back to article Martha Lane-Fox: No broadband, no citizenship

"I don't think you can be a proper citizen in our society in the future if you're not online," says self-confessed web-zealot Martha Lane Fox. She was appearing on a surprisingly good BBC Radio 4 investigation into internet refuseniks. But why stop there, Martha? Why not remove the vote from anyone who's gone more than four …


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  1. Frank Bough


    Martha I'd Like to Fucking Shut Up

  2. IR


    "I don't think you can be a proper citizen in our society in the future if you're not online,"

    I'm pretty sure she meant that it would be very hard to get-by, not that you should be denied any rights. Dumb people are blowing this quote all out of proportion.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Lots of surprising goodness about!

    "She was appearing on a surprisingly good BBC Radio 4 investigation into internet refuseniks."

    And Andrew's review was also surprisingly good!

  4. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    "The internet - what's the use of that, then?"

    Is what I used to be asked when I told people about it in the far-off days (1988) before the WWW. Nobody but me and a few other geeky types at uni, it seemed, could see the potential.

    How times change...

  5. Anonymous Coward

    I agree...

    I'm also an internet refusenik and refuse to go anywhere near the thing.

    hey, wait a minute...

  6. Anonymous Coward

    MLF? She's bonkers

    Take my aged mother, aged 87. She uses the phone and even a mobile and if she wants anything from the internet, she uses her free bus pass and goes to the local Library.

    She has no need to have her own connection despite the almost weekly calls from India extolling the virtues of Virgin Media and its 50Mb connection speed. Good luck chums. She is miles away from the nearest cable network. Besides, I would get higher speeds with Mobile Broadband than wired at her house anyway.

  7. Tom Paine

    Oh please

    Andrew, DO fuck off, there's a good chap. You're boring.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Sorry Luv (in my best patronising voice)

    but 2012 and gonna get 100%

    My parent do not have internet.

    They don't see a need for internet, being reitired, they really don't care if someone has had a shit at 4:14pm, followed by Latte with Natasha and Brian

    They hate sport....

    so you self obsessed moron, how are you going to get them to part with £20 a month?

    Why can't these arseholes just accept that people can live without it, the internet is not the be all and end all of life, there are plently of people that don't have a TV in the house.

    OMG, how like do they survive?

  9. Tom 15

    Once again...

    Once again the media (in this case The Register) make a story where there isn't one. A person, basically unrelated to the government says "it's going to be hard in the future to get by without using the Internet", a sentiment that the vast majority of us would agree with and it somehow turns into a slating of the current government. A good example of why I tend to avoid Andrew's stories.

  10. Rob Beard


    I couldn't give a bloody monkeys about the Olympics personally.

    I think some people just can't be bothered and just get by anyway. For instance, my Grandma is 93, she's got no interest in the internet, sure she does go over to my Uncle's house and occasonally gets to talk to her grandkids who are abroad but she doesn't see the need to get herself online. Heck she doesn't even have a Freeview box!

    WTF is the government thinking anyway, I mean really what does Martha Lane-Fox know about the internet, sure she setup a .com company and made millions, but so did a few others. It's like using Bill Gates for advice because he setup Microsoft.

    I'd say someone like Tim Berners-Lee would be better suited to the job.


  11. W B Shaw
    Thumb Up

    Hats off

    for the use of 'proles' :)

  12. Chris Redpath
    Black Helicopters

    Nice one Andrew!

    I don't always agree with your pieces but I do this one, internet access won't reach everyone until all the old codgers die out.

    Government may see us all as their customers but they'd do well to realise that they are mere servants, whose position exists at the will of the people (oh if only it worked like that!). Businesses may decide that it's uneconomical to serve some small percentage of clients (witness Linux support from lots of companies, for example) however governments should not have this luxury.

    In a way I'm glad this shower is likely to get kicked out shortly, but I'm rather afraid that we might end up with something even worse. Ho hum what to do.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think...

    She is absolutely right.

    I''m not sure, though, how this would work in the real world. One day I'll turn off this machine and go out there to have a look...

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Get real ...

    MLF said: "I don't think you can be a proper citizen in our society in the future if you're not online,"


    Pardon me, but ... WHAT?

    MLF, "Champion for digital inclusion". What the fuck does that *even mean*?

    She's a Sloany, hustling rube with no technical or social qualifications whatsoever. She's a compete nobody. She set up a bucket shop on the Internet. Ages ago. Big wooo. So why is anyone even bothering to solicit her opinion now, today, in 2009?

