Since the draft of the Communications Bill came out a few weeks ago, I’ve been worrying (here and elsewhere – see my letter to The Guardian) about the net’s mysterious (but total) omission: not one mention in over 300 wide-ranging pages. In 1992 I’d have expected such a gap, in 1997 I guess I might not have been surprised. In 2002 it’s a lacuna worthy of the X Files. Still I was torn. Don’t we net folk – ballsy frontier types after all – relish our ‘invisible man’ status? Shouldn’t we count ourselves lucky? The answer, at least for me, is ‘no’. The net’s absence (explicit and deliberate) from the bill’s provisions is like being air-brushed out of the Politburo May Day photo. It seems to suggest impending exile (if not actual assassination). It makes me paranoid.
Ofcom’s scope should be extended to accommodate the net. I don’t suggest this casually. Regulating a global network capable of an effectively infinite range of expression from a single, National perspective is probably impossible. In looking for an appropriate regulatory ‘footprint’ I settle on a much-needed redefinition of public service provision for the networked era, the nearest to a ‘natural’ target for regulation that the net offers.