Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Truly horrible Chinese government reminds us why Internet freedom matters

To add to the uglies of Iran and Kazakhstan, amongst others, here's the 'orrible Communist Party doing what it does best - brooking no internal dissent and ensuring the Internet is censored as tightly as possible.
Australia is a blip in the bit-ocean by comparison...
EDIT: the excellent blog post by Rebecca McKinnon further analyzes many of the 2009 moves by the Beijing junta, to which it might be added that with much fanfare the entire region of Xinjiang has had extremely minimal Internet access restored after 6 months - with email, comment on news sites and international texts/calls still banned.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

14 January: McGill talk

I will be speaking at Media@McGill on 14 January, on the (hopefully intriguing) subject of 'Towards Medium law' - and net neutrality....all welcome, I believe...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Net Neutrality: order your preview copy now


Its available from this website - will be online soon, I am unreliably informed!

Directive 2009/136/EC: Recital 34

Just to emphasise my many previous posts, what is intended with regard to EU net neutrality is actually a very 'lite' approach, ensuring services are not blocked and/or degraded beyond usefulness:
(34) A competitive market should ensure that end-users enjoy the QoS they require, but in particular cases it may be necessary to ensure that public communications networks attain minimum quality levels so as to prevent degradation of service, the blocking of access and the slowing of traffic over networks. In order to meet QoS requirements, operators may use procedures to measure and shape traffic on a network link so as to avoid filling the link to capacity or overfilling the link, which would result in network congestion and poor performance. Those procedures should be subject to scrutiny by NRAs... in particular by addressing discriminatory behaviour, in order to ensure that they do not restrict competition. If appropriate, NRAs may also impose minimum QoS requirements on undertakings to ensure that services and applications dependent on the network are delivered at a minimum quality standard, subject to examination by the Commission. NRAs should be empowered to take action to address degradation of service, including the hindering or slowing down of traffic, to the detriment of consumers. However, since inconsistent remedies can impair the functioning of the internal market, the Commission should assess any requirements intended to be set by NRAs for possible regulatory intervention across the Community and, if necessary, issue comments or recommendations in order to achieve consistent application.

Article 22, DIRECTIVE 2009/136/EC: Commission takes control of QoS

The net neutrality provisions are transparency in new Article 20, and this (showing that if NRAs do anything, it'll be subject to an effective veto by the Commission):
Article 22: Quality of service
1. Member States shall ensure that NRAs are, after taking account of the views of interested parties, able to require []networks and/or services to publish comparable, adequate and up-to-date information for end-users on the quality of their services... That information shall, on request, be supplied to the NRA in advance of its publication.
2. NRAs may specify, inter alia, the quality of service parameters to be measured and the content, form and manner of the information to be published, including possible quality certification mechanisms, in order to ensure that end-users... have access to comprehensive, comparable, reliable and user-friendly information.
3. In order to prevent the degradation of service and the hindering or slowing down of traffic over networks, Member States shall ensure that NRAs are able to set minimum quality of service requirements on an undertaking or undertakings providing public communications networks.
NRAs shall provide the Commission... with a summary of the grounds for action, the envisaged requirements and the proposed course of action. This information shall also be made available to the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC). The Commission may... make comments or recommendations... NRAs shall take the utmost account of the Commission’s comments or recommendations when deciding on the requirements.

Always read the final page...EC Net neutrality declaration is now official

Where you find the 'Declaration on Net Neutrality' in full - reporting by end-2010:

The Commission attaches high importance to preserving the open and neutral character of the Internet, taking full account of the will of the co-legislators now to enshrine net neutrality as a policy objective and regulatory principle to be promoted by national regulatory authorities(Article 8(4)(g) Framework Directive), alongside the strengthening of related transparency requirements(Articles 20(1)(b) and 21(3)(c) and (d) of the Universal Service Directive) and the creation of safeguard powers for national regulatory authorities to prevent the degradation of services and the hindering or slowing down of traffic over public networks(Article 22(3) of the Universal Service Directive). The Commission will monitor closely the implementation of these provisions in the Member States, introducing a particular focus on how the ‘net freedoms’ of European citizens are being safeguarded in its annual Progress Report to the European Parliament and the Council. In the meantime, the Commission will monitor the impact of market and technological developments on ‘net freedoms’ reporting to the European Parliament and Council before the end of 2010 on whether additional guidance is required, and will invoke its existing competition law powers to deal with any anti-competitive practices that may emerge.

