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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Truly horrible Chinese government reminds us why Internet freedom matters

To add to the uglies of Iran and Kazakhstan, amongst others, here's the 'orrible Communist Party doing what it does best - brooking no internal dissent and ensuring the Internet is censored as tightly as possible.
Australia is a blip in the bit-ocean by comparison...
EDIT: the excellent blog post by Rebecca McKinnon further analyzes many of the 2009 moves by the Beijing junta, to which it might be added that with much fanfare the entire region of Xinjiang has had extremely minimal Internet access restored after 6 months - with email, comment on news sites and international texts/calls still banned.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

14 January: McGill talk

I will be speaking at Media@McGill on 14 January, on the (hopefully intriguing) subject of 'Towards Medium law' - and net neutrality....all welcome, I believe...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Net Neutrality: order your preview copy now

Its available from this website - will be online soon, I am unreliably informed!

Directive 2009/136/EC: Recital 34

Just to emphasise my many previous posts, what is intended with regard to EU net neutrality is actually a very 'lite' approach, ensuring services are not blocked and/or degraded beyond usefulness:
(34) A competitive market should ensure that end-users enjoy the QoS they require, but in particular cases it may be necessary to ensure that public communications networks attain minimum quality levels so as to prevent degradation of service, the blocking of access and the slowing of traffic over networks. In order to meet QoS requirements, operators may use procedures to measure and shape traffic on a network link so as to avoid filling the link to capacity or overfilling the link, which would result in network congestion and poor performance. Those procedures should be subject to scrutiny by NRAs... in particular by addressing discriminatory behaviour, in order to ensure that they do not restrict competition. If appropriate, NRAs may also impose minimum QoS requirements on undertakings to ensure that services and applications dependent on the network are delivered at a minimum quality standard, subject to examination by the Commission. NRAs should be empowered to take action to address degradation of service, including the hindering or slowing down of traffic, to the detriment of consumers. However, since inconsistent remedies can impair the functioning of the internal market, the Commission should assess any requirements intended to be set by NRAs for possible regulatory intervention across the Community and, if necessary, issue comments or recommendations in order to achieve consistent application.

Article 22, DIRECTIVE 2009/136/EC: Commission takes control of QoS

The net neutrality provisions are transparency in new Article 20, and this (showing that if NRAs do anything, it'll be subject to an effective veto by the Commission):
Article 22: Quality of service
1. Member States shall ensure that NRAs are, after taking account of the views of interested parties, able to require []networks and/or services to publish comparable, adequate and up-to-date information for end-users on the quality of their services... That information shall, on request, be supplied to the NRA in advance of its publication.
2. NRAs may specify, inter alia, the quality of service parameters to be measured and the content, form and manner of the information to be published, including possible quality certification mechanisms, in order to ensure that end-users... have access to comprehensive, comparable, reliable and user-friendly information.
3. In order to prevent the degradation of service and the hindering or slowing down of traffic over networks, Member States shall ensure that NRAs are able to set minimum quality of service requirements on an undertaking or undertakings providing public communications networks.
NRAs shall provide the Commission... with a summary of the grounds for action, the envisaged requirements and the proposed course of action. This information shall also be made available to the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC). The Commission may... make comments or recommendations... NRAs shall take the utmost account of the Commission’s comments or recommendations when deciding on the requirements.

Always read the final page...EC Net neutrality declaration is now official

Where you find the 'Declaration on Net Neutrality' in full - reporting by end-2010:

The Commission attaches high importance to preserving the open and neutral character of the Internet, taking full account of the will of the co-legislators now to enshrine net neutrality as a policy objective and regulatory principle to be promoted by national regulatory authorities(Article 8(4)(g) Framework Directive), alongside the strengthening of related transparency requirements(Articles 20(1)(b) and 21(3)(c) and (d) of the Universal Service Directive) and the creation of safeguard powers for national regulatory authorities to prevent the degradation of services and the hindering or slowing down of traffic over public networks(Article 22(3) of the Universal Service Directive). The Commission will monitor closely the implementation of these provisions in the Member States, introducing a particular focus on how the ‘net freedoms’ of European citizens are being safeguarded in its annual Progress Report to the European Parliament and the Council. In the meantime, the Commission will monitor the impact of market and technological developments on ‘net freedoms’ reporting to the European Parliament and Council before the end of 2010 on whether additional guidance is required, and will invoke its existing competition law powers to deal with any anti-competitive practices that may emerge.

EC Telecoms Package must be implemented into national law by 18 June 2011

The new rules were published in the Official Journal on 18th December and give Member States 18 months to implement. The official texts are here. Now the real fun begins!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Midband Decade: Internet as social disease, Google, Skype, Facebook, YouTube and Nokia

El Reg's review of the decade got me thinking about how European consumers think of the past decade in IT: bear in mind for most it was their first decade as the Freeserve unmetered access model only emerged in 1998, and the bubble burst just as broadband was emerging.
The dominance of Windows computers running incumbents' DSL connections at under a Megabit/sec was the main experience. Incumbents own the wholesale broadband networks for 3 out of 4 European consumers. Any appearance of competition is basically in the local loop. Microsoft maintains its 90%+ market share in operating systems and is close to that in browsers (by installation even as usage stats slide below 70%), even as the European antitrust action appears settled after a decade. The appearance of WiFi helped users tether themselves to the house or cafe not the phone socket.
Apple's clout in the US was really a blip in Europe. The mobile Internet barely existed, in fact texting was the big mobile app. Many European users barely noticed the iPhone (and Blackberries still dominate), tied to one network at huge monthly subscriptions and slow 3G connections. So - in contrast to the predictions when 3G was auctioned in 2000 - it was not the mobile Internet decade at all. Nokia sold almost 500m in 2008 alone, with almost 10 billion sold in the decade.The majority were 2G simple call/text/WAP phones to the developing world.
The decade was occupied with viruses and spam, many attacking Microsoft's programmes - ILoveYou started the trend in May 2000. The biggest strain on the network was not dubious quality and copyright video on YouTube, but DOS attacks and Microsoft monthly security patches.
As for e-commerce, the book did not die but Amazon sold more than the high street, the holiday package did not die but consumers used the web for cheap flights and last-minute deals. Paperless billing for utilities, banking, and e-government services did not eliminate paper altogether - except on Ryanair which also tried to eliminate check-in staff, hold luggage and other annoyances. A £1 flight at 27.99 was perhaps the biggest change for the average punter. We still buy DVDs and CDs far more thanm we download legally or illegally. We don't buy as many inky newspapers any more, though....a fifty year trend that the Internet exacerbates but did not start and will not finish. Newspaper troubles in 2008-9 reflect the collapse of jobs and other classified revenues far more than circulation slumps.
Oh, and we still listen to the radio and watch TV - in fact, digital radio was a complete dud, and Internet radio  only really replaced the tranny with MeRadio - lastfm and the like. Digital TV was a success as were PVRs and flat screens, though HD and BluRay remain 'premium' services in the UK, which means most people don't use their digital TV set to its potential.
Personalisation and privacy made limited progress in the 2000s, with Google storing ever-more search, email, video and blog information (thanks for all of that, by the way!), and the first shots in the targetted advertising battles started with Phorm in the UK - this will be a huge issue going forwards.
The huge innovations in the 2000s were in video gaming and virtual worlds, and here the Far East led, as in consumer fibre and 3G. The 6th generation of consoles in 1999-2007 sold 200m, the 7th generation is already over 100m, with Wii making non-gamers into gamers. Handhelds have 250m accumulated sales in the decade. In fact, much of the interesting innovation in the past decade came from Seoul or Tokyo or Hong Kong. With 100MB Ethernet all over their major cities, its easy to see that the future is going to be in the Far East, too.
Meanwhile, the debates that will dominate will increasingly revolve around allowing open access to higher speed networks for content. With Facebook users in the 500millions and Skype accounts approaching a billion, net neutrality is becoming a vitally important issue. Consumers want more than same-old cable services, and governments are responding (slowly), though as the UK Digital Economy Bill 2009 shows, its often to knee-jerk protect incumbent business models. That's how the decade started too, remember and Napster?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Practical video-on-demand co-regulation announced

