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BT rivals drop out of Scottish broadband pilot

Cable & Wireless has left the broadband pilot for the Highlands and Islands region of Scotland, BT is now the only major company still in the bid process, leaving local politicians worried
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Cable & Wireless has pulled out of a pilot scheme to supply broadband to the Highlands and Islands region of Scotland.

Its departure, confirmed to ZDNet UK on Monday, comes after Fujitsu and Geo announced they would not submit bids.

"I am deeply concerned to learn that a second bidder, Cable & Wireless, has withdrawn its tender for the Highlands and Islands broadband pilot," Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said in a statement, according to reports. "This follows Fujitsu backing out last week due to the lack of public money being invested in the project."

Scotland was given £68.8m of the £530m Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) fund in August to help it provide 2Mbps broadband to all residents and businesses — a figure that the Scottish Parliament criticised for being too low.

The costs of rolling out next-generation broadband across the Highlands and Islands region alone were estimated to run to almost £300m, Alex Neil, the Scottish cabinet secretary for infrastructure and capital investment, said at the time.

Grant appealed to Westminster to release the remaining money for rural broadband — £167m — so that infrastructure could be built.

Fujitsu acknowledged that the potential costs of the project were high in a statement given to ZDNet UK. "After closely examining all the factors it is clear that the area would require additional investment for the required infrastructure needed to enable superfast broadband to operate," it said.

ZDNet UK understands that a company will be selected in the first half of next year. With Cable & Wireless, Fujitsu and Geo out of the running, that leaves BT as the last major company bidding on the scheme.

"We're still bidding," a BT spokesman told ZDNet UK. "Highlands and Islands is about as rural as you get. It's without a doubt one of the most challenging regions to supply because of the geography and the topology. We've got a long history of supplying the Highlands and Islands and working with the Highlands and Islands Enterprise."

Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which is leading the bid process in the region, could not be reached for comment.

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