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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy holidays - may your bunny be with you

Courtesy of the University of Vienna, I'm off to heatwave Montreal!

Austrian mobile broadband competing with lazy incumbents?

Austria is a famously homogenous country for communications - between Telekom Austria, UPC and ORF, there never used to be much competition in fixed, cable and TV. 3G auctions included a win for Hutchison 3 - the people who brought you Orange - and they now claim 8% market share of the entire AUT broadband market, and leadership in mobile broadband. Consumers appear to be abandoning fixed broadband in droves, as Analysys Masons state: 'in December 2009, on the basis of circumstances closely related to the specificity of the Austrian market, the Commission accepted the inclusion of mobile and broadband connections in the retail residential market. The specific circumstances included: mobile broadband was used by around 35% of residential customers in March 2009, compared to DSL at 40% and CATV at 22%... the share of mobile broadband [HSDPA] connections increased strongly between 2007 and 2009, accounting for approximately 70% of new broadband lines in the first three months of 2009... prices of fixed and mobile broadband connections were moving closer together and that fixed broadband providers directly react to price reductions introduced by mobile broadband operators. 75% of residential mobile broadband customers used their connection mainly on a stand-alone basis, rather than coupled with a fixed connection.'

Great Cory Doctorow talk on eBook pricing at Bloomsbury

My publisher hosted Cory recently - excellent talk on how ebooks help sales and how price discrimination might be replaced by price elasticity - example, could 'Net Neutrality' sell in India as an ebook at $5 a time? 70,000 downloads and counting...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ofcom moving to co-regulation of ISP broadband offers?

UPDATE: Some educated consumers offer their views.
As a result of the pathetic non-implementation of the 'self-regulatory' code by the majority, Ofcom is threatening co-regulation at the very least (which begs the question of how they could trust ISPs on net neutrality?)
'To address the shortfalls in compliance with the Code, Ofcom is going to:
work with ISPs to agree a consistent and accurate way of calculating and presenting access line speed information and amend the Code accordingly;
amend the Code to require ISPs to commit to giving the access line speed estimate early in the sales process, i.e. before asking the customer for bank details or a MAC. Currently the Code only requires ISPs to give this information before completion of the sales process.
find ways of ensuring that ISPs give consumers better information on why and how actual broadband speeds may be lower than headline speeds.
explore with ISPs whether it would be appropriate to add a new provision in Code which allows customers to leave their contract period without penalty if the access line speed received in practice is significantly below the estimate given at the time of signing up.'

Ofcom Mystery Shopper test reveals shambles of ISP sales advice to consumers

Its been anonymized to protect the guilty but still pretty damning:
'almost half (42 per cent) of these shoppers had to prompt providers for their speed late in the sales process. In addition, three quarters (74 per cent) of mystery shoppers were not informed that their actual speed was likely to be below their maximum line speed. The research also showed that shoppers often received a wide variety of different estimates of the maximum line speed from different ISPs for the same line.
Having investigated the issue further, Ofcom has found that ISPs use different methods for calculating and presenting such line speed information.Some ISPs also often gave the estimate for the maximum line speed in the form of a wide range (such as 10-20Mbit/s) which could lead customers to expect a much higher speed than they actually receive. Ofcom is now proposing to tighten the Code to address these issues in order to ensure that consumers are given adequate information about their broadband service when making purchasing decisions.'

Sunday, March 28, 2010

How the Internet now relies on advertising and CDNs (and increasingly video)

Thanks to Milton Mueller at IGP, a very interesting NANOG Akamai presentation on the state of peering, required reading.

Femtocells if home indoor coverage is bad - probably good PR not to charge for them?

AT&T gets a hacking to within an inch of its life for its attitude to femtocell deployment - Vodafone in the UK was not quite so duplicitous in its charging of its own customers to give them reasonable service quality. Meanwhile in Rwanda, Kigali's free WiFi zone with One-Laptop_Per-Child is a refreshing wireless alternative to the Digital Economy Bill's threat to UK wifi...
Mobile and wireless data would be a great idea? On to Vienna!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

New papers everywhere...Vienna, mostly

I have posted 4 new papers to SSRN, including my BILETA paper on mobile net neutrality that I will be presenting on Monday morning.
I realized ploughing through the references this morning, that the book misses a reference, so here it is:
Hallberg, Erik (2008) TeliaSonera - a European perspective on open mobile, Open Mobile Summit, at

