Business internet

ISPA Awards 2009 Internet Hero and Villain finalists

It’s worth looking at the heroes and villains finalists for this year’s ISPA Awards. The spiel that goes with each is an adequate summary of why they are in the list and needs no further comment from me. The heroes all deserve to win and the villains all deserve to lose.

On balance my vote goes to Stephen Carter for Hero. Whether he will have left a worthwhile legacy with the Digital Britain Report remains to be seen but at least he tried.

As far as Villains go I think they should all be locked up in the big brother house and the winner is the winner, if you know what I mean. Otherwise if I had to vote I’d go for Sarkozy because of the port blockades, air traffic controller strikes etc 🙂

Internet Hero

• Billy Bragg and the Featured Artists Coalition – “For recognising publicly that the focus of music companies should be the development of new business models for distributing content online rather than attempting to pass responsibility to ISPs to take action against users”

• Community Broadband Network – “For their relentless pursuit and support for next generation access at grass roots level”

• European Parliament – “For rejecting by a significant majority an amendment to the Telecom Package designed to allow disconnection of users’ Internet connections for alleged copyright infringement without direct judicial oversight”

• Lord Carter – “For his attempt to bring a holistic view to government policy across the communications spectrum”

• Thomas Gensemer – “For showcasing the enormous power of the Internet in leading Barack Obama’s online presidential campaign”

Internet Villain

• Baroness Vadera – “For excluding a number of ISPs and Rights Holders in agreeing a Memorandum of Understanding that was exclusive and ineffective in progressing relations between the two industries”

• European Parliament – “For supporting an amendment to the Telecom Package on cookies which could yet bring the Internet to a standstill”

• President Nicolas Sarkozy – “For his continued commitment to the HADOPI law, which advocates a system of graduated response, despite repeated arguments suggesting the law is disproportionate from a number of important groups including the European Parliament”

• Stephen Conroy and the Australian Government – “For continuing to promote network-level blocking despite significant national and international opposition”

Following the publication of the Digital Britain Report there was a late entry suggestion that Lord Carter might also appear as a Villain with his 50 pence tax on phone lines. This missed the deadline so he stays as just a goodie on the list.

Timico has a table at the ISPAs. Look me up if you are there.

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Initial Take on Digital Britain Report

2Mbps Universal Service Obligation by 2012.
This is the minimum that people need to get into the game. In the report the government recognizes that whilst much of the country will shortly be getting access to faster broadband (aka BT 40Mbps Fibre To The Cabinet or 50Mbps Virgin cable) a significant chunk won’t, which will exacerbate the Digital Divide.

The Government is therefore looking to promote/fund the extension of this Next Generation Access network into these “excluded” areas. I have been saying that 2Mbps is not enough and it is good that the Government clearly recognizes this.

The funding for the rural Next Gen broadband access is likely to come from a complex variety of sources. It includes a new tax levied of 50 pence on every copper phone line. I assume it includes Virgin cable connections to keep the playing field level. This will have to be passed on to customers so the immediate effect is a rise in the cost of broadband. It will also add to the overheads of the ISP which has to collect it.

The funding collected will be available on a competitive tender basis. I would expect the Government to somehow identify specific projects for funding and make the moneys available for competitive bids. Otherwise someone with BT with the massive resources available to put specific projects together would cream all the cash.

Music Piracy
Two things to say here. The Government recognizes that access to legal means of downloading music needs to improve which reinforces what the ISP industry has been saying (note the many blog posts on this subject).

Secondly the Government also wants a more graduated approach to punishing illegal downloaders. The three strikes and you are out approach has been replaced much to everyone’s relief.

We now appear to be looking at a scenario whereby the ISP would send a letter to the end user informing them that they have been identified as offenders. The next step would be to throttle the bandwidth available to users indulging in this activity or block P2P. The final resort would be legal action.

A cautionary note here. Most ISPs cannot easily block P2P. Only those big consumer players typically have the kit that can do it. Are we looking at the same scenario as the Data Retention Act where the Government only expects an ISP to follow the law only if specifically asked. In this case the ISP would have to be funded to do it.

There is also a fairly significant onus on Ofcom to make all this happen which is going to be an interesting play. I imagine it will take no small level of resource which probably doesn’t currently exist.

All in all I think this is a good report.  There were always going to be difficulties with putting together a document with such a wide remit and I’m sure that as we get time to digest it other questions will arise.  However Lord Carter should be able to move on to his fresh challenges with a reasonable sense of satisfaction.

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Digital Britain Final Report Delayed a Few Days

BERR on Friday issued a statement to say that the Digital Britain Final Report will not now be released on Tuesday as planned. Instead it is being presented to the Cabinet tomorrow and will be released later in the week.

There is also a meeting between Lord Carter and a few industry representatives tomorrow afternoon.  ISPA is being represented at that meeting so I will report back later.

There is a huge amount of expectation surrounding the publication of the Digital Britain report.  We think we know what is going to be in it but can’t be sure. However it turns out I’m sure it is going to spark a huge amount of debate.  Let’s enjoy the last few days of peace before it hits the street 🙂

Note the BERR statement isn’t actually a BERR statement. It is a Joint statement from Departments for Business, Innovation and Skills and Culture Media and Sport. I’m not politicaslly motivated but this does seem ridiculous. BISCMS ?!!! I could only just get my tongue around BERRRRRR.

Hot off the press – apparently the report will now be available on the DCMS website at 3.30 pm tomorrow.

Business internet

Changes afoot to the landscape of the digital highway

The economic downturn seems likely to spring some surprises in the internet world . In an interview with the Guardian Newspaper over the weekend Prime Minister Gordon Brown discussed his plans to fund the employment of 100,000 people in the UK. He was quoted as comparing the need to invest in a high speed digital infrastructure for the UK with the way that Franklin D Roosvelt spent his way out of the US recession in the 1930s by investing in capital projects.

This comes at the same time as a Sunday Times article that suggests that Lord Carter, the UK Communications Minister is about to do away with BT’s Universal Service Obligation. This is the law whereby BT has to guarantee to provide a fixed line communications service to everyone that wants it in the UK.

It would appear that the large mobile operators are likely to have to share the cost of this with BT. In difficult to service rural areas the fixed line network could be replaced with mobile technology. 

What will be interesing is to see who is likely to benefit from Gordon Brown’s investment plan. I would imagine that there will be a number of network operators lining up with their hands outstretched for Government money. We shouldn’t assume that it will just be BT, although they are clearly well placed to take advantage.

With mobile operators having to support USO it looks to me as if we will be going back to the old days where a network operator (BT in those days) was both a fixed and mobile player This time round perhaps we will see a true competitor to BT emerging from the pack.