    This get rich quick merchant/visionary and her ridiculous company were overrated and over-hyped fifteen years ago (good luck to her) and after two decades of total obscurity she gets assigned, unelected and without reference to anyone else who may be better qualified, to be some kind of "spokesperson" for citizenry and the web.

    She and her ilk are a symptom of what's wrong with politics and society in general, and as such she has no credibility, credence or authority to lecture or advise anyone about anything.

    Christ ... what a joke.


    Oh, I know she's also done a lot of good work for charity and that's fine. I'm not criticising her for that.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Martha Lane-Fox

    "The alternative is that the "cost base" of Government "interacting offline" with "its customers" is unaffordable, a depressing prospect MILF said."

    Poor Martha. Is she a depressing prospect MILF? I wonder if her middle name is Ingrid. She must use the "Lane" to reduce the purile amusement value her name would otherwise provide, but a middle name beginning with "I" would just undo all her hard work.

    The real question is what the internet refuseniks make of the incessant price comparison adverts everywhere. Are they as bored with them as the rest of us? Is there ANYONE who doesn't know they COULD save money on their car insurance? Oh wait, it's Friday. I don't care :)

  16. Andrew Bush

    @Rob Beard & your Granny

    Rob. Do your old Grandma a favour and fix her up with a Freeview box before the switchoff.

    Suppose she wakes up one morning to find static on the TV where Bill and Sian should be; she might think that the end of the world has come already and it could be fatal at her age...

    Down with the Lympiks! Bring back [insert name of crap old BBC sci-fi prog here] NOW!

    It's Friday, I'm off.

  17. MarcF
    Paris Hilton


    After reading some of the comments in 'ere, I'm now not surprised that Andy boy decides to leave the "comments enabled" box unchecked on most of his articles!

    Paris because she never leaves her box unchecked.

  18. joel 7
    Thumb Up


    I dream of a future where I never need to go online.

    I only go online for one reason - to work & make money. I'd much rather be sitting on a boat in the Carbiean fishing for my supper and supping an ice cold beer.

  19. Dick Emery

    As per an earlier news item...

    ...internet usage and mobile technology dehumanizes us and has taken away our community spirit. We have less and less face to face contact with our neighbours and youngsters are developing improper people skills as everything they do is online with strangers.

    Well that's what the vicar says.

  20. Adam Williamson 1
    Thumb Down


    Another typical Orlowski - nearly very good, but with a silly throwaway comment. Sorting recycling is 'pointless'? So, it'd be a _good_ thing all around if we all just stuck easily-and-usefully-recyclable things like paper, glass and organic food matter in the landfill with the stuff that it's impossible or pointless to recycle? *why*? Not everything supported by tree-huggers is a bad idea just because they happen to like it, Andrew.

  21. Adair Silver badge

    Student wisdom

    Along time ago my student flatmates and I came to the unanimous conclusion that at least 90% of everything is crap. The web has done nothing to disillusion me of our profound rightness.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    @Tom 15

    Ok Tom 15 - it seems you are the FAIL on this occasion.

    If you bothered to read the news you would have realised that back in June this year the government announced the appointment of Martha Lane Fox as Britain's "Digital Inclusion Champion". So she is talking about whether people are online at the request of the government and you claim that she is "basically unrelated to the government". It is people like you, who are clearly Brown apologists, who try to create lies about truthful reporting which paints Gordon Clown's muppet show in a bad light, who portray everything that is wrong with Britain.

    I suppose you are going to vote for Gordon Clown and his Muppet Show come the next election, despite the overwhelming evidence that he has done his utmost to destroy the country.

    Keep up the good work Andrew, and I was particularly impressed with the use of the word "Prole".

  23. Anonymous Coward

    She is related to the government.

    @Tom 15 She is unrelated to the governement othe than the fact that they employ her. Yes, that's right our taxes pay for her to the 'digital inclusion champion' she was appointed on the 17th July.

  24. Graham Marsden

    "I don't think you can be a proper citizen in our society in the future if you're not online,"

    And it doesn't really matter a whole lot if you *are* online because using the internet to contact our allegely democratic Government just gives them another opportunity to ignore us...

  25. Wokstation

    Start button NOT needed

    You actually don't need to use the start button to shut down windows. Alt-F4 on the desktop, followed by choosing "shut down" does the same job. So does CTRL-ALT-DEL, then clicking "Shutdown" within the shutdown menu.

