Month: December 2015

The FA, the Football League, Lancashire Police and Blackpool FC have failed Huddersfield fans

In 2015 Blackpool FC were relegated from English football’s second division after a season of humiliation on the pitch and a series of disgraceful actions by the owners, the Oyston family. Newspapers across the world reported on the season and the Oyston family’s actions.

Blackpool currently sit at 18th place in the third division. Fans, led by the Blackpool Supporters Trust, are focussed on removing the owners and turning Blackpool into a fan-owned club.

The last home game of the 2015 season was against Huddersfield Town. It was abandoned following a pitch invasion by 100–200 Blackpool fans.

As a result of the invasion Blackpool were fined £50,000 and warned by the Football Association (FA) and given a suspended three-point deduction by the Football League (FL). Blackpool were instructed to pay for the costs of the FA and FL’s investigations into how and why the pitch invasion took place and the match abandoned.

Huddersfield fans received no compensation.

It is clear from reading the various judgements and news articles that both Lancashire Police and Blackpool FC knew that a pitch invasion was planned and that they took insufficient action to prevent it happening.

There is no evidence of a warning being given to Huddersfield fans.

Blackpool FC, Lancashire Police and the footballing authorities have failed Hudderfield fans. Train travel, ticket and food will have cost each fan about £100. That’s a lot of money to see a full football match let alone half a game.

The football authorities should ensure that Huddersfield fans are compensated for their travel and their tickets.

The football authorities need to stand up for fans.

The plan for a pitch invasion was known in advance

The FL’s Football Disciplinary Commission report says:

Both the Club and the police were aware that there were plans by some Blackpool supporters to invade the pitch during the match, shortly after half time.

The FA’s report says:

in the letter dated 5 May 2015 to the FA Mr Pinder [the Ground Safety Officer of Blackpool FC] stated that all the intelligence indicated that disgruntled Blackpool fans would stage some form of protest before, during and after the match, which potentially could include pitch incursions as a way of protesting against the Chairman of the Club. The letter also confirmed that prior to kick-off the Referee was informed of the potential forms of protest

The same report goes on to say:

in an email from a Huddersfield fan, who attended the match with his young son, dated 5 May 2015 he set out the events leading up to and occurring during the pitch incursion. In particular he stated “We got talking to stewards who told us the pitch would be invaded on 48 mins etc etc which was the first we had heard of it.”

The report found:

there were serious inadequacies in the planning that led up to the match on 2 May 2015. There was strong intelligence available that there would be a pitch incursion and that it would be in the early part of the second half of the match. It was admitted by Mr Pinder that the threat of incursion was foreseeable from the Armfield Stand or the West Stand because that is where most of the Blackpool fans were. In those circumstances the pitch incursion was foreseen and the approximate location of the incursion was foreseeable

The FA’s report also makes it clear that the protest was directed at the Oystons:

The pitch incursion involved between 100 to 200 people taking part in a protest specifically directed at the Chairman of the Club, Karl Oyston.

Three Blackpool fans recently admitted threatening behaviour during the protests. A news article reporting their admission and punishment again made it clear that both Blackpool FC and the police knew that a pitch invasion was planned.

The game started peacefully but police intelligence had warned that smoke bombs would be used to set off fire alarms to signify a pitch invasion.

The referee Mick Russell was made aware of the threat and when the invasion happened, took off the players and later abandoned the match.

Despite knowing of the planned invasion neither the club nor the police issued warnings or took sufficient action to stop the pitch invasion.

It’s time for the footballing authorities to stand up for fans

The Huddersfield Town Supporters Association and a number of individual supporters have complained to the Independent Football Ombudsman (IFO) about the lack of compensation.

The IFO recently ruled on their complaint and said:

the supporters had a sound case and the IFO is surprised that a compensation order was not made by the Commission

So am I.

Huddersfield fans are now considering whether to take Blackpool to the small claims court.

I hope they win.

