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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

UK DSL has no congestion problem shock!

While KPN in the Netherlands is determined to do its worst by customers, and certainly has an arguable case that it's set out to provoke the Dutch authorities into deciding whether its mobile division is breaching net neutrality legislation (its defence is that as its screwing everyone on price rises, that's neutral), UK regulator Ofcom continues to monitor customer service.
Below the shouty headlines about the vast difference between real and advertised speeds, about which Ofcom can do very little as advertising is of course self-regulated, is a very interesting set of data produced by SamKnows and broken down by operator. Guess what - almost no discernable difference between peak evening and normal throughput - what we have here is no evidence of congestion and thus no need to throttle?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

Stuart Kuttner's career: an exercise in self-regulation?

Stuart was managing editor of the News of the World from 1987-2009 - yes, he would be the perfect whistle-blower, except that he stepped down as a sacrificial lamb after the 2009 Guardian story that blew all this open. "News of the World's current editor Colin Myler paid tribute to Kuttner, saying: "His DNA is absolutely integrated into the newspaper which he has represented across the media with vigour." By random chance, my first job after my first law degree was on a short-lived start-up trade title called 'Journalists' Week' (pre-Internet and died in 1991 with its proprietor, but links to its editor here and here), ultimately owned by bouncing-sinking Czech Robert Maxwell - who makes Murdoch look honorable
I went to present the idea to Mr Kuttner, for which I was permitted inside Fortress Wapping - this was only two years after the end of the seige and it looked like Guantanamo. He explained kindly to me - I was 21 years old and very wet behind the ears - that he "used to work on newspapers for grown-ups". He was kind enough to confirm my impression that tabloid journalism was already rotten to the core, which had been the theme of a comedy series of the time - as a later one confirmed Parliamentarians' behaviour, and still later spin doctors
Funny, huh? Well, no - because the 1980s programmes were made by the then-independent television companies London Weekend and Yorkshire, which both disappeared as a result of the decision to auction regional ITV in 1990, and then by both Tories and Labour opposition under Tony Blair to allow media cross-ownership in 1994 ahead of the 1996 Broadcasting Act - think of them as also auctioning their political support ahead of the 1997 election that changed 18 years of Tory rule to 13 years of Labour.
The buyer of a London franchise was Michael Green, whose spin doctor was...David Cameron. it all ended horribly for the horrible Green as his franchise got involved in ITV Digital, a failed rival to Murdoch's BSkyB, which had broken the law but thanks to Thatcher survived its merger between Sky and BSB in 1990. Cameron bailed in 2001, but the writing was on the wall for ITV Digital and its monkey (in any case it was a keeptime job until Cameron got into Parliament).
As for David Cameron, he learned not to take on Murdoch but to become best mates. What could go wrong?
The main whistle blower on Cameron's spin-soulmate, Andy Coulson, has today been found dead. Inconvenient truth.
I used to write a lot in the 1990s about media ownership regulation and its corrosive effect on politics and the media, then moved on to the disasters that would befall the Internet if that political-media poison spread into it, due in part to the teaching of Lawrence Lessig and Mark Lemley (nice link to a failed analysis?). It was described by Wu in 2003 as the abandonment of network neutrality. Interesting times...

Atlantic cousins slipping backwards on neutrality

If the US has decided to kick neutrality into the long grass, despite advocacy groups' attempts to enforce that 2008 Wu/Google-inspired 700MHz auction against the Android-fiddling Googlers in 2011.
In Canada, Shaw Communications nearly did a KPN by revealing a rival-crushing video service during the UBB hearings, but appears to have either back-tracked or clarified that video download via the Internet will screw their consumers no matter how it's downloaded.
This enforcement stuff is tricky, isn't it? Can you blame the Euros for hoping it all goes away...

