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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Every other European digital"? New scorecard data out

The EC has made a classic centralised targeting mistake - it wants every European to be able to access 2Mbps broadband by 2013. Only one answer in that time - the highly expensive and for most unaffordable satellite broadband (unless taxpayer subsidised). But when did that stop MEPs proclaiming this "pan-European solution"? Idiotic nonsense. Avantiare trialling 3G/wireless backhaul using satellite which might work in those very few isolated communities. Otherwise, it's a waste of money to hit a short-term target.
Why so silly? Because actually 65% of Europeans use the Internet, and the process of getting the final seven in twenty online is a slow process, made up of:
[1] the aging of the computer literate to 'replace' today's over-55 refuseniks, a bigger Euro than US problem;
[2] both computer - i.e. web - literacy and genuine literacy targets - about 1 in 5 people is functionally illiterate - they correlate with 'readers' (picture viewers) of The Sun/Star in the UK;
[3] price, price, price - if broadband was unthrottled Skype at €10/month, more people would substitute it for their 19th century copper phone line and save money just on the connection.
Bill Kennard made some good points about the correlation of race and broadband - it's because immigrants are poor and poorly educated, not that they don't need and want the Internet.
But today was a rural broadband satellite snoozefest...there's a lot of data released today that may be more sensible, and has a glass-half-empty graphic to show the failure to get high speeds or wide coverage:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"Building consensus on a responsible Internet"

Not Sarkozy's rhetoric, but now agreed Obama-Cameron-speak...this week's POTUS visit to London was more a roast than a grilling...Expect the November London conference - which has no public website, naturally, as civil society will be vetted - to produce real web filtering proposals.
Twitter bought TweetDeck (which I use) for $25m this week - yup, they now have UK assets so Norwich Pharmacal orders against anonymous users will have more bite. In associated but not necessarily related news, a California case brought against Twitter by a rather murky English city council has resulted in the release of Ip numbers for a whistle-blowing councillor. Expect the use of Norwich Pharmacal to save cash by using London courts in future. Where Twitter has assets, it must be an obedient corporate citizen.
In other news, Ryan Giggs' week terminated with a victory for free expression on the football field (subject to copyright)...

G8 non-statement on Internet freedom and net neutrality

Amusingly, the G8 statement focuses on multi-stakeholder approaches - which means inviting the odd Lessig or Perry Barlow to a corporate-funded and government-led agenda. The same continues next month - Paris in spring seems very popular - with Kevin Werbach moderating another government schmooze-fest without civil society, by the OECD. Odd - but we should be grateful that at least Lessig and Werbach are allowed in.
Paragraph 14 of the G8 statement has a sentence on the open Internet, that simply says specifics are challenges, presumably to be addressed in the idiotically entitled 'London International Cyber Conference' in November: "As we adopt more innovative Internet-based services, we face challenges in promoting interoperability and convergence among our public policies on issues such as the protection of personal data, net neutrality, transborder data flow, ICT security, and intellectual property."

Friday, May 27, 2011

Netherlands' new net neutrality law: not as 'meh' as Kroes?

The increasing calls for recognition of connectivity to the Internet as a basic human right (Tim Berners Lee is provocative here) may only have been solidified in Finland and Chile, but Netherlands has been provoked by KPN's rather crass declaration of intent to block. Dutch friends tell me it's more than likely that a thus-far vaguely drawn Bill on Net Neutrality will be passed soon, which will prevent blocking and selective service pricing. It is unclear whether it will introduce FRAND on faster services.
This is very welcome - and adds a lot of substance to today's European Telecoms Council, which has to discuss the Commission's Grey Paper on the subject. How will Dutch Commissioner Kroes react to the Netherlands' decision to take net neutrality, and implementation of the Directives (Wednesday should have been implementation deadline) seriously?
Elsewhere, France Telecom has decided that Google should pay for exclusivity on 'fast lanes'....whether it agrees is less clear!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mardsen, Martin Cave, Fundacion Telefonica and neutralidad de red

Writing of odd publication details, a Christopher T. Mardsen is listed in this new 'book' - list of short contributions - on net neutrality in the US and Europe. It also features Professor Martin Cave. It appears to have a publication date of 2010, but the preface is written January 2011, and it was slipped anonymously onto the Fundacion Telefonica website in March. Almost as if this was a big debate at the end of 2009, but their sponsor thinks it has gone away now and they can throttle and block.
I will refer you to pp45-46 in the new WIK report on privacy and freedom of expression - pretty thin and extremely contentious stuff, eh? Economists would be better not to dabble in such things.

