Sunday, March 31, 2013

Europe - Lack of skills amongst children using social networking sites leads to heightened risks

Researchers from London School Economics hav published an article offering lessons for evidence-based policy on younger users of social networking:
European self-regulation to ensure children's safety on social networking sites requires that providers ensure children are old enough to use the sites, aware of safety messages, empowered by privacy settings, discouraged from disclosing personal information, and supported by easy to use reporting mechanisms. This article assesses the regulatory framework with findings from a survey of over 25000 9- to 16-year-olds from 25 European countries. These reveal many underage children users, and many who lack the digital skills to use social networking sites safely. Despite concerns that children defy parental mediation, many comply with parental rules regarding social networking. The implications of the findings are related to policy decisions on lower age limits and self-regulation of social networking sites.

UK - City centres are no guarantee of higher broadband speeds, deprived areas have slower speeds

The Guardian reports that city centres do not get the fastest broadband:
Research based on 900,000 speed tests over a three-month period by price comparison firm uswitch shows the slowest area in London has a postcode which covers the Barbican, a short walk from the City.

The average download rate in EC2Y is 5 megabits per second, well below the 12Mbps national average. The highest speeds in the capital are to be found in the suburb of Charlton in Greenwich. Here, residents enjoy connections that are 76% faster, with a 22Mbps average.

The greatest disparity is to be found in Birmingham, the UK's second city. In the areas of Perry Barr, Great Barr and Hamstead, residents have an impressive 21Mbps, but in the B35 area, which covers the economically deprived Castle Vale district, average speeds are 89% slower at just over 2Mbps.

In Easterhouse, which has a history of long-term unemployment and some of the worst life expectancy statistics in Scotland, average speeds are the slowest of any Glasgow area at just under 3Mbps. This is 85% less than the near 21Mbps residents of the G22 postcode area receive.

It looks as if BT is investing in fibre in areas where it thinks it will be able to get higher returns.

UK - OFCOM reports improvements in levels of complaints about fixed telephony and broadband

OFCOM reports:
Overall, the total volume of complaints made to Ofcom continued to fall during the last quarter of 2012 – the sixth consecutive quarter of decline.

TalkTalk complaints continued to fall quarter on quarter, although they remain at almost double the industry average, with consumers mainly complaining about service faults and customer service issues.

Landline telephone complaints per 1,000 customers, October 2010 – December 2012

Fixed broadband complaints per 1,000 customers, October 2010 – December 2012

UK - Warnings of "them and us" divide excluding those without Internet access from government services

The BBC reports that:
The government is in danger of creating a "them and us" situation by digitising public services, a report warns.
It quotes government ministers:
Ministers say 82% of "transactions" can be carried out online, as that is roughly the proportion of the population which uses the internet.
The source of the story was a report by the National Audit Office (NAO). This noted that:
. From our surveys we found that 83 per cent of people use the internet. Whether people live in a rural or urban area appears to make little difference to their internet use. Age, socio-economic group and disability do affect internet use. Over 90 per cent of those we surveyed who were online were experienced internet users who felt confident about completing online tasks without help. However, 7 per cent of those online lack confidence and may need help to use the internet
It identified problems:
  • People’s behaviour rather than their awareness of an online option could be a significant barrier (e.g., preference for face-to-face meetings)
  • People are generally not happy with providing personal information online
  • There is low awareness of some online public services
It commented:
... the government’s aim of making public services digital by default seems broadly acceptable to most people and small- and medium-sized businesses. However, there is far to go before digital becomes everyone’s chosen means of accessing public services. There are still significant numbers of people who cannot, or do not wish to, go online. The government has set out plans to help such people use digital channels but now needs to put these plans into action if it is not to create a ‘them and us’ problem for those not online

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Europe - Kroes likens big data to oil, in its potential for jobs and growth

Commissioner Kroes, speaking at the EIT Foundation Innovation Forum, announced that:
we have entered the era of big data.