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Telefonica and D-Telekom aggressively target Google in public: "We cannot offer everything for nothing"

Just in case you missed the German and Spanish press reports, Rene Obermann (DT CEO) and Telefonica's Chair Cesar Alierta (in El Pais 8th Feb reporting comments made in Bilbao 5th Feb) have expressed their intention to introduce fine-grain charging, though perhaps not as much as Manager-Magazin suggest in this (translated 17th March) interview's headline
Alierta is reported as stating: " Si Google y los demás buscadores quieren hacer negocio en Internet tendrán que cederle una parte a los operadores que ponen a su disposición sus redes y sus millones de clientes ."  He goes on "What is clear is that Internet search engines use our network without paying anything, which is lucky for them and a curse for us. It is also clear that this can not continue. The networks put them on the systems, we do the after sales service, we do everything. This will change, I am convinced."
Hmmm, lets see what the regulators do about that?

Dysfunctional lawyers' paradise: ignore DC on net neutrality, the future is elsewhere

Several recent articles confirm that the Communications Act 1934 as amended will not be enough to arrive at a reasonable compromise over net neutrality - indeed Ford and Spiwak argue that reasonable itself is misdefined, Atkinson is sick of the personal vilification, and Verizon (together with EFF as blogged last week) argue for new legislation. That puts any sensible reform back to 2011-12, and given the ducking of hard issues in the National Broadband Plan, I think its safe to ignore regulatory outcomes in DC, even if the evidence provided is fascinating.
Pass along to Ottawa or Brussels or Tokyo, nothing to see here...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Railway Mania: The Lessons from History about 'Collective Hallucinations'

There were three great British railway manias, those of the 1830s, 1840s and 1860s - people actually made money from the first, which led to the 1844 Railways Act and then later manias. Now Andrew Odlyzko has written a monograph about them, focusing on the greatest, the 1840s, and here is part of the abstract:

"The delusions that led to the financial disaster of the Railway Mania arose from experience with the railway mania of the mid-1830s. Seldom even mentioned in the literature, it was about half the size of the big Railway Mania of the 1840s (and thus still far larger than the Internet bubble). The initial financially exuberant phase of it did collapse. But it appears to have been unique among large manias in that a few years later it was seen as having collapsed prematurely, as projects started during its exuberant phase became successful. That mania demonstrates the difficulty in identifying bubbles that are truly irrational. Both railway manias provide a variety of other lessons about the interaction of technology and financial markets."
Did we not have an early 1990s telecom-ICT bubble leading to the 1996 Telecoms Act and 1998 European framework, a dot-com bubble at the turn of the century - and now...soon...eventually....? But that is another history yet to be written.

Analyzing the Lithuanian situation: letter now out

It seems clear that the Lithuanians have followed the market situation - its all about fibre, not LLU. Outside the big cities TEO has a monopoly, inside them an interesting dynamic is developing where TEO has 98% of FTTH (26,000 lines installed in the past 12 months) but altcos have the FTTB. The regulator has seen what's coming, allowed TEO a local monopoly outside the cities subject to price control, and allowed the altcos not to unbundle FTTB:
"In order to foster investment in Next Generation Access Networks (NGA) and the appearance of new operators in the market, RRT proposes to exempt FTTH lines from regulation and to impose only those obligations which will, according to RRT, create favourable conditions for the development of NGA. RRT therefore proposes to impose the following remedies related to access to passive infrastructure, i.e. access to ducts and dark fibre (backhaul fibre)".
But the EC won't let them get away with either - one of the major problems of one-size-fits-all telecoms policy. Its inevitable but unfortunate. Otherwise, France Telecom would argue the same against ARCEP, in a market with 400,000 high-speed subscribers mixed between cable and fibre.
If I was advising the Liths, I'd tell them to let it go all the way to the ECJ to buy some time for their artful compromise, then subside gently. Oh, and enjoy the Internet Governance Forum in September (sorry about the British stag parties, boys will be boys...)
P.S. The UK regulator has decided above 24Mbps is 'super-fast' as that means HFC or VDSL - and proposes to allow duct access for third parties. See ARCEP above for how its done...
UPDATE: The Lithuanians realized they were onto a hiding and withdrew their definitions.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lithuanian fibre falls foul of DG INFSO

