DIRTYTRICKS WATCH: The Verizon factor at play on the internet, and a £2bn hole in the NHS

DANDGO Labour, where is thy sling?

I always amazes me how few people get worked up by the fact that, as always,the neoliberal élite is going to get its own fast-lane version of 5G or whatever it’s going to be called, whereas the rest of us fee-paying plebs will be palmed off with a slightly better version of what we’re getting now: slow, unreliable and patchy 3G where everyone lies 24/7 about what speed you’re getting as a customer. “We’ve supercharged our fibre-optic network” lies Virgin on its website, as it advertises 152 Mb of speed. So I run my little speed-reader gizmo on a Virgin user’s router, and she’s getting about half that.

It’s both fascinating and amusing to type into Google on the issue. Here’s a capture I took yesterday of a global search prompt:

speedliesThat’s pretty much every supplier there lying for the gold medal in the US, and the Virgin example in Britain is also near-generic. It’s called Grant Shapps marketing, and these days any attempt to prosecute it is greeted with “What’s the matter, aren’t you open for business?” from the fish-eyed among us.

Some of this is simply techies overclaiming what an infancy technology can as yet do, but a worrying proportion of the problem in the US and the EU is (apart from the fibbing thang) the fact that we aren’t getting the same service as the MoUs. This is an open secret in Greece and Italy, and something very similar (albeit more mixed) pertains in France.

The Western history of this issue can be summed up in two sentences, including links: US Government rules out 2-speed internet ( September 2009) and then US Congress passes internet 2-speed Bill (December 2010). New Tory trougher Vaisey enthusiastically backs 2-speed internet (November 2010) and BBC boss warns that 2-speed internet already a dangerous reality (January 2011).

So your internet speeds may be slow (and your service patchy) but boy, getting there was a hispeed process. It’s a done deal, and it all started when, in late summer 2010, The Slog was leaked a Verizon/Google lobbying plus blackmail scam, and ran the scoop. A week later it was confirmed. The reaction to my piece was a gigantic yawn across the blogosphere. So I tried to interest a Labour MP of some influence in the story. I don’t think it even got into the Shadow Cabinet for discussion: the Party was, at the time, shedding the Brown snakeskin in exchange for the Miliband skin-deep sincerity makeover. Later in the year, we were told that the Ed Miller Band was our friend in tough times. Quite.

I’m sorry: I know I get heat right across the spectrum from Ukippers via the Blue Rinse brigade to the Left for what an MSM hack once called my “incessant cynicism”, but if the sham bollocks syndrome is ubiquitous, then my cynicism will (by definition) be incessant in nature. It’s just that issues like the demolition of the Net Neutrality principle are open goals for the two Eds. But their ‘eads are clearly elsewhere. Usually at Norwich City and The Voice, from what I can see on Twitter.

Meanwhile, back at the plot, the main reason why Net Neutrality did not come to pass is that the Evil Verizoners lobbied like mad and then – when that didn’t work – did a sleazy Nazi-Soviet Pact with Google to withdraw from the talks between ISPs and the Fed. That would’ve made a nonsense of the whole idea anyway, and so….once again, might was right. And of course, the politicians did as they were told, because that’s their job these days.

Having won that round without working up a sweat, Verizon continues on its cheating way: two years ago, California’s giant telecom companies and their Silicon Valley allies won passage of a law freeing phone-over-the-Internet calls from government regulation, another victory for the Obama No We Can’t campaign. Nevertheless, this deregulation was never supposed to affect phone customers who didn’t want to give up their traditional copper-wire land lines: indeed, the law authorised the Public Utilities Commission to ensure householders had a right to basic landline services, and expressly banned phone providers from forcing people to give up their copper-line phones.

But Verizon is now doing precisely that: hardselling sometimes unwitting Southern California customers to switch from copper lines to voice-over-Internet connections.

An investigation by the Utility Reform Network TURN found 32 complaints from ratepayers that Verizon doesn’t maintain its copper network and is pushing households to reportedly less-reliable Internet phones.