And this is an opportunity. In terms of economic value alone, this is a market worth tens if not hundreds of billions of euros per year.

At a time when Europe desperately needs growth, this is exactly where we should be looking to create new jobs and new opportunities.

Already today, governments - and the public they serve - are learning that open public data can boost transparency, improve public services and fuel innovation.

Whether you're trying to predict the economic future—or decrypt a foreign website. Whether you're trying to locate a traffic jam or a Higgs boson: big data tools will be helping you.

She identified three ways in which the EC was supporting big data:
  • open up access to more data from public administrations within the single market for re-use, including EU-funded research
  • a modernised data protection framework to allay public concerns
  • funding innovation to build industrial capacity to use big data

Europe - EC has proposed a regulation to reduce the costs of deploying high-speed broadband infrastructure

The European Commission has proposed new rules to reduce the costs of installing broadband. It estimates savings of 30 per cent, amounting to €40 to €60 billions across the EU.

The built on best practice in Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and United Kingdom. , but leaves organisational issues very much to the discretion of Member States.

The EC has proposed a draft regulation to the Parliament and the Council. The full text COM(2013) 147 final is to be debated in Parliament and Council.

The Regulation is to address four main problem areas:

  • inefficiencies or bottlenecks concerning the use of existing physical infrastructure (such as, for example, ducts, conduits, manholes, cabinets, poles, masts, antennae, towers and other supporting constructions),
  • bottlenecks related to co-deployment,
  • inefficiencies regarding administrative permit granting, and,
  • bottlenecks concerning in-building deployment.
In order to maximise synergies across networks, the regulation is addressed not only to electronic communications network providers but to any owner of physical infrastructures, such as electricity, gas, water and sewage, heating and transport services, suitable to host electronic communications network elements,

Mobile - Identities can be derived from supposedly anonymised location data file to high levels of accuracy

The BBC reports that mobile location can be worked out relatively easily:
The growing ubiquity of mobile phones and smartphone applications has ushered in an era in which tremendous amounts of user data have become available to the companies that operate and distribute them - sometimes released publicly as "anonymised" or aggregated data sets.

These data are of extraordinary value to advertisers and service providers, but also for example to those who plan shopping centres, allocate emergency services, and a new generation of social scientists.

The story is based on an article in Nature - Scientific Reports by Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, C├ęsar A. Hidalgo, Michel Verleysen & Vincent D. Blondel.:
We study fifteen months of human mobility data for one and a half million individuals and find that human mobility traces are highly unique. In fact, in a dataset where the location of an individual is specified hourly, and with a spatial resolution equal to that given by the carrier's antennas, four spatio-temporal points are enough to uniquely identify 95% of the individuals. We coarsen the data spatially and temporally to find a formula for the uniqueness of human mobility traces given their resolution and the available outside information. This formula shows that the uniqueness of mobility traces decays approximately as the 1/10 power of their resolution. Hence, even coarse datasets provide little anonymity. These findings represent fundamental constraints to an individual's privacy and have important implications for the design of frameworks and institutions dedicated to protect the privacy of individuals.

Highlands and Islands - £145.8 project to bring faster broadband, supported by BDUK and implemented by HIE

The BBC reports that, belatedly, the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has signed the contract with BT to supply broadband in the Highlands and Islands.
BT will lay more than 497 miles (800km) of new fibre on land and about 248.9 miles (400km) of subsea cables over 19 crossings to remote islands.
While BT is contributing £19.4 million, there is another £126.4 million from the public purse. The reports are unclear, but while the Scottish Government seeks to claim some responsibility, it does not claim to have contributed any of the £126.4 million, which appears to have come from HM Treasury in London, by way of BDUK.

HIE claims in a press release that it was a "once-in-a-generation partnership":

The project, led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and delivered by BT, is being hailed as the UK’s most complex and challenging broadband project ever.

It means that around 84 per cent of Highlands and Islands homes and businesses will have access to fibre broadband by the end of the project.

