Broadband in Ruritania — and elsewhere

This morning’s Observer column.

A document has come into my possession. It appears to emanate from the government of Ruritania or some other insignificant country. The cover is illustrated by a low-resolution smartphone photograph of an out-of-focus bedspread, but this homely imagery is offset by the brave rhetoric inside.

“We should have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015,” it declares. “That’s a challenging goal but it’s one that we can and must achieve. It’s vital for the growth of the economy – especially to small businesses that are so often the engines of innovation.”

Quite so. The government of Ruritania is “committed to ensuring the rapid rollout of superfast broadband across the country. Rural and remote areas of the country should benefit from this infrastructure upgrade at the same time as more populated areas, ensuring that an acceptable level of broadband is delivered to those parts of the country that are currently excluded.” It is also believed something called “two-way video conferencing” may encourage Ruritarians to work from home.

There is much more in this vein, together with talk of “a world-class communications network” that will help the economy grow.