The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

Her Majesty the Queen is to announce 3-strikes measures against filesharers on Thursday. It raises some awkward questions. Just how should one fill one's iPod? And what happens if one of the Corgis downloads a song,  will the Royal Broadband be throttled? Which ISP will dare cut off ‘by Royal Appointment'?


The Queen is set to announce the British  government's proposals for  technical 3-strikes mea\sures, which will include suspension of Internet access,  when she opens the Westminster Parliament on Thursday this week.


It is widely anticipated that her speech (written by the British government and which outlines the legislative agenda for the year)  will contain  the

Digital Economy Bill. As such, it  will incorporate recommendations of the Digital Britain report, including the  P2P proposals from the recent government consultation. The inclusion of P2P is controversial for a number of reasons, not least of which is that the Consultation only closed at the end of September, and was subject to a revision in August, which respondents had little time to consider.


The P2P proposals in the Bill are expected to include  warnings to Internet users based on rights-holder allegations of file-sharing, and the power to introduce technical sanctions against such users. Technical sanctions include blocking of users connections by protocol or  by URL,  suspension of the user's Internet access account, and ‘shaping' their bandwidth, a euphemism for ‘throttling' of making it go so slowly that it is useless. The highly controversial proposal to give Lord Mandelson powers to personally order the introduction of technical measures against fileshrers, is also believed to be in  the Bill. 


The Bill is likely to be challenged by the ISP industry - TalkTalk, owned by Charles Dunstone, has already indicated that it will do so.


It is also likely that the Bill will contravene EU law. The proposals, as currently anticipated, will contravene that final agreement on the EU Telecoms Package. They include an administrative appeals procedure, but no prior right to be heard, which will have to be guaranteed. And the application of automated sanctions constitutes interference with the right to freedom of expression.


Moreover, they will contravene another, non-controversial provision in the Telecoms Package, that the regulator must be independent of political control. If Ofcom is to be asked to supervise Internet cut-offs  in the manner described. It is to oversee a Code of Practice between the ISPs and the rights-holders, and would appear to be being asked to act for political purposes. It will also have  to provide the Secretary of State with information leading to the application of automated processes for cutting off users. As such, it is unlikely to meet the ‘politically independent' requirement of EU law.


On a lighter note, it does occur to me that the Queen is an iPod-owner , and she runs a large household at Buckingham Palace. She could herself be adversely affected by the very measures that she is being asked to present, and that would put her ISP in a very embarrassing position. In cutting her off, they might also cut off their ‘by Royal appointment status'.


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2009) Queen  to announce Internet cut-offs , 17 November 2009







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