The UK government has been making some interesting noises with regards to net neutrality, broadband connection as a universal service, and most importantly, about enacting three-strikes-and-you’re-out legislation. The UK government is in the final stages of preparing the final version of its Digital Britain strategy for the next 10 years; one interesting aspect that has been highlighted is that there is interest in treating broadband connection as an important universal service, akin in regulatory terms to utilities such as water and electricity. If the government is to treat broadband connection as a basic right, then it would be completely contradictory to remove such right through administrative decisions delivered by private entities on the evidence provided by copyright holders. Now the BBC reports that the government is more likely to deploy technical solutions instead of disconnection.

This seems like a compromise between ISPs and content industries. While it seems like the Digital Britain report will recommend the sending of chastising letters to repeat offenders, it will not disconnect them from the server. What will be favoured is some sort of speed throttling in order to reduce the network capacity of those with highest volume sharing.

The reason for this apparent U-turn on three-strikes is that a recent study from Ofcom’s Consumer Communications Panel found out that an overwhelming number of Britons believe that broadband connection is a basic right. Of 2000 people interviewed, 81% agreed with the statement “It is everyone’s right to be able to have broadband at home”, and 42% strongly agreed.

I don’t know what to think about this one. While I applaud that the government will scrap the utterly misguided three-strikes policy, and I understand that they have to be seen as doing something to curb piracy, I’m both sceptical and troubled by the deployment of technical solutions. Broadband throttling already happens at peak hours, but I am wondering what will be the due process awarded to those who suddenly find themselves with a slow connection.

We’ll just have to wait and see what the final report says.


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