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Lex Orwell is Scaring IT Companies Away from Sweden

Swedish CEOs attack Lex Orwell and PM Fredrik Reinfeldt.

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The Lex Orwell proposal has already hurt Swedish competitiveness in the IT market. Google have announced a possible discontinuation of operations in Sweden. Other foreign companies hesitate to carry out planned investments.

Crucial Swedish industries such as telecom and data storage have become less attractive in the international market. The Norwegian IT industry organisation IKT-Norge have issued an outright warning about data storage with Swedish operators. Even Swedish IT corporations are deliberating evacuating the Swedish market. The damage done by Lex Orwell is so comprehensive that we expect the government to take our apprehensions seriously.

So write the CEOs of Sweden's eight leading IT companies in a collective op-ed for Sweden's biggest newspaper.

Sweden has for a long time had a good reputation as an open and growth oriented nation. This has contributed to making our country an attractive place to both live and conduct business. The Lex Orwell proposal now put forth by the government creates uncertainty on many levels and the government's response to the reactions to the proposal inspire little or no confidence.

Prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt talks about chilling out and sees no cause for alarm. But unfortunately there are good reasons to be fearful of what the law brings with it. Not only for the personal integrity of Swedish citizens but just as much for the commercial consequences which affect an entire industry and seriously jeopardise Sweden's good reputation as a leading information and IT nation.

Swedish corporations are part of an all the more globalised world and sell an all the greater part of their services in the international market. In order to not worsen Swedish competitiveness it is therefore important to avoid aberrant Swedish legislation. On the contrary: Sweden must work for a harmonised regulatory milieu within the European Union.

Lex Orwell is however a dramatic example of how aberrant Swedish legislation carries with it directly negative effects for Swedish business. And reactions to the law have not been long in coming neither at home nor in the world around.

Sweden is a very outstanding Internet nation and an important transit country for the traffic of amongst other countries Norway, Finland, and Russia. Lex Orwell has provoked reactions from customers in these countries which unavoidably leads to foreign tele consumers opting away from Sweden and Swedish companies to channel their traffic.

An example of this is that TeliaSonera at the behest of Finnish customers have moved their web and mail servers off Swedish territory. Another example is Tre who to safeguard their Danish clients' integrity have been forced to consider solutions that exclude Sweden. A third example is the successful electronic mail provider Momail who are seriously deliberating moving their operations out of Sweden because of the new law.

This results in a loss of jobs and investments in Sweden.

The aberrant Swedish legislation also creates huge and unnecessary costs for the Swedish tele industry. According to Lex Orwell the operators are to cover all costs for channeling traffic to FRA's so called 'cooperation points'. The government write in their proposal that the effects for the industry are neutral in terms of cost and by this they mean the costs are the same for all operators. But this is not true.

Both internationally and nationally the tele industry is very burdened by competition and Swedish tele companies are now forced to carry costs their European competitors don't need to consider. And smaller operators are hit even harder. This means Swedish tele operators will work at a clear competitive disadvantage with their foreign competitors.

The above consequences can be thought sufficiently serious to call Lex Orwell into question. But Swedish IT corporations are even more worried about the obvious risks for Sweden's reputation as a leading information and IT nation. This is about Sweden's capabilities to assert herself in the international market. Indications that Sweden's attractiveness as an IT nation is now being challenged are now flowing in from many places.

Foreign corporations are suddenly hesitant to consider future investments in Sweden. Crucial industries such as telecom and data storage see their attractiveness in the international market cooling and even Swedish IT companies are considering evacuating the domestic market.

Google have announced a possible discontinuation or downscaling in the Swedish market. The Norwegian government think Lex Orwell so serious that their communications department have tasked the post and tele foundation to study the consequences the law will have for Norwegian interests. A comparable study was carried out in Finland already last year. Even the Norwegian IT industry organisation IKT-Norge sees obvious threats to Norwegian interests and have beseeched their government to consider encouraging Norwegian interests to avoid data storage with providers operating in Sweden. Comparable fears have also been expressed by the Danish industry organisation Telekommunikationsindustrien.

The above collected expressions of fear for Lex Orwell have already had factual consequences for Swedish competitiveness. Sweden's place as a leading information and IT nation is seriously threatened no matter the prime minister thinks it's all a misunderstanding. Few people debate the need for a functional surveillance agency but the damage done by Lex Orwell is significant.

Why must Sweden profile herself by having the most comprehensive signals surveillance legislation in Europe and possibly the world? We demand the government take our anxieties seriously. It's not surprising so many are wondering if Lex Orwell is worth the cost.

Anne-Marie Fransson IT&TelekomföretagenPeder Ramel CEO Hi3G
Johan Lindgren CEO Telenor SwedenAnders Bruse CEO TeliaSonera Sweden
Niclas Palmstierna CEO Tele2 SwedenLars Glarborg Assistant CEO TDC Sweden
Roger Söderberg CEO BT NordicsTomas Franzén CEO Com Hem

I have a dream. My dream is that in a few years I will visit an auto showroom to buy an old used bucket of bolts and out will come a salesman and that salesman will be our current prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. This is not an unreasonable dream.
 - 'Joshen'

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