E-envoy: broadband divide will wreck rural economy

E-envoy: broadband divide will wreck rural economy

Summary: Andrew Pinder fears a bleak future for more remote parts of the UK if they can't offer the IT facilities needed to attract new firms

TOPICS: Networking
Britain's rural areas face a bleak economic future unless affordable broadband services are made available across the whole of the UK, the e-envoy warned this week.

In an interview with ePolitix.com, a current affairs Web site, Andrew Pinder warned that companies will not base themselves in the countryside if high-speed Internet services are not available.

With the number of farming jobs decreasing -- the average age of a farmer is now 60 -- and many young people already moving away in search of work, many rural areas face a bleak future unless they can attract new forms of industry.

"Given that most new employment these days is IT-based, we need to have IT connectivity, particularly broadband, for industry to go to a rural place. So for the health of our rural communities, we just need to have broadband there," said Pinder.

"If we don't, we're going to end up with an empty countryside, and that's really bad for everybody; an empty and poor countryside," he added.

Currently, affordable broadband services are available to around 80 percent of the population, through BT's ADSL network or via cable. In remote areas, though, the availability is much lower.

The select committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs examined the factors behind this broadband divide this summer, and concluded that direct subsidy from the government was needed to persuade telcos to build high-speed broadband networks in areas where this isn't currently economically viable.

As e-envoy, Pinder's role is to lead the process of putting government services online. His contract expires in Spring 2004, and there is speculation that the government will replace the e-envoy role with that of a chief information officer who would crack down on public sector IT failures and bring stronger IT leadership and strategic direction across departments.

Topic: Networking

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  • It's not just those who's exchanges have not yet been upgraded, but there are also a large proportion of people on enabled exchanges that cannot have Broadband - my self included.

    I'm on the Loose (Kent) exchange, which has had broadband now for some 8 months now. However, because I'm outside the current range limit, I'm unable to get Broadband, so have to rely on ISDN-2e.

    Although most of my work (Contracting) is onsite, I do work from home occassionally (like right now), but not having Broadband speeds/prices are affecting my business.

    Currently when I do a backup of various servers I have to think about how long it will take at 128kps, and how much it's going to cost.
  • Its still not just 'rural' areas that can't get broadband.

    Here in Milton Keynes there are still significant fractions of the town still too far (mainly due to the extremely circuitous cable routes ) from an exchange to get Broadband service. I'm OK, both at home and work, but many aren't

    An associated company of ours in Chesterfield (ironically in an 'innovation centre' built to create new jobs to replace 'traditional' industries) appears to have no prospect of BB anytime soon.

    One of the issues appears to be that BT's criteria for enabling exchanges only deal with consumer demand, Businesses don't fit in to the system.