Nik Butler: Internet is key to success of a local economy

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Of all the modern conveniences to come out of the 20th Century the Internet has to be one of the most provocative and creative that mankind could have dreamt.

It should be considered the fourth utility after Water, Electricity and Gas and it has changed the landscape of business in the last 20 years in ways that only those with foresight gained value from.

Much of the office space landrush that has generated billions of dollars in investment and millions of jobs occurred not in business parks or board rooms but in bedrooms, bus stops, cafes, and coworking spaces. As the worlds largest mobile conference, Mobile World Congress, wraps up in Barcelona we will enter another year wherein business will look to the mobile phone and its internet connectivity and attempt to drill for more wealth from the associations of peoples activities and their online usage.

The reason London thrives as an attraction for the Internet economy is because it allowed more than BT Openreach to deliver broadband; instead businesses like SOHO-net, COLT, Griffin and the like deliver gigabit speed broadband at competitive prices over structured cables and routes long since invested in by the city corporate.

The Internet is one technology that enhances Horsham’s image without burdening it with new developments, new offices, new business parks. It arrives into every home and office and it expands our development opportunities beyond scope and imagination.

It still amazes me today that the Internet lacks considered prominence in strategy and planning discussions. Providing free Wifi on the streets of Horsham would be one development with little to no overhead in delivery and could change how consumers, retailers and businesses interact with each other online as well as on the street.

The arguments against this are that cafes already provide free wifi; it is a sort of free that you can get at the point of buying a coffee. Should we also ban public libraries? After all Waterstones and WHSmith already have plenty of books on offer.

The question remains then; with the investment in allowing BT Openreach to deliver broadband will we see speeds that immediately compete with those on offer in Soho, or will we hear excuses and reasons as to why we should pay more and receive less and believe that building office space is a better investment than opening the floodgates of the Internet to build our next economy.