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Digital Division: Brown’s Roadmap to Nowhere

This week saw the publication of the British Government’s Digital Britain report. Whatever else it told us, it confirmed one thing: we are living in the soundbyte generation. Somebody in Number 10 probably got a pack on the back for all the snappy phrases they packed both into the report and the promotion that surrounded it. The barrage of 21st century cliches only served to show how deeply out of touch they really are. In the end, the report is a squalid mess that would neither get the attention of the disinterested nor appeal to anybody who cares, with one notable exception. The Gordon Brown vision is that next generation Britain will be a high-tech low-carbon super-fast knowledge economy, where we unlock imagination at this vital tipping point. Sexy phrases. But what a load of tosh. Look past the quotes from Clay Shirky and you find an underlying message that is the antithesis of the distributed, fast-moving, creative, and often anarchic world of the internet. Let me spell out Brown’s vision of Digital Britain in one sentence: Digital Britain is a business, run for big business, by big business, with the Government playing a vital part in keeping big business happy and making sure everybody knows their place.

With a bit of luck, the Digital Britain report will soon morph from blueprint of the future into forgotten historical curiosity. Its sponsor, Stephen Carter, is apparently planning to change jobs soon, and the report may get lost down the back of the filing cabinet when he leaves. It is about time Carter moved on. The Communications Minister has a long and impressive CV for a man of only 45. Impressive, until you realize that means he keeps changing job. Impressive, until you realize he keeps changing job because he was never any good at any of them. Before being Communication Minister, Carter was Brown’s chief of strategy. Brown is now the most unpopular British Prime Minister in living memory, less popular even than Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher just polarized opinion. Everybody is agreed on Brown: they all hate him. Even his own party hates him. Brown admitted in a recent interview that strategic planning had been one of his weaknesses. What does that say about Carter, his former strategy chief? Previously, Carter was the boss of Ofcom, taking on the tough task of cutting waste but largely seeing its importance degraded. Much of its importance had been usurped at European level, and even when it came to British standards of taste and decency, it was repeatedly floundering in the wake of events like the Celebrity Big Brother/Jade Goody ‘racism’ outrage. Before Ofcom, Carter was boss of ntl, the cable operator. When George Blumenthal, ntl’s co-founder, left the company, he sent staff an email that openly criticized “the management consultants, the toothpaste marketers and the other Carterets”. He was also unpopular with ntl shareholders, which may have had something to do with him leaving with a £1.7m payoff after steering ntl into bankruptcy. The only jobs that Carter has done well have all been in the advertising industry. That is the key to understanding the Digital Britain report, and the spin around it. It is one big, clever advert, for a rubbish old product and rubbish old ideas. The Digital Britain report is exactly the kind of marketing made by advertising companies for big business. The people writing the report come from advertising. The message they push is that big business is good. The only difference is that Brown paid for the report from taxpayers’ pockets. If the advice in the report is followed, taxpayers will find themselves paying again and again.

Pulling apart the whole report is going to take a long time, and many people have already torn it to shreds. Instead of emulating them, let us examine the synopsis from the mouthpiece himself: Gordon Brown. Brown wrote an article for the The Times, all about Digital Britain and the report. Of course, I mean that somebody from a PR background, probably a chum of Stephen Carter, wrote an article for The Times, and Brown put his name to it. This is how it went…

The digital revolution is changing all our lives beyond recognition and today we shall set out how Britain must change with it.

How Britain must change with it? This implies the government are somehow leading the way. The funny thing about the digital revolution, and the impact it has on people, is that it has happened without the government leading the way. After all, revolutions involve ordinary people overthrowing governments, not governments telling ordinary people what to do. There is no evidence that Britain’s government has the insight, skills, experience or vision to be telling the rest of us what to do to keep pace with this revolution. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Whether it is to work online, study, learn new skills, pay bills or simply stay in touch with friends and family, a fast internet connection is now seen by most of the public as an essential service, as indispensable as electricity, gas and water.

That is a sexy soundbyte. ‘As indispensable as electricity, gas and water’. Many journalists repeated or paraphrased it. Keep it in mind, because we will come back to it later.

Just as the bridges, roads and railways built in the 19th century were the foundations of the Industrial Revolution that helped Britain to become the workshop of the world, so investment now in the information and communications industries can underpin our emergence from recession to recovery and cement the UK’s position as a global economic powerhouse.

