E-envoy in private funding plea

Pinder called for private sector money to help the government expand its network of UK Online public internet centres that target people who have not had web access before.

‘There are 1200 of these UK Online centres open already. We plan to double this number by this time next year. We are working to make this happen so that these centres will be within a one mile radius in urban areas and five miles for rural areas,’ said the e-envoy.

‘Many of the these centres are in government owned buildings, such as libraries or community centres, but many are not. Many are co-branded with the private sector. We are looking to get more people to co-operate with us to co-brand. Industry will benefit as well as the people,’ he added.

According to Pinder, providing broadband internet access for the UK population remains at the top of the government’s agenda, but he conceded that there was a mountain to climb before this became a reality.

‘We need to have much more penetration and to sort out pricing,’ he explained. ‘We are determined to have the most competitive broadband market in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development. We will have the most extensive broadband coverage in the OECD, but making this happen is an uphill task.’

Pinder defended the government’s controversial refusal to impose broadband price regulation on BT. ‘There is currently no regulation of broadband prices. Oftel is in charge. If the government did step in to drive prices down with regulation, this would stifle investment,’ he said.

Pinder also told the IT and telecoms industry to stop whingeing about the cost of third-generation (3G) licences and help deliver affordable internet access to the UK population.

‘It’s not for the industry to sit back and say: “What’s happening after you took all this money off us for 3G licences? You robbed us,”‘ he said. ‘We need to look to the private sector to help set up and market our online services. The government’s problem is that it tends to offer a one size fits all.’ Links

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