This blog post can be read at 5tth.blogspot.com
Nick then tweeted:
So today I asked an open question about whether inclusion efforts should concentrate on urban or rural. Got several in favour of rural.
...and you guys took us onto BB and fibre. (NB @benhammersley tells me urban biz clusters need BB too, eg http://bit.ly/evIjz4)
There is no argument that rural next gen is more of a challenge in some instances than urban. However, some of the figures coming in from abroad imply a) that the civil costs etc differences between rural and urban may actually be negligible with economies of scale and b) rural take-up and need of next gen services, plus willingness to pay, may prove higher. (As some of us have been saying for a very long time - the low hanging fruit is out in the sticks....)
Inclusion is ever more important for rural areas because of distance from services. I am 8 miles from a loaf of bread or a pint of milk. No city dweller is that far from a basic resource. Everything else you take for granted in daily life is further than that - hospitals, library, ice rink, swimming pool, cinema, consultants, college, Benefits Office etc.
Access to online services in rural areas is therefore paramount. Being able to use such services when provided is equally as important.
Ben's point about urban clusters requiring broadband was brilliantly summed up by Robert Bell recently in an article about Eindhoven and its digital clustering - The Unexpected Value of the Network.
Eindhoven is not rural and is most definitely well-connected.
The article was actually about best practice in an intelligent community - Eindhoven has been nominated for an award. This level of thinking that Eindhoven demonstrates is KEY to success in Britain. Not just in urban areas, but most definitely in rural ones too.
Yes, urban clusters need fat pipes, but one could argue that rural areas need them even more so. The idea that your supplier, your component maker, your graphic designer, your website builder, or your accountant is your neighbour is far harder to achieve at present in rural UK. The odd rural business park will not bring back our lost manufacturing industry, nor bring together sufficient clusters to invigorate most rural areas, but nailing a few big players into rural locations where houses and labour are cheap could bring the "Eindhoven effect". This, in itself could do for more rural regeneration than any RDA sponsored scheme or injection of public cash.
And it will have knock on effects. More money in the local economy is always a good thing, and will help to bolster struggling rural businesses, whilst encouraging new ones to flourish, unrelated to the original scheme to bring in big business, serving the new needs of the more cash-rich community.
Trying to teach people to use the Net, when it won't work in rural areas and there are no jobs at present which make the most of the newfound skills, is most definitely the wrong way round.
The TSB and Race Online 2012 would both seem ideally placed to ensure that the necessary ingredients for a digital future are in place by pushing far harder for the connectivity issue to be resolved.