I have written before about the wasted opportunity that the rural broadband projects in the UK have offered (click here). Instead of turning into a hotbed of innovation and development, the whole thing has turned into a way of subsidising BT.
The final nail in the coffin is the announcement that more than £200m worth of government money is to find its way to BT (as disclosed in the Register this week) for Welsh rural broadband. This, combined with the fact that Fujitsu has left the rural broadband race, will have undoubtedly highlighted to the European Commission significant difficulties in respect of state aid as result of what has happened.
All of the opportunities for development and innovation have been lost. All of the opportunities for finding customised solutions using broadband technology rural areas have been lost. Now everything will be shoehorned into a BT ‘one size fits all’ system. I suppose this should not come as a surprise given that even Nelie Kroes has been making noises that seem to indicate the European Commission’s openness to re-establishing the position of incumbent monopolies by laying off the hand of regulation, often when it comes to developing new systems.
And all of this is made possible by a legal framework by the purchase of advice for local authorities because it is fixed in a mould of safety first. The result is – not to put too fine a point on it – a completely wasted opportunity to present a showcase to the rest of Europe, if not the world, on what we could have done.