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Future Threats & The Loss of Trust

Future threats

"There is a bit of a crunch point coming where people believe they have fast broadband but DSL speeds haven't moved on," said Virgin Media executive director Jon James to TechRadar last week. "They will experience it explicitly, where it crashes, or more likely they will just be getting a video experience as bad as it was a year or two years ago."

BT & Sky have come out to dispute this, but that doesn't change the fact DSL services - which still account for easily the largest majority of UK broadband connections (cable still sits at around 65 per cent) - are hitting a speed wall that can only be surpassed through massive investment.

In May BT CEO Ian Livingstone said: "We are investing in the future of our business. Assuming an acceptable environment for investment, we see the potential to roll out fibre to around two-thirds of the UK by 2015. This will take our total fibre investment to £2.5bn which will be managed within our current levels of capital expenditure."

£2.5bn! 2015? Good thing streaming media services like BBC iPlayer and Spotify aren't popular and that Apple didn't buy streaming music company lala with the intent to provide a streaming iTunes service. Oh. Wait...

Trust

Perhaps all this wouldn't be so bad if we retained an innate faith in the good will and moral responsibilities of our mobile and fixed line ISPs, but this is perhaps where the biggest problem occurs: we simply don't trust them.

The aforementioned reasons don't help, but what is potentially causing the biggest scare is privacy. Pressurised by heavyweight copyright holders like the RIAA (Record Industry Association of America), MPA (Music Publishers Association) and MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), we've seen arguably the biggest threat to our online lives in the UK with the passing of the Digital Economy Act in April.

This criminally underreported law will come into force in January 2012 and will force ISPs to block users' connections and provide their names and addresses to disgruntled copyright holders. There are many arguments for and against online piracy, but what poisons the water here is the owner of the Internet connection in question is held solely responsible. Consequently doesn't matter if a guest committed the offence or their WiFi is hacked. In essence it is like charging the owner of a stolen car for the crimes subsequently committed in it by the thieves.

Worse still the Act has 'Clause 18' which allows courts to close "locations on the Internet" which it deems "have been, is being or is likely to be {my italics} used for or in connection with an activity that infringes copyright". In other words: guilty until proved innocent - a fundamental destruction of our basic human rights.

Add onto this the Independent's announcement on Friday that Ofcom is launching investigations into threats against Net Neutrality (where an ISP quietly blocks or prioritises certain sites over others for marketing or bandwidth benefits) and the very question of how we use our broadband connections will soon be laced with fear and uncertainty.

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