Prime minister David Cameron defends progress of BDUK roll-out

Prime minister David Cameron claims the BDUK broadband roll-out to rural areas is working, deeming criticism 'unfair’

Prime minister David Cameron has claimed the government’s BDUK project to roll out superfast broadband to rural areas is working and deemed criticism of the scheme "slightly unfair".

Speaking to the liaison committee of select committee chairs, Cameron dismissed disparaging comments about BDUK and said significant progress was being made on the BDUK project.

"As we speak today, the rural broadband programme is reaching 10,000 extra premises a week," he said.

Cameron said it was possible government would revisit the decision to only award contracts to BT. The only other accredited provider, Fujitsu, dropped out of the bidding process, claiming BT had already been earmarked for all 44 contracts.

"If we get stuck, we should be prepared to look at all possibilities of course," said Cameron.

Anne McIntosh, MP for North Yorkshire and chair of the environment committee, criticised the decision to put the BDUK project into the hands of civil servants. McIntosh pointed out every farmer now needed internet access to apply for grants.

Cameron replied: "If you stand back and look at it, three years into government, when we came to power, there was virtually nothing going on with rural broadband. 

"We now have a realistic programme to reach 95% of premises by 2017 and looking at 99% by 2018."

Other concerns around the BDUK broadband roll-out were raised during this week’s Liberal Democrat party conference.

Man with a stick

David Heath, Liberal Democrat MP and minister for environment, food and rural affairs, spoke about the issue at a fringe event, saying: “A man with a stick would be quicker at delivering a message than my so-called broadband.

"We have a serious problem if we blithely talk about 90% coverage. That sounds great, except actually we live in the 10%, the rural parts of the country. We can't afford that."

His comments were backed by the Country Land and Business Association, whose president, Harry Cotterell said the situation for those in rural communities was worse than Heath had described it.

"David Heath's description of slow broadband speeds in rural areas is far too generous. We believe his 'man with a stick' must also be confused and lost.”

"We are pleased Defra is taking this issue seriously, but there still seems to be difficulty getting the message across to officials and ministers at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

"Rural businesses and communities will simply be unable to compete economically if they continue to be dependent on exasperating slow broadband speeds."

It remains unclear where some of the broadband roll-out will fall. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport and BT has said each local council that has signed a contract has a list of postcode data detailing the areas affected, but many local authorities are refusing to share the details.

See where the BDUK project is rolling broadband out across the UK here.

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