He was speaking at the IoD breakfast which examined the economic benefit of fibre roll-out.
‘Jersey Finance talks about the island’s connectivity at every event,’ he said. ‘That message enables people to innovate.’
Sure’s CEO Justin Bellinger said that the company was ahead of schedule in its roll-out of fibre, but Mr McDermott warned that with the rest of the world catching up, places like Jersey and Guernsey needed to attract innovators and businesses now. ‘The window of opportunity is shrinking,’ he said.
Meriel Lenfestey, chairwoman of the JT Group, said from the floor that mindsets needed to change to ‘what can we do with this connectivity?’ rather than simply ‘it’s faster’.
‘People need to ask how can they re-invent their sector with this technology,’ she said.
Yulia Kossykh, associate director at Frontier Economics, on the panel with the two telco chief executives, said that there were a number of economic advantages to fibre.
‘It is more resilient and less prone to failure. That helps with productivity, particularly for SMEs [small- and medium-sized enterprises] who do not have leased lines,’ she said.
She highlighted that labour forces were flexible and now working from home more, so fibre would help them. Having robust connectivity at home was also an environmental bonus, with fewer failures meaning better energy efficiency, while people working from home reduced commuting. It would also help with the growth in virtual reality, for example, e-commerce in the metaverse.
Mr Bellinger said that it was the telcos’ responsibility to deliver fibre and its infrastructure, but that government and agencies such as Digital Greenhouse should be supported in attracting people to the island on the back of that. He stressed that fibre was replacing copper broadband and that business products for larger companies would remain.