Power and broadband for growth

Last week at a meeting of business people in the Thames Valley I was told that some businesses lack electrical power and broadband capacity. They need both to do their jobs.

The UK wishes to be at the cutting edge of the digital revolution. We need to earn our high incomes by world standards by staying competitive and developing the new services and technologies of the age of the internet. It is bad news that in the Thames Valley, the UK’s answer to California’s Silicon Valley, we are being let down by a simple lack of cable and fibre optics.

I will take up the issues of insufficient power cable and insufficient high quality fibre optics and switching, as I understand their importance. I just hope our utilities are listening to their customers, and will do somnthing to sort it out. I am already in dialogue with Ed Vaizey, the broadband Minister, who is keen to see more and faster broadband thoughout the UK.

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5 Comments

  1. Richard Peat
    Posted September 29, 2010 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    You don’t need to go very far from home to find some major broadband not-spots, with pretty well all of Finchampstead, aside from a lucky few towards the Inchcape garage hooked up to the telephone exchange in Eversley most have significantly slower broadband compared to those in Crowthorne and Arborfield. Indeed I know several frustrated people over in houses towards Waverley that can’t get broadband at all.

    It’s all very well BT investing in fibre, but they appear to be doing it in the markets that already have the uprated 20Meg broadband, whilst other areas still can’t get the minimal speeds at all.

  2. Nick Peters
    Posted September 29, 2010 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Here in rural Sussex, on a BT exchange that offers only 512k broadband, I am getting speeds of up to 17Mbps down and 10Mbps up via wireless. One sole entrepreneur is serving large areas of Sussex, the Solent and indeed parts of the Thames Valley at very reasonable rates. Quality and reliability better than anything BT used to give us. Business parks in remote areas (converted farm buildings) can access high-speed internet without waiting for cab'e/fibre optic. Mr Vaizey and I had a conversation about this but he and his department are wedded to the massively expensive laying of new cable. Yes, that's right in cities, but in the countryside, wireless is cheap to install, cheap to run, cheap and reliable to use. I repeat, one man, with one admin person and one freelance aerial installer is serving very large areas of countryside and towns like Crawley and Portsmouth. BIS must wake up to options that can accelerate business access to high-speed broadband and be sceptical about the vested interest that BT (thanks to the Carter Report) is inevitably trying to cash in on. I would be happy to brief you in more detail if you like.

  3. Alan Wheatley
    Posted September 29, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    I am delighted you have raised this. Where I live in Herefordshire the problem is sewerage and broadband. The local sewerage works can not cope at times, and this is making any development impossible: Welsh Water are minded not to do anything.

    As to BROADBAND, this is a nationwide problem. OFCOM have already established from studies that there is no commercial case for BT to roll out the next generation of broadband to a third of the country. Those of us who live in such places, such as the whole of Herefordshire, are left to our own devices.

    The government are showing no inclination to tackle this issue on anything like the scale it demands. Thames Valley are well off compared with many of the rest of us.

    If the BT/OFCOM duopoly can not hack it, then others should be given a chance. Local self-help deals with small scale enterprising businesses may be better than nothing, but they are not the answer for a problem that affects 20million people.

    There is no shortage of government words stressing the importance of Next Generation Broadband. Government is encouraging, and in some cases requiring, that communication be via the internet. But despite the fine words from Ed Vazey (who to his credit did come to Herefordshire to talk about broadband), actions on the scale needed are not even in sight.

    • Nick Peters
      Posted September 30, 2010 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      Alan, please look at <a href="http://www.kijoma.net” target=”_blank”>www.kijoma.net. Bill Lewis has set an amazing example of how free enterprise can provide the answer to this. His wireless service (not be confused with the poor MESH wireless options some have tried) is based on the same technology used very successfully in large rural areas of the USA and Australia. We seem to be in thrall to the idea that BT is the Alpha and Omega of this issue. It is not.

  4. mbmbrown
    Posted October 1, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Interesting discussion and an important issue for communities and small businesses across the UK. The problem goes further though, as you know John having contested the De Bill in the House of Commons (thanks). It is a growing and big cost to provide superfast broadband or to expand digital infrastructures. It is also highly likely that public money will be needed to reach out to the last third, those living in remote and rural areas, park that. Recently T-mobile teamed up with Orange to cover the costs of investing in new infrastucture in places like the Thames Valley, however… the DE Act is set to to hold up what providers like Everything Everywhere, Virgin, BT and Talk Talk can do for businesses everywhere. Why? Well these companies will be forced to redirect more money for collecting, storing and securing digital data as they are conscripted to do more policework on internet highways and byways (this is not to mention chasing file sharers and reporting to rights holders for copyright infringement reports, CIRs). It is likely that, money that could be spent on improving the reach, speed and efficiency of broadband will be diverted for managing traffic and storing data. This is content acting like King Canute. We could end up in the digital slow lane. A discussion waiting to happen: The Digital Economy All Party Parliamentary Group, <a href="http://www.deappg.co.uk” target=”_blank”>www.deappg.co.uk

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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