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Monday, November 29, 2010

Ed Vaizey completes his stupid monkey act

Edward Vaizey: The Government expect all ISPs providing an internet access service-both fixed and mobile-to offer all legal content. Consumers should always be able to access any legal content or service they want to and content providers and applications should be able to access consumers. ISPs should not be able to discriminate unfairly against services or users. That means no blocking or discriminatory degradation of services or applications for commercial reasons." Sounds good eh? Read on...."There is not yet any evidence that discriminatory practices are emerging, or that there is a problem with regards to how ISPs or networks manage the traffic that flows over them (something they all engage in for technical reasons to deliver the best possible service to consumers). And this is enforced by the initial responses to Ofcom's recent consultation on the issue. A contributing factor to the success of the internet has been the lack of legislative restraints that have been placed on it. It is important that we give the market the opportunity to self regulate. Ofcom will closely monitor how the market develops and if it develops in an anti-competitive way they will intervene." He's against net neutrality, plain and simple - don't look for the problem and rely on (largely non-existent due to lack of incentives) competition to throttle less - of which we claim there's no evidence!

Ed Vaizey and the next Tim Berners Lee?

In view of Ed 'I agree with Sir Tim' Vaizey's views on the benefits of open innovation, I think he might usefully read Alissa Cooper's submission to Ofcom, with its natty and pertinent title. I now realize the formatting has gone on my submission, but then here's my Brussels reminder of the main points. I do hope Ofcom and government has recalled the advice they commissioned from myself and Jonathan Cave in 2006 (I remain grateful), that 'walled garden' bottlenecks and entry barriers would harm innovation.
It may be obvious, but I have just realized I was the only independent expert invited to speak at the net neutrality summit - everyone else was pro or con. Is that unusual?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thank you, dear Brussels-based reader

There has been a huge spike in readership from Belgium in the last month (which means its now 3rd on the all-time list, and double German readership), which means that a great many Walloons and Flems are suddenly switched on to the issue, or (as I have studiously avoided using Doutzen Kroes as a traffic spiker) that some lobbyists and policymakers may have noticed our conversation - and jurists judging by the Luxembourg numbers. Its also notable that Firefox has reached 27% and Explorer is down to 48% this month - you are very open source educated new readers (including Livermore Labs), welcome!
Finally, let me flag up Monica Horten's analysis of the Trautmann call for a new Recommendation on traffic management - which would be a damned sight more transparent and timely than a bit of background whispering. Will the Commission show leadership? Lets not be beastly to Ofcom lobbying MEPs against a new Recommendation - UK government has almost zero civil servants left to fight on this one, so think of it as outsourcing  (for the time being, Ofcom still has the resource).

“Adding bandwidth is cheaper than scarcity allocation”?

Here are the numbers courtesy of Benoit Felten and Hermann Wagter - it would be nice to think a regulator somewhere is talking to these guys and working out the same thing?
UPDATE: some commentators suggest that different numbers would be more reliable - the point stands: regulators should be analyzing the issue rather than accepting ISP claims. As a Super JANET user, I would suggest they speak to their architects.

On why the open web is important

VPNs are closed, managed services are charged - if they're FRAND, I'm happy with them. But not the WWW. A great follow-up Scientific American article by his co-author reminds us that Tim Berners Lee and the W3C gave it to humanity to improve communication - politicians and entrepreneurs just can't understand why someone would be so generous. "The reason the Web has remained open is because Berners-Lee, and the Web consortium, have protected the founding principles. Is society so crass that it won't stand up for ideals that go beyond a profit motive? Many more truly human benefits, as well as commercial successes, can come from an open Web than from a commercially controlled Web." A chapter in my new book deals with W3C self-regulation - a remarkable gift to the world.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ford-ist ISP switching?

The nub of the European problem is that you can switch, but you'll still be dealing with the underlying cable-telco duopoly - i.e. your DSL provider is using the wholesale network of the incumbent. On mobile, there are three UK networks for five operators. On that basis, what is the ISP incentive to encourage high-use consumers? (Call them freetards if you must). So bandwidth caps and throttling will continue. As Henry Ford said a century ago, "You can have any colour you like, as long as it's black."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Net neutrality, wise monkeys redux.

