PEOPLE in North Swindon have vowed to fight the latest stage of the council’s bid to roll out 4G broadband.
As part of its £2m deal with UK Broadband, the authority wants to put up masts in various bits of the area.
Maybe I’m missing something here, but this chain of events and the fiasco a few years back suggest certain of our elected representatives might be a bit slow on the uptake.
Perhaps they should be issued with crib sheets for future reference, something along the lines of: When you are considering a major new technical innovation for a large swathe of the population you serve, ask yourself some questions.
For example, how likely is it that what you are proposing will be rapidly be eclipsed by rival technology available from major national brands?
Indeed, has it been eclipsed already?
Are those major national brands already eyeing up the bulk of your proposed customer base with a view to moving in on much of your turf?
Is your proposed solution already available from other providers if customers care to sign up for it? If they do not care to sign up for what is already available, why do you believe what you are offering will fare any better?
Will attaching the name of the local authority to the proposal lend it weight and inspire confidence among prospective customers?
Does the local authority have a shining track record in the branch of technology under discussion?
What is the reaction of most of your planned customer base?
You should be aiming for: ‘What a fantastic proposal – it really meets a need and I must sign up as soon as I am able.’ If this is what you hear, then by all means press ahead.
However, you might want to have a rethink if most of the reactions are more along the lines of: ‘We don’t need it, we don’t want it and we’d prefer to wait for major companies to come and offer alternatives.’ Take account of the thoughts of local politicians. Local councillors, for example. Perhaps they are saying it’s high time the people they represent were able to get hold of this technology, and your plan is a fine one.
Or perhaps they’re saying your plan is a right load of old rubbish and nobody wants it.
If the scornful councillors are from your political opposition, there’s always a chance that they’re making political capital out of the matter.
If they are from the majority party, though, and especially if they're usually loyal supporters of the administration, you may be in trouble.
The same applies if the local MP shares your political affiliations but appears to regard your plans as being about as useful as the proverbial chocolate teapot.
A good way of avoiding problems is to approach local people long before you sign on the dotted line and solicit their opinions.
Then you won’t be tempted to hand out seven-figure sums which could be better spent on other things, such as avoiding hiving off precious heritage assets to the highest bidder.