Social engineering blamed for failure

Digital Region....   workers laying fiber optic cable on Sheffield Road, Rotherham for Thales Telecom Services ' See Story   Picture by  Chris Lawton  05 Nov 2009
Digital Region.... workers laying fiber optic cable on Sheffield Road, Rotherham for Thales Telecom Services ' See Story Picture by Chris Lawton 05 Nov 2009
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Misplaced attempts at social engineering over riding commercial considerations could be one cause of the failure of South Yorkshire’s £100 million Digital Region initiative.

Reasons for the collapse of the bid to bring cutting edge Internet services to 97 per cent of the region emerged as Digital Region began talks with customers who face switching to other providers.

Telecoms industry experts say Digital Region should have targeted commercial customers in poorly served business and industrial districts – including parts of central Sheffield.

Instead, the first places to get the service were disadvantaged areas.

Ross Bray heads technical operations at award winning, fast growing Internet Service Provider Ask4.

He said: “One of the things they wanted to achieve was social inclusion.

“A lot of the areas targeted to be brought online first were where broadband take up had been relatively low in the past, which was commendable.

“However there are other areas of Sheffield that haven’t got it (superfast broadband) where take up would probably have been a lot higher.

“There are business sites around the city centre where we would have liked to put in Digital Region, but couldn’t.”

Anthony Temperton of Doncaster-based KAT Communications agrees, saying that had the network initially been rolled out to industrial rather than to residential areas there would have been greater take up.

Both men also cited the difficulties of connecting to Digital Region.

“Too much red tape and too many network black holes meant you never knew who could have it until an order was placed,” said Mr Temperton, while Mr Bray said getting connected to Digital Region should have been much smoother for end users and ISPs.

Mr Bray said high costs – including connection and disconnection costs – also put off potential clients.

“If you happened to be in the Digital Region area, but your work took you out of the region, you were slapped with a hefty disconnection charge and a reconnection charge,” he said.