This Box Contains Up To Ten Eggs

4 Jun

[This script was written in preparation for a UK conference on digitally-enabled economic development.  This version does not include presentation guidelines and other stage directions]

 

egg box This box contains up to ten eggs.

These are no ordinary eggs. These are Broadband Eggs. Enjoy – they usually come in a Free-Range Broadband Egg Box, probably from a trusted supplier of some other trusted supplier. Be sure to read the small print and limitations of liability.

 If you buy this box of eggs please be aware:

  • the box may not be full
  • some eggs may be cracked
  • box & contents not suitable for long journeys
  • some may have been eaten by strangers on the way home
  • each egg may be of variable quality
  • some may already be scrambled

But, we believe this box of eggs is all you will ever need. 

We do not accept returns of more than one egg at a time.

Terms and Conditions apply.

 

There are many beneficial aspects of Municipal Enterprise – the increasingly evident focus on growing community development and local economic well-being. But possibly the most under-rated impact of Municipal Enterprise will be a major revolution in business and political honesty.

But – woah – before I go on – I must explain what I mean by Municipal Enterprise. We can come back to broadband egg boxes later.

Municipal Enterprise is not an oxymoron.   Municipal Enterprise is (A) local public/private investment in local enterprises, (B) generating local employment and local economic growth, (C) enhancing community well-being, and (D) often linked to essential infrastructure and community services needs.

Moreover, the profits of Municipal Enterprise can be returned to the public purse for local re-investment and replacement of local taxation such as property rates.

With devolutionary aspirations espoused across the political spectrum, folks are beginning to remember what made this country a great place before politicians imagined they needed to run everything from the centre.

More than a century ago, The Great Stink of London was in large part solved by Joseph Bazalgette’s sewers – the construction of which explains why some old waterfront properties are now on the inland side of The Embankment.

Look at the great Town Halls of Victorian times and you are looking at Municipal Enterprise writ large – built on the profits of local enterprises.

You may not all have heard of the Municipal Works Loans Board – the Treasury controlled lender for infrastructure works. You may not have heard of the Local Government association’s new Municipal Bonds Agency – designed to provide cheaper and more flexible finance for Local Authorities.

You may not be aware of how much Municipal Enterprise is practiced – not least because much of it is kept below the radar for fear that Whitehall will seek to claw back the profits from Local Authorities.

Such are the post-80’s ingrained attitudes towards public expenditure and wholesale deference to private enterprise, that, even on electioneering doorsteps with evidence of local tax reductions, Municipal Enterprise is somehow viewed askance.

Even though Municipal Enterprise is accountable through the ballot box, citizens seem to imagine that distant shareholders, motivated by short-term profits, can exclusively ensure better local outcomes attuned to needs of local people and businesses.

They may of course be right. It would be prudent to question the current investment expertise of Local Authorities who for so long have been reduced to service agencies for the delivery of national policy.

Citizens may find it difficult to understand something that seems to contradict the supposed ‘natural order’ of things – except of course that there is no natural order that does not reflect local community wishes and local needs to grow employment, retain and accommodate its children for future prosperity.

So far, in the UK, the devolution debate has focused on countries, regions and major cities – territories where the implausibility of Whitehall micro-management is increasingly obvious.

And the responses to that debate have been both fairly unimaginative and ignorant of unintended consequences.   Does major city A declare UDI and create major tax headaches for businesses and postcode lotteries for citizens needing services? Who draws their boundaries?

Municipal Enterprise is not an argument about tax and spend or ‘optimising’ welfare standards. Municipal Enterprise is about local leaders recognising future needs and investing to ensure better local outcomes.

Which thought brings us back to these broadband egg boxes.

Your local economy, your local community of people and business, needs future-proofed broadband access. Will you, dear citizen, trust your local government to ensure that the egg boxes contain what they say they contain?

Will your local leaders seek investment partners who will agree to not deliver a dismal digital cul-de-sac designed only to maximise profits and dividends for distant shareholders?

Will you locally review what some ‘expert’ regulator in London deems adequate?  Or will you demand that the regulator is ‘unbundled’ so that you can set the local standards that will meet the local needs, attract further local investment, create further jobs and innovation, and generate revenues for your local community?

And at this time of ‘Peak Snake Oil’ will your community leaders question the salesmen that promise otherwise?

For too long the over-centralised state has dis-empowered local communities and allowed those broadband eggs to be sold in boxes that are rarely full or fit for frying.

BUT

These need not be passing broadband eggs – theoretically coming your way.

These need not be pretend broadband eggs – these may be truly fully fibred, future-proofed, really SuperDooperFast broadband eggs.

These could be broadband eggs that are actually available, when you need a full set.  These broadband eggs could perform exactly as you might expect, even as your children’s expectations increase in the future

Ladies and Gentlemen – I give you – a full box of ten eggs.   Catch.

________

Note: For Ofcom-based data on the level of broadband services Delivered versus Advertised see this report produced by Which shows that whilst cable services from Virgin Media largely deliver ‘what it says on the box’ all other services based on BT’s DSL and FTTC fall woefully short of expectations.  broadband-advertising-not-up-to-speed-june-2015-406391

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4 Responses to “This Box Contains Up To Ten Eggs”

  1. chrisconder June 21, 2015 at 4:27 pm #

    The problem with this, as I see it, is that local leaders ie the county councils, are equally as besotted with the snake oil salesman as Westminster is. Ours have actively blocked our project to lay fibre to the farms and villages. We have done it without their help. But just think what we could have done by now if we had their support. How do we get round the mindset of the ‘nobody got fired for buying IBM brigade’? How do we counteract and clarify when we are up against the incumbents’ multimillion pound marketing lobby who sells the eggs as Faberge when in reality they are rotten eggs?

    • Walter G M Willcox June 22, 2015 at 7:51 am #

      Parts of the Forton exchange are within Chris’ project yet BT & BDUK have only provided 180 VDSL SuperFARCE services for a total of 1,387 lines. How come so many lines are still Exchange Only? How come PCP green cabinets 2 and 3 STILL don’t have a Fibre Cabinet added ? How come the neighbouring exchange of Galgate seems to be just as bad if not worse ? How come B4RN ACTUALLY PROVIDES symmetric 1,000 Mbps at £30.00 per month to EVERY property requesting the service ? How come BT were gifted £80,000 and free wayleaves at Fell End only to deliver very expensive 330 mbps down and 30 Mbps up for £99.00 per month when they could have copied the B4RN design at near zero difference in costs ?

      • GroupeIntellex June 22, 2015 at 8:57 am #

        The small semi-rural town of Mitchell (South Dakota) ensures that every property has a choice of three broadband technologies; FTTH, VDSL (AKA FTTC) and CableTV – all at reasonable rates, BUT, being an Intelligent Community they had decided long ago that digital services were a vital foundation for the growth of their future economy and made sure that the infrastructure was adequate.

        Goodness knows what your local economic developers are thinking about. Maybe you ask them?

  2. GroupeIntellex June 21, 2015 at 6:05 pm #

    I’ve been running the Municipal Enterprise theme now since last Autumn – no one has yet attempted to refute it and the Local Government Association has introduced a thoroughly commercial Municipal Bonds Agency to promote investment in infrastructure without recourse to HM Treasury’s Municipal Works Loans Board.

    Investment for growth is the antidote to further austerity – but the County Councils do not all get that – they’ve been told for 30-40 years that Private=Good and Public=Bad, so it’s hardly a surprise.

    When they ‘keep an open mind’, their brains fall out but there’s huge scope for bandaging bruised egos.

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