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‘Group Coca-Cola Schemes’, and the EU IP Enforcement Directive passes

Ireland: Bad news from home.

A truly ground-breaking concept, the ‘Group Broadband Scheme’, has been watered down into a shadow of what it could be with a requirement that all community internet access schemes be operated in association with ‘an Internet Service Provider or Authorised Operator’.

In other words, rather than a radical new way to provide affordable non-profit, community-owned high-speed internet access in rural areas, it’s just business as usual:

‘With the launch of the 1st Call for Group Broadband Scheme proposals, it is clear the Minister intends to require that any application for funding under the group broadband scheme initiative be made in association with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) or Authorised Operator (AO)’, said (Ireland Offline) chairman Christian Cooke, ‘a so-called Broadband Internet Service Provider (BISP)’. …..

Experience in the UK has shown that the commercial provision of broadband in rural areas is not financially viable. Low population and wide dispersal lead to lower margins than can be supported by a profit-oriented enterprise. ….

Ireland Offline warned that the prerequisite of partnering with a BISP as a condition of GBS funding, there is a very real danger of companies cherry-picking more lucrative areas, leaving communities for which the funding should have been made available … without any services.

‘In short, in its current form, the group broadband scheme initiative bears no resemblance to the group water schemes, to rural broadband provision’, said Cooke, ‘and every resemblance to the packaging of subsidized local monopolistic franchises, monopolistic because no competitor could go head-to-head with a subsidized service. It is therefore better to think of them as not so much like group water schemes as ‘group coca-cola schemes’.’

IrelandOffline press release here.

In other EU news — the EU Parliament has approved the IP Enforcement Directive. The Greens report:

  • Patents are included within the scope of the directive.
  • only 3 parts of the directive are limited to ‘commercial scale’. This means that the provisions of Articles 7(1), 8 and 9 can potentially be used against consumers. In the US this kind of legislation has been used to target, amongst others, children and their parents for downloading music.
  • there are concerns amongst ISPs that they can be attacked for ‘providing’ the means to download content which is protected by copyright.

James Heald: ‘Exactly what will now happen, and exactly what surprises it may lead to, will now depend on the different details of how the directive is now implemented from member country to member country across Europe.’

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