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It’s been a busy year for the industry with a lot of controversial topics and industry debates. Through this opinion blog we have covered many of the key issues and received a number of interesting comments from our readers. Therefore, we thought it would be beneficial to provide a review of 2011 which includes a number of opinions and comments from our partners and readers.

Elsa Chen, General Manager

Elsa Chen, General Manager

1. The dreaded DEA
First on the list in our 2011 review has to be the DEA. It has continued to plague the Internet industry this year and this looks set to continue into 2012. Barely a week has gone by where the DEA has not made the industry news in one form or another but the major points to remember are as follows:

  • 25% of the costs of the three strikes rule to be covered by ISPs
  • The BT and TalkTalk judicial review which has now been granted grounds for appeal
  • The popular Hargreaves’ report which aimed to restore some of the balance with regards to copyright infringement
  • Ofcom and the Government’s u-turn on website blocking plans despite the court decision to force BT to block the Newzbin2 website.

Entanet’s view
Throughout 2011 we continued to enforce our view that rights holders should be evolving to embrace the opportunities the Internet can provide to them, developing new distribution models and sales techniques but unfortunately the might of the DEA rolls on. There was a glimmer of hope with the release of the Hargreaves’ report which reinforced the message that the Government should consider the impact on non-rights holders when implementing such legislation and we saw a promising u-turn from the Government regarding the blocking of websites despite an earlier court order which forced BT to block access to the notorious Newzbin2 website.

What did our readers say?

Invictel supported the plans to block file sharing websites stating: “I think it’s long been the conclusion that if you want to cut out piracy and file sharing, you must tackle the source. If you give people the tools to do this, then why be surprised when those people use those tools and methods to circumvent the law? I would fully support a block on all file sharing websites.”

When discussing the court case between MPA and BT, AlisonW argued that the MPA were going after the wrong company and instead of taking BT to court should instead focus on the company that hosts the Newzbin2 websites, forcing them to “block the servers at source”.

She added: “Alternatively, blocking within the transit between there and the UK would block the site for the whole UK (as one would think the MPA desires), A quick traceroute shows a route via the USA (New York-SanFrancisco-SanJose-SantaClara) on Global Crossing and hosting with Savvis in their Santa Clara facility. Given how the MPA and MPAA work closely together — and much of the disputed content is almost certainly of USA origin — then one would have thought those targets easier to block. But instead the MPA chooses to block a proportion of UK customers.”

The results of our poll on the subject of ISPs being forced to block infringing websites shows that just 17.6% of respondents think ISPs should be forced to block sites (but this is just the ISP hosting the website), whilst 53% think the entertainment industry should adopt new business models. A further 29% think such blocks are a breach of free speech and could be exploited.

2. ASA broadband advertising guidelines

Further controversial news came in the form of the ASA broadband advertising guidelines which will take effect from April 2012 and will require ISPs to advertise their broadband package speeds based on speeds that 10% of the ISPs customer base achieve rather than the current ‘up to’ speeds based on the maximum achievable by the technology (e.g. up to 24Mbps for ADSL2+).

Entanet’s view

The new guidelines are being implemented to attempt to clarify the confusion over potential speeds achievable and speeds received amongst end users. However, we feel this new process will simply add to the confusion and unfairly bias regional and rural based ISPs whose customer bases are likely to demonstrate lower actual speeds due to their location when compared to national ISPs who would actually suffer the same issues in those areas. The new guidelines will also do nothing to highlight the networks that are congested, which is often the root cause of customers’ experiences.

What did our readers say?
This was a popular topic of discussion among our readers who appeared to agree with us that this will do little to end confusion and like us fear that this will simply worsen the situation.

Gary Hall from MacAce stated: “This completely baffles me – the ASA have done an awful job here. It’s ridiculous that we won’t be able to advertise “up to 24Mbps broadband” anymore as that is the best way for consumers to understand the technology behind the connection. End users that don’t understand that “up to 24Mbps” means exactly what it says and describes the underlying technology/protocol used, are not going to understand the new methods at all – it’s going to create more confusion not less.”

Gary’s points were echoed by Karl Prust from Vivaciti who also raised the point that ISPs could become selective over which connections they accept as they will not want to lower their promotional speeds: “There are still carriers (BT Retail for one) that won’t accept a connection less than X meg, so if we (or others) accept these then that will bring the stats down a little, this is never going to be an easy one, I would have thought the only way to make it accurate was to make providers issue a percentage of customers speed against sync, as this would show if say a customer has a connection of 7meg but real world speeds are only 2meg and another has the same sync of 7meg but throughput of 6, then that may better show a potential customer the carrier in question is a little more congested than the others.”

As we head towards implementation date for the new guidelines the discussion around this topic is likely to continue. We will of course be following this via opinion in 2012.

3. Superfast Broadband

As we approach 2012 the Government’s targets for delivering superfast broadband edge closer. Not only have they aimed to have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015, deliver superfast broadband to 90% of UK homes and businesses by 2017 and 2/3rds by 2014, they also have a USC which requires them to deliver at least 2Mbps broadband to all premises by 2012. The BDUK has recently been receiving positive and negative press with regards to achieving these aims. Whilst it’s been struggling to attract bidders in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland it’s had much more success in North Yorkshire and has been awarded further funding from the Government in relation to the National Infrastructure Programme (NIP).

