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Sunday, December 28, 2008

UK Culture Secretary Burnham wants age rating and 'watershed' for Internet

That Evertonian whiner Andy Burnham continues to embarrass himself by trying to make the Internet into terrestrial TV, in an interview in the Daily Telegraph.

I rather like a comment posted on CBC: 
"Keep your greasy fish-n-chips fingers off my internet, you parasitic English politician. Go and start a web company that provides ratings to consumers if you think that will sell. Oh wait... that requires real business acumen, and people to voluntarily purchase your product. Much easier to use the government gun to force people to employ a bunch of unionized civil servants who voted for you, isn't it? No particular skill involved there."

What isd the point in fighting against voluntary censorship via net neutrality by ISPs if government intends to introduce sweeping censorship rules for all content? Grrr....Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Codifying Cyberspace: entire book online free

Well its Google Books searchable anyway!

BBC suggests tiered pricing for live TV

Finally, the BBC has suggested the obvious solution to bandwidth constraints on the iPlayer service - ISPs should charge end-users more!

Anthony Rose is reported stating that: 
"The future lies in tiered services. What we need to do is to create the iPlayer services at different quality levels and then let ISPs offer different bandwidth propositions to users. For example, the user who enjoys higher bandwidth connections would pay more, and those who are satisfied with lower bandwidth connections would pay less. Of course, nobody should get a worse experience than today. For example, the user can get a good quality iPlayer service for, say, £10 a month but for £20, a much better iPlayer quality would be available. This can lead to win-win situations and ISPs will see video services as a profit centre rather than a cost burden," 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sensible comment on Google's strategy

Saul Hansell of the New York Times explains in the wake of the WSJ article:
"Sometimes the issue is framed as a total bandwidth egalitarianism, when that’s not really what they want. There is a huge fight here, not over whether there will be first class and coach seats, but how those seats will be priced and who will pay for them. Google and others are saying that, in effect, every seat in the same class of service should have the same price, and that Internet providers can’t add surcharges to companies they don’t like or give discounts to those they do."

This analysis actually begins to get to the heart of the problem, instead of the info-communism which seems so prevalent in the US.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Virgin Media to target Bit Torrent from mid-2009

I'm sending Christmas greetings with this very interesting story about Virgin launching DOCSIS3.0 and quite specifically targetting Bit Torrent - note they are making no security-based claims as yet, simply network management. 
What an interesting 2009 we will have!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Messy weekend - policy unchanged, but opening shots fired

This weekend, the neo-loony Wall Street Journal ('the unacceptable face of capitalism') published a piece claiming Google wanted to hire faster capacity, when it actually wanted to try to cache more locally (DOH!), while in the UK the Internet Watch Foundation found its cloudy and crude version of self-censorship under scrutiny as never before. 

Let the games commence in 2009!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

FCC was totally broken in the last 2 years - says Congress

A new report reveals the appalling mismanagment of the Kevin Martin-chaired FCC - which abandoned its real role 3 years ago when it effectively abolished telecoms regulation, and since has seemingly descended into a bullying top-down culture - disgraceful. 

And they tell us to learn from the US experience? Hopefully on 20 January 2009, normal regulatory service can be resumed slowly, but expect the wounds to last for years after they throw out Martin and install a proper chair.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Ofcom broadband speed Code of Conduct

More co-regulation:

"Under the code, ISPs are required to:

  • provide consumers at the point of sale with an accurate estimate of the maximum speed that their line can support;
  • explain clearly and simply how technical factors may slow down speeds and giving help and advice to consumers to improve the situation at home;
  • offer an alternative package (if there is one) without any penalties, if the actual speed is a lot lower than the original estimate; and
  • explain fair usage policies clearly and alert consumers when they have been breached.

New Ofcom research due to be published in full in early 2009 reveals that around a quarter of people said that they did not receive the speed they expected when they signed up for a broadband service."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Net neutrality - Article 22(3) USD

This is the key amendment (from IPTegrity) for 'net neutrality lite' in the proposals that the Parliament, Council and Commission have worked up - expect this to be the law, and thanks to Ralf Nigge of DT for discussing:

Article 22: Quality of service

1. Member States shall ensure that national regulatory authorities are, after taking account ofthe views of interested parties, able to require undertakings that provide publicly available electronic communications services networks and/or services to publish comparable, adequate and up-to-date information for end-users on the quality of their services, including and on measures taken to ensure equivalent comparable access for disabled end-users. The information shall, on request, also be supplied to the national regulatory authority in advance of its publication.

2. National regulatory authorities may specify, inter alia, the quality of service parameters to be measured, and the content, form and manner of 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. Where appropriate, the parameters, definitions and measurement methods given in Annex III could be used.

3. In order to prevent degradation of service and hindering or slowing of traffic over networks, Member States shall ensure that national regulatory authorities are able to set minimum quality of service requirements on undertakings providing public communications networks. The Commission may, having consulted the Authority, adopt technical implementing measures concerning minimum quality of service requirements to be set by the national regulatory authority on undertakings providing public communications networks.

These measures designed to amend non-essential elements of this Directive by supplementing it shall be adopted in accordance with the regulatory procedure with scrutiny referred to in Article 37(2). On imperative grounds of urgency, the Commission may use the urgency procedure referred to in Article 37(3).

(Amendment 16) A competitive market should ensure that users are able to have the quality of service 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 the networks. In particular, the Commission should be able to adopt implementing measures with a view to identifying the quality standards to be used by the national regulatory authorities.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Net neutrality, PHORM, Black Wednesday and BitTorrent

Interesting day - first PHORM gets 4 directors to resign and puts Kip Meek on the board with Norman Lamont (ex-Chancellor responsible for the 'day that broke the Bank of England' in 1992 - well he knows about recessions). There's no conflict of interest for Kip, apparently....and PHORM is both under investigation by police (for the great BT secret trial) and close to burning all its cash by the middle of next year.

Second, and more far-reaching, uTorrent is going UDP, which to this lawyer indicates that [a] TCP is going to be squeezed out of the main P2P traffic; [b] that will annoy those of us who use TCP for YouTube etc. [c] it will annoy ISPs even more than us; [d] so more discriminatory shenanigans can be expected. Its the Arms Race continuing at higher level.

Impeachment in Westminster

In view of Jacqui Smith and Gorbals Mick Martin's behaviour this week, you may like to mug up on - or blog -  this handy recent guide for MPs and peers:

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Legislation for net neutrality on both sides of the Atlantic?

California liberal Henry Waxman will be new head of the Commerce Committee, replacing Bellhead John Dingell. That makes both privacy and NN legislation more likely. Frannie Wellings, assistant to Sen. Dorgan, certainly expects that.

Meanwhile in the EU, the mini-super-regulator has been voted down by the Council of Ministers, and we grind on to the 2nd Reading in Parliament...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

FCC changes afoot

Susan Crawford and Kevin Werbach have been featured focussing on their views on wireless and net neutrality - well-known views in the blogosphere. Expect the FCC to turn through at least 90 if not 180 degrees.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

CRTC made simple - Bell discriminated against everyone!

Including themselves - so they were not in breach of competition law - but may have breached net neutrality and customer rights! Hence the July hearing...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

CRTC hearing 6 July

Call for comments: The Commission invites parties to comment on Internet traffic management practices of ISPs, including in particular the issues described below. In their comments, parties should provide full supporting rationale and all evidence on which they rely, and structure their submissions according to the topics and questions identified below.

·         A primary reason given for Internet traffic management practices is the increase in Internet traffic volumes caused by end-users.5 This has been attributed to growth in the use of certain applications, as well as growth in online video consumption, which can lead to network congestion.

a) How has Internet traffic grown in the past three years and what are the predictions for its growth in the future? What has been the impact on Canadian ISP networks?

b) How has average end-user bandwidth consumption changed in the past three years and what are the predictions for future changes in Canada?

c) How should congestion be defined in an ISP's network?         

d) Are there applications or services that are more likely to cause congestion, and if so, what are they?       

e) What are the relative bandwidth requirements for different types of Internet applications?