Kroes-EuroCEO broadband summit: no consensus, non-neutral Internet

The EC policy against net neutrality appears to have hardened, after the Commissioner met 35 CEOs from ISPs and content providers on Wednesday. It is good that she has shared the conclusions and guest list so quickly. In short, the group was guided by router-throttler Alcatel-Lucent under ex-BT CEO Ben Verwaayen, Deutsche Telekom and 'civil Internet' freaks Vivendi (who successfully polarised the OECD High level meeting 2 weeks ago by frothing about piracy). It was almost entirely ISPs, box-makers and exclusive pay-TV operators. Here's the highlights from the EC press release:
"players at different levels of the Internet value chain should be free to reach commercial agreements to innovate and develop new business models. The best way to deal with any perceived imbalance is through commercial negotiations. If there is a need to introduce safeguards and legal certainty to ensure these negotiations are fair, the Commission will study the issue carefully once BEREC finalises its thorough analysis of the situation by the end of this year. The Commission accepts the industry's offer to take self-regulatory initiatives to ensure transparency on the characteristics and performance of broadband offers to European consumers."
It's over - unless you live in the Netherlands.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hacking their way to a fortune

Nick Cohen in the New Statesman 2000, on press ethics:
"Consider the following incident at the 1997 Labour Party conference. Blair was being lunched by the Mirror. The conversation turned to Gordon Brown's decision to freeze the pay of his Cabinet colleagues. Morgan, who was probably earning three times as much as the Prime Minister, found the differential hilarious. He chucked a £20 note at Blair and bellowed: "Hey, Tony, buy the kids some toys." The note lay on the table. Silence descended. It takes a man of extraordinary crassness to bring out the hidden nobility in Alastair Campbell. Morgan was that man. Campbell picked up the crumpled offering and straightened it out. "Why don't you give it to charity, Piers?" he asked quietly."
This is relevant to net neutrality - these people are the enforcers of media ethics...

Ofcom not fit to judge 'fit and proper person'? Colette Bowe' improper' 'disreputable' - Lord Gilbert

Lord Gilbert has just criticized Ofcom chair Colette Bowe in the most corruscating terms in the Lords debate on News Corporation, for her leaking of the Attorney-General's advice re. Westland and collective responsibility. Lord Gilbert repeated several times a finding that she had acted 'disreputably and tendentiously' in both leaking and editing for malicious effect (against Michael Heseltine) the advice. Her behaviour, and that of her Minister who was soon forced to resign, was infamous, though she was also found to have been the only civil servant who protested against being required to leak, and referred inquiries to the PM's spokesman, who was accused - with her Minister - of ordering her to leak
Gilbert reported that he told the Labour Minister responsible for Bowe's appointment that he must have gone "stark staring mad". One might argue that knighting, elevating to the peerage, making Leon Brittan a European Commissioner and then Vice President all AFTER his disgrace and fall was significantly starker...he is now in government again as special advisor and his office in the EC included a young ambitious toady called Nick Clegg...
Needless to say, Gilbert argued that Ofcom can hardly be expected to rule properly on 'fit and proper persons' to own media corporations when its own chair had been 'disreputable' and 'improper'. 
Well, can she be as bad as Richard Desmond or the Barclay brothers? Or David Sullivan (warning: link may contain unsubstantiated gossip)?
He also reported that the Financial Times in 2008 entirely misrepresented the joint Select Committee's report conclusions regarding Bowe, and that the editor only replied to him when he threatened it with the Press 'Totally Compliant' Commission (which makes one rose-tinted nostalgic that an editor gave a damn about it). Pluralism did win out, however, as Stephen Glover in The Independent got the facts right about Bowe/Westland in March 2009.
Another day, another revelation. The debate was generally far more authoritative than rubbish in the Commons.
Frankly, I'd rather be at Sandwich...
UPDATE: I have dug out the link to the debate over that Select Committee report, in which Tam Dalyell attempts to pin the leak authority on Margeret Thatcher, who would have had to resign had that been proved, and this highly sympathetic Toynbee interview which smacks of north London approves of Chair Bowe's constitutionally correct Sphinx-like silence on the matter. She apparently hates 'people who blab' - whistle blowers are clearly not her cup of tea. Given all the blabbing this week from all corners, it must be one of her least favorite weeks. Almost over.
UPDATE2: Lord Gilbert's speech now in today's Hansard. It is worth noting that yesterday he reiterated his view that the tragic Chinook crash in Scotland was in part pilot error - he's not afraid to be contentious...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Internet co-regulation: The Leveson inquiry: plus ca change...

