Cumbria County Council has finally accepted a bid from BT to rollout broadband across the region in a deal that is likely to exceed £70 million.
The county was selected by the government as a pilot to demonstrate to others how to procure superfast broadband almost two years ago, but has experienced a number of significant setbacks. Many other local authorities are now ahead of Cumbria in procuring superfast broadband.
Initial bids from BT and Fujitsu were rejected by councillors in June who claimed that neither submission fulfilled the requirements of the procurement process, which eventually resulted in Fujitsu pulling out of the second round of bidding altogether.
With BT as the only option remaining it is hardly surprising that a deal has been struck, but the council now says the revised submission is satisfactory.
"Being a national pilot means this has been a long, complex and challenging process but the time and resources invested means we are now in a position to make a well informed decision that will drive out maximum benefits for our county and ensure we provide the very best broadband services to Cumbria," said Stewart Young, Deputy Leader of Cumbria County Council and Cabinet member with responsibility for procurement.
When it was revealed that Fujitsu had pulled out of procurement, Computerworld UK spoke to a Cumbrian MP who slammed the ongoing debacle and said that giving all the council's funding to BT is 'nonsense'.
Cumbria has secured £17.1 million from the government agency Broadband Delivery UK and is awaiting confirmation on a further bid of £15.4 million from the European Regional Development Fund. BT will be investing £30 million.
Some 93 percent of the county will have access to superfast broadband by the end of 2015 and the council claims it will also deliver £2 million worth of public sector efficiency savings.
The UK government has said that it hopes to have the best broadband network in Europe by 2015, and has committed a minimum of £730 million up until 2015 to support the rollout. However, plans have experienced a number of setbacks, the latest of which saw the House of Lords Communications Committee slam the process as anti-competitive.
BT is the only supplier so far to have secured public sector funding from local authorities to rollout superfast broadband.