·         The Commission is seeking information regarding technical and economic solutions that are available now, or likely to be available in the future, for the purpose of Internet traffic management. The Commission would also like to understand the impacts of these solutions.      

a) What technologies could be employed by ISPs (for example, deep packet inspection) to manage Internet traffic?           

b) What developments are under way with respect to traffic protocol (such as modifications to transmission control protocols) and/or application changes (such as changes to P2P file exchange) which could assist in addressing network congestion?     

c) What are the specific capabilities offered by the technical solutions identified in (a) and (b) above? For example, would these technologies allow for throttling of individual users or groups of users; would they allow for the collection of information about persons and to what extent?      

d) With reference to questions (a) to (c) above, how effective would these solutions be in addressing network congestion in the ISP networks?     

e) Also with reference to questions (a) to (c) above, what impact could the implementation of technical solutions have on the Internet Engineering Tark Force standards upon which the operation of the Internet is based? Could these solutions create interoperability challenges for application developers?   

f) Describe the advantages and disadvantages (including end-user impacts) of employing the following practices in order to manage Internet traffic: i. monthly bandwidth limits (bit caps), ii. excess bandwidth usage charges, iii. time of day usage pricing, iv. peak period throttling, v. end-user-based throttling, vi. application-based throttling, vii. content caching, viii. upgrading network capacity, and ix. others not listed above.

·         In Telecom Decision 2008-108, the Commission directed Bell Canada to develop and file with the Commission, proposed notification requirements to address future changes that impact materially on the performance of GAS.

a) Should these requirements be extended to other ISPs providing wholesale Internet services such as the third party Internet access services offered by cable ISPs?

b) Are similar requirements necessary and appropriate in relation to the provision of retail Internet services?

c) If so, what kinds of practices, and/or changes to practices, should trigger these requirements and what information and how much notice should be provided to end-users?

·         Subsection 27(2) of the Act prohibits a Canadian carrier from unjustly discriminating, subjecting any person to an undue or unreasonable disadvantage or giving an undue or unreasonable preference toward any person, including itself, in relation to the provision of a telecommunications service.      

a) What, if any, Internet traffic management practices employed by ISPs would result in unjust discrimination, undue or unreasonable preference or advantage?

·         Section 36 of the Act states that unless the Commission approves otherwise, a Canadian carrier shall not control the content or influence the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by it for the public.

a) What, if any, Internet traffic management practices employed by ISPs would result in controlling the content, or influencing the meaning or purpose of telecommunications?

b) For any Internet traffic management practice identified in (a), what criteria should the Commission apply in determining whether to authorize such practice?

·         Section 47 of the Act states that the Commission shall exercise its powers and perform its duties under the Act with a view to implementing the Canadian telecommunications policy objectives set out in section 7 of the Act8 (the policy objectives) and ensuring that Canadian carriers provide telecommunications services and charge rates in accordance with section 27.

a) What issues do Internet traffic management practices raise concerning the policy objectives of the Act?

·         Section 47 of the Act also states that the Commission shall exercise its powers and perform its duties under the Act in accordance with any orders made by the Governor in Council under section 8. The Governor in Council has issued an Order Issuing a Direction to the CRTC on Implementing the Canadian Telecommunications Policy Objectives, P.C. 2006-1534, 14 December 2006 (the Policy Direction), which requires the Commission to, among other things, rely on market forces to the maximum extent feasible and when relying on regulation, use measures in a manner that interferes with market forces to the minimum extent necessary to meet the policy objectives. The Policy Direction also requires the Commission to ensure that non-economic measures are implemented, to the greatest extent possible, in a symmetrical and competitively neutral manner.

a) In light of the Policy Direction, address the requirement for, and the appropriateness of, implementing any regulatory measures in relation to Internet traffic management by ISPs.         

b) For each proposed regulatory measure, comment on how such measure would be consistent with the Policy Direction as well as how these measures could be implemented in the least intrusive manner.

·         The issue of Internet traffic management practices is increasingly a global issue that is being raised in other jurisdictions.   

a) Discuss any initiatives being examined or undertaken in other jurisdictions in relation to the issues raised in this proceeding concerning the Internet traffic management practices of ISPs.       

b) With respect to any initiatives described in part (a) of this question, discuss their possible applicability in Canada.

I like the last bit!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Incumbents demand regulation: Reding Venice speech

The Commissioner indulged in some straight talking about government-owned (fully or partially) incumbents in Europe, last week. 
"I call on you, incumbents, and your association ETNO, to re-think your policy recommendations to national ministers. You have to take a decision: Do you want to be friends or foes of a single telecoms market in Europe? Do you really want to let, for short-term reasons, the single market slip away to your US competitors?"

Spirited final session at ETNO

Everyone wanted to attack a strawman of extreme net neutrality - but it seems they all agreed on 'net neutrality lite' - or at least that a basic level of QoS that could not be degraded was not unreasonable.

Podcast Transcript for that MP3

"Hello, this is Senator Barack Obama and today is Thursday, June 8th, 2006.

"The topic today is net neutrality. The internet today is an open platform where the demand for websites and services dictates success. You've got barriers to entry that are low and equal for all comers. And it's because the internet is a neutral platform that I can put on this podcast and transmit it over the internet without having to go through some corporate media middleman. I can say what I want without censorship. I don't have to pay a special charge. But the big telephone and cable companies want to change the internet as we know it. They say they want to create high-speed lanes on the internet and strike exclusive contractual arrangements with internet content-providers for access to those high-speed lanes. Those of us who can't pony up the cash for these high-speed connections will be relegated to the slow lanes.

"Allowing the Bells and cable companies to act as gatekeepers with control over internet access would make the internet like cable. A producer-driven market with barriers to entry for website creators and preferential treatment for specific sites based not on merit, the number of hits, but on relationships with the corporate gatekeeper. If there were four or more competitive providers of broadband service to every home, then cable and telephone companies would not be able to create a bidding war for access to the high-speed lanes. But here's the problem. More than 99 percent of households get their broadband services from either cable or a telephone company.

"So here's my view. We can't have a situation in which the corporate duopoly dictates the future of the internet and that's why I'm supporting what is called net neutrality. In the House, the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Judiciary Committee reached different conclusions on network neutrality. Judiciary Committee members voted to protect net neutrality and commerce voted with the Bells and cable. That debate is going to hit the House floor this Friday. In the Senate, Senators Snowe and Dorgan are leading the fight for net neutrality and I've joined in that effort. Senator Inouye, the ranking Democrat of the Commerce Committee, has joined us in this effort as well and he's working with Senator Stevens to put strong network neutrality into any Senate bill that comes before us. There is widespread support among consumer groups, leading academics and the most innovative internet companies, including Google and Yahoo, in favor of net neutrality. And part of the reason for that is companies like Google and Yahoo might never have gotten started had they not been in a position to easily access the internet and do so on the same terms as the big corporate companies that were interested in making money on the internet.

"I know if you are listening to this podcast that you are going to take an intense interest in this issue as well. Congress is going to need to hear your voice because the Bell and cable companies are going to be dedicating millions of dollars to defeating network neutrality. So I'll keep you updated on this important issue and I look forward to talking to you guys again next week. Bye-bye."

Obama on net neutrality

Horse's mouth on his policy - its an MP3 from 8 June 2006. Note he's not opposed to QoS, just to differential contracts for that QoS - call it a Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause for the Internet. More as his policy in office emerges.

More from ETNO

No-one has mentioned net neutrality yet - which doesn't surprise me and I'm not going to be the first person to fart in church. The high-level regulators' panel was amazing - Colasanti would not discuss the package in his opening remarks, Matthias Kurth will chair ERG next year even though no-one else in the ERG agrees with his 'American' (i.e. monopoly) approach to telecoms, which flies in the face of the Commission. It was a perfect example of people talking past each other, showing that next year will be a desperate one for European policy - especially as the Commission and DGs will be rudderless in part as a new Commission is nominated.