Internet co-regulation: The Leveson inquiry: plus ca change...: "Tonight, News International controls 39% of BSkyB - and the Murdochs control about 36% of News Corporation. Guess what changed today? They c..."

Fox News to keep licences despite 9/11 hacking and bribes paid to British police?

I look forward to Sarah Palin resigning from 'increasingly irrelevant mainstream media' Fox News in disgust at the evidence that Murdoch's empire has gone far beyond the pale in breaking US law. Will the FCC investigate their holder of 263 licences?
Presumably any person of ethics at the Wall Street Journal will have already resigned?
UPDATE: She said 'less and less' - I think she would have said 'increasingly' if she had studied for a degree at a recognised university - though no-one can fault her pluralism of choice in education.
UPDATE 2: A nice Reuters graphic update on the $4,600,000,000US government tax refunds News Corp. has been receiving in the last four years.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

Legislation or regulation without enforcement: wisest of monkeys?

In Barcelona keynoting Internet Politics 2011 (proceedings here), an excellent conference with wonderful translation. I find my self returning again and again to Michael Geist's work on the lack of enforcement by the CRTC: "The experience with net neutrality places the spotlight on the limits of guidelines without enforcement and screams out for enforcement transparency with full disclosure of all complaints and resolutions, penalties for violations, and audits of leading ISPs."

Saturday, July 09, 2011

How to ignore net neutrality regulation? The Canadian experience

I bleat on about the need to impose transparent reporting requirements and conduct mystery-shopping type tests on ISPs simply because it is otherwise close to impossible to prove that net neutrality regulation has been breached - unless the CEO of the ISP shoots his mouth off on an investor call.
The net neutrality lite of the CRTC in Canada, announced with some fanfare in October 2009, appears to be gossamer thin. Congratulations to Prof. Michael Geist for unearthing and interpreting the documents - marvellous work.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

British government and Internet regulation: what M...

Internet co-regulation: British government and Internet regulation: what M...: "For overseas readers, it's worth explaining the specific problems in the recent cause celebre - not about the incidents of voicemail hackin..."

EU roaming: only 900euros/GB next year!

The EC will lower EU data roaming charges to 900euros/GB from July 2012 (looking forward to seeing just how much competition will reduce that maximum). That is apparently a big intervention. I suspect that WhatsApp will not expect a lot of roaming use with that kind of charging...and don't use your phone for data in a foreign continent whatever you do!

Monday, July 04, 2011

30 June deadline: Transparency and neutrality - progress?

30 June was the deadline for big European ISPs to present their transparency plan to Commissioner Kroes for conforming to 2009/136/EC and 2009/140/EC via self-regulation.
In the UK, it was the deadline for the big mobile and fixed ISPs to explain their traffic management policies to consumers, based on their commitments in the Broadband Stakeholder Group's Code of Practice and the 'summit' with Ed Vaizey.
30 June was also the deadline for BEREC members to report on their traffic management issues in their own countries.
I do not know if these deadlines have been made, as there is no public reporting requirement and no media announcement. One company has at least appeared to be telling the truth. Progress? The audacity of hope....

Saturday, July 02, 2011

FCC to actually publish neutrality rules; EC to try self-regulation

On Thursday, the FCC finally sent its December 2010 rules to the Office of Management and Budget, which sends them on to the Federal Register. So they'll be published in August/September (in time for TPRC) - and then challenged in court, sans doute. The main immediate requirement is for fixed (not wireless) companies to publish speeds and blocking/throttling policies, and hopefully this means BITAG will finally get to check its usefulness (it must have been lonely).
Meanwhile the European Commissioner awaits the self-regulatory Code that industry apparently agreed to in private talks in March. One hopes it's more effective than the UK example which continues to perplex Tim Berners Lee, given that it's not net neutrality, simply transparency.
In truth, both the Eurocrats and FCC are nudging ISPs to ensure self-regulation bites, by ensuring net neutrality lite. That goes only partway to dealing with the problem...I obviously would prefer they use co-regulation and keep everybody honest.