Sunday, December 1, 2013

UK - Scotland is not compliant with the EU acquis communitaire for electronic communications and broadcasting

It is frequently stated that Scotland is compliant with the acquis communitaire of the European Union, which is wrong and misleading. Compliance requires the treaties, directives, recommendations, decisions and other EU legal instruments to have been transposed into national law and to have been implemented. The exceptions are the regulations, which have direct effect (e.g., Roaming III Regulation).

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is largely compliant with the acquis communitaire, but it does not follow that Scotland is compliant. At any one time most member states are not quite fully compliant, with directives not yet transposed, improperly transposed or not implemented, with the EC pressing governments to correct or to enact the necessary legislation, if necessary bringing infringement proceedings before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to require them to do so. For example, in 2013 the EC brought four cases against HMG, all on taxation, including one relating to corporation tax in Gibraltar.

Countries which are candidates for accession to membership are required to undergo complex procedures in order to become compliant, divided into a number of “chapters”, supported by the EC and consultants (see COM(2013) 700). Representatives of the institutions also begin to participate in the complex EU systems of network governance.

Ultimately, a political judgement is made, assessing the technical evaluations of compliance, based on:

  • Political criteria;
  • Economic criteria; and
  • The ability to take on obligations of EU membership.
Sometimes a country is admitted as a member state, even if it is not wholly compliant in a small number of areas, in the expectation it will be able to catch up.

Thus when the Council of Ministers is asked to consider the admission of Scotland, all the member states will be thoroughly familiar with the process of ensuring compliance and most will have been admitted in that way. Ensuring compliance is business as usual and the demonstrably false claim of already being complaint does little to advance the case for Scotland. If the EC did not make an assessment on its own initiative it would be likely that a member state might require that it conduct that exercise.

For broadcasting and telecommunications, accession and candidate countries have been required to transpose into their national law the various EU directives and to create the necessary institutions, notably broadcasting and telecommunication regulatory authorities, a national competition authority, plus systems of appeals. The EC engaged consultants to analyse the laws, regulations and institutions in the various countries and to hold regular meetings of the regulatory authorities, covering the period 2005 to 2013. This reported in detail every nine months the progress being made to inform the teams negotiating Chapter 10 on information society and media, including:

  • legislative framework,
  • institutional framework,
  • market access conditions,
  • spectrum assignments,
  • competitive safeguards,
  • market structure and
  • outlook.
For example, on the Chapter 10 negotiations for Montenegro the EC reported progress, but expressed some concern about the legal provisions for independence of the regulator and the delays in the decision of the Constitutional Court (see SWD(2013) 411).

While it would be trivial for Scotland to adopt a single clause bill to convert all necessary EU laws into Scottish statutes that would not achieve compliance. It would be necessary to create the institutions and then to demonstrate that the systems worked effectively, for example, that the broadcasting authority, multi-sector regulator and competition authority were independent and efficient, that appeals could be handled expeditiously. Perhaps the biggest challenge would be to conduct the first market telecommunications analyses, since this requires a considerable volume of data from operators and some skill in its analysis. The data can only be provided once the operators had separated the Scottish parts of their networks from their UK networks.

The institutions could be place in eighteen months. However, testing their effectiveness could well take another year.

Friday, November 29, 2013

UK - Scotland - Analysis of telecommunications, broadband and Internet proposals of the "white paper" on independence by the Scottish Government

A Short Note on Scotland's Future – The Internet, Broadband and Telecommunications

The Scottish Government has published its proposals for the future administration of an independent Scotland. This represents its case for a vote in favour of independence in September 2014 and the outline of its manifesto in the Scottish parliamentary elections planned for 2016, by when it hopes Scotland will have left the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Opinion polls continue to show that the plebiscite will fail, with only about one quarter of the electorate favouring independence. Scotland would become a member of the EU and comply with its acquis communitaire, join the Council of Europe, becoming a signatory to its conventions, and join the ITU adopting its Radio Regulations.

The Scottish Government has identified key economic sectors: energy, life sciences, creative industries, financial services, tourism, food & drink, and universities. It plans to reindustrialise the Scottish economy, focusing innovation.

The provisions for broadband, Internet and telecommunications remain vague and without a timetable. The institutional arrangements include a junior minister of communications within a Ministry of Culture, Communications & Digital, with a multi-sector economic regulator, a media regulator, a competition authority and a consumer protection body. Existing licences for a range of activities (e.g., broadcasting, gambling and telecommunications) would be “honoured”, though the mechanism is unexplained. It is unclear whether the existing UK legislation will be converted into Scottish statutes or whether the EU directives will be transposed from scratch.

Considerable attention is to be given to increasing services in rural areas, with calls for more fibre and 4G networks, notably with the announcement of 99% coverage obligations for 700 MHz mobile licences. Whereas, the low levels of adoption of broadband in urban Scotland are ignored, with no proposals to boost demand.

Scotland will not request an ITU country code, but seek to continue to use the UK code of 44. It will not use an ISO 3166 two-letter country code top level domain, but instead use dot Scot and the existing UK top level domains.

Based on the present EC legislative proposal (COM(2013)627), the Scottish Government maintains there would be neither roaming charges nor international charges for telephone calls between Scotland and the rest of the UK. This may not be enacted as proposed. Significant omissions include provision for regulators of advertising and gambling. There is no mention of replacement for the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal, perhaps because appeals would be heard directly in the Court of Session. Much depends on negotiations between the Scottish Government and Her Majesty’s Government in London in the period between September 2014 and independence day on 24 March 2016. A complicating factor is the UK general election in May 2015.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

UK - Parliament hears complaints about the exclusionary, anticompetitive behaviour of BT in the Govt's scheme for rural broadband

V3 reported on the recent hearing by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the rural broadband initiative of the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS):
The lack of transparency on pricing was also discussed by Malcolm Corbett, chief executive of the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA) and Nicholas James, chief executive of UK Broadband, who cited numerous concerns with BT.

