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ISPs mark disapproval of the Digital Economy Bill

Mandy roasted at 2010 Awards ceremony

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The great and the good of the internet world turned out in force last night at the London Marriott, DJed and evening gowned, to learn who had won prizes at the ISPA annual awards dinner. What a difference a year makes: last year the talk was all around safety, particularly for children. Last night the focus had shifted, with digital economy and the right way to fund creativity on the net very much to the fore.

The evening began with a speech on behalf of Digital Inclusion Champion Martha Lane Fox. She was unable to attend due to illness, but had she been there would have talked enthusiastically about bringing the last 10 million UK adults – who have never used the internet – into the fold.

The awards themselves were kicked off by Feargal Sharkey, musician and CEO of UK Music, who also spoke passionately about the need to remove lawyers from the equation.

This sentiment was echoed by Eric Joyce MP, who was there to accept the award for internet Hero of the Year on behalf of his colleague, Labour MP and well-known blogger Tom Watson, who also could not be there. Tom Watson received the award – along with others who opposed the Digital Economy Bill – for his informed opposition to it and the fact that he was prepared to brave the wrath of party whips by turning up and voting against it.

According to Eric Joyce, opposing the Bill was not particularly easy as the view from many fellow parliamentarians was that you were either completely for the Act “or a thief”.

Also nominated for this award on grounds of opposition to the Digital Economy Bill were Bridget Fox, who narrowly failed to enter parliament as Lib Dem MP for Islington South in May, and the 38 Degrees campaign. Fox organised a major grass roots campaign against the Digital Economy Bill within her party, successfully ensuring that the Lib Dems are now officially opposed to many of the provisions in the current law.

38 degrees is allegedly the angle required in order for an avalanche to start and the organisation has been working steadfastly for "an avalanche for change" against the Digital Economy Bill and the influence of Rupert Murdoch and in favour of fairer voting.

The highlight of the evening – or at least what most of the audience loved to boo – was the award for internet villain. Once more, the Digital Economy Bill was centre stage, with nominations for Lord Mandelson, Lord Clement-Jones and the entire UK Parliament (all related to the Bill). The European Commission was nominated for its secretive negotiations around ACTA – and ACS Law also gained some votes for its "aggressive, heavy-handed approach to targeting alleged copyright infringement via P2P networks".

In the end, it was "Prince of Darkness" Lord Mandelson who won it. The audience reaction suggested that this was the right decision. In a break from the usual tradition that villains rarely if ever turned up to accept their awards, civil servant Nigel Higson, who had worked alongside Lord Mandelson on the Bill, stepped up to take home the perspex trophy.

For the rest, Namesco took the award for Best Shared Hosting for the third year in a row, an event which led to much late-night carousing and the downing of several bottles of champagne. It was also a good night for Claranet, which scooped awards for Best Business Customer Service and Best Business Fixed Broadband.

Be Broadband collected the highly-prized Best Consumer Broadband award.

The 8 other awards were:

  • Best Dedicated Hosting - NewNet
  • Best Internet Telephony - Gradwell
  • Best Mobile Broadband - FREEDOM4 WiFi
  • Best Consumer Customer Service - Plusnet
  • Access Innovation - Cybermoor (with a special commendation for South West)
  • Internet Safety - Childnet International
  • Best Digital Inclusion - Bolton Literacy Trust
  • The Corporate Social Responsibility Award - Orange

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