    Sorry. Pedant attack.

  26. E_Nigma

    Is that so?

    If it's going to be hard getting by without the Internet in the future, then the "problem" is going to solve itself when such time comes and there's no need to make documentaries about these people as if a tribe that still lives in the stone age has just been discovered. All that the society needs to do about them is make sure that all technical requirements are met so that these people will be able to get a connection when they feel the need to do so.

    And the owner of an Internet company trying to persuade people that they're second grade citizens (in whatever sense meant) if they are not on line is nothing to be surprised by or given any real significance to. It's like all the other commercials that are telling us that we'll be better, smarter, more attractive (worse, dumber, more unappealing) then the rest if we (don't) use their shampoo, wear their shoes or chew their gum.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a Story?

    So nearly a third of the UK's population are offline (like my elderly grandparents who avoid technology)? That's some non-story! The rush to make everything online or electronic deprives many people of the choice of using post offices to collect benefits, etc. Why does everyone need to be online? I love the internet but coercing people to use it smacks of Labour's usual totalitarian streak. Could it be that if everyone were online it'd be easier for the security services to have the profile of that sweet old lady at 35 Hyacinth Close who in the privacy of her own home is really a raving anarchist?

  28. CABVolunteer

    Why 100%?

    Why is the government so keen to promote the use of the Internet? What's the benefit of getting 100% of the population using the Internet?

    Because it's cheaper for the government to deliver services *only* via the Internet. They can save vast amounts of money (already committed in "efficiency savings" in the Budget, so there's no escape) by getting rid of front-line staff. If you can't fill in the on-line forms, that's your problem - tough! Go round to your local Citizens Advice Bureau and ask them to help, because central and local government have closed all their face-to-face offices. This is why the Treasury gave the CAB service £20Mill in 2002 - that's how long "they" have been planning this......

  29. goggyturk

    I think the point is missed

    Again, yet again, the threat of coercion is being raised to ensure that the nice plebs get into line and do what they're told. All in the name of inclusion, integration and a more equal, socially just country.

    Why does everything have to be a war on something?

    PS keep up the good work Andrew. Some of your articles have been excellent in the last while.

  30. Jeff Deacon

    Re: "I don't think you can be a proper citizen in our society in the future if you're not online,"

    Graham said: "And it doesn't really matter a whole lot if you *are* online because using the internet to contact our allegely democratic Government just gives them another opportunity to ignore us..."

    Being on line also gives our guvvermint another opportunity to fill a database from monitoring our activities!

    But there is hope! If I become a refusenik, does that mean that they will throw me out?

  31. Anonymous Coward

    M i L F ??

    /Please/ stop calling her MLF; I keep reading it as MILF and I throw up a little into my mouth...

  32. This post has been deleted by its author

  33. Steen
    Thumb Down


    ISTR that once you post your tax online you can't go back to the paper version. A bit tough if you ain't got no internet. I think thats what they mean by citizenship.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    I've -never- used the internet...

    ...and I don't intend to start now!

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Wokstation etc.

    I just keep kicking the fucker until the annoying stuff goes away.

    I started this with computers but find it works in all manner of life's travails...........

    Seriously though and back to the article: "refusenik" sounds like someone who actively chooses not to go online, rather than the reality of someone who does not see the benefit of going online.

    My mother for example will probably end up online even though she is well past retirement - but she sees some of the benefits and views the apparent costs as worthwhile. My 96 year old granny on the other hand will never go on the interw3bs - age concern order her weekly shopping and the phone is still good enough for her.

    Myself, I go online, I use email, I research stuff, I look at pictures of naked ladies, I argue with stupid americans about politics/gun control / national health provision / not being a stupid american twat etc. but I see no fucking point to twiter, facebook, myspace, linkedln and similar sites so does that make me a refusenik?

  36. Anonymous Coward

    good article

    Agree with the recycling thing, it's stupid. There was a time, children, when milk came in bottles. When you had drunk the milk, rather than smashing the bottle at a bottle bank and it then being chucked into a hole in the ground because there's no market for broken glass, the bottle was returned to the dairy, who washed it and used it to put milk in. That was recycling. What happens today is pissing in the wind. I could give lots of similar examples.

    As for the shite about the internet, this smells like the govts rights and responsibilities thing; somehow we all owe the govt a favour. Try this: substitute supermarket for govt and customer for citizen. I pay my supermarket to supply with food etc. I don't have to account to them for any choices I make, they supply goods and services, I pay them. Why oh why does the govt think they're different? I pay them for goods and services which they supply: I'm the master in the relationship. Except they think they're the master and I've got to do it their way.