And its pretty regulatory for 'television-like' services, comes into force tomorrow:

1.17 Since publication of the Consultation, ATVOD has, with the cooperation of industry stakeholders and Ofcom, undertaken a range of activities with a view to ensuring that ATVOD would be fit-for-purpose to be designated as a co-regulatory body. These activities include:
  • recruitment of a new Chief Executive Officer and a new Chairman of the ATVOD Board;
  • recruitment of new independent members of the ATVOD Board;
  • recruitment of a part-time company secretary;
  • taking measures to help establish adequate funding for ATVOD to carry out its co-regulatory duties; and
  • the development of a suite of documents covering complaints handling, and editorial standards requirements and interpretative guidance.
1.18 In Section 4 of this Statement, we lay out our decisions concerning the functions we intend to designate to ATVOD in relation to VOD editorial content:
  • in addition to the powers laid out in the ATVOD Proposal, we also intend to designate to ATVOD the power to issue enforcement notices against VOD service providers in relation to contraventions of the standards requirements covering VOD editorial content. We are continuing to discuss with ATVOD the appropriate terms for designation;
  • the duty to encourage VOD service providers to ensure that their services are gradually made more accessible to people with sight or hearing disabilities ("the Access Duty"); and
  • the duty to ensure that VOD service providers promote production of and access to European works ("the European Works Duty").
1.19 However, in designating both the Access Duty and the European Works Duty, we would explicitly require ATVOD to:

  • prepare written plans to discharge these duties, which must be approved by Ofcom; and 
  • report regularly on these issues to Ofcom.

1.20 Ofcom's approach, in principle, to co-regulation of VOD editorial content is, when powers and duties in this area are granted to Ofcom, to designate the widest possible range of powers and duties to the co-regulator. Under the relevant legislation, Ofcom retains such powers and duties in parallel and may act as the appropriate regulatory authority concurrently or in place of the co-regulator. We therefore anticipate designating the widest possible range of powers to ATVOD, subject to ATVOD not being permitted to exercise a certain restricted number of other powers. Powers that only Ofcom could exercise include:

  • the anticipated power to determine decisions on scope referred to Ofcom; 
  • and certain powers to impose statutory sanctions (financial penalties, or suspension/restriction of service): 
  • firstly, relating to notification issues, once notification has become a statutory obligation; and 
  • second, relating to potential contraventions of the Act that might be recorded by ATVOD.

Nellie Kroes not Doutzen Kroes

Regular close readers of the blog will see the story alert no longer has 'Reding' but Kroes' in response to their changing roles at the European Commission. The latest Kroes story reflects the need to be more specific...

When French farmers or fishermen block ports and motorways, does it affect emergency services?

Duh, of course it does. Theoretically, so might 'Operation Chokehold'. So might any net filtering. So might a British Airways strike supported by 93% of staff. Should these things be made illegal? In general, no, protest causes disruption, disruption at some level - see UK snow stories tomorrow - costs lives. Life gives you cancer.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Operation Chokehold 22 hours away....

Whether it works or not, its going to be a highly instructive form of broadband customer protest:
'This is not an attempt at a crowdsourced denial of service attack. This is more like calling in a debt... if the company has written millions of checks it cannot cash, it deserves to be humiliated by its users. And that humiliation deserves to be exploited by its competitors, which it will be if AT&T falters under sway of the services it has promised.
If it works and AT&T staggers and explodes like Alf’s home planet Melmac under the strain of so many hair dryers, Internet freedom activists will write about Friday the 18th for years. It would be the day the Internet told a corporate antagonist to ‘STFU’. It would be beautiful.
It is also highly, highly unlikely. Were it to fail (or perhaps I should say, ‘when it fails’), that in turn proves AT&T is just being greedy by trying to shape network traffic and impose bandwidth caps. iPhone users aren’t really the problem. They’re just scapegoats in a game of corporate posturing ahead of a newly tiered data pricing structure. It’s as if Enron’s attempt at a bandwidth commodities market never really went away. So, for one hour on Friday, I hope iPhone users in the U.S. will help send message to AT&T. That message, in my words, is quite simply this: STOP BEING EVIL.'

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'No Cleanfeed' - Australia mandatory filtering laws for 2011/12?

Before we get too excited about the Oz plans, we need to remember that in Europe, it is mandatory (or 'quasi-mandatory in some weasel cases) to filter:
[1] kiddie porn;
[2] 'extreme' porn including hentai (cartoon)-porn;
[3] 'terrorist' websites;
[4] video that is 'broadcast-like';
[5] suicide websites in Nordic countries.
So what's the difference? The handy cut-out-and-keep website details what's going on, and notes that the Australian Senate is not controlled by government, nor will it be until after the next election, so that the law won't be introduced for a year, and is not intended to be enforced until a year after its enacted, which is not before 2012.
So calm down, dear, its electioneering. Fear Mandelson (and the fast-rising Andy Burnham), not Oz.

Australia: mandatory filtering of illegal content, voluntary filtering of 'gross' content

Its important to read carefully what Australia proposes, which is effectively the European anti-kiddie/suicide/extreme pROn filters. As ArsTechnica reports:
'Communications Minister Stephen Conroy announced today that the government has wrapped up an extensive trial of the filtering system and that it plans to proceed with legislation making the filters mandatory. Under the government's scheme, all content that is "Refused Classification" by the country's official ratings board won't just be illegal to sell in Australia, it will also be blocked on the Web. This provision will be required, and it must be implemented by all Aussie ISPs.

