Issues Round-up: FCC loses, 111 calls, #CensusFail and human rights online

Phew, now that we're done giving up our weekly blog spot to guests to talk about ISP Spotlight we're back into our weekly round-ups of Internet access, use and security stories that have caught our eyes recently.

But first... UN recognises human rights apply on the Internet

Before we get into all of that, we wanted to highlight something that happened a few weeks ago (sorry). The UN's Human Rights Council has realised the brilliance of InternetNZ's policy principle "Human Rights should apply online" and said yes - human rights do apply online. The resolution "The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet" did cause some controversy (and probably has nothing to do with us). Anyway, we think the UN getting onboard with the idea that human rights apply to humans regardless of the information communications technologies they use is excellent.

Chips with Everything, a tech podcast from the Guardian, has started a 5-piece series about human rights and the Internet which I'd highly recommend you add to your podcast to-do list.

Also, our speaker series next month Harrassment and the Internet will cover a lot of the free speech vs harmful speech issues. Register here

The FCC and city-run broadband in the USA

In the states, apparently there are city councils that are running broadband services - presumably to compete with the large, integrated ISP like Comcast & Verizon.
As is often the case in the US, the big guys got their lobbying shoes on and a number of states passed laws stopping, or constraining, local government from offering broadband (including fibre services). The Federal Communications Commission (the FCC) stepped in and made a ruling protecting councils' rights to offer competition.

One of our policy principles is that Internet markets should be competitive, so it's disappointing to hear that the FCC has lost an appeal against its order in a federal appeal court. I'm pretty confident the FCC will appeal, their Chairman has been a surprisingly strident protector of consumers and competition.

This is another case that makes me rather happy we have our structural separation between Chorus and the retail ISPs here in NZ. Our city councils don't need to get into the ISP game (they can leave that to the newspapers) to create competition.

Google's emergency services solution

Google have announced a new feature in Android that lets you send your location data straight to emergency services. I know it sounds a bit niche but this is actually a big issue.
Here in NZ something like 70-80% of 111 calls are from cellphones and the location information isn't directly, instantly, available. Basically, the networks are not configured to easily and quickly let the emergency services call centre know where you are (and where the help is needed). That's a cause for concern as lots of people struggle to give accurate location descriptions (especially if you've come across an accident / are on a street you're not totally familiar with).

Google's feature is cool and it's already being trialled in the UK & Estonia (of course Estonia's trialling it).

What are we doing here? I'm glad you asked. Rather than addressing the network level issues (quite expensive), MBIE has commissioned an app for people to download and use when calling emergency services. There's plenty of opportunity for this one to go wrong (writing apps is easy, writing secure apps is harder) but it's not out yet, but watch this space!


Oh Australian online census. How should we describe you? By the sounds of if "omni-cluster-shambles" is the best descriptor.

Last week Australia tried to run its five yearly nationwide census. Most users were expected to fill in their forms online, there were even TV adverts telling people this. But on the night, users found the census website inaccessible. Out of nearly 20 million Australian residents, only about 2 million forms were filled in. Social media was filled with people saying they tried repeatedly, and crashes part way through meant their data was lost. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has said that the system was under attack by outsiders. They have suggested that there were repeated Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. The people running the service decided to take it offline, as DDoS attacks can be a distraction to enable stealing data from the system.

Essentially, from reports we're seeing out of Australia, it sounds like the Australian Bureau of Statistics (who run the census) and IBM really stuffed this one up. Sounds like they should have taken more advice from StatisticsNZ which offers an online census option. There are probably some lessons here. Firstly, if you need something on the Internet to be used by lots of people within a small time frame, you'd better have DDoS protection in front of it. That's just the reality of how we have to roll now (you can't leave your car unlocked these days either). The second lesson is that for important processes like censi (sp?) and elections... we probably want to take the move to online a little more carefully. "She'll be right" doesn't cut it.

And final word on this goes to @liamosaur



That's it from us this week. Have an awesome week and be excellent!