Good for NI, but . . . .
31 Mar 2004
Angry Phone Man - logo of my broadband campaign
Angry Phone Man - logo of my broadband campaign
I was interested to read the statement from Ian Pearson MP, Northern Ireland Office Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, that BT has been awarded a contract to deliver broadband services throughout Northern Ireland by the end of 2005.

"By the end of 2005 every household and every business in Northern Ireland, no matter how remote, will have access to broadband at the same price. Local businesses will have the level playing field they need to compete in a global economy. This vitally important contract will deliver the Government's broadband vision of a fully connected Northern Ireland. In turn it will help make Northern Ireland more competitive."

All very positive stuff, but it raises some issues. If this is true for Northern Ireland, is why isn't it also true for North West Hampshire? I shall be asking the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

But there's another aspect to this which seems to confirm the government's lack of a valid broadband strategy. In England, the government has been actively encouraging local communities to form 'community companies' and set up local wireless schemes, often in cooperation with small specialist suppliers. I've been challenging this as an inappropriate strategy since its inception. Logic says the Northern Ireland approach makes much more sense strategically; but what happens to all the small local initiatives that are under way, or that are already in place? And what happens to the investments made by so many small firms and individuals on the expectation that community initiatives would be the right way to go? Will the BT programme by-pass places with existing community wireless? Will they be left in isolation as anachronisms? Will the suppliers remain in business given that there is no scope for market expansion?

I think we should be told.
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