EC Telecoms Package must be implemented into national law by 18 June 2011

The new rules were published in the Official Journal on 18th December and give Member States 18 months to implement. The official texts are here. Now the real fun begins!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Midband Decade: Internet as social disease, Google, Skype, Facebook, YouTube and Nokia

El Reg's review of the decade got me thinking about how European consumers think of the past decade in IT: bear in mind for most it was their first decade as the Freeserve unmetered access model only emerged in 1998, and the bubble burst just as broadband was emerging.
The dominance of Windows computers running incumbents' DSL connections at under a Megabit/sec was the main experience. Incumbents own the wholesale broadband networks for 3 out of 4 European consumers. Any appearance of competition is basically in the local loop. Microsoft maintains its 90%+ market share in operating systems and is close to that in browsers (by installation even as usage stats slide below 70%), even as the European antitrust action appears settled after a decade. The appearance of WiFi helped users tether themselves to the house or cafe not the phone socket.
Apple's clout in the US was really a blip in Europe. The mobile Internet barely existed, in fact texting was the big mobile app. Many European users barely noticed the iPhone (and Blackberries still dominate), tied to one network at huge monthly subscriptions and slow 3G connections. So - in contrast to the predictions when 3G was auctioned in 2000 - it was not the mobile Internet decade at all. Nokia sold almost 500m in 2008 alone, with almost 10 billion sold in the decade.The majority were 2G simple call/text/WAP phones to the developing world.
The decade was occupied with viruses and spam, many attacking Microsoft's programmes - ILoveYou started the trend in May 2000. The biggest strain on the network was not dubious quality and copyright video on YouTube, but DOS attacks and Microsoft monthly security patches.
As for e-commerce, the book did not die but Amazon sold more than the high street, the holiday package did not die but consumers used the web for cheap flights and last-minute deals. Paperless billing for utilities, banking, and e-government services did not eliminate paper altogether - except on Ryanair which also tried to eliminate check-in staff, hold luggage and other annoyances. A £1 flight at 27.99 was perhaps the biggest change for the average punter. We still buy DVDs and CDs far more thanm we download legally or illegally. We don't buy as many inky newspapers any more, though....a fifty year trend that the Internet exacerbates but did not start and will not finish. Newspaper troubles in 2008-9 reflect the collapse of jobs and other classified revenues far more than circulation slumps.
Oh, and we still listen to the radio and watch TV - in fact, digital radio was a complete dud, and Internet radio  only really replaced the tranny with MeRadio - lastfm and the like. Digital TV was a success as were PVRs and flat screens, though HD and BluRay remain 'premium' services in the UK, which means most people don't use their digital TV set to its potential.
Personalisation and privacy made limited progress in the 2000s, with Google storing ever-more search, email, video and blog information (thanks for all of that, by the way!), and the first shots in the targetted advertising battles started with Phorm in the UK - this will be a huge issue going forwards.
The huge innovations in the 2000s were in video gaming and virtual worlds, and here the Far East led, as in consumer fibre and 3G. The 6th generation of consoles in 1999-2007 sold 200m, the 7th generation is already over 100m, with Wii making non-gamers into gamers. Handhelds have 250m accumulated sales in the decade. In fact, much of the interesting innovation in the past decade came from Seoul or Tokyo or Hong Kong. With 100MB Ethernet all over their major cities, its easy to see that the future is going to be in the Far East, too.
Meanwhile, the debates that will dominate will increasingly revolve around allowing open access to higher speed networks for content. With Facebook users in the 500millions and Skype accounts approaching a billion, net neutrality is becoming a vitally important issue. Consumers want more than same-old cable services, and governments are responding (slowly), though as the UK Digital Economy Bill 2009 shows, its often to knee-jerk protect incumbent business models. That's how the decade started too, remember mp3.com and Napster?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Practical video-on-demand co-regulation announced

And its pretty regulatory for 'television-like' services, comes into force tomorrow:

1.17 Since publication of the Consultation, ATVOD has, with the cooperation of industry stakeholders and Ofcom, undertaken a range of activities with a view to ensuring that ATVOD would be fit-for-purpose to be designated as a co-regulatory body. These activities include:
  • recruitment of a new Chief Executive Officer and a new Chairman of the ATVOD Board;
  • recruitment of new independent members of the ATVOD Board;
  • recruitment of a part-time company secretary;
  • taking measures to help establish adequate funding for ATVOD to carry out its co-regulatory duties; and
  • the development of a suite of documents covering complaints handling, and editorial standards requirements and interpretative guidance.
1.18 In Section 4 of this Statement, we lay out our decisions concerning the functions we intend to designate to ATVOD in relation to VOD editorial content:
  • in addition to the powers laid out in the ATVOD Proposal, we also intend to designate to ATVOD the power to issue enforcement notices against VOD service providers in relation to contraventions of the standards requirements covering VOD editorial content. We are continuing to discuss with ATVOD the appropriate terms for designation;
  • the duty to encourage VOD service providers to ensure that their services are gradually made more accessible to people with sight or hearing disabilities ("the Access Duty"); and
  • the duty to ensure that VOD service providers promote production of and access to European works ("the European Works Duty").
1.19 However, in designating both the Access Duty and the European Works Duty, we would explicitly require ATVOD to:

  • prepare written plans to discharge these duties, which must be approved by Ofcom; and 
  • report regularly on these issues to Ofcom.

1.20 Ofcom's approach, in principle, to co-regulation of VOD editorial content is, when powers and duties in this area are granted to Ofcom, to designate the widest possible range of powers and duties to the co-regulator. Under the relevant legislation, Ofcom retains such powers and duties in parallel and may act as the appropriate regulatory authority concurrently or in place of the co-regulator. We therefore anticipate designating the widest possible range of powers to ATVOD, subject to ATVOD not being permitted to exercise a certain restricted number of other powers. Powers that only Ofcom could exercise include:

  • the anticipated power to determine decisions on scope referred to Ofcom; 
  • and certain powers to impose statutory sanctions (financial penalties, or suspension/restriction of service): 
  • firstly, relating to notification issues, once notification has become a statutory obligation; and 
  • second, relating to potential contraventions of the Act that might be recorded by ATVOD.

Nellie Kroes not Doutzen Kroes

Regular close readers of the blog will see the story alert no longer has 'Reding' but Kroes' in response to their changing roles at the European Commission. The latest Kroes story reflects the need to be more specific...

When French farmers or fishermen block ports and motorways, does it affect emergency services?

Duh, of course it does. Theoretically, so might 'Operation Chokehold'. So might any net filtering. So might a British Airways strike supported by 93% of staff. Should these things be made illegal? In general, no, protest causes disruption, disruption at some level - see UK snow stories tomorrow - costs lives. Life gives you cancer.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Operation Chokehold 22 hours away....

Whether it works or not, its going to be a highly instructive form of broadband customer protest:
'This is not an attempt at a crowdsourced denial of service attack. This is more like calling in a debt... if the company has written millions of checks it cannot cash, it deserves to be humiliated by its users. And that humiliation deserves to be exploited by its competitors, which it will be if AT&T falters under sway of the services it has promised.
If it works and AT&T staggers and explodes like Alf’s home planet Melmac under the strain of so many hair dryers, Internet freedom activists will write about Friday the 18th for years. It would be the day the Internet told a corporate antagonist to ‘STFU’. It would be beautiful.
It is also highly, highly unlikely. Were it to fail (or perhaps I should say, ‘when it fails’), that in turn proves AT&T is just being greedy by trying to shape network traffic and impose bandwidth caps. iPhone users aren’t really the problem. They’re just scapegoats in a game of corporate posturing ahead of a newly tiered data pricing structure. It’s as if Enron’s attempt at a bandwidth commodities market never really went away. So, for one hour on Friday, I hope iPhone users in the U.S. will help send message to AT&T. That message, in my words, is quite simply this: STOP BEING EVIL.'

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'No Cleanfeed' - Australia mandatory filtering laws for 2011/12?

Before we get too excited about the Oz plans, we need to remember that in Europe, it is mandatory (or 'quasi-mandatory in some weasel cases) to filter:
[1] kiddie porn;
[2] 'extreme' porn including hentai (cartoon)-porn;
[3] 'terrorist' websites;
[4] video that is 'broadcast-like';
[5] suicide websites in Nordic countries.
So what's the difference? The handy cut-out-and-keep website details what's going on, and notes that the Australian Senate is not controlled by government, nor will it be until after the next election, so that the law won't be introduced for a year, and is not intended to be enforced until a year after its enacted, which is not before 2012.
So calm down, dear, its electioneering. Fear Mandelson (and the fast-rising Andy Burnham), not Oz.

