Ah, Peter Mandelson. A man so adored by his country he was forced out of the House of Commons twice, and can now only sit in cabinet because he was appointed to the House of Lords.
Among his string of titles is secretary of state for business, innovation, and skills and it’s in that role that he’s introducing a quite horrifying bill. The bill, if made law in 2010, will allow entire households to be cut off from the internet without proof or evidence. It will turn ISPs — the companies who provide your internet access — into police forces, and it will allow Mandelson and his successors from any party to rewrite the law without proper parliamentary scrutiny.
Quite rightly, Mandelson’s proposal is causing outrage. There’s a petition on the Number 10 web site and there are a few messages doing the rounds on Twitter.
If you’ve added your name to the petition or re-tweeted the message on Twitter I can tell you right now: your efforts are not worth a bucket of warm piss.
Real protest takes effort. Real protest is not typing your name and email address into a website or pressing a ‘Retweet’ button. It takes more than that to make a change, and if you’re as worried about this as I am you should be doing more.
So don’t just sit there scratching your arse, wondering why the government isn’t paying attention to the latest trending topic on Twitter. Write to your MP. Find someone in the Lords who pays attention to these things (Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer for example) and phone them, email them, or pick up a pen and paper and post them a letter.
This is far more effective than anything else we can do. The more an MP hears about this from their constituents the more likely they will do something — and they will often assume many more people than just those who bother to write are concerned.
One last thing: if you bookmark this page, if you mention it on Twitter, if you send it to a friend without writing to your MP, I will make it a goal of mine to ensure, if this bill becomes law, your internet access is shut down. Because you won’t deserve it.
Anyway, idle threats aside, I’ll finish with the letter I sent to my MP, Mohammad Sarwar. Please take an hour out of your day to do the same.
Letter to Mohammad Sarwar, MP for Glasgow Central
Dear Mr Sarwar
I am deeply concerned about Lord Mandelson’s proposed digital economy bill. I believe if the bill were to become law it would have a negative effect not only on me as a web programmer but on every constituent of Glasgow Central who regularly uses the internet.
It forces a duty on ISPs — the companies that provide us with internet access — to police their customers. It allows a household’s internet access to be cut off without any proof or evidence of wrongdoing. It allows the secretary of state to confer investigative and enforcement rights on private companies. Worst of all, it allows the secretary of state and his successors to amend the law as he sees fit, without any serious debate in parliament.
When so many people rely on the internet to speak to family members abroad, to interact with government services, and to run businesses, no government or organisation should be able to restrict access.
What the bill should do is ensure broadband is cheap, fast, and neutral. It should enable Britain’s poorest and most isolated to access the internet. It should help school children use what will soon be, if it is not already, a core part of their lives. It should not simply be a defence of an outdated business model used by a few powerful media companies.
I would be grateful if you could raise my concerns with the secretary of state for business, innovation, and skills, who is responsible this bill.