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Tory MP: make unemployed build Britain's fibre network

Cables

Posted on 18 May 2011 at 09:36

Conservative MP David Davis has called for the Government to use unemployed workers to build a nationwide fibre broadband network.

Writing in The Times, Davis admits the Government cannot afford to spend £25 billion on a nationwide fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network, and says the sum is "more than the ponderous, monopolistic companies in this sector are willing to risk".

However, Davis claims that the biggest cost of installing a fibre network is the physical labour of building the infrastructure - a task he claims could be undertaken by the unemployed.

Building a superfast rural broadband network is largely low-skill - digging trenches, laying pipes, filling them in

"Building a superfast rural broadband network is largely low-skill - digging trenches, laying pipes, filling them in," Davis writes. "Only a small fraction of the cost is high-tech materials."

"Why not use use the 2.4 million people who are either jobless or on welfare to build this infrastructure?"

The former Shadow Deputy Prime Minister claims that the Government's current plans to encourage investment in a fibre network are insufficient.

"At the moment, the Government intends to direct about £530 million from the BBC licence fee to enable BT to invest £5 billion in laying cable to about 60% of the population, mainly in urban areas," he writes.

"This is not enough. There is already a digital divide between rural and urban Britain. There is a real risk that superfast broadband will be an exclusively urban luxury and that rural households and businesses will be left farther behind."

BT backlash

BT said Britain had "one of the best broadband availability figures in the world" and said Davis had got his facts wrong. "The article is wrong in saying that the Government is to direct £530 million to BT to enable it to lay cable to 60% of the population," BT said in a statement.

"BT is investing £2.5 billion of its own money to bring super-fast broadband to two-thirds of UK homes and businesses by 2015. The public funding, which will only be available through a competitive tender process, will specifically address only the final third of the UK."

BT also took exception to Davis's jibe about BT's unwillingness to invest in nationwide fibre. "As for suggestions in the piece that broadband rollout is being handled by ponderous or monopolistic entities – BT is now passing 80,000 homes with fibre every week, and this is among the fastest fibre rollouts anywhere in the world."

Davis's comments come a day after analysts claimed that BT's fibre broadband rollout was suffering delays.

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User comments

This makes me think of a famous German Person. On balance though, the Germans do have good roads.

By PhilGQ on 18 May 2011

Jolly good idea old chap.

By baldric on 18 May 2011

Nothing like taking advantage of the vulnerable then? They don't deserve to get paid for work then like the rest of us expect?

What about making the hundreds of thousands of prisoners in the UK do the work?

Ohh sorry, they're too busy playing their PS3's and getting degrees, silly me.

By a_byrne22 on 18 May 2011

Vunerable?

There is a differnce between being unable to work, and being uwilling to work. The latter being the ones we (as tax payers) are funding to sit on their arses. Perhaps some labour for their pay isn't too much to ask. Instilling a work ethic and giving them a reason to get up each morning and go to work does no lasting harm. It's hardly "slave labour" since they are already being PAID! Useful skills, references and (homefully) bonus money would all come from this.
I see no reason to add minor offenders to the ranks either, offering community service laying fibre cable instead of a prison sentence. Do you?

By cheysuli on 18 May 2011

And Then...

after the work is completed, kill them. Kill them all.
Sieg heil.

Well, we put these fine people in power, didn't we?

By PSilva on 18 May 2011

Why not? I think that sounds a great idea. It beats watching Jeremy Kyle. I assume they'll at least get the minimum wage for their labour.

By AndyChips on 18 May 2011

@PhilGQ

congrats you clown, that is reductio ad hitlerum in its purest form.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_Hitlerum

By gavmeister on 18 May 2011

Don't forget that there are tens (or hundreds) of thousands of people out of work that would actually jump at this opportunity.

Not all the unemployed people are happy being unemployed.
I know a lot of people who are happy to take any work they can get.

At least something like this, whilst being fairly low skilled, isn't going to be short term job.
there'll be holes that need digging / filling for quite a few years yet.
(especially when we decide to re-dig the same holes for electric/gas/water)

By SteveSmith on 18 May 2011

I think that if they actually hired them and paid minimum rage, they could use this to get people OFF the dole (at least temporarily).

