LETTERS: BT finds it easy to promise

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The Independent Online
Sir: I view the announcement that British Telecom is willing to cable schools, hospitals and educational establishments free of charge with a sad sense of "deja vu".

In the early 1980s, Aberdeen was included in the first round of local cable franchises to be awarded. In the franchise was a commitment by BT to cable free all the local educational establishments. On the strength of this, I obtained the agreement of the then managing director of Aberdeen Cable for the establishment of a dedicated local education channel. Material would be supplied by local educational television production houses such as the one I was then heading and the cable channel would be provided free by Aberdeen Cable.

A committee chaired by me was set up involving the local higher education institutions, the education authority and the cable company. A few months before the channel was to be launched, BT withdrew from its promise to cable educational establishments free of charge, having found that the cost of cabling the four schools they had so far reached to be far more expensive than cabling houses, involving, as it did, having to duct cables underground across often considerable expanses of playground or playing fields. What would have been a unique Aberdeen Education Channel foundered even before leaving the harbour, and has never been refloated.

Perhaps we should remember that promises are easy to make but harder to carry out when the purse becomes a factor.

Yours faithfully,

J. R. Colquhoun


5 October