Sir Christopher Bland
Chairman, BT Group
81 Newgate Street
London EC1A 7AJ
8 August 2006
Hatherden Exchange Broadband
Thank you for your letter of 13th July. I’m glad to say things are now moving in a positive direction in that the original contract has been terminated by Hampshire County Council and all parties are now agreed to move as quickly as possible to ADSL-enable the exchange.
Hampshire County Council, Test Valley Borough Council and local residents at Hatherden, Tangley and Wildhern have asked me to take up with you one matter that appears to risk an unnecessary further delay. HCC’s standing orders now require that they negotiate a contract with the second (and only other bidder), namely BT. This approach is strongly supported by the residents’ working party and by TVBC. It is in the best interest of residents since it will secure ADSL at the exchange with the minimum further delay.
However, your people are telling HCC that they cannot respond on this basis; but that HCC must go through a new tendering process. HCC have so far not been able to secure a clear explanation of why this should be BT’s position. In your letter you did recommend a new tendering process, but I had assumed that was intended - very appropriately - to ensure that a new solution would be ADSL-based rather than risk the possibility of yet another run round the buoys with wireless, satellite etc. Perhaps BT staff have taken your recommendation too literally and are treating it as a direction?
There may be some other reason, perhaps to do with a concern that alternative suppliers might want to bid to put their own ADSL equipment into the exchange. However that really doesn’t arise, since such suppliers had an opportunity to bid for the contract but only VIB and BT were the only bidders, and the decision to go to the second bidder is simply the outcome of HCC’s standing orders, not a decision to exclude others. There can be no reflection on BT.
I’d be grateful if you could take a few moments to have someone check this through, hopefully with a view to clearing the way for an early contract between HCC and BT. An announcement along these lines will be very welcome to those connected to the Hatherden exchange, and BT would be able to announce that the last Hampshire exchange will be ADSL-enabled. If the County are forced to go through a further tender process, it will be regarded by all parties as an unnecessary delay, as well as incurring avoidable costs for the taxpayer as HCC, TVBC, the parish council and the local broadband working party will all need to agree the terms.