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Monday, 24 November 2014

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Cumbria superfast broadband project delayed again

The project to roll-out superfast broadband across Cumbria was today hit by another delay when county councillors deferred a decision to award a £40 million contract to either BT or Fujitsu.

The council’s cabinet had been due to pick one of the two telecommunications giants, but decided that the tenders submitted would not have been capable of realising their ambition to have 90 per cent of Cumbrian homes and businesses with broadband speeds of 25Mbps by 2015.

It is now 20 months since the Government first announced that it was giving a multi-million subsidy to Cumbria and three other pilot areas to provide superfast broadband.

Up to £40m is available in subsidies for the winning company to ensure that superfast broadband reaches every part of Cumbria.

The project has been hit by a number of delays but now BT and Fujitsu have been effectively sent back to the drawing board to up their offer and come back with a better solution.

Negotiations with the two final bidders will be re-opened and the council wants to consider an improved offer when it meets in September.

Councillors discussed the project in a private session today and voted to approve a recommendation from officers to reject the bids.

A statement from the council said: “The council will invite both suppliers to engage in an intense process of formal negotiation that will focus on securing a final contract for the delivery of superfast broadband in Cumbria that fully meets the needs and aspirations of the Connecting Cumbria programme.”

Commenting on the decision, Coun Elizabeth Mallinson, Cabinet member with lead for the Connecting Cumbria project said: “Today was an extremely difficult decision for cabinet but we are confident it is the right thing to do.

“Although we have not identified a preferred supplier at this stage we have made significant progress in terms of our overall broadband strategy for Cumbria, both in this procurement process and in attracting public and private funding to help deliver superfast broadband across rural and urban Cumbria.”

Fujitsu declined to comment on the council's decision but BT issued a statement saying: “We will continue to work with the council as we are keen to win what is a highly contested tender.”

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