ISPs will also be encouraged to set up a second filter that blocks legal-but-objectionable content such as pornography, terrorism sites, and "gross" content. This filter will be optional, and can be turned on and off by Internet subscribers. The government will provide funds for ISPs to set up the additional filtering.'
BUT it will be as effective as the IWF CAIC list in the UK:
'...locking the official government censorship list (the ACMA blacklist) of around 1,000 websites was easily done; all nine ISPs participating in the recent trial achieved 100 percent accuracy with no real performance degradation and without false positives. The results make sense, since the list is both small and specific (it uses full URLs to content rather than blocking a complete IP address or domain name).
But when many of the ISPs rolled out the second, optional filtering scheme designed to make the 'Net "family friendly," results weren't so hot. According to Enex, the ISPs managed to block "between 78.80 percent and 84.65 percent of inappropriate material," and at a greater cost to performance. Overblocking also became an issue, with each ISP blocking two or three percent of "innocuous content."
Telstra, one of the largest ISPs in Australia, declined to participate in the official test, but ran its own internal test network to gauge the effects of such widespread ISP-level filtering. According to the report, "Telstra found its filtering solution was not effective in the case of non-Web based protocols such as instant messaging, peer-to-peer or chat rooms. Enex confirms that this is also the case for all filters presented in the pilot. Telstra reported that heavy traffic sites could overload its trial filtering solution if included in the filtering blacklist. This is also the case for all filters presented in the pilot."
In addition, Enex admits that "circumvention" of the filter shouldn't be that difficult for technically inclined users. Bypassing the mandatory ACMA blacklist of "illegal" content actually turned out to be easiest of all; of the four ISPs that tested only the ACMA list, none was able to stop more than 16.2 percent of attempts to bypass the filter. Yes, that's right, 84 percent of attempts to bypass the scheme were successful (and the ACMA list only includes websites, not P2P or FTP or IM).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

France aims for 70% 100Mbps by 2020

Its unclear how much will be invested, but Sarkozy has responded to the call for Digital Economy investment with a huge bond issue (thanks for the link Tom!) - of course, Britain has a never-to-be-implemented 50p/fixed line tax but even if anyone had the longterm vision, the markets would not give us £30billion for long-term investment, now would they?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Norwegians give us a Merry Christmas!

Co-regulation explained in some detail by the Norwegian regulator (I picked this up 10 months late from the Council of Europe's working party on self/co-regulation and the Internet).
Some highlights:

A. The capacity and quality of the Internet connection is to be clearly specified.
This principle states that Internet users are to be given sufficient information about the
characteristics of the Internet connection, so that they know what resource is being provided for
communication with the Internet in the form this has traditionally had. This is normally referred to
as “best effort” Internet. It is how this resource is managed that is described in Principles 2 and 3.
B. If the connection is shared with other services, it must be stated clearly how the capacity is
shared between Internet traffic and the other services.
The connection service that a customer subscribes to from a provider shall have as its primary
function – or one of its primary functions – to provide the end user with access to the Internet. If
other services are provided to the user in addition to the Internet connection, the subscription
terms must state how the use of the other services will affect the Internet access capacity...

The principle of network neutrality shall not be interpreted in a manner at variance with current law.
For example, the unlawful distribution of copyrighted content with the aid of P2P file sharing would
still be an illegal act by the user. Furthermore, the current practice of ISPs to block child
pornography will not infringe this principle. The same may be said regarding spam filters and
measures to counteract denial-of-service attacks and infected PCs. It will be in the interest of all
users for the ISP to protect the network through which its users communicate. The ISPs are to
publish as well as inform all users of all measures of this type...

As the competition for bandwidth will typically occur on particular places on the network, either
network internal connections, external peering/transit connections and the actual access
connection, the principle should apply to all types of communication lines within the framework that
the connection contracts (subscription contracts, peering/transit contracts, SLAs, etc.) set. An
absolutely fair sharing of bandwidth for all Internet users applied to all communication lines would
be difficult to achieve in practice. Inherent in the principle, however, is that there must be no
unreasonable manipulation or degradation of traffic for individual data streams...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Decades of extra tax on UK fixed phone lines?

The 50p Digital Divide tax on business and residential fixed phone lines was always going to be a disaster in terms of equity (mobile users don't pay, the poor don't pay, all benefits go to rural users) but just how long it will last has become a little clearer:

Mr Timms: We have not put a date on the withdrawal of the levy; what we have said is that we think we need £1 billion between now and 2017 to hit the 90% target. One could take the view that at that point it should be withdrawn or one could take the view actually that we would want to keep the levy in place in order to generate funds for the final 10% and that is a judgment to be made a bit later in the process.
Q225 Mr Oaten: But your figures, presumably, know from how many individuals will be paying the levy at which point you reach certain revenue-raising targets?
Mr Timms: Yes. We are assuming that everybody with a phone line at the moment, other than those on social tariffs, will be paying.
Q226 Mr Oaten: What I am getting at is in three years' time how much money will you have raised?
Mr Timms: I think it will raise between £150 million and £175 million per year.
Q227 Mr Oaten: But the intention is that once it has done its job to remove the levy?
Mr Timms: Yes, I think that must be the logic of having a levy for a particular purpose, that once the purpose has been entirely completed ---
Q228 Chairman: Hang on, income tax was used to pay for one particular war, as far as I remember it, and I think we still have income tax!
Mr Timms: We are talking about decisions that are going to be made some years hence but I do not think this levy could be used as a contribution towards general taxation; it needs to be used for the purposes ---
Q229 Chairman: You are such a nice man, Minister! You are so nice!
Mr Timms: The point we can debate, I think, is whether it should carry on beyond 2017 to contribute to the cost of the final 10% next generation broadband.
Q230 Mr Oaten: My point is that if we look at the principle of hypothecation there is a very big difference between putting in place a new tax which is going to fund a service for ever more or a one-off quick hit through a levy. Which is this?
Mr Timms: It is more like the latter than the former because once the investment has been completed the purpose of the levy no longer exists.

Parliamentary technology debate reaches a new low? Peter Luff of UK Industry Select Committee

This is quite wonderfully depressing stuff from a high-placed policy maker in what is likely to be the British government from spring 2010:

Q191 Chairman: What I heard about South Korea is that the only impact has been that the movie industry has had to withdraw entirely from South Korea as it is now impossible to control piracy of movies. These very super-fast download speeds mean that Hollywood Studios can no longer make money out of flogging films in South Korea, it has just become a pirate's paradise.
Mr Timms: If you look at online computer games Korea is the centre worldwide for the development of computer games.
Q192 Chairman: So when you have masses of public money you tax pensioners to enable people to pay computer games?
Mr Timms: No, my point about South Korea is that there is a substantial industry developing those games in South Korea which has been enabled because South Korea has such good broadband.
Q193 Chairman: There are people out there listening to all this who think I am a complete Luddite.