Investment is key. Nobody argues with that. But who is doing the investment, and why? Picking bridges, roads and railways is far from the most obvious analogy. The most obvious analogy would be the investment in the telegraph. The Victorians spent tremendous amounts of money in laying the infrastructure so the whole world could communicate for the very first time. Because of the telegraph, messages could be sent almost instantly across the world for the very first time. Huge ships laid enormous lengths of cable along the seabed, spanning the vast distances between the continents. The greatest investment in the international telegraph network came from Britain. So if we want an analogy that is about Britain investing in pioneering communications infrastructure, the telegraph is the obvious choice. Brown and Carter must employ at least one person with enough knowledge of British history to appreciate that. So why talk abut roads and bridges instead? Because the state builds roads and bridges using taxpayer’s money, but the state had nothing to do with the telegraph. Private money set up the enterprises that laid the telegraph wires all around the world, and they did it without needing help from taxpayers.

Today the Government will publish its Digital Britain report, which firmly places the digital economy centre stage as it is core to our future industrial capability.

The UK’s digital economy at present accounts for about 8 per cent of our national income. Its continued development is fundamental to the productivity and innovative capacity of so many other sectors and, with that, the creation and protection of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The digital economy may well be core, but that still does not explain the government’s role…

I am determined that Britain’s digital infrastructure will be world class. For me, it is all part of building Britain’s future beyond the difficult, short-term economic conditions. We must continue to invest to become a world leader in the new high-tech, low-carbon industries of the future by reigniting the British genius for invention, discovery and trade – to capitalise on our strengths.

Brown is a determined man. He is determined that we must invest. It has something to do with carbon apparently (presumably if we spend all day using computers, than global warming will be the problem of the Chinese with all their factories etc…). But what is this? The British genius needs ‘reigniting’. Did the flame go out? Maybe it was a coal fire…

Whenever I travel abroad, I see the presence of British products and services that testify to our national strength in the emerging high-end manufacturing industries, the information and communications industries and creative industries such as advertising, film and television.

I guess Brown never sees me when I am abroad. I work in one of those industries and do most of my work abroad, bringing money back into the UK. If I saw Brown, I would be telling him how mighty hacked off I am about how so many of his policies seem designed to hinder me, not help me. But, like Brown, I am straying off the point…

These are the dynamic sectors that we need to back and promote. So, like other leading economies, we must develop the next generation of communications networks – fixed, mobile and broadcast.

That was quite a leap. One minute we were abroad. The next we are building networks in the UK. Let us not even talk about how the low-carbon objective fits into this globe-hopping whilst home-stopping equation. We may have some ideas how this could fit together, but there is nothing in this article, nor the Digital Britain report, that makes any attempt to reconcile them.

The private sector is rightly leading the way and investing significant sums.

The private sector is doing what the private sector does. Good evidence that the government is irrelevant… but wait…

But there is also a role for targeted, strategic action by government. We can create the right framework, for example, for the release of wireless spectrum – a national asset – while also liberalising its uses and extending mobile broadband coverage.

Tosh, tosh, tosh. Hypocrisy. We got 50% of the way through the article, and when we finally discover something specific that the government wants or should or may do, it is a load of hypocritical nonsense, the reverse of what they did in the past. Gordon Brown, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, pocketed £22bn from the sale of 3G wireless spectrum. He did that by utilizing an auction mechanism designed to squeeze money out of big business at the height of the dotcom boom. Did he spend the money on investing in Britain’s communications infrastructure? No. He took £22bn that might have been better spent on communications infrastructure, and which had to be recouped by charging higher prices to British customers. Did he spend it on any infrastructure, like roads and bridges, or for health, or for education? No. He used the money to pay down the national debt. Yes, there was a time when Gordon Brown took money from big business and used it to reduce the national debt. Obviously, the world has changed a lot since then. However, it rather proves that asking Brown to make investment decisions for the future is like asking Brown to end the cycle of boom and boost. It may sound like a good idea, but do not bet your house on him actually doing it.

In our fibre optic and cable networks, which will provide the next generation of superfast broadband, the Government must also complement and assist the private sector to move farther and faster.