Strange authorship: new EuroParl-commissioned net neutrality paper

Standard and well-written economics stuff by WIK, like their previous paper but a bit more nuanced - but it has Prof (not quite right, he's Reader though should be prof of profs) Dr Jonathan Cave's name on it - so like my own wonderful colleague - who wrote about this five then three years ago. As it cites none of his work, I presume it must not be this Jonathan Cave? Maybe it's really this great Cave? Or this net neutrality cave? The primary author cites himself seven times, so perhaps there was no room to cite Jonathan.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Zuckerberg the poster-child for Sarko's 'civilization'

Mark wants to make more money by 'fighting' against the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act to formally allow all those tweens and young kids onto Facebook - as any parent or godparent knows, they're already there because Facebook makes money from them and won't install proper age verification controls (7,500,000 under-age users seems an under-estimate to me - my godkids joined at 9 and so did all their schoolfriends). I blame the parents.
It does rather prove Sarko's point, non? Where's the middle ground between these two ruthless control freaks entirely devoted to serving their own selfish view of the Internet? e-G8 continues to amuse.
UPDATE: Perry Barlow gave it back to the slugs on the copyright panel.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ryan Giggs and the end of days for ISP liability exemption

As Sarko and guests dine on the body of Internet freedom at the eG8 in the next days, no doubt glances will be cast across the Channel at one of Europe's most famous footballers having his identity in an affair with his countrywoman Imogen Thomas. Giggs is a very private adulterer who has won TWELVE League titles with Man Utd, England's second most successful football team after LFC - and this Saturday captains his team in the European Cup Final. (This detail for American readers and geeks who don't watch sport...)
So now that we know (or at least the media is no longer scared to state) it's Ryan Giggs, what damage has been done?
1. Twitter did not follow the Norwich Pharmacal order to expose its subscribers (hopefully it stalled?);
2. Mr Justice Eady refuses to acknowledge the Earth is round, in aid of the London libel/privacy Bar;
3. Parliament will convene a Joint Committee on privacy - this is extremely dangerous as it is bound to decide to regulate Internet intermediaries more closely.
I fear the worst for ISP immunity...and thus net neutrality...

Interesting Twitter chart - note any legal significance to dates?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Internet Governance Part VIII: Sarko vs Google?

While the eG8 may well be Sarko's attempt to impose censorship on the Internet, we can at least be glad that personal data-peddling Google is opposed (and still means something in the US and UK at least), and that the Council of Europe appears to be allowing Wolfgang Kleinwachter's study group's Internet governance principles through - which largely agree with the Obama White House document of last week, and Neelie's rhetoric too. So the governments of the West are at least rhetorically in favour of a free Internet...
Meanwhile, for Europeans and Americans, here's a primer on how the infamous Norwich Pharmacal orders work...

Streisand Effect and Twitter Joke Trial

I suppose this will be used by the judiciary as evidence for the Prosecution against the open Internet - the footballer's attempt to sue Twitter simply exploded interest in the secret, as with Ms Streisand. Last year's prosecution of a Twitter joke comment as some type of real terrorist threat resulted in many Twitter users retweeting the joke, or variant, along with the tag #iamspartacus (which rather devalues slavery, but in the West we live in trivial times). Spartacus has also emerged in this unhappy slapper affair.
Why does this matter to net neutrality? Simply because the types of private censorship which European ISPs are attempting are even more likely to be encouraged by this type of invasion of privacy - as with Dominique Strauss Kahn's public-private life. The ISPs are increasingly pushing on an open door when they tell politicians we need more 'control' (ker-ching!) over content on the Internet.
To which end, note the eG8 next week - Sarkozy's cunning plan to gag Internet users...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Beyond irony: Twitter faces Norwich Pharmacal order from famous footballer over super-injunctions

