‘Tough-talking Dave…’ was flavour of the month again; courtesy of a ‘a spectacular and historic diplomatic triumph’, roared the Daily Express. The Mail wasn’t too far behind. ‘Huge credit must go to David Cameron…’ read its leader piece.
‘The new spending limit will be £768 billion, a real terms cut of £29 billion on the previous budget and £68 billion lower than the figure proposed by the European Commission…’
The British people can be proud. Can’t we just? Well done, Dave.
For there goes £7 billion worth of EU funding for broadband infrastructure projects; little wonder that the Vice-President of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes, could be found lamenting the fact that minus such sums, it will be down to national governments and ‘the market’ to deliver a solution. Europe wouldn’t be in a position to help.
‘Such a smaller sum does not leave room for investing in broadband networks…’ she noted in her blog. Her bold, not mine.
Minus that EU cash, the delivery of next generation broadband into huge swathes of rural England will now be left to the likes of BDUK, Norfolk County Council and, of course, BT. Who saw nothing to worry about in all this – despite both The Guardian and The Telegraph twigging to the fact that Dave’s ‘historic’ diplomatic triumph might have f*cked anyone whose engagement with the global, digital economy will continue to hang by a copper wire for the forseeable.
As it will for communities in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and beyond.
‘Charles Trotman, of the Country Land and Business Association: “This would mean it’s up to member states or the private sector to put up the funding,” he said. “It’s highly unlikely that certain member states would be able to. Just a billion euros isn’t going to be enough.”
The man from BT shrugged it off. ‘“BT had no plans to make use of CEF and its reduction (from €9bn to €1bn) should have no impact on existing or planned funded projects, such as Cornwall, Northern Ireland or the BDUK process…’ their man told The Guardian.
Likewise, the man from DCMS – those charged with delivering the whole BDUK project – was in an equally ‘Whatever…’ frame of mind. ‘The UK does not support unaffordable increases in spending. The commission had interesting proposals for the €9.2bn CEF but the government has not developed any future broadband plans on the assumption that it would go ahead,’ was the quote in The Telegraph.
BT always make me laugh. We are a global broadband leader, apparently.
The photo caption on The Telegraph piece is a classic of a certain genre: ‘BT said more than 13m premises can access its high-speed fibre optic broadband and it was passing around 100,000 additional premises every week as it rolled out the network.
‘Can access’… as opposed to being on.
It was ‘passing around 100,000 additional premises every week…’ who likewise aren’t actually on… 100,000 premises whose ability to engage with the global digital economy continues to hang by a copper thread. My son included. He was 13 today. He – like millions of others – will be one of those whose premises will be ‘passed around’ by a BT fibre. One that will never actually knock on the door of his house.
At some stage in the none-too-distant future, a broadband ‘pipe’ will arrive in Loddon. We – with a little help from our good friends at NESTA – have persuaded the Bishop of Norwich to re-route his WiSpire roll-out into the Chet Valley and onto the top of Holy Trinity Church.
I suspect – and I would, clearly, hesitate to put words into his mouth – that the Bishop doesn’t have huge amounts of faith in BT that they will deliver the kind of connectivity his rural flock needs to engage in this digital revolution of ours. So, from on high, he’s doing it himself.
Bear in mind that the Rt Revd Graham James sits on the House of Lords Communications Committee; his interests are Culture & Heritage and Media & Communication…. He also sat on last year’s House of Lords committee investigating the whole BT/BDUK broadband roll-out.
The very title of their first report suggested something of a ‘non-conformist’ attitude. ‘Broadband for all – an alternative vision..’
Indeed, you can even find him speaking on the future of investigative journalism in the UK; he notes (12.55pm)… ‘we also need partiality and passion as well as balance to ensure that those exercising power and authority are called to account. If in due course council decisions are reported only through the newspapers and magazines published by councils themselves, it is hard not to think that the consequences will be far from happy…
The affairs of Loddon Parish Council will, hopefully, now be reported as we look to sustain a 21st Century Village Correspondent off his church tower… and the local advertising that can utilise that age-old ‘hub’ of village life.
He is even more interesting in his contribution to the Lords’ debate on Leveson; steering the conversation back to local… and the role that local newspapers have in binding communities together; even if their precise future as the stainer of trees continues to perplex him.
‘Safeguarding what Leveson describes as the unparalleled value of local and regional newspapers is, I believe, just as important as the establishment of a just and fair system of regulation…
The point being that our Ben, on a platform that we will look to commercially sustain off his church tower, is addressing the very ‘democracy deficit’ the Bishop fears at local council level by attending Loddon Parish Council meeting tomorrow night.
Boil #21VC down further and, in essence, we’re bringing the Bishop’s network of parish magazines ‘online’, advertising included; making them fit for 21st Century purpose; equally making them fit the Eric Schmidt model of being mobile, social… and local. With a dollop of local video thrown in; after all, we’re all broadcasters now.
One final point. The loss of that EU funding makes us ever more reliant on Government and the major incumbent delivering on their promises. Me? I’d far rather place my son’s digital future in the hands of the good Bishop and hope, rural connection-wise, the answer does indeed come from on high and not at the end of a copper wire.
Remember, #1000flowers is on March 5… All welcome.