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The telecom package and the need for participation

3. July 2008 – 11:48 by Bengt Feil (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

The so called telecom package is a collection of amendments to existing European laws which will drastically change the organization of telecommunication in Europe and especially of the internet. The package will be the framework for the national laws concerning telecommunication. The purposed law has produced a lot of harsh criticism among members of the online community. This uproar is nothing less than the self-organized participation of the effected stakeholders of this law.

To better understand why the telecom package is criticised in such a fierce manner here are some statements form digital citizens of Europe. Laquadrature.net posted a document containing the most important regulations which will be put into place by the law. It also points out the problematic issues that laquadrature.net think could result from the law. For example it may be that the law would allow the Commission to “impose technical standards on content filtering and monitoring computing so called ‘trusted computing’. The Commission would be able to give the concerned by these regulation recommendations following a quick and undemocratic procedure, at the request of any national regulation authority (ARCEP, CSA, HADOPI in France, OFCOM in the UK, PTS in Sweden).” Another example is that the implementation of “technical measures” to prevent infringement of intellectual property can only be achieved by deep packet inspection or by using spyware on consumers’ computers. Slashdot thinks that the whole Peer-to-Peer infrastructure in Europe may be endangered by this. P2P is used for many legitimate purposes like Skype, the distribution of free and open source software and media content. Following the argumentation of laquarture.net and many others (as for example Members of the European Parliament) the different amendments may be a threat to privacy and freedom of internet users. It may also damage the European economy by hindering innovation.

The final vote on the law will be taken on July 7th (update: it does not seem to totally clear whether the date is final), just one week before the European parliaments summer break. Netzpolitik.org points out that the timing of the decision indicates that those favouring the telecom package do not want to discuss the problematic issues which may be connected to the law. If one takes a look at the huge amount of concerned posts and the intense reactions going on the online community right now there clearly seems to be a demand for discussion of the purposed law. Modern policymaking, especially in a field as complicated and rapidly changing as the internet, should always have a participatory element. Right now we can see that the online community does organize this participation completely by itself and it is up to the involved parties on the policymakers side to pick up the criticism and start a conversation. But considering that the decision will be taken on June 7th it may already be too late for such a productive discourse.

The problem with not involving the stakeholders from the start of the process is not only that a law can not be passed without criticism as we have already seen but also that parts of it may be circumvented and not have an effect at all. The internet is a rapidly changing environment and its users will adapt to new situations as we can see in the PirateBay case. Partly as a reaction to the new surveillance law past in Sweden the websites hosts decided to use SSL encryption on all connections users build up to their servers. This is possible because the use of SSL even on a large scale has gotten cheap both for the needed certificates and the servers handling the encryption work. The decryption of SSL without knowing the needed ciphers is not feasible as connections change very fast and the cipher could easily be made many times stronger than the standard right now. SSL is also an end to end encryption method. Therefore any kind of traffic monitoring without the PirateBays organizers help is impossible. This is an example where technology and new uses of it undermine the power of a law almost completely. It is not to far fetched to assume that a similar thing may happen in the case of the telecom package.

The situation we face right now is a perfect example why we need intense involvement of all stakeholders in the process of law making. The topic at hand could be addressed especially well using eParticipation tools because of its high importance for the internet community and the technical questions related to it. This kind of discourses are still possible as the law has to be adapted on the national levels.

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  1. 5 Responses to “The telecom package and the need for participation”

  2. By Law News on Aug 14, 2008

    Niche article.

  1. 4 Trackback(s)

  2. Jul 20, 2008: The Pirate Bay Wants to Encrypt the Entire Internet « Bolzano2910’s Weblog
  3. Sep 24, 2008: Pep-Net - Pan European e-Participation Network » Blog Archive » The telecom package or the rise of digital citizen lobbyism
  4. Dec 3, 2008: Pep-Net - Pan European e-Participation Network » Blog Archive » Is fighting cybercrime worth endangering privacy?
  5. Oct 5, 2009: PEP-NET » Blog Archive » The telecom package or the rise of digital citizen lobbyism

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