A year of work in progress – day 141

Day 141 – 21 August 2014

You know when you make a promise in the hope that everyone will have forgotten by the time it comes due? Well they don’t. Foolishly (or was it?) I promised the Digital Durham team that I would take them out to lunch if we ever got superfast broadband into Shincliffe Village. Well we have, (though there are still some issues) they remembered and so today we made our way to the Old Mill for a light lunch as a way of saying thanks for the huge effort that they continue to put in.

What’s so special about Shincliffe? A couple of things really. Firstly, when I was a boy, I used to live there. Admittedly I was not in the village as it was, and still is, far too nice for the likes of me. We lived in High Shincliffe which ironically is well served by broadband. Secondly (and more importantly) Shincliffe represents one of the problems with the superfast roll-out programme. Access to broadband is often referred to as a rural problem. Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), the government body responsible for distributing the money, refers to it as a rural programme.

Yet Shincliffe, while green and pleasant, is only a stone’s throw from Durham City. Access to broadband is as much an urban problem as one of rurality. We have several areas like this, in fact some of the worst broadband speeds are in the city itself and in my head Shincliffe had become the poster boy for the issues we needed to tackle.

Indeed the whole of today was given over to the Digital Durham programme. I spent the morning at world headquarters outside Spennymoor and got to meet Angela, the latest member of the team from BT. She’s helping coordinate demand stimulation and take up activities. She knows how to get the information that we need.

Things are going well. We have a functioning partnership between ten separate authorities, central government and one of the UK’s largest commercial organisations. We’re on target and have just passed our seventieth installed cabinet. The key to our success so far, I think, is the focus on collaboration in a way that recognises the different needs of each party but the common aims that we are all striving for.

After lunch (which was very good) Alli and I went to Stanhope for the Weardale Action Partnership Broadband Task Group. This is at the other end of the broadband problem as it is a truly rural area. No cabinets will be live until the first quarter of the new-year though there has been a lot of spine activity but we want their support in getting the message out. It is always a pleasure to go to Stanhope.

Learning points for today: Reading is really hard to get to; things are much easier once they are explained to you; Tony’s onto his third book and the world was supposed to end after the first one and; owls hunt mice using the phosphorescence of their urine (a fact to surpass all facts).

Today’s enjoyment rating 8/10 – good day apart from a headache.

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