Big tech accountability? Read how we got here in  The Closing of the Net 

Digital Britain

Britain was traditionally  influential in European policy for telecoms policy. It was a  British Commissioner, Lord Cockfield,  who established the Single European Market.  Britain led the way in the establishment of a competitive European  telecoms market.  However, in leaving the EU, Britain has  lost the ability to influence  European policy in the future, and in 2022, Britain sadly finds itself no longer a major power, but instead has become an embarrassment for  British representatives in international fora.  The government is sunk deep in corruption,  it blatantly lies, its law-breaking has led to mistrust among former allies.  There are multiple posts, articles, and tweets to support this claim. 

It's in this context that the British government is preparing a law to address regulation of the Internet. It's a law that will have far-reaching implications  for the way the Internet will function in Britain, and will impact on web platforms overseas. I am referring of course, to the Online Safety Bill. As I write this, at the beginning of 2022, the Bill is only in draft form. How will it end up? Interestingly, in going through my old posts, I note that wrote in 2015 about a similarly -named Bill. It was the predecessor to this one. It never became law, but many of the provisions in it appear to have been taken forward into the 2022 version. 

A number of the articles in this section discuss a previous policy, called   the Digital Economy Act 2010.  This was a law that mandated broadband providers to work with the music and film industries, in order to enforce copyright on the Internet. It was forced through in the dying hours of the Parliament before the General Election of  May 2010.  The measures  involved the use of network technology to sanction  users, with  implications for the neutrality of the network, and the  ‘mere conduit’ status of the network provider. The law was deemed unworkable and never implemented. That is a lesson that needs to be taken on board by all policy-makers in this field.

If you like the articles in this section, you may like my book The Closing of the Net.

If you are interested in the Digital Economy Act and copyright enforcement policy, you may like my previous books A Copyright Masquerade: How Corporate Lobbying Threatens Online Freedoms and The Copyright Enforcement Enigma - Internet Politics and the ‘Telecoms Package’

As the UK regulator, Ofcom, wags its finger at BT, the UK broadband industry remains in a state of uncertainty. What prospect is there for a strategic leap to super-fast broadband as a national 'right'?

Ofcom's 10-year review of the UK telecoms market last week could have been the opportunity to set this country on the path to a revolution in the delivery of telecommunications services, taking it forward for the next couple of decades. Instead, we get a muddled, jargon-ridden document that tweaks the rules but fails to act decisively, and appears to please no-one. The structural reform of the telecoms industry that will be necessary to achieve the government's vision of super-fast broadband, was only nibbled around the edges. A full-on tackle was avoided amid a great deal of smoke and mirrors.

Read more: Ofcom review: Static on the line brings uncertainty for broadband industry

What should be done with Openreach, the mechanism for competition in UK broadband? The regulator's announcement was a cautious 'leave it as it is'.  Here we consider the other options. Divest Openreach from BT? Would public ownership be in the national interest? 

Today the UK regulator Ofcom has unveiled its conclusions in a 10 year review of the UK telecommunications industry. At the centre of it all is Openreach, the British Telecom division that controls competitive access to broadband customers around the country. The burning issue is whether Openreach should remain part of British Telecom, or whether Ofcom should force them to separate. It would seem that the regulator will stay more or less, with the status quo. It's also being reported that BT is dangling a £1billion carrot in front of the regulator.

However, the policy question is about the national interest in an internationally competitive broadband infrastructure. The government's policy

Read more: UK telecoms review – is Openreach too hot to touch?

***Breaking news *** 4 strikes deal *** Digital Economy Act without the backing of the law***

 A so-called ‘voluntary’ deal is close to being agreed in the UK between the Internet Service providers (ISPs) and the music and film industries for a system of notices to be sent to Internet users who are alleged to have downloaded copyright-protected material from non-licenced sources or ‘pirate- sites. This is the deal that Minister Ed Vaizey previewed in Parliament earlier this year, which he called VCAP –Voluntary Copyright Alert Proposals.

 Little is known yet about the deal, which was revealed  on (leaked to?) a BBC Radio news programme. The BBC is currently the sole source - I cannot find any other information  and the companies concerned have not put press releases online – however, it looks like they’ve tried to broker the Digital Economy Act without the backing of the law and without the involvement of Ofcom and scrapping the independent appeals body. Here’s what is known about it.

Read more: UK ISPs & music industry broker 4-strikes copyright anti-piracy deal

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States v the 'Net? 

Read The Closing of the Net, by me, Monica Horten.

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Find out more about the book here  The Closing of the Net

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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.

Iptegrity in brief

 

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I’ve been analysing analysing digital policy since 2008. Way back then, I identified how issues around rights can influence Internet policy, and that has been a thread throughout all of my research. I hold a PhD in EU Communications Policy from the University of Westminster (2010), and a Post-graduate diploma in marketing. I am on the Advisory Council of the Open Rights Group.  I’ve served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe  Committee on Internet Freedoms, and was involved in a capacity building project in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. For more, see About Iptegrity

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The politics of copyright

A Copyright Masquerade - How corporate lobbying threatens online freedoms

'timely and provocative' Entertainment Law Review


 

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