I’m not sure whether it was possible for Blackpool FC to stop the pitch invasion. The relationship between the Oyston family and many Blackpool fans has degraded to the point where it’s irreperable. This was inevitable if you consider their legal actions against fans, the team’s performance on the pitch and the family’s many taunts and provocations. This does not excuse the pitch invasion or the threatening behaviour by some fans but it helps us understand it and predict that an invasion would occur. In fact the very next game suffered a pitch invasion too.

It is clear that Blackpool FC knew the pitch invasion against Huddersfield was going to happen. It is clear that they took insufficient action to stop it, failed to warn Huddersfield fans and are failing to compensate them now.

If the footballing authorities had been keeping an eye on the situation at Blackpool I suspect they would have known a pitch invasion was going to happen too.

In 2016 the footballing authorities need to start helping fans. They should make sure that Huddersfield fans receive compensation.

Of course they should also help Blackpool fans get rid of their owners. But that’s a different tale…..

Make a New Year resolution: Boycott Blackpool FC to help save it

Blackpool Football Club are near the bottom of the third division and failing fast.

They are not just failing on the pitch and falling down the league, they are failing their fans, the town and the wider footballing community. The behaviour of the club’s owners, the Oyston family, is gobsmacking.

Karl Oyston, the chairman of Blackpool FC, posing by a poster protesting against the way that the Oyston family run the club.

Football is meant to be something to enjoy, that encourages more people to take up sport and that brings communities together. It’s meant to be fun.

Instead Blackpool fans are boycotting the club and wondering who will be next to face legal action.

You can help save Blackpool FC. In the process you can help make English football a better sport. A sport that puts football, fans and communities first

The behaviour of the Oyston family

I have to be careful with what I write about the Oyston family. They take legal action against fans and media.

As well as legal actions they have taunted fans demonstrating against the club; loaned millions from the club to other Oyston-owned companies despite the team’s dreadful performances on the pitch; and texted abuse to a fan. A quick search will show you many more stories from across the world.

The owner’s latest trick is to attempt to undermine the democratically run Blackpool Supporter’s Trust by setting up their own group. The Fan’s Progress Group have failed to hold a single public meeting, meet with the club behind closed doors, and has just six members. In 2010 over thirty thousand Blackpool fans went to Wembley.

A picture of the club shop. Thousands of Blackpool fans no longer shop there or go in the ground. They will not spend a penny more at the club.

If Blackpool football club is to be saved then this behaviour has to stop. The club and the fans need to be able to trust each other.

The owners need to stop taking legal action against fans and the club, like other parts of football, must provide greater transparency. But given the depth of feeling caused by the Oyston family’s actions against fans there is one vital first step.

There needs to be a change of ownership. The Oyston family need to go.

Protests and boycotts

Blackpool fans march along a wet and windy seafront in November 2015 in a protest organised by the Tangerine Knights.

A dwindling number of Blackpool fans still go to games.

Some of those fans will have good reasons, perhaps it is a rare opportunity to spend time with very old or very young relatives. Others simply don’t realise what the owners have been doing.

But the majority of Blackpool fans protest. They don’t accept the ownership by the Oyston family. They get to work to change it.

At every match fans stand outside the stadium and hand out leaflets.

Many more fans protest by staying away entirely. It hurts too much and there are more fun things to do on a Saturday. Boycotting is a valid form of protest. By withdrawing support and not spending money fans are making a choice and wielding their economic power. Boycotts and protests help make change happen.

Other fans in the football community have supported the protests and boycott.

Some of the local MPs, Gordon Marsden, Mark Menzies and Paul Maynard are trying to get the issue debated in Parliament. Gordon is supporting legislation bought forward by Clive Efford that will puts fan representatives on the boards of football clubs and give fans the right to buy shares under certain conditions.

But the politicians on Blackpool town council and the football authorities are noticable by their absence on the protests and relative silence on the issues. They are letting the community down. We need pressure on the Oyston family to make them sell the club.