Bottom feeding on broadband - universal access

The Uk government has claimed that it will offer access to broadband that is 'theoretically' (?) capable of delivering 2Mbps service by 2012 - but not actual service, whether at peak time or possibly any time of day. The Minister appeared before his Select Committee and pfaffed around (at Q158):

Mr Timms: I would just caution the Committee about being too hung up about the definition. There is a huge amount of work to be done. I accept that the technical specification is an important part of that but there are a lot of other things that we need to get sorted out.
Q159 Chairman: You have to be obsessed with definition! If you are saying that it is a Universal Service Obligation you have to be clear what you mean by it, Minister. Of course we are going to be obsessed by the definition.
Mr Timms: Actually I think there is clarity about the Universal Service Commitment ---
Q160 Chairman: We are not clear and you have not made it clear this morning.
Mr Timms: With respect, I think I have made it fairly clear. Certainly from the customer's point of view, what this service will provide is access to the kind of ---
Chairman: You sound a little bit like a dodgy Internet Service Provider yourself over claiming for speeds! You have promised us a note and we will have to have it, but we are not currently very impressed.
Q161 Mr Binley: I think if you were selling to me I would be very worried, Stephen!

OECD Broadband Table - penetration per household

For what its worth - bear in mind household penetration is now less relevant than speed and data caps. There's a new ECTA scorecard for European broadband too. Netherlands first, from Denmark - at 38% or so, but you can throw your hat over most G7 countries at 24-29%. But the fibre tables (see below) show that Sweden easily outpaces Netherlands and Denmark for penetration, though put in the shade by East Asia.

AT&T to choke its iPhone users

It was bound to happen sooner or later (quotes inserted to make it obvious this is from El Reg - doh!):

"AT&T has finally figured out how to fix its much-maligned US mobile data services: stop users from eating up so frickin' much bandwidth. As reported by the Associated Press, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility Ralph de la "Darth" Vega told attendees at a New York investors' conference on Wednesday that his company plans to force data-plan subscribers to "reduce or modify their usage."
In Darth's world, consumers are dumb and selfish data-piggies. "We've got to get them to understand what represents a megabyte of data," he said.
We're not all sinners in his eyes, however: only three per cent of smartphone users eat up 40 per cent of AT&T's capacity, he said, adding that the hungriest online swine are concentrated in San Francisco and New York.
Hmm...The capital of tech-savvy Silicon Bay Area, and the center of US media. No worries about offending those constituencies, eh?"

The story so far...

A fairly comprehensive and hyper-hyperlinked blog post by Marvin Ammori on the US situation to date...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Its the fibre, stupid! Its the fibre, stupid!

Only broadband statistic worth collecting by OECD - and FTTH updates, note no UK:

BT Content Connect: FRAND or foe of neutrality?

BT is to create a service to cache popular (read: streaming video) content locally.
I have written in the book and elsewhere that 'positive' net neutrality should restrict itself to ensuring
[a] there is a big unrestricted Internet pipe to each home, as advertised, preferably with a 'minimum speed' guarantee;
[b] that those ISP-content agreements using a fast lane (what the FCC seems to call 'special access') are based on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.
FRAND has a long history in competition law and patent law, and is used where a wholesale input is an essential facility (amongst other things). Wholesale ISPs seem to fit that bill, at least in the UK where for most retail customers its BT or nothing.
Now that will make many people shout that local cacheing is NOT net neutrality - that's right, its not, even though Content Delivery Networks are not truly local, and therefore Google argues they don't breach the principle as long as they are offered on a FRAND basis. What matters to me is transparency, non-discrimination and a good and increasing basic service. It would be wonderful if bandwidth increased to make monthly caps and local cacheing irrelevant.
I recognize the potential permanence in the Content Connect service, that having succeeded in creating a new revenue stream and stopped ISP investment in further unbundling, BT Wholesale could then sit on its laurels and declare the bandwidth war over. That is where regulatory action will be required - Ofcom has sat on its bottom and declared that functional separation created incentives for investment long enough - it would then need to make arrangements to ensure long-term backhaul investment not based on current and anticipated needs and UK content players, but future needs which will be broader and more ubiquitous (it laughably calls VDSL 'super-fast broadband' when fibre roll-out is near non-existent).
Yes, it won't do that. That's why we need a more actively involved government - if it recognizes BT Wholesale is the only game in town, perhaps it might do something about it (NOT ignoring fibre to the premises while plugging its pension hole!).
Overall, the change to BT Content Connect should achieve one marvellous outcome - by stymying alternate investment in UK backhaul, it will show that we live in a monopolized environment in the UK. That will at least result in backsliding in global league tables and might eventually persuade government to do something. If not the nuclear option, its the option most likely to show that wholesale competition is dead.
So lets see the debate begin!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Does 'Three Strikes' actually work?

Nick Lansman of ISPA asks of last year's letter-sending campaign, to be incorporated into law by the Digital Economy Bill, did anyone change behaviour? Because if they didn't, all the Bill does is pave the way for stupendous amounts of legislation, Euro-law fights et al.

"ISPs are being asked to police content but this isn't about serious crime but to protect one particular set of rights holders," said Mr Lansman.
"The fact that rights holders can lean on the legislation means there isn't the incentive for them to do anything else in terms of alternatives," said Malcolm Hutty, from net association Linx.
The process of educating consumers about illegal file-sharing has already begun. In July last year, six of the UK's biggest net providers agreed a plan to tackle online piracy. It involved sending out letters to those identified as illegal file-sharers. BT, Virgin, Orange, Tiscali, BSkyB and Carphone Warehouse all signed up. According to Mr Lansman "tens of thousands" of letters were sent during the trial but he has not heard whether the campaign was successful.
"What happened? Did the government see a huge drop in file-sharing? The Digital Economy Bill says we should do the same thing again so I presume that there is some analysis of the trial," he said.
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the letters had been sent out because of an industry "memorandum of understanding" (MoU). "The decision not to release a report was down to the industry signatories. The MoU, and the separate wide ranging consultation with stakeholders who have an interest in filesharing, were both used to inform the development of the Digital Economy Bill."