Now we are getting to the point. Government must ‘complement and assist the private sector’. That is a nice, roundabout way of saying Government will ‘force taxpayers and/or customers to subsidize big business’. I can see why the spin doctors picked their wording, and not mine. The Government’s proposal seems straightforward. Take a rubbish business like cable operator Virgin – formerly known as ntl – and make sure the market is rigged to suit their interests. Meanwhile, Virgin announces some “unlimited” music download package to raise the question of why anybody would ever download illegally. Presumably the answer is that the chain of cause-and-effect is illegal downloads force reductions in retail prices. If retail prices had been low in the first place, there would not have been the incentive to turn to illegal downloads.

ntl started out by getting a lot of money from private investors, were very badly run by management, went bust, and their investors lost almost everything they had put into the business. Private investors are not so stupid that they will do that again. So the Government has the solution. Because ntl has a new name, and hence must now be a really good and efficient business, it makes sense to ensure they have a safe place in the future market and guaranteed profits for ever more…

The government’s protection will not just go to Virgin/ntl. The government has long been negotiating the subsidy it will guarantee to BT in exchange for building superfast broadband networks. Should we fear that BT might waste that money? The relevant division is run by Steve Robertson, a man who has spent most of his career avoiding competition by working for the nationalized BT, apart from a brief time when he jumped on the dotcom boom bandwagon and jumped back again when things got rocky. BT is now privately-owned, but the broadband infrastructure division, Openreach, is still a monopoly, protected from competition. Now the government will guarantee the Openreach division will be profitable by taking money from ordinary people and giving it to Openreach to build the infrastructure that will enhance its monopoly position. And why is BT Group not able to pay for this infrastructure investment from its existing profits? Well, one major reason is that the only division where BT actually faces open competition from equals – BT Global, which sells IT services to multinationals – loses so much money that it consumes the profits of all other BT divisions. Which means every BT customer is already subsidizing their inept IT services division and hence underwriting their big contracts to their big business customers. Sounds fair? No, I do not think so either.

BT’s management can only run a profitable business when they are in a market skewed in their favour. That does not sound to me like the kind of semi-monopolistic, badly-run, inefficient business that the ordinary British citizen should give be giving huge amounts of money to. BT is not the part of the private sector that ‘leads the way’, to use Brown’s words. This is the part of the private sector that hides from public eyes, only willing to spend when its profits are guaranteed by promises from government, only willing to innovate when it has a sure-fire hit. Worst of all, we have been down this road before. The government had a wonderful boast it would computerize patient records for the NHS. Years later, and that project is well behind schedule and well over budget. The main supplier for the NHS contract, BT (see a connection?) has been suffering huge losses on the deal. Do we really expect the same combination of big business and big government will do a better job with building our next generation of broadband networks?

Modernisation of our communications infrastructure is vital to take advantage of important shifts in technology. The public sector, businesses large and small – and those who work in them – need access to both fixed and mobile high-standard, high-speed networks.

But I am clear that this transformation must benefit us all, business and consumers alike, in every part of the country. Digital Britain cannot be a two-tier Britain – with those who can take full advantage of being online and those who can’t.

This is classic BrownSpeak. It is also another kind of BS. The bulk of the market distortion in the Digital Britain report is not geared to ensuring some access for all. Most of it is geared to ensuring faster networks for some. Not surprisingly, big business wants to spend money where it can make money. Strangely, the government wants to give them more money to help them make money, as if the free market did not give enough incentive already. That is like subsidizing an airline that only wants to fly on the most popular routes. The superfast network that would be built by BT is geared around better speeds for urban dwellers. If we really want to avoid a two-tier strategy, Brown should stop kissing the backside of big business and put the taxpayer’s money into doing the big things that big business does not want to do. The losers in two-tier Britain are the rural poor, who are left behind. Their post offices get closed down, yet we expect them to be happy whilst disconnected from the huge advantages of the modern internet. Meanwhile, our cities are overloaded and riven by anti-social behaviour. The Government’s solutions are routinely and depressingly oppressive. They deal with symptoms, not causes. Never mind Tony Blair’s mantra: ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’. Now the message is just: ‘tough’. The government wants more spying on people, more congestion charges, more handing out of ASBOs. Digital Britain was an opportunity to think, in a far-reaching way, about how technology could change Britain for the better. It was an opportunity missed by people lack the imagination.

