• A Fibre Optic Network – Twenty Years Earlier

    One of the leading issues in today’s New Zealand news is the desirability of establishing a nationwide fibre optic cable network so that high-speed broadband can be extended to the whole country.
    The National Party has proposed a NZ$1.5 billion investment; the Labour government has promised its own plan within a few weeks; and visiting international experts at an IT conference have urged that the whole project should be completed within less than ten years.

    The news coverage rang a distant bell with me and prompted me to go back to check my own records. I was able to confirm (it is referred to on page 204 of my autographical Goodbye to All That) that, when I chaired the British Labour Party’s Working Party on the Productive and Competitive Economy in 1988, I had pushed a proposal that a new Labour government should invest in a fibre optic network for the whole of Britain.

    I had been supported in that idea by Ken Livingstone (himself recently in the news when he lost the London mayoralty). Although we had got our own way on most of the issues covered by the report we produced, we had been defeated on the fibre optic proposal which apparently seemed too way out for most of my colleagues.

    It is interesting to reflect on what might have been if an idea that only now seems to warrant serious consideration and whose advantages are now so widely proclaimed had been acted on twenty years ago. Foresight in politics is not always rewarded.