Corbett went as far as to deliver the standout line of the sessions, likening BT to a ‘vampire death squid’ for the way it acts towards smaller, local providers.

The accusations were that DCMS had modified the terms of the agreement in ways that favoured BT to the exclusion of all others, but assigning small areas and by requiring only 90 per cent coverage.

In its report PC Pro completed one of the witnesses:

The maestro in question is Nicholas James, chief executive of UK Broadband, a company that wanted to spend £150 million on improving Britain’s fibre network, but couldn’t. Yesterday, he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee, and in only ten minutes destroyed the credibility of the government body – Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) – that’s spending almost half a billion pounds of public money on next-generation access.
The Daily Telegraph reported
Telecoms executives attacked the Government for “moving the goalposts” on a subsidy scheme to provide superfast broadband to rural homes and businesses so that BT was effectively awarded £1.2bn in public money without competition.
The video of the full hearing can be viewed here.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

UK - Regulator consulting on cutting the cost of a customer switching broadband suppliers and

Ofcom has proposed and has launched a consultation on measures to promote competition among superfast broadband providers:
Under proposals for consultation, the wholesale cost of switching a customer from one superfast broadband supplier to another would fall by up to 80%. In addition, the minimum length of the wholesale contract between BT and the switched customer’s new supplier would be reduced from a year to just one month.

The measures form part of Ofcom’s Fixed Access Market Reviews, a wide-ranging consultation on the wholesale telecoms markets used by a range of companies to offer telephone and broadband services to UK consumers.

The consultation on the Fixed Access Market Reviews closes on 25 September 2013.

UK - NAO report forecasts 2-year delay on rural broadband availability, BT is sole supplier and costs are not transparent to HMG

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report on a government initiative to improve access to broadband in rural areas:
A government programme to make superfast broadband available to 90 per cent of premises in each area of the UK is currently expected to be delivered nearly two years later than initially planned, the National Audit Office has reported.

The design of the competitive framework had the advantages of ensuring affordability and transferring risk but, together with State aid conditions and other commercial factors, led to potential suppliers withdrawing from the bidding process. BT was left as the only active participant in the framework and is likely to win all 44 local projects.

In addition, the Department has secured only limited transparency over the costs in BT’s bids. It does not have strong assurance that costs, take-up assumptions and the extent of contingency contained in BT’s bids are reasonable.

The project funding contributed by BT has so far been lower than originally modelled – the Department now expects the company to provide just 23 per cent of the overall projected funding of £1.5 billion, some £207 million less than it modelled in 2011. At the same time, by the end of the programme, BT is likely to have benefited from £1.2 billion of public money.

UK - Government report on new ways to use public sector information in response to inquiry report

The UK Government has published a response to the review of public services, which explores new ways to use public sector information. The review was launched in October 2012 by Stephan Shakespeare, Chairman of the Data Strategy Board and CEO of YouGov.
The Deloitte analysis9 which accompanied the Shakespeare Review suggests a figure of £1.8bn on the direct economic benefit from use of PSI and a figure of £6.8bn if broader economic and social impacts are taken into account. The next phase is to step up our efforts and provide business with the clarity and certainty of the flow of data to encourage investment in new opportunities.

The key issue is that central Government will not have all the insight into which datasets are the most useful to businesses nor the possibilities of how this data could be used by citizens and community groups. In addition, by harnessing the skills and appetite of people throughout the public sector and in business, we are more likely to be able to release larger amounts of data. This argues for a plan which is collaborative and open with clear principles guiding it and where public sector bodies are held to account to their commitments in a transparent way.

The Information Economy Strategy was published separately.

UK - Technology Strategy Board has published an analysis of its Future Cities Demonstrator Programme

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) has published a report, Solutions for Cities: An analysis of the Feasibility Studies from the Future Cities Demonstrator Programme:
It presents a detailed picture of some of the future visions of UK cities, the challenges they face, and the opportunities they have to deliver an improved quality of life for their citizens.

Just over a year ago the TSB launched its Future Cities Demonstrator competition, challenging UK cities to show how they would integrate their city systems to create better places to live and work. The report, prepared by Arup, draws out the common trends and themes that unite these unique city visions of a smarter, more sustainable future. By identifying these common themes, we can identify areas for future collaborations between cities and industry, new challenges for the research base, and new business opportunities for innovative companies.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

England - Survey finds only £3 million broadband funding for local councils has yet been handed over

The BBC reports that the funding from the BDUK has hardly begun to reach county councils in England:
A survey of English councils that are commissioning high-speed broadband access in rural areas has found many have yet to receive their share of a half billion pound government fund.

Only two of the respondents said they had been given any money by this March.

The government has allocated £530m to help meet its aim of delivering broadband to virtually all of the country by the next election in 2015.

It repeats newspaper stories in the Financial Times and the Daily Telegraph suggesting BDUK could be spun off as a private company.

UK - Super-Connected Cities plan scaled back following legal challenges by operators

The Guardian reports that BT and Virgin Media have forced HMG to revise its Super-Connect Cities plan:
A government scheme to spend £150m on broadband infrastructure to create 22 "super-connected cities", championed by George Osborne, has been dramatically scaled back following legal challenges. The plan to help cities build superfast internet connections to homes and businesses not served by BT and Virgin Media's existing networks has been reduced to a voucher scheme, the government confirmed on Tuesday, to be spent in areas where connections already exist.

