According to government figures, broadband adoption is accelerating. But don't read too much into it, says Simon Moores.
I had just finished duct-taping a plastic bag around my Yorkshire terrier’s head, following the instructions on "How to deal with the threat of gas attack" found on the Home Office’s new anti-terrorism site, when I stumbled across a story on broadband "revisionism".
Now broadband isn’t a topic that you might immediately associate with the House of Lords, but it appears that on 11 March, the Earl of Northesk asked the government if it had "arrived at a conclusive definition of broadband in respect of data transfer speeds for the commercial market and the residential market".
Into the breach jumped Labour’s IT spokesperson, Lord Sainsbury, who replied: "The government views broadband as a generic term describing a range of technologies operating at various data transfer speeds."
Does anyone know what this means? It strikes me as equivalent to saying, "The definition of broadband is broadband" - a clever tautology that the forensically incisive Robin Cook might be proud of.
You may remember how, three years ago, the criteria for an "online" business moved a little to include the telephone. This helped the DTI improve its figures for the UK as a leading information economy.
Today, broadband penetration is accelerating, but obviously not fast enough. So, two tin cans and a piece of string may now qualify as a technology "operating at various data transfer speeds", depending on how tightly the string is pulled.
Next time you read about our remarkable broadband figures, remember that the information revisionists have been "fiddling" with the definition, as they have with just about everything else; crime, hospitals, taxes, refugees and so on. So why should Broadband Britain be any different?
Meanwhile, the dog is having problems breathing and the plastic bag has steamed up. The Home Office site tells me that the best defence against terrorism is a torch, a bottle of water, tinned food and a blanket - but it doesn’t say which colour. Does anybody know?
What do you think?
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Zentelligence Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.
This was first published in March 2003