24 April 2010

UN-ELECTABLE Naming the muppets who voted for the Digital Economy Bill

UN-ELECTABLE: Tony McNulty (Lab, Harrow East). This man voted for the Digital Economy Bill / Act. Bye bye #deact #debill #ge2010 #ukelection Pse RT

UK Election 2010 Ballot BoxI started posting tweets like the one above the day after the Digital Economy Bill was rushed through its 2nd reading during the "wash up" in a Labour + Tory stitch-up. I've been posting them in drips & drabs in quiet moments and should be finished in time for Election Day.

It's not that I was opposed to the whole bill. Far from it. Nor do I entirely disagree with the need to curb pirating. (See previous post)

But this bill was the latest and last in a long chain of BAD legislation created on behalf of vested interests and their powerful lobbies, and then voted through by a bunch of whipped MPs too ignorant and arrogant to know better.

This is not the most outragious, significant or important legislation demanded by American politicians & businessmen, by the City, by manufacturers, by the CBI, or other vested/establishment interests, and supplied by a compliant Labour government in the face of direct opposition by British citizens (ONE MILLION marched against the Iraq war ffs!).... but it's a classic example, and it happened right on the eve of an election. Pay back time. This time we have a voice.

So my small, self-assigned mission is to name every single one of the MPs who voted for the bill.

They knew what they were doing. They were aware how controversial this bill was, but they trooped into the lobby under the watchful gaze of the whips all the same. Only a small but significant number of heroic back-benchers were brave enough to stand up for what was right or made any sense at all.

I want the Labour, and handful of Tory, drones to know that their actions did not go un-noticed.

Anybody searching twitter for their name or their constituency, or following an election hashtag, might come across my post, or somebody re-tweeting it. Their activists might. Their opposition might. And, if just one voter sees it and thinks twice about voting for them, it will have been
worth it. It's my tiny contribution to the election.

And yes, I am aware that some of the MPs named are no longer standing. That's great. One less muppet to worry about.

OK. Why get bothered about the Digital Economy Act (as it is now)? Here is some background reading for you...

07 April 2010

Digital Economy Bill - Your hand in our downfall

Computer user in handcuffs

I've been tweeting quite a lot recently, not about travel, but about politics and in particular, the Digital Economy Bill (#DEbill)... or as I prefer to think of it, the Internet Control, Surveillance and Punishment Bill.

A couple of people have queried me about it, so here's where I'm coming from.

I don't have a problem with much of #DEbill. Most of the provisions on regional news, DAB radio, etc are fine. So too are the clauses on infrastructure, though I think we've been short-changed. The national target min speed should be at least 50Mb, not a pathetic 2Mb, if we are to keep pace with other digital economies.

I do have an issue with "orphan works" clauses which, like much of the bill, haven't really been thought through or debated enough and should have been amended to protect the rights of contemporary photographers.

Importantly, I am not against anti-piracy legislation to protect the music, tv & film industries even though many commentators argue that those industries are out of touch with new technology and need to change their business models. I could be swayed either way on that, but I pay for all my downloaded music & video and feel at least in the short term there should be a way to stop the large-scale free sharing of those works.

My big issue with #DEbill is that, instead of being targeted, it introduces sweeping sledgehammer legislation (deliberately I suspect) that once again tramples all over our civil liberties. It doesn't just cover .mp3 and .mov file sharing. It covers all content that a copyright holder considers infringed, AND the offended party doesn't even have to prove the infringement before a jury (remember those? No longer required thanks to this totalitarian government).

So, if, despite my encouragement over recent weeks/days, you didn't try to counter-balance the huge industry lobby by writing to your MP about this, let me see if I can paint you a simple hypothetical picture of what your back-sliding acquiescence may have enabled...

Letter #1

From: Chairman, GreedyBastard PLC

To: Secretary of State

Dear employee,

It appears somebody has leaked an internal memo listing the sums we have been covertly depositing in your Swiss bank account. Something must be done immediately. By the way, we consider this to be a frightful infringement of our copyright on this document, nod nod, wink wink.

Letter #2

From: Ofcom Enforcement Officer

To: Innocent Conduit ISP Ltd

Dear Sirs,

It has been drawn to our attention that two websites which you host, Wikileaks.com and BroadsheetNewspaper.co.uk, are offering for download a copyrighted work belonging to GreedyBastard PLC.

Under our sweeping new powers, I order you to sever connections to the aforementioned websites. You may ignore any protestations of innocence which are irrelevant under the Digital Economy Bill 2010.

Now do you geddit?

