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E-envoy says Chancellor is ‘obstacle to broadband’

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E-envoy, Andrew Pinder, has landed himself in hot water after labelling the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a possible "obstacle to broadband".

It seems the prudent Gordon Brown is sceptical about broadband because demand for high speed Internet access has so far failed to take off in the UK.

Mr Pinder's remarks at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference yesterday came as an embarrassment to the Government and was made worse by headlines in today's papers which have jumped on this apparent rift in Government circles.

"E-envoy claims Brown is blocking progress on Net," trumpeted the Times.

"Chancellor 'may prove obstacle to broadband'," said the Guardian.

There were more red faces hours later as Prime Minister Tony Blair tried to convince business leaders of the Government's commitment to broadband.

Yesterday, Mr Pinder said that business leaders should adopt broadband if they wanted the Government to support the roll-out of high-speed Net access.

In a way, Mr Pinder has done us all a favour.

With the current lack of broadband take-up in the UK the Chancellor is absolutely right to be sceptical. Businesses will not adopt high-speed Net access unless they believe it will benefit their business and save costs.

Nor will they respond by empty threats of support unless business hooks up to broadband.

By drawing everyone's attention to Mr Brown's scepticism, Mr Pinder has, in effect, shone a bright light on his office's own failure to drive the take-up of broadband Britain. After all, that's what he's there for.

And Mr Pinder has also succeeded in drawing attention to himself and Britain's lack of progress in the broadband world. Congratulations - a beautifully crafted own goal.

Of course, there was no need for these divisions and cracks to have surfaced yesterday.

Mr Pinder is famed for not using a script when he makes speeches. The eloquent orator far prefers to work from a few scribbled notes rather than stick to a pre-prepared speech.

Unfortunately for him, by shooting from the hip yesterday he only managed to blast himself in the foot. ®

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