The Government has been urged to dig deep for next generation broadband.
Broadband campaigner Glyn Pitchford maintains new technology is so important that, however tight the finances, money must be found to back it. His comments come as the City Region prepares to receive a new report in September detailing the challenges that need to be met.
Mr Pitchford, elected West Midlands Business Council business representative on the City Region board, has been tasked with pushing impetus in the project following BT’s announcement to speed plans for super-fast broadband.
He says more than 110,000 homes and businesses in the West Midlands will benefit. But he is concerned at the Government’s “lack of urgency”, citing its recent Digital Britain report which offered a policy commitment to speeds of only two megabits per second (mbps) – far less than the 100 mbps being targeted.
The report suggested the UK’s competitive markets would provide the stimulus for further investment without Government help.
Mr Pitchford said: “This is just is not good enough. Other developed economies are recognising the importance of investment in next generation broadband and are pursuing different strategies to achieve this.
“We need the Government to get involved. Without some form of public sector intervention, next generation broadband will not be introduced in the City Region for the foreseeable future. We need to drag the economy of the West Midlands out of recession, and broadband will do exactly that. I say it is a question of prioritising projects.
“Given the work being done by the photonics team at Aston University, the Photonics Cluster (UK) at Aston Science Park and QinetiQ in Malvern, the West Midlands should be leading this revolution. It would be tragic if we threw away such an opportunity. This is all about the economy of the region. It is about skills, jobs and inward investment.”
BT exchanges in the region – Fallings Park, Great Barr, Leamore, Northern (Soho, Birmingham), Nuneaton, Tettenhall, Walsall and Wednesbury – are among the latest UK locations due to be upgraded next year. It takes in an arc over the north Black Country which reaches Bloxwich and Walsall and touches the northern end of the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham.