Categories
Business internet Regs

ISPA Conference – unbelievably great offer (etc)

Have I got a deal for you. The highlight of the annual conference season that is the ISPA Conference is fast approaching. I am chairing a session. Last year I chaired a session (can’t remember what on – I don’t dwell in the past) and caught the 07.20 from Lincoln to Kings X which was slightly delayed and arrived at 09.35. No probs I thought. Still got plenty of time as the conference didn’t start until 10am.

In the taxi on the way to K&L Gates in the City (Bill’s dad apparently) it occurred to me that I wasn’t entirely sure what time my slot started so I called someone at ITSPA to check. Apparently I was first on! It was almost like a scene from a movie where someone is dashing to get to an appointment or the opening scene of a play that they were in (you get the drift) and just make it in time.

I appeared at the back of the lecture theatre and strode down to the stage discarding coat and laptop bag on the way. At 10am exactly I introduced the panelists:)  I also had to chair the next panel as somebody else had had to cancel their trip.

Anyway I digress. The good folk at ISPA have asked me to promote this year’s conference. My bit is all about The Future ISP:

“What will an ‘ISP’ look like in 10 years’ time? A look at ISPA membership demonstrates how diverse the Internet industry is.  Whether it is small business, corporate or consumer connectivity, hosting or the delivery of TV, search, social networks or other services over the top, the expectation of what services an ISP provides is changing . This session will analyse what the internet industry will look like in 5, 10 or 15 years’ time.”

Key themes are (apparently):

  • What are the key challenges that ISPs will have to face?
  • What the key opportunities that ISPs will be able to exploit?
  • What are the key trends that shape the business environment for ISPs?
  • Is there a future in offering connectivity alone?

The other speakers are:

  • Dana Pressman Tobak, Managing Director, Hyperoptic
  • David Barker, Founder & Technical Director, 4D Data Centres
  • Matthew Hare, Chief Executive, Gigaclear

More details are available here. ISPA are offering some sweeteners for those who want to come. The first two people to put their hands up get a free ticket (you put your hands up by leaving a comment on this blog post saying that you are putting your hand up and want to come). Everyone who is disappointed at not getting in their hads up quickly enough can get a huge 50% discount by using the promo code TREF50 at the Eventbrite page here.

On a serious note this is a very useful conference and also brings with it good networking opportunities. You will also get to find out what the internet industry will look like in 15 years – which is why I’m going. Bring your crystal balls and we can have a seergazing session – ommmmm.

PS I dunno if seergazing is a word but it is now.

Categories
Business events internet peering

Joint Lonap/ISPA bash

Lonap and ISPA are having a bit of a bash in September. If you are a member of either org or not a member and but in the internet industry and potentially a member, we want to see you there.

It’s on 24th September at the Phoenix Artist Club in London. Check out the details here.

Categories
Business fun stuff surveillance & privacy

ISPA Internet Hero and Villain Finalists

Normally I like to add value to a news item if I am going to comment on it.  I see so many scraper websites that pick up my stuff you wonder what they get out of it.

I have just sat down to comment on the press release from ISPA announcing the internet Hero and Villain finalists for this year’s ISPA Awards. I found however that ISPA had already put across  much of what I might have said. I have therefore reproduced it below in its entirety with links to where you can buy tickets for the Awards on 11th July.

I will say that as one of those with a vote for these awards it is always easy to find candidates for heroes but not so for the villain. Actually that isn’t right. There are plenty of MPs that we could line up with very little understanding for how the internet works but with their own objectives in controlling it. I’m speaking personally here and not on behalf of ISPA but we have to be careful how we approach the subject of internet regulation in the UK. We need to work with MPs to help make things better in a sensible way without shooting from the hip in an emotion filled gunfight.

The winners will be announced on the night of the awards and you can read the ISPA release below. There are some great “goodies” and some shocking “baddies” taken, the internet being the global entity that it is, from around the world.

ISPA release:

Categories
Business internet Regs

ISPA on the up – Facebook is new member

Trefor Davies Good news for the Internet Service Providers Association ISPA with Facebook joining its membership ranks. The trade association is becoming increasingly relevant in a world where there is a constant threat of regulation. We have to be careful that regulation does not stymie the explosive growth that has characterised the internet since its inception.

The argument is often a difficult one to get across. For example the debate over preventing access to pornography to children or how to approach the issue of online surveillance for the prevention of crime. On the face of it none of us want our kids exposed to porn and we all want to stop crime but there are wider ramifications to our personal rights and privacy that need to be well understood before anyone signs up to some of these proposed measures.

We have to have a grown up approach to the subject of internet regulation and have to be sensible to the fact that in a world that has moved online the problems have moved with it. It is fair that those that we pay to we pay to protect us should expect our cooperation when they ask for help in doing this. It isn’t always palatable to say no though sometimes it needs doing.

ISPA has over two hundred stakeholders and therefore has a difficult job in treading a line that is seen to be acceptable to all. The trade body by its very nature has also to work in very close cooperation with government departments, often helping to shape draft laws before they hit the public eye.

ISPA does a very good job of this and is also streetwise enough to understand how to approach “problems” such as the Draft Communications Data Bill that can sometimes be thrown out of left field1.  It is therefore an an endorsement of the organisation that the likes of Facebook and Google want to throw their weight behind it and I look forward to working with the ISPA team in 2013.

1 that’s the “on” side for the cricketers amongst us, at least the right handed ones.

Categories
Business ofcom Regs surveillance & privacy

#DEAct continues to cause problems as Parliamentary joint committee highlights concerns with cost sharing mechanisms

The Digital Economy Act, which you may recall was rushed through by the last government with inadequate consultation in the desperate dying days of its tenure continues to create a stir. This time the joint committee on Statutory Instruments has strongly criticised the Draft Online Infringement (Initial Obligations) (Sharing of Costs) Order 2012 which Ofcom is also currently consulting on.

The Order has been brought by the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) no doubt trying to clear the decks before they all shoot off to watch the London 2012 perform official duties at the olympics. In its report the joint committee says:

This instrument is drawn to the special attention of the House on the grounds that it gives rise to issues of public policy likely to be of interest to the House and it may imperfectly achieve its policy objective

Criticisms include:

  • Concern that the Order had been laid in the House whilst consultation was still ongoing and is not based on full information
  • Lack of detail from rights holders or a commitment that they would actually use the notification system to its fullest (what’s that all about? why would they go to so much effort to get a law passed to support their private business interest and then not use its powers?)
  • Insufficient evidence is provided to judge whether £20 “appeal fee” is the appropriate amount given that significant parts of the structure of the scheme and the appeal mechanism are still undecided.

The whole sad, sorry story continues.

PS thanks to ISPA for being around to constantly monitor this stuff. Someone has to read through and interpret the detailed legal blurb that comes out of Parliament.

Categories
Business internet Regs

New council members needed for ISPA – AGM 12th July

The ISPA AGM is coming up on Thursday 12th July 2012 at 16:30pm at 1 Castle Lane, London, SW1E 6DR.  If you or anyone you know is interested in standing for election on the Council this is your chance. Membership of the council is a really good way to meet people in the industry and to get to understand all the issues facing us.

The mix of organisations represented includes BT, O2, C&W, Timico, Zen Internet, LINX and Vispa. In my mind we have some gaps – maybe someone from Google or Facebook or both could get involved. We are talking internet services here – not just straight connectivity.

The rate of pace of change in our industry is growing fast. There are threats from over regulation that we need to keep on top of – the forthcoming Comms Bill for example. Being on the Council of ISPA puts you right at the centre of the debate and gives you a chance to influence decisions that could be very important to the future of your business.

Anyone interested in a Council role should contact [email protected] or phone Michaela Zemanova on 020 3397 3304. You can tell ’em I sent you if you like:)

Otherwise I hope to see you at the AGM.

All the best.

Categories
Business Regs surveillance & privacy

And the winner is – ISPA Internet Hero and Villain

I am pleased to report that this year’s Internet Hero is Professor Ian Hargreaves. His report on the problems associated with online copyright infringement was a sensible measured work that has been well received by many.

The villain is ACS Law/Andrew Crossley. Nuff said.

The awards were announced at the 2011 ISPA Awards held last night at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in town. As usual I was there. As usual I have pre written this post as I will not have the chance or inclination to write it in the morning.

There were some good candidates for the Hero and it took some discussion. The villain was an easy one to chose. May he rot forever in ignominy.

Categories
Business piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

@edvaizey answers to @tom_watson questions – take note @Marthalanefox #DEAct #deappg

portcullisYou have to be particularly interested in a topic to read Hansard, the report of parliamentary proceedings. Twitter has made it a lot easier, albeit hit and miss – you typically have to catch the tweet in the stream as it happens.

This week Ed Vaizey gave some answers to questions put by ISPA Internet Hero Tom Watson MP. Specifically Mr Vaizey said that the impact assessment on the DEAct suggested that the additional costs that would have to be applied to consumers broadband lines would have a relatively small but permanent effect of reducing demand for broadband connection by between 10,000-40,000. All assuming that the ISPs would pass on the full costs to their customers.

There are a few observations to make here.

Firstly the obvious one is that this goes against another government policy of trying to promote digital inclusion. Might the government now want to subsidise 10,000 – 40,000 broadband connections to offset the fact that they will not now be able to afford broadband. I wonder whether Martha Lane Fox, the government’s own Digital Inclusion Champion has any comments to make here?

The second point concerns the numbers used in the Impact Assessment itself. There is very little confidence within the ISP industry that the government got this right.

The Impact Assessment assumes that the total annual cost to all ISPs is between £30m and £50m. TalkTalk and BT have been suggesting that the annualized costs to their companies along are considerably higher than the total assumed for the whole industry.

The Impact Assessment clearly needs reviewing. Broadband expansion has been largely down to big cost reductions by ISPs in a very competitive market place. There is a clear relationship between broadband penetration and cost of the service. It has long since got to the point where consumer ISPs especially have had to expand their value proposition away from pure internet access because in itself this service had become unprofitable.

It would not surprise me to see a new Impact Assessment based on real costs showing a massively higher number of people that would be excluded from the broadband market.
I guess we will have to wait until after the Judicial Review to see what happens. In the meantime, c’mon Martha get your boxing gloves on. There is a fight going on here.

Link to Hansard – includes some other DEAct related questions from Tom Watson.

Categories
Business Regs surveillance & privacy

BIS announces 75:25 cost sharing proposals for DEAct

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has today finally published its response to the Digital Economy Act  (DEAct) cost sharing consultation. As expected, the Government has gone for a 75:25 rights holder to ISP split for costs of both notification and the appeals process. The Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) and others argued long and hard for a beneficiary pays principle, which suggests that in fact the BIS postition should read 100% Rights Holder pays. That was always going to be a difficult one to win considering the whole dubious history of the DEAct.

Categories
Business internet security

Facebook and CEOP collaborate on child protection

The Child Exploitation and Protection Centre (CEOP) and Facebook announced an initiative that gives Facebook users direct access to CEOP’s advice and reporting centre from their Facebook homepage.

The initiative is not based on a standard panic button solution but on a CEOP Facebook App and a CEOP Facebook page. This means that only users who install the app will have direct access to CEOP.

I have met CEOP CEO Jim Gamble during the course of meetings between CEOP and the ISPA and understand the hugely difficult nature of their job. CEOP volunteer staff have to spend much of their time looking at horrendous photographic evidence of child abuse. It isn’t something that a person can do for too long due to the mental stresses involved.

The success of the whole Facebook initiative depends on whether or not the CEOP app becomes viral. To facilitate the distribution of the app, Facebook has agreed to support the initiative via an advertising campaign.

CEOP deserves your support.

Categories
Archived Business

Timico hits the headlines at FCS Awards

I’m pleased to announce (somewhat belatedly but I was mega busy last week) that Timico was runner up in the Federation of Communication Services Communications Provider of the Year 2010 Award.

I did think about this before writing this post. Runner up doesn’t sound as good as Winner. Having thought about it though the FCS has knocking on 300 members so second out of that many isn’t so bad. We aren’t even members so nobody can say it was a stitch-up.

Next up ISPAs 8th July.

Categories
Business internet piracy Regs

Houston we have a problem – Digital Economy Bill amendment 120A #Digital Britain

The ISP industry is up in arms today as the House of Lords yesterday rushed through ill considered amendment 120A to the Digital Economy Bill proposing to allow rights holders to serve notice on ISPs to block access to sites considered by them (rightsholders) to have illegal content – music, movies, software etc.

This is a huge issue.  Rightsholders would be able to ask ISPs to block sites without a court order. If an ISP refuses and the rightsholder subsequently succeeds in getting a court injunction then the ISP will have to pay costs.

Categories
Business internet

ISP industry consolidation

Having once again set off on the acquisition trail I thought I’d check out the level consolidation that has been going on in the ISP industry.

ISPA helped out with membership stats for 2010 and 2005 that make interesting reading.

Back in 2005 ISPA had 120 members, excluding Virtual ISPs who white label someone else’s service. Today there are 137. Nothing startling there you might think. The devil, however, is in the detail.

58 ISPs (48%) on the 2005 list are not there in 2010! 25 small (42%), 7 medium (58%), 21 large (57%) and 3 corporate (33%) names have vanished from the UK ISP landscape.

What surprised me was that the disappearances in the small category were not greater but there again if an industry is going to consolidate then the larger companies represent the low hanging fruit.

I’m sure that some of the names present in 2005 have just decided not to be members of ISPA in 2010. Cisco, for example, have either decided they no longer need to be part of the ISPA party or are moving away from the internet as a market! They are of course not an ISP anyway. The trend though is clear.

Some of the household names/victims that are not in the 2010 list are shown below for effect. Most have been acquired and/or rebranded:

Bulldog Communications Ltd
Pipex
Telewest/Blueyonder
Easynet Ltd
Energis Communications Ltd
Thus Plc
NTl
Wannadoo
Mistral Internet
PSINet
Video Networks

Categories
Business piracy Regs

Digital Economy Bill Second Reading

The Second Reading of the Digital Economy Bill was held yesterday in the House of Lords. All sections of the Bill were considered, although the main focus was on clauses 4-17 that address copyright infringement. A brief summary is provided below:

  • Lord Mandelson presented the Bill, outlining the two initial obligations on ISPs and explaining the rationale behind the reserve power to impose technical sanctions. He described the clauses as proportionate. Former Cabinet Minister Lord Fowler, responding on behalf of the Conservatives, described the step-by-step process outlined in the Bill as ‘correct’, subject to RHs taking action to make their products legally accessible.
  • On behalf of the Lib Dems, Lord Razzall welcomed the Bill. He did, however, cite a number of sections that the Lib Dems were unhappy with. He requested that clause 6.5(b), which provides for retrospective penalties, be removed. He also questioned the lack of details on the apportioning of costs and the inclusion of clause 17.  He further underlined the need to honour the principles of natural justice.
  • Support for the Bill was voiced by Lord Birt, Lord Puttnam, Baroness Morris (all of whom declared rightsholder interests in this area) and Baroness Howe.
  • Baroness Miller voiced strong opposition to a number of clauses in the Bill. She suggested that the Bill would protect the old model of content distribution rather than encourage new models. She also criticised the decision to make one industry pay for the protection of another and questioned clause 15, which outlines the role of the Secretary of State in defining the level of cost recovery. The Baroness further asked the Government about the effect that increased encryption, which the Bill could cause, would have on the work of law enforcement and cited the threat that the Bill posed to open wif-fi connections.
  • Conservative peer Lord Lucas voiced a number of strong arguments against the Bill. He first questioned the motivation for legislation, explaining that this was protecting music companies rather than artists, and lamented the inability of music companies to offer legal alternatives. He also suggested that it should be compulsory for rightsholders to pursue legal action through the notification system, called for due process for consumers and requested that the Conservative front bench vote against clause 17.
  • Lord Whitty also outlined his opposition to the proposals, questioning the suggested cost to the rightsholder industry, the potential of the user to breach users’ human rights and the lack of focus on education and alternative models of content distribution.
  • Lib Dem Culture Media and Sport Spokesperson Lord Clement-Jones expressed concerns around the power that the Bill granted to the Secretary of State. Conservative Shadow Culture Media and Sport Minister Lord Howard agreed that there would have to be close scrutiny of clause 11 to understand the power being given to the Secretary of State.

At this stage of the game it is difficult to tell how this Digital Economy Bill will pan out because it seems to be getting some degree of qualifed support from all parties at the Second Reading stage.

The debate in full is available here. I understand that the Committee Stage of the Bill will begin on January 6th.  Also I am indebted to the ISPA Secretariat for this input which is mostly a plagiarism of their report.  It is a full time job keeping an eye on this stuff.

Categories
Business internet Regs

Government stuff and the cost to ISPs

I try and keep the content of this blog varied. One of the nice things about my job is that I am able to do this.

One of the recurring themes though relates to regulation.  As a board member of the ISP Association I get a lot of visibility of things going on here.  In fact a huge amount of the value that ISPA provides to the industry lies in the fact that the it does so much work in this area – thus removing the need for all ISPs to be expert. 

It is undeniable however that the regulatory pressure on ISPs is increasing and at some point this is going to start having a serious effect.  This week alone the subjects being discussed in Parliament include the Intercept Modernisation Programme (Big Brother is watching you), Music Piracy, website filtering under the Terrorism Act and Safety Online. I am afraid that in the medium to long term the cost of all this regulation (or proposed regulation) is going to mean that only larger ISPs can cope with it. 

The industry is already struggling with the network upgrade costs associated with increased use of the internet (iPlayer,SkyPlayer, interactive gaming etc etc).  A small ISP with perhaps only two or three thousand customers – and there are many of these – can’t afford the capital expense associated with this. Timico has already made three acquisitions of such ISPs.

Not everybody is fortunate to have the same private equity support and ambition as Timico and I predict that within the next five years the number of UK ISPs will shrink significantly, perhaps to fewer than 50 (from maybe 300 today). I see this as a real business opportunity because in actual fact the market is going to grow. It is just that the barrier to entry will get higher.

Categories
Business internet piracy

ISPs meet with Lord Mandelson to discuss P2P

Representatives of the big five consumer ISPs together with Nicholas Lansman of the Internet Services Providers Association met with Lord Mandelson on Wednesday to discuss P2P legislation.  I will have more details of the meeting next week.

There is quite a bit going on here and this week speaking before the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee under persistent questioning from former Minister Tom Watson MP, Secretary of State Ben Bradshaw confirmed that rightsholders would have to seek a court order before restricting or suspending users’ connections and also explained that users would have the right to appeal before any sanction was enforced. The evidence session in full is available on video here (relevant section starts at 20:35). This appears to be  a postive move from the ISP industry’s perspective.

Also an Early Day Motion tabled by Tom Watson last week has now been signed by 36 MPs, including representatives from all three main political parties. The EDM and signatories can be viewed here.

I would like to thank ISPA for this input. This level of Parliament watching requires some diligence and in the ISPA trade association the industry has a faithful servant.

Categories
Business internet Regs

Mandatory IWF support law dropped

I understand that the Government is likely to drop plans to force ISPs to support the Internet Watch Foundation’s child abuse website filter.

This is something that most consumer ISPs support our of their own choice. It is reckoned that 99% of all consumer broadband connections are prevented from accessing sites that promote child abuse/pornography. Someone had decided that mandating this was a vote winner. It is of course but the amount of effort that has to be put into making a new law is, in this case disproportionate to the benefit. ie making sure that that final 1% of broadbands get covered.

The technical solutions used to perform this filtering do not ensure 100% cover and a determined sicko could quite quickly work out how to circumvent the system.

Another storm weathered.  Regulation = increased cost. Try selling that to the customer. Previous post comment here.

Categories
Business internet piracy

Stephen Timms Digital Britain Minister

I met with Stephen Timms, Communications Minister today. His official title is Minister for Digital Britain.

I have met Government Ministers before in a long career spent lobbying Parliamentarians on behalf of various trade associations. This was my first meeting in what might be termed a formal environment. I was there with some of the ISP Association Council members to discuss topical issues pertinent to the ISP industry.

I was quite impressed with the process. We assembled in reception at 1 Victoria Street in plenty of time. At some stage an aide met us, whizzed us up to the top floor of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills. It was a round elevator – very impressive – funny what sort of things you notice.

Arriving at the 8th floor we were ushered into a holding room before moving in to see Steve himself. At the appointed time a different aide moved us into ST’s office where we said our hellos and got down to the business of the day.

I was quite impressed with Stephen Timms. Being in the Dept of BIS his remit is to look after industry and he seemed genuinely interested in doing so.

In 45 minutes there is only a limited amount we could cover. We discussed the P2P aspects of the Digital Britain report. I’ve written plenty about this. Key points put across today were that in considering the legislation the Government should ensure that a fair way of apportioning the costs was implemented and that a review of the licensing framework should be conducted.