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Fibrevolution on 'bandwidth hogs' and Animal Farm

Must work harder, Boxer - why ISPs need to introduce smarter metering and transparency:
"Unfortunately, to the best of our knowledge, the way that telcos identify the Bandwidth Hogs is not by monitoring if they cause unfair traffic congestion for other users. No, they just measure the total data downloaded per user, list the top 5% and call them hogs. For those service providers with data caps, these are usually set around 50 Gbyte and go up to 150 Gbyte a month. This is therefore a good indication of the level of bandwidth at which you start being considered a "hog".  But wait: 50 Gbyte a month is… 150 kbps average (0,15 Mbps), 150 Gbyte a month is 450 kbps on average. If you have a 10 Mbps link, that’s only 1,5 % or 4,5 % of its maximum advertised speed!
"And that would be "hogging"? The fact is that what most telcos call hogs are simply people who overall and on average download more than others. Blaming them for network congestion is actually an admission that telcos are uncomfortable with the 'all you can eat' broadband schemes that they themselves introduced on the market to get people to subscribe. In other words, the marketing push to get people to subscribe to broadband worked, but now the telcos see a missed opportunity at price discrimination..."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Mystic Marsden: 2010 Predictions for 'Computers and Law'

Even though you should never make predictions, especially about the future, I have (again):

2010 will be the 'Year That Three Strikes Strikes Back' - not that it will be properly implemented anywhere in Europe except France, but the copyright lobby and their captured governments will make serious efforts to force it onto domestic legislative agendas across Europe. That will lead to a consumer backlash led by the surging Pirate Party in the European Parliament and domestically, who will no doubt rouse the European Commission to try to explain exactly what the last-minute Telecoms Package compromise on Three Strikes actually means, particularly in the context of the newly incorporated Charter of Fundamental Rights. Expect the British government to obfuscate on its response, especially as it must pass the Digital Economy Bill before the May 2010 election. That will lead to a proper debate in 2010 about net neutrality, both in Brussels, Washington and eventually even the UK (hopefully reading my new book 'Net Neutrality' available free online now!).
The new Tory government will then have to prove that it has some principles by cancelling ID cards and talking tough on personal liberty, ISP liability, state surveillance and digital privacy - how soon it does so will be a key test of their currently half-baked IT policy. Will its pre-election promises result in them reaching for the Sky? 2010 will see further international developments on social network and search co-regulation and net neutrality, led by the resurgent consumer champion Commissioner Reding and the quite radical Obama administration (as I predicted last year). Expect several inevitable changes at the top of Ofcom and the BBC, and growing business as well as consumer pressure on Ofcom to 'do something' about our failing broadband competitiveness. Every corporate wage-slave will hate both our grindingly slow recovery from recession (slowest in the G20) and being dragged kicking and screaming to migrate from XP to 'NOT my idea' Windows 7.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Forecasting 2020: complete control and/or innovation?

Andrew Odlyzko 3-pager on the next decade: '[While fixed-mobile incumbents will continue to resist open platforms] others may find that the only way to survive is to exploit their one natural advantage, that of being able to provide big neutral pipes with low latency. That might lead to a surge in available bandwidth, and intensified growth in high-bandwidth innovation.'

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Net neutrality hits the UK mainstream: NOTW story on iPhone and 02

Its interesting to see even the chavs are now deemed interested in zettafloods and crawling mobile 'broadband' speeds: nice of 02 to point out the difference between video and text traffic, from the richest to the poorest game on network traffic....'O2 technology chief Derek McManus explained: "Watching a YouTube video on a smartphone can use the same capacity on the network as sending 500,000 text messages simultaneously. In the past 12 months the mobile industry has seen an unprecedented change in demand."
Poor mobiles, shouldn't have sold iPhones in the first place...?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Kroes will continue to shake up DG INFSO

Now you may have noticed that most senior technologists are male. You may have also noticed that the last Commissioner was a very glamorous (for Brussels and Luxembourg, certainly!) woman - and that the new Commissioner's cabinet is majority women (great touch that she chose to sit on the floor in the photo!). I predict a certain feminising influence being exerted in the first year of the new DG, where almost all the heads of unit are men, especially in Directorate B, the policy Directorate.

Job title creation in Brussels: SEVEN vice-presidents

Its like a US corporation - everyone gets made Vice-President of the European Commission! That includes both Kroes and Reding...note the CV link doesn't work;-)

  • Joaquín ALMUNIA: Competition. Vice-President of the Commission.
  • Baroness Catherine ASHTON: High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security and Vice-President of the Commission.
  • Siim KALLAS: Transport. Vice-President of the Commission.
  • Neelie KROES: Digital Agenda. Vice-President of the Commission.
  • Viviane REDING: Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. Vice-President of the Commission.
  • Maroš ŠEFČOVIČ: Vice-President of the Commission for Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration.
  • Antonio TAJANI: Industry and Entrepreneurship. Vice-President of the Commission.

Nellie Kroes: new Commissioner for INFSO

The European Commission announced its reshuffle - and its difficult to say what happened to Reding - was she promoted or pushed aside? She's now Vice-President and responsible for the cross-cutting brief on implementing the Charter of Fundamental Rights that comes in with the Lisbon 'Constitution' but most of her brief seems to be spin-doctoring for Barrroso. In any case, she'll stay involved in the Internet-access-as-human-right meme.
The new Commissioner is formerly of DG COMP, where she was initially considered less than 'adequate' but eventually respected as a tough old bird (she's 68). Her portfolio is reduced by moving the billion-Euro MEDIA programme back to Education&Culture, from which Reding lifted her Audiovisual/Media units in moving back in 2005 (Francophone Audiovisual stays adrift in the telecoms empire). So this is back to a purer neo-liberal techno-economic DG, with its enormous framework research budget and responsibility for implementing the new Telecoms Package.
Does that make Kroes an adjunct of DG COMP on telecoms matters? There's certainly not much significant policy left to fiddle with. She's been shunted out of breaking up the crisis-stricken banking sector. But after beating up Microsoft and Intel, she obviously has an eye for multinational oligopoly - which will now be tested to the full.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

'Net Neutrality - The Book': out in 2-3 weeks

The book has been in production for a while, but I now have the corrected page proofs and it should be available online by mid-December and in bookshops early in 2010. I will post the link to the CC version here. Any potential reviewers, including blog reviewers (yes, it will be viral) who want a free review copy, email me.
Anyone reading this who wants a hardback copy at 40%, can also email me.

Surveillance-industrial complex: DPI trials for Virgin

I have elsewhere discussed the incentives for ISPs and spooks to work together on DPI and other surveillance techniques, measured in cash terms against ISPs' core business of providing connectivity. Now Virgin has entered a trial with a subsidiary of BAE, the UK's largest arms dealer and most sophisticated large-scale technology exporter, to instigate DPI inspection of aggregated subscriber traffic - identifying pirated material according to copyright industry claims, using both deep and shallow packet inspection.
It will be interesting to see whether Virgin subscribers increasingly resort to encryption in response.

Internet TV without the Internet: from those nice people at D-Telekom

Here's the ultimate anti-NN solution: offer people Internet TV and phone service but no Internet connection. Avoid Internet TV, avoid VOIP, but make them pay through the nose for video and voice. Genius. Wonder who's stoopid enough to subscribe?
‘With Entertain Pur we offer telephone and TV from a single source, reaching new user groups for our Entertain service,’ noted Christian P. Illek, T-Home board member, adding, ‘Customers who are not interested in internet services do not have to miss out on the innovative possibilities of Entertain any longer.’ The package includes over 120 TV channels, as well as access to an online video store, TV archive, time-shift function and HD content.