The original scheme, repeatedly highlighted by Osborne in budget statements, was intended to deliver speeds of between 80 and 100 megabits per second to 22 cities, helping 1.7m households and 200,000 premises by 2015, as well as high-speed wireless broadband for 3 million residents.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mobile - Operators assert EU lags USA in advanced services because of fragmented market, want more consolidation and better spectrum harmonisation

The GSM Association has published a report comparing mobile wireless performance in the EU and the USA:
There is broad agreement that the EU mobile wireless market is underperforming relative to other advanced economies, including the U.S. We find that the EU is lagging well behind the U.S. in deployment of next generation wireless infrastructures and the advanced services they make possible, and that EU consumers are worse off as a result. EU regulatory policies have resulted in a fragmented market structure which prevents carriers from capturing beneficial economies of scale and scope and retards the growth of the mobile wireless ecosystem. We recommend reforming and harmonizing spectrum policies, permitting efficient levels of consolidation, and promoting innovation by fostering dynamic competition.

Satellite - Members of Scottish Parliament reacted positively to demo of broadband for rural and remote areas

The Stornoway Gazette reports on a satellite broadband briefing at the Scottish Parliament, by Avonline Managing Director Mark Wynn and Steve Petrie director for Eutelsat broadband.

Dave Thompson (MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) was quoted as saying:

I was very impressed with the speed on offer. This new standard of satellite broadband addresses many of the problems experienced with the medium in the past, and will broaden access to broadband particularly in remote and rural areas.

Many remote communities in my constituency have poor or even no access to broadband. The challenges of a suitable infrastructure for broadband and the effect that the geography can have on reception have complicated traditional services in many remote areas, and so I welcome the new generation of satellite technology which can offer a broadband service comparable to those available via ASDL elsewhere in Scotland.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

UK - Think tank calls for £5.5 Bn for ultrafast broadband to the door instead of high speed rail lines

The New Economic Foundation (NEF) has published a report arguing against HS2, the high speed rail link running north from London.

Rather than spend £33 billion on HS2, the NEF calls for:

  • £10 billion on upgrading our exiting North-South mainlines
  • £10 billion to overhaul regional rail around the country
  • £6 billion on improving buss and light rail (e.g. tram) networks around the UK – and introducing smart ticketing systems (like London’s Oyster card)
  • £2 billion on better biking and walking infrastructure
  • £5.5 billion on rolling out ultra fast ‘to-the-door’ broadband coverage across the UK – boosting business and reducing the demand for unnecessary business travel
The full text is available here.
The cost of providing fibre-optic connectivity to every house in the UK has been estimated to be at least £15 billion, however. So while our alternative investment package would clearly not contain the full amount necessary to reach every UK home, it could connect most homes in the core cities shown below.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

USA - White House reports that for 10 Mbps 91% of population have access to fixed & 81% to mobile broadband

The White House has published a report on progress with broadband:
Today, about 91 percent of Americans have access to wired broadband speeds of at least 10 Mbps downstream, and 81 percent of Americans have access to similarly fast mobile wireless broadband.
  • In the year 2000, 4.4% of American households had a home connection to broadband; by 2010 that number had jumped to 68%.
  • Broadband networks at a baseline speed of >10 megabits per second now reach more than 94% of U.S. homes.
  • Overall, average delivered broadband speeds have doubled since 2009. In 2012, North America’s average mobile data connection speed was 2.6 Mbps, the fastest in the world, nearly twice that available in Western Europe, and over five times the global average.
  • Annual investment in U.S. wireless networks grew more than 40% between 2009 and 2012, from $21 billion to $30 billion, and exceeds investment by the major oil and gas or auto companies; investment in European wireless networks remained flat during this time period, while wireless investment in Asia (including China)rose only 4%.
  • There are over 500 million Internet-connected devices now in American homes and businesses
Further detail is available from the NTIA report Exploring the Digital Nation: America’s Emerging Online Experience.

Study - Reports claims significant adverse effects of local loop unbundling on EU broadband and productivity performance

At an ITIF seminar in Washington DC, Copenhagen Economics presented its report "Europe can catch up with the US: A contrast of two contrary [sic] broadband models" by Martin Thelle and Bruno Basalisco:
... the US and EU took two different broadband policy paths since the late Nineties: the former focused on infrastructure-based competition; the latter focused on service-based competition via broadband unbundling.

Several European fixed telecom incumbents have refrained from investing aggressive-ly in next generation access networks due to regulation affecting the business case for fiber investments.

Furthermore, unbundling has contributed to keep prices so low in the EU that a creeping investment malaise has resulted. A decade later, per capita investment in telecommunications networks in the US is more than 50% higher than in the EU (US$ 197 to US$ 129 in 2009).

In turn, total ICT investments in the US were more than double than in the EU, which contributes to explain the productivity gap between the EU and the higher productivi-ty US. Had the US followed the EU's slower pace in ICT investments since the late 1990s, US labour productivity growth would have been 25-30 % lower than it is today.

The US industrial structure of widespread inter-platform competition, the result of past regulatory choices, implies that the US is justified today in staying the course and maintain a lighter regulatory policy for fixed telecoms

Monday, June 17, 2013

Europe - Commission public meeting on a single market for telecoms hears a range of views from established players

The European Commission held a public meeting on "A single telecom market for growth & jobs" this morning in Brussels.

As is often the case with such meetings it was the "usual suspects" giving the usual views, everyone seems to be typecast.

The Commissioner was pressing for input for her legislative proposal to be made in September. The incumbent operators want relief from regulation and competition, the new entrants want the opposite and the regulators wanted to be allowed to continue regulating.

While everyone spoke for a single market, these were different single market, some were for infrastructure, some for telecommunications, and some for ICT services.

