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Internet 'heroes and villains' vie for ISPA awards

The ISP Association praises those pushing for faster broadband, but criticizes politicians and the music industry for trying to place restrictions on Internet use.

The Internet Service Providers' Association has published the nomination lists for the "hero and villain" categories at its annual awards.

Every year, ISPA praises a "hero" and slams a "villain" at its U.K. Internet Industry Awards ceremony. Last year's hero was Vodafone Content Standards Manager Annie Mullins--for helping in the fight to make the Internet safer for children--while the European Commission was named top villain based on its domain registration rules for businesses.

The hero nominations this year include Facebook (for retracting its controversial Beacon tracking system), the Financial Services Authority ("for keeping a keen eye on the promotional Web sites of financial services and warning that they are not fair or clear enough"), and Stephen Timms, the U.K's minister of state for pensions reform (for pushing for faster broadband speeds through a nationwide fiber rollout). Also nominated as heroes are Peter Robbins, chief executive of the Internet Watch Foundation, and Derek Wyatt, member of Parliament, who has chaired the All Party Parliamentary Internet Group since 1997.

Much of the villain nomination list is devoted to those individuals and organizations who are trying to put limitations on Internet use. The British Phonographic Industry association is named "for its heavy-handed approach against consumers rather than engaging in constructive dialogue with the Internet industry when dealing with file-sharing," while Conservative leader David Cameron gets a mention "for buddying up with the music industry and trying to appeal to a younger audience." French President Nicolas Sarkozy also gets a drubbing for trying to tax Internet access and mobile phone use, and HM Revenue & Customs gets a mention for losing 25 million U.K. citizens' personal data.

BT Wholesale is also on the villains' list "for changing the whole engineering plan for 21CN only six months before the launch date." 21CN is the new fiber-based spine of the U.K.'s Internet connectivity, currently being rolled out to replace the old copper-based infrastructure, and ISPA's nomination is a reference to a change BT implemented in the way customers were supposed to be migrated from the old network to the new.

BT responded quickly to its nomination, claiming in a statement that BT "changed the plan in response to specific requests from industry."

"There is now a one-step, customer demand-led approach to migration, which is what industry wanted us to deliver," read Tuesday's statement. "We regret that we were not able to provide communications providers with more notice, but engineering the world's most ambitious next-generation network and the services they support is no small feat. The aim of the entire industry is to deliver next-generation broadband to as many end users as possible, and that is what we are doing."

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.