Bear with me on this - Lithuania is a country in crisis, but horrendous recession caused by attempts to stay loyal to the Euro even though they're not yet in it. Forget Greece and Ireland, its these guys, Estonia and Latvia who are really bleeding.
So they've gone for the Information Society in a big way to gallop away from rotting Soviet-era industrial infrastructure. Alarmingly for Western pathfinders, its Lithuania that leads in fibre - 18% of households as opposed to 0.00015 (ish) in the UK, which laughably claims VDSL is "super-fast broadband". NO IT ISN'T.
Anyhoo, the Liths have run into trouble with the EC for their new market definitions for unbundling - they want to use LLU for copper, no LLU for FTTH, and nothing at all for fibre to the building.
They now have 2 months to respond with to the EC's view.

667th post: The Shock of the New

Authors@Google Brussels-Europe talk 18 March, interesting topic for them to start with?
My forerunner to 'Net neutrality', written in January 2006 (note 2005 in Europe featured not a lot on net neutrality but masses on video Internet regulation)
Talk given in course of panel at OII 17 March 2010.

The Devil's Gamble: FCC (and UKgov) does nothing about competition in fixed broadband

Its not 'politick' to argue that competition is needed in fixed line - which leaves almost all Americans with no choice in 100Mbps in about 5 years' time. Its DOCSIS3.0 or Bell fiber (sic). Or a very heroic assumption that wireless broadband will get anywhere near 100Mbps - no, didn't think so.
Meanwhile, in crazy pre-Election UK, Gordon Broon has been making promises that he cannot keep on next-gen access. Its like electricity, he says. Does that mean we'll get different sockets to the rest of the world...? Slightly better news is that there may be a little compromise on 3 Strikes in the Anti-Digital Economy Bill, if Stephen Timms is more honorable than his Prime Minister...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Open-access fiber in Amsterdam

Great article today in Ars Technica on the open-access Fiber project Citynet in Amsterdam. The piece is written by the CEO of Citynet, Herman Wagter.

It's a pretty elaborate (and technical!) article, and certainly stimulating for other municipalities with fiber aspirations. Also note that Citynet offers a blueprint to encourage fiber deployment in Europe, while avoiding State Aid concerns under European Law.

The key to success is an extensive preparation, a detailed design, good organization, and social engineering when dealing with people who live in the MDUs; in fact, this is much more important than trenching and putting in fiber. Only 120,000 meters of trenching was needed for the first 40,000 connections, an average of three meters per connection. Roughly 80 percent of the costs were labor costs, while 10 percent were fiber.

The payoff for the effort is that fiber, once deployed, has proven to be very reliable. So it makes sense not to cut corners and deploy a network that can be used for as many decades as possible.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Live blogging the FCC's National BB plan release


The whole plan is available on

A right-off-the-bat first take on the plan to follow shortly—please allow me some time to read.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Neelie Kroes Limburg speech on high-speed Internet

The second half is where it becomes regulatory policy-oriented: "Good networks and broad coverage are fundamental pre-conditions for getting Europe back to growth. Many Member States' governments are currently in a state of reflection about the challenges posed by broadband and the transition to new high-speed broadband, and are coming up with their individual proposals. To mention a few France Numérique 2012 and Digital Britain have put forward their targets for broadband coverage. And the Breitbandstrategie in Germany calls for connections of 50 Mbps to serve 75 % of the population by 2014.
"We need that national action; but we need European coordination alongside it. That is how we will maximise benefits from the EU Single Market, and make investments more attractive to private investors. So the European Council's call for a unifying broadband strategy represents an important opportunity. Building on that, the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth makes clear that not only should there be "broadband for all" by 2013 - by 2020 all Europeans should have access to much higher internet speeds (30Mbps or more) and fifty percent or more of European households should have access above 100Mbps. There are many horizontal challenges for promoting high-speed broadband throughout Europe:
  • High-quality in addition to high-speed
  • Consumers should also know real speeds, not theoretical speeds. They feel ripped-off when they get broadband at half, or less, than the advertised speed
  • A regulatory framework that promotes private investment in next generation networks
  • Maintaining close links to regional and local authorities and prudent use of EU budgets, which is crucial to including rural areas
  • Seamless convergence between fixed and wireless is also needed in order to deliver greater productivity. First-class wireless broadband is vital for rural areas
  • And finally – we will not forget that the internet is most useful when it is open, so that innovation and interoperability flourish."