This however is an opportunity - if only through crisis. The regulators are going to favour - or at least turn a blind eye to - incumbents in the NGA settlement, as frankly they're the only game in town willing to invest in fibre in the short term. As a result, we're going to be in the US in competitive terms, a duopoly, except worse. Worse for two reasons. 1. We have very little cable in most places. 2. The LLU competition in telecoms which disguised the lack of alternative infrastructure, will be much more limited in NGAs. The emperor's nudity will be exposed.

UPDATE: 4.46pm and final panel chair Phillipe de Fraigne mentioned "net neutrality". Only on a list of issues with no explanation. Back to sleep...

Google speak no evil in Brussels

Simon Hampton, for many years AOL's man in Brussels, now speaks for Google and does not speak net neutrality or open airwaves a la Washington. Nothing else to report from ETNO's annual conference yet. Well, they'd all prefer US federal non-regulation on fixed lines, naturally.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wireless net neutrality?

CNET reports on the potential for Tim Wu's idea to be enforced under an Obama FCC..

Most Euro telco regulators under the thumb

We forget in the northern fringe (UK, Scandies, Netherlands) just how under the thumb regulators are elsewhere - 18 out of 27 have their independence compromised by majority or minority government stakes in incumbents.

Job advert for superwoman

Lecturer in European Union Commercial Law (University of Essex)

The School of Law wishes to appoint a Lecturer in European Union Law with a firm commitment to teaching at LLB and LLM level. The areas of greatest interest include Internal Market law, EU Company law as well as electronic communications/Internet law. We would welcome applications from candidates with the ability to teach some element of French Law.

Candidates should be able to demonstrate an excellent research profile or (in the case of applicants for whom this is a first academic appointment) strong demonstrable research potential.

The School was rated “5” in both the 1996 and 2001 Research Assessment Exercises, and its teaching has been assessed as “Excellent” by HEFCE. The School has a policy that all academics contribute in an equitable manner to its administrative load.

Salary: £36,532-£43,622 per annum; Closing date: 16 November 2008; Apply online (Ref. AC705)

Friday, November 07, 2008

Ofcom pokes oar in on broadband rollout

It seems that Ofcom thinks the recession makes public intervention logic less likely rather than more - whatever happened to Alaistair Darling's Keynesianism?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Three strikes Hadopi Law gets closer

From EDRi-gram:
1. One more step for France in adopting the graduated response ============================================================
Despite all opposition and debates, on 30 October 2008, a crushing majority of the French Senate voted in favour of the anti-piracy law, the so called Hadopi law, introducing the graduate response against illegal content downloading.
The law enabling the introduction of three-strikes measure against file-sharers and Internet users comes now in contradiction with the European Parliament's opinion which called on the European Commission and all member states to "avoid adopting measures conflicting with civil liberties and human rights and with the principles of proportionality, effectiveness, and dissuasiveness, such as the interruption of Internet access."
Regarding the French Senate's vote, Jeremie Zimmermann, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net said: "Inconsistencies, lies, confusion and insults which the creative industries habitually use to blame their clients served as justification for a hurried vote, which ignored the wider public debate which is taking place in France and in Europe."
According to the modified law voted by the Senate, if an illegal downloading case is reported by an authorised body (industry associations, CNC, professional bodies), Hadopi, the body created especially for this purpose, will send the infringer a warning e-mail. If the infringement is repeated in 6-month time, a new e-mail is sent together with a warning by registered letter. In case in the next year the infringement is repeated, the Internet user in cause is penalised according to the gravity of the act. The sanction can be the denial of Internet access ranging from one month (duration decreased by the senators from 3 months as initially in the draft law) to a year during which time the Internet user continues to pay the access subscription and is included on a black list that forbids him
(her) to subscribe to any other operator.
Bruno Retailleau, a Senate member who voted against the legislation, argued that a full cut off of the Internet access is too severe a punishment as Internet access is essential to modern homes. In his opinion, cutting off households might even be considered discriminatory, as Internet access is usually tied to a cable line or phone service.
In case the French National Assembly (the second chamber of the Parliament) also votes in favour of the Hadopi law and the law becomes effective next year, the French government will be at odds with the European Parliament being in direct contradiction with Amendment 138 to the Telecoms Package, voted on 24 September which explicitly states that only the judicial authority can impose restrictions on citizens' fundamental rights and freedoms.
The European Parliament clearly expressed the opposition against the cutting off of Internet users' access, wishing "a balance between the interests of rights holders and those of consumers", and considering that "that big measures like cutting off Internet access shouldn't be used."
On the other hand, minister Albanel seems confident in the removal of Amendment 138 of the Telecom Package by the European Council having in view the pressure France is putting on the Commission and the Council.
Illegal downloading: the graduate response reviewed and corrected by the Senate (only in French, 1.11.2008)
"Three strikes" P2P rule inches closer to law in France (2.11.2008)
"Graduated response" - Will France disconnect Europe? (1.11.2008)
EDRi-gram: French law on 'graduate response' opposed by ISOC Europe

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

DSL to be stretched by DSM - noise reduction on lines

Years ago, I attended the superb Marconi Awards, as guest of Prof. Eli Noam - whose 25th anniversary party for his CITI centre at Columbia was last weekend - lets have 25 more!!!

The discussion was a little too technical for this lawyer, but the Lifetime Award went to Gordon Moore - Moore's Law predictor and all-round "mensch".

The annual award went to the French mathematician inventors of Turbo Codes - which enable 3G data over wireless. There was much discussion of Shanon's Law too.

Shannon's Law lurked in the back of my brain for 3 years - and now back in the front as a Stanford prof has shown how to DOUBLE DSL throughput per line on a shared exchange. He has 14million lines installed, with Sky in the UK going public about it (thanks to Dave Burstein for this).

So rejoice in the midst of recession - we can squeeze a hell of a lot more out of DSL before we have to invest in fibre in, oh, about 2025...and BT says peered backhaul is cheap as chips so we can watch iPlayer to our hearts' content.

Yes we can...

Obama election analysis

In addition to the question of the mysterious disappearing "record turnout", The Onion has the sharpest coverage!

Obama on net neutrality and IT for health

Interesting CNET piece on Presidential IT policies. I suspect net neutrality will become as high a priority in the US as the EC.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Time Warner Cable early leader in capping customers

Whoops, missed this! - first reported on DSL Reports, in January '08 and confirmed in June, 5-40GB caps by Time Warner in its Beaumont Texas trial with $1 per GB excess fee:

Pricing plans will range from $29.95 a month for a 5GB cap [ed: on a FIXED line!!!] and 768kbps download speeds to $54.90 for a 40GB cap at 15mbps. There's also a 10GB cap option, but that's only available alongside phone and TV service.

If customers exceed their bandwidth cap - which covers uploads as well as downloads - they'll be charged an extra $1 per extra gigabyte. "It's just a like a cell phone plan," Dudley says. And they can track their usage via a "gas gauge" on the company's web site.

AT&T set to impose severe bandwidth caps in Reno

El Reg reports on caps between 20GB and 150GB for new customers, extending to existing customers next year - on a 750kb/s link, 20GB is not going to last long at full speed. But at least it is now relatively transparent and results from discussions with soon-to-be-former FCC Chair Kevin Martin.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A classic example of ISP lying

The Register confirms that Virgin advertises "maximum burst" uploads at 256Kb/s but can only manage 200Kb/s for many customers - does it tell them? Does it hell!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Scare stories on Euro-NN

It seems both Copenhagen Economics and the Centre for European Policy Studies have new papers - the former commissioned by the incumbents has a headline-grabbing enormous figure for what 'it' (presumably heavyweight NN) would cost Europe.