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said:
The geography of the Highlands and Islands makes this project one of the most challenging in our nationwide roll out of broadband, and I'm delighted that today's announcement means that faster speeds and better access are now one step closer to becoming a reality for these communities. We do more business online than any other European country and this will be a tremendous boost for the local Highland and Islands economies.
The project entails BT taking fibre to the cabinet (FTFC), offering broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps, plus some Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) and Ethernet services.

BT and HIE will assess emerging technologies through a £2.5 million Innovation Fund, with a view to extending faster broadband to the most remote places in the Highlands and Islands.

Europe - Report estimates FTTP/C in 55% of households in Western Europe and 31% in Eastern Europe by 2020

The EC has published a Study on the socio-economic impact of bandwidth (SMART 2010/0033)

It comprises:

  • a review of the existing literature on the socio-economic benefits of broadband access;
  • a high-level research on the technologies that are capable of delivering download speeds of at least 30Mbit/s to the mass-market by 2020;
  • the preparation of case studies describing local or regional markets where very high-speed Internet is widely used;
  • the development of a model to examine the demand for 30Mbit/s+ broadband in EU member states plus Croatia, Iceland Norway, and Turkey to 2020, the extent to which this demand would be met by commercial broadband roll-outs, the cost of commercial roll-outs and the cost of extending terrestrial broadband coverage to a larger proportion of the population in each country; and
  • the development of models to examine the overall socio-economic impact of investing in high-speed broadband.
Note - Although funded by the public through the EC the PDF is protected so you cannot copy and past from it.

Scotland - A reply to the green paper on economic and competition regulation - looking at the telecommunications sector

A few days ago the SNP administration in Edinburgh published what appears to be a "green paper" on economic and competition regulation after independence.

I have now compiled a response to this, identifying some of the omissions and suggesting simpler and less risky ways in which it might proceed.

The full text is freely available on SSRN as A Short Note on Economic and Competition Regulation in an Independent Scotland - the Case of Telecommunications.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

UK - House of Commons report on bridging science in the laboratory to commercial success calls for more information for investors and support for technologists

Under the somewhat exotic title Bridging the valley of death: improving the commercialisation of research (HC 348), the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published its eighth report of the session. (See also the written evidence.)
There exists the concept of a valley of death that prevents the progress of science from the laboratory bench to the point where it provides the basis of a commercially successful business or product. The future success of the UK economy has been linked to the success of translating a world class science base to generate new businesses with the consequent generation of UK jobs and wealth.

A troubling feature of technology companies in the UK is how many are acquired by foreign owners where the subsequent jobs and wealth are generated outside the UK.

We consider it important that investors have a better understanding about technology investments and that the Government ensure that investors have ready access to information that would encourage their interest in technology based investments. The amount of information available would, in our view, be improved by the restoration of both the R&D Scoreboard and Bank of England monitoring on the availability of finance to SMEs.

The Technology Strategy Board is becoming the focus for government innovation policy and we considered the portfolio of funding mechanisms and facilities available for them to support innovation and growth. We were concerned about the access of small firms to large scale test and experimental production facilities. We considered that the Technology Strategy Board and other commercialisation activities needed to ensure projects were properly supported in issues of manufacturing capability. We recommended that Government consider how they can resource the TSB to provide local level advice to technology businesses. The Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) and the SMART Award scheme would appear to be successful initiatives but lack sufficient funds to meetthe demand from companies. We consider it vital that the Catapults are made to work but have concerns that they may be pushed to become self-financing too quickly.

We recommend that that TSB produce a review of regulatory burdens on technological innovation in the UK that includes a roadmap of how that regulatory reform might be used to drive innovation and which institutions should take the lead.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

EC - welcomes BEREC support for its draft Recommendation on non-discrimination obligations and costing methodology for regulated wholesale network access

BEREC, the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC) has issued its opinion on the European Commission's draft Recommendation on non-discrimination obligations and costing methodology for regulated wholesale network access.