Australia: mandatory filtering of illegal content, voluntary filtering of 'gross' content

Its important to read carefully what Australia proposes, which is effectively the European anti-kiddie/suicide/extreme pROn filters. As ArsTechnica reports:
'Communications Minister Stephen Conroy announced today that the government has wrapped up an extensive trial of the filtering system and that it plans to proceed with legislation making the filters mandatory. Under the government's scheme, all content that is "Refused Classification" by the country's official ratings board won't just be illegal to sell in Australia, it will also be blocked on the Web. This provision will be required, and it must be implemented by all Aussie ISPs.

ISPs will also be encouraged to set up a second filter that blocks legal-but-objectionable content such as pornography, terrorism sites, and "gross" content. This filter will be optional, and can be turned on and off by Internet subscribers. The government will provide funds for ISPs to set up the additional filtering.'
BUT it will be as effective as the IWF CAIC list in the UK:
'...locking the official government censorship list (the ACMA blacklist) of around 1,000 websites was easily done; all nine ISPs participating in the recent trial achieved 100 percent accuracy with no real performance degradation and without false positives. The results make sense, since the list is both small and specific (it uses full URLs to content rather than blocking a complete IP address or domain name).
But when many of the ISPs rolled out the second, optional filtering scheme designed to make the 'Net "family friendly," results weren't so hot. According to Enex, the ISPs managed to block "between 78.80 percent and 84.65 percent of inappropriate material," and at a greater cost to performance. Overblocking also became an issue, with each ISP blocking two or three percent of "innocuous content."
Telstra, one of the largest ISPs in Australia, declined to participate in the official test, but ran its own internal test network to gauge the effects of such widespread ISP-level filtering. According to the report, "Telstra found its filtering solution was not effective in the case of non-Web based protocols such as instant messaging, peer-to-peer or chat rooms. Enex confirms that this is also the case for all filters presented in the pilot. Telstra reported that heavy traffic sites could overload its trial filtering solution if included in the filtering blacklist. This is also the case for all filters presented in the pilot."
In addition, Enex admits that "circumvention" of the filter shouldn't be that difficult for technically inclined users. Bypassing the mandatory ACMA blacklist of "illegal" content actually turned out to be easiest of all; of the four ISPs that tested only the ACMA list, none was able to stop more than 16.2 percent of attempts to bypass the filter. Yes, that's right, 84 percent of attempts to bypass the scheme were successful (and the ACMA list only includes websites, not P2P or FTP or IM).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

France aims for 70% 100Mbps by 2020

Its unclear how much will be invested, but Sarkozy has responded to the call for Digital Economy investment with a huge bond issue (thanks for the link Tom!) - of course, Britain has a never-to-be-implemented 50p/fixed line tax but even if anyone had the longterm vision, the markets would not give us £30billion for long-term investment, now would they?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Norwegians give us a Merry Christmas!

Co-regulation explained in some detail by the Norwegian regulator (I picked this up 10 months late from the Council of Europe's working party on self/co-regulation and the Internet).
Some highlights:

A. The capacity and quality of the Internet connection is to be clearly specified.
This principle states that Internet users are to be given sufficient information about the
characteristics of the Internet connection, so that they know what resource is being provided for
communication with the Internet in the form this has traditionally had. This is normally referred to
as “best effort” Internet. It is how this resource is managed that is described in Principles 2 and 3.
B. If the connection is shared with other services, it must be stated clearly how the capacity is
shared between Internet traffic and the other services.
The connection service that a customer subscribes to from a provider shall have as its primary
function – or one of its primary functions – to provide the end user with access to the Internet. If
other services are provided to the user in addition to the Internet connection, the subscription
terms must state how the use of the other services will affect the Internet access capacity...

The principle of network neutrality shall not be interpreted in a manner at variance with current law.
For example, the unlawful distribution of copyrighted content with the aid of P2P file sharing would
still be an illegal act by the user. Furthermore, the current practice of ISPs to block child
pornography will not infringe this principle. The same may be said regarding spam filters and
measures to counteract denial-of-service attacks and infected PCs. It will be in the interest of all
users for the ISP to protect the network through which its users communicate. The ISPs are to
publish as well as inform all users of all measures of this type...

