Three days to save the European Internet

Two days ago I had no idea the European Internet was under severe threat, and I’m a European. Part of the problem is that Europe is incredibly complicated and the governance is baroque and bizarre. It uses terms like (Acquis communautaire) admittedly I suffer from Anglophone blindness, but in any language the complexity of terminology and governance is horrendous.

The normal thing most Brits do is ignore it. I have a cosy feeling that continentals are more educated but that’s probably false. So we have a governance process that’s out of control. They pay themselves huge allowances, are regularly corrupt, but as a war baby I reckon that’s a small price to pay for not carpet-bombing civilians. Yes, the UK tabloids regularly bash the Common Agriculture Policy, etc. but…

I was shocked out of my complacency when the issue of Software Patents in Europe arose. I went to UCL (London) to hear Richard Stallman talk on this and was embarrassed to find an American who knew how European government worked. He know where the power lay, the Council of Ministers (who are unelected), etc. and he gave us clear instructions as to how to best mobilise.

Now we are at it again. Although I’m an educated citizen of Europe I don’t know how to promote my views best. But one of the great powers of the Web is that it promotes e-democracy. Not only can anyone say what they want but groups can use crowdsourcing to assemble arguments and advocacy. So I know that I can read up rapidly on the issues and know what the best use of my very limited efforts is. (Here I think it’s mainly raising the issues on this blog and writing as an individual to my MEP).

I’ve found Twitter very useful here. 2-3 followers have in the rather cryptic style of Twitter pointed out that there are two issues.

  • Net neutrality

  • 3-strikes

Both are evil but the wisdom seems to be that net (non)neutrality is even more evil. What’s NN? Here’s a helpful site ( Essentially Net Neutrality is about the infrastructure of the net as provided by the companies such as telcons, which by default do not have our interests at heart.

From the site:

What is Network Neutrality?

Network Neutrality — or “Net Neutrality” for short — is the guiding principle that preserves the free and open Internet.

Put simply, Net Neutrality means no discrimination. Net Neutrality prevents Internet providers from blocking, speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination.

Net Neutrality is the reason why the Internet has driven economic innovation, democratic participation, and free speech online. It protects the consumer’s right to use any equipment, content, application or service on a non-discriminatory basis without interference from the network provider. With Net Neutrality, the network’s only job is to move data — not choose which data to privilege with higher quality service.

Who wants to get rid of Net Neutrality?

The nation’s largest telephone and cable companies — including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner — want to be Internet gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won’t load at all.

They want to tax content providers to guarantee speedy delivery of their data. They want to discriminate in favor of their own search engines, Internet phone services, and streaming video — while slowing down or blocking their competitors.

These companies have a new vision for the Internet. Instead of an even playing field, they want to reserve express lanes for their own content and services — or those from big corporations that can afford the steep tolls — and leave the rest of us on a winding dirt road.

The big phone and cable companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to gut Net Neutrality, putting the future of the Internet at risk.

Isn’t the threat to Net Neutrality just hypothetical?

No. By far the most significant evidence regarding the network owners’ plans to discriminate is their stated intent to do so.

The CEOs of all the largest telecom companies have made clear their intent to build a tiered Internet with faster service for the select few companies willing or able to pay the exorbitant tolls. Network Neutrality advocates are not imagining a doomsday scenario. We are taking the telecom execs at their word.

And you should read more.

Here’s an analogy. I shall start my journey to BioIT on two trains, East Coast Capital Connect (used to be British Rail) and Transport for London (the tube). Each makes up its own rules as the what services operate, what the fare structure is. For example if I want to travel from Cambridge to London they decide that I cannot have a cheap fare at certain times even though I have a concession. So as a class of citizen I am discriminated against in favour of corporate passengers (customers). That’s Train non-neutrality.

If I travel at the wrong time I incur a penalty. Let’s call that a strike. And let’s assume that a company decides that a recidivist breaker of this rule gets banned from travelling. That’s a per person decision, and somewhat analogous to the three strikes rule. There may be good reasons for wanting to ban individuals repeated disorderly behaviour for example. I don’t know, but I expect there are people banned from rail travel.

So in writing to my MEP I referred him to a summary of the issues better than trying to explain them myself when I don’t know what’s being voted on when and by whom.

I hope he knows.

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