Government slammed for no-show at fibre-to-the-home conference

By Sooraj Shah
20 Feb 2013 View Comments

An MP has slammed Whitehall officials for not attending the Fibre to the Home (FTTH) Council's Conference 2013, claiming that the government "does not know enough".

Chi Onwurah, Labour MP for Newcastle Central and shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, told Computing that the focus of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) was on the Leveson inquiry and not on thinking about "the growth agenda".

Further reading

The FTTH Council is a not-for-profit organisation set up to lobby for a rollout of fibre-to-the-home. The UK failed to qualify for the council's latest rankings as it does not boast more than one per cent of households connected to FTTH.

The dominant telco, BT, is focusing on fibre-to-the-cabinet, with old copper wiring between the cabinet and the home. 

In the official opening of the council's conference, Onwurah said that it was concerning that there was no representative from the government.

She said: "I can only assume that they looked at FTTH and thought it was only for a small group of techy geeks."

This was down to a lack of knowledge on the matter, Onwurah said, and is an area that they should be more interested in.

"Digital infrastructure and FTTH, in particular, is a key part of our future and politicians should be thinking about it. The FTTH Council has always had an uphill struggle with politicians on the importance of FTTH," Onwurah said.

Karin Ahl, president of the FTTH Council Europe was also disappointed by the non-attendance of government officials.

"We've had all other governments represented in some way in our previous conferences; I thought we would have had a little more acknowledgement from that perspective," she told Computing.

"They take [FTTH] seriously, but I don't think they know how to talk about it in public, partly because of the lack of awareness technically but also a lack of awareness on the regulatory side and as a business case."

Onwurah believes that it is up to the IT industry to ensure that the government understands the importance of FTTH.

"There is a lack of understanding of technology and the role of the digital infrastructure. Many companies would not want to criticise or speak out against the government of the day," she said.

"The IT industry is less effective at lobbying than content industries, for example. It needs to engage with [DCMS secretary] Maria Miller and [culture minister] Ed Vaizey to ensure that they recognise the importance of growth as FTTH is the only area which is going to be on the growth agenda within DCMS."

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