister for culture, media and sport has stepped in and written to local councils telling them to publish the information as quickly as they can.
In the letter sent out last week, Miller wrote: “BT has confirmed to me that it is willing for information on the outline plan for the subsidised footprint to be published, and is happy to support local governments to decide on the right way to do this.”
She said she understood the details they had right now would be subject to change during the survey and design process, but still felt what local authorities had now should be made public.
“Provided these limitations are made clear, my strong preference is for this information to be made available,” added Miller.
“I would strongly encourage those of you who have already signed contracts to arrange for the proposed coverage from your project to be published as soon as possible, and for those of you yet to sign contracts to incorporate it into your initial mobilisation activities.”