P2P - future of public service broadcasters?

The degree of streaming or P2P for distribution of video programming has been the subject of several interesting new articles: The Economist on NRK (mildly ignorant about the Great Norwegian train journey!) and the BBC, Microsoft on its UK video service (notably started by Ashley Highfield ex-BBC), and some old friends from Kendra still very active in the uber-mega-consortium P2P-Next for the European Commission.
Its all down to bandwidth and IPR of course - as Joost found out and as Time Warner did in their video P2P delivery system. I will post more on this after looking at Essex's astonishingly groovy 'Beyond High Definition' Media Lab next week.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Digital Economy Bill - sleepwalking to censorship

From Mr Tom Alexander and others.
Sir, We regret that the House of Lords adopted amendment 120A to the digital economy bill (“Bill will censor internet, providers claim”, March 6). This amendment not only significantly changes the injunctions procedure in the UK but will lead to an increase in internet service providers blocking websites accused of illegally hosting copyrighted material without cases even reaching a judge. The amendment seeks to address the legitimate concerns of rights-holders but would have unintended consequences that far outweigh any benefits it could bring.
The Lords have been thoughtful in their consideration of the bill to date. It is therefore bitterly disappointing that the House has allowed an amendment with obvious shortcomings to proceed without challenging its proponents to consider and address the full consequences. Put simply, blocking access as envisaged by this clause would both widely disrupt the internet in the UK and elsewhere and threaten freedom of speech and the open internet, without reducing copyright infringement as intended. To rush through such a controversial proposal at the tail end of a parliament, without any kind of consultation with consumers or industry, is very poor lawmaking.Endorsing a policy that would encourage the blocking of websites by UK broadband providers or other internet companies is a very serious step for the UK to take. There are myriad legal, technical and practical issues to reconcile before this can be considered a proportionate and necessary public policy option. In some cases, these may never be reconciled. These issues have not even been considered in this case.
We are particularly concerned that a measure of this kind as a general purpose policy could have an adverse impact on the reputation of the UK as a place to do online business and conflict with the broader objectives of Digital Britain. This debate has created tension between specific interest groups and the bigger prize of promoting a policy framework that supports our digital economy and appropriately balances rights and responsibilities. All parties should take steps to safeguard this prize and place it at the heart of public policy in this area.
Tom Alexander,
Chief Executive, Orange
Richard Allan,
Director of Policy EU, Facebook
Neil Berkett,
Chief Executive, Virgin Media
Matt Brittin,
Managing Director, Google UK and Ireland
Charles Dunstone,
Chairman, Talk Talk Group
Stephen Fry
Jessica Hendrie-Liaño,
Chair, Internet Services Providers Association
Jill Johnstone,
International Director, Consumer Focus
Jim Killock,
Executive Director, Open Rights Group
Mark Lewis,
Managing Director, eBay UK
Ian Livingston,
Chief Executive, BT Group
Sarah Oates,
University of Glasgow
Jenny Pickerill,
University of Leicester
Mark Rabe,
Managing Director, Yahoo! UK and Ireland
Paul Reilly,
University of Leicester
Jess Search,
Founder, Shooting People independent film makers
Ian Walden,
Queen Mary, University of London
Tom Watson MP

