On BBC Radio Oxford this morning the Minister for Broadband (and local-ish MP) Ed Vaizey responded directly to connect8’s concerns about rural broadband. Unfortunately though it was very much wait and see. Responding to Peter Richardson’s questions all Ed could hold out for us was to wait for a plan for the last 2% of Oxfordshire (as part of a plan for the last 5% of the UK) which he said ‘we hope to’ publish by the end of the year. To go direct to this part of the radio show click here.
Ed Vaizey as is his affable, decent way went through the usual stuff about the difficulties of building infrastructure, the national expenditure and the situation in Oxfordshire – Oxfordshire has £22m to spend on broadband, with £3m extra being raked back from BT. And 98% of Oxfordshire is due to be covered by superfast by 2017. He hinted at a coverage map by the end of the year to allow people to plan to work with other providers than BT.
We know all this though and we are firmly in the 2%. Overall it strikes me that the government in general are still in a ‘supply-led’ mindset focussed on ‘houses passed’ rather than switching whole-heartedly to a ‘demand-led’ situation that rewards communities who campaign and demonstrate a local need. The government has created an expectation in rural areas that it now can’t meet. In highly rural areas like ours, with clapped-out over extended BT infrastructure from the 1970s and 0.5 Mb/s or less the need is far greater than the semi-suburban areas being connected now with huge subsidy. The government also seems tone deaf to the problems faced by communities who want to deal with their 2% problems, but that is so often Whitehall’s way.