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Labour suggests switching city funding to digital inclusion scheme
Monday 13 May 2013 14:18:16 by Andrew Ferguson

Making grand statements when implementation is some years away, or a good chance you will never have to follow through are not uncommon in the broadband arena. The House of Lords published a report critical of the Governments schemes, but while they provided suggestions of the right way to do things, there was no detail on how to implement their plan. Perhaps something similar is happening with the Building One Digital Nation plans that Helen Goodman MP has been talking about.

"A Labour Government would switch half the money - £75 million - from the super-connected cities programme to a digital inclusion programme. On the basis of the experience in the previous Parliament, when we found that it cost about £30 million to get 1 million people online, that could help some 2 million people get online. It would be much better to use the money productively. It would have a much bigger impact than some of the infrastructure that the Government have been prioritising. There is no point in putting money to one side because of a legal challenge and not using it at all. It would be far better to help some of those people to get online."

Helen Goodman MP - blogging on Huffington Post

Helen Goodman MP is the Shadow Minister of State for Culture, Media and Sport and thus should be someone who speaks with authority on the current oppositions broadband plans. Transferring £75m from the super-connected cities funding in 2015 and using this to fund a digital inclusion scheme for some 2 million people sounds a noble cause but as yet the detail of the plan is so sparse that we do not know if this is just a training scheme to help people learn how to use email, or investment in actual connections.

In this game of politics we should not forget that while the BDUK funds run out in 2015, some local authority projects do have plans going beyond that deadline, through a mixture of delays from EU State Aid Approval to a genuine desire to continue the project to get decent broadband coverage to as close as 100% as possible with the money currently available.

The question now is what will be happening to the £300m that has been earmarked for spending on broadband between 2015 and 2017?


Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
If it cost £30m to get 1m online it might cost £60m for the next 1m as you move into the more resistant / less educated / less able / harder up groups.
Posted by zhango over 3 years ago
I guess the details of the plan will be to spend the £75m in areas of marginal seats. Any announcements by the opposition party must increase their chance of being elected rather than being in the best interest of the UK.
Posted by Kushan over 3 years ago
@herdwick I'm fairly sure they'll just use satellite to get those people online, so the cost should be largely the same no matter where they're located.
Posted by galacticz00 over 3 years ago
The government should bite the bullet and commit to providing firstly fibre to every exchange in the UK then we have an infrastructure worth investing in.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
@galactiz00 Out of the 5,500 exchanges I suspect only 10 to 20 of these don't have fibre connectivity of one sort or another already.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
Satellite can't cope with that many users.
Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
Digital inclusion is more about skills, attitudes and economics than about providing connections.

Places like Glasgow have relatively low takeup but no shortage of services.
Posted by zhango over 3 years ago
@Andrew: You say only 10-20 exchanges don't have fibre but when I look at website I count 16 exchanges around Peterborough(where I live) showing as 'not currently in rollout plans'
Have I misunderstood something please?
Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
Yes - practically all the exchanges are connected by fibre optics to the BT network. Fibre leased lines are available everywhere.

The sort of inclusion this is about is not whether you can order superfast broadband, it's this -
Posted by zhango over 3 years ago
@herdwick: I watched the video - a staggering 16m people in UK don't have basic online skills!
You are saying that Andrew's comment about fibre connectivity was fibre 'to' the exchange - I was thinking of FTTC.
Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
I believe so, as galacticz00 said "firstly fibre to every exchange" and Andrew responded.
Posted by zhango over 3 years ago
Ok thanks - understood now.
Posted by gah789 over 3 years ago
Is there any way of finding out what exchanges have or don't have fibre connections? I am sceptical about the claim that only 10-20 don't have this. I may unduly influenced by the fact that I am connected to an Exchange Activate exchange which has no fibre. There are at least 30 EA exchanges in Scotland plus another 20 odd exchanges with no broadband at all.

With fibre connections it is, in principle, much less expensive to roll out 21CN & WBC to rural exchanges with no more than ADSL Max at the moment.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
gah789 So how do you know the exchange has no fibre?

Most exchanges (dare I say all) offering ADSL Max have fibre for the data backhaul already, but it is the much older ATM based network.

BT has used fibre for decades in its core network.
Posted by gah789 over 3 years ago
Try to get a fibre leased line and get the answer that the excess construction cost is to lay fibre 10+ km when the exchange is 1 km away. Maybe it has physical fibre but not in any useful sense.

I accept that ADSL Max exchanges have fibre backhaul. My reference was to EA exchanges. Anyway, the point I was trying to make was: what would it cost to upgrade all exchanges to 21CN?
Posted by Gadget over 3 years ago
The 20odd exchanges with no DSL broadband at all have access to the Western Isles "Connected Communities" wireless broadband network.
Posted by michaels_perry over 3 years ago
Saying that an MP speaks with some authority suggests they know about things. My experience is that they have extremely limited or no knowledge or experience of the technical aspects of any subject the talk about. They often make trite statements that are far from true in technology terms and cannot understand why technically aware people find them annoying.
On the backhaul of ADSL Max exchanges, ours does not have a fibre connection and we are told it will not until probably at least 2017! Reason? Too rural we are told.
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