It is the fans who are making change happen. They know that it will not be easy but they will never give up.

Supporter owned clubs

The Blackpool Supporter’s Trust is run democratically. 979 people voted in their recent elections. They are staffed by volunteers and have put in an incredible amount of effort over the last few years. Recently they bid to buy the club.

The logos of some of the UK’s supporter owned clubs, courtesy of Supporters Direct.

The bid would turn Blackpool into a supporter owned club.

Supporter ownership leads to clubs where decisions aren’t made by individual owners but are instead made democratically and inclusively with the community. Clubs that are run by fans for fans. Clubs that put football first.

Supporters Direct helps fans set up trusts to gain influence in the running and ownership of their clubs. The movement is supported by politicians from all parties.

Turning Blackpool into a supporter owned club will not be easy or quick. It could take years. It might be a different bid to buy the club that is successful, but it needs to be a bid that includes the fans. It might even need the fans to start a new club as Wimbledon fans did after their club was moved 56 miles away.

The Oyston family have refused to negotiate the initial bid.

The trust and the fans need your support to help make change happen. Protests, boycotts and spreading the message are a way to help.

In times of crisis and need, regardless of who we support, fans need to stand together. The more successful the supporter owned movement becomes the better it will be for all sports fans.

You can help save Blackpool FC and, by bringing another example of supporter ownership into English football, you can help make football a better sport. One that’s fun. One that’s run by fans for fans.

Ways to help

  1. Share the message of the Blackpool Supporters Trust across social media with the tags #footballfirst, #oystonout or #SaveBlackpoolFC
  2. If you are a fan then join the Blackpool Supporter’s Trust. If you want to buy memorabilia then buy from fans.

3. Join the boycott of Blackpool football club. If you are a fan of a club playing at Blackpool then enjoy a trip to the seaside, but don’t buy a ticket. Join the Blackpool fans protesting outside.

4. If you live in Blackpool write a polite email to the local councillors asking them to help save Blackpool FC.

5. If you don’t live in Blackpool then write to your MP asking them to help supporter ownership and to help save Blackpool FC.

Make a New Year resolution: Help save Blackpool FC

2015 was another turbulent year for Blackpool FC. This year make a resolution to boycott it.

You will help sports fans, help the Blackpool Supporters Trust and help save Blackpool FC.

[This post was updated on 2 January to add information about the local MPs work and Clive Efford’s bill]

[This post was updated on 4 January to clarify a point about the Fan’s Progress Group]

A data perspective on the IP bill

Recently the UK Government issued a draft of legislation that would alter its powers to investigate illegal activity on the internet: the Investigatory Powers (IP) bill. The draft is being debated in committee, in public and will be debated in Parliament before a decision is made on the final text.

I have chosen to consider the IP Bill through the prism of data. The bill is lengthy and hard to unpick but it moves large datasets from closed to shared on the data spectrum. Sometimes with unclear ownership and governance.

As a whole the bill creates risks to our economy and privacy with the aim of increasing our security. We risk causing significant damage as a result.

Perhaps we should go back to first principles and consider other ways to use data to improve our security.

Bulk communications data for telephone calls

To understand the implications we need to look in detail at the data impact of the draft bill.

First, a dataset containing bulk communications data for telephone calls. The telecoms industry calls these Call Detail Records (CDRs).

CDRs contain information for each telephone call made to or from a UK number. It was confirmed on release of the IP bill that CDRs have been collected since 2001. This was confirmed by an oblique reference to the 1984 Telecommunications Act in the IP Bill debate. This was the first time that government had confirmed that CDRs were being collected by the intelligence agencies. Alongside the draft bill more detail was released of how CDRs will be acquired and used.

The dataset contains what is known as telephony metadata: the calling number, called number, date, time and duration for each call. It does not contain the content, i.e. what was said, or the identity of the person at either end of the call but under some conditions that could be inferred to a high level of confidence. For example, with access to other data CDRs could be linked to the identity of the bill payer at either side. That might disclose the name of a person, a business, a charity, a government department. If you knew that I called a letting agent and removal firm on a given day you might be able to guess my purpose.

