Heroes and villains

The Internet Service Providers Association should take a look at itself before accusing others of internet villainy
Written by Leader , Contributor

The New Year should be a time of fresh starts, an opportunity to shrug off old prejudices and stride purposefully into the future. Or, for some, it is a chance to indulge in a spot of retrospective backbiting for slights in the previous year.

The UK Internet Service Provider's association (ISPA) has opted for the latter approach, with the release of nominations for its Internet Industry Awards. While most organisations make the presentation of gongs purely a positive process, ISPA has created a shortlist of internet villains in addition to its accolades for those it deems heroes.

The first name on the ISPA hit list is the European Commission's information society and media commissioner, Viviane Reding, She stands accused of "foisting the most arcane set of rules yet seen" for the registration of .eu domains according to ISPA. While the registration of the new domain may have had its faults, it seems a little churlish to single out Reding's part in a process that is inherently convoluted. The fact that this land grab was conducted with relatively little trouble should have put Reding well beyond accusations of villainy.

In fact, Reding's campaign to force mobile providers — including Orange, which happens to be an ISPA member — to cut the ridiculous costs of roaming calls in Europe stands as one of the most impressive and timely actions by a regulator in years. If she manages to extend this price-cutting programme to mobile data in 2007, then appreciation from the public at large should offset any sniping from industry groups such as ISPA.

Interestingly, one of the most controversial UK internet issues of 2006 has failed to make ISPA's villain list. In December, Ofcom admitted that a significant minority of small businesses and consumers have struggled to obtain a migration access code (MAC) from their ISP, which is vital when trying to move from one provider to another. ISPA members Orange, which attempted to charge for more than one MAC code, and NetServices, which was at the centre of another MAC wrangle, conveniently managed to escape any villainy accusations.

If ISPA wants its awards taken seriously, then it should not ignore the actions of its own members. If the New Year is a time for resolutions, then ISPA should ensure that some thorough self-analysis is high on its 2007 list.

If you have any suggestions for an alternative list of internet heroes and villains, use the Talkback facility below to let us know.

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