Hidden in the Guardian piece, Ofcom is actually quite sensibly adopting what I call 'net neutrality lite' (and thanks to Martin Cave for popularising the term):
Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, said today: "We don't think we should bring it over from the US lock, stock and barrel. We have quite often got more competitors in Europe than in the US. The key for us is transparency. Consumers must know whether there are different arrangements for different ISPs and network providers must have the freedom to make commercial decisions about how to run their networks and invest in new-generation networks."

Well, quite. ISPs stop lying, consumers stop abusing, and we will all be happier.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Re: How will government regulate...?

With Lord Stephen Carter of Convergence, formerly noted control freak boss of Ofcom.

But never fear:
"I wouldn't worry too much.The current bunch of losers couldnt regulate a tap let alone the web. It would probably involve some outside supplier charging the government squillions to do it and then leave all the work they had done on a 1gb memory stick. Oh dear we sem to have lost all the information but we did do it honestly so can we have the rest of our squillions please." From offensive free speech libertarian comment on Guido Fawkes.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Tendency to corrupt and deprave?

PanGloss directs to an excellent Wendy Grossman piece on fiction porn postings and whether they might lead to the resurrection of the Obscene Publications Act for an adult fantasy blogger. Is this the harbinger of increased attention by the police to adult fantasy material?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Streaming video on the Internet

The great Mr Enck blogs on a recent conference:
"There followed two very interesting presentations, by Anthony Rose and Andy Quested from the BBC. Anthony Rose seemed to express fatigue with the iPlayer bandwidth debate, and stated his hope that the industry could now move on to consider issues around ISP incentivization and monetization. The iPlayer team has resisted the temptation to play out HD content so far, due to concerns that the experience would be unsatisfactory for many consumers, due to contention rates on DSL connections. (Unless I misunderstood his remarks during the Q&A panel later, I believe he said we should see some HD content on the iPlayer "this side of Christmas," probably encoded at around 4Mbps.) The iPlayer server farm, which apparently consists of 60 dual/quad core machines, transcodes content into "six or seven" codec/bitrate flavors, with the average in the 500 - 800kbps range (the latter being for H.264). The BBC is starting a trial of 1.5Mbps H.264 on the iPlayer to Virgin Media's 10,000 50Mbps trial customers in Ashford, Kent. The minimum threshold bitrate for true HD is >3Mbps, which would be challenging for a lot of broadband connections and would risk high buffering levels. So there is a necessity to make sure the experience is not out of line with what HD TV viewers have come to expect. An essential ingredient in ensuring this would be an end-to-end dynamic adaptive bitrate system, but this is not a trivial exercise from a technology standpoint.He made a case for the BBC's role in assembling the puzzle pieces for "others" (presumably ISPs) to build a business model around the iPlayer. He expressed an interest in working with ISPs to develop tiered service offerings to more closely align costs with revenues, as well as to cooperate on technology-based strategies to alleviate pressure on networks. Among these is a trial of Velocix network caching in three London suburbs (presumably this is with Virgin Media, but this was unclear)."

"Next came Kevin Baughan from Virgin Media, who highlighted that the Virgin TV iPlayer contributes 1/3 of all iPlayer sessions, at 11m sessions per month. There was other discussion about the "analogue dividend" and the eventual convergence of video and broadband bandwidth under DOCSIS 3.0, but the topic which really intrigued me was the question of storage vs. transmission. Virgin is experimenting with both edge/network caching, and in the Ashford 50Mbps trial area, has provisioned a 10Gbps link directly to Level(3), in an attempt to answer the question of whether storage trumps transmission, or the reverse. He conceded a fair number of unknowns around edge caching, such as predictability of demand and economics. I will be curious to learn what they determine in the process, but one intriguing idea he floated was that perhaps ISPs should be building their own internal CDN capabilities, striking deals with other CDNs and content players to mirror the most popular content."

How this meshes with the costs suggested by Dave Clark at TPRC will be very interesting, as will Project Kangaroo plans.

How will government regulate Youtube? They intend to try

As they launch the supernanny committee:
Ministers are planning to introduce tough new rules to make websites carry age certificates and warning signs on films featuring sex, violence or strong language.
Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said that tougher content guidance would help parents monitor their children's internet use.
The move is in response to growing fears about the internet's 'dark side'. An influential group of MPs recently warned that many social networking and video-sharing websites contain material unsuitable for children.
Mr Burnham said he wanted online content to meet the same standards required for television and the cinema. At the moment, there is no overall regulation of the internet.
The Culture Secretary said video clips may soon have to carry ratings such as the 'U', 'PG', '12' and '18' ones used by cinemas.
Mr Burnham pointed to the example of the BBC iplayer which carries content warnings on programmes screened after the 9pm watershed and allows parents to turn on a 'parental guidance lock' to stop youngsters accessing inappropriate material.
He said: 'With the 9pm watershed, parents had complete clarity about the content. But with the internet, parents are ensure about what is appropriate and what isn't.
'We have to start talking more seriously about standards and regulation on the internet.
'I don't think it is impossible that before you download something there is a symbol or wording which tells you what's in that content. If you have a clip that is downloaded a million times then that is akin to broadcasting.'It doesn't seem over-burdensome for these to be regulated.'
His comments were backed by the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith who said she had been 'shocked' at some of the material viewed by her sons.

Excellent cybersecurity talk

Dr Ian Brown of this parish - hope he comes up with more at the Wharton IS conference in January

Charlie Dunstone's "gotcha" moment 2006

Here's the moment that the TalkTalk owner admitted to getting death threats for traffic shaping - at Ofcom's annual conference when their outgoing Director tried to avoid the issue. Its at about 13 minutes - yours truly pressing the question from 9 minutes in...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Picture of the day, from James Enck

Here's what happened after the bailout failed, but it doesn't include the 26% fall in Ireland and the guarantee for all their banks. At 400billion euro for 4 million people, that model would be a guarantee for 30,000,000,000euro for the US - or a cool $50trillion. Hope none of that defaults...

Monday, September 29, 2008

TPRC best papers

As a Prog Comm member I can't have favorites, but for sheer provocative quality every time, I always enjoy Dave Clark, Barb Cherry and Eli Noam. This year I somehow missed Johannes Bauer, Bill Lehr and Rob Freiden's talks - but then the event is so packed (5 parallel sessions) that its inevitable you miss some favorites.

Pakistan and YouTube explained by RIPE

Hijacked IP addresses and their solution on video. Tip from Brendan Kuerbis and Milton Mueller, who have an excellent paper on RIRs and their future role in allocating scarce IPv4 while protecting from such hacks - led to a spirited discussion with Scott Bradner and my co-conspirator Jonathan Cave.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Canadians demand Bell Canada pay for net neutrality dispute

Another nice consumer protection measure, if rarely used: CRTC, the Canadian regulator, can force the party opening a dispute to pay the costs of respondees - which in this case means everyone - even other throttlers!

Comcast states BitTorrent throttling began in May 2005-2006

Comcast deposition - interesting that El Reg focuses on the misleading nature of Comcast's claims not to have throttled and blocked traffic when exposed in May 2007 by Robb Topolski. Its certainly true that they were less forthcoming in the 2008 FCC Harvard and Stanford meetings. The class action lawsuits flowing from the allegations of consumer harm may see Comcast liable to its users, not a remedy we're likely to see in Europe unfortunately.

Topolski also states his opinion on the 250GB cap imposed by Comcast and alluded to by QWest - and rightly points out that at least its transparent whereas the previous 5 years of user management were not. That's the kind of transparency regulators should be demanding.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

So happy to get away from CNN

Ironically for train-wreck television, it actually missed last Friday's train crash in LA because it was wall-to-wall Hurricane Ike instead. Only once no deaths could be caught on camera, did they rush to LA. It drove me to the Huffington Post, which actually covers the news. American TV is dying by suffocation up its own orifice.