This could also give them experience which some companies demand these days.

But if they forced them to do this on dole money, I wonder how many would just do a **** job?

By tech3475 on 18 May 2011

Where does the money go?

My first reaction was "oh yeah and maybe they could eat cake too!" BUT, what is so costly about digging a hole? Where, when the governmeant / local government / BT dig a hole does the money go? (No jokes please!). The poor devil's digging the hole probably don't get paid much so it's probably into the contractors / sub-contractors profits. Cut out the middle man. Not such a bad idea after all. Plus there is the self esteem, skill and credibility the new workers gain. What's next David? That's one idea, keep 'em coming.

By JohnHo1 on 18 May 2011

I can see a few problems with this.

One, what happens to all the employees that are made reduntant because the businesses they work for can't compete with the minumum wage labour on offer? I guess they join the dole and are forced to do their old job for less money.

Two: What about pension and employeement rights? Sick leave, maternity and paternity leave? Costs of travel, uniforms? Insurance in case of work place accidents?

Three: Will they be allowed to unionise?

Four: Actually I am guessing not everyone can just hop into a JCB and dig a hole. Presumably it takes some training to get the license. What about repairing the roads after?

Five: How far will people be asked/forced to travel in order to work on these schemes? If it's mostly going to be done in rural areas were will workers be housed? Assuming they are not being bused vast distances.

Six: Who will actually own this infrastrucutre? Will the Tories give it away for free to the private sector when they get the chance?

By JamesD29 on 18 May 2011

Forgot to mention that this could drive up wages in the private sector with fewer people compteting for what jobs there are.

I am not opposed to a New Deal on princial. I just think that this is another headline grabbing nip at the BNP vote by the tories.

By JamesD29 on 18 May 2011

@gavmeister

I didn't say it would lead to genocide. Only that it reminded me of someone.

Your mind did the rest.

By PhilGQ on 18 May 2011

GOOD IDEA - STOP LOOKING FOR PROBLEMS PEOPLE! THIS WILL SAVE US TAXPAYERS MONEY AND GIVE SKILLS AND SELF ESTEEM TO THOSE WHO WANT TO WORK!!!

Why is it most people view every idea the Goverment puts forward as negative! They are looking for ways to save you and me MONEY. Unlike labour who spent £1bn on a dome in London!!!!

See this for what it is - An opportunity!

A) The country gains a superior network
B) Private and Public businesses benefit
C) The chance for those on the dole to gain work experience and gain self-esteem.

I'm not saying there arn't problems with the idea but the pro's easily outweigh the con's.

I don't think everyone or even anyone should be made to participate in this kinda of work but I do think the unemployed should be given the opportunity to participate in the scheme. I for one was out of work for 8 months and I've never been so bored in all my life!!! The chance to get out, get some exercise, gain some skills and receive a sense of well-being is very appealing. Not only that but people would get the chance to see the workings of a city beneath their feet. I wouldn't be at all surprised if employed people fancied the idea as well!

Think of it like this... The British love gardening for recreation which involves digging holes and getting muddy! This is a chance for more of the same (without the plants haha!!!)

By anthonysjones on 18 May 2011

Ha ha ha you all fell for it...

A politician starts throwing random unfeaseable populist idea to get some votes and everyone is taking them seriously, for and against.

Ridiculous.

You can get benefits sitting at home, or you can get marginally more digging trenches. I know what I would chose. The real question is whether the benefit system is fair or not, that's what should be discussed, not some random musing at the pub.

By TheMegamale on 18 May 2011

@PhilGQ

nor did i say it lead to genocide. did you follow the link? it explains there.

By gavmeister on 18 May 2011

A better idea....

....has already been mentioned. Make the prison population do it - American style chain gangs. Get them off their backsides and away from their holiday accomodation. Sorry, cells.

By everton2004 on 18 May 2011

Ah bless

People still believe that prisons are PS3-laden holiday camps? Ah bless. Looks like Daily Mail readership is stronger on PC Pro than I'd first feared. Still, I suppose the editor is an ex-DM hack.

By GillsMan7 on 18 May 2011

Is this PCPro or the Daily Mail?