As the competition for bandwidth will typically occur on particular places on the network, either
network internal connections, external peering/transit connections and the actual access
connection, the principle should apply to all types of communication lines within the framework that
the connection contracts (subscription contracts, peering/transit contracts, SLAs, etc.) set. An
absolutely fair sharing of bandwidth for all Internet users applied to all communication lines would
be difficult to achieve in practice. Inherent in the principle, however, is that there must be no
unreasonable manipulation or degradation of traffic for individual data streams...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Decades of extra tax on UK fixed phone lines?

The 50p Digital Divide tax on business and residential fixed phone lines was always going to be a disaster in terms of equity (mobile users don't pay, the poor don't pay, all benefits go to rural users) but just how long it will last has become a little clearer:

Mr Timms: We have not put a date on the withdrawal of the levy; what we have said is that we think we need £1 billion between now and 2017 to hit the 90% target. One could take the view that at that point it should be withdrawn or one could take the view actually that we would want to keep the levy in place in order to generate funds for the final 10% and that is a judgment to be made a bit later in the process.
Q225 Mr Oaten: But your figures, presumably, know from how many individuals will be paying the levy at which point you reach certain revenue-raising targets?
Mr Timms: Yes. We are assuming that everybody with a phone line at the moment, other than those on social tariffs, will be paying.
Q226 Mr Oaten: What I am getting at is in three years' time how much money will you have raised?
Mr Timms: I think it will raise between £150 million and £175 million per year.
Q227 Mr Oaten: But the intention is that once it has done its job to remove the levy?
Mr Timms: Yes, I think that must be the logic of having a levy for a particular purpose, that once the purpose has been entirely completed ---
Q228 Chairman: Hang on, income tax was used to pay for one particular war, as far as I remember it, and I think we still have income tax!
Mr Timms: We are talking about decisions that are going to be made some years hence but I do not think this levy could be used as a contribution towards general taxation; it needs to be used for the purposes ---
Q229 Chairman: You are such a nice man, Minister! You are so nice!
Mr Timms: The point we can debate, I think, is whether it should carry on beyond 2017 to contribute to the cost of the final 10% next generation broadband.
Q230 Mr Oaten: My point is that if we look at the principle of hypothecation there is a very big difference between putting in place a new tax which is going to fund a service for ever more or a one-off quick hit through a levy. Which is this?
Mr Timms: It is more like the latter than the former because once the investment has been completed the purpose of the levy no longer exists.

Parliamentary technology debate reaches a new low? Peter Luff of UK Industry Select Committee

This is quite wonderfully depressing stuff from a high-placed policy maker in what is likely to be the British government from spring 2010:

Q191 Chairman: What I heard about South Korea is that the only impact has been that the movie industry has had to withdraw entirely from South Korea as it is now impossible to control piracy of movies. These very super-fast download speeds mean that Hollywood Studios can no longer make money out of flogging films in South Korea, it has just become a pirate's paradise.
Mr Timms: If you look at online computer games Korea is the centre worldwide for the development of computer games.
Q192 Chairman: So when you have masses of public money you tax pensioners to enable people to pay computer games?
Mr Timms: No, my point about South Korea is that there is a substantial industry developing those games in South Korea which has been enabled because South Korea has such good broadband.
Q193 Chairman: There are people out there listening to all this who think I am a complete Luddite.

Bottom feeding on broadband - universal access

The Uk government has claimed that it will offer access to broadband that is 'theoretically' (?) capable of delivering 2Mbps service by 2012 - but not actual service, whether at peak time or possibly any time of day. The Minister appeared before his Select Committee and pfaffed around (at Q158):

Mr Timms: I would just caution the Committee about being too hung up about the definition. There is a huge amount of work to be done. I accept that the technical specification is an important part of that but there are a lot of other things that we need to get sorted out.
Q159 Chairman: You have to be obsessed with definition! If you are saying that it is a Universal Service Obligation you have to be clear what you mean by it, Minister. Of course we are going to be obsessed by the definition.
Mr Timms: Actually I think there is clarity about the Universal Service Commitment ---
Q160 Chairman: We are not clear and you have not made it clear this morning.
Mr Timms: With respect, I think I have made it fairly clear. Certainly from the customer's point of view, what this service will provide is access to the kind of ---
Chairman: You sound a little bit like a dodgy Internet Service Provider yourself over claiming for speeds! You have promised us a note and we will have to have it, but we are not currently very impressed.
Q161 Mr Binley: I think if you were selling to me I would be very worried, Stephen!