The Digital Britain report is small in outlook, because it shares the same outlook as big business, which also likes to control people and keep them under scrutiny. Big business likes to keep a close eye on people because it cannot find a better way of managing and working with them. Britain’s big government and big business both suffer from woeful management, who prop each other up and help each other stay in their cosy positions of power. A digital revolution could offer a radical alternative, using technology to really change our way of live for the better, and solving multiple ills at the same time. Our government’s idea of regionalization is to move jobs out of urban offices in London into urban offices in cities in the North, or Scotland, or Wales. We need to be move jobs to the countryside. We need to encourage youth to stay in rural areas, and encourage working people to move into rural areas, by giving them a wider range of opportunities. With technology, we can move jobs out of cities and give people freedom to do the work they love in the place they love. Digital Britain could be the enabler for that. Instead of asking how we stop the countryside from falling too far behind, we should turn the problem upside down, by using public money where private money will not go, and letting private money pay for the rest. Let us prioritize fiber-to-the-cabinet for rural dwellers, and encourage the building of lots of small and super-connected villages as an additional way to deal with the shortages in housing. Let us use tax incentives to encourage homeworking, in recognition that homeworking helps us reduce the costs of congestion and carbon emissions. The creative and knowledge industries are ideal for homeworking. Instead of kowtowing to big business, which always prefers to assemble its workers in urban offices (BT recently forced some homeworkers back to the office) let us give business the incentive to change and improve management, so the same work is done even though people work from home.

So the first step must be to make the existing broadband network truly available to all. Just as we remain committed to a universal postal service, we pledge today to give every home, community and company access to broadband internet.

If you are like me, you must be bemused by Brown associating his dismal failure to protect post offices with his plans for a universal internet. That rather suggests it will be a universal internet, but only if you live in the right places.

These technological advances will be accompanied by a revolution in content, which they allow. We must develop and sustain public service content, such as commercial regional news, which we all value and rely on, ensuring that it can be delivered across multiple digital outlets by a range of providers accessible to all.

These are difficult times for local newspapers, TV and radio and, as Ofcom has said, a regionalised TV news network is no longer financially viable. However, competition in news – as in business – is vital to provide consumers with the highest quality and we cannot allow a monopoly to take root. Remaining in touch with local issues and holding councils and regional bodies to account is the lifeblood of our democracy.

Brown is once again confused about the boundaries between this country and the rest of the world. He has made that mistake before. He used to say he fixed boom and bust for the UK, only to discover that Britain’s economy is not independent of the global economy. The same is true for content. The revolution in content is taking place, and it is global in nature. Brown’s vision of public service content is outdated, because it assumes a connection between content and scale, between content and geography. We already live in a world where listeners of Invicta Radio in Dover could just as easily get the headline news from Al Jazeera in Doha.

Broadcasting on a local level is in terminal decline, for the same reason that Brown is closing post offices – not enough people need or use the service to keep it viable. The solution is not to use public money and public intervention in the market to create jobs that serve diminishing audiences. As mini-broadcasting shrinks, it will make room for two trends that will fill the gap: micro-broadcasting and macro-knowledge sharing. Micro-broadcasting means that, instead of getting the news from somebody sat in an office in the biggest nearby town, who have themselves got most of their content from a bureau, more of us will come to rely on a patchwork of smaller, informal, charitable, volunteer and semi-professional broadcasters. You will get your news from a mix of podcasters, bloggers and professional sources. Some will be friends who act as informal information hubs on social networks. Universities can provide info for their students and surrounding residents. There are many possibilities for how micro-broadcasting will grow, the only certainty is that it will grow as it becomes cheaper and easier. That may represent a scary future for some, who prefer their broadcasting regulated and controlled. These same people would like to control the internet, and struggle to understand why you cannot. I can see why the Government would rather deal with dozens of small radio stations instead of thousands of people sharing content from their bedrooms or home offices, but that does not mean the Government of preserving the past and forestalling the future.

The partner trend to micro-broadcasting is macro-knowledge sharing. Ordinary people, or the micro-broadcasters, will increasingly get their information by mining valuable data sources, managed over the internet and available for free. There are plenty of examples of ‘serious’ journalists caught copying and pasting from Wikipedia, so we should expect more and more broadcasting will rely on reuse of public information provided on the internet. This is not bad for democracy, despite Brown’s insistence we need local journalists to decipher local events. I am already more likely to get good, detailed and useful information about the internet than from the local radio. I do not want to listen to the local radio every day, just in case they say something relevant to me. In contrast, I can monitor my MP by getting email alerts from TheyWorkForYou.com and can both see, and report, local problems using FixMyStreet.

We also need to help Channel 4 to secure its future. In its short history, the station has produced Oscar-winning films and some of the most popular and highest-quality programming. But it now requires long-term stability to develop as a truly global player.