Monday, March 08, 2010

Internet Quality of Service and peering/transit - big EC decision

Toothsome EC decision on Internet transit and peering for your delectation...Note Poland is weird because the incumbent actually refuses to interconnect at the POP for the Polish Internet exchange but instead routes its traffic through its PARENT - France Telecom! It gives absolutely no visibility of its contracts. Was the regulator was trying to force the incumbent to interconnect IN Poland via the Internet exchange (reading between the lines)? That would give some transparency...
"(42) There is further evidence that the delays, if any, in data transmission experienced by ISPs relying on international IP transit are not considered problematic for the delivery of retail broadband services to end-users. In this respect, UKE was not able to provide evidence that the quality of service offered by UPC to its customers was seriously degraded. The Commission notes that UPC offers services to a large number of retail broadband customers and that UPC should have lost customers if the quality of service was considered insufficient by those end-users. This is, however, not the case. On the contrary, UPC is one of the most successful operators in the Polish broadband market. Furthermore, by suggesting that the quality of internet data decreases in proportion to distance, UKE disregards without further analysis the existence of superfast
fibre optic connections allowing end-users to send and download IP traffic between continents with an acceptable quality of service."
This is about local IP traffic from the Internet exchange to Telekom Polska or cable rival UPC's residential customers - yet they blather about fibre...and I suspect the Polish regulator UKE was talking about hops to the end-user, not 'distance'...
Here's what really concerns me in the EC's judgment: This may be France Telecom's test case for the rest of Europe? If I may add, and remember this is POLAND not London or Boston, the EC heavily relies on theoretical competition, whereas the regulator has previously fined and imposed end-to-end conditions on Polska Telekom which now has a long charge-sheet of previous offences:
"Footnote 21: In 2007 the Competition Authority imposed a fine on TP for abuse of a dominant position in the market for the provision of access to end-users of the internet connected to public telecommunication networks. In 2006 UKE imposed non-discrimination and transparency obligations in order to ensure end-to-end connectivity for IP traffic exchange, based on Article 5 of the Access Directive.
(50) As far as downgrading is concerned, the parties exchanging IP traffic are interested in both the reception and provision of high-quality data conveyance services. Hence, the incentive of any operator to discriminate against IP traffic exchange partners in terms of quality is limited. Such a practice would result in retaliatory action or cancellation of direct contractual relationships.
(52) With regard to the lack of a peering policy, which, in UKE’s view, should list clear conditions under which operators in Poland could exchange traffic with TP, the Commission takes the view that this in itself does not point to the existence of SMP. More generally, with the growth of the internet, the diversity of AS has increased. Content-heavy ISPs and large content providers are interacting with ISPs providing mainly broadband access service to end-users, which tend to download rather than upload large volumes of traffic. These changes lead to traffic patterns that are highly asymmetric and impact on how IP traffic exchange agreements are negotiated, i.e. whether a price is charged for the exchange of traffic or whether a (free) peering solution is acceptable to both parties. Peering policies range from open to very restrictive, and would, in any case, permit the negotiation of terms and conditions of IP traffic exchange which are specific to the exchange partners. The Commission finds that UKE does not sufficiently explore the relationships between the relevant actors in Poland, especially when it comes to assessing the outcome of negotiations between content-heavy ISPs and large content providers vis-à-vis TP. Without prejudging the outcome of a future analysis of contractual relationships in the Polish market, it is in principle not unusual that smaller networks or content-heavy networks conclude transit (rather than peering) agreements with larger networks and agree to pay the larger providers to deliver their traffic."
Nick Economides or Emanuele Giovanetti or Bill Lehr might be able to help me out here?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

26,807 and counting....

never mind the quality, feel the bandwidth...
The FCC Inquiry into Broadband Industry Practices - i.e. the net neutrality consultation - has had almost 30,000 filings. That will cause a few delays and headaches in analyzing. Regulatory death by democracy?
Meantime, here's Prof. Glen Robinson's fascinating retrospective on a hundred years of US communications regulation.

Friday, March 05, 2010

New FCLJ drops

Please forgive me for this shameless self-promotion, but I'd to take the opportunity to share with you that a new issue of the Federal Communications Law Journal has just come out with an Article by yours truly. See, Chris isn't the only one publishing work on net neutrality these days :)

Feel free to download the article here, abstract is below. If you have any thoughts, drop a line—and please, spread the word!

Network Neutrality Between False Positives and False Negatives: Introducting a European Approach to American Broadband Markets

By Jasper P. Sluijs

Network neutrality has become a contentious issue both in Europe and the United States. Regulators on both sides of the Atlantic face digital divides in their society, and are confronted with potentially conflicting policy goals-to incentivize private investment in next-generation broadband while maintaining ÒneutralÓ and competitive broadband networks.

This Article compares nascent American and European network neutrality policy in terms of regulatory error costs. Emerging markets, such as broadband, are more likely to be affected by regulatory errors, and these errors have graver consequences in emerging markets than in regular markets. U.S. telecommunications policy traditionally has advanced a trial-and-error approach of categorical intervention against specific regulatory errors. However, analysis shows that categorical regulation misrepresents the complexity of network neutrality and emerging broadband markets. European policy, on the other hand, may have the potential to employ a dynamic regulatory mechanism that allows for targeting more regulatory errors at once; however, it fails to live up to this promise with network neutrality.

