Last week I said (in my post on the Chattanooga plans) that I thought Rory Stewart’s broadband conference would prove to have been a seminal event. We can now see the tectonic plates shifting with the semi-public emergence of BT’s plans to hoover up public budgets, at every level, to fund its transition to a proper Next Generation Network, capable of supporting fibre to the home (whether or not it is installed by Openreach) and the other players having to decide their game. Ian Grant’s article “Fibre pioneers run into problems” is an excellent introduction to the problems that have to be addressed to short order by BIS, DCMS and Ofcom if they are to be part of the solution rather than the problem. Meanwhile the Commission has put Ofcom on notice to pull its finger out on Spectrum
Whatever happens to the rest of country. I think we can be reasonably confident that Rory’s Reivers (the Reivers wore “Steel Bonnets” when they went to war) will end up with one of the best rural broadband services in the world, probably mixing a variety of infrastructures from a variety of players. I am also waiting to see if they can assemble the evidence and backing to use a local Rating Valuation challenge, based on actual costs, to subvert the tone list negotiated by the big players in order to prevent their business models from being undermined by those who can install “the last mile” at a tenth of their cost. If so, the rest of rural Britain can be grateful to what used to be called the finest light cavalry of their time – even if it was never clear who side they were on.
Howver, as they have found out in Cumbria, the last mile is not enough.
Our crumbling communications infrastructures (more bottlenecks than a brewery) are clogged with bloatware (more metadata than content in most Internet transitions). The campaign launched by the Country Landowners at Penrith to ensure that government on-line services, especially those of DEFRA supposedly designed for use by farmers, are lean, mean and capable of being reliably accessed over the connections currently available appears to be gaining support. Last year in my blog entitled “The case for e-Government values your time at zero“, I quoted the ViIlage Halls advisor who is unable to transact on-line (time outs) and batches her transactions for when she can visit the City.
P.S. Those who employed the Steel Bonnets as mercenaries were never entirely sure whose side they were on. However, when the battle was over they were nearly always on the “winning” side. More-over many of the valuables from the baggage trains of both sides would be missing.