The current proposals hinge more around sticks than carrots. If illegal music downloaders are to be pursued then a legal alternative should be offered. This is not easy at the moment because of the complexities of licensing the Intellectual Properties of the various rights holders. I’ll detail this in a separate blog post.

We also discussed “prospective effect” and, briefly, more of the Digital Britain report. I doubt many of you have heard of prospective effect – again I will need to write a separate post on this. If I said “mere conduit” perhaps that gives you a clue.

I have to apologise to those of you who wanted me to bring up the subject of broadband 2Meg Universal Service Obligation. We ran out of time on this occasion but now contact has been established there will be other opportunities. 45 minutes, though it seems short, is quite a lot of time to be given by a Government Minister. His diary is chock a block and the next lot were already waiting in the holding room as we were leaving.

As a footnote the clock in his office had stopped – funny what you notice!…

Categories
Business internet

ISPA wins award for raising industry standards

The Internet Services Provider Association has been announced as the winner of  Nominet’s Best Practice Awards in the Raising Industry Standards category. The awards recognise organisations that have embraced the challenge of making the Internet a secure, open, accessible and diverse experience for all.

The ‘Raising Industry Standards’ category honours organisations that promote high standards of ethics in business, deliver an exceptional standard of customer service to online customers, promote Corporate Social Responsibility within the Internet industry and take a leading role in developing consumer confidence in the Internet.

ISPA was able to prove that it has worked with members to ensure high standards through adherence to the mandatory Code of Practice and voluntary Best Practice documents. ISPA further cited its cooperation with Government in promoting effective self-regulation and its third party dispute resolution service for consumers as examples of raising standards in the sector.

I pinched that spiel from the ISPA website but I have to say I am proud to be involved with this activity.  The ISPA is a very well run professional  trade association which does a great deal of good work for the industry.

Nominet, for those of you who have never registered your own .uk domain name, manages all the UK’s domain names(eg .co.uk, .org.uk).  Last time I looked there were around 8 million of these. The day will come where everyone will have their own domain name. If anyone is interested, in my will  in  I am leaving trefor.net to my 9 year old. Funnily enough at this time he isn’t quite sure that this is a good thing.  He will come around to my view in time.

Categories
Business events

ISPA council meeting, AGM and Awards do

Busy day tomorrow so I thought I’d get this post in today because I certainly won’t be writing anything during the ISPA Awards.

At 10am I have an ISPA council meeting, followed by the AGM at 12.15 and the annual ISPA Awards bash in the evening.  I haven’t been to this event before so I am looking forward to it, especially as Timico is a finalist in the “Best Business Customer Service” category.

I’ll let you know how we get on plus any publishable/non-incriminating  photos from the night.

It’s also  the Nominet AGM today so if I have any feedback from that I’ll let you know.

Categories
broadband Business Regs

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.

Categories
End User internet

Sorry kids but exams are going to get harder

All ISPA members are tomorrow being sent a letter (ispa-_-qca ) from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority asking for their help during the forthcoming school examination season.

The QCA is concerned about the risk of unlawful publication of examination test questions on the internet and in particular that the usual routes for a copyright owner to request an ISP to take down unlawfully published information may not react quickly enough to avoid serious disruption to the national curriculum tests. This situation has apparently been the case in the past.

The QCA is therefore requesting that ISPA Members co-operate with QCA by providing alternative contact information which would be used to notify an unlawful publication of test materials and to request an emergency take down.

I am happy to help here of course. However I can see a problem with the approach. For example it is quite possible for kids to upload this information to non UK based sites who might not be interested in helping the QCA and who indeed the QCA will never have heard of.

Still notwithstanding this I can only say “sorry kids – you will have to pass the exam without an advanced sight of the questions – the way we all had to”.

Categories
Business internet

Swine flu already affecting ISP industry in UK

I was looking forward to writing today’s blog post because I had a meeting lined up with Stephen Carter, UK Government  Minister for Communications.  It was, I’m sure, going to provide me with rich pickings with which to fuel the blog.

Unfortunately this was cancelled at the last minute because the Minister was called into an “urgent cross-Government meeting” to discuss the impending swine flu pandemic.

The meeting was between several members of the ISPA council and Stephen Carter and was arranged for us to put forward an industry view on the Digital Britain Report. These meeting take a long time to organise and with the limited amount of time left now before the Report is due to be completed we will probably have to provide an input in writing.

Strikes me we have enough problems with viruses in this in this industry without introducing another one to slow up our networks:-)

Categories
Business internet security

Home Secretary announcement on Communications Data

Big in the news yesterday was Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith’s announcement that the Government will not be creating a central facility to store details of our telephone and email communications.  It even made prime time BBC TV News. Instead the Government will pursue a strategy of getting individual Communications Providers to store their own customers’ information.

I wasn’t going to comment on this because there was so much press coverage, much of which included answering statements infrom the industry trade body ISPA which I had already had a hand in. It is however worth restating some of the points.

Firstly I am, as an individual, nervous about having all this information situated in a single central database.  It is a near certainty that at some time all of it will be compromised, either by negligence or by criminal activity. 

Secondly I think the Government is misguided if it believes that it will be able to excercise any sort of control over what happens on the internet.  Technology is changing so quickly that any system implemented by Government is going to be expensive whatever its purpose (monitoring/intercept, preventing P2P illegal downloads, preventing access to illegal websites, location tracking etc etc -) and would very quickly be out of date.  The costs of maintaining it would be a significant line item in any budget statement.