Frankly I don't think this latest puddle of Parliamentary drivel counts as an IT story just because the Tory in question wants to put the 'feckless unemployed' to work digging trenches for BT. He could have said the same thing about building new prisons or joining the Army and it would have got the usual suspects foaming at the mouth (both pro- and anti- the idea).


It's another BS publicity pitch that is barely worth reporting never mind responding to. Except to say I doubt the Tory MP in question has ever done anything as demanding or skilful as digging a trench. Digging into dinner at the Connaught on his MPs expenses, maybe.

By Noghar on 18 May 2011

Ye gods.

Every so often, a subject really throws into sharp relief that you don't half find a lot of evil, vindictive, sanctimonious, judgemental gits on the Internet. The comments on this article being as stunningly good an example of Daily Mail-fuelled, eye-rolling, saliva-flecked bile as one could hope to find anywhere... Heaven forfend that we should actually, you know, PAY people a decent wage for doing the work; no, sirrah, for that would cost us way too much. Let us instead take advantage of the fact that we've boosted unemployment by shooting the economic recovery in the arse and characterise those now out of work as being workshy feckless chancers, whose moral turpitude absolves us of any obligation toward them. Thus can we justify, not paying them a wage for doing the work, but taking their benefits off them if they don't, whilst still basking in the warm glow of our moral superiority. If we can manage to pander to our prejudices concerning conditions in prisons, persuading ourselves that the people held in overcrowded unsanitory cells on 23-hour a day lockdown are in holiday camps, so much the better!

By nichomach0 on 18 May 2011

Priorities

Well if they prioritised a UK Wide roll out of FTTP higher than the stupid HS2 project (£32B) then they could easily afford it! It would also provide more economic benefit than HS2. There rant over.

By BPerry on 18 May 2011

@gavmeister

From your link:

"The suggested logic is one of guilt by association, a classic confusion of correlation and causality, as if to say that anything that Adolf Hitler did, no one else should do, for it will obviously or eventually lead to genocide."

Sorry, if that wasn't what you meant. I was actually glad someone understood what I was talking about.

By PhilGQ on 18 May 2011

ideas

We can't get the prison population to do it because it cost more to securely transport and supervise them than it saves. Also, they have no incentive to work.

Making these jobs available at market rates would mean that the job centres would be able to offer jobs to all those that want to work but can't find work. Jobseakers allowance is meant to be for those that CAN NOT find work, not for those that don't WANT to work.

By profet79 on 18 May 2011

Nichomach0, have you ever set foot in a prison? As someone who has worked in them I can tell you they ARE the piss easy places that most of us think they are. The scum (and let's be honest, it takes some hard work to get sent down nowadays) get everything they want, if they smash up something it's replaced, they get free drugs if they're addicts.
This country has bred a class of parasites, I for one would be more than happy to see them made to work or simply given a humane injection to put us out of their missery!

By TiredGeek on 18 May 2011

Bullshit.

We send more people to jail for longer than any other country in Western Europe. Work hard to get sent down? Don't make me laugh, and as for "scum", given the way my wife was treated by prison officers when she was (voluntarily) teaching at our local prison (to remand prisoners, not convicted), I'd say that all too often the scum are the ones holding the keys.

By nichomach0 on 18 May 2011

great idea, make no mistake

What a great idea. They'd never make a mistake; like bursting the gas pipe - as the paid/trained? Virgin Media engineers did outside our house

By ckbridge1 on 18 May 2011

Seems OK?

All dinosaurs holding the present infrastructure are in a monopolistic regime where change is not desirable.
Change (development and introduction) costs money.
However, change may result in LESS revenue than before modernisation.
If it takes an Hour to send a message one will be billed for an hour. If traffic time is reduced to ten minutes, billing is seriously reduced. Comms Co. PROFITS take a hit, which is detrimental to the modernisation.

Any Comms Co. might object of an unfair labour advantage, should any one particular company come up top.

I am also a bit perplexed that any PRIVATE company should get "redirected finances" from the BBC.
BT was publicly owned, was PRIVATISED. Though it BT is unwilling to invest itself, the idea that the government will throw tax payers money at such a company is annoying.
*
Having consulted the computer; it says "No".
*
Why did/does the BBC not bring out a National Fibre Optic Network? We are all for competition, and the BBC will need to re-arrange itself soon, so why not undertake this sort of modernisation?