Mr Hitler went into the Sudetenland and said his expansionist desires were fulfilled, but then he quietly walked into the rest of Czechoslovakia. Exchange Verizon for Hitler and landlines for Czechoslovakia, and the two episodes are virtually identical. It is 1938 out there, and we are heading towards war with the Corporatocracy and their hookers in the legislatures of the West.

…………………………….

And so we return to our daily Soft-soap opera, The National Health Service.

The NHS needs an extra £2bn, said outgoing boss Sir David Nicholson yesterday with “very tight” finances threatening to push the service into the red before the next general election. The Chancellor having warned that there must be no let-up in austerity, QE for the banks, banker bonuses and tax relief for the rich, Nicholson  felt obliged to predict that – while the Service will have a £600m to £800m surplus by the end of  this fiscal (now only a week away) it “could tip into the red” as early as  the 2014-15 fiscal – which spookily, is also just over a week away.

Sir David Nicholson commented:

“The NHS cannot afford a dead year… You can’t wait until after the election. In the middle and autumn of this year it is an issue that people will have to confront”. Without additional funding of about £2bn, problems would become acute in 2015, he indicated in an interview with the Financial Times: “That is just a bridge too far in terms of where we are at the moment.”

The departing CEO is chiefly worried about a £3.8bn pot of money – the Better Care Fund – a piece of Government fluff “created” to ease pressure on hospitals by treating more people ‘in the community’. There’s that consistently caring Conservative focus on Care in the Community….still alive after all these years. It makes my heart feel glad, it really does.

Except that – as is usually the way with such spin – £2bn of the money isn’t new: it’s to be taken from the already overstretched hospital budgets…the equivalent of a bankrupt being asked to contribute to his own exit from insolvency.

The good news is that all this could be an embarrassing vote-lower for the Coalition. Some folks on Twitter yesterday were grumbling that middle England “doesn’t care” about the NHS, but the data do not support such pessimism: in the last year, health has never been out of the  top four issues of greatest importance for voters, say the pollsters at Ipsos-Mori – behind the economy, immigration and unemployment.

Sir David wisely wants to support Britain’s admiration for free healthcare, arguing that “everyone should be sent an annual summary which shows what you paid in and what you got out of it. Now that sort of transparent way of doing things, I think, will create the kind of buy-in that you need”.

Indeed it would, sir. But that’s not the Hunt/Bottomley/Greedy buggers’ agenda now, is it?

The Department of Huntballs (DoH) was quick to issue this little gem (my italics):

“With an ageing population there’s more pressure on the NHS, so we need to focus far more on health prevention out of hospitals. That’s why we are bringing £3.8bn of health and social care funding together into a single seamless service to keep our elderly and most vulnerable well for longer.”

It’s pure bleeding sleeve-heart Hunt doubletalk: what it means is yet another £2.8bn taken out of the hospitals budget (plus some stolen from Irritable Duncan-Smith Syndrome ‘savings’) and passed out to primary care…whose GPs are already busy selling out to the Virgins of this world, or pretending to be go-getting Alan Sugars who nevertheless don’t work weekends. (A situation, I’m bound to admit, created by that youthful supporter of kids’ bottoms on the NHS, Patricia Hewitt).

The need on this question is no different from the one I’ve been banging on about more than usually over the last few weeks: the Opposition must stop sloganising, soundbiting and tweeting banalities donated by process-monkey spin doctors. Ed Miliband has yet another open goal here: floating voters support the NHS, so he needs specific stories and case histories illustrating how the Hunt agenda is to demolish it.
All of the Mirror, Guardian and Independent have outstanding track records when it comes to unearthing everything  from Hackgate and child abuse to the seedy Newscorp/Met police sink of iniquity. Why not have an informal group co-opted on odd weekends to see how investigations can be honed into PMQs embarrassment for Camerlot? If Labour is the friend of the dispossessed, then FFS start campaigning on their issues and dramatising how a much broader audience than the very poor are going to suffer calamitously from Orbornomics….and the possibility of the gargoyles getting in again next year.