Data retention will cost providers millions

By EDRi · January 12, 2005

According to a recent Dutch study into the costs of mandatory data retention, internet providers will face investments of millions of Euro. The Dutch study is the only governmental study in Europe made public so far about the costs of data retention. The EU proposal from April 2004 is very vague about the specific data internet providers will have to store, but has a very broad scope, including all kinds of new protocols and communication technologies. In November 2004, the Council of Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) announced they would even expand that scope, and oblige providers to collect data they normally do not process. The Dutch research company KPMG has just assumed the obligation will be about e-mail log-files and about all connection data to all internet services. How providers, especially large ones, should actually deduct these kinds of data from their data streams remains a mystery.

The study estimates the total Dutch internet traffic at 25 Gb/s, and calculates that the initial investment to retain and store traffic data in the Netherlands would be 15 to 20 million euro if the internet providers would do it themselves, and 7 to 10 million euro if the government were to store the data and handle all requests themselves. As high as those costs might seem, they were already outdated when the report was finalised, in November 2004, because they were based on statistics from 2003. The traffic at the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMSIX) has more than doubled in volume since 2003, mainly because of the success of broadband internet.

In December 2004, the AMSIX signed a protest letter from 250 Dutch ISPs, calling on members of the Dutch Parliament to prevent Minister of Justice Donner from agreeing in the JHA Council. The London Internet Exchange has added its powerful voice to the massive international protest from citizens and companies against mandatory data retention. They started the new year by issuing a warning that the plans will add to costs for Internet users. Unaware of the Dutch estimate, they think the costs will be exceptionally high, and the only way to cover them would be for ISPs to introduce a special user charge for data collection and retention.

LINX currently has 170 member ISPs. Malcolm Hutty, the regulation officer of LINX, explains “we are currently carrying about 70 Gb/s peering traffic over our infrastructure. This makes us the world’s largest neutral Internet exchange.” Hutty also told EDRI-gram that the London Internet Exchange has experienced a similar fast growth in traffic volume as AMSIX did, growing from a little under 24Gb/s in December 2002.

The total traffic volume in the Netherlands and the UK is even higher, because internet exchanges do not see inner-provider traffic, such as file-sharing amongst customers of the same ISP, or downloading from provider archives. All these numbers mean the costs of retaining communication traffic data will keep on rising sharply in the years to come, from maybe 40 million euro for all the Dutch ISPs today, to over a hundred million in a few years from now.

Dutch report on the costs of data retention (with summary in English, released 21.12.2004)

Government web snooping to add costs for Internet users (06.01.2005)

LINX realtime graphics

AMSIX cumulative graphics