Commissioner Kroes made clear she wants to move quickly, an old lady in a hurry, and consequently would not be proposing abolition of the regulators. What she would propose was very much less clear, though she had spoken on her intentions at the European Parliament on 30th May.

There is no archive of the webcast video yet available.

Scotland - A way forward on broadband would be the creation of neutral stakeholders forum to analyse and share understandings of problems and solutions

The Scottish Government, as part of its Digital Dialogue, held an event on "Regulatory options for delivering world class digital infrastructure by 2002" on 13 June 2013. This relates to:
Scotland’s Digital Future: Infrastructure Action Plan outlines a commitment to a future-proofed infrastructure that will deliver world-class digital connectivity across the whole of Scotland by 2020.
One conclusion of the meeting was that, following the examples of the Swedish Bredsbands Forum and the UK Broadband Stakeholders Group, there was a case to create a neutral "forum" or "platform" for all broadband "stakeholders". This would be a useful way to continue the debate, to share opinions and to present information to the public, to regulators and to government.

I have posted by own small contribution on what world class might mean.

It is worth noting that none of the multiplicity of UK regulators (e.g., OFCOM, Advertising Standards Authority, OTA2 and PayPhonePlus) was in the room, let alone asked to speak. Of course, telecommunications and competition policy are not devolved matters, but are exclusively matters for the UK government.

Bengt Mölleryd of the Swedish regulator PTS set out the situation in Sweden. In particular he noted the substantial developments of "village fibre" networks and the deployment of 4G/LTE networks. The latter was enabled by the network sharing for 3G, following the beauty contest which had awarded licences to operators proposing to build the most masts. Individuals were adopting 4G and were paying up to £1,500 per household to install a fibre connection.

Matt Yardley (Analysys Mason) considered copper not to be dead, but to continue to be an important network element. He argued access to ducts and poles was largely irrelevant. In rural areas a single infrastructure was an option.

Domhnal Dods (Towerhouse Consulting) called for competition rather than regulation. He noted the limited scope of the present arrangements with the EU regulatory framework and the UK legislation. While the EC had suggested further reforms this was being opposed by HMG. He drew attention to the devolved powers over the business rates charged on networks, which were applied inconsistently to BT, alternative operators and community initiatives. The Electronic communications code had been strongly criticised in a recent judgement by the UK Supreme Court.

The discussion period had a fairly heated exchange over the position of BT in the UK government's rural broadband schemes. Given that it was the sole bidder and already the SMP operator in local access there was concern that taxpayer's money was shoring up the its dominant position in the market. The suggestion was made that the access condition to the BT network might not have been aligned either with the Openreach platform or the requirements of likely access seekers.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

UK - Consultation by HMG on modifications to OFCOM's statutory duties and functions closes on 25 June

The UK government has proposed changes to the statutory duties and functions of the Office of Communications (OFCOM).

It launched a consultation in April which closes on 25th June 2013.

Scotland - BT fined £50,000 for roadworks in the Highlands that endangered the public

The Scotsman reports a fine against BT of £150,000:
BT has received the maximum fine of £50,000 from Scotland’s roadworks commissioner for endangering the public with work carried out in the Highlands – the first penalty of its kind ever imposed.

Engineers left unmanned, gaping holes in pavements without barriers or signs on 
numerous occasions. Works 
also proceeded with an excavator operating on a busy footpath, again with no signs or barriers, and with no safe route for pedestrians.

Some of the streetworks also caused buses and cars to mount pavements in an effort to pass.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

UK - Cisco points to a range of developments that could keep the UK ahead in mobile technology developments

Cisco has published an analysis of 4G in the United Kingdom:
The UK is a hotbed of mobile creativity and talent, being one of the most advanced markets for smartphone adoption.

The UK is a leader in app development ...

British innovation is also heating up in the emerging field of machine-to-machine communications (also known as the ‘Internet of Things’ or IoT).

Friday, June 7, 2013

Europe - Point Topic estimates cost of of superfast broadband would be €80 billion not the EC's €270 billion reports that for speeds of at least 30 Mbps:
Providing super-fast broadband to the whole of the European Union could be much less expensive than previously thought, according to UK research firm Point Topic, which estimates that the whole economic area could be served for €80bn – less than a third of the €270bn estimated by the European Commission in its Digital Agenda.

UK - Major Project Agency warns of significant risks on broadband projects

The Government's Major Projects Agency has reported on the work at DCMS.
  • Broadband Delivery Programme - Red/Amber
  • Mobile Infrastructure Project - Amber
  • Spectrum clearance and awards programmes - Amber
  • Urban broadband fund - Super-connected city initiative - Amber/Red

UK - Commons Cttee calls for much greater engagement of public in policy formulation through the use of technology

the House of Commons Public Administration Committee (PASC) has published a report on Public engagement in public policy:
A process of engagement, which can reach beyond the “Westminster village” and the “usual suspects”, will itself be an act of leadership, but there can be no abdication of that leadership.

Digital technology and new media have a huge role to play. In time, the Government should be able to demonstrate that the citizen is able to contribute opinion, ideas and suggestions on an ongoing basis, if it is to be seen as moving away from old processes and embracing a new relationship with the citizen.

  • All policy making carries risks: a lack of appetite for participation, disappointment arising from unrealistic expectations and the dominance of vested interests. Government must frankly assess and address these risks in relation to open policy making.
  • Digital technology has a significant role to play in opening up policy-making. Government could and should go further and embrace radical and innovative approaches, but making use of existing platforms and technologies, such as Twitter. However, Government must demonstrate that the methods used in engagement exercises are suited to the needs of those they are trying to engage.
  • The success and impact of public engagement in policy-making must be effectively measured. Government must able to demonstrate value for money and improved outcomes with this new approach, particularly in a time of austerity.

