Following the broadband money

Watershed week for online world

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This week promises to be a watershed for the communications industry. Later today, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal will leave a crucial European foreign ministers’ summit in Brussels to address a Google-sponsored conference on free expression in the online world. This is a handy kick-off to Tuesday and Wednesday’s e-G8 Forum, which French president Nicholas Sarkozy is hosting ahead of the actual G8 meeting that kicks off  on Thursday. Some critics of the eG8 believe Sarkozy wants a rubber stamp for his “three strikes and out” law for online pirates, which some believe is the thin end of internet censorship. Be that as it may heads of state will be discussing among other things, governance of the internet. Whereas authoritarian governments want to see the internet locked down, the US and EU are fighting to keep its open character. They will do this in the light of the Wikileaks disclosures about how diplomacy works in practice, the Twitter-fueled Arab (and now Spanish) spring, and the furore that surrounds the breaking of an English court injunction on disclosure of a footballer’s extra-marital affair. More ominously, they also face the on-going attack or at least attempts to penetrate critical national infrastructure and key government ministries and private companies. On Wednesday UK communications regulator Ofcom will publish new general conditions and universal service conditions for communications providers. Thursday will see the annual general meeting of Nominet, the private, not-for-profit company that manages the .uk internet domain, among other things. Nominet is under pressure to make it easier for law enforcement agencies to get websites taken off the internet, but there is a heated debate about the grounds for complying with such requests. On a lighter note, Thursday will also see the opening of the Tunny gallery at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, the famous Station X of the World War Two code breakers. Tunny machines were instrumental in helping the Allies read enemy code.


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