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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

O2 throttling of 'unlimited' broadband breaches Code of Practice?

From The Register: 'Just as it runs a high-profile advertising campaign boasting it is "nobbling broadband niggles", O2 has begun telling users of its "unlimited" broadband packages that they shouldn't download more than 10GB in a month. As noted today by ISPreview, O2 began writing to heavy users in March, prompting complaints on customer forums. It has now updated its traffic management page to reflect the new regime. "Most O2 customers use less than 10GB a month. Aim for that and you'll be okay... We don't set a limit on how much you can use each month. Most people use a different amount each month. But if we've asked you to cut back, it's because you're consistently above the monthly average." Huh?
Its traffic management systems for non-unbundled packages now also restrict P2P and newsgroup traffic to just 50Kbit/s at peak times - "typically the afternoon and evening".
As ElReg concludes: 'The doublespeak is exactly the type of broadband marketing guff that Ofcom's voluntary code of practice aims to restrict.' Quite.
O2 is owned by noted anti-net neutralists, Telefonica.

Monday, May 24, 2010

UK to EC: no net neutrality issues (that we want to tell you about)

A very strange aspect of the Uk response to the 15th Implementation report: 'Net neutrality was not reported to be an issue at the moment.' (p414)
Really? Well, then why did BT throttle the BBC and why did this happen? I realize the BIS department supplies information in late 2009, but no issues appears a rather strange interpretation of reality. Bear in mind that the department was in thrall to Lord Carter and Mandelson's anti-piracy crusade, as shown in their Brussels lobbying here.

EC releases 15th Implementation report: mobile up, broadband speeds stalled

The annual review of the 27 markets reveals that even the lowest penetration countries have 13% broadband (Bulgaria, Romania), and that the problem is no longer availability but speed. Almost 3 in 4 competitor broadband lines uses LLU, which is good evidence of investment, but speeds are below 10Mbps - ADSL, not even ADSL2.
Mobile Internet - 10 years after the great 3G licence auctions - is now 4% of mobile operator revenues. Yes, that's right, 4%. Pathetic. Rapid slashing of termination rates and roaming rates should put some pressure on the pigopoly to actually drive mobile Internet.
NGA access is a mess: 'Whilst some NRAs included fibre in the wholesale broadband markets and have imposed obligations (e.g. the Netherlands, Finland, Latvia, Estonia) others excluded fibre from the market or did not regulate it (e.g. France, Germany, Italy, Cyprus, Greece, Luxembourg, Sweden). The Netherlands have imposed an obligation of unbundling fibre loops. Some NRAs have differentiated the remedies imposed on fibre and copper networks (e.g. Estonia, the Netherlands and Finland).'
It has a filler paragraph on QoS and net neutrality on p56 of the part 1 Staff Working Document, stating that VOIP blocking is the single biggest issue, and noting that it will report by the end of the year:
"In Italy, consumers are now able to withdraw from their contracts in case of divergence with the declared connection speed. The Slovenian NRA issued a recommendation on the provision of broadband speeds, and the Portuguese NRA published a report on the quality of service for access to internet services, highlighting the upload speeds and network latency as the main differences between fixed and mobile networks. The United Kingdom NRA carried out a broadband speeds survey comparing the service provision of the largest internet service providers. In Hungary, several operators were subject to fines for a failure to provide correct information."
P.S. Backhaul costs appear to have stalled in 2002-4 and risen since then, which is a disgrace - see pp102-107. Note in particular how the UK has shadowed the EC average while many competitors have actually reduced wholesale rates in line with what regulators perceive as actual costs - which is almost certainly far less than the technology permits. All that fibre beneath our feet, yet it is doled out like bread rations...