UK - "Millennials" in the UK believe they are more tech literate than millennials from around the world

Telefonica Global Millennial Survey

UK - HMG publishes framework for planning and highway authorities on siting and maintaining street cabinets and poles.

DCMS has published a Framework for planning and highway authorities on siting and maintaining street cabinets and poles:
To increase the pace of superfast broadband rollout, we have today published new guidance for Code Operators, communications providers and local authorities deploying electronic communications apparatus that aids broadband rollout.
Full details can be found in the code of practice.

This was the result of a public consultation.

UK - HMG withdraws Super-Connected Cities Initiative faced with state aid rules problems, going back to drawing board

The Scotsman reports that the UK government has withdrawn its application for clearance under state aid rules of the Super-Connected Cities Initiative. One of the cities was to have been Edinburgh.
But a blunder at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has left the Capital scrambling to reboot its bid amid threats of an EU investigation into State Aid infringements – used to preserve competition from government intervention.

To avoid an 18-month probe, the funding scheme was scrapped in its original form, with all bids sent back to the drawing board. The city then had just three weeks to redraft a completely different business case before deadline.

Today, finance chiefs spearheading the £10.7m tender said they were “frustrated” and felt “let down” by the botched project, which would have offered speeds of up to 100Mbps (megabits per second).

It quotes a DCMS spokesperson as saying:
Following the revision in State Aid guidelines and developments in the broadband market, the Super Connected Cities programme will now focus on investments in connectivity that drive economic growth and demand for high- speed broadband, including a connection voucher scheme to address the relatively high cost of getting connected for some SMEs.
The original project had been announced by George Osborne in the Budget (see press release).

BT and Virgin Media had launched a legal challenge to Birmingham’s Smart City plan under this scheme.

See also the slides by Iain Bennett (Project Director for Urban Broadband Fund at Broadband Delivery UK), showing a significant reshaping of the project.

The Major Projects Authority annual report classed the Urban Broadband Fund as Amber/Red (see blog from Broadband UK). It gave the same warning for Broadband Delivery Programme.

Scotland - Technology Industry Survey shows job vacancies up but skills crisis threatens growth

ScotlandIS has published the Scottish Technology Industry Survey 2013

Most sought after skills - Those with software and web development skills are the most sought after at 58% (67% last year), just ahead of commercial and business skills at 53% (72% last year) and project management skills at 49%.

Most in demand category of staff - Operatives topped the category of staff most in demand this year at 60% up from 47% last year. Graduates are just slightly behind this at 58% this year (having been top at 52% last year).

Demand to increase headcount - The number of respondents planning to increase headcount this year is 70% (63.5% last year).

Fibre - ADL warns the UK risk falling behind neighbours due to the lack of investment in fibre

Information Week UK reports Arthur D Little warning that the UK risks falling seriously behind its European neighbours in terms of serious uptake of fibre broadband technology.

The story comes from a report on National fibre strategies:

This paper identifies five National Fibre strategic models that have been implemented by countries around the globe, and assesses which of these models are most likely to fulfill National Fibre goals to the benefit of all stakeholders, including governments, regulators and policy makers. These models lever a number of key success factors, which can be adopted by industry, government and regulators, and which require more sophisticated public and private coordination and graded policy frameworks.
Figure - Broadband networks in a web of socio-economic value creation

Figure - : Selected national fibre penetration correlated to underpinning model

Fibre - FTTH Council has published guidance to community to help prospective broadband providers

The FTTH Council for the Americas has published a report Becoming a fiber-friendly community:
In this paper, we outline a series of steps that communities should consider to clear a path for and work with a prospective broadband provider. It is not exhaustive, and some of the steps require cooperation from other private and public actors to achieve. Further, the trade-offs among competing objectives and degree of difficulty in finding solutions will vary among communities. But achieving these benchmarks has the potential to meaningfully reduce deployment costs and tip the balance in favor of FTTH network investment in your community.

UK - GCHQ working with the "Prism" program at NSA to gather intelligence on Internet users

The Guardian reports that:
The UK's electronic eavesdropping and security agency, GCHQ, has been secretly gathering intelligence from the world's biggest internet companies through a covertly run operation set up by America's top spy agency, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.
It quotes a senior US administration official as saying: "
The programme is subject to oversight by the foreign intelligence surveillance court, the executive branch, and Congress. It involves extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-US persons outside the US are targeted, and that minimise the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about US persons.

UK - Huawei has been a major supplier to BT for its 21CN, no consideration was given to security issuesonly partially remedied since

The Intelligence and Security Committee has published a report on Foreign Involvement in the Critical National Infrastructure (Cm 8629).

On Huawei:

Most of the concerns surrounding Huawei relate to its perceived links to the Chinese State.

... Huawei strenuously denies that it has direct links with the Chinese Government or military, claiming that it receives no financial support from the Chinese Government and that it is 98.6% owned by its employees. Nevertheless, there is a lack of clarity about its financial structures. Moreover, Huawei’s denial of links to the Chinese State is surprising, given that such links to the State are considered normal in China.

... media analysis continues to suggest that despite its claims of employee ownership, appointments to the board remain tightly controlled.

The Committee noted the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI)Investigative Report on the US National Security Issues Posed by Chinese Telecommunications Companies Huawei and ZTE published on 8 October 2012.

The Intelligence and Security Committee recommended:

The BT/Huawei relationship began nearly ten years ago; the process for considering national security issues at that time was insufficiently robust. The Committee was shocked that officials chose not to inform, let alone consult, Ministers on such an issue. We are not convinced that there has been any improvement since then in terms of an effective procedure for considering foreign investment in the CNI. The difficulty of balancing economic competitiveness and national security seems to have resulted in stalemate. Given what is at stake, that is unacceptable.
  • The National Security Council should ensure that there are effective procedures and powers in place, and clear lines of responsibility when it comes to investment in the CNI. Crucially, the Government must be clear about the sequence of events that led to Ministers being unsighted on an issue of national importance, and take immediate action to ensure that this cannot happen again.

