In a new twist on Marie Antoinette's infamous observation "Let them eat cake" the Conservative MP David Davis is calling for the UK's unemployed to be dragooned into work squads and used to dig trenches in which the likes of BT can then lay broadband cables. "Let them dig ditches" will be the rallying cry. Martyn Warwick reports.
The MP says, ""A workforce of the unemployed should build the superfast network we need so urgently.
Building a superfast rural broadband network is largely low-skill – digging trenches, laying pipes, filling them in. Only a small fraction of the cost is in high-tech materials. Why not use use the 2.4 million people who are either jobless or on welfare to build this infrastructure?" Perhaps because it would be akin to indentured labour and therefore illegal?
Aren't our politicians wonderful? This one's a polymath alright; economist, technologist, historian, social engineer, the list just goes on and on.
Unfortunately, the MP's words of widom appeared in a submission to the Times newspaper and as that content is now sequestered behind the Thunderer's paywall, almost no-one will ever get the chance to read it. Shame.
The MP does acknowledge that the coalition Government hasn't got the £25 billion in cash necessary to fund a UK-wide FTTP network but has the unmitigated gall to add that the amount is "more than the ponderous, monopolistic companies in this sector are willing to risk". This is believed this is a veiled reference to the UK's incumbent telco, BT.
The brain of the century continues, "At the moment, the Government intends to direct about £530 million from the BBC licence fee to enable BT to invest £5 billion in laying cable to about 60 per cent of the population, mainly in urban areas. This is not enough. There is already a digital divide between rural and urban Britain.
There is a real risk that superfast broadband will be an exclusively urban luxury and that rural households and businesses will be left farther behind." Well, who'd have thought it?
The MP then complains that both South Korea and Japan both have more high-speed broadband connections than the Brits. Indeed they do, Mr Davis, but they weren't installed by pressed men forced to labour under government diktat. South Korea is a predominantly urban country with sparsely populated rural areas. The country benefited from the plans of a far-sighted government which gave huge cash subsidies to the incumbent telco (that, unlike BT, was not required to open up its network to competitors) to install the superfast broadband from which the country now benefits.
Stung by Davis's ill-informed comments, BT responded with a statement saying, "The article is wrong in saying that the Government is to direct £530 million to BT to enable it to lay cable to 60 per cent of the population, BT is investing £2.5 billion of its own money to bring super-fast broadband to two-thirds of UK homes and businesses by 2015. The public funding, which will only be available through a competitive tender process, will specifically address only the final third of the UK."
It adds, "As for suggestions in the piece that broadband rollout is being handled by ponderous or monopolistic entities – BT is now passing 80,000 homes with fibre every week, and this is among the fastest fibre rollouts anywhere in the world."
So yah, boo, sucks to you!
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