    So we get all this stuff about "coercion is a dimension" and how we've got to do everything on the internet because it's all too expensive otherwise. The "The alternative is that the "cost base" of Government "interacting offline" with "its customers" is unaffordable, a depressing prospect" comment is exactly where it's at. Sod the service, we're cutting costs. Like this helps me? Makes me richer? Again I'm old enough to remember the time when BT and the gas and electricity people had shops in the main towns of our fair land: when it all went pear shaped, you went to the shop and they (well not always) sorted it out. Very often there and then. Very often the people in these shops knew more about the workings of the company than the board of directors, because they'd been there longer. Compare and contrast with the monkeys in the call centre giving random answers until the customer just gives up. (T-Mobile, I'm looking at you)

    As a small service to future generations, I now refuse to use call centres and internet interfaces to banks, utilities, central and local govt. I pay by cash or cheque, don't use chip and pin (well ok, I've got _a_ card with a pin), don't do atms and don't do direct debits, ever. If at all possible I avoid all contractual arrangements with large companies as they aren't worth the paper they're written on: every contract I've ever had has been torn up and replaced unilaterally by MegaCorp, with no effective come back. In the event of some cock up, don't get on the phone or the internet to the helpline because they're fucking useless (first direct used to be ok, but they've hired a load of monkeys now); instead, write a reasoned letter to the legal department of MegaCorp (the internet is good for finding the address for service), ignore the computer generated bullshit they spew at you and eventually you'll get a substantive reply, very often in your favour.

    None of this is much more labour intensive than spending hours on the phone talking to idiots. It also cuts out the majority of the aggravation of dealing with large organisations by eliminating it's causes.


    Thanks Greg..Martha is a fraud.........

    Thanks Greg Fleming for your post earlier - totally on the nail about MILF, sorry MLF.

    What you forgot to mention about this silver-spooned and speech impaired nobody is that her bucket shop never made any money and still doesn't.

    Stick that in your pipe and smoke it Martha!

    She's the sort of tosspot that believes that the whole of the UK are just like her immediate London-centric friends, all PR, TV, media and new media types. Get a grip love! Try visiting some rough council estates outside the capital and try and feel what it's like to have the choice of food for your family or "getting on-line". Or Sky.


  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't have a telly.

    I remember all those times people used to say that without a telly you couldn't participate in society. The last six years or so I've really wanted for something to persuade me to get a new one but in the end I buy books, dvds and spend a lot less than I would on a TV Licence. I almost got one when Dr Who came back, but that became a wonderful social event with four or more of us huddling round someone else's telly, I even brought DVDs for after.

    I expect not having broadband is the same thing.

  39. windywoo

    I actually listened to the broadcast

    And you have taken her quote completely out of context. She was referring to the fact that those without internet will experience will be left behind by those who do, not a statement of their worth. This doesn't sound like any attempt to force people into using the internet, just an attempt to help them understand it better or overcome their fears.

  40. 2FishInATank


    I'd listened to the show on iPlayer this afternoon and it took me several hours to calm down about the idea of coercing people to use the internet - or indeed anything else....

    Honestly, if it does come to that, I will be giving serious consideration to stopping using the internet just to spite the fuckers!

    Now I'm coming over all angsty again.......grrr.....

  41. Anonymous Coward

    Appearing on the radio?

    That's a neat trick.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The telephone is how old now?

    The telephone has been with us for over a century and there is still a significant number of people who don't have one. The same for TV and radio. How can MLF expect the Internet to have a greater penetration than these established technologies in a fraction of the time when it is both more expensive and less immediately useful than telephones, radio and TV?

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @The telephone is how old now?

    Actually, for that matter I do know a man with cable broadband and no telephone.

    But still, pretty much everyone has internet *access*, just not all of them at home. Libraries, cybercafes, friends...

  44. jon 77

    this will only apply WHEN....

    The govvvmnt PAY for it, eg it is no more expensive than your phoneline...

    Number of USABLE internet connections are the SAME as telephone lines....

    ... and how possible is this????

  45. Anonymous Coward

    @ windywoo

    Yes, I bothered to listen too, and what she *should* have done was qualify everything she said -- VERY CAREFULLY. She FAILED to do this. Not the sort of thing someone appointed/allied to government should do. Or be seen to forget.

