With parliament due to rise for summer recess, ISPA briefly outlines below how we see the Internet developing over the course of this parliament and recommends how this vision can be achieved.
ISPA will be taking the roadmap forward when parliament returns in September.
ISPA envisages a digital economy where users are able to access high speed broadband and where no one is digitally excluded; the digital economy is an effective, secure place to do business and communicate; users can access content online through a variety of licensed services where all parts of the value chain are rewarded; companies will be investing in innovative new online models backed by a clear legal framework helping to provide certainty; users are more aware of how their data is being used online with legislative safeguards existing to protect personal data; and a partnership approach to online safety has produced more confident, savvy Internet users. To help achieve this ISPA recommends:
1. Government should review how it coordinates Internet policy across government departments to promote a cohesive and informed approach to Internet regulation
2. A commitment to defend the status of intermediary service providers in relation to caching, hosting and as mere conduits under the e-Commerce Directive
3. The removal of barriers to help promote innovative new online content distribution models
4. A proportionate approach to communications and interception data that balances the requirements of law enforcement, demands on communication providers and users’ right to privacy
5. A clear regulatory environment that rewards investment in digital infrastructure to ensure access to faster broadband for all
6. A review of the current treatment of dark fibre assets with the aim of reducing the obstacles to small scale deployments of dark fibre networks
7. Change procurement strategies to encourage future proofed solutions and the adoption of new technologies such as IPv6
8. An effective partnership approach to online safety between industry, Government, users and law enforcement, with public bodies receiving adequate resources
Whitehall structure that reflects the importance of the Internet to society and economy
The Internet touches every major area of public policy and is now central to many of the big issues. However, internet policy should not be handled on an ad hoc basis by civil servants in each department with little knowledge of the Internet.
ISPA is therefore calling for greater coordination of Internet policy across government to promote the positive use of the Internet, represent the interests of Internet companies and champion effective self-regulation across all policy areas.
Recommendation: Government should review how it coordinates Internet policy across all government departments to promote a cohesive and informed approach to Internet regulation
Protection for ISPs as intermediaries from liability for content
It is fundamental to fulfilling the potential benefits that the Internet offers that policy-makers are committed to ensuring that providers of Internet services retain their limitations to liabilities. ISPs and Information Society Services in the UK are currently afforded mere conduit status. Without this protection ISPs would be responsible for - and start policing all - content on their networks. This would lead to de facto censorship, with innovation and free speech stifled and added costs and run counter to the Government’s freedom agenda. UK ISPs operate excellent notice and take down services and a more sensible and practical approach to dealing with content is to educate, encourage and empower Internet users to act safely and responsibly online.
Recommendation: A commitment to defend the limitations of liability of intermediary service providers in relation to caching, hosting and as mere conduits under the Ecommerce Directive
Connected to this, ISPA would urge parliament and Government to resist moves to introduce network-level blocking in the UK and ensure that the Digital Economy Act is proportionate, costs are apportioned fairly, does not distort competition and helps the development of innovative, licensed models. As identified in Europe by Commissioner Kroes as part of the Digital Agenda, ISPA would further call on Government to reduce the barriers to a single digital market to boost licensed online content distribution.
Recommendation: The removal of barriers to help promote innovative new online content distribution models
Proportionate framework for communications data
ISPA members are aware that they are in a position to provide law enforcement access to potentially vital communications data. ISPA members have an excellent history of partnership with law enforcement, enshrined through legislation and built upon a principle of cost recovery that ensures ISPs are able to deliver efficient and accurate data to law enforcement agencies.
ISPA welcomes the coalition agreement commitment to ending the storage of Internet and email records without good reason. It is important that Government commit to ensuring an appropriate balance between the requirements of law enforcement, the demands on service providers and respect for users’ privacy. ISPA calls for a system that is practicable, effective and proportionate and recognises the importance of international dialogue in dealing with crimes committed online.
Recommendation: A proportionate approach to communications and interception data that balances the requirements of law enforcement, demands on communication providers and users’ right to privacy
Creating a regulatory environment to enable high speed broadband access for all
Government needs to take a clear approach to broadband to ensure that the UK’s digital capability remains competitive and is able to help deliver growth in the digital economy. ISPA welcomes the fact that the coalition Government has made broadband a priority and whilst applauds the universal service commitment target, Government should not be afraid of being more ambitious. Therefore, we call on Government to continue to set a clear plan for the development of high-speed broadband access for all.
As the Internet is now so central to the UK economy and society, as research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently found , in promoting broadband for all Government should continue to push demand-side issues. ISPA therefore welcomes Government’s decision to extend Race Online 2012’s remit and supports the continued extension of the Internet in the delivery of public services, which can also bring huge savings in the public sector .
Recommendation: A clear regulatory environment that rewards investment in digital infrastructure to ensure access to faster broadband for all
Investment in UK infrastructure is currently hampered by the treatment of dark fibre by the Valuations Agency as a rateable asset in such a way that small scale providers and community projects can pay a greater proportion in tax than others. To encourage the growth of small scale projects ISPA recommend that this is reviewed.
Recommendation: Review the current treatment of dark fibre assets with the aim to reduce the obstacles to small scale deployments of dark fibre networks.
Create an environment where businesses develop new technologies and solutions thrive
The UK needs to be seen as a place where new businesses can develop new technologies and solutions for a global market. Whilst spending large amounts of money on research and development would be ideal, the current economic situation dictates a more pragmatic approach.
ISPA welcomes Government’s pledge to include SMEs in future procurement decisions. However, Government can also help in the development of new technologies and services by ensuring that future procurement decisions stipulate that IPv6 is a mandatory requirement and that cloud based and open source solutions are considered on the same standing as traditional solutions.
Recommendation: Change procurement strategies to encourage future proofed solutions and the adoption of IPv6 and cloud technologies
A safer Internet through awareness and education
ISPA members recognise the importance of ensuring that users can access the Internet confident that they are protected from the dangers that exist online. Industry and Government have made progress on tackling e-crime and online safety but it is important that a renewed self-regulatory partnership approach continues to make the Internet a safer place to communicate and do business.
ISPA therefore calls for an approach that places an expectation on ISPs to act responsibly but also focuses on educating all users of the Internet about the dangers that exist online and ensuring that they are aware of, and know how to use, the tools to protect themselves with Government bodies adequately resourced.
Recommendation: An effective partnership approach to online safety between industry, government, users and law enforcement, with public bodies receiving adequate resources
Notes to the editor:
The Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA) was established in 1995 as a trade association to represent providers of Internet services in the . ISPA promotes competition, self-regulation and the development of the Internet industry. For a list of members or other information about ISPA, please consult the website www.ispa.org.uk
The views expressed in this release are those of the Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA) and do not necessarily reflect the corporate policies of the individual companies that are members of the Association or other organisations that may be mentioned in the release. For further editorial information please contact the ISPA Press Office (020 7340 8741).