Entanet’s view

We are hopeful that the Government will achieve their objectives over the forthcoming years and see good progress in the news to support this. BT are already rolling out fibre based broadband services across the UK and are planning to double the speeds achievable with FTTC next year. Similarly, the development and roll out of FTTP is continuing at pace and we are constantly hearing of superfast broadband initiatives and schemes throughout the country.

What did our readers say?

Gary from MacAce is also optimistic the Government will hit their targets. “Despite all the pessimism around BT and the Government’s Superfast Broadband program, we’re seeing a lot of county-based action groups really getting behind it. Here in Cornwall, the Superfast Cornwall team are doing a great job. They delivered on ADSL 5 years ago and will deliver on fibre. Not every council is getting £150m to help though so my perspective may be skewed on the successes in Cornwall!”

Our poll in April showed that just 17% of our readers were already using FTTC broadband with a further 1/3rd of all responders stating they were hoping to move as soon as it was available. Worryingly though, 42% would like FTTC but it’s currently unavailable. A similar poll in July showed that 75% of resellers who responded are reselling FTTC. Perhaps it would be worth running this poll again later next year when the rollout has progressed further and now that Entanet has launched its own portfolio of FTTC services, to see if we receive a different result.

4. A good time for VoIP

Entanet saw a significant rise in demand for its VoIP services through 2011 and we encouraged our partners to get involved in VoIP as we feel that the timing is perfect. The market has accepted VoIP now and with significant improvements in quality of service and underlying connectivity (e.g. emergence of EFM and FTTC) we have seen an increase in demand for this scalable and flexible solution.

What did our readers say?

Gary from MacAce commented: “I agree, now is the time to start selling and thinking about selling VoIP. I don’t think it suits every business just yet, but it’s certainly getting there. It should be considered at the forefront nowadays to ensure every new phone system or phone system upgrade is either using VoIP from the outset or has the ability to use VoIP and PSTN side by side. Hybrid is my preferred option right now but with 21CN effectively using VoIP anyway, it’s definitely the way forward.”

5. Social Media Marketing – just hype?

Entanet began its own social media marketing strategy this year, you may have seen our Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn pages. If you haven’t, check them out! But it hasn’t been all good news for social media this year. In the summer sites such as Facebook and applications such as Blackberry Messenger were blamed for aiding the rioters spread chaos. We asked if the adoption of social media marketing amongst businesses is just hype or a valuable marketing tool.

Entanet’s view

We think social media marketing is here to stay and whilst it can take a lot of work to get the pages up and running and maintain them with regular content and manage any responses, we think it’s a valuable marketing tool that helps you to interact with your customers. But it’s not for everyone and not everyone has the time and resources to invest in social media.

What did our readers say?

The strain on resources to maintain such sites appears to be what is putting off some of our partners as explained by Karl from Vivaciti: “I would have thought that most of the people would fall into category 2, lack of time. I know this is the case with us, we do have company profiles out there but finding someone who has the time to update them on a regular basis is a task in its self! If you do have an entry and it is static (like ours) it will probably do more bad than good.”

This was echoed by Gary from MacAce who said: “I think it’s in its infancy and there’s far too much bad hype and bad services on offer. I don’t believe a twitter account and a Facebook pages adds anything significant to the bottom line for most companies. However, when Social Media is used to its full potential, from a marketing perspective, it can create a massive amount of buzz – this is something we will be exploiting for some of our new products next year I think.  I think it only works for big brands at present though.”

We ran a poll in September which asked “Do you think the government should restrict access to individuals’ social media accounts to stop criminal activities?” Only 19% of respondents said they thought it was the best way to stop the criminals. 37.5% argued they would just circumvent the blocks, 12.5% thought it was unfair on innocent people who would also be blocked and 31% thought it was a breach of privacy.

The other topical issues of 2011 and predictions for 2012

We also covered the importance of adopting IPv6 as IPv4 addresses continue to run out, Ofcom and the Government’s plans for net neutrality, or should I say a lack of net neutrality, and the return of the IMP albeit under a different name. It was a busy year for the opinion blog!

Looking forward to 2012 we expect the ongoing debate over the DEA to continue as we approach a time when ISPs will need to start implementing the three strikes rule. We are bound to see more arguments and issues break out across the industry as we begin this process.

We also expect superfast broadband to be a big talking point in 2012. The USC deadline will be reached, FTTC speeds are already set to double and roll outs will continue. The BDUK will also continue with their funding bids across the country, delivering faster broadband to the hard to reach areas of the UK. This will be an exciting topic to watch over the next few years and is an area several of our partners are also watching closely including Gary from MacAce who stated: “Looking forward to 2012, I see it as the year of fibre. Rollout’s gaining speed and it’ll be like a second-coming of the upgrade from 1Mb fixed broadband to the ADSL Max products 4 or 5 years ago. 80Mbps and 100Mbps will start to appear and within a couple of years the speed race will start again. In 3 or 4 years time will we see 400Mbps broadband, 800Mbps maybe.”

As we approach the deadline for the ASA broadband advertising guidelines we expect this to hit the news again. These guidelines have been criticised throughout the industry with many ISPs and industry bodies calling for the ASA to think again – we will have to wait and see if they listen to our concerns. If not, broadband advertising is about to get very complicated!

Have your say!

As you have read many of our readers have provided us with their own views on the topical issues we have covered. If you would like to have your say add a comment below or feel free to add comments on any of our other articles. You can also get involved by rating articles and participating in our polls.

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