Maria Miller defends superfast broadband scheme

Maria Miller, the culture secretary, has defended the superfast broadband delivery scheme in the wake of reports that the National Audit Office (NAO) is set to criticise the programme, according to The NAO has reportedly claimed that the GBP 530 million scheme did not have a proper bidding process established which led to BT being the only firm to win any of the deals with local authorities.

Last year a leaked document reported claims that BT overcharged the taxpayer by hundreds of millions of pounds under the scheme. In response to these accusations, Maria Miller has urged critics to read the full report when it is available. She said:“The NAO has said that we have some of the best and most transparent processes for evaluating the work going on in this area.”

Miller has defended the scheme on the basis that: 26 local contracts have been signed, which represents around 70% of funding; the first broadband cabinets will be in place in the North by July 2014; around 10 million homes and businesses will have superfast broadband connections in place by the end of this parliament; average speeds rose by 69% over the last year; and the UK is in the ‘top three EU member states on coverage, take-up, usage and choice.’

Miller has conceded however that her department was “signing contracts for delivery in 2016, when her target is for delivery in 2015″.

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