UK government: BBC digital fee will be used for rural broadband

The Coalition has announced its broadband policy (in the coalition document which means it will be judged on whether it achieves it):
"We will introduce measures to ensure the rapid roll-out of superfast broadband across the country. We will ensure that BT and other infrastructure providers allow the use of their assets to deliver such broadband, and we will seek to introduce superfast broadband in remote areas at the same time as in more populated areas. If necessary, we will consider using the part of the TV licence fee that is supporting the digital switchover to fund broadband in areas that the market alone will not reach."
Nothing on the Digital Economy Act, as you might expect. Mr Murdoch had something to say on that...
UPDATE: Ed Vaizey is the new Minister for telecoms and the digital economy, formally in COMS but working across departments - he's a Tory, regular junior to Jeremy Hunt. Don't expect any great changes except more duct sharing and nods to Ofcom paying itself less.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Murdoch outlines plans to get 'parasites' such as Google

James Murdoch, poisonous son of his odious father who is doing all he can to distort journalism in favour of his neo-con agenda, has pronounced on pirates and other "parasites" such as Google who make it easier to 'steal' his content: 'Take the search business. It depends on an ability to index and search other people’s material, and present the results of those searches to its users surrounded by advertising. Search is a highly profitable business, because the raw material presented to customers can be indexed at essentially zero incremental cost. Therefore, information that might only be searched or indexed with a fair price paid to the producer undermines that model...Is it, moreover, unreasonable to suggest that companies that make a living out of indexing and sharing the creativity of others might make a fair contribution to those who create the material they need for their businesses?'
P.S. Amongst his targets are of course the BBC, British Library and others whose business models undermine his company's wonderful journalism 'public service' (sic), but it is interesting that he also chooses search engines (he is leading the anti-net neutrality brigade), as well as device manufacturers and 'other intermediaries - careful, Rupert Junior, you'll need some ISps on board with your Hollywood bandwaggon or you'll not get Three Strikes supported!
P.P.S. He was at UCL, home of the first UK Internet connection (not that he would know), and said this BS: 'The numbers continue to show that well over half of all internet traffic consists of illegal file sharing and other forms of piracy.' What numbers? His horoscope?
P.P.P.S. This was hilarious: 'I want also to try to put into context the prevailing consensus about the digital world and the way in which it works – the consensus that the free flow of information not only can, but must, literally, be free. I want to inquire – as dispassionately and factually as I can – into what drives that consensus … because I believe that the digital consensus is flawed.' Dispassionate? Factual? Murdoch?

Europe unveils new digital strategy to 2020

I realize this has been announced a few days ago on 19th May in COM(2010) 245, but I am digging into the Digital Strategy to see what it offers that is different to the pre-planned version that Commissioner Kroes announced and which the Parliament supported with its eu2015 motion.
It appears that its 'Three Strikes' policy against copyright infringement will be put on the backburner for now:
'report by 2012 on the need for additional measures to reinforce the protection against persistent violations of intellectual property rights in the online environment, consistent with the guarantees provided in the Telecoms Framework and fundamental rights on data protection and privacy.' (p10)
DG MARKT will finally make some kind of long overdue decision about the E-Commerce Directive later this year: 'Evaluate by end 2010 the impact of the e-Commerce Directive on online markets and make concrete proposals' (p11).
On Viviane Reding's portfolio, citizens' rights, more is proposed: 'Review the EU data protection regulatory framework with a view to enhancing individuals' confidence and strengthening their rights, by the end of 2010; Issue a Code of EU Online Rights by 2012 that summarises existing digital user rights in the EU in a clear and accessible way, complemented by an annual sweep of breaches of online consumer protection law and appropriate enforcement measures'.
On interoperability, there appears to be a proposal to require monopolists to release their standards info (maybe including Skype's codec?): 'Examine the feasibility of measures that could lead significant market players to license interoperability information to report by 2012.'
On net neutrality, the language used is impenetrable: 'The Commission will launch a public consultation before
summer 2010 on whether additional guidance is required, in order to secure the basic objectives of freedom of expression, transparency, the need for investment in efficient and open networks, fair competition and openness to innovative business models.' Huh?
The rest is all good stuff about research, greener grids, e-government etc.
We get to discuss it all at annual Digital Assemblies held each June just after name-and-shame Digital Agenda scorecards are issued each May by issue area and member State! They helpfully list targets:
Broadband targets: Basic coverage for 100% of EU citizens in 2013 (93% in December 2008) Fast broadband 30 Mbps or more for 100% of EU citizens by 202 (Baseline: 23% of broadband subscriptions were with at least 10 Mbps in January 2010) Ultra-fast : 50% of European households should have subscriptions above 100Mbps by 2020. The latter will be 'tricky'!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Excellent analysis of Title II options by Rob Frieden

For those of us still struggling to work out what the FCC intends to do about net neutrality in response to the Comcast (2010) ruling, here's a great analysis by Rob Frieden.
I should also point out that you really have to read Rob's new 'Winning the Silicon Sweepstakes' book - a salutary lesson in what happens when goverment starts drinking oligopolists' cool-aid...