As well as through the CDR dataset disclosed in the IP bill, the police, the security services and multiple other public sector organisations can also gain access to CDRs, and the identity of the person who pays the bill, under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIPA) Act but with a different access method.

RIPA states that communication companies must store this data within their own organisation. Authorised bodies make requests under certain conditions to search the data. The communications company provides data that matches the request. For example a communications company might receive a request for details of “all calls from phone number X within time period Y to Z” and the requesting body might have made the request to support a criminal investigation.

There have been many cases where people have used RIPA to access data in dubious circumstances such as investigating the sources of journalists or checking whether parents live in a catchment area for a school.

Image by Jeremy Segrott. CC-BY-2.0

The Interception of Communication Commissioner’s Office (IOCCO) has regulatory responsibility for RIPA and can take action against bodies that use RIPA incorrectly. From IOCCO’s reports it appears that they were asked to take responsibility for regulating the newly disclosed bulk CDR dataset and, in return, requested it to be put on a clearer legislative footing early in 2015.

This is a complex tale. It is tricky to even spot this dataset being disclosed in the debate in Parliament let alone unpick its history and understand the impact.

A simpler way to consider the data is using the Open Data Institute’s data spectrum.

Data spectrum image by the Open Data Institute. The circles represent datasets.

Communications companies need CDRs to provide services and bill customers. The CDRs used for billing would be in the internal access part of the spectrum: it is only accessible by the communications company (1). The Information Commissioner’s Office regulates that the data is kept securely. Customers understand that the dataset exists and receive a derived version in the form of their personal telephone bill (2).

The data that is retained by communications companies to meet their requirements under RIPA and the dataset that is gathered and retained by the intelligence services under the newly disclosed powers are different datasets. They are also derivatives of the internal access dataset that is used to provide services and bill customers.

The RIPA dataset sits within the named access part of the data spectrum (3): it is maintained by the communications company who provide access to authorised public sector organisations. IOCCO’s function as regulator is to verify and report that all parties are are complying with the rules under which Named Access is permitted.

It is unclear whether the dataset newly disclosed by the IP bill is gathered directly by intelligence agencies or provided to them by communications companies. It could be internal access or named access on the data spectrum (4).

Coupled with a historic lack of visibility and independent scrutiny it is difficult for people commenting on the draft of the IP bill to understand some key questions about this dataset. Does the bill provide an appropriate level of regulatory scrutiny? Has the data proved operationally useful to the intelligence services since it was first collected in 2001? Has it, like that accessed under RIPA, been misused?

Internet Connection Records

The second dataset we will consider is Internet Connection Records (ICRs). The intelligence services have informed government that they need access to this new dataset to protect our security. The IP Bill requires communication companies to gather ICRs, retain them and provide access on request.

In the draft bill the ICR definition is loose and no example is given of precisely what it might look like and contain. It is clear that ICRs will contain a level of metadata for internet usage: i.e. which websites are accessed and when.

Data spectrum image by the Open Data Institute. The circles represent datasets.

Communications companies need to temporarily use this data to connect customers to websites (5). They may retain an aggregated form of the data to understand the behaviour of their customers and help with marketing and network management. They are unlikely to retain detailed data due to the cost of gathering and securely retaining, the risk that would be identified by a privacy impact assessment and the low value to their business.

Under the IP bill communications providers are asked to derive and retain ICRs for all of their customers (6). Like the RIPA datasets this would be held by the communications company but provided to police and intelligence services on request. This is a dataset in the named access part of the data spectrum.

Attempts to recreate ICRs show that they are likely to contain personal data which when linked together and analysed would be extremely revealing about individuals. The data is far more revealing than the bulk communications dataset for telephone records.

This is concerning.