The most explosive comment of the 'sommet' on Thursday was from Thomas Nortvedt of the Norwegian Department of Consumer Advocacy (the Tories would shut that like they shut Consumer Focus). He reiterated my 'three wise monkeys' article - you can't say you're mere conduits for the E-Commerce Directive then claim you want to deep packet inspect for paid content. Its one or the other, chaps - an inconvenient truth.
There is an excellent balanced summary from  Ray Corrigan here - though as he have agreed with me I hope I'm not being overly self-serving. As an engineer, his sadness at the lack of proper analysis is manifest.
The BBC was told to 'show me the money' by Robert Madelin - and they have (courtesy of Rhona Parry).
My conclusion remains the same - this problem is deep enough in the plumbing that unless you have a smoking gun (Madison River, Comcast) or the brilliantly indiscrete Charlie Dunstone, you'll not find it unless you look - and the equally wise monkey regulators are not going to go there (yes, I duplicated my metaphor, I liked it so much)- except ARCEP?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What if they throttled the Internet and no-one showed up? 'Summit' redux

I had forgotten quite how dreadful public debate in Brussels is - remind me to stay behind the scenes talking to officials who know the subject.
We had a 'summit' - well, there was a goodish panel first-up with the bright and amusing Robert Madelin, the new DG. Then a frankly embarrassingly network/manufacturer panel gloating about the FCC defeat over Comcast.
Then a good speakers' lunch (thanks - and excellent company), before we had to face a storm to get to the EuroParliament - which has no WiFi access, not even locked down. That and the pompously priggish Malcolm Harbour editorialising with little speeches after each speaker on the first panel was enough for me - especially when Neelie Kroes rolled in at 4.15 and said Skype blocking could be avoided by switching mobile provider - when the previous panel was all about how ALL French mobiles block Skype. She unfortunately made a fool of herself by following that - shame as she's such a Skype fan.
The US newspapers got it all wrong as usual, the WashPost's Kang really doesn't check  her facts at all.
Not the best day ever - but as JJ Sahel said, it could be worse, we could debate this in Washington....

If you don't use Chrome, you can get live stream this morning

It needs a Windows plug-in...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The evolution will not be televised...much...

Thursday's net neutrality summit in Brussels will only be televised from 1425 - so I'll live blog the morning for you. Hash tag is the standard #netneutrality.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Some facts on browsing and choice

Further to my pondering why customers don't want to pay for faster broadband despite being told its good for them,  note that Internet Explorer has dipped below 50% of you discerning readers out there. Firefox is 26% and Chrome now over 10%.
But still two out of three Windows users have IE as their browser, and 2 out of 3 Mactards use Safari.
We're simple undiscriminating folk, and we eat the porridge in front of us two-thirds of the time (written with Dell on Windows XP and Chrome...)

Please note: I did not make a statement about ARCEP attributed to me in NYT

Its worth making sure no-one expects me to be an expert on ARCEP this Thursday - I have 'restaurant French'. I did speak to Kevin O'Brien for 35 minutes on Wednesday afternoon, and about the only thing I didn't say is what was attributed to me. I did ask for an email confirming any quotes to be used, but hey....
Which brings me to ask - did the phantom quote have any truth to it? Is ARCEP planning on fines and penalties?
Oh, and its 'Dr Marsden' - I got my degree stripped too!
UPDATE: I've never heard of the journalist who wrote this piece, but perhaps he's trying to paraphrase my blog - an email would be polite to ask me!

Murdoch dislikes neutrality - so got his lieutenant to say so in WSJ 'review'

What a ridiculous plant - WSJ has no shame left, of course...but Tim Wu's book deserves a less flagrant breach of their reviwer guidelines.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Demonstrations against Vodafone's £6billion deal with HMRC

There is real popular anger - even arrests and shop closure in Cambridge - at the decision by UK tax authorities to settle the outstanding claim against Vodafone for its purchase of Mannesman back in 2000 via its Luxembourg subsidiary (a small garrison town which has become a tax haven for European multinationals impoverishing the major EU countries - like a little Ireland or Bermuda).

Friday, November 05, 2010

Mobiles want content providers to pay for premium access as consumers won't

O2 has joined the chorus of mobile and fixed players wanting Facebook, Google, Skype et al to pay more - unsurprisingly. I assume they will continue to run misleading 'unlimited' advertising? If the EC doesn't make sure rules stick to prevent them, they're pushing on an open door.
But 70% of European mobile users won't even contemplate paying more for faster access (cut through the PR flannel and that's what this survey says). Can't pay, won't pay.
So be thankful that Demon has actually been honest where customers and networks won't - it has launched new MINIMUM speed broadband packages. Prize for truth in advertising!

Neelie's carrot and stick: roaming cuts plus no neutrality?