So the only option I advocate is to get the system built BY the People, For the People as a UK Owned Infrastructure. The Infrastructure is then hired out to Comms Co.'s with inclusive forecast cost of maintenance, repair and replacement.
*
Computer says "Maybe".

By lenmontieth on 18 May 2011

Remember, David Davis got more votes than David Cameron to lead the Conservative Party

Using the FPTP system David Davis would now be the Prime Minister because he beat Cameron in the first round of the Tory party leadership election. Thanks God they decided to go with a different method of electing a leader! Davis is too much of a right wing extremist.

By SwissMac on 19 May 2011

It seems expecting something out of benefit payments makes one a nazi, or a Daily Mail reader.

No wonder there is such a huge sense of entitlement in the UK, as soon as someone mentions any obligations you get idiot socialists defending the poor dears.

By Phoomeister on 19 May 2011

Someone needs to check the water at the House of Commons. This proposition is absurd, unless those doing the work get paid - more than can be said for all the unpaid interns working for the government.

How about we stop paying MPs when they talk complete rubbish? I can find plenty of friends who would like to go to Parliament and would do it for less - I would do it for the expenses I know I could fiddle.

By TonyF12 on 19 May 2011

@BPerry

Quote "Well if they prioritised a UK Wide roll out of FTTP higher than the stupid HS2 project (£32B) then they could easily afford it! It would also provide more economic benefit than HS2. There rant over.

Couldn't have put it better myself. If you also include the cost of the crossrail project.....

By jontym123 on 19 May 2011

Tell you what lets just introduce chain gangs!!!

By nik_milnes on 19 May 2011

I'd be happy to do this work in my local area

I'm long term unemployed.
I'd be happy to do this work in my local area if it meant I got free optical to my house but I wonder if my BT bill will still keep on rising and rising as it does now.
I bet even if the work was done by me for free I would still get ripped off by BT. Me I'm unemployed, have a busy life, while some just get bored I don't. I'm unemployed but still don't have enough time to do all I want to do. I also do not get a penny from the government. If you have savings then after six months you no longer get job seekers allowance.

By jtallsmith on 19 May 2011

They could always be used to clean up litter too but it's never happened.

By trgzbaby on 19 May 2011

OneBadMouse

Aside from the sociological comment, the technology will be out of date by the time the project is completed.

Most of the money for the project will be raised from the cities which already have fast broadband. City dwellers will be subsidising urban areas - another fat subsidy for the tory electorate

By imasca2 on 19 May 2011

Tory git!

What about all the engineers up and down the country who are trained to do this job, do we dump them on the dole and make them work too? It seems the problem with ministers are that they are essentially useless at it strategy and are mostly responsible for not having any money to invest as they have already spent billions of taxpayer's money on stupid schemes that don't work!
If i was unfortunate enough to be unemployed (I work as an Electronic Engineer) and would not get dole money to support my family unless i do forced work, trust me i aint doing a good job.
I would probably end up selling stuff 'acquired' from my forced work to feed my family, thus increasing the risk, cost and effectiveness of another government IT scheme.
Whenever we need a sharp downturn in ethics and morals it always wise to put a conservative government in power.
What the unemployed need is justification for getting off their arses and that roughly equates to getting paid more than they can 'earn' having a free week where the possibilities are endless and some spending cash to boot.
What David Davis needs to do is go champion some worthwhile cause and stay away from complex IT implementation and installation projects. You wanna slag off BT for not spending enough of its own money developing something you want to benefit from carry on, but for godsake have some balls and say what you mean (going too far and getting kicked back into your Big Corporation Executive Consultant non-working role that Smithy from Eton go you is okay by me).

By Darkstar74 on 19 May 2011

How about this instead?

