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Fibre Broadband Arrives - after 37 years!

July 19, 2020 11:41 PM

Fibre-optic due to be installed in Cranbrook this AutumnYes, folks, when I stood for Parliament for the Hemel Hempstead constituency for the SDP/Liberal Alliance in 1983 rolling out fibre broadband across the country was one of our flagship policies. Shirley Williams espoused it as her personal crusade and got a detailed three-page article in the Economist, a business affairs weekly established in London in1843. The Financial Times was similarly enthusiastic.

Shortly before that I had visited the big BT telecommunications research establishment at Martlesham Heath in Suffolk to help discuss optical fibre manufacture quality control - everybody there was very proud of the way they were leading in the technical implementation of fibre optic signalling and communications.

But alas, UK declared war on Argentina and the Conservatives won the election of 1983 on a wave of patriotic fervour and among a great many other things, BT, which had been made independent of the Post Office in 1981, was privatised in the following year in 1984.

The Conservative government, then as now, failed to see the potential, decided to leave whatever fibre optics were to "the market", and the UK lead in this field was lost. Only large specialist customers were sought and for the next decade the fastest method of tranmitting large quantities of dater remained a courier driving along the motorway network with a large hard disk strapped to his back.

While other countries stimulated the new technology with public investment, with requiring fibre connections into large buildings such as blocks of flats as part of their building regulations, UK continued to leave things to market forces and for the capital requirements to be furnished by BT as and when they were able. About 10 years ago, however, the UK was forced to find the necessary finance and mount a nation-wide roll-out campaign as part of an EU-wide initiative. This is still not complete, but we are fortunate that in the window of opportunity between the EU-wide drive kicking off and Brexit which is to be implemented in 5 months time, we have got our connection here in Wigginton.

Now, 37 years later, on this Thursday last, we finally got a fibre optic cable connected, together with a splendid new wireless router - though our telephone calls will still have to come over a copper wire.

Well done, Britain! Under the Conservatives the national pattern remains fixed. The UK is so often the first with the technology - only to be nearly the last with the implementation and marketing. Why? Because "the market" that the British Tories so much favour, means in practice implementation of projects by private firms - whose main oblective is not the public good as such, but actually the increase in their shareholders equity combined with the maximum compatible divident payouts.