By moving data from closed to shared we increase the risk of malicious actors gaining access. Every point of data storage, transfer or access is open to attack. The data that malicious actors could gain access to contains personal data about all UK citizens who use telephones or use the internet.

To give a simple example of the potential damage, details continue to emerge of the personal impact of the hack to a single website, the Ashley Madison dating site in America. A leak of an ICR dataset from either the intelligence services or a major communications company would show not just who used that one website but every website that had been browsed and when. An increasing number of services are delivered and used online. Anyone using the data would be able to paint a realistic picture of each of our lives.

The data should be kept securely but it is difficult to guarantee protection against malicious attacks. The UK ISP TalkTalk recently suffered from a hack whilst one of the many things that the Edward Snowden leaks showed us is that even if there are safeguards in place to protect against such hacks, there are still ways for human beings to circumvent the safeguards.

To provide confidence that this data is being kept securely will require significant organisational transparency from both the intelligence services and communications companies. It would require disclosure of how the data is used, how it is shared, who it is shared with, why it is shared, how it is secured, whether it has been breached, who audits it, and who regulates the access. It would also require us to trust the answer to each of these questions and that the auditor and regulator are performing their functions to our satisfaction.

Bulk Personal Datasets

The final dataset to consider is bulk personal datasets (BPDs). BPDs contain personal data relating to a large number of individuals. The majority of the individuals in a BPD are not of interest to them, but the intelligence agencies still deem the whole dataset to be useful

It became clear in March 2015 that the intelligence services had been gathering, retaining and using BPDs for some time. Privacy International started legal action against the UK intelligence agencies in June 2015. The IP Bill creates a regulatory framework for how BPDs are gathered and retained.

Data spectrum image by the Open Data Institute. The circles represent datasets.

It is good that BPDs (7) are being defined and regulated in the draft bill but it is not yet clear how many and which BPDs are being gathered and retained, how they are being used or who they are being shared with. They could be Internal Access or Named Access.

The definition in the draft bill is broad. BPDs could be telephone directories, property records and electoral registers. BPDs could also be medical records, travel records, financial records, records for membership or sports clubs or political parties. They could be biometric records such as the planned NHS genomics dataset.

The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC)of the UK Parliament has reported that “each Agency reported that they had disciplined — or in some cases dismissed — staff for inappropriately accessing personal information held in these (bulk personal) datasets in recent years.”.

Without additional clarity, openness and ongoing transparency it is unclear whether BPDs create a larger or smaller risk to privacy than the new ICR dataset. Due to the disciplinary action reported by the ISC it is clear that some damage has already been done.

Increasing the risks to people’s privacy will damage the digital economy

There are other changes to communications data in the bill. For example the power to interfere, including in bulk, with consumer equipment such as smartphones, communications company network equipment or the potential requirement for online services to provide ways to bypass encryption.

Image by Juniper Networks of a Netscreen firewall. It was recently disclosed that the software on these firewalls had been interfered with. It is not known who or even how many individuals or organisations performed this act.

But the overall message is consistent.

By increasing the number of people who can access communications data and bulk personal datasets we are moving data from the closed to the shared area of the data spectrum. Whenever we move data in this way it increases the number of people who can use the data. This increases the risk of invading privacy. We need to protect data against these risks.

If protection fails then malicious actors could use their access to discriminate against us, to steal our identity or steal our possessions. They could even choose to openly publish data that was always meant to be kept private. If such breaches occur then it will cause personal and economic damage. Lives will be damaged.

We will ask for compensation from the services that we think failed us and we will stop using services — from the public and private sectors — that we don’t trust.

To protect against the risk of personal damage some individuals can be expected to use personal cryptography to protect their data.

To protect against the risk of economic damage that will threaten their businesses it can be expected that internet companies will respond by continuing to deploy end-end cryptography and hence reducing the value of the data that is collected under the powers in the bill. The battle between internet companies and governments will be played out behind closed doors and in the media. Perhaps the internet companies will escalate their response and mobilise their users to lobby governments and sway policy.

