Ed Richards, principle advisor on Telecoms and new media to the Prime Minister until he took a job at Ofcom last week, reveals Tony Blair’s decisiveness on Broadband Britain:
“First, I want you to tell me what this broadband thing is. Second, I want you to tell me why it’s in crisis, and third, I want you to sort it out…”
Take-up for broadband is pretty impressive now, even from a very low base. According to NOP, a quarter of UK Internet households will be on broadband by the end of 2003. Blair’s Churchillian approach might actually be working.
The clever people at The Work Foundation have done some ethnographic research (the first in Britain, they think) into the use of broadband. Their conclusions are fascinating. In summary, pretty much everything that the access industry has been saying in its broadband marketing is wrong. I urge you to read the PDF file referenced here. I particularly like the subtlety of the distinction they draw between ‘always on’ and ‘always there’. I made the case for ‘always on’ in The Guardian a couple of months ago but ‘always there’ is more descriptive of real user behaviour – computers are turned off, people go out and live their lives – but broadband connections are ‘always there’.
Broadband is widely misrepresented as being all about speed. In fact the speed of a broadband connection is the boring part – a simple incremental improvement to narrowband. The exciting thing about broadband is that it’s always on. Always-on is the really disruptive aspect of broadband, the characteristic of your super-fast net connection most likely to change your life. I wrote about this in today’s Guardian