Full house for broadband in Manchester

Sixty delegates crammed into a room for 40 for the Conservative Technology Forum meeting on “Accessible broadband for all” at the party conference. Perhaps the high spot of the discussion was a speaker volunteering to deliver 2 megs inside two weeks and upgrading it to ten megs next spring, in response to a question from a Councillor representing a nonspot in the South East  

The discussion, chaired by Malcolm Harbour MEP picked up where that at the Labour and Libdem EURIM Dragons Den on the importance of broadand left off. Shadow Minister Adam Afriye outlined Conservative policy: to focus on removing the barriers to local initiative rather than mandating centralised approaches, while also supporting exercises to address social exclusion.

Speakers from Avanti and Alcatel-Lucent provided the technology meat, including pointing out the importance of some of the European funded R&D programmes, launched when Ian Taylor (also present) was the UK minister handling the negotiations. These had provided key technologies that helped nonspots to be addressed at a fraction of the costs being bandied about by those wishing to delay investment so that they can past investments. 

Whatever industry, central government departments and regulator might want by a way of tidy national initiatives and centralised, standardised big buck procurements, local broadband initiatives are set to play a major role in several dozen local election campaigns where electors are impatient for world-class access.

Tomorrow, at the EURIM Dragon’s Den, I expect to see further evidence of demand. I then hope to be able to ask some of the Conservative Dragons to join their peers in the other parties to assemble the questions they all want answered in briefing events and material involving those who wish to use the infrastructure to distribute content and employment opportunities as well as those wishing to supply the technology.

I then look forward to seeing how the candidates (and their parties) use the answers to score points over each other – and to seeing how succesful the winners are at turning the promises they make into reality.

That is when IT really does meet politics.