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Ed Vaizey has leapt to the defence of broadband provider BT, over its role in the ongoing rollout of fibre services in rural areas.

The telecoms operator has come in for fierce criticism from some quarters, having been named as the government's infrastructure partner for each of the local broadband programmes funded by Broadband Delivery UK.

Some have protested about BT's involvement, claiming that other operators had no chance of successfully winning contracts against the telecoms giant.

But speaking at a debate in London, the Digital Economy Minister disagreed with the view that BT has established a monopoly on rural fibre deployments.

He said the firm could easily have opted for the "quiet life" by not bidding for any contracts, and people should remember this when they are "busily kicking BT".

Mr Vaizey suggested BT was "free to bid or not to bid" for rural broadband infrastructure work, and make its own commercial case for each project.

"It is free to say to a contracting authority that it wants to use the framework contract to save time and make life more efficient, and that if the authority is going to use a different contract it will not bid," he stated.

"That is entirely up to BT and I do not think that is anti-competitive behaviour."

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