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Friday, August 28, 2009

Bloomsbury Blurb for the Book

Now available online - with a charming blurb contribution by the great Herbert Ungerer, the most fearless and far-sighted of policymakers.

GIKII - 17/18 September Amsterdam

I look forward to seeing both of you readers (!) at the 4th GIKII (or GIKIV): I will be speaking on 18 September at the University of Amsterdam, on 'Net Neutrality as a Debate about more than Economics'.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

TalkTalk speaks for us all on Mandelson's meddling

Charlie Dunstone is always enjoyable - and here he tells the government exactly how stoopid their new '3 Strikes' idea really is.

Three Struck Out?

What to do? I suspect the strategic question is what prevents the legislation (albeit secondary) being passed before the Election. Under the June 'Digital Britain' consultation, it would take 3 years until 3 Strikes would be introduced, so it was a political irrelevance. 
The first element is to suggest to BERR that it cannot introduce what amounts to a new consultation before August Bank Holiday with the end-date of 29 September - that's 5 weeks including a Bank Holiday. They should be giving a 3-month period - i.e. end-November. The suggestion they have made is clearly inadequate: "we need to be able to properly consider responses in time to take account appropriately of views and evidence in the construction of the legislation." In fact, it goes against their own guidelines in the Better Regulation Taskforce.  
The second is to point out the inadequacy of the Impact Assessment carried out thus far - the Assessment did not consider the costs of fraud to the software or games industries, only the costs to music publishers. It also admitted that there would be substantial consumer welfare losses, TWICE the benefits to industry: "Cost to consumers Under the assumption that ISPs fully pass down to consumers the annual increase in costs, we expect broadband retail prices to increase between 0.2% and 0.6%60. Studies on the price elasticity of demand have shown that demand for broadband is not very  sensitive to price increases. Nonetheless, we estimate that this cost would have a relatively small but permanent effect of reducing demand for broadband connection between 10,000-40,000. This would represent additional revenue lost by the ISP  industry between £2 and £9 million per annum. Additionally some consumers, especially those with low income or those that derive a relatively low welfare from creative content, only consume creative content at a price of zero or close to zero. As a result it is likely that the policy will have an impact on equality (i.e. those on the lowest incomes are likely to lose the most). However, it must be noted that the impact will only be to those that were illegally downloading digital content. These  consumers will experience a net welfare loss as a result of the proposed policy option since they will stop consuming creative content altogether. *It is not possible to estimate such welfare loss with current data availability, but estimates for the US show that this welfare loss could be twice as large as the benefit derived from reducing the displacement effect to industry revenues*." (at p.50)  
That is unacceptable when there is evidence available - and I am sure others know far better than me the up-to-date figures which illustrate that copyright breach is a far larger and longer-run issue for the software industries, but that they have developed strategies and business planning to account for a measure of such theft. Moreover, the paragraph I highlighted is obviously one that slipped in without political oversight, given its obvious conclusion that we should not be introducing these measures!  Of course there is the point of principle that you should not be cutting people off without a court order, but preaching to BERR or Ofcom about this will be a waste of breath. 
Does anyone know [a] the Conservative position on this? [b] whether the Communications Consumer Panel has any intention of getting involved? It should be their job to represent the consumer against this outrageous breach of due process, but they don't appear to have made any statement.  
Of course what I am suggesting would benefit from some coordination with ISPs to establish clearly that accelerating such a complex and unclear process is procedurally  and evidentially outrageous (as well as morally but that's not their interest).  
Its always worth pointing out that such evidence as can be mustered will be passed to the European Commission, which of course monitors legislation in this area (as with Phorm), pointing out that this breaches or at the very least stretches to breaking point Art.15 of the E-Commerce Directive, as well as the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dutch cableco cuts all non-HTTP traffic to one-third speed

We can go back to calling the Internet 'the web' as UPC plans to cut all non-Web traffic back to one-third speed, not just in peak, but from 12noon to midnight. That's a pretty serious intervention in the market, its a very big ISP. Will KPN follow if this is successfully implemented?

