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April 17, 2005

European IXPs consider lobby for EU E-Commerce Directive

Europe's internet exchange points, IXPs, which switch traffic on behalf of internet service providers, are concerned to see the EU's E-Commerce Directive renewed this year, and are considering a lobbying action around upcoming legislation on data retention.

By CBR Staff Writer

The VI Forum of the European Internet Exchange Association, EuroIX, held in London last week, saw 33 IXPs from across the region gather to evaluate hardware and address issues such as security threats and response times. They also discussed for the first time present and planned legislation affecting the internet industry.

Until now there has been no need to talk to government, said Malcolm Hutty, regulation officer at the London Internet Exchange, Linx, the largest IXP in Europe and host for last week’s meeting. Now, however, there are lots of regulations on the horizon, and not all the authorities are well informed or aware of their implications.

A main area of concern is data retention, which Hutton said is a big deal for the ISPs, which are our customers and, in the case of not-for-profit mutual exchanges like Linx, our members. For the time being, he said it would appear that retention requirements will be restricted to logged data about content, but what if it extends to unlogged data, such as which IP address was assigned to whom and so on? he asked. This is traffic data rather than content information, and as such could conceivably mean a requirement for IXPs, which run switches and carry traffic but host no data as such.

A draft framework decision on data retention is under discussion within the EU, and the Council of Ministers last year set itself a deadline of June 2005 to agree what the eventual law should look like.

Another worry is the issue of TV without frontiers. Hutton said: Today TV content is regulated, such that things like religious advertising is prohibited in the UK, for instance, but the internet isn’t regulated, and hosting companies carrying offensive material are immune until they’re told to stop, at which point they can be prosecuted if they fail to take it down, but what about TV over the internet? An EU law on TV without Frontiers has existed since 1999, but the spread of broadband services means TV over the internet is now ramping up, and at last week’s meeting, EuroIX examined on the potential for conflict with the E-Commerce Directive of 2000.

This piece of legislation protects ISPs and IXPs from prosecution regarding any content that is crossing their networks, but it comes up for review this year, and with data retention concerns brewing among legislators, and TV without Frontiers becoming a more serious issue, EuroIX is keen to see it renewed as it is, without any watering down of the protection it affords the internet industry.

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