Brussels blamed for British broadband delay

UK Culture Secretary Maria Miller has hit out at Brussels bureaucracy for stuffing up British plans to have the best broadband in Europe.

Part of the problem has been the time that it has taken the European Commission to decide if the £530 million of public money used for the product was unfair state aid.

According to the Daily Telegraph, sources close to Miller said that it took an “urgent and fairly blunt” meeting with the EC competition commissioner, Joaquín Almunia to finally get the go ahead.

She moaned that the EC did not seem to have a sense of urgency about tackling the issue.

In the end it took talking to the commissioner directly. Miller admitted that it was not exactly banging heads together, but it did require saying things like “enough is enough”.

The Commission did not really understand British plans for 45 locally administered projects.

Remote areas of counties from Cumbria to Surrey will finally get connected to the web at speeds of at least 20Mbps, and 90 percent of the UK will get such “superfast” internet access. The remaining 10 percent will get just 2Mbps, with extra money going to sort out so-called not-spots in areas that are often surprisingly urban.

Wwhile the story of a British politician dealing with Brussels’s bureaucracy is attractive, there are some good reasons why Europe should be concerned about the way the plan is playing out.

Firstly, though the whole system is theoretically competitive, most councils have received only a bid from BT for the contract. Rivals have said that the size of BT’s existing networks makes it impossible to compete. Indeed there was a school of thought which said that rather than going through the expensive tendering process it would have been better for the government to come clean and offer a national project to BT with tight controls.