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Share2009 – The good, the bad and the ugly!

As we approach the end of an eventful year I thought it would be apt to take a look back over the main industry talking points of 2009 to evaluate what happened, why we were discussing it and where we are currently at. When we have completed that let’s take a stab at predicting what we will be discussing in 2010.

Elsa Chen, General Manager

Elsa Chen, General Manager

The ‘hottest’ topic of 2009 was undoubtedly illegal file sharing

We first covered this subject back in April with an article discussing the Pirate Bay case. The four founders of the website ‘The Pirate Bay’ were found guilty in a Swedish court for assisting the illegal downloading of copyrighted material.  They were each sentenced to 1 year in jail and ordered to pay £2.4million in damages to the entertainment industry. This was the catalyst that started the raging debate between the entertainment industry, the government and ISPs which continues to this date. The entertainment industry and a number of high profile MPs, in particular Peter Mandelson, are calling for a three strikes and you’re cut-off policy. However, ISPs have continuously raised concerns regarding the accuracy of correctly identifying offenders and the fact that cutting a user off is presuming guilt before a fair trial with minimal and potentially flawed evidence.

This topic continued to be covered for several months and was once again inflamed with the release of the Digital Britain Report which actually advised against a three strikes policy, much to the annoyance of the entertainment industry.

So where are we at now?

In November Mandelson announced the Digital Economy Bill, within which he aims to force ISPs to send warning letters to alleged illegal file sharers and record how many warning letters they receive; has suggested a restructure of Nominet; and has given himself the power to introduce new regulations over copyright infringement as and when he sees fit. A worrying prospect!

So it looks like, whether ISPs like it or not, we will be forced into policing the Internet. Whilst disconnection is not currently enforced, the bill suggests that this could be introduced for persistent offenders at a later date. This topic will definitely continue to be debated well into 2010 and beyond.

The much awaited Digital Britain Report

In June 2009 the Digital Britain report was finally released. The main talking point of the report, apart from the already discussed tackling of illegal file sharing, was the introduction of a 2Mbps USC by 2012. Concerns that 2Mbps would not be enough immediately surfaced and whilst the USC will bring at least some form of much needed connectivity to the UK’s ‘not-spots’, concerns remain that by 2012 these areas will once again be left behind resulting in the catch-up process starting all over again.

Additionally, the report proposed a 50p per month tax on all fixed telephone lines to fund this roll out which was also met with disdain.

So where are we at now?

Since the report’s release it has caused ongoing discussion within the industry over a number of the aspects it contained. Regarding the 50p tax, this is already being pushed through to be made law before the next election. In terms of the USC, I’m guessing this will continue to be discussed well up until its implementation which is not due to be completed until 2012. And as already discussed, the argument over the tackling of illegal file sharers is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

The recession

We could not have got through 2009 without an article on the economic downturn.

An Ofcom report in August suggested that consumers now view broadband as an essential utility for communications and found that during the recession we are spending more time at home using our broadband and that only 10% would sacrifice their connection to save money. This led us to ask “is residential broadband recession proof?”

Despite further evidence to suggest consumers are now more likely to shop around for the best deal and that price is an important factor in their decision, we believe that residential broadband is recession proof. While no industry is completely immune to the recession, broadband is withstanding the hard times more easily than many others and that is because consumers need to satisfy their ‘have-it-now’ information habit.  A growth in online activities such as social networking and gaming and the convenience online shopping brings means consumers are not keen to part with their broadband service. Good news!

So where are we at now?

Well we are still officially in a recession but analysts and business leaders appear positive towards the coming year and hopeful of a potential upturn. Let’s hope next year we are discussing how the economy is recovering and the opportunities this is bringing rather than any further declines.

Swine flu – the Internet killer!

Swine flu gripped the nation during the summer of 2009 and there were a number of concerns that with people quarantined and unable to get to work, the UK would come crashing to a halt. Trains would stop, businesses would close, services would be unavailable and the UK Internet would come crashing down under the strain of all these sick people either trying to work from home or online because they are stuck at home.

So where are we at now?

Well there was a major outbreak and many UK businesses felt the pressure of working on minimal staff but as always the UK got on with it and the Internet survived. So far so good! And now that we have a vaccine I expect the worst is over, so I think we can safely say swine flu is off the discussion list for 2010 – but you never know. However, I am sure 2010 will bring with it its own Internet killer, the question is what will it be this time, maybe the 2010 World Cup…?

High profile industry clashes

2009 saw some of the biggest names in the industry clash. First there was BT Retail and the BBC (amongst other content providers). BT claimed the BBC should contribute towards the increasing cost of delivering users to its iPlayer service. Quite rightly the BBC found this suggestion preposterous and refused to contribute. Entanet’s opinion article ‘ISPs vs BBC iPlayer – Missing the point?’ suggested that instead of requesting monetary support from content providers, BT Retail should be applying pressure on its wholesale connectivity supplier (BT Wholesale) to reduce its increasing bandwidth costs. We called for BTW to rethink its current wholesale pricing models to cater more effectively for the significant increases all ISPs are seeing in bandwidth usage due to new technologies such as the iPlayer.

Later in the year a second clash broke out between Microsoft and Google, two long term rivals and major industry players. This latest bout started with Google’s launch of Chrome, an alternative browser and direct competitor to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. This was followed by a counter attack from Microsoft with the launch of Bing, a new search engine which was swiftly followed by a deal with Yahoo. Google reacted with the launch of Chrome OS a new operating system, and so the battle continued, becoming more publically visible than ever before.

