Wednesday, 20 October 2010
This blog post can be read at 5tth.blogspot.com
Part of me is over the moon that Cumbria is getting some money for next gen broadband. Because I feel that if anywhere could show the rest of the country how it should be done, it is here.
But, part of me has this gnawing feeling that it could all go completely pear-shaped. And is probably likely to, if past experiences are anything to go by.
Firstly, there are people already leaping on the bandwagon who haven't put anywhere near as many hours into thinking about how to solve the Cumbria problem as others. Educating those people, (some of whom think they know it all already, others don't have the time nor the inclination to listen) is going to be an uphill struggle. And may fail.
Secondly, it's now about money. This shouldn't be about money, it should be about the endgame - which is ensuring that citizens and businesses, wherever they live, get a future-proof service. But the vultures are now circling, and their endgame is different. Theirs is much more selfish than that, seeking 'a pot of gold', in their own words.
Thirdly, there is only one man with whom I am entirely in agreement about what should be done in Cumbria - Barry Forde. Every other proposal I have heard is (sorry, dad), bullshit. He should just be permitted to get on with it, just as he WASN'T with Project Access - which was an almighty waste of money and a right royal cock-up. He already has the full support of MANY communities, and soon will have many more. If we could elect him as the North West Minister for JFDI Broadband, he'd win any vote hands down.
Fourthly, there is enough will in Cumbria to deliver a project which is self-sustaining, which generates sufficient funds to be independent of any requirement for future 'grants' or subsidies, which can expand from the surplus it generates because it is run in a business-like manner by Cumbrians, and which proves once and for all that the £28BN figure is a number generated to satisfy the incumbent's desires, and not based on what others can deliver ubiquituous next gen FTTH for.
Will we learn from past mistakes here in Cumbria? Somehow, something inside me is refusing to accept that we will.
I am hoping that the coming months will prove that Cumbria and Cumbrians are capable of shooting the vultures out of the air; hearing the sane voices not just the loudest, greediest ones; of ensuring that this pot of money is well-spent and well-spent several times over, not just once; and that the end result is a MODEL for others to follow, not dismiss as a failure.
I'm also hoping that the lessons learnt during this project are openly and honestly shared. One of the biggest short-comings the grant funding 'crack' we have become addicted to has engendered is the need for projects to gloss over issues or problems, not seek help elsewhere in case word leaks out and it upsets the funders (future and present), causing others elsewhere to re-invent the wheel, unnecessarily.
I'm not sure why I am feeling so despondent. I think I have joined the leagues of cynics. Must be my age!