Therefore, this Article recommends that U.S. policymakers develop an analytic and dynamic regulatory model for network neutrality, which builds on European precedent yet learns from European regulatory mistakes. A practical reform scenario suggests that such a model is best implemented by the FCC, which has the opportunity to draft a comprehensive national broadband plan under the Recovery Act. With regard to its national broadband plan, the FCC should position itself to monitor broadband markets and deal with network neutrality in a flexible and transparent manner.

In praise of independent competition authorities: DoJ ex parte submission

This appears to have Phil Weiser's prints all over it - great piece of work, referencing Ofcom and Irish ComCom on transparency and broadband speed issues, and with excellent coverage of the need for entrants to gain some of the proposed spectrum release. It also notably fails to hallucinate broadband competition where none exists.
This is how to regulate broadband markets - no special pleading, no capture - competition authorities deal with bigger boys than telecoms incumbents every day, which is why we should give at least two cheers (already!) that Guiseppe Conte is heading the net neutrality issue in Neelie Kroes' cabinet - he had dealt in the past in DG COMP with power network mergers, amongst other things - compared to which I am assured that telecoms network competition is small beer.

'Mr Ed goes to Washington'

No, not the talking horse or Jimmy Stewart (in fact, the reverse), but Dave Burstein's description of incumbents, notably Ed Whitacre, and their attempts to maintain control makes highly amusing and insightful reading. His 'both-barrels' assault on the 'compromise' on the broadband plan is equally robust, though as I don't follow Beltway B**locks any closer than I have to, I'll let readers decide whether the Plan is as timid as he states.
It makes our own Ed (see below) look good by comparison, though note my caution when regulators reel off the achievements of incumbents and their 'superfast' broadband - or 'hallucinating competition' (c/o D. Burstein).
The revolving door between regulator and lobbyist that I may have hinted at in the past, seems to be alive and well in DC. As Orwell would write and this glorious adaption shows, the pigs looked at the farmers, and the farmers looked at the pigs...

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Ed Richards Ofcom speech update

Ed's comments are on video - which is streaming utterly slowly on my 3G connection. He is as ever very impressive as a communicator (great hands for a Brit) but in this case, excruciatingly cautious. 
Strangely he says 'people have begun to raise an eyebrow' - well it was Charlie Dunstone's gotcha moment at the 2006 conference...
he says 'no-one has come to us and lodged a formal complaint' and that it could be 5-10 years out. 
Hmmm, didn't consumers complain  back in 2006? I realize they are not "players". 
Richard Waters keeps feeding him deregulatory questions, and he bats them away somewhat. 
"My sense is that had we done this a year or two ago, we'd have had only a modest response" - I do wish you'd tried, Ed, I think you'd have had an unpleasant surprise! Damned good reason not to ask, of course.
Let the games commence (well, actually I've said most of what I wanted about the issue to Ofcom).

50,000 reasons to thank you! Sublime, ridiculous, back again...

My book has now been downloaded 47,992 times (as of yesterday) and counting - that's amazing. Thank you - now read it (by buying it not destroying the office photocopier!) and tell me what you think of it!
Meanwhile, the Master (Kevin Werbach) has posted on the third part of his trilogy of Internet regulation articles: what a book those would make. Kevin, do you hear? Book (makes it easier for us lazy readers to get all the wisdom in one place).
Also, do look at how the music lawyers are screwing up their industry in 'The tragedy of the digital commons' - so that less people are consuming legitimate AND file-shared music. Watch the movie biz follow them.
Finally, there's a great little provocative analysis by George Ford at the Phoenix Center, predicting perverse consequences from net neutrality regulation - all the more reason to keep co-regulation away from lawyers? As Ofcom states below, its about transparency with purpose. As George says (I paraphrase), the principle of net neutrality may be getting lost in the DC post-snowpocalypse mudbath.