I cannot imagine a more confused paragraph. The confusion is accentuated by presenting a national television broadcaster as a potential ‘global player’. Content creation is not the same as broadcasting, though they used to be vertically integrated. Now I can watch Virgin One on Sky’s satellite network, the BBC on Virgin’s cable network, and Channel 4 over the internet. When Channel 4 was launched, it increased viewer choice by 33%. You used to have three TV channels, and Channel 4 added a new one (at least in the evenings – it was a long time before they started broadcasting during the day as well). It was a broadcaster in the traditional sense, when broadcasting was the way to that content got from the maker to the viewer. Now, Brown is suggesting its future role is as a content creator, making films and programmes. But content creation does not need to be linked to broadcasting. For every hour that Channel 4 broadcasts, it needs an hour of content. Some will be made by Channel 4, some by independent producers with commissions from Channel 4, some will be bought in from elsewhere, like US TV shows. Broadband ubiquity means that there is no need for an intermediary like Channel 4 to be involved in screening US TV shows or distributing independently-produced content. All the mainstream channels will find they decline in importance as broadcasters, and will need to shift their focus to content creation in order to survive. That does not mean the taxpayer needs to help them survive. Public money for content should be just that – open to all content providers, not mediated and managed by increasingly irrelevant broadcasters. The ‘channel’ part of Channel 4 will increasingly become an anachronism. Rather than wasting money on sustaining old distribution models, it would be better to speed the transition to universal broadband.

Improved communications technologies from the progressive digital switchover will enable the Government and local authorities to provide taxpayers with improved individually tailored public services offering the greatest value for money, and increasing efficiency for citizens and businesses. We must also introduce a robust legal framework to combat digital piracy and secure the rights of Britain’s creative talent.

Here is the really important paragraph, the reason for the report. Or rather, here is the importance sentence, which comes after some impenetrable waffle about ‘tailored public services’ (surely some kind of oxymoron?). There will be an election in less than twelve months. Gordon Brown would quite like it if some big media companies – the ones that own newspapers and the like – would support him in that election. To get their support, he will do something they like, by using the law to bolster their big business profits. Pure and simple. It sounds better when you say call it countering piracy (like sending gunboats to chase Somalis with speedboats and AK-47s) and say you are securing the rights of Britain’s creative talent. It sounds less convincing when you point out that even the Digital Britain report makes it plain that Britain’s creative talent does not own the rights to the work it produces. It sells the rights to big business, very often foreign-owned big business. So this legal framework may be of great benefit to big business, but is largely irrelevant to the majority of creative artists. Those artists are just as likely to get screwed over by big business as the rest of us.

Broadband is at a tipping point. High-speed internet access will soon be essential for everyone. Only a digital Britain can unlock the imagination and creativity that will secure for us and our children the high-skilled jobs of the future in a global economy.

Broadband is at a tipping point. Sounds good. What does it mean? What are transforming from, and what are we transforming into? Per this report, it sounds like the government is doing everything imaginable to keep things just as they are, and just how big business likes it. Change would be wonderful, but change is disruptive and change means risk for big business. Just like banks, the big telecoms and big media big businesses are run by people who love to be paid like they are risk-takers, whilst relying on the poor old taxpayer to pay for a safety net that protects them for the consequences of their own inefficiencies and mistakes. To keep big business happy, all mention of net neutrality was erased from the final version of the report. There is nothing in here about investment in small business, only big business. There is nothing in here about ensuring the rights of the ordinary person. That sounds not like a tipping point, but big government colluding with big business, as usual.

Brown is correct that high-speed internet access is essential for everyone. It is vital for the economy. It is ‘as indispensable as electricity, gas and water’ (I told you I would come back to that). The problem with this article, and the Digital Britain report, is that it gives absolutely no guarantees to anybody other than the big businesses that Government has been negotiating with. It makes no promises to the ordinary person that they will have broadband access. Sometimes governments do make promises to people, and they keep them too. Those promises can be made even if it involved big business. Water is big business. Gas and electricity is big business. However, ordinary consumers have rights to water, gas and electricity. Those rights are protected in law. The utility providers must and do respect those rights. The Digital Britain report, however, offers no genuine rights for internet users. It is hypocrisy to say broadband is as essential as water, whilst also pushing proposals that are designed to forcing ISPs to cut off paying customers. It is hypocrisy that high-speed broadband is called essential, whilst the government is intending to force ISPs to waste their money, interrupt their customer’s services, and turn high-speed into low-speed or even no-speed broadband, not because customers had failed to pay their bill, but because customers used the service to do things that another, different company does not like.

