VALA 2008: Unlocking Access

by Luke Wroblewski February 6, 2008

At VALA 2008, Michael Geist (Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law) outlined the current state of the World Wide Web and proposed how government policy might play a role as we move further down this trajectory.

  • The common perception is that when it comes to the Internet, the government should be hands off. But this has always been kind of a myth. There always was a role for policy & government.
  • Broadband Access: the price of admission for lifelong learning, self-expression, social participation, and more is broadband access. The market will not serve all people due to last mile costs. As a result, there is a role for the public sector to play.
  • Net neutrality: ISPs used to consider themselves “dumb pipes”. Now attempting to tier for those who can pay, and for others who cannot, restricting the rate of content transfer. Unequal pipes would hamstring innovation online. Need policy to maintain net neutrality.
  • Spam & spy-ware: Legislation is needed for criminal prosecution of spammers and malicious software distributors.
  • Intermediary liability: legal protection for hosts when people post criminal content.
  • Privacy issues: big issue stemming from public information available on social networks. 70-80% of people on Facebook do not adjust their privacy settings. Need to ensure people’s information is protected.

More details on Michael's talk can be found on Connecting Librarian: VALA 2008 Conference - Michael Geist