BT snaps back at PAC after heavy rural superfast broadband attacks

BT has hit back at recent criticism aimed at it by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Ian Livingston, the chief executive of BT, has claimed the panel is more concerned with attracting publicity than doing its job properly.

Chair of the panel Margaret Hodge last week launched a strong attack against BT's rural superfast broadband scheme, accusing the telecommunications firm of holding the British public to ransom by demanding subsidies for the launch of the rural broadband services.

Following months of setbacks and controversies, The National Audit Office (NAO) announced it was time it investigated the broadband rollout. Apart from the fact that it is two years behind schedule, the NAO believes the bidding process lacked "transparency and competition," citing BT's complete dominance of the contracts.

Hodge in particular called for BT to explain why it was demanding government subsidies to connect a new housing complex in Barking.

"I could understand if it was in Cumbria, but this is in outer London," she said. "You're blackmailing the public by saying 'We'll only do it with a subsidy.'"

In response, Livingston said, "If you watch the public accounts committee meetings, they are clearly designed to attract publicity rather than get to the underlying truth."

The PAC brought the Google, Amazon and Starbucks tax avoidance scandals into the public eye last year, before calling for HM Revenue and Customs to punish Google, which Hodge branded devious, calculated and unethical.

"We have some of the cheapest available fibre in the western world ... it is going to many many rural areas and it is a big success story," Livingston continued. "Most government officials recognise it has been a great success."

Livingston is set to leave his current position at BT in September to become a government trade minister.

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