Thank goodness for the BBC and CBC and other public broadcasters' news channels. There's a special place in hell for the Rick Sanchez/Larry King types, except that the moronic US Old Testament version of Christianity presumably places Democrats and liberals there...

Security trumps free speech and net neutrality

Decent and relatively unbiased Register story on how registrars, ISPs and others are infringing free speech principles in their "shoot first, ask questions later" approach to security breaches (or unsubstantitated rumours thereof), while others are spam-friendly.

What a tangled web we weave...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Vista user-unfriendly

I've been using Vista Business for a couple of months - its fine, fast on a good Sony Viao, and clean - but Windows Explorer does hang up if you add files to it while its running.

Those good people at Redmond have a fix straight from the 1980s in running some DOS code from the Start prompt:

Disgusting, isn't it? Beta-bloatware and not even a proper idiot (i.e. me)-proof fix. Damn their eyes!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Broadband penetration and damned lies

Looking over the Lesssig compilation of OECD-ITU numbers reminds us why the OECD price-per-bandwidth charts are more useful - but certainly shows precipitous falls for Germany-US-Canada amongst G7 countries, and relative rises for Japan-UK-France-Italy = the former group uses facilities-based competition, the latter supplements that with local loop unbundling.

There's not much point including smaller countries in such comparisons - the combination of scale economies for investment and geographical diversity of the G7 means that you can make somewhat meaningful comparisons. Hong Kong, Iceland and Bermuda may look good on stats, but....

For the future of such stats, I like particularly the price per bandwidth within monthly cap AND the cost per MB of additional bandwidth above the cap: see it here.

Wall St Journal Europe hugely biased piece on NN

Stuck in Neutral:
"...benefits will only occur if countries in Southern and Eastern Europe expand and upgrade their communications networks. Officials in Brussels may spend their time discussing how to regulate "neutrality" over the Internet, but that is of minimal interest to Italians, Greeks and Czechs who do not have a single option for high-speed access.
"Clearly, the EU -- and Southern and Eastern Europe in particular -- needs to focus on increasing high-speed choices and access. The European Commission had it right last year when it proposed ambitious new goals for broadband penetration in Europe in its review of the Lisbon Growth and Jobs Strategy [i2010]. But, as always, the devil is in the details. Increased investment, not ill-considered new regulation, is the best and only option to bring the Internet's wonders to all Europeans."
Written by two lobbyists: Mr. Bolognini is chairman of the Italian Institute for Privacy. Mr. Pehnelt is a research associate at the European Center for International Political Economy.

Self-regulation - vast study for the EC published in full

If you fancy 1300 pages on self- and co-regulation (go on, you know you want to!) then here they are!

Its a huge study I conducted as project manager, with friends (Jonathan Cave, Steve Simmons, Ian Brown, Adam Peake and others) and colleagues from RAND in 2007. There are sections on net neutrality - if rather carefully hidden!

RAND work on net neutrality 2006-7

Here's the link to what was published, for both the EC and Ofcom, sadly not including the work for content providers, though you get a snapshot here from TPRC 2007 (the ideas were laid out in 2006 in a talk I gave to round up a seminar at the Royal Society).

Lessig and Enck with broadband data

Lessig has gone on the record praising the FCC for the Comcast decision - a typically lucid as well as political letter.

In terms of the hocuspocus what's-happening-in-the-network that Comcast was all about, here's James Enck on France and Germany, and Lessig's compilation of ITU-OECD broadband rankings. All grist to the net neutrality mill...

Home news from abroad

I'm in Canada for 3 weeks working and travelling, but want to post the Society for Computers and Law essay prize - deadline end-March 2009, #1000 plus an internship:

Essex School of Law news!

Well, 2 official notices:
[1] Its now the School of Law;
[2] I'm officially Senior Lecturer as of 1 October - which means I can devote myself to writing on net neutrality and self-regulation for 3-4 years instead of trying for a promotion!

There is also the following news on the new website:
26-28 Septemer 2008: Chris Marsden is presenting a paper at a conference on Internet co-regulation at the Telecoms Policy Research Conference, Washing, USA.
24-25 September 2008: Chris Marsden is presenting a paper at a conference on market failure in communication regulation at GikIII, Oxford.
22-23 September 2008: Chris Marsden is chairing a conference of the SCL Policy Forum at Herbert Smith, London.
18 September 2008: Chris Marsden is presenting a paper at a conference on net neutrality at the Society of Legal Scholars, LSE, London.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Canada will rule on net neutrality in October

The CRTC has delayed its decision in the wholesale dispute between Bell Canada and its customers - not directly affecting the retail customers who protested at Parliament in May: "CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein in June warned that his decision on the Bell-CAIP dispute will be limited to whether Bell has violated its wholesale obligations under the Telecommunications Act. If Bell is found to be in violation, the company could be ordered to cease throttling its wholesale customers, but would not be obliged to end the practice with its own subscribers. A further, deeper probe into net neutrality and throttling on a larger scale is likely in the future, von Finckenstein said."

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Personal blogs and professional associations

Ever wondered why its my blog, not Essex or RAND or anyone else? Read on...and thanks to Blogzilla for the link...

End of the Blog (Prof William Patry, now Google's Senior Copyright Counsel) I have decided to end the blog, after doing around 800 postings over about 4 years. I regret closing the blog and I owe readers an explanation. There are two reasons.

1. The Inability or Refusal to Accept the Blog for What it is: A Personal Blog I have been a full-time copyright lawyer for 26 years. My late mother, aleha ha-shalom, told me repeatedly that I had a religious obligation to learn every day, and I have honored her memory by doing exactly that. Learning also involves changing how you think about things; it doesn't only mean reinforcing the existing views you already have. In this respect, Second Circuit Judge Pierre Leval once said that the best way to know you have a mind is to change it, and I have tried to live by that wisdom too. There are positions I have taken in the past I no longer hold, and some that I continue to hold. I have tried to be honest with myself: if you are not genuinely honest with yourself, you can't learn, and if you worry about what others think of you, you will be living their version of your life and not yours. I started the blog when I was still in private practice with the above goals in mind and one more: I felt there was no blog devoted to the geekery of copyright; meaning a blog where people who loved copyright could come and discuss copyright issues in a non-partisan way.

In order to encourage open discussion I permitted not only comments but anonymous and pseudonymous comments. I did that because I wanted to encourage the largest number of people to participate, and after four years I believe that was the right decision. But it is also the right decision to end the blog. While in private practice I never had the experience of people attributing my views to my firm or to my clients. I moved from private practice to Google I put a disclaimer to the effect that the views in the blog (as in the past) were strictly mine. I also set a policy, which I strictly adhered to, of never discussing cases Google was involved in, and I refrained from criticizing those with whom Google was involved in lawsuits. I did not run ads, including not using Google's AdSense program.

I cannot see what more I could have done to make what was a personal blog more separate from my employer. For the first year after joining Google, with some exceptions, people honored the personal nature of the blog, but no longer. When other blogs or news stories refer to the blog, the inevitable opening sentence now is: "William Patry, Google's Senior Copyright Counsel said," or "Google's top copyright lawyer said... ." There is nothing I can do to stop this false implication that I am speaking on Google's behalf. And that's just those who do so because they are lazy. Others, for partisan purposes, insist on on misdescribing the blog as a Google blog, or in one case involving a think tank, darkly indicating also a la Senator Joe McCarthy, that in addition to funding from Google, there may be other sources of funding too. On Blogger, blogs are free. The blog had no funding because it doesn't cost anything, because I don't run ads, and because it was my personal blog, started before I joined Google.

On top of this there are the crazies, whom it is impossible to reason with, who do not have a life of their own and so insist on ruining the lives of others, and preferably as many as possible. I asked myself last week after having to deal with the craziest of the crazies yet, "why subject yourself to this?" I could come up with no reason why I should: My grandfather chose to be a psychiatrist, but I chose a different professional path, one that doesn't obligate me to put up with such nonsense.