And then there was Rupert Murdoch’s attack on news aggregators such as Google. Murdoch suggested he would block all of News Corp’s sites from being indexed by Google because he believes they are stealing his stories. The announcement follows moves by the media company towards a subscription based service on all of their websites. Google’s response was simply – if you don’t want us to index your sites then we won’t. Speculation on possible deals between News Corp and Bing then ensued.

So where are we at now?

Well in regards to BT and the BBC little more has been heard. However, our calls for BTW to reduce its wholesale prices appears to have done some good with an announcement that wholesale bandwidth costs, at least on Wholesale Broadband Connect, will be reduced from January 2010. Whether or not this is enough to satisfy the needs of BT Retail remains to be seen.

Google and Microsoft on the other hand continue with their launches and developments, some of which involve directly competitive products and some are less provocative. But I guarantee we have not seen the last of this clash. Watch this space!

Despite his initial anger, Murdoch appears to be in no rush to remove his sites from Google, stating he would do so when the move towards a subscription based service was complete, which had been due to complete in June 2010 but has since been delayed. Therefore I think we can expect this argument to continue well into next year.

IPv6 – still waiting…

Back in July we raised the long standing issue regarding the slow adoption of IPv6 and the immediate problem of a dwindling number of IPv4 addresses now available. We called for other ISPs to realise the inevitable, get on with IPv6 adoption and take advantage of the benefits it brings in terms of increased security and the competitive edge of being an early adopter.

So where are we at now?

Still waiting! The EC set a target of 25% adoption by all member states by 2010 but whether or not the UK has achieved this remains to be seen. If, as previous sources suggest, IPv4 addresses really are depleted by 2010/11 we will undoubtedly be picking this topic back up sooner rather than later.

Still fighting for net neutrality

In September the US FCC (Federal Communications Commission) announced plans to enforce net neutrality through new legislation which forces ISPs to be transparent about the management of their networks. Unsurprisingly the American ISPs were less than happy with the proposals, however in October the proposals took a step closer to adoption moving into the public input stage.

Entanet, whilst agreeing with the fundamental principles of net neutrality and an open and honest approach to network and traffic management, had a number of concerns over the implementation of the new proposals. We believe that it should be the network providers who should decide how best to manage their networks and traffic. It should not be decided by government on a one-size-fits-all approach. We also have concerns over a US led approach to forced net neutrality and raised concerns that whatever the US does, the rest of the world is likely to follow suit. However, what is suitable for America may not be suitable for the UK.

So where are we at now?

The proposals are currently still in the public input stage and therefore it is early days on this topic. This will undoubtedly be discussed again in 2010 as the legislation progresses.

Having your say!

Regular readers of opinion.enta.net will be aware that we provide multiple ways in which our readers can have their say. Every article published on opinion encourages readers to leave us their feedback in the form of comments and can be rated on a scale of 1 to 5.

The articles that provoked the most reader comments this year were “ISPs vs BBC iPlayer – Missing the point?”, “IPv6 – Ready or not?” and “Net neutrality – is legislation necessary?”.

The “ISPs vs BBC iPlayer – Missing the point?” article also received the most votes however a number of our other articles received higher average ratings. These included “IPv6 – Ready or not?”,
“USC – Solving the digital divide?”, “Pirates of …Sweden” and “Mandelson’s mindless meddling infuriates Internet industry”.

Additionally, we regularly publish polls on topical industry issues on which interested readers can vote. A summary of the results of some of our most popular polls is detailed below:

In January we asked “Technical Support: What is more important to you?” An overwhelming majority of you (64%) stated a UK based call centre was most important, whilst other important factors included non-premium phone numbers (29%) and highly trained staff (5%).

We also asked you “Through which media would you prefer your ISP/reseller to communicate with you online? Choose up to three”.  The most popular media was direct email which received 32.3% of all votes, followed by public forums (20.7%), dedicated forums (17.9%), official blog (12.4%), web control panel (6.3%) and RSS feeds (5.9%). Entanet customers will be aware that all important information regarding their service is usually communicated by the Entanet reseller (or occasionally by Entanet) by direct e-mail which was the most popular method. This information is also provided via the Entanet Partner site and End User E-billing site.

Many of you (75%) agreed with us that Lord Carter’s Digital Britain report did not go far enough and similarly 75% of respondents thought FCC regulation will help net neutrality. The issue of swine flu brought out your humorous sides (at least we hope it was in jest), with 60% opting to take inflicted members of staff outside and shoot them ?, whilst a calmer 25% would ask them to go on sick leave until better and 15% would facilitate home working.

Predictions for 2010

So that was all about 2009, but what do we think we will be discussing in 2010? Well undoubtedly the issue of illegal file sharing will continue and no doubt the entertainment industry and its government backers will continue to clash with ISPs on the best way to tackle the issue (by tammy). The digital Britain report is still in its implementation stages until 2012, so that will surely throw up a few more hot topics and as the FCC’s net neutrality rulings are also still in the early adoption stages, that is also likely to continue into 2010.

The recession continues into 2010 but with some small signs of an upturn so let’s hope next year we will be discussing how the economy is showing signs of recovery. Fingers crossed!

Have your say!

So what do you think of our coverage of topical industry issues throughout 2009 and what do you think we should cover next year? Let us know by leaving a comment below. And remember you can suggest topics for coverage at any time by completing the form within the ‘Suggest a Topic’ page.

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