Digital Economy Act repeal not a priority: Jeremy Hunt

As predicted here last week, the LibCon governing coalition in the UK has much bigger fish to fry than a 30-month slow-speed process to cut off Internet connections of alleged persistent pirates.
However, though the Coalition Agreement does not contain specific promises, its understood that some of the more draconian powers granted to the Secretary of State (then Mandelson, now presumably Vince Cable) will not be implemented: 'One of the more controversial elements of the Bill, which had the potential to see websites being blocked if they could be used for to copyright infringement, required secondary legislation to be implemented - and there is no indication for now that this will be introduced by the new government. Ofcom, which is currently consulting on how some segments of the Act will be implemented, announced recently that the Act's provisions which force Internet Service Providers to take action against accused file-sharers would initially only apply to fixed-line ISPs with over 400,000 customers - meaning that small ISPs and mobile broadband providers will be exempt for the time being.'
The COMS Secretary announced that: 'We’re not going to repeal it,” Instead, the administration will wait to see how the act’s measures perform and, if alterations or something more is needed, take action later, Hunt said.' Ed Vaizey is the new Minister for Communications - and its a low Tory priority.

Friday, May 14, 2010

More from the UK government: broadband speculation

The Ministers serving under Vince Cable have been named, both rural Tories, Mark Prisk from Cornwall (though representing Stansted airport as Cornwall is largely LibDem) and John Hayes from Lincoln. Prisk was Shadow Minister for Cornwall as well as BIS, and Hayes is a former IT executive who was Shadow Minister for higher education. They understand broadband.
As BT has just announced that VDSL is to be extended to two-thirds of the UK in the next 2 years, the Labour panic over a fixed-line tax will have abated. Targeted aid to specific regions will be controversial in the next 2 years, however - public spending is set to be cut, though as Ministers have just taken a 5% pay cut rather than the 15% in Spain, its not armageddon yet.
It will be interesting to see the breakdown of responsibilities between BIS and the new COMS Department [Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport], run by rising star Jeremy Hunt (recently tipped for Home Secretary but keeping his existing portfolio). Hunt used to make the running on broadband policy so may be the digital economy spokesman too.
He proposes to pay for 'final third' high-speed broadband by using the unnecessary boost for BBC in its digital TV transition - unnecessary because almost everyone is buying digital equipment already and it won't be finally switched off until 2012 (Wales was the latest region to switch with virtually no problems).
Also expect a rapid rise for new MP Mary McLeod, replacing one of the execrable Keen family - she's from the Highlands (as you would expect from a McLeod), and given the lack of really able Scots and women in the Tories, she may get rapid promotion (despite the marginal constituency she represents).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cable in charge of UK broadband

Vince Cable that is - the most popular politician in the country until the General Election, a man who can dance his way round a coalition and Brussels.
He has the fastest average broadband speeds in the UK in his constituency - almost 10Mbps - and is committed to market-based development and support for rural areas (note that unlike our old Labour government which was exclusively an urban party, both Tories and LibDems have huge swathes of rural England, Wales and Scotland).
As a former Shell Chief Economist, he also understands investment, long-term strategy, innovation-based economics and the occasional monopolistic tendency of big business!
This man is a serious heavyweight - but will have to deal with bank lending to SMEs and green business first.