Take Pirate Bay offline, Swedish court tells ISP - E-Commerce Directive dead?

You could argue that ISPs can have constructive knowledge of spammers and file-sharing sites, I guess - but the decision to instruct Pirate Bay hosts Black Internet to take down its customer is nevertheless a strong precedent. It contributes to the chaotic position of the site's owners, Global Games Factory, and of course the site is quasi-hosted elsewhere.

Mandy to cut off UK file-sharers

The consultation on Digital Britain's most controversial proposal - to cut off persistent file sharers - is to be brought forward, apparently - and Peter Mandelson, Deputy Prime Minister in all but name, is responsible. Well, he has the media to square off before next year's General Election....

Add that to the apparent scrapping of the 50p Digital Divide levy, and they may as well have ignored Stephen Carter's report altogether....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Euro-sclerosis and Sesame Street

I missed this rather wonderful summary of new European institutions to follow ENISA and the IRG - which are coined ERNIE and BERT.

I think BERT is now BEREC but its a good topic for both a new institutional economics thesis and a linguistics examination. BEREC is pronounced like a young Australian rugby five-eighth, or a town on the Scottish border.

Friday, August 07, 2009

iPhone under FCC scrutiny for blocking Google/others

Apple demonstrates its anti-net neutrality pose, and Genachowski steams in to show the FCC will act.

Upcoming events: GikIV, TPRC, SCL POlicy Forum, Future of the Internet

I will be in Europe in September, and besides taking my Cambridge flat back (tenants moving out, sniff...), I will be:
9-10 September, Brussels for the Future of the Internet project I am advising;
17-18 September, Amsterdam for GikIV, speaking on net neutrality;
21-22 September, London for the SCL Policy Forum;
27-28 September, Washington DC (driving from Montreal via NYC...) for TPRC.

Let me know if you're anywhere near any of them!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Grotersque comic-book villain Allen Sanford: regulation entirely broken

The new Vanity Fair contains fascinating details of just how unbelievably asleep the SEC had to be to allow Sanford to operate for so long in the manner he did - its clear regulators just didn't have the balls (or political authority?) to regulate.

Its called 'regulatory commitment' and it needs social anbthropologists to examine just how rotten our financial regulators (and many comms regulators) have been.

Marshall on Ofcom pointlessness and putative Broadband Bill of Rights

By Gary Marshall - excellent! Though note several points relate to the useless Advertising Standards Authority, a self-regulator Ofcom and others hide behind.

"What is the point of Ofcom? Every now and then it carries out a study into something important - 3G network coverage, say, or broadband speeds - and discovers that everybody's getting shafted... Perhaps the answer is for Ofcom to create a Broadband Bill of Rights, a set of rules that ISPs and network operators have to follow - and because we're helpful types, we've written a few of them to get Ofcom started.

1. Eradicate "up to" - "Up to…" doesn't cut it when the average speed of fixed line and mobile broadband isn't even half of the advertised figures. ISPs and network operators should be compelled to print not just the "up to" numbers, but the real figures too...

2. Use words properly - Unlimited means without limits, yet stacks of ISPs and operators are allowed to use the term to describe services with bandwidth caps, fair usage policies and other restrictions. If it's restricted, it isn't unlimited.

3. Tell the truth - ISPs that deliberately throttle traffic - such as peak-time iPlayer nobbling - or block entire protocols should say so up-front.

4. Stop banging on about the BBC - ISPs who moan about high bandwidth services such as iPlayer should be compelled to shut up. If you can't deliver the service at a particular price, put your prices up for heavy users.

5. Offer universal access - Broadband is a utility, and it's becoming increasingly important as government services move online... ISPs shouldn't be able to boot people off the internet for alleged copyright infringement. If people are pirating, that's a job for the courts.

6. Performance-related pay - Of all our proposals, this is the biggie: customers shouldn't be expected to pay for a service they don't get, so if it's £20 for "up to 20MB" then the price you pay should be "up to" £20, too... The same applies to 3G: if someone's paying X per month for a 3G connection but can't get 3G service half the time, why should they pay full whack?"