Freedom of expression is butting up against privacy and super-injunctions in the UK. Here's the plot - a month ago, a married footballer wished to hide from the world his prior relationship with a reality TV participant who became a glamour model. He took out a super-injunction, an English judge's privacy and censorship device to prevent both the story itself being published, and also the fact that an injunction had prevented its publication and even the name of the footballer. Hence the 'super' addition to the injunction.
Ms Thomas, the Welsh 'glamour' model, has complained that she cannot cash in on the affair, and the details have been leaked onto Twitter, a Florida-based social networking site. These Tweets have allegedly come from UK-based Tweeters.
The San Francisco company (UPDATE: with Florida servers) is therefore being joined in what is known as a Norwich Pharmacal joint order against Twitter and 'unknown others' (its users who Tweeted his identity), which charges it to reveal the names of the users who may have breached the injunction. Once it has revealed the identities, its liability in the action would be removed.
The super-injunction against the Press would be contrary to the First Amendment to the US Constitution, as well as the immunity from prosecution offered to Internet intermediaries under s.230 of the Communications Decency Act 1996 (Happy 15th birthday CDA!), and therefore Twitter in its own jurisdiction has no liability. Nevertheless, as it has many UK customers and presumably takes some valuation from this addition to its total subscribers (inasmuch as the bubble valuations have any credibility), it may wish to conform to the UK court's instructions. However, that would provide a precedent for litigants and governments from other jurisdictions to chase the company.
Once the details of this case became public (though the footballer has remained anonymous), the alleged identity became exponentially more widely spread on Twitter. Thus he has both enraged all like-minded Twitter followers, and ensured the widest possible publicity for his identity on Twitter. This is what in football we call an 'own goal'.
Twitter now has to decide whether to treat UK super-injunctions and their bullying implementation by judges, as it has bullying attempts to implement more repressive laws against freedom of speech in the Middle East, and US legislators have treated the same English Bar's attempts to enforce libel laws against US citizens.
I would suggest it simply delists all UK celebrities and their followers from Twitter to avoid future actions, beginning with Piers Morgan. Now that would be in the public interest...

Naughton's 'A Brief History of the Future' - how did he know?

Just at the dawn of the net neutrality debate, John Naughton's magnificent biography of the Internet as a young man emerged - and I missed it because I was bouncing from Shortmedia to Re:Think! to WorldCom to Barcelona...but its final two chapters bear much re-reading, not least because it predicts both government and corporate assertion of control - with much in common with and acknowledged to Lessig.
If you read those two chapters, then move straight to the opening two chapters of 'Net Neutrality', you get quite a nice synopsis of what happened in the first 12-14 years of the commercial WWW.
I am only encouraged in epilogue to his book by the fact that Web2.0 took off, that Google and Facebook are being sued for hawking our private data, and that only 39% of you use Explorer (and "only" 72% use Windows)! Plus ca change, or 'Apres moi le deluge'?
[My sample is biased because so many of you are French or Norweigan Opera and Safari goers...]

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Net neutrality, transparency and politicians in Europe

I have been doing some digging on private meetings between businesspeople and politicians in Europe - as have Monica Horten and Daithi MacSithigh (get blogging again!). It's not that we don't trust our politicians - Heaven forfend! - so much as expect a degree of transparency on a matter of censorship and freedom of expression. Today, #AskNeelie Kroes held a Q&A on Twitter which produced her stock holding answer, and Jeremy Hunt did the same at #Bigtentuk - that's Google's Big Tent, you understand...Jeremy compared superfast broadband (i.e. FTTH) to building London's sewers in the 1860s - not an unreasonable comparison, though FTTH is cheaper...
I am pleased that the UK Department of Culture has been very quick in providing a list of attendees at their private "Open Internet roundtable" (sic) from March, and a note of the meeting. The latter reveals little except that there is furious disagreement on the issue, with ISPs point blank refusing to offer proper transparency or any commitment not to block protocols they dislike - but then Tim Berners Lee had already alluded to that. I find it amusing that the only participants who refused to allow their names to be used were: "Representatives for the BBC, Google and Channel 4 did not provide their consent for their names to be released, so these have been withheld under Section 40 (Personal Information) of the Freedom of Information Act." Shot in own foot...Here's the list - and Heather Batchelor at Culture will supply the meeting note on request:

Alisdair McGowan
Andrew Cecil
Andrew Heaney
Talk Talk
Andrew Kernahan
Antony Walker
Broadband Stakeholder Group
Baroness Rennie Fritchie
Daniel Singer
David Frank
Everything, Everywhere
Diane Coyle
BBC Trust
Dominique Lazanski
Tax Payers Alliance
Dr Robert Reid
Ed Richards
Ed Vaizey
Emma Ascroft
Gareth Reakes
Grant Forsyth
Hamish MacLeod
Mobile Broadband Group
Jacqui Brookes OBE
Federation of Communications Services (FCS)
Jean-Jacques Sahel
Jim Killock
Open Rights Group
Jon James
Virgin Media
Justine Campbell
Kevin Russell
Lord Richard Allan
Magnus Brooke
Martin Stott
Channel 5
Marzena Lipman
Consumer Focus
Matthew Fell
Mike O'Connor
Consumer Focus
Channel 4
Nigel Hickson
Philip Milton
Rachel Clark
Robin Durie
Everything, Everywhere
Simon Milner
Sir Tim Berners Lee
Steve Unger
Tania Baumann
Vicky Stephens