More fundamentally, while we recognise that the Government does not expect the Cell to find every vulnerability, and that there are other mitigations in place, we remain concerned that a Huawei-run Cell is responsible for providing assurance about the security of Huawei products.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

UK - 93% of large organisations and 87 of small businesees suffered a security breach, a 50% year-on-year increase

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has published a report on Information security breaches survey 2013.

UK - Big Lottery Fund to spend £15 million in grants for development of online skills for individuals and organisations

The Big Lottery Fund reports it is investing £15 million in building the basic online skills of people and organisations so they can take full advantage of the benefits the Internet has to offer:
We expect the programme to be open for applications in the autumn. In the meantime we’re asking people to start thinking now about the partnerships they can establish that will convincingly inspire people across the UK to get online.

UK - Scottish SMEs lag the UK in spending on ICTs, which had an effect on their ability to communicate with present and future customers

Edas reports that small businesses in Scotland lagging the UK as a whole in new technology investment.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found the average Scottish SME had spent £2,650 on new technologies in the past year, compared with a UK average of £3,500:

About half of the Scottish respondents said they would invest more in new technology if their area had better local digital infrastructure.
Six in ten of UK SMEs said that investment had had a positive effect on their communication with existing customers, while half of the firms believed technology had helped in targeting new customers.

UK - OFCOM expecting White Space broadband services to be live in rural areas by 2014

Recombu reports that:
Ofcom is looking for companies to test drive rural broadband using the space between Freeview signals with a view to launch commercial services in 2014.

Northern Ireland - £5 million for infrastructure in rural areas to allow third parties to provide broadband

Cable reports that the Northern Ireland administration is to invest £5 million in rural broadband, in "areas that are currently unable to access fixed-line connectivity".

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will put infrastructure in place to allow third-party providers to deliver an improved service in 'notspot' communities.

The Minister, Michelle O'Neill MLA, said:

I hope that this funding will stimulate companies supplying broadband to get out into rural areas and use this infrastructure to provide access for rural dwellers and businesses to use broadband

UK - A future Labour government would take £75M away from cities to spend on rural broadband upgrades

Recombu reports that Helen Goodman MP, Labour's shadow minister for culture, media and sport made the commitment that:
a Labour government would take £75 million, half of the super-connected cities fund, and spend it on rural rollout.

UK - Arqiva has won the tender from HMG to enhance mobile coverage in rural Britain

Mobile Entertainment reports that:
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced that Arqiva will lead the Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP), which aims to enable mobile services in rural locations where there is no commercial business case to deploy such services.

As a result of the government’s announcement, up to 60,000 premises and sections of road will now be covered using the £150 million funding allocated to the project.

Under the Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP), Arqiva will be responsible for:
  • network planning;
  • site acquisition;
  • deployment of site infrastructure; and
  • installation of equipment.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

UK - Vouchers for funding for enhanced cyber-security of up to £5,000 per firm

The BBC reports the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)is running:
The Innovation Vouchers scheme, which is run by UK government agency the Technology Strategy Board, gives businesses the chance to bid for up to £5,000 from a £500,000 pot to improve their cyber security by bringing in outside expertise.

BIS is also publishing guidance to help small businesses put cyber security higher up the agenda and make it part of their normal business risk management procedures.

This is against a background in which a PwC and Infosecurity Europe poll found 80 per cent of firms had experienced a significant cyber-security breach in the previous year. While another:
... survey, carried out on behalf of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), revealed more businesses than ever face the threat of losing confidential information through cyber attacks, with breaches generally costing up to 6% of their turnover.

UK - Estimate that crowdfunded banking has provided £100 million in loans to over 1,700 companies to date

NESTA has published a report Banking on each other:
This report seeks to cast some light on the emerging field of peer-to-peer lending to businesses, using a large set of data collected through Funding Circle, the largest peer-to-peer business lending site in the UK. Funding Circle has facilitated approximately £100 million in loans to over 1,700 companies to date (as of April 2013).

EE - Now a majority data-revenue operator, with the decline of voice revenues and rise of data

Telco 2.0 reports recent results from EE (Everything Everywhere):
Importantly, EE is now a majority-data carrier, with 51% of its revenue being non-voice, and 82% of its postpaid subscriber base on smartphones

We’re also a little amused by the fact 0.77% of total 4G traffic is accounted for by, the 10th biggest single attraction - that’s got to be worth something in terms of publicity.

Shetland - Community broadband in Burrafirth (Shetland) launches 25 Mbps service

Cable reports a new wireless broadband services in West Burrafirth, Shetland:
Big communications firms have been unwilling to upgrade broadband networks in the area, so members of the West Burrafirth Community Broadband Group (WBCBG) took matters into their own hands by urging a local firm to carry out the work, reports the Shetland Times.

Lottery funding was secured for the project, prompting Shetland Broadband to install a wireless link at Engamoor capable of delivering speeds of around 25Mbps.

The service is set to go live today (May 1st 2013), offering residents and businesses a significant boost on the 160Kbps speeds previously available.

See the original story in the Shetland Times.

Kickstarter - Six months in Scotland shows 68% success rate raising £0.7M with median value of £1,461

Twintangible blogs on the first six months of Kickstarter in the UK, analysing the projects based in Scotland, though funding may well come from the UK or anywhere else on the Internet. Interestingly, nearly all the money was raised for projects in Edinburgh, with Aberdeen a not especially close second.
Of the eye catching projects the greatest total was raised by RunRev in Edinburgh whose project to take the Livecode software open source raised £493,795 from 33442 backers. But in terms of over achieving their target the Omega Titanium Wallet project from Fireti in Aberdeen outstrips all others by starting off looking for £4800 and raising £103,899 – a 2164% success rate!