The EC welcomed this saying:

BEREC fully supports our overarching objective to encourage high-speed internet investment across Europe and our strategic objective of ensuring predictable and stable access copper prices, effective non-discrimination obligations that sustain competition, and pricing flexibility for such services to meet demand. Predictable and consistent rules which contribute to a competitive EU single telecoms market are what market players and investors need for long-term planning. We will take account of BEREC's constructive opinion and work closely together to ensure that we deliver a pro-competitive, pro-investment regulatory environment. I am confident that industry will respond positively and invest.

Internet - Varian tries to evaluate the worth of the Internet, with search alone worth USD 1.37 day

Hal Varian writing in The Economist addresses the question:
MEASURING the value of a good is much trickier than measuring the cost, since value inherently involves consideration of a hypothetical: what would your life be like without that good?

So one way to measure the value of online search would be to measure how much time it saves us compared to methods we used in the bad old days before Google. Based on a random sample of Google queries, the UM researchers found that answering them using the library took about 22 minutes while answering them using Google took 7 minutes. Overall, Google saved 15 minutes of time. (This calculation ignores the cost of actually going to the library, which in some cases was quite substantial. The UM authors also looked at questions posed to reference librarians as well and got a similar estimate of time saved.)

I attempted to convert this time to dollar savings using the average wage and came up with about $500 per adult worker per year. This may seem like a lot, but it works out to just $1.37 a day. I would guess that most readers of this blog get $1.37 worth of value per day out of their search engine use.

Europe - EC report on the individual dimension of the Digital Agenda

The European Commission has published a Report on an individual-centric Digital Agenda for Europe:
This paper reports on actions already taken and initiatives planned to enhance the individuals dimension of the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE). For this purpose, individual end-users are defined as individuals in their dimension of human beings, citizens and consumers. The report presents five lines of action to enhance the DAE's individuals dimension.
Five lines of action were proposed to enhance the DAE's individuals dimension:
  • Emphasising that the DAE includes three objectives aiming at empowering individual end-users: serving individuals, enabling individuals and protecting individuals.
  • Better explaining the DAE's Key Performance Targets that affect individual end-users and if necessary adapting them.
  • Adding new indicators relevant for individual end-users concerning e.g. accessibility, socio-economic integration, employability, educational and training records, cross-border e-services, sustainability, individual well-being and end-users' satisfaction with eCommerce and ICT services.
  • Involving individual end-users at all key stages where their input could be relevant for the determination of priorities, both for research and regulatory policy.
  • Developing new forms of interaction with individual end-users, using in particular the possibilities opened up by the Internet.
It identifies a number of new indicators:
  • Percentage of internet users knowing the maximum download speed in their contract
  • Among those, percentage of users agreeing that the effective download speed matches their contract
  • Percentage of internet users experiencing difficulties accessing online content and applications due to insufficient speed or capacity
  • Percentage of internet users willing to pay more for a faster Internet connection
  • attitude towards switching bundle providers : percentage of inertial users
  • attitude towards switching bundle providers : percentage of hindered switcher users
  • attitude towards switching bundle providers : percentage of active switcher users
  • mobile phone users limiting their calls because of concern over communication charges
  • mobile Internet users limiting their use of mobile Internet because of concern over charges

Smart cities - Call for critical re-evaluation of the "smart city" concept, including its role within its region

Cisco's Shane Mitchell writes in What is a City, and How Does it Get Smarter? that:
  • The critical issue is how to move beyond visions and prototypes, to scaling and adoption;
  • The whole notion of smart cities should also be reappraised; and
  • Third, the Internet of Everything Economy will fuel a transformation across communities, industries, and social interactions.
... the U.K. government’s Future Cities Catapult initiative is taking strides to develop a Smart City exemplar with the city of Glasgow, and engaging many other cities. Just this month, the government further announced an investment of £50 million into the setup of a U.K. Future Cities Catapult center in London. More expansive to the wider economy is the parallel Connected Digital Economy Catapult.
Mitchell notes:
There is a clear need for a better dialogue — a learning cities approach — as outlined by my colleagues at the Academy of Urbanism (AoU), and by Tim Campbell in Beyond Smart Cities. How can a country, community, and an integrated regional ecosystem step beyond political boundaries to release the power of enterprise and entrepreneurship. In short, we need to rethink our definitions, develop resilient communities, and support those who are developing new models for public and individual entrepreneurship.

