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Throwing Our Money at a Non-Problem

The government recently announced that it was going to make sure that every child in Britain will have home broadband access.

At first glance, this possibly sounds like a good idea. But hang on, how many children are not already on the Internet? And if they do not have access, why not?

Two possible answers: the parents choose not to be “connected”, or, they are too poor to afford the £200 or so for a PC and the £10 a month for the connection.

If the latter is the case, the Government’s hand-out of £700 would probably be used on food rather than a PC. Or, the PC could be sold to buy food.

So, how much would this cost? There are variables, of course. Would the £700 be per child or per household? If it is per child, the total cost would be around £10.5 billion, and about half that if it is per household (taking an average of 2 children per household).

Of course, if the payment is only made to those who don’t have broadband access, then the gesture becomes meaningless and the cost can come out of the tea fund.

So, empty gesture, the Government out of touch with the real world, or just another example of mindless spin?

They would be far better off, says Peter Cochrane, to spend the £10.5 billion in deploying a real broadband service in this country – fibre optics.

The estimated cost of rolling out fibre-optics is, yes, you’ve guessed it, £10.5 billion, and it is not as far-fetched as it sounds.

Apparently, 85% of the population already live within 1 km of an installed fibre route.

As Cochrane says, “But unlike many other countries, while the UK government can’t find any money to trigger a national fibre rollout, it can find £5bn to £10bn to throw at a hugely important non-problem!”

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and Head of Research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning over 40 years. He has also held a number of prominent academic positions including the UK’s first Professor for the public Understanding of Science and Technology.

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