Moreover, based on track record, you can bet your bottom dollar that the time taken to implement any such a system(s) would be so long that it would probably have to be reinvented several times during its development and eventually end up in Regents Park Zoo in the White Elephant enclosure. 

PS I can see an idea for the next sci fi movie blockbuster here. It’s a cops and robbers story in cyberspace. Hollywood producers queue here 🙂

Categories
End User internet security

Online identity theft cost USA $48Bn in 2008

I was amazed to read in a press release by Anti Virus firm AVG that online identity theft lead to $48Bn worth of fraud in 2008 in the USA alone. This was part of a press release issued by the company today regarding its new Identity Protection product.

You can read the press release yourself but this is certainly topical for me having only last week attended the ISPA Parliamentary Advisory Forum on ecrime. The scale of the activity clearly makes it worthy of its own specialist blog rather than just getting the occasional post in mine.

I think I will follow up with a top ten security tips for safe use of the internet. Many of these tips will be obvious and just involve a little discipline on the part of individuals. More anon.

Categories
Business security

ISPA Parliamentary Advisory Forum on e-crime

The average punter knows very little about e-crime. I can’t say I’m an expert myself but I had an eye-opening afternoon yesterday at the ISPA Parliamentary Advisory Forum on the subject. Attended by both MPs and industry stakeholders the meeting was standing room only which perhaps underlines the level of interest in the subject.

We use anti virus software in the belief that it stops nasty people putting nasty things on our PCs that will destroy our files. In the early days of e-crime this is what it was all about. Nerds sat in their bedrooms writing viruses with no real objective other than showing the world how big and powerful they were.

From around 2003 all this changed and e-crime became big business and the sad teenagers in bedrooms have turned into professional software writers working for organized gangs.

Now the crooks don’t want to break your computer. In fact they don’t even want you to know they are there. The malware that they deposit on your PC just sits there quietly logging your every keystroke. When you make purchases online your credit card information is logged and fed back to the gangs. The Conficker A virus even made your network run more efficiently so that it could better perform its job.

Until last year, when they were stopped, there were websites such as “darkmarket.com” (Google it for more info) where criminals talked to criminals, swapped trade secrets and engaged in crooked business such as the sale of stolen bank account information.

This criminal activity is organized primarily from the former Soviet Union, China and Brazil. The crooks know how to work the system. They never steal information from their own country. That way if a local police force is asked to assist with an international crime there is less incentive.

The police in Sao Paulo, for example have to deal with a high murder rate on the streets. How do you prioritise credit card fraud overseas in that case when you have limited resources to address problems on your own doorstep.

An Ukranian gang was said to stop the process of infecting a PC if it’s IP address was found to be Ukranian specifically to avoid the attentions of the local rozzers.

So what is being done in the UK to try and combat e-crime? It ain’t easy. Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie, who incidentally looked as if she was straight out of an action cop movie, runs the 30 strong e-crime unit at the Metropolitan Police and was speaking at the meeting.

With a team of only 30 people the police have to concentrate on big crimes. If someone rips off £50 from your credit card or bank account they aren’t interested. You are supposed to report it to the banks who then submit a collated picture to the police. In reality much of this type of crime goes unreported so nobody really knows how much of it is going on.

Where the police do get involved is with serial crimes. In other words whilst if someone pinches £50 from your e-wallet they aren’t interested, if someone does it to a thousand people then they are and this has happened in the UK.

Unfortunately, for someone who gets caught the penalties for this type of crime are often very low, community service for example, so the disincentive isn’t there. What’s more e-crime is often zero touch. In other words if someone steals TV programming and sells it to a Russian online TV Channel then the only thing affected is a potential reduction to the revenue stream of the rights holder. The man on the street is unharmed. This makes it less interesting to the police and is why the likes of BSkyB employ former policemen, effectively as revenue protection officers.

It isn’t fair to say that nothing is being done in the UK to prevent e-crime but the whole subject area is a difficult one and merits not only more effort but also improved levels of international co-operation due to the cross border nature of the game. I am afraid this is going to be an uphill struggle.

Categories
Business internet

Interview with Jeff Pulver for “Hardcopy”, newsletter of ISPA

Jeff Pulver
Jeff Pulver

The Digital Britain report dominates current debate in the UK internet related industry. Its aim is, broadly put, is to promote universal use of broadband and to stimulate the digital knowledge economy thus keeping the country competitive in the 21st century. Although facilitating the plumbing of this digital economy, the Government quite rightly leaves the innovation of new ideas for delivery down the pipes to industry.

New York based innovator Jeff Pulver was a prime mover during the pioneering years of the VoIP industry. He started the Voice On the Net conferences and was founder of the company that evolved into Vonage, the US based VoIP telco. Jeff has since moved his attention to helping to create the wave of the Social Networking technology revolution. Both areas of technology, whilst requiring an underlying network to support them, hinge on the development of new ideas and applications.

TD: What parallels can you see between what was happening in the early days of VoIP and today in Social Networking?

 JP:  Social Networking has been part of the human experience since there was documented human experience. My focus is on the evolution of social communications, something I call: SocComm and what happens next as the world shifts from a dial-tone generation to a presence based one.

