Normally the knee-jerk reaction to news that the county council wants to spend taxpayers’ money – and a great deal of it too – should be met with alarm.

But in this instance, it makes sense.

The fact Oxfordshire County Council wants to spend £13m to drag the county’s broadband service into the 21st century, when many view it an “essential utility” that should have been served by commercial providers, means the council is taking the only responsible course of action – ie, it’s a dirty job but SOMEONE has to do it.

And rightly so.

After all, as Conservative councillor Caroline Newton, who represents the rural division of Watlington, points out: “This is probably the one matter I get the most correspondence about, more than any other issue. People in the villages are very concerned”.

Understandably too: whereas once commerce conducted on the internet was a minor addition to the local and national economy, it is today its umbilical cord.

Indeed, Oxford-based Lib Dem MEP Caroline Bearder is adamant about its necessity.

Because just like water and gas, it is no longer a fringe benefit but a vital prerequisite for a healthy and prosperous community. And without it, we would simply sink.