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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Race for superfast broadband goes on

A DECISION on awarding the contract to supply Cumbria with superfast broadband has been delayed until June.

It was way back in October 2010 that the government first announced that Cumbria had been picked as one of four pilot areas eligible for a multi-million pound subsidy to bring superfast broadband to rural areas.

Initially, it had been thought work on the project would begin in summer 2011, but it has been hit by repeated delays, as it has in the other pilot areas.

The county council has been tasked with running the project and awarding the contract and is keen to take some credit for improvement’s in broadband provision within Cumbria’s main towns.

A spokesman said: “Part of the county’s strategy has been to try attract private sector investment, particularly into the urban parts of Cumbria.

“This strategy has been successful and so far we have been able to attract and secure private sector investment into superfast broadband facilities for Penrith, Carlisle, Kendal and, very recently, Barrow and Workington.”

These have all been investments by BT which, along with Fujitsu, is bidding for the subsidy to roll-out superfast broadband across to every home in Cumbria.

The county council says these developments have impacted on the procurement process, creating a “constantly changing environment as the new investment announcements have been made”.

The spokesman added: “With this in mind, some additional time has been agreed with the two final bidders so that they are able to refine and complete their final tenders – making sure that they take account of these recent announcements.

“This means that the contract award decision will now be taken to the county council’s cabinet in June 2012. The most important issue for Cumbria is to make sure we take the time that is needed to get the best final tenders in from the two final bidders – BT and Fujitsu – for the long-term interests for the county.”

BT declined to comment on the delays to the Cumbria broadband project, but a spokesman for Fujitsu told in-Cumbria that it was still negotiating with the government’s broadband delivery agency, BDUK.

“We are still in the negotiating process. Our preferred route forward is to take fibre to the home, but the funding allocated is not able to cover that so we are in discussion with BDUK,” he said.

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