It is remarkable to see that ever since the Internet came to the Netherlands, our government has always been one step behind the industry. Whenever they introduce new legislation or policies, it looks like they came up with it a year too late, or have no idea what they are doing.
We all know the example of the bill on cookies, for instance. Cookies had been around almost since web browsers existed – it’s not like they were invented two years ago. But the lawmakers heard about them just a few years ago and that is why they created this bill, which now makes you click on a lot of notices, only to let the website install that cookie after all.
It is not just at the consumer side where the government thinks of policies like that. The industry itself experiences hindrance. When ADSL technology was developed, commercial (and perhaps political?) pressure kept upload speeds low, so that only ISPs were able to serve as servers. Putting content on the Internet was deliberately kept out of the realm of possibilities for the home user. And even now in the days of Fiber To The Home we have seen KPN buying Reggefiber and basically killing off their extension plans in favour of the asymmetric VDSL. Perhaps the lawmakers listened too much to the ISPs on that one, because they didn’t know.
But technical knowhow is a problem with governments and not just in the Netherlands. Last month, a Spanish judge ordered Cogent to block an IP address in use by Cloudflare, because some of the addresses are used by The Pirate Bay. Arguably this is normally a good thing, but the range of IP addresses of Cloudflare that had to be blocked, also hosted other, more legitimate web sites, which couldn’t be reached after the block – if the end user connected through Cogent. That had some real impact on those websites. The site remained reachable just fine through other ISPs – which is really the sad part, as the order did not achieve much when it comes to blocking this site in Spain, but users worldwide were affected. The whole order was misguided and could never have achieved its goal this way.
This is exemplary for how little governments know about the Internet, its workings and the industry. Is it time that this changes? Let’s hope that with the influx of new and younger MP’s, who grew up with technology, a revolution on this will start. Experience is absolutely necessary in Parliament, but tech savviness also. There is knowledge in the European Parliament and that helps. I believe they want to improve the industry and write policies that can help. Sure, not everything is that great but still better. When there is enough technical knowhow, maybe then the industry and The Hague can still become friends, like the industry and Brussels already seem to be.