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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Not neutrality please, we're British!

I attended an extraordinary event yesterday seemingly taking place in a vacuum, though as it was on a wind-blown North Atlantic rock, perhaps that is how it always is when the British discuss Europe or the Internet.
It is five years since Ed Vaizey got himself in big trouble by declaring he was against net neutrality, then realizing he had flatly contradicted Tim Berners Lee, retracted and tried a typical Whitehall fudge by claiming it was all "open Internet" even though, when TBL announced it was net neutrality, reluctantly agreeing.
But hey presto - not neutrality became the task he had set for the neo-corporatist institution beholden to both he and industry, the Broadband Stakeholder Group. As their chair Richard Hooper is always pleased to announce: "The term “Open Internet” is one that the digital minister, Ed Vaizey and I agreed some years ago was a better term for the UK than the American term – net neutrality."
Really? At the IGF last week, the rest of the world, except for telcos and neoliberals, was happy to debate net neutrality.
The event yesterday was the announcement after five years, that the UK industry was pleased to award itself trebles all round for its wonderful non-implementation of net neutrality with no official (sic) complaints. I have some notes from the event which may be of historic interest. I should note that WIK conducted the actual review and it is the WIK footnotes and page numbers to which the notes refer. But do note from Hooper's comments last month just what the client thinks of net neutrality regulation as opposed to self-congratulation:
"The UK approach, which has proved to be eminently successful, has required no statutory regulation" (ha!) but "our approach has been undermined in some ways with the Connected Continent Regulation passed by the EU in the summer. This regulation is directly applicable in the UK. Unfortunately, they have pursued a more prescriptive approach than is necessary or desirable in the UK and potentially hinders the ability of network providers to provide innovative services".
So herewith the notes made yesterday:
TMP Transparency Code 2011 – Open Internet Code of Practice 2012
WIK (2015) Review of the Open Internet Codes
1.       Value of self-reg
a.       Claims ‘dialogue…just as important as the Codes themselves’ Everyone agrees that Vaizey impetus was vital in telling BSG through Hooper to fix it.
2.       Effectiveness re. Uk users
a.       “more than 90%” what’s exact figure?
b.      “overwhelming majority” full access – i.e. v .little blocking (mainly spam)
c.       Zero rating?
d.      No stats on consumer awareness – Potemkin self-regulator?
3.       Compliance with CC
a.       Obvious problem with throttling ‘unreasonable’ traffic management during all hours people home from school/work
b.      Clear issue of zero-rated and specialised services…
c.       Adult content filters esp. crude TalkTalk blocking
4.       Future reform re. co-regulation
a.       Merge the 2 Codes together
b.      Address points in 3 above
BSG will merge Codes by May 2016 – in line with BEREC
Open Internet Forum – no “official complaint” (P18) – that’s from industry players
No consumer complaints – but that was always nonsense – footnote 111, p36 blows whistle “Code neither addresses remedies nor penalties”. Worth checking on OIF - no website, membership only, no transparency. One informal resolution: SIP ALG tied router configuration UK NOF standards issue – ITSPA unhappy as VOIP not improved but degraded by dodgy implementation.
No research into whether consumers knew about KFIs though Ofcom in 2013 recommended Code improvements p33 footnotes 99-100 P2P is permitted but must be included in KFIs.“The only organic change” in 2013 was public Wifi use. Other change “more consumer-friendly” in response to Ofcom review.“It’s a shame that Brussels got involved”…
Danny Wilson BBC opposes strict net neutrality re. Netherlands/Slovenia – given BBC inclusion in Indian zero rating, that’s to be expected. 
Huw Saunders (Ofcom) – going forwards, need to test consumer awareness of KFIs – notes QoE research. “Need to broaden to look at a wider range of services….increasing importance of video…TV-like experience” He cites 60% figure on video traffic – both broadcast & YouTube type. KIT (KCOM) of course started this in 1999 in Hull. “The economics are better in 2015…” Ben Wallace (Ofcom) co-chair with Frode on net neutrality group. DCMS very vague on whether there’s to be a need for co-regulatory legislative provision – maybe that can be shared with kiddie filter in late 2016.

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