Friday, May 3, 2013

UK - Review of rural broadband calls for more action and increased funding

Farmers Weekly has returned to its campaign Battling for Broadband which it ran in April 2012. It aimed to raise awareness of the "lack of adequate broadband in rural areas".

On the government's scheme to provide rural broadband, it quotes Charles Trotman, head of rural business development at the Country Land and Business Association (CLA):

The funding process has been horrendously complex...

For communities to match fund you're talking a lot of money and, in theory, they're supposed to have it completed by 2015 ... It could have been a lot easier.

FW complains that BT will pick up more than 40 local contracts, with 18 already signed.

The government has put aside £20m of which £10m came from DEFRA and the other £10m comes from the BDUK fund, which it will be allocated to community-run projects.

According to a DEFRA study, 92% of farmers had broadband, only 32% of had speeds of over 2Mbps, with 6% still using dial-up technology.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Glasgow - Smart City project to include 400 CCTV "super intelligent" cameras

The BBC reports that Glasgow City Council will install 400 super-intelligent cameras for CCTV intended to counter terrorism and prevent suicide.

This is part of the Future Cities Demonstrator funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board.

Cornwall - Superfast broadband reaches 80% coverage with a target of 95% including the Isles of Scilly reports that BT has reached 80 per cent coverage of Cornwall with Superfast Cornwall and expected to reach 95 per cent:
Take-up is also building strongly with over 24,000 subscribers through 32 service providers, including over 3,000 small businesses. Businesses continue to do great things with these connections.
And we also announced we would take fibre to one of Europe’s most isolated communities – the Isles of Scilly – comprising just 2,000 people on five islands 40km off-shore into the Atlantic. This innovative scheme will re-use two international service cables while navigating one of Europe’s most environmentally protected zones.

Friday, April 26, 2013

UK - OFCOM invites applications for a experimental white space technology

OFCOM has invited experimental services that use the "white space" in conventional television signals:
Ofcom is inviting industry to take part in the pilot, which is intended to take place in the autumn. The locations for the trial will be chosen once trial participants have been identified.

Following a successful completion of the pilot, Ofcom anticipates that the technology could be fully rolled out during 2014, enabling the use of white space devices across the country.

Under Ofcom’s plans, a TV white space device will not be able to start transmitting until it gets clearance from a database qualified by Ofcom and listed on a dedicated Ofcom website.

UK - Unbundling of local loops reach 9 million indicating the extent of competition

The UK Office of Communications reports the growth of local loop unbundling:
The number of ‘unbundled’ lines, where communications providers offer services to households using BT’s copper telephone network, has reached 9 million.

Fibre deployment and investment is expected to increase rapidly over the coming months. Virgin’s network already provides superfast broadband services to more than 2m households, while BT’s roll-out of fibre broadband is passing 100,000 new premises per week and has so far reached around 15m.

UK - Legislation to create the new Competition and Markets Authority given Royal Assent, it also modernises the system of copyright

BIS has reported that that HM The Queen has given her royal assent to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act. This will:
establish a new Competition and Markets Authority, bringing together the competition functions of the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission. This will be the UK’s lead competition authority with wide ranging powers to tackle anti-competitive behaviour, and a faster, clearer and more effective approach to help make markets work well for consumers. The competition regime will sustain fair and dynamic markets, encouraging businesses to set up and invest in the UK;

modernise the UK’s copyright regime to promote innovation in the design industry, encouraging investment in new products while strengthening copyright protections. Creating a level playing field for collecting societies and the thousands of small businesses and organisations who deal with them by strengthening the existing regulatory regime. For the first time orphan works will be licensed for use; these are copyrighted works for which the owner of the copyright is unknown or can’t be found. There will also be a system for extended collective licensing of copyright works;

create a power to give consumers the right to view and download the data businesses hold on them in an electronic format. This will help stimulate developers to create new data management tools and services;

Monday, April 8, 2013

e-Government - UK ranked 5th by Waseda University in Japan

Waseda University in Japan has ranked the UK fifth in a global e-government report.

1 Singapore
2 Finland
4 South Korea
5 UK
6 Japan
7 Sweden
8 Denmark
8 Taiwan
10 Netherland

Scotland - A possible shortfall of 45,000 skilled computer scientists over the next five years

The BBC reports a major computing skills gap opening up in Scotland:
The latest survey by the trade body ScotlandIS suggests that it is now growing faster than any other sector.

It calculates that 45,000 new professionals will be required in the next five years.

The information technology and digital sector already employs more than 100,000 people.

The Scotsman reports in a similar vein from the head of Cisco in Scotland:
THE head of computer networking giant Cisco’s operations north of the Border has voiced his fears over the £3.4 billion Scottish information technology (IT) industry’s ability to recruit enough talent in years to come.

Donald McLaughlin, country manager for Scotland, said that the sector faces competition from other fast-growing industries, such as life sciences and renewable energy.

UK - Think tank calls for a unitary police intelligence centre working on social media both listening and talking

Demos has published a report entitled Policing in an Information Age:
The widespread adoption of social media is one such change. Social media allows the police to engage and include the public in law enforcement in new, potentially transformative ways. But it also makes these engagements more difficult to control, and open to misuse and reputational damage. It allows the police to gather powerful, recent and possibly decisive intelligence – social media intelligence or ‘SOCMINT’ - in the interests of public safety. But there is a risk that this will be done in a way that is unsound, unsafe, and radically undermining of public trust. Social media is a new source of evidence for enforcement purposes, but also a new theatre of crime.