USA - Connect2Compete through "EveryoneOn" campaign offers free digital literacy training, discounted high-speed Internet and low-cost computers

The USA campaign Everyone On:
is powered by Connect2Compete. Connect2Compete aims to eliminate the digital divide by providing high speed, low-cost Internet and computers and free digital literacy training to all Americans.

Through an innovative collective-impact model, we've built multi-sector partnerships with the nation's leading Internet, hardware, and software providers, and more than 21,000 libraires and nonprofits delivering free digital literacy training. Together we can ensure every American can harness the power of technology and the Internet.

connect2compete:
is a unique collaboration of government, corporate, philanthropic and community leaders committed to harnessing technology, especially the transformational power of the Internet, to improve the lives of Americans and their ability to thrive in the global economy.
It offers Americans:
  • free digital literacy training;
  • discounted high-speed Internet; and
  • low-cost computers
It does this through the “EveryoneOn” campaign.

UK - EE to offer 4G wireless service in rural Northern Fells of Cumbria

The BBC reports that EE will be launching 4G wireless services in Cumbria:
The service will be rolled out to 84% of the Northern Fells over the next few months.

EE has been running a 4G mobile broadband trial in a small part of the Northern Fells since May 2012.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

BDUK - Fujitsu reported to have withdrawn from tendering from rural broadband projects under the state aid scheme

uswitch reports that Fujitsu has withdrawn from the BDUK tendering process:
Fujitsu was one of only two approved bidders to be named for the £530 million rollout of high-speed broadband in the UK countryside.

However, only BT has won contracts to date - with many critics pointing to a lack of genuine competition for the broadband provider.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

UK - OFCOM reports that average UK broadband speeds reache over 12 Mbps in November 2012

Research by OFCOM:
Our research finds that in November 2012 the average actual download speed of a UK fixed broadband connection was 12.0Mbit/s (Figure 1.1). The average actual speed of connections with a headline speed of ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s or higher was 44.6Mbit/s in November 2012, more than ten times the 4.4Mbit/s average for connections with advertised speeds above ‘up to’ 2Mbit/s and up to and including 10Mbit/s. The average speed for connections with a headline speed above ‘up to’ 10Mbit/s and less than 30Mbit/s was 8.1Mbit/s during the period.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Scotland - Scottish Govt has published the responses to its procurement consultation on broadband in the lowlands and south of Scotland

The Scottish Government published a revised report on the Infrastructure Action Plan for the Rest of Scotland (i.e., not Highlands and Islands) Procurement
Scottish Government carried out a Public Consultation into the eligible intervention area for investment of public funds into broadband infrastructure on 1st October 2012. The period of consultation closed on 28th November 2012. A Public Consultation Report was published on 3rd January 2013, extending the period of consultation to 11th January 2013. This report sets out the responses to the consultation and the actions that the Scottish Government has taken as a direct result of those responses.

Western Isles - The monopoly ferry operator is to install Wi-Fi on all routes

The BBC reports that Barra Youth Council has persuaded the state-owned Caledonian-MacBrayne to install Wi-Fi on ferries.
Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne will make wi-fi available on all its sailings between the Western Isles and the mainland, it has been announced.

Australia - Parliamentary Committee deeply divided on next generation broadband report

The fourth report of the Australian Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network (NBN) has been published. The Chairman, Robert Oakeshott MP, noted that:
Even though we have successfully come inside the Terms of Reference reporting date by 24 hours, it has been several months of disagreement between committee members on some very basic points in this report that have seen the report delivered later than planned.

