Well, it’s two days on from the closure of the Ernestmarples.com service, and I’m still hopping mad about it, but, as we know, you can’t do much with anger alone, so I’ve decided to do two key things to try and move this issue along.
Firstly, inspired by this tweet I decided to start a petition on the Number 10 website - at the time of writing, it’s received 377 signatures and has only been up for 24 hours, so if you haven’t signed it, then what are you waiting for? Get on it!
Secondly, I’ve written to my local MP, Mike O’Brien (via Writetothem.com) to try and get some attention to the cause (although Tom Watson will be raising it as an issue in parliament next week - good job Tom!).
The text is below - please don’t copy it verbatim (Writetothem block multiple messages with the same content, and besides MPs will generally ignore letters like this), but feel free to use it as inspiration to write to your own MP!
Dear Mike O’Brien,
Ernestmarples.com was a website set up in July with the intention of providing community based, not for profit websites with the ability to extract geographic information (i.e. latitude and longitude) from UK postcodes for free.
This site now been shut down due to legal action from the Royal Mail and, as a result, many useful websites that use the data, including jobcentreproplus.com, planningalerts.com and thestraightchoice.com are no longer functional.
I understand the need for the Royal Mail to make money from this information, but surely an exception can be made for non-profit making, community built websites? We are on the cusp of a public services recession, and surely any attempt to add value to public sector online offerings should be encouraged, not suppressed?
I believe that your colleague Tom Watson MP will be taking this issue up with you and other ministers shortly, but I wanted to add my voice to the argument and make sure you were aware how strongly some of your constituents felt about this issue.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
I don’t expect change to come overnight (I’m a pragmatic fella like that), but I believe the more this issue is raised, the more likely we are to see some form of change at some point in the future (‘specially with an election coming up!). If you’ve got any other bright ideas to get the ‘Ernest question’ under the noses of the people who matter, or if you’ve written to your MP yourself, let me know in the comments!