Amidst all the advertising-speak from Brown’s buddy, Stephen Carter, the word essential it twisted and manipulated until it looks like a pretzel. It is essential that you pay for the service, not once, but twice, and possibly three times or more. You must pay your ISP for the service, and must pay the network operator to build the network. Because of the incompetence of the Government and the operators, there is every reason to believe you will end up paying a third time, through your taxes, and a fourth, as the Government protects big business profits by blocking competition. On the other hand, it is far from essential that you receive the service you paid for. That is why the report does not confer a genuine right to broadband, like the right to water, and gas, and electricity. In this regard, it already seems to be out of date. Just like in his Ofcom days, Carter is rendered irrelevant by events on the European stage, which suggest the courts will interpret that internet connectivity is a right. Doubtless, when the Europeans force the consequences on Britain, the British politicians will turn on the smiles and congratulate themselves, whilst brushing Carter’s report under the carpet.

Brown’s vision for Digital Britain is a road that leads nowhere. It lacks imagination. It looks backwards, not forwards. It talks in the language of the internet, but walks the walk of monopolistic big business. That is no surprise when you realize its author is Stephen Carter, the advertising guru who makes a good living from impersonating someone who understands the future of technology and communications. To a dinosaur like Brown, Carter probably looks like he is evolved, but Carter is nothing more than a warm-blooded rodent that toadies to his master. This is from Carter’s introduction to the report:

I would also like to record my particular thanks to …. and most importantly for the political leadership of the Prime Minister, whose recognition of the importance of this sector and the need for a coherent strategy are what has made this work possible.

What a masterpiece of hollow. Carter praises the leadership of a man who looks backwards. He hails coherence as if the coherence of big business greed is more important than the creative anarchy of the internet, the vitality of freely exchanged ideas or the unpredictable dynamism of genuine free market competition. It is just another aspect of the merry-go-round of corruption that keeps spinning round and round. Corruption involves more than MPs fiddling their expenses. It runs deep, and it includes this shameless collusion between government and business interests. Carter is the inverse of Robin Hood. He schemes to take money from ordinary folks and to give it to the rich and powerful elite. And then he condescends to tell you why that is in everyone’s best interests. These are slick words, used to package corporate greed and political backscratching and make it look like a gift. Swapping one main party for another will likely make no difference. Stephen Carter is on first name terms with the Tory leader, David Cameron, and the Shadow Chancellor, George Osbourne. It is reported that Carter could very well reappear as a hanger-on to a Tory government, if they got into power. Just like the war in Iraq, it seems ordinary voters are stitched up again. That is why I am joining an international movement to reform the law and create the vibrant and free economies that politicians like to talk about but work against.

The Pirate Party is rapidly establishing itself in countries all over the planet. The Swedish Pirate Party paved the way, and shown that the issues they raised are deeply important to many people. In the European elections, it was supported by over 7% of Swedish voters, an incredible result for a new party, started from scratch less than three years ago. The Swedish Pirate Party is being joined by sister parties in other countries. The German party did well enough in its elections that it qualified for official recognition and state aid. Parties are being founded in such diverse countries as the USA, Brazil, Australia and Russia. I am joining the Pirate Party UK and helping to establish a new voice that speaks up for ordinary people and understands that the impact of new technology is too great and too important to allow it to be dominated by the interests of big business. Gordon Brown’s blinkered vision is of digital division. That division will be between vested interests and the rest of us. Stephen Carter, who scuttles backwards and forwards between big business and big government, thinks that balance is achieved by finding compromises that suit both his paymasters. In his world, the only role for ordinary folk is to hand over their money and believe his advertising lies. Remember, his old company helped to spur internet activism, by being so bad it provoked frustrated customers into launching the infamous ‘nthell’ forum. We need to organize and stand opposed to Brown, Carter, and the interests they serve.

It will be a hard fight, but one we must fight. Neither big government nor big business will look after the interests of the common person. Sometimes, when the law is corrupt, and the rulers more corrupt still, you have to become an outlaw, a rebel, or a pirate. Now is the time to secure our future, keep the internet free, and ensure everybody can access the internet for personal, social, cultural and commercial gain. In the 21st century, the internet is as essential as water; the Pirate Party will campaign to ensure everybody has the internet as their right.

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