With a continuing battle, occasional data hacks and the corresponding loss of trust we risk individuals choosing the locked down future for their data. This is a future where all data is as closed as possible. That would reduce the value we can gain from data and increase the damage to our economies.

We need to tread carefully when changing the way we store and use data on such a large scale. We need a more informed and open debate. We may find that in an attempt to reduce the immediate danger to our security we are risking irreversible damage to trust between the state and citizens, to our economy and to our privacy.

We want to be world leaders in the digital economy but are risking both the digital economy and our privacy as the intelligence services believe that mass surveillance and ‘big data’ is the best way to use data to protect the security of citizens. Perhaps we should go back to first principles and reconsider whether that is the case?

[Note2: this isn’t an authoritative assessment of the IP Bill. The bill’simpacts are complex. An internet search will find you many more assessments. This is a useful legal review.]

[Note: this blogpost was updated on 23 December to include a section on bulk personal datasets and clarify some detailed points in the last section]

I want to be an astronaut

Yesterday Tim Peake, Tim Kopra and Yuri Malenchenko went into space where they will stay on the International Space Station (ISS). My first reaction was to say “I want to be an astronaut”.

Photo: ESA

It’s true.

I do want to be an astronaut.

That’s not just because I still have the dreams of a small kid (although that’s often true…) but because I believe the human race should be exploring space. Not just space stations but other planets and stars.

I want everyone else to be able to be an astronaut too.

Yes, we are exploring space right now. After all three people went out there just this week. It was big news. Here in the UK the event was that unusual that we had live TV coverage. It is 43 years since a human was last on the moon. We can do better than this.

With more exploration we will stretch the boundaries of knowledge, technology and society. This will help us with our current challenges and prepare us for a future where our population is larger than the Earth can support. Some might argue that we are at that point already.

By exploring space we will challenge how our own societies function. That includes the challenge working together with other nations to get into space (this spaceship carried citizens from the UK, USA and Russia) but maybe one day we will meet other civilisations and societies.

By exploring space we will inspire people with a vision for the future. A vision that might seem like science-fiction but, let’s face it, we seem to be turning what was science-fiction into reality on a near daily basis. Just look at that smartphone in your pocket and the amazing things you can do with it.

Picture by DSCOVR satellite and yes, that is a moon. Credits: NASA/NOAA

When exploring space we will get a different view of our planet. Not just a view from a million miles away but a recognition that some of our current problems and concerns really are quite tiny in the grand scheme of things.

Some of those concerns — disease, inequality, war and famine — are incredibly important in the grand scheme of things but the innovation, opportunity and vision provided by space exploration should be used to help tackle those challenges. The multi-national crew on the ISS is researching human health. Learning how to grow food on Mars will help us learn how to improve food production back home on Earth. Whilst nations and people that are working towards a common goal and vision are less likely to fight.

Space exploration is a perfect example of how governments and societies can work together to tackle incredibly complex challenges over multiple decades with a common vision and a common goal. We should be demanding that our governments do more of it.

And finally, by exploring space we meet an overwhelming human need. The need to explore and discover new things.

I want to be an astronaut. I want everyone else to be able to be one too.

Picture taken at the London Science Museum’s fantastic Cosmonauts exhibition.

I’m so bored of the broadband debate

The papers and tech press are full of talk about broadband access. The price of broadband. The number of homes with or without access. Should every house have access? Should every house pay the same price?

I’m not really bored of broadband. It is really important, But it feels like the wrong debate. We shouldn’t be debating mobile or Wi-Fi either.

We should be talking about and demanding internet access everywhere. People, cars, drones and even cereal packets will all want to be connected to the internet. They probably won’t care how they connect.

In the future you might be able to press a button on your cereal packet to tell your favourite online shopping store that you want some more. Other brands of cereal are and will continue to be available.

