As my first blog of 2013, I wanted to wish Happy New Year to you all. 2012 was a fantastic year for me personally, and for Online Centres Foundation as an organisation, but of course I’m confident that 2013 will be even better.To kick off the year, on Tuesday the Policy Exchange released a report called The Superfast and the Furious, which addresses how the government should approach broadband policy in the future. The 87-page report is heavy reading for the first full week back of the year, but if you’re interested in the people vs pipes debate it’s definitely worth taking a look. The report argues that, rather than focussing on the race to get superfast fixed broadband everywhere, from 2015 the government should focus on helping the 10.8 million people who are not online, and support small business to make more of what the internet can offer.
Other points that the report mentions are:
- Only a third of people are confident that they could choose the best broadband deal for their household, and people are as bothered about price and reliability in their connection as they are about speed.
- Two thirds of people think basic broadband for the whole country is more important than chasing very fast broadband speeds in some areas.
- People are divided on whether it is important to pursue fast connectivity, even if it means more masts and street cabinets, or to preserve neighbourhoods and the environment, even if it constrains speeds.
I’ve always been a ‘people’ over a ‘pipes’ person. Of course, we need the infrastructure, but without investing in digital skills we’re actively excluding a whole group of people who just don’t have the confidence to use computers and the internet. The fact that the report focuses on how much people are struggling to find the right broadband deal for them shows just how exclusive the online world can feel to those who aren’t part of it. I’m all for fast broadband – and I reap the rewards of it myself at home – but I know it’s not the answer in itself, and it needs to be accompanied by investment that will help people use everything the new pipes can bring.The debate is one that I’m sure will continue to rage, but it’s great to see 2013 kicking off with a point to the people. You can read the report here, and do let me know what you think.