I’ve just thought of an even better idea. Instead of this, why not have the unemployed become MPs and peers in Parliament? Look at the benefits: they’d be on the minimum wage so we’d save quite a bit on wages and expenses (bit of a sore point, I know!); they’d gain more experience than if they were digging ditches (and think of the contacts you’d make); plus since unemployment is affecting more and more sectors of society, they’d bring a huge variety of experience with them from their former jobs. Lastly, unlike using a JCB which requires a license, there are no minimum qualifications to entering Parliament, so they could pick up the job as they go. Ok, so at the moment a person must be elected (well MPs do, I think you become a peer by bunging the government a few quid or something), but in most constituencies they’d vote for a monkey with the correct rosette. Come on people, don’t look at the downsides think about the benefits

By craigster731 on 19 May 2011

cerb

baldric said "They don't deserve to get paid for work then like the rest of us expect?

Actually, they are already being paid not to work!

Unfortunately, I'm forced to sacrifice my own earnings to pay for people who don't want to work [as well as those who do, which I'm ok with].

By StuartW6 on 19 May 2011

Tories seek to abolish 'The National Minimum Wage'

Tories also seek to abolish 'The National Minimum Wage' by applying Employment Opportunities Bill. This at a time of Mass Unemployment and a recession and when workers are struggling to survive with excessive price rises in Food, Utility Bills,and Fuel.

See links to details here:
http://dorsetvisualguide.co.uk/agpcuk_data.htmT

Signed Carl Barron
Chairman of agpcuk

By Carl_Barron on 19 May 2011

Sheesh!

Shakin' the bushes, Boss. Still shakin' them bushes!

By R_Jimlad on 19 May 2011

Sheesh!

Shakin' the bushes, Boss. Still shakin' them bushes!

By R_Jimlad on 19 May 2011

Mr Davis is being rather naive in 2 ways.

Digging holes isn't a job with no skill, as the people need to be able to read maps so as to not dig up other services, and there are machines to do the job quicker than a gang of dossers with shovels, machines which need skill to operate.

However, digging and filling is several times more expensive than having the cable or fibre on poles, which is how many of the nation's phone connections are made at that scale.

Or is there a plan to bury all of this network?

By andy962 on 19 May 2011

What I been saying for years?

Just this. So maybe Mr Davis reads PCPr, Thinkbroadband, and other sites.

The "we can't afford it" line is a crock. We can, and a considerable proportion of the 'cost' will return to the Treasury in the form of taxation, both direct income tax and indirect as VAT and business taxation.

The point Mr Davis misses two points:

1. The "biggest cost is labour" is based on paying a reasonable wage; somewhat more than the £65/week JSA he proposes to pay.

2. Assuming we tapped this employment pool, a significant proportion would be returned in the form of taxation; directly via income tax, and indirectly as VAT/business tax from expenditure.

He also misses that it would immediately reduce the associated unemployment benefits - Housing benefit and Council tax relief.

I've been advocating this for years, only to be todl not that the basic principle is flawed in any way, but that it "cannot be done" because of the scale of the project.

By alan_lj on 19 May 2011

Pay Me & I'll Do It!

I'm unemployed at the moment and if they paid me to do the job I'd gladly take it. However this Davis wants people to work for free and if that's the case I'll stay sat on my arse. I bet Davis isn't doing the MP job for free! A typical Tory attitude treating unemployed in the same catagory as offenders as if its a crime. And before anyone states I'm getting paid already, I'm not getting paid anything from the state!

By sbellamy on 19 May 2011

Pay Me & I'll Do It!

I'm unemployed at the moment and if they paid me to do the job I'd gladly take it. However this Davis wants people to work for free and if that's the case I'll stay sat on my arse. I bet Davis isn't doing the MP job for free! A typical Tory attitude treating unemployed in the same catagory as offenders as if its a crime. And before anyone states I'm getting paid already, I'm not getting paid anything from the state!

By sbellamy on 19 May 2011

Stephen

To all you supporters of the Tory ideals of the rich getting richer and the rest of us becoming a unpaid workforce, please think before putting your brains into gear. A workforce of unemployed would reduce the need for a workforce of paid private sector workers, the majority who sit on their high horses calling the unemployed workshy, lazy or scum. This reduction in the use of the private sector would result in you high and mighty tax payers being made redundant, you would in your own words become scum. Next you would have to work for your benefits for free, and our rich masters the elite Tories would get richer. This never ending spiral would continue until our country had no paid workforce, only paid masters controlled by the wealthy land owners. Think about it, would your employer really want to pay you if he can get an unemployed workforce, and if your an owner of a private sector firm, would you really be able to compete against a workforce of unpaid staff. Follow the Tories and we all lose except the rich elite. Don't fall for Tory propaganda, stop being so gullible.