UK ISP landscape changing

Ofcom's latest market research (yes, 3 months ago! I'm slowly catching up) shows that the SMS texting market is almost as big as the fixed-mobile broadband market. That's really quite stunning, but shows where margins can be made - on 160 character texts. Fixed and wholesale revenues, and fixed lines, continue to decline, as does cable market share, and mobile voice is finally ceasing its growth.
So what happens next? Figure 4.6 shows TalkTalk has 25% market share, BT 26%, Orange (formerly mighty Freeserve) only 5% and cable 22% (down by half in the five years of mergers). Sky has taken its market share of about 13% mainly from cable and the TalkTalk partners.
Well, that means that infrastructure players control over 60% of the retail market - Sky with its satellite infrastructure has plenty of incentive to stop free video jacking up its BT backhaul costs. There is only really one competitive player in the UK: TalkTalk.
Notice who has been the most vocal consumer rights champion in the 'Three Strikes' debate? Yes, that single big  competitive player, the only game in town against the throttlers? But why should TalkTalk be such a consumer advocate - does it make sense? Only if that keeps regulatory costs down, otherwise it might as well throw its lot in with the oligopoly.
This is not an attractive market structure for net neutrality. Competition solves all problems, claims Ofcom...

Co-regulation by law: affected stakeholders all opposed...

Pesky constituents don't want the government's new plan! Both ISPs, who claim they were misrepresented by the minister when they decidedly oppose the 'Three Strikes' proposals, and domain name registrars, are highly critical of the Digital Economy Bill.
The former say its expensive, unworkable and of course inimical to consumer rights, the latter have been in the government's sights for some time and just don't buy any argument for an emergency government takeover threat...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Paid peering gets discovered by anti-NN lobbyists....

Sigh, a wonderfully flamed commentary that appears to almost entirely miss the point - lucky that the FCC has Jon Peha and Sharon Gillett to sort the wheat from the chaff...

Rupert and the enemies of openness...

News Corp. and Microsoft is one thing - bada-Bing - but its Murdoch's combination of Hollywood copyright and main street newspapers that makes his influence so critical - particularly in the UK prior to the 2010 Election, but also in the US leading up to the midterms...
Note also that opposing Google is opposing the Democrat White House, but its less certain here. Which way will policy swing? Will Mandelson bend towards copyright industries to prove his love for Rupert's products? How deep is Jeremy Hunt's debt to the Murdoch papers and Sky?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Digital Economy Bill - co-regulation by order

The new Bill was just published and its details will be fascinating to observe - I won't make detailed comments at this stage given that the Three Strikes law may be substantially amended and I won't follow Parliamentary debate in detail (just too busy elsewhere). It will have to shift fast to be finished before Parliament breaks before Easter to hold a General Election.

800lb gorillas of the Internet: Google and China?

Two very interesting pieces on strategy by the biggest players on the Internet - first Google working its 'less than free' strategy, actually subsidising software and hardware developers who work with Google Maps, Chrome OS etc., all based on a split of advertising, notably geo-locational ads. Its a massive challenge to Microsoft, Apple, Nokia.
Secondly, China has both bitch-slapped the IGF and properly rejoined ICANN - so its playing a more insider role in Internet governance discussions.
Watch both gorillas carefully, they could be game-changers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dutch minister on implementing Telecoms Package - courtesy of R. vd berg

I have been following Rudolf's posts on the Dutch net neutrality meeting - and the minister's words seem to confirm that transparency and the one-day switch procedure will be the key to their response, rather than detailed analysis of what 'reasonable network management' means - that may be left to the EC.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Net Neutrality at the IGF

Diplo Foundation has organized a 3-hour workshop that occupies the very end of the IGF, Wednesday at 1400 Egyptian time. The line-up of potential speakers is pretty incredible (we'll see who sticks around;-):
Robert Pepper, Vice President Global Technology Policy, CISCO
Thomas Lenard, President and Senior Fellow, Technology Policy Institute
Ian Peter, Internet Governance Caucus
Emmanuel Edet, National Information Technology Development Agency, Nigeria
Andrea Renda, Head of the Regulatory Affairs Programme, CEPS
Dr. Jovan Kurbalija, Director, DiploFoundation
Chuck Kisselburg, Director of Strategic Partnerships, CommunityDNS
Steve Purser, ENISA
Robert Schischka, CERT-Austria
Professor Belhassan Zouari, CEO National Agency for Computer Security (ANSI) and head of CERT-Tunisia
N. Ravi Shanker, CEO, National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI)
Jacquelynn Ruff, Vice President International Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Verizon Communications
Jake E. Jennings, Executive Director, International External and Regulatory Affairs, AT&T
Robert Guerra, Freedom House/Privaterra
Henry Owera, Government of Southern Sudan
Marilia Maciel, Center of Technology and Society - FGV
Chris Steck, Public Policy Directorate, Telefónica, S.A
Dr. Amr Badawi, CEO, NTRA Egypt
Willy Jensen, Director General, NPT Norway
Vanessa Copetti Cravo, ANATEL - Brazilian Telecommunication Agency
Parminder Jeet Singh, Internet Governance Caucus
Michael Truppe, Constitutional Service Media Affairs Coordination Information Society Austria
Vladimir Radunovic, Coordinator of Internet Governance Programmes, DiploFoundation
Chuck Kisselburg, Director of Strategic Partnerships, CommunityDNS
Ambassador David A. Gross, former U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy at the U.S. Department of State

Internauts and pharoahs: the Telecoms Package sold to the world

Catherine Trautman MEP (author of the compromise on Amendment 138) and Viviane Reding both were in Sharm el Sheikh this weekend, participating in the 4th Internet Governance Forum - where protests against Chinese firewalls were removed for fear of offending those fearful dictators as Obama just did (and Egypt itself is a ruthless dictatorship) - mildly ironic that they allowed Tim Berners Lee to launch the WWW Foundation devoted to the Web and society in such a place...
"If we are not allowed to discuss topics such as internet censorship, surveillance and privacy at a forum on internet governance, then what is the point of the IGF?" Ron Deibert, co-founder of the OpenNet Initiative told BBC News.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Art Brodsky: net neutrality 'opposite' to Fairness Doctrine

Interesting Huffington Post about the old fairness doctrine (RIP 1949-87), and its similarities - or otherwise - to net neutrality. In truth, one is about internal pluralism in a world of limited channels, the other about external pluralism in a world of only one channel - the Internet - but with billions of routes to the citizen's eyeballs. I wrote about it in a report for the Council of Europe a decade ago, but they didn't notice much!
Call it what you like, it is regulation - which is why free market Taleban-style fundamentalists hate it:
'what both ideas have in common is the notion, which goes back to the beginnings of our telecommunications law, that the interests of the public trump those of businesses or government. The idea that clear in the earliest days of broadcasting, just as it should be clear today. Herbert Hoover said in 1925 that there has to be a "public benefit" to broadcasting. U.S. Supreme Court Justice White in the Red Lion opinion also, said: "It is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount."