Back in the early days of VoIP we had dialup and slow computers and limited quality for the voice experience but it did not hold back a generation of people who were hobbyists by night but technology explorers by day who experimented with the technology and understand the power of what it meant when voice could be an application and no longer be a utility service.

I believe the advent of the widespread availability of social networking platforms such as Facebook and twitter are going to have a more profound impact on the future of communications in the next 5 years ahead than what we have seen in the VoIP space in the past 15 years.

TD: Aside from the by know well known business models associated with advertising, where do you see the moneytization of Social Networking?

JP: I am not a fan of pushing business models into nascent industries. Business models are disruptive to innovation and should never be forced into an ecosystem. What we will see emerge is another example of how disruptive technologies change the face of business in ways that were obvious to some by blindsided by others.

I believe presence will be moneytized with the advent of social communication. Presence will emerge to be a 25 billion dollar business.

TD: The battle against regulation of VoIP in the USA has been a feature of your career activities over the past ten years. Is there a similar debate to be had in the space you are in now?

JP:  The fight is about to begin. Any platform which attracts 175 million active users (and growing) will get the attention of the government. My challenge is to see this space remains regulation free for the foreseeable future. (Maybe this is the foreshadowing of a future unannounced statement from me. hint hint)

TD: The UK has traditionally been strong in the production and delivery of content such as music and TV and this is recognised as a strength that our Government wants to maintain. Do you see any signs of internet innovation coming out of the UK in other areas?

JP: There were other signs in the late 90s and the post dot-com bubble but at the moment there are not a lot of hi-tech UK companies on my personal radar. I would like to change that.

TD: Can you paint a picture of life in the new Socially Networked world

JP:  It is world where people are more real, we know the identity of the people we are communication with and a world where each of us contribute daily to the social sculpture known as the Internet.

TD: Whilst initially slated as a consumer oriented technology, Social Networking has now been adopted by large corporations as a marketing tool. Do you have an example of where this has worked successfully?

JP:  Just ask the CEO of Zappos – @Zappos on twitter. They did a billion dollars in sales in 2008 and they have just about their entire organization focused on social media and on twitter. The Blue Shirt Nation of BestBuy is another example. This is the case where BestBuy launched their own internal social network for 130,000 people. These enabling technologies can and will change the world.

TD: Thank you very much for your time Jeff. You have had a punishing travel schedule over the past few months promoting Social Networking and have now started to raise the bar with conferences such as SocCom. Please accept my best wishes for the success with this activity.

Thanks for the opportunity to be read today. If you would like to learn more about my activities, please visit my blog – http://jeffpulver.com/ and follow me on twitter – http://www.twitter.com/jeffpulver .

Categories
Business internet

Interview with Jeff Pulver for "Hardcopy", newsletter of ISPA

Jeff Pulver
Jeff Pulver

The Digital Britain report dominates current debate in the UK internet related industry. Its aim is, broadly put, is to promote universal use of broadband and to stimulate the digital knowledge economy thus keeping the country competitive in the 21st century. Although facilitating the plumbing of this digital economy, the Government quite rightly leaves the innovation of new ideas for delivery down the pipes to industry.

New York based innovator Jeff Pulver was a prime mover during the pioneering years of the VoIP industry. He started the Voice On the Net conferences and was founder of the company that evolved into Vonage, the US based VoIP telco. Jeff has since moved his attention to helping to create the wave of the Social Networking technology revolution. Both areas of technology, whilst requiring an underlying network to support them, hinge on the development of new ideas and applications.

TD: What parallels can you see between what was happening in the early days of VoIP and today in Social Networking?

 JP:  Social Networking has been part of the human experience since there was documented human experience. My focus is on the evolution of social communications, something I call: SocComm and what happens next as the world shifts from a dial-tone generation to a presence based one.

Back in the early days of VoIP we had dialup and slow computers and limited quality for the voice experience but it did not hold back a generation of people who were hobbyists by night but technology explorers by day who experimented with the technology and understand the power of what it meant when voice could be an application and no longer be a utility service.

I believe the advent of the widespread availability of social networking platforms such as Facebook and twitter are going to have a more profound impact on the future of communications in the next 5 years ahead than what we have seen in the VoIP space in the past 15 years.

TD: Aside from the by know well known business models associated with advertising, where do you see the moneytization of Social Networking?

JP: I am not a fan of pushing business models into nascent industries. Business models are disruptive to innovation and should never be forced into an ecosystem. What we will see emerge is another example of how disruptive technologies change the face of business in ways that were obvious to some by blindsided by others.

I believe presence will be moneytized with the advent of social communication. Presence will emerge to be a 25 billion dollar business.

TD: The battle against regulation of VoIP in the USA has been a feature of your career activities over the past ten years. Is there a similar debate to be had in the space you are in now?

JP:  The fight is about to begin. Any platform which attracts 175 million active users (and growing) will get the attention of the government. My challenge is to see this space remains regulation free for the foreseeable future. (Maybe this is the foreshadowing of a future unannounced statement from me. hint hint)

TD: The UK has traditionally been strong in the production and delivery of content such as music and TV and this is recognised as a strength that our Government wants to maintain. Do you see any signs of internet innovation coming out of the UK in other areas?

JP: There were other signs in the late 90s and the post dot-com bubble but at the moment there are not a lot of hi-tech UK companies on my personal radar. I would like to change that.