In the end, I concluded that it is no longer possible for me to have a blog that will be respected for what it is, a personal blog. I don't draw any grand conclusions from this and hope others don't either. The decision was 100% mine. No one at Google ever asked, suggested, or hinted that I should end the blog. To the contrary, in keeping with Google's deep commitment to free speech, the company encourages blogs like mine, and has stood completely behind me.

2. The Current State of Copyright Law is too depressing This leads me to my final reason for closing the blog which is independent of the first reason: my fear that the blog was becoming too negative in tone. I regard myself as a centrist. I believe very much that in proper doses copyright is essential for certain classes of works, especially commercial movies, commercial sound recordings, and commercial books, the core copyright industries. I accept that the level of proper doses will vary from person to person and that my recommended dose may be lower (or higher) than others.

But in my view, and that of my cherished brother Sir Hugh Laddie, we are well past the healthy dose stage and into the serious illness stage. Much like the U.S. economy, things are getting worse, not better. Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being: to encourage learning and the creation of new works. Instead, its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to suppress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm, but which is beneficial to copyright owners. Like Humpty-Dumpty, the copyright law we used to know can never be put back together again: multilateral and trade agreements have ensured that, and quite deliberately.

It is profoundly depressing, after 26 years full-time in a field I love, to be a constant voice of dissent. I have tried various ways to leaven this state of affairs with positive postings, much like television news shows that experiment with "happy features." I have blogged about great articles others have written, or highlighted scholars who have not gotten the attention they deserve; I tried to find cases, even inconsequential ones, that I can fawn over. But after awhile, this wore thin, because the most important stories are too often ones that involve initiatives that are, in my opinion, seriously harmful to the public interest. I cannot continue to be so negative, so often. Being so negative, while deserved on the merits, gives a distorted perspective of my centrist views, and is emotionally a downer.

So between the inability or refusal of some people to accept the blog for what it is -- a personal blog --- and my inability to continue to be Cassandra, I decided it was time to pull the plug. I thank profusely all those who have accepted the blog for what it is, and who have contributed so much to it and to my learning over the years. I intend to spend my free time figuring out a constructive way to talk about the difficult issues we face and how to advance toward their solution.

Friday, August 01, 2008

US net neutrality - smoking guns and mirrors

Kevin Werbach has a thoughtful post on Werblog (see links to right) about the FCC net neutrality ruling.

Chairman Martin's FCC ruling is against Comcast's ludicrous attempts to stop P2P - by sending phantom RST reset packets to customers! That's about as smoking gun as it has got since the VOIP blocking in Madison River back in 2005. Its Phorm-abulous....

Kevin makes two points - that have real relevance for the UK. First, that the ruling will be dragged through the courts and overturned because Comcast broke the spirit of the FCC's vacuous 'Four Freedoms' but spirits are not actionable, only rule-breaking.

Second, he decries Martin's political stuntifying, as Martin is not condemning 'metered broadband'. That means caps on usage. Well hold on a minute, isn't that what we have - he says from his 3GB per month, #7.50 Three mobile dongle...

I would expect legal challenges to any Euro-regulator ruling under current laws, and caps? Well, we practise 'safe surfing' by phophylactics against those nasty P2P people...

Surrey Cricket are rubbish - except the bloke in the furry dog outfit

I joined Surrey this year - which was wonderful in April and May watching at The Oval in the freezing cold as they drew 4-day game after 4-day game - but less fun in June with the chavvy 20-20 [cricket in under 3 hours!] which they kept losing, and there's been no cricket in July and will be very little in August.

But to make up for a record of about 2 wins out of 20, their mascot won the 20-20 mascot race...the highlight of the summer!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The nub of the Committee Report- co-regulation and E-Comms reform!!!

9. We do not believe that it is in the public interest for Internet service providers or networking sites to neglect screening content because of a fear that they will become liable under the terms of the EC E-Commerce Directive for material which is illegal but which is not identified. It would be perverse if the law were to make such sites more vulnerable for trying to offer protection to consumers. We recommend that Ofcom or the Government should set out their interpretation of when the E-Commerce Directive will place upon Internet service providers liability for content which they host or to which they enable access. Ultimately, the Government should be prepared to seek amendment to the Directive if it is preventing ISPs and websites from exercising more rigorous controls over content. (Paragraph 95)
10. We found the arguments put forward by Google/You Tube against their staff undertaking any kind of proactive screening to be unconvincing. To plead that the volume of traffic prevents screening of content is clearly not correct: indeed, major providers such as MySpace have not been deterred from reviewing material posted on their sites. Even if review of every bit of content is not practical, that is not an argument to undertake none at all. We recommend that proactive review of content should be standard practice for sites hosting user-generated content, and we look to the UK Council proposed by Dr Byron to give a high priority to reconciling the conflicting claims about the practicality and effectiveness of using staff and technological tools to screen and take down material. (Paragraph 96)

Parliament says social networks must do better

They want a move from 24-hour take-down to a much more rapid response - see Blogzilla's thoughts here. It will be much more expensive, but then barriers to entry are what regulation is all about - though I don't see any cost-benefit impact assessment here!!!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Audiovisual net neutrality!

Video of Sp!ked talk and podcast of BILETA with Powerpoint.

Spiked and updated blawg

I've gone slightly fancy - too cluttered and ugly you think? I see Technollama has changed too

Spoke last night at Sp!ked on the potential Internet investment crisis- here's roughly what I said (video on Friction TV soon):

Slowing Internet? Japan now – and WorldCom's doubling every 100 days in 2000….
1. Truth issue – how did it happen and why? Agree with Rob
a. Mid-2006 – Ofcom conference, Charlie Dunstone on death-threats – Comcast comparison
b. ISPs and fair use – security, blocking, throttling;
c. heavy users and P2P;
d. Ofcom and regulation – can they spot it?
e. City and investment – what incentive to invest in last mile?
f. Govt and rural users – note ITS conversations re. Ethernet
2. Phorm issue – they have to make money somewhere – Google’s cash – but privacy? Not Ofcom
3. Net neutrality issue – Kangaroo, so someone will get net neutrality – Parliament issue
4. European issue – BERT and Brussels
5. Fibre issue – back to DSL? Lets all sign the form 15billion? Wasn’t it 20billion in mid-1990s
6. Govt and regulation and incentives – is there the spectre of the broadband ISP as regulatory panacea? “Be careful what you wish for”
a. Data retention – ISP codes;
b. Personal Internet Security - communication from EC
c. Harmful content however defined – IWF
d. Three strikes French proposals – Ecomms package
e. Co-regulation – government encouraging ISPs to do ‘the right thing’ – but this has been continuing since 1996 and Comms Decency Act
f. E-commerce Directive revision 2011.

Q&A even less clear but:
Mobile – shared sites – wholesaled BT fibre?
Google – uniquely powerful position – but BBC?
Fixed pricing – capping value destruction NL “dysfunctional value chain” – Phorm answer?
Cross-subsidy to mobiles FTM termination – no room for consensus – nb. Japan/Korea electricity infrastructures
VPN in part – ‘last mile’
Public interest? Iplayer – public value test
Audiovisual Media Services Dir. – China co-reg
SMS 21st century telegraph in terms of cost per bit

Thursday, April 24, 2008

UK Broadband Stakeholder Group proposed policy

Walker, Antony Malcolm Taylor and Vicky Read (2007, undated) Pipe Dreams? Prospects for next generation broadband deployment in the UK, Broadband Stakeholder Group

Recommendation 1– Define the public value of broadband networksIt will take years for a complete evidence base to emerge to assess the full economicand social value of broadband. However, it should be possible now to define a frameworkto assess the potential public value of broadband, i.e., to identify the factors that should be taken into account when assessing broadband’s impact on society and the economy. Once such an approach is agreed, evidence can be added in as it emerges and a more accurate model developed for assessing the public value of broadband. This should be a collaborative initiative involving industry, academics, the DTI and Treasury.

