Revolutionary Measures

The end to rural notspots?

Amidst all the hype about the rollout of 4G and the excitement around fibre optic deployments (note to BT – I’m still waiting, and you said I’d have it in June), the UK has a hidden issue when it comes to communications. Too many rural areas still don’t have a decent, basic mobile phone signal.

Cwm Rheidol Telephone Kiosk - geograph.org.uk ...

In my village, in the middle of Suffolk, only one provider has any reception – and that is just 2G, not even 3G. When the local mast went down for a month last year it paralysed rural businesses, as well as impacting on the lives of local residents. And this is not the Outer Hebrides – I’m less than an hour from Cambridge and Norwich, and 20 minutes from several major towns.

Given my experiences, the news that the Government is considering forcing mobile phone operators to share their networks (so called national roaming), to widen choice, looks like a positive move. Putting aside the fact that the starting point for the new rules was apparently David Cameron being unable to get a signal while on holiday in Norfolk, it should benefit anyone living in the countryside. It will help stem the growing gulf between rural communication ‘have nots’ and urban dwellers with 4G and superfast broadband. A similar system operates in the US, which has a lot more challenging terrain than over here.

Obviously the mobile phone operators are crying foul, pointing out that they have spent heavily on masts in rural areas, and being forced to share their infrastructure will jeopardise future investment. Frankly, I just don’t buy this. Everywhere else they have competition and somehow survive – after all, most people pick a network operator on price/what you get for your money, rather than “do I actually get a signal?” At the moment they have captive markets that they have carved up amongst themselves, forcing people to choose by postcode, not package. Sharing infrastructure makes it more cost-effective and opens up new markets. Additionally the government has promised £150m to improve areas where there is no coverage at all.

The government claims it has big plans to turn the UK into a skills-based, technologically literate society. Entrepreneurship is being encouraged (albeit focused heavily on the media-centric Silicon Roundabout), coding is being re-introduced into schools and infrastructure projects promise faster links between major cities. So far rural areas have been left behind – with high speed broadband projects running late and a lack of skilled jobs hitting local economies. It is time for the government to address these issues or risk creating a two speed economy that deprives those of us in the countryside of the same opportunities open to the rest of the United Kingdom.

June 25, 2014 Posted by | Cambridge, Marketing | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Leading from the Front

The west end of King's College Chapel seen fro...

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When people think of Cambridge the things that tend to come to mind are the university, technology hub and biotech/healthcare industries. But it is also one of the UK’s creative hotspots, with the creative industries employing 12,000 staff across Cambridgeshire and contributing £1 billion to the local economy. 24 per cent of the UK’s game developers work in the county, which was news to me.

While we creatives have been talking to each other (through initiatives such as the excellent CamCreative) clearly the creative industries have been hiding their collective light under a bushel.

Hence the formation of Creative Front, an Anglia Ruskin University-led initiative designed to be an umbrella for creativity in the county. Perhaps symptomatic of the fragmentation in the sector, it has taken four years to get off the ground, and has just about launched its website. This aims to be a one stop shop for those looking to buy creative services or network with colleagues, get training or mentoring and advertise jobs etc.

Having heard Caroline Hyde from Creative Front talk I can see in principle that it’s a much-needed idea. But I do worry that it’s taken four years to get to an average looking website and there don’t seem to be clear plans for building thought leadership (and business opportunities) for Cambridge creatives nationally and internationally. Asking the 12,000 creatives what they want is going to get you a similar number of radically different answers. In a city crammed full of networking organisations and hubs Creative Front is going to have to differentiate itself and deliver value quickly if it is to achieve its laudable aims.

 

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April 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment