Archive for May 2011
The G8 heads of state ignored pleas from Google’s Eric Schmidt and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to delay “premature” lock-down of the internet.
Instead, they preferred to support host French president Nicholas Sarkozy’s controversial view of how to tackle online piracy. But they hinted they may change their minds, given fresh evidence.
In a statement on the internet issued at Deauville, the G8 leaders said the sometimes heated E>G8, where both Schmidt and Zuckerman spoke, was a “free and fruitful debate” and “a contribution for all relevant fora on current and future challenges”.
Nevertheless, they were “renewing” their commitment to ensure effective action against “violations of intellectual property rights in the digital arena, including action that addresses present and future infringements”.
They said, “We recognise that the effective implementation of intellectual property rules requires suitable international cooperation of relevant stakeholders, including with the private sector.”
They committed themselves to find ways to increase access and openness to knowledge, education and culture. This included encouraging continued innovation in legal online trade in goods and content, that were “respectful of our intellectual property rights”.
This was a victory for copyright intensive businesses such as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Fox Studios, as well as France’s Vivendi and even Orange, the French mobile network operator. At the E>G8 Murdoch himself as well as representatives of the above firms, and others, argued for tougher penalties for content thieves and vigorous policing of the internet by internet service providers (ISPs).
On the related matter of users’ privacy, the leaders said individuals were ultimately responsible for what they put online. They agreed it was important to protect personal data and individual privacy to earn users’ trust. While ISPs, regulators and governments had a role, users needed to be “better aware of their responsibility” when placing personal data on the internet, they said.
Turning to cybersecurity, the G8 called for coordination between governments, regional and international organisations, the private sector, civil society and the G8’s own work in the Roma-Lyon group, to fight cyberterrorists and cybercriminals.
They said user awareness of the threat of botnets was crucial to fight attacks against infrastructure, networks and services, and against spreading malware.
They called on all stakeholders to fight the use of the internet for trafficking in children and for their sexual exploitation. They promised to work towards improving online child safety and parental controls, without limiting free expression.
They said there had been good progress in improving internet access in developing countries, particularly for education and healthcare.
They said they looked forward to further input from several international conferences later in the year. These were the Internet Governance Forum (September), the OECD meeting on the internet economy in Paris (June 2012), the London Internet Cyber Conference scheduled (November), and the Avignon Conference on Copyright (November).
From the OJEU:
“BDUK is seeking to establish a framework agreement of suitably qualified prime contractors capable of delivering local broadband projects as required by local bodies or groups of local bodies. “Local bodies” potentially includes local authorities, local enterprise partnerships, devolved administrations and other public sector bodies.
Prime contractors will need to be capable of delivering a range of broadband and related requirements, including (but not limited to):
— The design, build, integration and operation of wholesale broadband networks at a county, multi-county or regional level. Such areas could be of potentially up to the order of 500 000 premises,
— Broadband solutions that meet outcomes-based specifications rather than being tied to specific technologies and platforms,
— Open access wholesale services including for retail service providers (e.g. Internet Service Providers) to include as part of retail broadband packages for business and residential customers.
It is currently anticipated that: the framework agreement will be for a duration of two years with the possibility of up to 2 one-year extensions; and the contract notice for this framework agreement will be issued by the end of June 2011.
Whilst local bodies may elect to deliver broadband via other procurement routes, BDUK expects that a majority of the available funding will be accessed via call-off contracts from this framework agreement. There is the potential for the framework agreement to cover projects with a total value of up to 2 000 000 000 GBP or more.”
Wiltshire, Norfolk and Devon & Somerset will together receive around £50m from the government to extend high speed broadband access to residents and businesses, the government said today.
It also confirmed the creation of a £20m fund specifically to extending such access to rural areas.
The moves are the next step in the government’s plan to give the UK the “best broadband in Europe” by 2015. To do it, it has set aside £530m, and hopes to attract matching funds from European development agencies, network operators and other government budgets.
The four counties join North Yorkshire, the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, Cumbria and the Herefordshire borders in winning BDUK money. These counties got the nod from the BDUK almost a year ago, and are still in the procurement stage of their projects.
A BDUK statement on 27 May said the new bid winners would now start their procurements. It hoped they would begin upgrading their networks within a year.
Devon & Somerset were the big winners, attracting £30m, with Norfolk getting £15m and Wiltshire £4m. The final amounts will be decided “in the coming weeks”, BDUK said.