Recommendation 2– Monitor demand for bandwidthAs a new wave of bandwidth intensive services come online over the next 12-24 months, close attention should be paid to the actual growth in demand for bandwidth by households and businesses both in the UK and internationally. Various approaches could be used to develop data in this area. However, this information should be made publicly available to help inform decision making by stakeholders across the value chain. This should be coordinated by Ofcom.

Recommendation 3– Set a benchmarked target for 2012The UK must have a communications infrastructure that enables it to compete andprosper in the global knowledge economy. The government and Ofcom should, therefore,benchmark the UK’s communications infrastructure with our global competitors.Government should establish a target to ensure that by 2012 the UK remains in theupper quartile of OECD nations in terms of the range of broadband delivered services towhich its people have ready access (Quality) and the proportion of the population served by broadband (Reach). These two aspects of quality and reach should be defined through a basket of metrics, similar to the approach used to define the competitiveness and extensiveness targets in 2001. This work should be undertaken by government, in collaboration with stakeholders, and updates should be published bi-annually.

Recommendation 4– Explore alternative commercial models to support network investmentFurther work should be undertaken by stakeholders to debate and explore alternativecommercial models to support network investment. Good solutions need to be foundthat align the interests of operators with upstream content and service providers andend consumers whilst mitigating concerns about blocking or degrading third partyapplications and services.

Recommendation 5– Develop a regulatory framework for next generation broadband
Discussion on the regulatory challenges posed by next generation access (NGA) networks has only just begun in the UK. Ofcom opened up the debate with its discussion document published in November 2006. This document raised a broad range of complex issues, which need to be explored in more detail. Further informal discussions should be undertaken in advance of a full public consultation by Ofcom. However, Ofcom needs to set out the principles of its regulatory approach to NGA within a 12 month time period, if the inhibiting effects of regulatory uncertainty on investment are to be avoided.

Recommendation 6– Explore options for access to passive infrastructure
As an input into Ofcom’s NGA preconsultation, a more detailed review should be undertaken into the options for access to alternative passive infrastructure in the UK. This work should be taken forward by stakeholders.

Recommendation 7– Identify models for efficient public sector intervention
While the BSG recommends that the public sector should forbear from intervening topromote NGA deployment at this stage, it is highly likely that public sector support will be required in areas where persistent market failure is most likely. Building on the BestPractice Guide published by the DTI and Ofcom in February 2007, further work shouldbe undertaken to identify and experiment in the development of efficient and effectivemodels for public sector interventions in collaboration with commercial stakeholders,government and the regulator.

Recommendation 8– Remove non-sector specific regulatory barriers
The deployment of next generation access infrastructure will inevitably require new civilinfrastructure and will involve significant new street works across the country. DTI should work together with relevant departments and public sector bodies and the industry to develop streamlined approaches to NGA related street works and planning issues tominimise both the disruption caused and the cost to operators of these works. Thegovernment should also review the nondomestic rating applied to optical fibre. Thecurrent approach provides a strong financial disincentive to the use of deployed fibre.

Recommendation 9– Review universal service/universal access
The current universal service directive refers only to functional internet access. However, as the adoption of broadband continues to accelerate, this definition is starting to lookoutdated. Ofcom’s consultation on universal services should address both the definition of universal service and future approaches to funding universal service/ universal access.

Thoughts on the 22 April convergence thinktank

Ashley Highfield – BBC and soon Project Kangaroo: Is net neutrality only for PSBs or for all commercial users? Content creators? Citizens? “How can we move away from price towards value-added services?” Suggests that solution is that ISPs charge for better QoS – but not by charging BBC or other content providers. 2004 – MORI research that BBC websites had “brought around 2million people online – recommended that one of our goals should be the drive take-up of the Internet” “We are about creating demand for broadband in Britain” “I don’t think its our role to invest in the infrastructure … but to drive demand”

Both he and Steve Robertson (CEO: Openreach) want “redefinition of universality” – to “reasonable speeds” – say 2Mbps. “The consumer will be confused if different content comes through a different speeds” – basis “all content on that ISP should be treated equally”

Mike Short (O2) refers to Korean IT 8-3-9 plan and international competitiveness. Broad discussion of ICT-RTD – much more i2010. Discusses “applications think-tank” – and Financial Services Authority role.

Dave Happy support “Pipe Dreams” 9 recommendations

Background paper by Foster, Robin (2007)
“digital and broadband open up the prospect of many new entrants into the media market, and remove the need for intermediation between producers and consumers” – but with 4 caveats:
“Some powerful bottlenecks will remain (even with broadband, there are still only a few alternative distribution platforms to use, and consumers face costs in switching between them);
The rationale for vertical integration that exists today will remain – securing access to content, ensuring that content can get to the consumer, reducing transaction costs, effective planning etc;
Costs of marketing and packaging content (and the risks involved) are likely to rise, putting a premium on scale and access to funding;
Synergies from exploiting content and resources across media will drive companies to operate in related horizontal markets.”
(7.4.23 at p82) Foster, Robin (2007) Future Broadcasting Regulation - An independent report by Robin Foster commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, January, at
It contains some assumptions: “Broadband might only be used where the extra functionality is sufficiently valued by consumers to cover the extra delivery costs involved;” (at 7.2. 21).
Van der Berg states: “From a regulatory perspective a point-to-point network offers more possibilities for regulatory measures such as Local Loop Unbundling and Wholesale Broadband Access.” OECD (2008) Developments In Fibre Technologies And Investment DSTI/ICCP/CISP(2007)4/FINAL, 3 April at p28

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Public service Deathstar for UK ISPs? Project Kangaroo

Ashley Highfield, in charge of BBC iPlayer and consquently the Empire's Darth Vader against ISP traffic management, is off to the super-PSB Project Kangaroo. Will a CDN be set up to save ISPs' bacon?

Phorm - friend or foe of Privacy

I attended a very strange event last night - corporate heckling of Richard Clayton for expressing his and FIPR's opinions on the legality of Phorm, at SOAS London. These guys need to learn how to debate properly if they want to engage the English NGO audience - US corporate rent-a-mob stuff just makes enemies. Now I'm a lot more worried than I was before the meeting - not enough to stay beyond 8pm but very worried nonetheless...

Link to the film of the event to follow....

