Government body Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is excluding small innovative companies from its broadband rollout efforts and is backtracking on its minimum speed promise, according to lobby group Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA).
The criticism from INCA came in response to BDUK's £2bn framework for broadband delivery that was outlined in a tender release earlier this week.
"INCA is concerned that the framework will exclude smaller, innovative suppliers and doesn't match our members' ambitions for delivering a truly next generation broadband UK," INCA said in a statement.
The framework will see between three and 12 suppliers delivering broadband capabilities to local communities up until 2015.
INCA describes the tender document as "odd", and even though the tender mentions wanting to include SMEs and small business, it argues that the financial criteria for winning the contract "clearly excludes all but a handful of large players".
The European broadband targets for 2020 aim to see 50 per cent of the population receive speeds of 100 Mbit/s, and the other 50 per cent speeds of over 30Mbit/s.
INCA believes that the BDUK framework is setting up the UK to fall well short of these targets.
"The document also appears to redefine ‘superfast' broadband as anything from 15Mbit/s to 50Mbit/s. So we could find up to £830m of public funding spent on networks that deliver half the speeds of European competitors," said the statement.
"Previously, government officials have said that superfast means anything over 24Mbit/s – meaning there must be at least some fibre, or high-speed wireless, in the access network. BDUK seems to be stepping back from that ambition".
INCA goes on to say that it is "underwhelmed" by the proposal, and it is working on alternative approaches to delivering a next generation broadband infrastructure that will be discussed at a seminar this month.
The government pledged £530m last November to ensure that 90 per cent of households in each local authority could access super-fast broadband as part of its Comprehensive Spending Review.
The first wave of the government's funding was agreed in October 2010 for four UK-based pilot projects – in North Yorkshire, Herefordshire, Cumbria and the Highlands – to establish a model for broadband provision in rural areas. Each project was allocated between £5m and £10m.
Further projects in Devon and Somerset, Wiltshire and Norfolk were unveiled in May 2011.