Watchdog attacks ‘monopolistic’ BT, criticises government for rural broadband failings

The government has failed to stop the exploitation of BT's monopoly over the rural broadband rollout, according to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and its chair, MP Margaret Hodge.

Using the £1.2 billion funding, BT is bullying consumers, Hodge told the BBC, adding that the telecoms firm is refusing to release "adequate information regarding the placement, coverage and speeds" of its new superfast broadband.

The PAC originally raised concerns in 2013 that more than half of the contracts awarded by the government for the rural rollout were given to BT. Out of the nine suppliers who originally bid for participation in the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme, only BT and Fujitsu are left.

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Hodge has called on the government to collect and publish data on the deployment costs of the BDUK programme and to ensure that there really is viable competition between companies. Otherwise, she warns, rural broadband companies will be squeezed out by BT's monopoly on speed and coverage.

"The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has allowed poor cost transparency and the lack of detailed plans to create conditions where alternative suppliers may be crowded out," she added.

A BT spokesperson, according to the Telegraph, called the criticism "inaccurate and unjustified.

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"It is frustrating that the committee continues to try and pick holes in the programme rather than recognise the wider value and benefits it is delivering," he added.

The government estimates that more than 300,000 UK homes can now access superfast speeds due to BDUK, and aims that the number of premises connected per week will increase to 40,000 by the end of summer.