BT has won the £40m super-fast broadband contract for Cumbria and is close to gaining approval for the Norfolk deployment as well.
The Cumbria win on Thursday came as little surprise, as BT was the only bidder. Fujitsu, which is reportedly on a Cabinet Office outsourcing blacklist following the NHS IT debacle, dropped its Cumbrian bid back in July due to worries over attracting ISP customers.
"I am delighted that today we have made a decision that will bring about such significant benefits for our county," councillor Elizabeth Mallinson, who is leading the Connecting Cumbria project, reportedly said when announcing the deal. "Securing a supplier of the calibre of BT will help ensure that the Connecting Cumbria programme delivers significant long term benefits for businesses, communities and the people of Cumbria."
£23m of the £40m comes from grants, including £17.1m from the government's Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) fund, and the council is waiting for confirmation of a further £15.4m from the EU. BT will also put in £30m of its own cash.
As for Norfolk, the county council there is also poised to award the Better Broadband for Norfolk deal to BT. It said on Thursday that councillors still had to formally approve the deal, but the cabinet had been recommended to give it the go-ahead.
The BDUK scheme aims for a 90 percent national coverage for super-fast broadband, but there is quite a marked disparity between the levels of coverage being promised to the two counties.
In Cumbria, 93 percent of homes and businesses should now have access to super-fast broadband — mostly up-to-80Mbps fibre-to-the-cabinet deployments — by the end of 2015. In Norfolk, the figure stands at only "more than 80 percent".
In June, Cumbria County Council rejected both BT and Fujitsu's bids for the broadband deal. With Fujitsu walking away, BT's revised bid was the only one left — it arrived on Thursday and was almost immediately approved.
According to the FT, Fujitsu is on a supplier blacklist for new public sector deals. That blacklist, which was mentioned to the newspaper by sources but not officially confirmed, is supposedly maintained by the Cabinet Office.
A DCMS spokesman told ZDNet UK on Friday that the BDUK frameworks — for which BT and Fujitsu are the approved suppliers — were "within the scope of [the government's] supplier performance policy, and any supplier identified as high risk will be scrutinised particularly carefully before the award of further work".
Responding to the FT piece, the Cabinet Office has said in a separate statement that it shares information about suppliers' poor performance across government. DCMS says it is up to local authorities to scrutinise the super-fast broadband contracts.