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Friday 20 May 2011

No motion in the House

Read more! Did the debate in the House move anything any further forward? Was it a discussion of, as @yarwell put it, apocryphal problems about broadband? Or was it a route to a solution for this country to have the (cough, splutter) 'best broadband network by 20xx'? To me, it was simply GroundHog day.

This blog post can be read at

IMHO, for starters the Motion was wrong. Rory Stewart is my MP - I queried the wording and purpose of the motion prior to the debate. (Possibly not quite that diplomatically as I recall, but when your MP hits you with an autoresponder each time you email, and has failed to personally answer a single email I have sent as his constitutent since his gets irksome after a year.)

Once again, we hit the vagaries and niceties of the democracy we live in. Apparently, you dumb it down to get some support, or face the matter head on to actually solve it and risk outright Government opposition - to their own back bencher. Nice.

So, what we end up with is pretty much a nothingness. A debate on the telly box, a fill-in after lunch and until St Stephens empties out after rush hour, a few lines of media coverage, some MPs telling ghoulish tales about their constituents' failure to get online, but a hard-hitting outline of the problem? Nope. Some pussy footing around My Rt Hon friend's fantastic response, but no querying of facts, no accurate facts - that bloody £28BN figure was once again cited as fact when it wasn't and isn't. No hard core debate that actually sees people taking chunks out of each other on the floor and making the difficult choices that need to be made to push for a singular view of the place Britain is trying to get to and the route to it.

No, it was all rather pleasant, dull and pointless.

Chi from Newcastle quite clearly illustrated why Ofcom need taking out at the knees. She did no better at Rheged. She may well be a nuclearatonic brainiac rocketific psychotherapneumanist, but she seems to bluff her way out of every question with little actual knowledge or comprehension of the science, regulatory or economic arguments. I may be wrong but as yet she is doing indubitably well in proving me right.

There were several MPs who appeared to have been 'got to' by BT or some similar cause eg Ian Lucas, whose ponderous tones defied any of us to feel any passion for the subject whatsoever. He certainly didn't. And his facts simply were not. He definitely shouldn't sing for his supper - it'd be bread and water. The man seemed to understand nowt. (Or whatever the the equivalent of 'nowt' is on the Welsh border)

Eric Ollerenshaw took the floor and showed quite magnificently that he had actually heard a voice from grassroots. @cyberdoyle (who has listened hard to many over the years) had managed to inject Eric with the passion you will hear from so many consumers, communities, new entrants, businesses etc who GET IT. Now, Lancashire County Council, dare you ignore Hansard? It will be oh so easy now to highlight and broadcast, within moments, your decisions about that RDPE funding, Barry Forde's plan etc.

Tim Farron might have been lying on the bed of nails, the number he managed to hit. Quite astounding to actually hear informed truths come out of a politicians' mouth about copper, FTTC, and more. I've always been quite open to his views since meeting him when we were trying to fibre-wireless Garsdale many years ago, (kyboshed by the NWDA in favour of an impoverished and expensive wireless connection that can't, won't and doesn't work for many of its connectees); Tim definitely went up in my esteem today.

It is a true shame that the speakers cannot be intervened upon in such debates by the real world in real time. We've done it in our broadband and community events since 2004. A backchannel where the electorate are feeding information to our elected representatives might just put debates back on track and actually face up to the issues they are supposed to be discussing.

Or should we run such debates in the open, in the Big Society, and demand that our politicians attend by issuing invitations that bear similar gravitas to Question Time? Oh, but that also fails to tackle single issues debates..... If this, as it currently runs, is democracy which finds routes to the best solutions for this country, I will eat cat5.

(Due to the fact I have just sent an email to my constituency MP that includes F*&^ in the subject line, I will hold on further commentary until my MP responds to my real concerns about today's debate).

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Wednesday 11 May 2011

Answers for TSB and others - Part 2

Read more! Sorry, multi-tasking #fail. I missed Nick's last two tweets. To continue.....
This blog post can be read at

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

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.

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Answers for TSB and others #nd11

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