Over 30 MPs contribute to debate on Broadband: the pressure for change is clear.

I strongly recommend reading the contributions made during the debate on Superfast Broadband on Wednesday 24th June. 26 MP were named as down to speak. I have counted contributions from over 30, including all of those to whom I sent links to my previous posting.

I will not try to summarise all the points made but three main themes seem to emerge:

1) Overall BT is delivering more and faster than contracted but local performance varies and appears proportional to the determination of the local Council to get value from its contribution. Those which not only publicise who is to be served and publicly monitor and report performance, but help promote take-up as soon as areas go live, get much better service. Actively promoting take-up delivers a win:win.BT commonly increases its investment as revenues begin to come in – and is also liable to give a pay back that the Council can use for those hardest to reach.

2) The approach of encouraging BT to extend its legacy 21CN network, beginning with those who are easiest to serve, has deepened geographic and social divides, making it harder to serve “not spots”, including those area which are “descoped” when they prove harder to serve than expected. The next phase of funding should copy the Gloucester approach where the council has listed the properties to be served and Gigaclear consequently won the contract in a head to head competition with BT.    

3) It is impractical and immoral for Government to penalise taxpayers and benefits claimants for not submitting returns and claims on-line when they do not have reliable access, either at home or via a local community centre or library, particularly during the evenings or at week-ends when most small firms and self-employed do their paperwork.

I spent yesterday at the Digital Leaders conference, addressed by Ed Vaizey and Matt Hancock. I spent part of the time with some of those organising services for residents of social housing. The problems faced by those they are seeking to help, because of the lack of affordable and reliable access to services that are fit to use, was a major issue. The personal benefits to be gained and public sector savings to be made from providing fibre to the home (or the “7 – 11 library or community centre supported drop in centre”) are obvious.

There was a common call, among the “Digital leaders” for a responsible Minister in the Cabinet. I thought back to when Kenneth Baker became Minister for IT (I was the dissenting voice in the policy troika referred to by Adrian Norman in the blog to which this links). Government policy for its own use of IT became fragmented as the departmental silos fought back. CCTA (which had co-ordinated policy) was emasculated – with teh results we have seen since. I was not around myself when Alexander Pope wrote “For forms of government let fools contest …”. (or for John Adams counter-attack) but subsequent history shows that John Adams was an optimist.

I think we are more likely to get progress if the 30 of so MPs who spoke in the debate on Wednesday form into hunting packs and demand quarterly progress reviews, via joined up Select Committee Enquiries and coerce the Silos of State into taking seriously the need for  co-operation across departmental boundaries – perhaps even organising shared training programmes to provide Civil Servants with the skills to plan, organise and monitor the delivery of joined-up policies and services that are fit for purpose.  
 

Join the conversation

2 comments

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

I think the shared training programmes also need to include basic physics lessons, because FTTC is such a dead end technology, and as long as councils keep handing BT the money they will keep using it to patch up their old phone lines. The politicians, civil servants and councillors have been hyped by the snake oil salesman, and yes, I know nobody got fired for buying IBM but there comes a time when we have to bite the bullet and modernise the infrastructure properly. We need these people to understand, and currently it is very clear that they do not. We are increasing the digital divide and making it harder to reach everyone economically with funding wasted making a few go a bit faster. The countries who are moving into real fibre networks are the ones who will lead the digital revolution. We are going to be left in the copper digital ditchwater. We should stop asking how much it costs. We should ask what it is going to cost not to do it. Bring on the fibre. Moral and Optic. And while we're at it lets find ourselves a decent regulator and ASA.

Cancel
P.S Congratulations on your MBE. Very well deserved.

Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

SearchCIO

SearchSecurity

SearchNetworking

SearchDataCenter

SearchDataManagement

Close