    The Internet is no more a measure of social integration any more than a fruit-machine or a binge-drinking habit, and anyone who thinks it is of long term importance to the evolution of the human race, egality, fraternity or fairness should seriously take stock of themselves and re-evaluate their life.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a plonker

    I know people who are television refusenicks ... they're very intelligent and informed people; I respect them greatly. Should they have heard Lane-Fox on the radio, they'd have laughed themselves hoarse.

  47. TeeCee Gold badge

    Re: Start button not needed.

    Waaayyy too complex. Tap power button on machine, walk away. ACPI you know.....

  48. Mr Larrington

    @Mike Richards

    The Americans have need of the internet^w telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.

  49. Stephen Byrne
    Thumb Up


    Heh, 100% agree with you. We can only know what she said, not what she meant - and I'd love to know what her definition of a "proper citizen" is.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I always wondered why it's hard for people to understand that you need to click on the 'start' button to get the shutdown options in Windows, but it's generally easily understood that you need to use the ignition key to stop a car.

  51. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

    Blobby Hell

    First it's labour with their Orwellian databases and CCTV everywhere

    Now according to MLF, to be a good citizen you need broadband, what's next? the right to be a full citizen (entitled to vote) is earned through voluntary federal service. Remember that in Heinlein's Starship Troopers, the Terran Federation is a limited democracy.

    These are not the people you want to vote for (waves hand to make Jedi power work)

    Makes you wonder where they are getting their ideas from, but then, wasn't Jerry Pournelle one of the architects of Reagan's SDI/Star Wars plan.

    Be afraid, be very afraid...

  52. Stephen 1


    Perhaps the anti-recycling people would like to volunteer their gardens as landfill sites.

  53. NogginTheNog

    Think about it

    A lot of the commenters mention older relatives who don't want or wish for Internet access. MLF's quote was discussing THE FUTURE, when these people will sadly, but likely, be deceased.

    Consider the number of young people who AREN'T online in some form, and then reconsider the comment.

  54. Throatwobbler Mangrove

    actually old chap

    "There was a time, children, when milk came in bottles. When you had drunk the milk, rather than smashing the bottle at a bottle bank and it then being chucked into a hole in the ground because there's no market for broken glass, the bottle was returned to the dairy, who washed it and used it to put milk in. That was recycling."

    At the risk of being pedantic, that wasn't recycling, it was re-using. I agree it would be nice to return to that state. Reduce, re-use, recycle, in order of preference.

  55. lorenzo
    Paris Hilton

    Welcome to the Hotel Internet

    You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

    We will find you, we will monitor you, we will lose your data, there will be no escape.

    Solyent Green anyone

    Paris- Cos even she knows that internet exposure is for life not just for Winterval

  56. This post has been deleted by its author

  57. Anonymous Coward

    Biggest threat is not ML-F at all

    We should be more worried about the problems in getting face-to-face contact with Our Glorious Leader and his jack-booted minions than whether we are taking what some ZaNu Labour mouthpiece said "in context".

    I need some information from the Department for Work and Pensions but I cannot seem to get the people on the telephone line to actually understand what I need - I want to sit down in front of someone and explain it until I am happy that what they give me is what I want, but unfortunately every time I ask where my local Benefits Office is, I get told to go down the Job Centre and use the phone in the corner and call them...

    How the freaking hell can I goown the Job Centre and use the phone when the Job Centre is only available online (and probably outsourced to India or China, to boot?)

    We need some way to remind these idiots that they are supposed to be our Representatives in the decision-making process and not our Dictatorial Overlords with a divine right to control our evey move.

  58. I didn't do IT.

    Missing the point...

    It is NOT about ensuring that everyone in Britian has access to the Internet - ITS THAT THOSE PEOPLE ARE NOT PAYING FOR INTERNET SERVICE!

    How can they just sit there, happily ignoring the Government's and BT's "empty" purses when they have the cash in their "retirement accounts", just gagging to jump out and pay for yet another non-needed "service"? The selfishness of it all appalls me!


  59. James Foreman


    Sounds to me like a few bitter, disagreeable people are envious of somebody who has the misfortune to be attractive, blonde, female and Oxbridge educated. And independently wealthy as a result of heading up an internet start-up. A silver-spooned, speech impaired nobody? Whenever I spoke with Martha, she's been quite comprehensible. And a bucket shop that has never made any money? Well, that's an accusation that's hard to evaluate, given that Travelocity bought for a value more than zero, isn't it?

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