The funding round attracted 18 bids. Last week, culture minister Jeremy Hunt told the West Sussex County Council, a losing bidder, that BDUK would work with the losers to improve their chances of government money.
BDUK said too the latest news came “ahead of an announcement later this year on funding for every local authority in the country”. No further details were immediately available.
BDUK said it “anticipated that a mix of technologies will be used, including mobile, satellite and fibre connections to hubs in the heart of communities. It is hoped that suppliers will start rolling out upgraded infrastructure within a year. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will then use these networks to offer affordable services to homes and businesses.”
The government’s emerging strategy to work through county councils to deliver “next generation access” mirrors its earlier strategy on first generation broadband. Basically they gave BT all the money to upgrade local exchanges to provide ADSL connections over copper wires. Which BT did, and now claims that 99% of homes with telephone lines can get “broadband”.
The government’s action then pretty much translated BT’s former monopoly in telephony into a present one in broadband, especially in the two-thirds of the countryside outside the towns,
BT’s coverage claim is true. In practice the quality of it’s service in terms of speed and reliability are wanting, especially when compared against the service required by customers, or against competitor nations’ ambitions, That said, communications regulator Ofcom and other bodies reckon the UK has the cheapest, most widely used broadband access in Europe, if not the world.
BT has already budgeted £2.5bn to upgrade the parts of its network that cover two-thirds of the population, and has said it will match government funding for the next 25% of the population.
A month ago, Fujitsu Telecom and Virgin Media offered to invest £2bn provided they got around £500m from BDUK and cheap access to BT’s poles and ducts. But West Sussex County Council’s experience suggests the proposal is aimed at extending Virgin Media’s cable TV footprint in towns rather than rural areas.
What seems to be missing from the broadband dialogue is a genuine attempt to find alternative sources of money where investors are prepared to wait for a return.
It is common cause that communications networks have become the “fourth utility” and the associated investment risk should therefore be evaluated accordingly. If patient investors cannot be found, it means they trust neither the government nor the management to deliver over the period.
BT’s MD for next generation roll-out, Bill Murphy, says most BT projects today won’t get funding if payback is more than two years off. The breakeven period on its present network build is 12.5 years, he says.
Without knowing the cost basis for this claim, it is impossible to verify. But assuming he is right, the working life of copper circuits is at least 40 years (BT is working hard to extend even that), and the working life of optical fibre could be many times more.
Why should not BT’s, or indeed any other network operators’ investors not look for a return over similar periods? If only governments can afford to wait that long, why should they simply give money to private firms who will then squeeze their new assets for as much profit as they can wring out of them in the shortest possible time?
In other words, has the time come for the government to consider renationalising Openreach as the nation’s network utility?
More harmonised spectrum for high speed mobile broadband is what Europe’s Digital Agenda boss Neelie Kroes will ask from the EU’s council of telecoms ministers meeting in Brussels tomorrow.
Kroes will will ask the European Parliament to adopt legislation that make radio spectrum available for wireless broadband by 2013.
According to the commission, businesses that reply on access to spectrum supports 3.5 million jobs, generates around €130bn a year in tax and contributes €140bn directly to European GDP.
She will also present the net neutrality rules that came into effect on 25 May, and discuss how to achieve the Digital Agenda goals of 30Mbps basic broadband access for all by 2013, with 50% having access to 100Mbps by 2020.
The council is expected to agree to the commission’s proposal to extend the current mandate of the European Network and Information Security Agency (Enisa) by 18 months. But there are calls for the Crete-based think-tank to be updated and upgraded.
Kroes will urge ministers to improve and strengthen their national cybersecurity defences, and update them on developments on roaming services in the EU.
1Q11 sales of hardware and software to the private sector, which represents about two-thirds of the total market, were £3.00bn, down from £3.30bn in 1Q10 and from £3.32bn in 4Q10, the ONS said.
Investment in transport and communications fell almost 25% to £4.8bn, probably due to the zero rating of VAT on some aircraft which pushed up sales for 4Q10.
The ONS said figures for computer hardware and software sales are now available to download as several time series. These provide quarterly sales of hardware and software from 1Q01 for different sectors.
Vodacom, Vodafone’s South African subsidiary, is granting credit to its prepaid subscribers who run out of voice or data airtime.
In addition to a fairly stringent conditions (12 months’ usage, threshold top-ups, low credit limit) Vodacom is charging 10% interest on the advance. Principle and interest are deducted from the next top-up.
A Vodacom spokesman said a customer survey showed keeping in touch with family and friends was critical for prepaid customers, making it “imperative” to stay connected.