In my view, this is an early warning sign that the topic of higher speed broadband technology is likely to feature strongly in political debate throughout 2013, an election year.

The Committee recommended much more detailed reporting by the NBN Co, including performance in several areas. It also wants to:
  • explore the synergies between fixed and mobile telecommunications networks with a view to using the National Broadband Network to improve mobile telecommunications; and
  • facilitate private providers use of NBN Co infrastructure to provide and improve mobile telephone services and coverage across Australia, particularly in regional and remote areas
It reports considerable changes, including delayed commencement of volume rollout and increased use of Telstra infrastructure.

A fifth review, the last before the election, is underway.

UK - Analysys Mason has published reports on the spectrum now held by the various operators

Analysys Mason has produced a short report on spectrum for telecommunications in the UK.


Key: BT; H3G trades as '3'; O2; UKBB = UK Broadband; VF = Vodafone; EE = Everything Everywhere.

As they point out:

These results are only illustrative, but they serve to indicate that O2 and Vodafone both possess more valuable portfolios than a simple analysis of the total bandwidth would suggest. Conversely, BT and UK Broadband's portfolios may have a lower value relative to those of the four main MNOs than the number of MHz held would suggest.
It has also produced maps of the spectrum.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

USA - Telcos facing uphill broadband struggle as Cable confirms its leading position in take-up and in speeds

Broadband Trends reports on the woes of telcos:
North American telcos had a tough year in fixed broadband during 2012 – as net additions dropped 60% from the previous year, while cable net additions held steady. Telcos continue to be challenged by cable operators that are – on average- offering significantly faster speeds over their networks.
FCC data indicates a widening gap between DSL and Cable speeds, with 69% of cable subscribers receiving speeds above 10Mbps compared to only 19% of Telco (DSL + FTTH).

Europe - EU launches "grand coalition" to match skills of jobless with the large number of unfilled vacancies

The Irish Presidency of the EU reports an EU initiative to meet ICT skills demand and reduce unemployment:
A major drive to boost jobs and match young unemployed with large numbers of existing vacancies is behind a major new European initiative aimed at addressing the predicted 900,000 ICT vacancies by 2015, according to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD. Among the initiatives that will be introduced are improved training and skills matching, led by Europe’s top ICT employers; a common EU certification system for ICT skills; and assistance services and funding to enable ICT workers to move within the EU to areas where demand for their skills is highest.
Richard Bruton TD said:
ICT is one of the key engines of economic growth and the better use of ICT will be critical to enhanced European competitiveness, growth and jobs. Even during the economic crisis, the numbers employed in ICT have been growing by 3% annually. In spite of this, strong demand will continue and according to the latest revised data, there is expected to be up to 900,000 unfilled vacancies in the EU for ICT professionals markets to fall behind in this way and lose job opportunities in favour of other regions of the world. The time for action is now.
The Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs is intended to improve the match between Europeans seeking work and in education with the large number of ICT vacancies, running from 2013 ot 2015. The initiative includes:
  • Improved ICT training and skills matching, including commitments by Europe’s largest ICT employers to scale up their training programmes and make available their training content in new ways
  • The introduction of a single European certification system for ICT skills, enabling greater mobility among ICT professionals within the EU
  • Creation of assistance services and funding to enable ICT workers to move within the EU to areas where demand for their skills is highest
  • Developing a number of campaigns to ensure European students and young professionals fully appreciate the range of ICT related jobs and career paths open to them
  • A one-stop-shop for web entrepreneurs is also being established. Startup Europe contains all available support tools and programmes for people setting-up and growing their online business.
The European Commission press release quotes President Barroso:
The Grand Coalition we launch today is an essential part of getting Europe's economy back on track and finding jobs for some of Europe's 26 million unemployed. I applaud those companies who have signed up today. If, together, we can turn the tide and fill the growing number of ICT vacancies, we will see a much wider impact across the whole economy. We want to empower Europeans to fill the jobs that will drive the next ICT revolution.