THREE councillors representing rural wards on the Isle of Wight Council have slammed cabinet members for delaying a decision to appoint BT as supplier of rural broadband and say government funding could be lost.
Conservative Councillors Dave Stewart, Stuart Hutchinson and Bob Seely say they fear the scheme to provide 20,000 rural homes and businesses with broadband will fail if the £3.09 million grant is lost as the council cannot make it up.
The councillors wrote to tourism and economy cabinet member, Cllr Shirley Smart, asking for assurance the cabinet’s concerns over the multi-million-pound scheme be laid to rest before the next cabinet meeting on September 10.
Cllr Stuart Hutchinson said: "Rural areas are already disadvantaged as access to council services is limited, one of my areas doesn’t even have a bus service. Fast broadband will, to some extent, help to maintain connections."
He added: "The councillors talk of internet speeds but once BT put the infrastructure in, you can get your service from anyone you like.
"The cabinet should do their homework rather than ask for information at the meeting."
Cllr Bob Seely said: "Fast broadband is not an option, it’s an essential for farms, bed and breakfasts, business and residents in rural parts of the Island. We need action, not indecision."
The councillors also invited the cabinet to the scrutiny meeting to give them a chance to express their concerns.
A spokesperson from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said: "The Isle of Wight and government initiative, Broadband Delivery UK, planned to sign the contract in September and we hope a contract will be awarded as planned.
"There is no intention to stop funding for any rural broadband programme in the middle of procurement. However, any significant delay would require a funding review to ensure the project was still on target."