Internet for London please and thank you (satire)
It always pains me when my friends all over the world refer to London as some sort of a medieval collection of villages, an ancient relic from Shakespearean times. London is a vibrant, modern city on the cusp of entering the 21st century! Much of the infrastructure needed to catch up with the rest of the world is already in place. Take our underground system for instance. I obviously won’t go so far as to compare our Tube to a high-speed bullet train in China, but even the most ardent critics will have to admit that it’s come a long way since the days when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first used it as the scene in a murder that Sherlock Holmes had to solve. Prior to Covid-19, you could usually get across town in under an hour, barring signal failures or faulty trains, and the frequency of these disruptions has decreased markedly in the last ten years.
I truly believe that the opportunities for London will be limitless once the city gets internet access. Okay, some sticklers for detail will probably be ready to jump in right here to point out that technically, we already have internet access. But really, what is the point when it’s only available in two modes: stop and slow? Until last week, I, too, thought that I had internet access. As a matter of fact, I am paying more every month than someone in say, Nepal (I have it on good authority that the internet works there) would probably pay in ten years. Yes, I am aware that the whole working-from-home experience has changed our outlook on life and that employers increasingly let you work from anywhere in the world. It’s great news for a lot of people who have spent most of their life dreaming about a cottage in Nepal that they no longer need to stay in London just for their jobs. At the same time, those of us who aren’t quite ready to move to Nepal yet shouldn’t be forced to move just to get internet access.
So what happened last week was that my wireless, along with that of most of my neighbors, went down. That can happen, though it’s a bit annoying when it happens in the middle of a virtual speaking engagement with hundreds or thousands of listeners, and it’s also annoying when it lasts for more than a week. But I understand that times are tough. I appreciate that sometimes a big buyer, say a large corporate or the government, needs extra bandwidth, and I would of course expect my internet provider to sell them some of the bandwidth I’ve already paid for, in much of the same way I would expect my dry cleaner to rent out my clothes before returning them to me. I mean, I might be supporting a good cause. If, say, the military needs to monopolize the trace amounts of internet we have here in London to conduct a vital drill, like guarding supermarkets when it comes to the crunch, then I will obviously do what’s right for our country and donate some of my bandwidth, particularly if they safeguard my favorite dishwasher tabs in return.
But there are limits. When your internet is down for a week and your provider dodges all your efforts to communicate with them, even gentle, patient, mild-mannered people like me turn into hyenas. I spurred my provider into action with a carefully crafted plan that involved an expletive-filled ultimatum as well as threats of complaints and non-payment and service termination. Basically the works, although I prudently refrained from threatening to stage any riots at their headquarters. I have no experience with that sort of thing, and I imagine it’s terribly hard to organize without internet access. Let’s hope for a happy ending. My neighbors’ internet is back up, so why shouldn’t I get lucky, too?
But I would like to take this opportunity to implore the government to bring fast, reliable internet access to one of the world’s financial capitals. Now, I don’t want you to overextend yourself. Don’t set yourself unrealistic targets like emulating technologically advanced countries such as Denmark or Estonia or Singapore. For starters, you might want to choose a remote village in, say, sub-Saharan Africa as a benchmark, then build your way up to the internet services they’re offering over a period of ten years. Yeah, I know, we all think we need 5-year plans now because the Chinese make them all the time, but our culture has always been a little more laid back. I would even say, if this is too difficult, you could start with a less aggressive benchmark. How about Germany? According to recent polls, between 99% and 99.99% of all Germans believe that their country is hopelessly behind on all things digital. And yet, nearly every German aged between four and 99 has internet. (Most of the over-100s have opted to forego internet, because they’re still traumatized from the Weimar hyperinflation era and don’t trust digital banking).
So, who in government wants to take one for the team and earn their place in history? Ofcom, you have a unique opportunity to make voters fall in love with regulators! BoJo, you braved the virus — take the fight to the next level and take on the internet challenge!! Dom Cummings, if the real reason you drove halfway across the country was to check if all the cables are intact, you will forever be a hero!!! To any politician who can get this sorted: I promise to honor your achievements in a tweet as soon as I am back online!