TD: Can you paint a picture of life in the new Socially Networked world

JP:  It is world where people are more real, we know the identity of the people we are communication with and a world where each of us contribute daily to the social sculpture known as the Internet.

TD: Whilst initially slated as a consumer oriented technology, Social Networking has now been adopted by large corporations as a marketing tool. Do you have an example of where this has worked successfully?

JP:  Just ask the CEO of Zappos – @Zappos on twitter. They did a billion dollars in sales in 2008 and they have just about their entire organization focused on social media and on twitter. The Blue Shirt Nation of BestBuy is another example. This is the case where BestBuy launched their own internal social network for 130,000 people. These enabling technologies can and will change the world.

TD: Thank you very much for your time Jeff. You have had a punishing travel schedule over the past few months promoting Social Networking and have now started to raise the bar with conferences such as SocCom. Please accept my best wishes for the success with this activity.

Thanks for the opportunity to be read today. If you would like to learn more about my activities, please visit my blog – http://jeffpulver.com/ and follow me on twitter – http://www.twitter.com/jeffpulver .

Categories
Business internet media piracy

ISP and Music industries meet at UK Summit

At the board room of the Performing Rights Society in London today the great and the good of the UK Music industry met with representatives from the mainstream ISP community for an open discussion on how to handle illegal P2P music downloading.

Organisations represented included UK Music,  BAC&S, PPL, PRS, MMF, MPA, MU, MCPS, MPG, Timico, ISPA, O2, Orange, AOL, Yahoo, BT, GlobalMix, LINX, Playlouder and KCom. I’m sure I’ve missed some out and you will have to work out for yourselves what some of the acronyms stand for.

I was essentially there on behalf of the Internet Service Providers’ Association to represent the smaller ISP community who have been left out of the talks up until now. Whilst the “big six” largest ISPs probably represent over 90% of the market the other ISPs, of which there are easily in excess of 300, do represent a “significant other”.

As much as anything the meeting was a “getting to know each others’ perspective” session but a few points in particular stuck in my mind.

  1. We were not allowed to discuss commercial issues and there was a lawyer sat in the corner who interrupted whenever the conversation moved towards this area – the concern being that nobody wanted the meeting to be seen as price fixing. I understand that any initiatives up until now have failed because the Music Industry can’t agree on prices that will allow ISPs to make money out of offering legal music download services. 
  2. It was suggested by yours truly that to make the whole business model work there needed to be a wholesale provider that would make it easier for smaller businesses to participate.  This wholesale provider would have sorted out the rats nest of copyright and licensing issues. Some larger ISPs had 5 corporate lawyers in a department exclusively dedicated to this area. What hope the rest of us!

There is clearly some way to go to get to a working solution although there was general agreement around the table that  everybody wanted to help.

ISPs present were asked whether P2P traffic caused problems for them on their network. I stated that typically B2B ISPs did not throttle P2P traffic  and customers were provided with a high quality experierience for which they paid a premium.

In the consumer space customers seem not prepared to pay for quality and thus in order to try and preserve a reasonable experience for “ordinary” applications such as browsing and email  it is often standard practice for ISPs to throttle P2P traffic. In fact in fairness some ISPs publish these policies on their website. This touched a nerve with one Tier 1 ISP who avoided the word throttling using, instead,  “traffic management” as a less contentious phrase.

Categories
End User internet security

Cyber-vigilantes

Circulating on the law inforcement distribution list of the Internet Service Providers’ Association today is information regarding a website called extremeporn.org.uk which appears to have set itself up as a vigilante-type organisation to hunt down downloaders of illegal extreme pornography.

According to their website:

“At present, our primary activities are categorizing and monitoring torrents. Our system, once a torrent is added to it, will periodically poll the tracker for geoIP technology to guess with high accuracy (approximately 99.5%) their location. If the IP is geolocated to somewhere other than the UK, no further processing is performed; otherwise our system checks to see whether an existing record for this IP and torrent exists. If so no further processing is performed. If no such matching record is found, the system inserts such a record.”

… and that record then generates an email to the relevant abuse team (ISPs have an “[email protected]” email address that is used as standard to report illegal activities).

I’m sure that many if not all abuse teams are aware of the limitations of the above procedure, which is that having your IP address attached to a torrent implies one of four things:

a) you are actively fetching or distributing the file

b) you are an academic researcher who is monitoring the torrent, but who is not uploading or downloading at all

c) your IP address has been selected at random by the owner of the tracker to add to the list of active IPs so as to bring this type of tracking into disrepute

d) your IP address has been specially chosen by someone who wishes you harm and who has deliberately added it to the list of active IPs so as to cause trouble.

Case (a) is what the people running the extremeporn website think they are dealing with.

Case (b) has been well documented by researchers at the University of Washington http://dmca.cs.washington.edu/    .

Case (c) is believed to be behind the large number of incorrect copyright abuse allegations currently flooding the market 🙁

There is a strong belief that Pirate Bay is doing this deliberately (anyone with an on-the-record citation for this, I’d be really pleased to get this).

Case (d) is of obvious concern. The U of Washington people falsely accused their laser printers of sharing Hollywood movies. In this area there is an obvious risk of defamation or worse!

My thanks to Dr Richard Clayton of the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory for this analysis. Richard is an expert on internet security and was recently quoted on the BBC concerning the Data Protection Act. Readers should note that I am in no way supportive of people downloading extreme pornography. It does seem that the approach described above is flawed.