Christian Sandvig explains why net neutrality is in trouble...

...if Comcast buys NBC Universal, do you think they'll offer Hulu to allcomers? Quite right about how far Francois Bar is ahead of the curve, too!

Commissioner lays down a consumerist manifesto for 2011-15

Mme Reding's new speech emphasizes her consumerist credentials:

'The new rules state explicitly that fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens must be respected by Member States taking measures regarding use of services or applications via the telecoms networks. These measures must be appropriate, proportionate and necessary and in particular, they must respect the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy. Let me list some of the concrete changes that will be introduced as a result of the reform.
  • A European consumer, while keeping the same number, will be able to change mobile operator within one day.
  • Under the new telecoms rules , consumers will receive better information to ensure that they understand the services they are subscribing to, what they can and cannot do and the corresponding contracts will have to be specific including reference to being listed in telephone directories.
  • The new rules will ensure that European consumers have an even greater choice of competing broadband service providers.
  • Net neutrality and net freedom as well new transparency requirements are part of the deal.
  • There will also be better protection against personal data breaches and spam...
With the unanimous agreement of the Parliament and of the Council, a strong signal was given to European citizens on internet freedom, consumer rights and consumer choice in the digital environment.'

and also speaks to the place of self-regulation and privacy for e-commerce:

'Privacy must, in my view, be a high priority for social networking providers and for their users. I firmly believe that at least the profiles of minors must be private by default and unavailable to internet search engines. The European Commission has already called on social networking sites to deal with minors' profiles carefully, by means of self-regulation. I am ready to follow this up with new rules if I have to. But only if there is no other way.... The Commission is closely monitoring the use of behavioural advertising to ensure respect for our privacy rights. I will not shy away from taking action where an EU country falls short of this duty. A first example is the infringement action the Commission has taken with regard to the United Kingdom in the Phorm case.'
But what place for trustmarks?
'The Digital Europe strategy could also give a new impetus to the development of a self-regulatory system for European websites to build consumer trust...The issue of trustmarks has been on the agenda for a very long time and I see very little progress towards a European system. That is why industry and consumer associations, I am thinking of the BEUC in particular, must get together to establish a sustainable European trustmark which, I believe, could give our users the confidence needed to "surf abroad" and profit from our large market online. The Commission stands ready to act, if needed.'
Legislation or a Communication to follow? Trustmarks have never taken off properly...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New US legal treatment on First Amendment and net neutrality

There's a new Stanford Press book - refreshingly brief at 151 pages plus voluminous notes - which I can't tell you much about as it focuses entirely on the US debate and the 1st Amendment, but if you're from there, it might be worth a read. Jon Palfrey reviews it here.

Interception Modernisation Programme into background - first Tory privacy test?

Alan Johnson has kicked the IMP legislation into the long grass, with no upcoming Bill meaning it'll be an early test for the Tories in 2010-11 dealing with GCHQ and some pretty serious DPI needed to track all our data. ISPs are - ahem - unconvinced by it...maybe we won't have DPI for breakfast, lunch and dinner after all?

Net neutrality exported by Genachowski? ITU discussion

Those clueless bureaucrats who inhabit most of the dusty telecoms ministries are to be told about the future by the FCC's neutralist-in-chief. I hope he doesn't expect more than polite ignorance - Rudolf van der Berg twitters that those who aren't asleep have no idea what IP interconnection is!
"Our goals are to ensure that consumers and the market can pick winners and losers; to promote competition; and to promote continued investment and innovation as our Internet future unfolds. At the FCC, we have started a proceeding aimed at preserving an open and unfettered Internet. This proceeding is not about government regulation of the Internet. It's about ensuring that no one, not the government and not companies that provide Internet access, restricts the free flow of lawful information and services over the Internet. We believe that broadband is the future of mobile, and also that mobile is a key part of the strategy for broadband."

Where we are: net neutrality lite

Now that the EU, USA and Canada are on the brink of enforcing transparency and reasonableness tests on ISPs (and talking about mobile), here's a reminder of my 'lite' analysis.
Apologies for slow updating - I'm in the UK on 3 mobile 'midband' - useless!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Glass half-full? La Quadrature analysis

A lot of lawyers are scrambling to decipher what the new Article 1.3a means - clearly it allows for adjudication and then potentially a fair trial at a later stage - after being cut off or before? Here's La Quadrature's analysis, which is a lot more balanced than some might expect:

The new provision gives2 "effective judicial protection and due process", guarantees "the principle of presumption of innocence and the right to privacy" and the respect of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
However, the text only speaks of "a prior fair and impartial procedure" instead of a prior ruling by the judicial authorities, guaranteed by the original "amendment 138", and contains loopholes and ambiguities. The invalidation of freedom-killer measures such as "three strikes policies" will now depend on interpretation by the European Court of Justice and national courts. Moreover, the text only relates to measures taken by Member States and thereby fails to bar telecom operators and entertainment industries from knocking down the founding principle of Net neutrality.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Engstrom of Pirate Party hails new language as a victory

This is very interesting - the fact that some kind of prior tribunal needs to hear a disconnection appeal, and the need for judicial hearings after disconnection, is seen as positive by the Pirate and Green parties. That's more explicable when you see what the Council wanted as a sting in the tail of the recital!
"This shall not Affect the competence of a Member State, in conformity with its own constitutional order and with fundamental rights, to establish, inter alia, a requirement of a judicial decision Authorizing the measures to be ceilings."

European Parliament caves in as expected - Telecoms Package will be national law by 2011

That was quick, no messing around pretending to stand on principle!
A review of where we stand:
  • Following a series of Trialogue and CoReper meetings, the Presidency proposed new text to replace Amendment 138/46 for consideration at the first Conciliation Committee meeting last evening 4th November (to be inserted as a new Article 1 paragraph 3a of the Framework Directive 2002/21/EC);
  • The Council (27 member states) fully supported this text ;

  • The Citizens' Rights directive (amending the Universal Service and e-Privacy directives) along with the Regulation establishing BEREC was approved at the General Affairs Council on 26th October - Member States have 18 months to implement these from the the point of publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.
  • Here's the new text in the Framework Directive Article 1.3a (subject to a final vote in the European Parliament):
    Any of these measures regarding end-users' access to or use of service and applications through electronic communications networks liable to restrict those fundamental rights or freedoms may only be imposed if they are appropriate, proportionate and necessary within a democratic society, and their implementation shall be subject to adequate procedural safeguards in conformity with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and with general principles of Community law, including effective judicial protection and due process.

    Accordingly, these measures may only be taken with due respect for the principle of presumption of innocence and the right to privacy. A prior fair and impartial procedure shall be guaranteed, including the right to be heard of the person or persons concerned subject to the need for appropriate conditions and procedural arrangements in duly substantiated cases of urgency in conformity with European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The right to an effective and timely judicial review shall be guaranteed.