OECD Broadband Table - penetration per household

For what its worth - bear in mind household penetration is now less relevant than speed and data caps. There's a new ECTA scorecard for European broadband too. Netherlands first, from Denmark - at 38% or so, but you can throw your hat over most G7 countries at 24-29%. But the fibre tables (see below) show that Sweden easily outpaces Netherlands and Denmark for penetration, though put in the shade by East Asia.

AT&T to choke its iPhone users

It was bound to happen sooner or later (quotes inserted to make it obvious this is from El Reg - doh!):

"AT&T has finally figured out how to fix its much-maligned US mobile data services: stop users from eating up so frickin' much bandwidth. As reported by the Associated Press, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility Ralph de la "Darth" Vega told attendees at a New York investors' conference on Wednesday that his company plans to force data-plan subscribers to "reduce or modify their usage."
In Darth's world, consumers are dumb and selfish data-piggies. "We've got to get them to understand what represents a megabyte of data," he said.
We're not all sinners in his eyes, however: only three per cent of smartphone users eat up 40 per cent of AT&T's capacity, he said, adding that the hungriest online swine are concentrated in San Francisco and New York.
Hmm...The capital of tech-savvy Silicon Bay Area, and the center of US media. No worries about offending those constituencies, eh?"

The story so far...

A fairly comprehensive and hyper-hyperlinked blog post by Marvin Ammori on the US situation to date...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Its the fibre, stupid! Its the fibre, stupid!

Only broadband statistic worth collecting by OECD - and FTTH updates, note no UK:

BT Content Connect: FRAND or foe of neutrality?

BT is to create a service to cache popular (read: streaming video) content locally.
I have written in the book and elsewhere that 'positive' net neutrality should restrict itself to ensuring
[a] there is a big unrestricted Internet pipe to each home, as advertised, preferably with a 'minimum speed' guarantee;
[b] that those ISP-content agreements using a fast lane (what the FCC seems to call 'special access') are based on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.
FRAND has a long history in competition law and patent law, and is used where a wholesale input is an essential facility (amongst other things). Wholesale ISPs seem to fit that bill, at least in the UK where for most retail customers its BT or nothing.
Now that will make many people shout that local cacheing is NOT net neutrality - that's right, its not, even though Content Delivery Networks are not truly local, and therefore Google argues they don't breach the principle as long as they are offered on a FRAND basis. What matters to me is transparency, non-discrimination and a good and increasing basic service. It would be wonderful if bandwidth increased to make monthly caps and local cacheing irrelevant.
I recognize the potential permanence in the Content Connect service, that having succeeded in creating a new revenue stream and stopped ISP investment in further unbundling, BT Wholesale could then sit on its laurels and declare the bandwidth war over. That is where regulatory action will be required - Ofcom has sat on its bottom and declared that functional separation created incentives for investment long enough - it would then need to make arrangements to ensure long-term backhaul investment not based on current and anticipated needs and UK content players, but future needs which will be broader and more ubiquitous (it laughably calls VDSL 'super-fast broadband' when fibre roll-out is near non-existent).
Yes, it won't do that. That's why we need a more actively involved government - if it recognizes BT Wholesale is the only game in town, perhaps it might do something about it (NOT ignoring fibre to the premises while plugging its pension hole!).
Overall, the change to BT Content Connect should achieve one marvellous outcome - by stymying alternate investment in UK backhaul, it will show that we live in a monopolized environment in the UK. That will at least result in backsliding in global league tables and might eventually persuade government to do something. If not the nuclear option, its the option most likely to show that wholesale competition is dead.
So lets see the debate begin!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Does 'Three Strikes' actually work?

Nick Lansman of ISPA asks of last year's letter-sending campaign, to be incorporated into law by the Digital Economy Bill, did anyone change behaviour? Because if they didn't, all the Bill does is pave the way for stupendous amounts of legislation, Euro-law fights et al.

