On July 12th Cllr Lee Barney made his maiden speech in the Council Chamber . Below is a transcript of that speech on Broadband in Milton Keynes:
Thank you Mayor
Before discussing the substance of this motion I would like to take this opportunity to thank the residents of Walton Park for electing me. I feel honoured and privileged to serve the people of Milton Keynes during such a tremendously important part in our history both as a Country and as hopefully a future city.
I am proud to bring before you, this motion, which will of course be the first of many.
Some residents of Milton Keynes can now receive dizzying speeds on their broadband connections, some up to 100MBps. However, this is not reflected across the city, some residents have speeds as slow as 20Kbps. For those of us who are not tech savvy, this is the difference between a snail, being slow and Councillor Crooks making a policy U-Turn, this of course being extremely fast.
Some will tell you that the problems relating to our broadband are easy to fix and some will say they are impossible. I am here to tell you that I believe neither to be true. Bringing our broadband up to speed and in line with a country in the G8, will require un-precedent levels of co-operation between, large and small business, residents associations and residents, Council and Parish Councils and every interaction therein.
So what went wrong? We are an aspiring new city with new estates being built; every major road is a dual carriage way... well almost, so why don't we have superfast broadband?
When Milton Keynes was first built, it was a collection of smaller villages. New and fast roads were built in roughly a grid shape between these villages. Other services, such as water, gas, electricity and traditional telecommunications were built alongside the grid roads, which whilst on paper looks great and actually works well for these services it doesn't work well for broadband. With regards to broadband, the signal degenerates the further away you are from the exchange, whilst as the crow flies you may only be a mile or so from your nearest exchange, the actual cable that connects you to that exchange will route along the grid roads then into your estate alongside smaller roads until it finds its way to your house via a street side cabinet. This greatly adds to the distance that your signal travels, thus adding greatly to your signal degradation.
This problem is exasperated by the original design of Milton Keynes, in that only two exchanges were designed, one in Fishermead and one in Emerson Valley. This greatly adds to the problem, as the fewer exchanges that you have the longer the telephone lines need to be.
Our problems unfortunately don't end there... In addition to these issues, our telecommunications network was built using aluminium cable instead of what is more commonly found elsewhere, copper. This was done at the time to reduce costs and to allow for the fast paced development of the city. Whilst this is fine for voice calls this is not the case for broadband and broadband signals degenerate much faster over shorter distances using aluminium cable.
Fortunately Milton Keynes is not alone in this issue and the Conservative lead coalition has recognised that faster broadband provision is essential for a prospering and developing economy. The BDUK grant was set up to provide a fund of £530 million that local authorities can bid for to allow them to run projects to increase the speed of their resident’s broadband. There are various points during the year that authorities can bid for this money, and since the fund was founded Milton Keynes have yet to be successful in a bid.
There is a fantastic community lead action group called Broadband Milton Keynes Action Group who have campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of this issue and who have been lobbying technology providers to ensure that residents receive the speeds that they deserve. Whilst I find it inspiring that this group has formed from nothing than a common desire, I am as equally if not more disappointed that the council more hasn't been openly done to engage with both business and the local residents.
For years Milton Keynes was known as a futuristic city, where dreams where made into reality. Unfortunately we now find ourselves in that future that our forbearers designed, and our infrastructure is groaning. If we are to attract new business or if we are to bring in new residents then we should not baulk at the task in front of us, instead, we should re-capture the spirit that inspired a generation to think outside the box, and build a faster more connected future for our Children.
Mayor, I hope that this motion receives unanimous support from the council; I look forward to the debate that will no doubt follow.