In the future we will need internet access in houses, in offices, on trains, on roads, in the countryside and up in the sky over the countryside where drones (and maybe…eventually…flying cars) are travelling.

The flying car from The Jetsons. The future flying car will probably be automated and connected to the internet.

When we debate broadband and set targets for successful delivery we set in motion complex and expensive infrastructure projects that take years to complete.

Projects that are focussed on a particular type of technology rather than on the service that users actually need: internet access everywhere.

Building blocks for internet access

Internet access can be delivered by a whole host of different technologies: broadband (by fibre, by copper or by coaxial cable), mobile, satellite, Wi-Fi, balloons, white space, Li-Fi or something that’s invented next year. We will find that in some countries, regions, cities, towns or houses that different technologies will work better than others. That’s fine. Our regulators will make sure that they work together and don’t conflict. All of those technologies can provide internet access.

In some areas we will find that the best type of organisations to build and maintain internet access are large private companies operating at scale with mass-market solutions. In other areas we will find that the best solution is for the public sector to build and maintain internet access through municipal networks. In others it will be community initiatives like South Africa’s wireless networks. A good regulatory framework can allow all to flourish in the right environment.

A trench being dug by the UK non-profit community benefit broadband provider B4RN.

Picking the right technology, regulatory and organisational solution for a given area will let us deliver internet access faster.

It is simpler to get internet access into every home than it is to get a particular technology into every home

User-centred internet access

If we are to provide internet access everywhere we also need it to be centred on people and their needs. We should not be targetting houses, offices, or fields. We should be thinking about the needs of people. As with other types of infrastructure it is how and when we use the internet that value is created. We use the internet to create, deliver and consume services for people.

Some of the services may be indirect, for example the distribution of video content between television broadcasters or “smart” houses, but they only exist because they are meeting the needs of someone, somewhere.

A submarine cable coming to shore. That cable meets a user need. Photo by Cable and Wireless Worldwide. Taken from ZDNet.

If we start with people and think of their needs and capabilities then we can come up with different ways of using these building blocks to provide internet access everywhere to every person, car, drone and cereal packet.

By understanding their capabilities we will also find that in some areas we can work with local government, businesses, communities and people to build the necessary local infrastructure. We shouldn’t wait for central government to set new targets. We should just crack on with it.

Digital exclusion

Starting with users will also help us understand that by focussing on broadband we have been focussing on technical infrastructure and have left some people behind. People who can’t afford internet access or lack the skills or any of a number of other reasons that mean they can’t use the internet. Leaving those people behind has impacted on the value we get from the internet and reduced the number of people who can help build local infrastructure.

We will need to couple action on digital exclusion with internet access to get the most value out of our investment in internet infrastructure.

Internet everywhere

It can be quite scary to think of internet everywhere rather than simply thinking of broadband access. Broadband access feels like a router in the corner of a living room. Internet everywhere feels very different.

What is the right regulatory framework for internet everywhere? What will it mean for privacy? Will there be state surveillance of everything? Will I ever escape the attention of push notifications carrying ‘urgent’ news? Can I go off-grid? We will become ever more reliant on the internet, what if it breaks? Who controls the internet?

But it is the future. The internet is not going anywhere. And we, and our internet-enabled cereal packets, will only demand access to it more and more. We need to understand these, and other, questions and ensure that we have answers that suit our societies. Our national politicians need to grapple with these questions and not just whether or not a particular town has enough internet.

Politicians debating. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Don’t get me wrong: broadband is important, but it isn’t the end-goal.

We need to remember that we are heading to a future where there is internet everywhere. This will help us focus on the right questions and make better choices over the next few years. By making better choices we might get to this future faster and reap the benefits sooner.

A future with the internet everywhere is what will be demanded and needed. It really is that simple.

I’d suggest we stop talking so much about broadband access and the number of homes passed and start talking about getting the internet everywhere instead.

If we don’t then I’ll just keep singing this song in my head.

All together now: I’m so boooored with the broadband debate.

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