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Viviane Reding nominated for internet villain award

European commissioner who fought against mobile roaming rip-offs has fallen out of favour with the UK ISP industry
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor

Despite her pioneering work, Viviane Reding, the commissioner for information society and media who has led the European charge to reduce extortionate mobile roaming charges, has been landed with a nomination for Internet Villain of the year.

The nomination, for one of the renowned ISP industry awards (ISPAs), may come as a surprise to many IT professionals.

Reding has spearheaded the European Union's drive to reduce roaming charges — the additional cost a business pays when a worker makes or receives a mobile call abroad. Mobile operators have traditionally set extortionate pricing for overseas calls. But as a result of the work headed by Reding, those charges may now fall by as much as 70 percent.

But the ISPA Council, which drew up the shortlist, was unimpressed by her work, and nominated her for the Internet Villain award, saying she overcomplicated the registration process for the .eu domain. Reding's nomination marks the third consecutive inclusion of the European Union and its officers on the shortlist. The EU "won" the Villain award in both 2005 and 2006.

On the shortlist for the 2007 Villain award, Reding is joined by e360 insight, an email marketing company which tried to obtain a restraining order on UK anti-spam firm Spamhaus.

Also nominated as a bad guy is Peter Black, the Telecoms Adjudicator. According to the judges, he has become elitist in his approach to the UK's next-generation carrier networks. The Internet Villain shortlist also features the British Phonographic industry and the US government, the latter for restricting legitimate European gaming sites.

The Internet Hero shortlist is similarly controversial. Simon Watkin, the public face of the Home Office's work on the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act, is one of the nominees. He won ISPA's praise for lobbying to prevent ISPs being lumbered with the cost of data retention.

Watkin is joined on the Hero shortlist by Stephen Carter, for his three-year stint as chief executive of Ofcom, which ended last summer. Other contenders are Ofcom itself, the European Union and Vodafone's Annie Mullins.

This year's 'Hero' nominees:

  • Annie Mullins, Vodafone: "For her work with the Home Office Task Force on Protection of Children on the Internet and the European Union's Safer Internet Programme"
  • Ofcom: "For arguing that Europe's Television without Frontiers Directive should not be applied to the internet, as it would stifle creativity and investment in internet video as well as requiring government regulation for little benefit"
  • Simon Watkin and the Home Office team: "For standing up to the European Union and recognising the need to reimburse ISPs for the additional costs that are incurred in meeting data retention requirements, helping to maintain effective industry liaison and recognising the need for government to work with industry and not against it"
  • Stephen Carter, former Ofcom chief executive: "For overseeing the Strategic Review of Telecommunications and building a good working relationship between the internet industry and Ofcom since his appointment in 2003"
  • The EU: "For considering legal action against protectionist barriers planned by France, Italy and Austria that would potentially ban foreign online gaming and investigating nine other EU member states"

This year's 'Villain' nominees:

  • Commissioner Viviane Reding and the European Commission: "For foisting the most arcane set of rules yet seen for prior registration of .eu domains, requiring UK-registered companies to submit legal affidavits to justify the authenticity of their business"
  • e360 insight : "For attempting to use a court in Illinois with no UK jurisdiction to obtain a restraining order on Spamhaus, a company that provides dependable real-time anti-spam protection for internet networks"
  • Peter Black, executive chairman, Next Generation Networks UK: "For making the Next Generation Networks UK body, an independent body looking at next generation networks and services, too elitist and not allowing smaller ISPs to be involved"
  • The British Phonographic Industry :"For applying pressure on Cable & Wireless and Tiscali to reveal the names and addresses of customers who the BPI believed to be file sharing, with poorly prepared evidence"
  • The US government : "For imposing prohibition like restrictive legislation against legitimate European gaming sites"
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