Sanity in London and insanity in Washington

'Rejoice, rejoice' - well its not exactly a new dawn, more a chilly evening, but the UK has a coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. This could be very important for broadband policy - more later today.
Meanwhile, in DC, more craziness. Apparently 'Net Brutality' is the new slogan of the frothing teabaggers, with funding from those who should know better. Will the US ever focus on faster residential broadband?
In case anyone would like to try, Kevin Werbach has organised an excellent seminar 27 May.
UPDATE: 'Net brutality' is actually a 3-year old frothing teabagger slogan:
'The phrase "Net Brutality" may have been first used three years ago when FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey, now a prominent figure in the tea party movement, assailed a Maryland proposal that he said would not allow Internet service companies to charge different prices for different amounts of bandwidth.' 
Thanks to Laura at NNSquad via InterestingPeople!

Saturday, May 08, 2010 - European Parliament calls on Neelie to implement net neutrality and Charter of Digital Rights

In a very wide-ranging policy proposal based on the input of several committees, the Parliament has on 5 May adopted a humdinger of a Resolution P7_TA-PROV(2010)0133 on Kroes' Digital Agenda for Europethe Commissioner has welcomed the Resolution. These are salient parts:

27. Emphasises that all EU citizens should be made aware of their basic digital rights and obligations through a European Charter of citizens’ and consumers’ rights in the digital environment; believes that this Charter should consolidate the Community acquis including, in particular, users’ rights relating to the protection of privacy, vulnerable users and digital content as well as guaranteeing adequate interoperability performance; reaffirms that rights in the digital environment should be considered within the overall framework of fundamental rights;
28. Believes firmly that the protection of privacy constitutes a core value and that all users should have control of their personal data, including the ‘right to be forgotten’; urges the Commission to take account not only of data protection and privacy questions as such, but especially of the specific needs of minors and young adults with respect to these questions; calls on the Commission to submit a proposal for the adaptation of the Data Protection Directive to the current digital environment;
31. Insists on safeguarding an open Internet, where citizens have the right and business users are able to access and distribute information or run applications and services of their choice as provided for by the new regulatory framework; calls on the Commission, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and the National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) to promote the ‘net neutrality’ provisions, to monitor its implementation closely and to report to the European Parliament before the end of 2010; considers that EU legislation should preserve the ‘mere conduit’ provision established in the e-Commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) as a crucial way of enabling free and open competition on the digital market;

Burstein on Deutsche Telekom - will Euro ISPs be evil?

Even if Genachowski's strange 'Title II-lite' 'Third Way' compromise proves sufficient threat to US ISPs, who are in any case it seems far too busy making a fortune from their various pigopoly arrangements and state subsidies to want to enrage politicians yet further, the European story Dave reports seems designed to test Neelie Kroes' resolve:

"The CTO of Deutsche Telekom essentially said they would deliberately cripple video over the net in order to force the TV people to pay them. We were in front of hundreds of people at the Broadband World Forum in Berlin.
He had just described a network that would reliably carry 16 megabits or more to every home, which meant a 2-5 megabit video stream would get through perfectly without any "special QOS". In the same speech he had claimed the video folks would pay billions for that QOS. I asked him whether his regular network would reliably handle 2-5 megabit streams, and he spoke up proudly. "I designed this network myself and I assure you there will be no problem." I next asked "That means that unless the video people want more than 5 megabits (a good HD speed), no one needs to pay for QOS. So won't paying those billions be totally unnecessary?" He turned apoplectic..."

Friday, May 07, 2010

Reasons to be Cheerful Part IV: nothing changed this week

Well, the FCC played a little bait-and-switch with the newspapers over whether they would regulate for net neutrality. The ways of DC continue to bore me, frankly, its so dysfunctional.
Also over in England, we decided nothing in our farcically badly-run General Election yesterday (Python summed it up 40 years ago) - though the outcome may not be at all bad on net neutrality.
Dave Cameron's favorite digital businessman is Charlie Dunstone of TalkTalk who hates DPI and the Digital Economy Act's hijacking by the copyright crowd, the LibDems opposed those clauses too, and the only thing they seem agreed on to cut our 11.5% budget deficit for 2011 is to scrap ID cards, a latecomer in Labour's love affair with information control of the bigoted public.
So as you were - things may only get better, as a certain discredited multimillionaire public speaker and part-time Yale lecturer used to sing...

Saturday, May 01, 2010