Wednesday 10th July saw the first public meeting of the Access to Broadband Campaign, which aims to represent consumers in their struggle to obtain affordable broadband access across the whole of the UK. They held a 'Rural and Regional Broadband Conference' on Wednesday where over 150 delegates attended, including people desperate for broadband through to people from IBM. We attended the meeting and found it very useful, with a very healthy mix of reality entering much of the discussion. ABC hope that in the coming months to be able to act as an independent source of knowledge for people looking to get broadband in their area.
One key factor from the conference is that if you want broadband and its not in your area already, you will have to do something about it. The revolution that is needed to get companies to bring broadband to the vast expanses of the UK not currently covered, must come from the grass roots. It needs people in their local communities to talk and discuss what is best for their area and look at what other areas of the country are doing.
Yesterdays news from BT Wholesale of more triggers was great for some people, but it cannot hide the fact that there are around 3000 BT exchanges that have no trigger level which serve around 3 million phone lines, and have very little hope of ADSL in the next 12 months. Though it must be remembered ADSL is not broadband, it is just one of the various technologies broadband can be delivered over. Many local communities are looking at wireless systems, which are relatively cheap to get going, and by connecting a village together it is possible to stimulate the local economy and actually bring much needed jobs back to an area. Examples of areas where this is happening are 1stBroadband.com down in Cornwall, EdenFaster with its DigitalDales project, Buckfastleigh in Devon, and the Cambridge Ring. No one pretends that the community approach is easy, but it is possible, and companies are starting to help.
The government via the RDAs can help, and it is hoped that in the next few months, online toolkits will appear to help guide people around the various pitfalls. One key factor to getting help from the RDAs is to demonstrate that by bringing broadband to an area it will have some economic benefit.
The choice many parts of the UK face is stark, wait for companies to come to you with broadband, or if you want broadband in this decade, then go out there, bang on various companies doors, present the evidence of demand for broadband in your area. If you dont do it then the chances are no-one else in your area will.
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