Not the most apt of examples

Charlie Brooks insists that everyone not living in the country must pay for those who do.

High-speed broadband will soon be as basic a requirement for rural Britain as decent roads. There can be no better use of public money than investing in this infrastructure, and in the process helping to save the countryside for us all.

Yes, you who\’ve got a view of the gas works must stump up the billions necessary for those with a view of undisturbed moorland to have broadband. On the basis that as you\’ve a six lane motorway outside your door, so should they.

There is no country in the world where the infrastructure needed to cover non-urban areas has been rolled out without significant funding from central government. Singapore is rightly held up as a shining light – but its government threw £10 billion at the problem, or £2,000 per head of population.

Not the most apt of examples. Singapore is, after all, a city state. They don\’t actually have rural areas.

13 thoughts on “Not the most apt of examples”

  1. A tax on second homes might do it nicely.

    or how about 0.001 penny per tweet received, globally ideally, but UK only if need be? Reduce all that socially useless activity. Incidence to be discussed later.

  2. I suppose an argument could be made that more small businesses would relocate to/prosper in rural areas as a consequence of universal high-speed broadband. Lack of high quality employment opportunities, as Brooks says, is a major concern in the countryside. I’m somewhat sceptical this reasoning however, given most of the activity comes from downshifting journalists of childbearing age whose labour requirements tend to be for cleaners/ childminders/ hairdressers.

    Murphy’s tax on second homes sounds attractive.

  3. “There can be no better use of public money than….”

    ‘…providing something that I want!’

    That’s what it really all boils down to in the end.

  4. There is an argument to be made about broadband being an essential piece of infrastructure, that wider benefits accrue to the economy when commerce can rely on it being near universal (along the lines of a universal postal service, near universal literacy, etc.). I’ve yet to hear a cogent argument along those lines, though.

  5. “Yes, you who’ve got a view of the gas works must stump up the billions necessary for those with a view of undisturbed moorland to have broadband.”

    well, once rural areas have decent broadband infrastructure, perhaps more people will move to the countryside, cutting house prices in cities, and helping people, who don’t like it, move out of sight of gas works?

    I think it’s a sensible idea. I suspect the private sector would never find it worthwhile investing in broadband in rural areas, but once it’s there, it’ll make rural living a much more attractive proposition for many people (and firms) and it’ll mean that the people who already live there, including the rural poor, aren’t increasingly cut off from modern life, conducted over broadband.

    It’s the nature of these things that costs are paid more by those who live in cities – the same probably goes for funding country roads, rural sewer systems, electricity transmission and other bits of infrastructure.

    I really don’t understand this instinct to object to taxpayer funded investment in this country’s infrastructure. Personally, I’d like to see more of it.

    [N.B. for the hard of thinking, this doesn’t mean I think my preferences ought to be imposed on people, I’m merely expressing my opinion about the useful role of government. It’s just my vote.]

  6. “well, once rural areas have decent broadband infrastructure, perhaps more people will move to the countryside, cutting house prices in cities, and helping people, who don’t like it, move out of sight of gas works? I think it’s a sensible idea. I suspect the private sector would never find it worthwhile investing in broadband in rural areas, but once it’s there, it’ll make rural living a much more attractive proposition for many people (and firms) and it’ll mean that the people who already live there, including the rural poor, aren’t increasingly cut off from modern life, conducted over broadband.”

    I don’t really follow this logic as a justification for a tax. If it really were the case that it would be much easier for folk to enjoy life in the sticks if they had broadband, and if property values etc would rise in the country and those in the cities become a bit more affordable, then why would not, say, a property developer team up with a telco to do just this so long as both are allowed to capture the revenue effects?

    Just a thought.

  7. “…well, once rural areas have decent broadband infrastructure, perhaps more people will move to the countryside…”

    And perhaps they won’t, not enough jobs being available that can be done remotely.

    What then?

  8. Firstly, I can well imagine chucking $2k per head at Singaporeans would reap impressive rewards. Chucking $2k per head at Brits? Erm…

    Secondly:

    They don’t actually have rural areas.

    I think the hippo compound in the Night Safari would count. But then again, the beast did seem pretty much occupied with a laptop when I was last there.

  9. Luis Enrique,

    well, once rural areas have decent broadband infrastructure, perhaps more people will move to the countryside, cutting house prices in cities, and helping people, who don’t like it, move out of sight of gas works?

    Rural areas have decent broadband, certainly far beyond what could be considered as “public good” nowadays (0.5-7mbmps). You can live in a place like Brinkworth (Wilts) with 1,300 residents and get ADSL.

    What they don’t have is super-fast broadband that is starting to be offered by cable companies (8-50mbps) which is mostly about people getting their YouTube downloaded more quickly. This is not a public good, so people can pay for that themselves.

  10. A tax on second homes?Why not that old warhorse the tax on land values?(as supported by Tim Worstall,Polly Toynbee,Martin Wolf Sam Brittan,Ashley Seager and abominated by Johnathan Pearce and Richard Murphy and dullard parties of all stripes,except Green and Co0perative parties.)
    If as they say living in the countryside is so unbearable,despite metalled roads, post boxes,
    flat- rate postal deliveries,telephones ,television and what have you,should n’t there be a noticeable diminution of house prices?As there is n’t, the people living in the country (not working there but commuting townies mostly) can cough up through LVT ,as by their logic,rural house prices will go up even farther,leaving genuine rural workers yet more unable to afford housing.

  11. Tim

    I don’t know how you are using the words ‘public good’ – evidently not the economic definition because broadband of any speed fails to meet those criterea (it’s excludable and, to a small extent, rivalrous).

    However, very fast broadband has more potential uses than watching youtube, and I’d argue there are positive externalities, and also suffers from free-rider problems (i.e. firms that would be happy to benefit from somebody else’s investment in it), so it might well be that private, decentralised markets will not provide the optimal amount of it.

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