To Innerleithen and beyond! Fibre contest winners named

Opinion

To Innerleithen and beyond! Fibre contest winners named

BT's Race to Infinity publicity stunt has now drawn to a close, with six towns across the UK coming out on top in the telco's popularity contest to choose the areas that will get priority access to fibre-optic broadband.

BT initially promised to hook up five towns but added another because six communities came in with around the same number of votes.

The final list is comprised of; Baschurch, a small village in Shropshire; Blewbury in the Thames Valley; two suburbs of Cambridge, Caxton and Madingley (evidently some local competition going on there); Whitchurch, just down the road from Newbury, and the Scots Borders town of Innerleithen.

Back in November, I wrote that towns in well-to-do southern areas of the UK were dominating the contest, and this meant that areas that are truly digitally excluded would not be helped by the contest, and the competition results appear to prove that hypothesis, at first glance.

But equally, my original assessment was not entirely accurate. After all it was never BT's stated intention to embark on a crusade to bring fast internet services to those that cannot afford them.

After all, the poorest communities in the UK tend to be in cities, and largely exist cheek-by-jowl with rich gentrified districts, where all enjoy faster broadband than rural areas.

But aside from making a few thousand people very happy and boosting a handful of rural businesses, I am still not sure quite what the Race to Infinity has accomplished.

If anything, it has diverted BT from the business of ensuring that everybody in the UK has access to fast broadband, a pledge it has repeatedly made but that many think it cannot keep.

In a case of typical PR spin, it has made the telco look benign and generous, when it is actually giving away very little.

And not surprisingly, it has engendered bad feeling; MicroScope understands that campaigners in towns which lost out have already been making their feelings known to the media.

BT Retail boss Gavin Patterson said that the efforts of communities that weren't successful were not in vain; their votes "will help influence our plans in the future."

I for one would be very interested in seeing the full list.

This was first published in January 2011

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