By snpjones on 19 May 2011

Stephen

To all you supporters of the Tory ideals of the rich getting richer and the rest of us becoming a unpaid workforce, please think before putting your brains into gear. A workforce of unemployed would reduce the need for a workforce of paid private sector workers, the majority who sit on their high horses calling the unemployed workshy, lazy or scum. This reduction in the use of the private sector would result in you high and mighty tax payers being made redundant, you would in your own words become scum. Next you would have to work for your benefits for free, and our rich masters the elite Tories would get richer. This never ending spiral would continue until our country had no paid workforce, only paid masters controlled by the wealthy land owners. Think about it, would your employer really want to pay you if he can get an unemployed workforce, and if your an owner of a private sector firm, would you really be able to compete against a workforce of unpaid staff. Follow the Tories and we all lose except the rich elite. Don't fall for Tory propaganda, stop being so gullible.

By snpjones on 19 May 2011

You gotta pity David Cameron ...

It's like trying to run a sleek, modern cruise liner with the undead crew from the Black Pearl!

By JohnAHind on 19 May 2011

Work for your living

Anyone drawing unemployment welfare payments should be required to "earn it" by carrying out a minimum of 24 hours total work a week on projects ordered within the commumity, be it crossing wardens or cable trench digging, be it weeding gutters or helping in libraries. Welfare payouts should get something in return. If welfare payments are considered inadequate for this the answer is get better qualified and go for a better job - not on welfare!!!

By hampshirehog2 on 19 May 2011

Hog2 for a living

@hog2
Maybe being insured would help pay when you become unemployed.
Oh yer now I remember, unemployment 'benefits' not welfare are benefits from paying National Insurance. A system set up to make sure insurance was always paid nationally. We are all 'insured' that's the point of compulsory insurance.
So paying people £2/hr to do other peoples work is going to resolve the unemployed problem is it? Who is going to pay their N.I. & cover the liability. Does your employer know that you can't reason beyond a soundbite.

By Ucumist on 20 May 2011

LOL

David Davis = Absolute Legend!

By HolisticLA on 20 May 2011

CLOWN

david davis (name does not deserve capitals )you are a CLOWN ! ! !

By GAFFER1968 on 22 May 2011

Belly laugh or what!!!

For starters does BT use its own service, if they did they would know its not the best...just being silly really he is.

Oh how the hell are they going to get a lazy bunch of drunken tossers out of the town centres and getting them to work, all they want to do is cause trouble, steal, get drunk and shag a chavette or two, they dont want to work, its why we have over loaded the country with every lazy mong and criminals and the few that want to work from other countries!
When we are paying alcoholics £50 week extra on their dole, why would they work, work is for muppets like us!!!!!!

By boggsy on 25 May 2011

David Davis on the right track (if not the right trench).

Credit to David Davis for attempting to bring some workfare into welfare. By suggesting the unemployed could help build a nationwide broadband fibre network he has, at least, proposed something specific and that is what is needed - specific, concrete ideas on things that need doing in the country and how the unemployed could be employed. The previous government, in its woolly, incompetent, profligate way, simply hoped that conventional training and economic growth would solve the problem while hard-working immigrants actually took most of the vacant jobs. There are some Labour politicians prepared to 'think the unthinkable' about welfare but they are few in number so it is down to the Conservatives to try to break this culture of welfare dependency (albeit shackled by a Lib-Dem ball and chain).
I hope he continues in this vein and suggest he casts around for many more ideas on work that need doing, a whole page of ideas, as many as possible - projects hungry for labour, both national and local. Perhaps he could set up a competition for the best concrete ideas on getting from welfare to workfare. The ideas are out there.

By japarsons on 26 May 2011

Make unemployed buid fibre network

That would make then employed would it not?
give me the skills and Id happily accept a wage commensurate with the job.More than can be said for our MPs rates for the (NON)job

By UK_Snapper on 2 Jun 2011

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