The recent joint Digital Policy Alliance and European Internet Foundation meeting with EU Vice President Neelie Kroes and others to launch the Digital Business First report on high speed Broadband for all of Britain helped give much needed perspective to current debate on the need to free up UK investment in world class fibre networks. It illustrated the problems faced by UK business, large and small, because of the failure to address their need for world class two-way connectivity. Examples were given of firms in the Thames Valley and Home Counties relocating or even abandoning job creating expansion plans if, as in the case of a country house hotel, they can neither relocate nor obtain fibre to the premises.
I took the message that broadband does not need more public funding. It needs better use of the spend already agreed (including for public service delivery) plus a robust attitude towards regulation to make it easier to invest in organising world-class, net neutral, local access to international inter-operability standards. That would also help draw in serious funding from players like MacQuarrie and the global pension funds and sovereign wealth investors whose portfolios they, and their competitors, manage.
However, rather than bitch about the failure of Ofcom, DCMS and BDUK, I would like to take this opportuity to complain about how the press fails to better publicise the opportunities given to us to make our views known.
An example is the Ofcom consultation on Mobile Quality of Service. As with so many consultations it has been drafted by those worthy of a Gold medal for “Boring for Britain”. I did not appreciate its importance until a questioner at the DPA event asked why “roaming” for a mobile broadband signal in not-spots was not available in the UK except for 999 calls.
I carry a Blackberry on the O2 network and a mobile phone on Vodafone so I could relate to the way in which the not spots on their services vary. I hope that will change soon with their plans for infrastructure sharing, but he drew my attention to the Ofcom Mobile Quality of Service Consultation, which I had not spotted amidst the technical “consultation dross” of interest only to suppliers. This is also an opportunity for Businesses, large and small to make inputs on the quality of service they need if we really are to reap the benefits from using mobiles to strip out the overhead costs of supporting front line workers.
That should, in turn, help those who are aiming to promote ubiquitous resilient broadband packages (mixing fixed and mobile), including for critical infrastucture applications like smart metering and telehealth. That will, in turn, help then make the business case for the pension funds and long term investors of the world to see investment in the UK’s converged communications infrastructures as a no-brainer.