"ISPs are being asked to police content but this isn't about serious crime but to protect one particular set of rights holders," said Mr Lansman.
"The fact that rights holders can lean on the legislation means there isn't the incentive for them to do anything else in terms of alternatives," said Malcolm Hutty, from net association Linx.
The process of educating consumers about illegal file-sharing has already begun. In July last year, six of the UK's biggest net providers agreed a plan to tackle online piracy. It involved sending out letters to those identified as illegal file-sharers. BT, Virgin, Orange, Tiscali, BSkyB and Carphone Warehouse all signed up. According to Mr Lansman "tens of thousands" of letters were sent during the trial but he has not heard whether the campaign was successful.
"What happened? Did the government see a huge drop in file-sharing? The Digital Economy Bill says we should do the same thing again so I presume that there is some analysis of the trial," he said.
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the letters had been sent out because of an industry "memorandum of understanding" (MoU). "The decision not to release a report was down to the industry signatories. The MoU, and the separate wide ranging consultation with stakeholders who have an interest in filesharing, were both used to inform the development of the Digital Economy Bill."

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Fibrevolution on 'bandwidth hogs' and Animal Farm


Must work harder, Boxer - why ISPs need to introduce smarter metering and transparency:
"Unfortunately, to the best of our knowledge, the way that telcos identify the Bandwidth Hogs is not by monitoring if they cause unfair traffic congestion for other users. No, they just measure the total data downloaded per user, list the top 5% and call them hogs. For those service providers with data caps, these are usually set around 50 Gbyte and go up to 150 Gbyte a month. This is therefore a good indication of the level of bandwidth at which you start being considered a "hog".  But wait: 50 Gbyte a month is… 150 kbps average (0,15 Mbps), 150 Gbyte a month is 450 kbps on average. If you have a 10 Mbps link, that’s only 1,5 % or 4,5 % of its maximum advertised speed!
"And that would be "hogging"? The fact is that what most telcos call hogs are simply people who overall and on average download more than others. Blaming them for network congestion is actually an admission that telcos are uncomfortable with the 'all you can eat' broadband schemes that they themselves introduced on the market to get people to subscribe. In other words, the marketing push to get people to subscribe to broadband worked, but now the telcos see a missed opportunity at price discrimination..."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Mystic Marsden: 2010 Predictions for 'Computers and Law'

Even though you should never make predictions, especially about the future, I have (again):

2010 will be the 'Year That Three Strikes Strikes Back' - not that it will be properly implemented anywhere in Europe except France, but the copyright lobby and their captured governments will make serious efforts to force it onto domestic legislative agendas across Europe. That will lead to a consumer backlash led by the surging Pirate Party in the European Parliament and domestically, who will no doubt rouse the European Commission to try to explain exactly what the last-minute Telecoms Package compromise on Three Strikes actually means, particularly in the context of the newly incorporated Charter of Fundamental Rights. Expect the British government to obfuscate on its response, especially as it must pass the Digital Economy Bill before the May 2010 election. That will lead to a proper debate in 2010 about net neutrality, both in Brussels, Washington and eventually even the UK (hopefully reading my new book 'Net Neutrality' available free online now!).
The new Tory government will then have to prove that it has some principles by cancelling ID cards and talking tough on personal liberty, ISP liability, state surveillance and digital privacy - how soon it does so will be a key test of their currently half-baked IT policy. Will its pre-election promises result in them reaching for the Sky? 2010 will see further international developments on social network and search co-regulation and net neutrality, led by the resurgent consumer champion Commissioner Reding and the quite radical Obama administration (as I predicted last year). Expect several inevitable changes at the top of Ofcom and the BBC, and growing business as well as consumer pressure on Ofcom to 'do something' about our failing broadband competitiveness. Every corporate wage-slave will hate both our grindingly slow recovery from recession (slowest in the G20) and being dragged kicking and screaming to migrate from XP to 'NOT my idea' Windows 7.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Forecasting 2020: complete control and/or innovation?


Andrew Odlyzko 3-pager on the next decade: '[While fixed-mobile incumbents will continue to resist open platforms] others may find that the only way to survive is to exploit their one natural advantage, that of being able to provide big neutral pipes with low latency. That might lead to a surge in available bandwidth, and intensified growth in high-bandwidth innovation.'