25% of Brits would ditch ISP if porn is blocked – MoneySupermarket

The net neutrality debate could be emerging on the UK horizon but the message here is don’t mess around too much; it wouldn’t take much for consumers to switch ISPs.

New research from MoneySupermarket has indicated UK consumers are pretty sensitive when it comes to the idea of the open internet. This is a debate which has certainly captured the imagination of the US, though the UK has largely been shielded by its inclusion in the European Union and rules being written in Brussels. With Brexit looming large, it is possible the UK would no longer be answerable to BEREC (Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications) and free to decide its own course down the net neutrality road.

But the message from MoneySupermarket is simple; becoming too authoritarian on what content consumers can access and they will leave pretty sharpish. 64% of respondents would switch ISPs if blocks were put in place, with one in four specifying the blocking of porn as a reason to leave. Right now the status quo is holding solid, with the telcos largely only blocking requested and illegal content, though Brexit could change this.

By leaving the Union the UK is giving up the right to influence any new policies. Therefore, if it remains as part of BEREC it would have to comply with rules it has no influence over, Emily Thompson of MoneySupermarket points out. This would contradict the rationale of Brexit in the first place, though in the pursuit of a healthy relationship with Europe, the rules might have to be swallowed. Having the power to write the rules which govern the land is something which every government around the world would want, therefore staying in BEREC seems unlikely.

“While the dialogue regarding net neutrality in the UK is relatively low-key, it has controversially been repealed in the US, suggesting that it could become a much bigger issue once Brexit is finalised and we look at rethinking European legislation,” said Thompson. “For now, ISPs need to decide what’s in the best interest of their customers: eschewing the current net neutrality laws to reduce competition or getting on the side of the consumer and keeping the internet fair and equal.”

One of the areas which will come under scrutiny should the UK and BEREC part ways is net neutrality. We have already seen how divisive this debate has become in the US, with California introducing its own state level rules contradicting the FCC and potentially leading to a constitutional crisis. The scenario is slightly different in the UK, though the telcos will still want the opportunity to make more money.

Part of the reason net neutrality is such a big topic in the US is due to competition. A notable number of customers have limited options when selecting a broadband provider, which is not the case in the UK. Thanks to the UK being a small island and Openreach laying the foundations for broadband access, most customers have options when it comes to providers. ISPs cannot dictate the terms as much as across the pond and will have to be careful about blocking websites or promoting certain traffic for fear of losing customers to competitors.

However, executives might not be able to resist the temptation of making more money. The idea of a two-speed digital highway would be attractive to the telcos, monetizing the speed of delivery to the consumer. Experience is everything nowadays, and a slow-loading website might be enough for a consumer never to consider that curry house or wallpaper manufacturer ever again. We doubt the ISPs would go as far as holding the businesses to ransom by blocking websites who don’t pay or because a competitor pays for it, but it is a possibility.

Predicting which way the relationship with BEREC will go is a tricky one right now as it relies on the final deal the UK strikes with the European Union. We can’t imagine the UK Government will be happy about being told about how to regulate its own telco industry, irrelevant of how friendly the final terms are. It might not be too long before the net neutrality debate washes ashore; prepare for some propaganda from the telcos about why it is fair to create a digital toll-road to help fund the rollout of infrastructure.

Brexit doesn’t matter to us, as long as it doesn’t kill the economy – Vodafone UK CEO

Brexit has been an incredibly divisive topic of conversation for many, but Vodafone hasn’t concerned itself with lobbying at all. Brexit doesn’t actually matter, the success of the UK economy is the primary concern.

“We reflect the health of the UK economy, so we need the economy to thrive,” said Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffrey at Future Ready, a somewhat glorious name for a technology showcase and press conference.

Although responses were carefully worded, reading between the lines the message was simple. In or out of the European Union doesn’t actually matter for Vodafone, this is a company where the success in intrinsically linked to the success of the UK’s economy. For Vodafone UK to thrive, the UK economy needs to continue heading in the right direction.

There are of course worries for the business on the whole. As a multi-national corporation, Vodafone moves a lot of people, data and currency between the various different operating groups, a proposition Jeffrey would like to see continue, though as a national business, in or out of the Union is irrelevant.

A good example of this attitude is with the part PR pitch, part clever business move, taking the form of the Vodafone incubation initiatives. Tech Starter and Bright Sparks are two of the initiatives, both aimed at driving scale for start-up organizations, and creating growth in the UK technology industry.

“We have three of the top ten research universities in the world; innovation does absolutely happen in the UK,” said Helen Lamprell, Vodafone UK’s General Counsel & External Affairs Director. “We want to enable innovation and create exciting new jobs.”

Tech Starter offers a prize fund for start-ups who have working prototypes but lack the support to go to the next level, while Bright Sparks is a mentoring programme where the same organizations can lean on Vodafone’s experts, from digital sales strategy through to GDPR. Encouraging growth not only moves the economy in the right direction, an important point for Vodafone, but supporting these young businesses get Vodafone in on the ground floor.

With more than 50% of Vodafone UK’s business reliant on the enterprise market, if the economy is heading in the right direction, its business is likely to as well. With this in mind, the Brexit outcome matters very little, as long as it doesn’t tank the UK economy.

Brexit data contravention lands Facebook a £500,000 fine

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), UK’s data protection regulator, intends to fine Facebook half a million pounds for its failure to safeguard user data in the run-up to the country’s referendum to leave the EU in 2016.

After more than a year’s investigation, the ICO’s progress report published today (11 July) determined that Facebook breached Data Protection Act 1998 by lacking transparency “and security issues relating to the harvesting of data”. Facebook is due to present its case in front of the ICO later this month.

We asked Facebook for a comment and got this from Erin Egan, its Chief Privacy Officer: “As we have said before, we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and take action in 2015. We have been working closely with the ICO in their investigation of Cambridge Analytica, just as we have with authorities in the US and other countries. We’re reviewing the report and will respond to the ICO soon.”

In addition to penalising Facebook with the highest possible sum in its jurisdiction, ICO has also undertaken actions against a string of parties suspected of having involved in irregularities during the campaign:

  • Enforcement Notice to cooperate with investigation was sent to SCL Elections, affiliated with Cambridge Analyica, and steps are being take to bring criminal charges against SCL Elections for its failure to implement the Enforcement Notice;
  • Warning letters were sent to 11 political parties on their ways of buying and using voter data. Audits are planned for later this year;
  • Enforcement Notice was sent to the Canadian data analytics firm AggregateIQ (AIQ) demanding it to stop possessing UK voters’ data, in cooperation with the Canadian authorities;
  • Investigation into both the Leave and Remain campaigns are ongoing;
  • An audit on Cambridge University’s policy and process will be conducted. A recommendation to Universities UK was issued demanding the education institutions to be more vigilant on the usage of personal data gathered for academic research purposes vs. academics’ private commercial interest.

In a certain sense, Facebook was fortunate with timing. Had the new GDPR been in place before the referendum, the ICO would have the authority to handout a ticket of up to €20 million (£17 million).