Monday, April 14, 2008


House of COMMONS HC 353-iii 18 March 2008
Q210 Helen Southworth: Perhaps I may ask BT how much of its annual budget is spent on online child protection.
Mr Galvin: I do not have the answer to that off the top of my head. There is a considerable investment in online child protection with the facilities we provide within the browser.
Q211 Helen Southworth: If it is considerable what is the approximate figure?
Mr Galvin: You are asking me to make a quick mental calculation. One would be talking of something in the region of six figures. It would include systems like Clean Feed.
Q212 Helen Southworth: What would be the six-figure amount?
Mr Galvin: It is about £1 million, possibly more. You would have to take into account the fact that where we have logos on the home pages, for example, it displaces advertising revenue. It depends on whether or not you take into account that type of cost.
Q213 Helen Southworth: I am focusing on your research and the people who are working directly on the issue of child online protection?
Mr Galvin: We have an abuse desk which deals with issues that come from our customers.
Q214 Helen Southworth: How is that staffed?
Mr Galvin: It has permanent BT staff and is based in the UK. The staff vary but typically it would be in the range of 12 to 15 people.
Q215 Helen Southworth: Is that seven days a week 24 hours a day?
Mr Galvin: It is online and on mail and it is an office hours service. We also have frontline staff providing a service 24 hours a day seven days a week who are trained help desk people, if they are not trained abuse desk people. They would deal with issues that came to them and would take that to the abuse desk.
Q216 Helen Southworth: It would be very helpful if you could let us have the annual budget for specific work on online child protection. What is the position with AOL?
Ms de Stempel: We do not have a figure because it is integrated in any of our products. When we develop a product we look at lots of different functionalities including child protection. For example, we have a reporting mechanism for all our products.
Q217 Helen Southworth: But you do not allocate anything specifically for child online protection; you do not have anything ring-fenced for that specific purpose?
Ms de Stempel: For example, the equivalent to BT's Clean Feed would be part of the cost. We have law enforcement support which would be another part of the cost, but they do other things as well. If we apportion a particular cost to AOL staff, some of their work would concentrate on child protection and some on consumer protection.
Q218 Helen Southworth: I am thinking in terms of what gets measured gets done.
Ms de Stempel: It gets done because it is in the DNA of what we do.
Q219 Helen Southworth: But you cannot quantify it at all?
Ms de Stempel: No. I can ask but we look at this issue globally. For example, like other ISPs we contribute to the IWF and that would be one of the costs.
Q220 Helen Southworth: Does ISPA have a specific budget for child online protection?
Mr Lansman: We do. It is perhaps unfair to judge big corporate companies for failing to split up budget lines into the minutiae of detail. However, I do take your point which is very important.
Q221 Helen Southworth: I do not think child protection online is "minutiae of detail".
Mr Lansman: The big corporates will have multi-billion pound budgets. I think that splitting up--------
Q222 Helen Southworth: I do not know whether their customers would think the same.
Mr Lansman: I volunteer to go back to the membership and suggest that we try to provide the Committee with some information on that. I can see where you are coming from. As to ISPA itself, it is a not for profit trade association and every year it allocates £20,000 out of a sum of between £200,000 and £300,000 which is the turnover from membership fees in the main, so somewhere between 10% of the revenue of ISPA goes to the Internet Watch Foundation as a fee. In addition, a great deal of the time of ISPA staff and members is spent on secondment to various charities, CEOP and work with the Home Office. The problem is one of trying to allocate an enormous amount of time and resource from people whose jobs are to deal with lots of things where child abuse images and child protection are just one of the issues. It is more a problem of unpicking the financials than a lack of willingness to do it.
Q223 Helen Southworth: I want to ask about notice and take down policies for potentially illegal content. Once something has been reported as potentially illegal how long does it take before it is removed?
Ms de Stempel: It is a matter of 24 hours. We have a system similar to that of CEOP and an escalation process, for example, for child abuse images if it is flagged as such. Unless people flag us as to exactly what it is, all abuse might end up in the same box, but that would be removed from our service, so it will no longer be available to anyone else who has not opened an email where it is attached and law enforcement then picks it up for us.
Mr Galvin: It is done in 24 hours. Often to speed up the process when something is reported to us rather than have a debate about whether or not it is illegal it is a lot quicker to say that under our taste and decency policy we have the power to remove it immediately and not get into a debate about the legalities of it. Quite a lot of the notice and take down occurs under our taste and decency policy rather than a debate about whether or not it is illegal.

So BT takes down content and tries to avoid having a discussion! It'll be interesting to see if ISPA does produce a budget!

Families are a 38% minority of households

A reality check for the Byron team who would introduce compulsory filtering of web content: children in households are a minority of all UK households.

See the latest stats here:

So before they start censoring everyone, consider that only just over 1 in 3 homes has kids in it. Even removing the pensioner households, families are an absolute minority of UK households.

Censorship: Thinking of the Children

The Guardian reports that Dr Byron has not confirmed her intention of checking on government implementation of her reforms by 2011. This may be wise – her ministerial sponsor, Ed Balls, will soon be in the Treasury to sort out the mess he allowed to develop in the last decade (“goodbye, Darling”), and her Prime Ministerial simperer will be out of Downing Street as soon as he calls an election, by 2010 at latest. There will perhaps be a Communications Bill as early as 2011, and the agenda will have moved beyond her ‘enforced self-regulation’ (sic) or co-regulation, to full-blown regulation and its outer limits. Reviews of a barely living media literacy strategy and a grand Council for Child Internet Safety will by then have somewhat faded from the political agenda.

Its worth examining the proposal in full. In her Impact Assessment in the Table (unnumbered) at paragraph 3.121, the civil servants have persuaded the project to adopt six options, including ‘do nothing’, the holy trinity (regulate/co-regulate /self-regulate), and two agency options: a new agency or Ofcom. It dismisses agencies as too independent of government and therefore unable to exercise political influence to engage disparate departments in ‘joined up government’. This also prevents self-regulation, while of course regulation is too inflexible (until 2011?). Therefore, “on balance” – though no formal method is ever revealed for this impact assessment outcome – the decision is to transfer the Home Office Internet Safety Taskforce (“HSTF”) into the “multi-stakeholder council”, the Council for Child Internet Safety. She states at Paragraph 3.122:
“this, broadly speaking, is a self-regulatory approach with industry and government working in partnership”
Crucially, she states that “the Council would need to think carefully about who was best-placed to monitor compliance with industry standards.”

Quite right – and who sets these industry standards? The report considers these in Chapter 4 and it is here that we arrive at the crux of the matter: enforced self-regulation – which Byron admits means that non-UK actors cannot join in the full work of the strategy. Given the preponderance of US-based actors in this sector, including all the major social networks and the large ISPs (excepting French Wanadoo, Italian Tiscali and UK-based BT), one might have thought this is a pretty powerful argument, but the need to link political to regulatory to parental strategy (what a camel this will be with this Council!) overcomes considerations of international political economy.

So what censorship and codification is envisaged? Well, not censorship by ISPs, yet. “I do not recommend that the UK pursue a policy of blocking non-illegal material at a network level at present. However, this may need to be reviewed if the other measures in this report fail to have an impact” on children viewing inappropriate content. It would have helped to have had rather more quantifiable goals, but she leaves it to a measure of opacity that allows for political judgments (Para 4.60).

So what other measures are proposed? Well, in a blithe over-riding of the E-Commerce Directive, she suggests that companies “should not hide behind the law” (P4.18) when they could monitor content beyond the Article 14 protections: “It seems fair for companies to balance the benefits of making their sites safer for children, and the added value this brings to their brand, against the risk of liability”. Yes, but what has it to do with better regulation? Its companies’ own decision until and unless she recommends government drops the guillotine threat in P4.60.

So what else if companies do decide to take advantage of protections against liability offered by a settled decade-old European policy? Well “Having filters set on by default would not make parents engage” – phew! No censorship by default. But all computer buyers must receive the software pre-installed, as in France: “since 2004, the French government has required all ISPs to provide their customers with filtering software”. Note that no French evidence appears to have been presented to the Byron Review, so this is second-hand, it seems (I am happy to be corrected if this is not so).

There is a stick to this voluntary system in P.4.75:

"if these approaches, which seek to engage parents with the issues and available tools fail to have an impact on the number and frequency of children coming across harmful or inappropriate content online within a three year timeframe, I suggest that Government consider pursuing a policy of requiring content filters on new home computers to be switched on by default."

In Search, the review appears to go against the Information Commissioner and Article 29 Working Party attempts to prevent too much tracking by search providers – specifically their recent recommendation that data be deleted or irrevocably anonymised after 6 months. By contrast, Byron wants ‘safe search’ settings applied BY DEFAULT which would require a permanent record by the search provider for that IP address, or by maintaining a permanent cookie. In particular she recommends (P4.81) industry work towards systems that “give users the option of ‘locking on’ safe search on to a particular computer; and develop ways for parental control software to automatically communicate with search engines so that safe search is always on when the child uses the computer”.

Whatever the technical complexity for providers, the complexity for users is likely to increase, and the danger that this is abused broadly is high (its very easy to imagine the child locking the computer so that he can access uncensored results but the parent cannot, to “handcuff” the censor into false information – boy hackers will be boy hackers).