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Micro-Skype Part III: panic buy

Warning: satire..."IE was an "oh crap" purchase, PowerPoint was an "oh crap" purchase, .NET was an "oh crap" response to Java, MSN was an "oh crap" response to AOL (at exactly the wrong time, as the internet was taking over traditional online services), Bing is like the umpteenth iteration of Microsoft trying to respond to Google, Zune was an "oh crap" to the iPod, WinPhone7 is an "oh crap' to the iPhone/Android, etc. Heck, even Silverlight is an "oh crap" response to Flash (again, at exactly the wrong time), and XPS is a lame attempt to take on PDF. There is this myth that Microsoft has this long view, but the only real example anybody can point to is Windows, which only started becoming interesting when things like GEM started getting useful, and really only became successful when they did under-handed (and eventually illegal things). Remember the "Windows ain't done until Lotus won't run" rumors? Microsoft was born on third base (chosen by IBM for the PC OS) and thought they hit a triple. When stripped of their ability to "cheat" (bundling features to eliminate competitors, hiding APIs, etc.) they've fallen down... consistently. Now they are reduced to throwing their cash reserves around hoping to hang on to "something".

Skype-Ballmer Part II: software code and ethical codes

As Ballmer buys Skype as a separate operating unit (which means he's serious about it continuing to develop instead of being squashed by Office/Windows), three elements will be challenging:
[1] will the software continue to develop across all platforms, although obviously it will develop faster for the Windows7 and mobile platforms?
[2] will Ballmer keep the encryption software as it stands? It is hostile to corporate networks - to evade firewalls, prevent reverse-engineering and prevent wiretapping. This is not how Microsoft works, and for users, their privacy might be about to change for the worse. That is a particular concern in Skype running over mobile networks and in developing/controlling countries like China and Libya - is it sneaking onto networks for free, or openly negotiating access?
[3] for me, most importantly - is Microsoft going down the Google route, abandoning open net neutrality lobbying for its own corporate ends? If so - and who can doubt it - then do not expect to ever hear from the excellent Jean-Jacques Sahel on 'unternets' again. AT&T and T-Mobile will be glad to avoid the discussion....

Skype-Ballmer Part I: what Microsoft needs?

The reporting on the $8,500,000,000 (seriously!?) acquisition of Skype by MSN has been subjected to generally very superficial reporting, but dig down and there are about three good defensive reasons for it:
[1] Copycatting: MSN gets to ape Apple's Facetime and Google Talk on its Win7 platform;
[2] Chargeable customers: MSN needed to have us (you and I) ready for the next round in the net neutrality battle, in which Android has commoditised mobile devices and operators can screw OS providers - having a few million Skype customers (TechDirt estimated 1.7% paid out of 100m registered accounts in 2006 while Ars Technica reports 8m paid subscribers) at least gives MSN some arm wrestling with mobile networks - and might prevent Android's creep into netbooks then laptops then desktops - squeezing Windows and Office.
[3] It's about IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) - the standard for cash tills on the Internet that has been developed by mobiles since 2000 - and as they start charging by the bit, MSN can either join them with a full suite or cede exclusivity to some other integrated voice-IM-search client. That's the 'mobile rules' version of Option 1 above.
Of course, unless you believe Option 2, then Microsoft's own developers were rubbish and not worthy of Windows Messenger/Lync/Exchange - all of which outshine Skype at least in raw user numbers.
In any case, whether this makes sense only matters if you don't think Ballmer had to defend against Google, Apple and Facebook - he had the cash, so the price (I am worth $1000 in the acquisition apparently) is meaningless to Microsoft itself.

Monday, May 02, 2011

'Delightful' policy management tools disgust engineers

Recently, I have found myself talking to several network engineers who are planning to quit mobile ISP work in disgust at the uses to which their tech is aimed - by the mobiles. As highly educated software engineers, they are fortunate enough to be able to choose to work on more pleasing projects. The decision to turn the Internet into a closed system is what appalls them - the naked greed and shortsighted money-grubbing of the MNOs and their supporters such as Cisco, documented by Dave Burstein. Its this kind of double-speak:
"What is happening now is that it's not just the network engineers involved -- the business, finance and marketing people are getting involved," Cottam says. "They are seeing that they can use policy management to make offers, and delight the customers rather than making them angry."
Really breath-taking, huh?