Above the fold - the political bit of Ed's speech

So the policy wonks have written some fascinating stuff about how information transparency can help and hinder efforts to get to net neutrality 'lite'. But note the speech continues to make claims about UK competition that are highly dubious (anyone would think he was living in actually competitive Denmark or Netherlands): "As we think about this set of problems, it is worth noting that the facts on the ground are different here in Europe compared with the US. In the US, limited competition, both at the network and at the ISP level, means that the potential for consumer detriment through traffic management is greater. In Europe, as recent research for the FCC indicates [presumably the Berkman/Benkler report], the mixed model – investment in infrastructure complemented by unbundling of the local loop has delivered a more competitive market structure from the exchange back into the network [is this a justifiable middle mile claim? Dave Burstein would disagree]. Where competition thrives, the case for a highly interventionist net neutrality policy is harder to justify on the grounds of consumer protection."
Second, the reported version has a few more interesting and frankly less constructive comments than the text on the Ofcom site, though this may just be sloppy journalism by the Financial Times:"The scale of deployment of next-generation “superfast” broadband networks would depend on greater clarity on the issue, Mr Richards said. Ofcom will publish its initial proposals “later in the spring”, aiming to settle its position by the end of the year. While the regulator is likely to avoid the “highly interventionist” approach taken in America, due to greater competition in the UK, broadband providers may be required to be more transparent about how they manage their web traffic."
Well, did he say 'highly interventionist'? Anyone?
UPDATE: I am told that the journalist's spin on what was a constructive speech was a bit of a surprise....
UPDATE 2: Well, perhaps TalkTalk really is about to provide proper backhaul competition to BT and Virgin? This appeared yesterday and promises much, hopefully delivering soon.

Of chiefs and Indians - Ofcom on net neutrality

First, news of former Ofcom CEO and behavioural advertising fan, Stephen Carter, a former minister and peer of the realm - he has joined a huge Deep Packet Inspection company Lucent-Alcatel, which includes Bell Labs and much of the good French stuff, and little toyboxes such as this, as chief lobbyist ("newly created position of Chief Marketing, Strategy; Communication Officer"). Perhaps even head of anti-net neutrality?
Second, the current incumbent (subject to the next General Election where Murdoch has him in his sights, though nothing is certain in these grubby political fights), has made his most detailed speech about net neutrality, with some interesting stuff about net neutrality and some rather hackneyed stuff about the US and European legislators.
First, the good stuff, which ends the speech:

"So as we move into implementation of the Framework's requirements we now need to consider whether a general obligation to publish traffic management policies will be sufficient, and will accord with how people actually make choices in the marketplace.
Whether and to what extent the emerging discipline of behavioural economics provides a basis for solid regulatory practice is not yet clear, but it is obviously an area that we should explore if we are serious about ensuring that consumer choice remains central to the way we address these issues.
The role of information is at the heart of this issue, and we see this in the drafting of the Framework legislation. And even if consumers have access to transparent information, they need to understand how traffic management practices will affect their day-to-day experience of a service and be able to assess which product best meets their needs. This may require substantial effort and time, particularly if the information provided about traffic management practices is fairly technical.
The behavioural economics literature highlights further reasons why consumers may find it difficult to use information to compare products effectively. In particular, studies have shown that consumers can find it difficult to take into account fully different aspects of products when making a decision. For example, in an experiment on purchases made on eBay, researchers found that participants tended to ignore shipping costs, even when they were clearly displayed. This meant that was little pressure on sellers to keep shipping costs down.
This is an example of the ‘limited attention' bias. In this context, what is needed is for the industry to embrace the spirit as well as the letter of the new requirements for transparency and explanation."
I'll add a separate blog post on the other bits...

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Inaugural Authors@Google EU Lunchtime Talk: Net Neutrality by Chris Marsden

