My friend Ajit Jaokar at Open Gardens alerted me to an unusual opportunity to help influence the future of the mobile and fixed Internet. The European Internet Foundation (EIF) is a non-profit organization composed of elected members of parliament from the various EU nations and industry representatives. It's mission is to promote telecommunications and the Internet in the EU nations.
The EIF is asking for public input on a proposed "Digital Agenda". The goal of the Digital Agenda seems to be to guide the European nations to a coordinated and consistent Internet policy that will open up access for all Europeans to an open and neutral network based on high speed technology and common standards. The EIF hopes that the Digital Agenda with encourage continual growth in web commerce and innovation.
To gather public input, the EIF has set up a 20 question survey. Participation in the survey is anonymous and it should take less than 5 minutes to complete. As part of the survey you are asked to submit a question to Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission, who is responsible for the EU’s Digital Agenda.
You do not need to be a European to participate in the survey. The Internet is global and policy decisions made by the EU nations will have have repercussions around the world. The deadline for completing the survey is July 16th.
I used my opportunity to ask about Commissioner Kroes what if anything the EIF would do to counter the effects of laws such as the UK's recently passed Digital Economy Act (DEA) that impose a three strikes rule on Internet connections used to download illegally shared copyrighted material such as music or video.
Under the DEA after three occurrences of illegal downloading, a household or business' access to the Internet could be cut off! It doesn't matter if the party downloading knew that the material was illegal to download or not. You can even lose your Internet access if a stranger uses your un-encrypted connection (or has hacked your encrypted one) to download a song without your knowledge. This is likely to kill public WiFi hotspots and grassroots community wireless efforts like FON. I believe such draconian laws will have a chilling effect on innovation and increased Internet access. The DEA also imposes cumbersome new record-keeping bureaucracy on ISPs and mobile network operators that will likely drive up costs and prices.
I support copyright and condemn illegal sharing of copyrighted material. But I believe that existing copyright laws provide sufficient and punishment with fines up to f £5,000 and six months in prison in the UK. That's apparently not enough for the music and motion picture organizations like the RIAA that are behind the DEA and similar three strikes legislation which has been passed in France and proposed in Canada and the US.
For more about the EIF survey see Ajit's post "An invitation from the EIF chair to help choose the questions for commissioner KROES" at Open Gardens.