I'm reading the tea leaves (or coffee grounds) around her ETNO speech of 23 Sept which focussed on NGA and roaming prices 'approaching zero' but it included this tasty morsel:
"the competitive process promoted by the Recommendation may play an important role also in the framework of the net neutrality debate. Competition at the network level, combined with appropriate transparency measures, gives customers the ability to choose among different providers for their internet connections, making any potential danger to net neutrality less clear and present... In other words: strong competition in broadband markets may allow a more relaxed regulatory approach to net neutrality issues."

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Nice papers on recent developments from Van Schewick, Korea, Chile to Finland to France

Barbara has a very interesting paper which she presented at TPRC on what types of discrimination might be permitted - notably that a rule banning application-specific discrimination would allow many forms of Quality of Service without removing incentives for network investment: "network providers could allow users to choose which applications to prioritize within the user’s bandwidth envelope during times of congestion" (at p9).
This Korean paper suggests that while Korea has fast broadband, ISPs play fast and loose with user terms and there is a significant lack of transparency which needs remedying.
This new EUI paper might have cited a recent book, but this is a topical rather than analytical paper - very good summary of 2010 developments to August.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The night the music died - for US net neutrality

So Congress will (the manic mainstream media all agree) swing to the right, and not just the right but the Teabagging Right (who continue to deny that Europe passed net neutrality legislation in 2009) - think 1994. What does that mean for telecoms policy? Well, maybe Google was right to cut a deal with Verizon and hope for the best. But as that infamous 'Contract on America' Congress did pass the 1996 Communications Deregulation (sic) Act, you might be surprised by the action on spectrum reform that could come.
UPDATE: so a Republican House and Democrat Senate (just) - with both Whitman and Fiorina (unless the OC pushes her ahead) losing in California (former CEOs of eBay and Hewlett-Packard respectively).
UPDATE 2: So Cliff Stearns will become Chair of the Sub-Committee - and privacy will be high on his agenda, which makes the Google Buzz settlement of particular interest. He also pushed House Bill 5257, so US net neutrality is comatose until at least 2012 (and probably longer).

Monday, November 01, 2010

Agenda for 11 November hearing

Interesting - Vodafone, D-Telekom, Telefonica, GSMA, AT&T, Cisco, Siemens Nokia. A really interesting group of vested interested. I assume Jean-Jacques, La Quadrature and I are there as light entertainment? But ARCEP's recent declaration means they will not take the BEREC-Ofcom line.
9:30 – 11.15 Moderator: Robert Madelin, Director General, DG INFSO
Statements – 5 minutes each
Broadcaster: BBC – Matthew Postgate, Controller of R&D
ECTA - Ilsa Godlovitch, Director
ETNO – Ralf Nigge, Deutsche Telekom , ETNO Regulatory Policy Working Group Chairman
Vodafone – Richard Feasey, Director Public Policy
Consumer organisation: tbc
Regulator: Arcep - Joëlle Toledano, Member of the Board
11:30 – 12:45 Moderator: Bernd Langeheine Director DG INFSO
Academic: Dr. Chris Marsden
Operators: AT&T – Mick Corkerry, Executive Director EMEA Government Affairs
Content provider: tbc
Manufacturer: Cisco –Patrik Faltstrom, Distinguished Consulting Engineer
DigitalEurope – Speaker to be confirmed
Speaker from Japan/Singapore - tbc
14:30 – 15:50 Session 3: Moderator: Malcolm Harbour MEP, Chair IMCO Committee
Regulator: OFCOM – Alex Blowers, International Director
GSMA - Robindhra Mangtani, Senior Director
Cable Europe – speaker to be confirmed
VoIP provider: Skype – Jean-Jacques Sahel, Director, Government and Regulatory Affairs
Civil society: Quadrature du net - Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder
Manufacturer: NokiaSiemens - Sigurd Schuster, CTO Head of Technology Roadmapping
Operator: Telefonica - Mr.Rafael Diez Vega, Director of Corporate Regulation
16:00 – 18:00 Session 4: Net neutrality and the open internet – what is at stake?
Moderator: Herbert Reul MEP, Chair ITRE Committee
Neelie Kroes, Vice-President for Digital Agenda
MEPs: Maria Badia Cutchet (CULT representative), Pilar del Castillo Vera, Catherine Trautmann, Adina-Ioana Vălean, Jan Philipp Albrecht,
John Doherty, Chair of BEREC
Belgian Presidency - Vincent Van Quickenborne Minister for Telecommunications