THE scheme to roll out superfast broadband across Somerset has become the region’s longest-running joke, MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has declared.

But, he said, it was far from a laughing matter for hundreds of farmers and other rural businessmen still struggling with substandard connectivity.

Mr Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, was speaking after it emerged yet another contract linked to the project had been cancelled.

This time it was that awarded to Truespeed Internet - one of three companies appointed to install infrastructure after their predecessor Gigaclear had failed to deliver on time.

In December 2020 Truespeed won the contract to handle the outstanding connections in North Somerset, Bath and North East Somerset, Mendip and parts of Sedgemoor.

But it, too, has now had its contract terminated for “failing to make commitments”.

The roll-out is supposedly being overseen by Connecting Devon and Somerset, a local authority-led consortium.

But Mr Liddell-Grainger said CDS had failed lamentably to deliver on any of its promised targets.

“CDS has come to stand for Conning Devon and Somerset: it is a complete shambles of an organisation with an unparalleled record for backing losers while repeatedly shooting itself in both feet,” he said.

“This has to be the longest-running joke in the region: a decade of wildly optimistic forecasts and unfulfilled promises. A shabby little saga of incompetent management which would be amusing if there weren’t a serious side to it all.

“That being that while the rest of the country has moved on scores and scores of rural businesses in the two counties are still struggling with clunking broadband acting as a brake on their daily activities and ultimately their profitability.

“It’s a particular nightmare for farmers because so much of their paperwork, particularly when dealing with Government agencies, has gone over to online only: fine if your connection is working at the right speed but utterly frustrating and irritating if you live in an area where it’s quicker to correspond by postcard or carrier pigeon.

“Doubtless CDS will be telling people that it has cured the problem, moved on and is confident of completing the link-up of the two counties in the near future.

“No-one, sadly, shares its optimism.”