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Chapter update: Belgium February 2010

Contributed by Rudi Vansnick

The Internet Society Belgium Chapter started 2010 with a huge list of agenda-points to resolve. First, we had to tackle the new Auvibel (intellectual property) tax on electronic equipment. The new law applies dues to equipment, such as external hard drives, USB stick, flash memory cards, even if they are used for personal storage purposes. A meeting with the minister of economic affairs made clear the next revision of this law will be carried out in collaboration with organizations such as ISOC Belgium.

At the start of February, ISOC-BE’s chair, Rudi Vansnick, was asked to appear at a hearing in the Belgian parliament and senate in regard to the debates related to the European data retention regulation. We defended the position of Internet users and their privacy rights. Blocking and filtering the Internet, or the storage of Internet user connection information, in the name of law enforcement, is not something we could defend. We also question why the ordinary Internet user has to pay the bill for these proposed actions. The outcome of the hearing will be put together in a new draft document, which will be sent to all participants of the hearing. ISOC Belgium proposed to postpone the final law, as the EU is planning a general review of the specific European regulation. Perhaps lessons could be taken from that evaluation and help us to create better solutions.

At the end of the first week of the month, our chair was interviewed by Flemish television in the context of a special session on Internet addiction. We got a lot of attention and are now starting an in-depth questionnaire to better analyse to actual situation. It has been claimed that more than 15 percent of Belgian Internet users seem to suffer from Internet addiction. Some also say that the arrival of social networks doesn’t help, and may, in fact, simulate addiction symptoms.

An ongoing process at Chapter level is the implementation of a new Members only website corner. In the next three months, we will organize at least two seminars focusing on the use of standards, especially web accessibility. We are also preparing the upcoming ICANN meeting in Brussels.

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