Virgin Media redemption

It would be wrong to leave the recent posts about Virgin Media's atrocious Technical Support without acknowledging one redeeming feature.

Virgin have always been good at social media, and I've seen first hand at their Vjam brainstorming sessions at Nesta how much thought they put into their social media policies.

So no surprise then that @virginmedia spotted the tweets and blog posts, and responded with all the right words.

Well done guys.

Any chance you could take over Tech Support?

02 April 2010

Virginmedia nightmare Pt2 - What I want...

Well, well, well...

What a surprise! At around 22.00BST my broadband connection is miraculously restored.

So, let's summarise...

12 hours ago I was working normally and suddenly my Virginmedia broadband connection went.

No biggie - it's pretty reliable (in fact, hat's off to them for keeping a really complex network so stable) but it goes sometimes.

I phoned up a couple of hours later to see how long the breakdown would be.

The details are in the last post, but the summary is...

Virginmedia do anything but consider there may be a fault at their end.

1) They blame me for not paying a bill - quickly established as not true

2) Then they say it's a problem at my end and they'll have to send an engineer in FIVE days time.

3) Then when I try to get it speeded up, they say it's definitely not them, despite my pointing out that my neighbours were experiencing the same thing. It is my computer. Contact my supplier!

10 hours later the connection that is "not broken"... miraculously heals itself! Green lights across the modem.

I don't want "compensation". I don't want a discount voucher, or anything financial.

I don't even want an apology.

What I want is the last guy, the Indian technician that told me SO patronisingly, like I was a child, that my computer was broken, to acknowledge that I was right. He was wrong. IT WAS A VIRGINMEDIA NETWORK CONNECTION FAILURE.

However an apology is due to the other 80+ flat-owners in this block, all connected to cable, of whom 11 have confirmed to me that they also lost broadband and were given the same answers - apparently we can expect a deluge of Virginmedia engineers on Tues!

*** Afterthought ***

Oh, and by the way any Virginmedia peeps reading this...

We've been lobbied a few times recently to introduce Sky here. I forget how many flats they need to sign up, but any more cock-ups like this and you could lose your monopoly here.

01 April 2010

Virginmedia nightmare

Having one of those grisly nightmare times with Virginmedia.

For those of you who've been trying to connect with me... my broadband dropped out at lunchtime. I wasn't too bothered because it did that earlier this week but came back after 30 mins.

Then I decided to phone and just see if they knew what the problem was and how long they thought it might take to be sorted out.

1) The techie took all my details (phone number, post code, address, name, etc) but decided she couldn't carry on if I didn't know my account number, so she would have to hand me to Customers Services.

2) The Customer services guy could identify me from that same info. Then he told me I had been cut off because I hadn't paid my bill.

WHAAT! That can't be right!

... long story, short.... It wasn't right. (I did owe them one months payment which either was, or wasn't, due - I couldn't get much sense out of him - but was nowhere near 'cut off' time) He put he through to "Collections" to sort it out.

3) The "collections" woman was the first person who made any sense (she was also, I think, the first person not in a call centre in India) she apologised for the previous muppet, confirmed that there was no overdue payment and no "service restrictions" on my account. They had not cut me off. (Just to be extra sure I paid the current bill through her directly there & then!)

4) She refered me back to another woman techie (in India). This time I was told to un-power my modem so she could send it a signal. Then she asked me to start un-plugging and re-plugging cables. So she clearly thinks the fault is with me (despite the fact I have done nothing to it and it has been operating just as normal as it has for the last 5 years).

Then she says she'll have to send out a technician. Oh God no!

"Later today?" (it's Thursday)



"No. That is not acceptable"

"Well, call back in 2 hours and there might be a cancellation"

So, I've had to pull out my desperately slow T-mobile mobile modem to try and get some connectivity, and I hoping it'll all connect up again because I'm sure it's a Virginmedia fault.

***Update: 19.03pm Thurs**
My heart sinks.

I phoned Virginmedia techies again.

Another 30mins crawling about in the dark under my desk disconnecting router - power down - power up - reconnecting one cable - turn around cable ends - disconnect modem input - disconnect modem - reconnect - power up - check ipconfig - etc -etc -etc

To be told... "It's not us. It's your computer. Call your supplier"

"!! ...........But this is a block of 80 new flats, all connected to Virginmedia, and just like me at least two others lost their broadband at lunchtime and are being told by Virginmedia, it's their computers"

But he's not having it.

So I'm now stuck in limbo for at least four days. All I can hope is that one of my neighbours has better luck than me.