    Monday, November 02, 2009

    120,000 poorer households to lose Internet due to Labour tax?

    The maths is simple - raising Internet prices 50p/month to pay for rural connections will not only distort whatever market there may be out there in middle-class rural idylls, but also will increase prices 3%, reducing the market 0.6% and therefore 120,000 households. Charlie Dunstone speaks more sense - and of course has a hotline to David Cameron's team!
    The tax is the 'flagship' with 'Three strikes' of the Digital Economy Bill out this month - the dying flail of the Labour government.

    Saturday, October 31, 2009

    Proof reading the next week - and thanks reader(s)!

    I am now proof reading the book, which should be out by Bloomsbury within the month - check back in for the URL for the Creative Commons download.

    This has been the busiest NN month on record, with the US and Canadian rulings and the European Conciliation. You (i.e. the blog audience) is now 700 visitors a month and 1200 page views - which is double its previous level.

    Thanks for reading and do comment on anything you find interesting or news I have missed. Adelante!

    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Ofcom broadband speed Code of Practice - worth the paper its written on?

    Sigh, the much-heralded 'self'-regulatory Code of Practice needs a bit more co- and a bit less self-

    I was astonished to hear from Candian regulators that they thought this was a good model, though it had to be forced through over the near-dead bodies of fixed ISPs, mobile ISPs have ignored it, and they all routinely traffic shape and otherwise throttle.

    Here's 3 - my broadband ISP, hahahah, broadband huh? - and their advice on how I can expect 0.6-1.6mbps.

    Here's an email dashed off to Ofcom to update their website and amend a dead link:
    Dear John  On the consumer advice page, the link as typed works, but the hyperlink  doesn't! At:  It should be:    It is: http://rhprod-webstg01:8080/telecoms/ioi/copbb/list/ (dead link)  Also, the list of providers does not have any date of updating - though  you describe the list as being amended as providers wish to drop off the  list.  I note that no broadband mobile provider wants to join.  Thanks Chris

    'Three strikes' in Digital Economy Bill - but back to 2011

    Lord Mandelson has put back the date for'3 strikes' against supposed pirates to mid-2011 or later - where it started with the Digital Britain report back in June. So that's a problem for a new Tory government and an emasculated future Ofcom-lite.

    Co-regulation proposed for US - too late?

    Interesting suggestion for adoption in US of a co-regulatory scheme - how can you have audit and arbitration without government sanction - on net neutrality - now if only the industry had cooked this up before the NPRM. Will the growth of Ofcom's scheme prove a spur?

    Japan - screamingly fast open mobile networks

    Its worth exploring the future of mobile a bit - which is Japan, led by Sacchio Semoto, who opened up long distance (KDDI) AND broadband E-access) in the 1990s, and in 2005 formed e-Mobile. It launched its HSPA network at 5Mbps in 2007, and in 2009 rolled out HSPA+ at 21Mbps. Its only in the major cities so far, but rolling out via dongles for laptops - so open access. The prices vary according to monthly bitcap.
    The important element of this story is that the entrant aggressively persued open access, not walled gardens - like 3 in Europe but on steroids. That has forced DoCoMo and others to respond, with nationwide HSPA, and UQ Comms has entered the market with WiMAX at 40Mbps in cities.
    That type of competition has really changed the original DoCoMo walled garden into super-fast open data.
    For other countries, we can dream, if only...

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    Very interesting IIC session

    Just back from a fascinating session at IIC, with a preview by the CRTC chair on their net neutrality ruling. A reminder, this is an incumbent and regulator get-together generally, so it was interesting to see three challengers to telecoms incumbents on the panel with Chris Boam (Verizon), the fairest-minded of network operators. They were Chris Libertelli of Skype, Michael Geist of UOttawa, and the CBC rep, who just spent 16 years with Sky in the UK and revealed his independence by praising the dread Ofcom (which Sky has trash-talked for 6 months!).

    So, to highlights, and lets begin with the Canadian ruling in detail. CRTC has essentially challenged both wired and wireless operators to cause a consumer complaint on blocking apps. The wireless part is somewhat new. It will require a complaint to turn this general ruling into individual case-bound rules. Geist pointed out that we could get either too many complaints (every time your connection times out you complain, as when Videotron resets my connection at noon each day), or too few, as consumers are not sufficiently empowered to sort through evidence. I should have thought CIPPIC or another consumer friend will bring a case - perhaps against wireless - soon. Certainly the fixed ops' questions revealed their continued intransigence (Telus wierdly thinks its new 3.5G network will somehow be quicker than Japan's 4G e-mobile!). So expect fireworks this winter.

    The panellists all seemed to agree that case-by-case decisions by regulators will outpace any legislative approach - and that co-regulation will be faster still (collated reporting and notice on new apps, so that regulators can issue 30-day cease-and-desist). Michael Geist asked whether the throttling practices revealed - Bell's 4.30pm-2am 'peaktime' for instance - could be maintained in the face of the notice.

    When it came to praising solutions adopted, some bizarrely praised Ofcom, which is case so far unproven, and no-one chose to mention the Norwegian working solution. Ah well, c'est la vie - and net neutrality is only a part of fast broadband, after all.

    An excellent panel, well worth a cycle ride through the fall colours!

    Michael Geist on CRTC ruling - implications

    Michael has reflected on the CRTC ruling, and offers a glass half-full analysis of what CRTC mandated:
    1. 'adopted a new test to determine reasonable traffic management practices. Where a consumer complains, ISPs will be required to describe their practices, demonstrate their necessity, and establish that they discriminate as little as possible. The CRTC added that targeting specific applications or protocols may warrant investigation and slowing down time-sensitive traffic likely violates current Canadian law. '
    2. 'rejected arguments that the market would ensure ISPs provide adequate disclosure on how they manage their networks. Instead, it mandated full disclosure of traffic management practices, including information on when they occur, which applications are affected, and their impact on Internet speeds.'
    3. 'banned the use of personal information obtained through deep-packet inspection for anything other than traffic management purposes. By also prohibiting the disclosure of such information, the commission ensured that inspecting user traffic cannot be parlayed into marketing opportunities.'

    He then offers three suggestions for improvement without needing new legislation:
    'Critics of the CRTC approach rightly note that the onus falls to consumers to compile evidence of traffic management practices that run afoul of the commission's test and file complaints. [Clement] can go several steps further by asking the CRTC to conduct regular compliance audits of ISP traffic management practices and by providing financial support to consumer groups who wish to conduct their own investigations. Clement could incorporate net neutrality requirements directly into the [analogue TV refarmed spectrum] bidding process, effectively mandating neutrality into new wireless services. Finally, Clement should acknowledge that net neutrality concerns are largely a function of an uncompetitive marketplace that allows ISPs to leverage their positions without fear of losing customers.'
    Fix that and things might improve - though I have long maintained no ISP has incentives to allow free P2P hosting.