Why the Internet is more important than my party affiliations.
To Quote George Santayana
“Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them.”
I have voted Conservative for quite a long time and have met my MP ‘Francis Maude‘. I can say that I have found Francis Maude to be a smart and engaging individual who listens to your views with consideration. So why do I feel the Internet is more important than my Vote for a Conservative Candidate ?
I have written, emailed and twittered in an attempt to get Francis or Jeremy Hunts’ attention in order to discuss with them my concerns about The Digital Economy Bill. Other than a letter from Francis, which was not a form letter but which I will put up online later tonight, I have not had a chance to talk direct with them about my concerns.
Allow me to lay out some history. Real history, the sort of history you need to read in order that you may learn from your predecessors.
Radio waves are a feature of the universe and are freely available to everyone. However there was a need to ensure that the radio frequencies were used productively and efficiently. The International Telecommunication Union founded in Paris in 1865 was the first in a number of regulating bodies which lead the way by creating guidelines for the annexing of the radio wave spectrum,which in turn lead to regulation and management of the airwaves. The mandate and charter of the ITU and its historical offshoots was “to enable the growth and sustained development of telecommunications and information networks” ( does that sound familiar ? ). Today, should you want to run and own a Radio Station you will have to get in line for a large number of licenses, approvals, certificates and legal costs. New radio stations are predominately backed by Music or Media groups who benefit from the distribution of their content and their approved advertisers.
Telephony technology followed a similar path to that of radio wave regulation. After the technical know-how of telephones, telephone-lines and exchanges was established there was an abundance of ‘ma and pa’ operated phone services all of whom ran different, possibly non interchangeable, formats. Governments were encouraged to intercede and through legislation Regulate these ‘services’. For an example of this read “A Brief History of Telecom Regulation“. Meanwhile in the UK the Telegraph act was passed in 1868 and delivered technical control to a newly formed GPO ( General Post Office ), over time this group became BT ( British Telecom ) . You can read more about the BT Group over on Wikipedia. One interesting aspect of the BT group from a technically minded perspective was their decisions in regards to technical and physical delivery of services which have stalled, delayed or restricted the growth of the Internet and Internet speeds . Again the ability for other businesses to compete with BT in providing new telephone lines and faster network speeds is restricted by overbearing regulation and management.
The Internet has, until recently, avoided too much UK Govt interference. Other than Censorship laws there has been no clear involvement by the UK Govt in controlling access to the Internet or websites. That was until the introduction of the Digital Economy Bill. I shall not re-iterate the many reasons why the Bill itself is a poor piece of legislation. Instead you can visit The Open Rights Group and consider the issues.
What I wished to draw your attention to is the current trend in attempting to regulate and manage the provision of internet services with the same well meaning and apparently innocent regulations which ,in a similar fashion , were introduced to Radio and Telephone services.
It is my view that no government should involve itself defining laws which control its electorate on the basis of how a private or public business perceives it is being treated by its customers. Governments should not be protecting the interests of business to the exclusion of that businesses consumers. Imagine if you will the time of Henry Ford and the release of his Horseless Carriage. Did the farriers of the time demand the Govt legislate to protect their businesses from the perceived loss of income to people owning cars and driving them? A daft argument in the absurd abstraction but one that demonstrates that the Music and Media industry having successfully ensured control over Radio Waves and Phone lines now wish to control regulation of access to the Internet in a similar fashion. Write to your MP, write to your Statesman and demand they stop this interference now.
I take the view that if the Conservatives will not actively debate and block the Bill then I am no longer willing to consider voting for them. The Internet is a resource in contention between its users and predatory businesses and we must do what we can to ensure that the same Internet and communication freedoms we experience today are there for our children to enjoy tomorrow.
Thanks for reading, now please go write to your MP.