Reposted from Google Europe Public Policy Blog 9:32 AM
The Authors@Google programme brings authors to Google to give informal talks - open to all comers - based around their recently published books. Participants are treated to readings of everything from serious literature to sharp political analysis, pioneering science fiction and moving personal memoirs, and whenever possible, we share these remarkable discussions with the world via our YouTube channel
We'll be holding our first Authors@Google EU talk over lunch on Thursday 18 March, and we hope you'll be able to come along (register here). Kicking off the series, Chris Marsden, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Essex, will present the key arguments from his new book: Net Neutrality: Towards a Co-Regulatory Solution (2010, Bloomsbury Academic. Visit their site for a Creative Commons download.)
Dr Herbert Ungerer, Former Deputy Director General of the European Commission's DG Competition, describes Marsden's book as "fascinating to read, thoroughly researched and testing the paths to the future of the Internet."
During his Authors@Google talk, Marsden will argue for a 'middle way' on net neutrality, a term that is used to cover a wide spectrum of questions about the future of the internet, and that is the focus of regulatory scrutiny and legislation in Canada, the US and Europe.
Marsden will ask whether we should allow 'Lex Monopolium' to become entrenched at the expense of an open Internet, or whether innovation and investment can be encouraged by relatively light tough co-regulatory principles, backed up by a knowledgeable regulator with powers to intervene whenever economic or social concerns dictate. At the end of the talk, there will of course be plenty of opportunity for questions!
When: Thursday March 18, 12:15 - 13:30 hours CET (sandwich lunch provided).
WhereGoogle, Chaussée D'Etterbeek 180 / Steenweg op Etterbeek 180, 2nd floor, 1040 Brussels
Registration: please register here
Chris Marsden biography: Christopher T. Marsden is Senior Lecturer in Law, having joined the University of Essex in 2007. He was senior analyst at RAND Europe (2005-07), research manager at Oxford's Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (2004-05), Regulatory Director at MCI WorldCom UK Ltd (2001-02), and General Counsel of Shortmedia (2000-01). He has LLB 1989 and LLM 1994 from the London of School of Economics. He is Media Board Member at the Society for Computers and Law; Editorial Board Member of the journal 'Info' since 2003; and was Founding co-editor of the International Journal of Communications Law and Policy. He has also been a Research Fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School, an Industrial Policy Fellow at Cambridge University's Computer Lab, and a visiting fellow at law and business schools in the UK, US, Japan and Australia. He blogs at and can be found on Twitter: ChrisTMarsden

Monday, March 01, 2010

20 Years of Solicitude, and Commissioner Kroes, An Apology

As HPL points out in the comment on my previous post, I intimated too much credit to Commissioner Kroes, she merely appended some words to the June 2009 mobile roaming regulation. I look forward to giving her more credit when prices are reduced from 20,000%+ above wholesale cost, in the near future.
But lets give her credit where its due. In 1990, the Federal Trade Commission began its inquiry into Microsoft Windows pricing/bundling policies. In 1997, the great State of Texas (full disclosure: I am an honorary citizen), began its landmark antitrust action against Microsoft for bundling Internet Explorer into Windows95 -  which it fought to the bitter end in 2004, even though Dubya's DoJ spat the dummy.
Today marks the day that Microsoft finally is giving consumers a (somewhat redundant and almost mandatory) choice of browser under settlement of the EC case which began in 1993 (Novell) and again 1998 (Sun). Its in your Update - I keep having to stop it happening as I use Chrome - that address/search bar is bundled genius.
And just as the Roaming Regulation is carried over from Commissioner Reding, so this remedy is carried over from Commissioner Kroes. So well done!
That brings me to the complaint against Google. I am expecting 20 years of activity on this, too - though as with Microsoft and its Passport/.NET case, I expect Google to find its relations with privacy law - yes, Mme Reding - to become sticky long before any antitrust action. I have a research student engaged in research in this field, and its only tangentially relevant to net neutrality (its a counter-attack aided by Vodafone and Microsoft if you believe the rumours and of course the Barcelona speeches at the Congress).
Gloves are off, battle will commence.

Hey presto! Kroes acts on inadvertently high mobile roaming bills

Now that's what you call a quick result on regulatory action.
No sooner has the case of the £8000-mugged Brit student come out in the press, than the Commissioner issues an excellent consumer-saving decision - from 1 July, no bill above 50euros will be permitted unless set by the consumer before leaving their own country. Operators simply cut off service at that point, presumably sending a text to the subscriber at which point they can contact their operator and resume service.
The hope and expectation is that once users realize how shockingly high their per MB charges are, that will help put pressure on operators to reduce them to something more reasonable - we will see.
Its on BBC but not yet on her website - soon, soon...Well done, Neelie! Bravo!
P.S. I realize that (in the works since June 2009) but its a good start and great publicity.... I'm willing to bet the Commissioner has to revisit this in 1-2 years as people appreciate that what should be a 5-10% difference in home v. roaming on their OWN network (T-Mob, Orange, Vodafone) is actually only regulated as a wholesale 20,000% markup. That's quite ridiculous.
Incidentally, 3 of course let me roam in other 3 countries for no more than I do at home, seems they believed in a free market:
That said, when they reduced EU voice roaming charges, they did - you guessed it - hike up the roaming rates from North America.
Its time that Ms Kroes and Chair Genachowski sat down to thrash out a 'ground breaking' deal on trans-Atlantic roaming?