An Afternoon In Bern: Network Neutrality Redux

Last Thursday, I sat on a panel with Swiss Telecommunications Association President Peter Grütter, Swisscom CEO Carsten Schloter, and Green National Councilor Balthasar Glättli, on the subject of network neutrality, and whether legal protection therefor is necessary in Switzerland. Not surprisingly, the panel was of different opinions on this matter. Swisscom and the telecom industry group support self-regulation, making the very good point that laws change too slowly with respect to Internet technology too quickly to be effective; and Glättli making the equally good point that as several obvious violations of neutrality can already be observed in Switzerland, trusting the industry to regulate itself has so far had dubious results. Coverage (in German) of the event can be found at computerworld.ch and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and if you’ve got 55 minutes to kill, video of the event itself (also in German) is available at the website of the Parliamentary Group on Digital Sustainability.

On Network Neutrality

The National Council of Switzerland1 is considering the addition of a guarantee of network neutrality into a forthcoming revision of Swiss telecommunications law. This is generally a Good Thing. We all like the Internet. This being Switzerland, we all like neutrality. So network neutrality must be great. More seriously, the Internet has largely replaced the public switched telephone network and the postal system as the basic communications infrastructure of our society; just as with these systems, the “last mile” is a natural monopoly, so guaranteeing equal access to it is important. However, the results that legislation of network neutrality will lead to may vary widely based on how, precisely, it is defined.

An evening in Bern

The Internet Society Switzerland Chapter’s inaugural national event was last night at the Käfigturm in Bern; in my talk, “The Open Internet under Threat” (which, as it turns out, was unwittingly inspired in part by a much earlier post on this blog; slides are here), I accomplished what I set out to do, I think — start a conversation about the present state of the Internet, and threats to its openness, to figure out where we ISOC people as politically-interested network geeks can make a difference.

Talk: The Open Internet Under Threat

I’ll be giving a talk to the Internet Society (ISOC) Switzerland Chapter at a meeting in Bern, at 18:30 on Tuesday 27 November, entitled “The Open Internet under Threat”. After my talk, Green National Councillor Balthasar Glättli will speak on Internet-related topics in Swiss national politics, so it promises to be a really interesting evening for Internet geeks and policy wonks alike! 

Comic-Book Supervillainy

I opened the NZZ am Sonntag (the Sunday edition of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the paper of record for German-speaking Switzerland) today to read of yet another threat from Switzerland’s current favorite comic-book supervillain: Starker Franken.

The Zürich Model and the Domestic Audience

The New York Times ran a story last week, essentially detailing the Zürich Model: increase the usage of non-automotive transportation by simultaneously making public transit more attractive (through increased frequency and punctuality though e.g. transit-priority usage of shared corridors) and automotive usage less attractive (via lowering the capacity of throughways via street and lane closure, the “red wave” of worst-case traffic-light timing, traffic calming, lowered speed limits, and so on).

The Hauptwegweiser

Basically every Swiss city, town, village, train station, or particularly wide spot in the road has one: the hauptwegweiser (roughly “central trail sign”), which tells you where you can go from here on foot, and approximately how long it will take you if you’re in decent shape and not taking too many photos along the way. Hiking is a big deal in Switzerland. The federal government holds the cantons responsible to maintain the hiking trail network, which measures 62’000 km.

Amerikanische Qualität

Got yet another SVP (Swiss People’s Party) flyer stuffed in the mailbox yesterday, outlining what passes for their platform for the April cantonal elections, which is a straight cognitively-dissonant mix between xenophobic nationalism and classical liberalism. Schweizer wählen SVP, it says: Swiss people vote SVP, the implication being that all the other parties are for people who are somehow less than Swiss. The party somewhat disappointingly leaves the question of the impact of the rather stark protectionism implied by disengagement from Europe on the freedom of markets and Switzerland’s competitiveness unanswered. I get the impression this is because actually attempting to answer such a question would require nuance, which doesn’t fit onto a triple-folded A4 flyer in 36-point type underneath the picture of the scary foreigner. (You’d hope they’d be smart enough to realize, at least from the mailboxes, that they were advertising to a building full of binational couples. But alas.)

The Problem with the People’s Party

This is Ivan S. (name der Redaktion bekannt). Ivan lives with his wife and young son in a dingy little apartment in an old building in a small town outside a small city in Switzerland, an Ausländerghetto filled with asylum-seekers and semi-skilled foreign workers. Ivan has held the occasional odd job, but most of his time these days is spent on low level criminal activity for the Swiss arm of one or another criminal organization with ties to the Balkan peninsula: petty thievery, drug dealing, armed lookout and intimidation, transport. If it involves breaking the law with only marginal autonomy, Ivan’s probably got his fingers in it.


The tenor of the health-care slapfight (I’ll not dignify it with the word debate) in the United States of late is… well, frankly, embarrassing. Y’all are really making yourselves look bad. Death panels? Really? When a walking vapidity whose prime qualification for the job is that she can see Russia from her house gets up on the tee-vee and starts improvising science fiction so terrible that even L. Ron Hubbard wouldn’t stick his name on it, you do what the rest of us do, and you ignore it.