All forces in the UK have some presence on Twitter, with accounts for senior police officers, central communications, neighbourhood, helicopter, road and football policing teams.

The provision of legitimate, timely, decisive and robust SOCMINT can contribute decisively to public safety. Using social media to ‘crowd-source’ information is an important way of gaining valuable intelligence. ‘Listening’ to social media using powerful ‘big data’ acquisition and analytics tools can help the police spot emerging events, piece together networks and groups, discern public attitudes and improve situational awareness. More intrusive forms of intelligence collection – such as the use of intercept or covert human intelligence – may also be useful, although they will be used less frequently. It is likely that SOCMINT will become an increasingly important source of intelligence for the police. However, it requires a clear set of guidelines and regulations to ensure it is proportionate and based on broad public consent.

There is an opportunity for British police to be world-leaders in the ethical, effective and cost-saving use of social media.

A centralised SOCMINT ‘hub’ should be created. The Police need to evolve and strengthen SOCMINT capabilities. A single, networked hub of excellence and a managed network of experts should coordinate SOCMINT development across different branches of the police.

UK - BT CEO rejects claims by TalkTalk it is remonopolising local access and alleges only it is willing to invest in fibre access

The Telegraph reports the angry reaction of BT's CEO to complaints of the CEO Talk Talk:
The chief executive of BT has hit back against critics of his £2.5bn fibre broadband roll-out, calling Sir Charles Dunstone and others "copper Luddites" who just want to "hobble the UK economy for their own commercial reasons".

Ian Livingston rejected recent claims made by the chairman of TalkTalk that through Openreach it is rebuilding a powerful monopoly and crushing competition. He told The Daily Telegraph that rivals such as Sir Charles do not want to see BT succeed because they are "not prepared to invest in fibre themselves".

Sunday, April 7, 2013

South Africa - Govt consults on broadband policy under the end of April

My Broadband reports that the Department of Communications (DoC) published its “Consultation on the proposed National Broadband Policy for South Africa” in the Government Gazette No 36332 on 3 April 2013. Interested parties have 30 days to respond.

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.

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.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

UK - Internet statistics - 33 million adults accessed the Internet every day, more than double the 2006 figure

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published Internet Access - Households and Individuals, 2012 part 2
  • In 2012, 33 million adults accessed the Internet every day, more than double the 2006 figure of 16 million, when directly comparable records began.
  • Approximately 87% of adults aged between 16 and 24, used social networking sites in 2012, compared to 48% of all adults.
  • Telephone or video calls over the Internet were made by 32% of adults in 2012, double the 2009 estimate of 16%, and four times higher than the 2007 estimate of 8%.
  • Access to the Internet using a mobile phone more than doubled between 2010 and 2012, from 24% to 51%. In 2012, 32% of adults accessed the Internet using a mobile phone every day.

Scotland - Thoughts in response to the proposals by the Scottish government for post-independence regulatory structures

The Scottish Government has launched a document [green paper?] on Economic and Competition Regulation in an Independent Scotland. It suggests that the small size of Scotland and economies of scope justify either a combined single competition authority and all-sector regulator or a competition authority and an all-sector regulator. All sectors here exclude broadcasting and financial services, to be considered separately.

Such radical changes in the short period from October 2014 to March 2016 seem to increase the risks in the transition towards separate Scottish markets for telecoms, post, electricity, gas and rail.

In theory the structure of the competition authority and regulatory bodies in a (potentially) independent Scotland offers a wide range of options. There are all sorts of examples from other countries that might be copied and many which must be avoided.

In reality there are severe constraints.

The Openreach agreement between BT and OFCOM was made under competition law powers and, unless someone wants to open a can of unpleasant and complex worms, it is something an independent Scotland would be stuck with for several years. Thus a future Scottish telecoms regulator must have competition law powers, either in the same mould as OFCOM with sector competition law powers or a combined competition authority and telecommunications regulator. Therefore the proposal of a separate competition authority and multi-sector regulator appears to be unworkable in the medium-term.

The EU acquis communitaire requires (this is non-negotiable, it was settled years ago) that there must be a designated regulator and that it must be independent and subject to a national system of appeals. In effect, that means it must be Scottish, it cannot be outsourced to the English, the Irish, the Indians or whoever is cheapest.

Integration of regulators sounds like it might save money. However, if a body covered competition, telecoms, broadcasting, energy, rail and posts, it would have to have to work with policy directions from a number of government departments and with a number of parliamentary oversight committees. Moreover, it would have to participate in one European regulatory network for each of these topics. Thus it would need to have a figurehead (e.g., commissioner) for each of these functions.

Any changes from the present UK regulatory model would be viewed with suspicion by operators, trying to work out if they would be better off or worse off. Uncertainty in this would be likely to have a chilling effect on investment.

For example, moving to an integrated competition/telecoms regulator suggests that all problems are seen as competition law, rather than regulation. That would change quite significantly the expectation of the outcomes of regulatory processes.

Especially given the very rapid timescale, from a referendum in October 2014 to independence in March 2016, with an intervening UK general election, the simplest option would be roll-over UK laws, replicate the UK institutions, with new names to avoid confusion, waiting to conduct reviews after a couple of years.

It is proposed to replicate in Scotland the Competition Appeal Tribunal or take cases directly to the Court of Session. The former seems much the better option.

There is an entirely different set of considerations about how to improve structures and processes should the referendum conclude that Scotland remains in the UK for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

USA - Analysis of ISP performance on the market, with satellite showing a marked improvement

The FCC has published A Report on Consumer Wireline Broadband Performance in the US:
This study, like those conducted before, involves actual performance tests for thousands of subscribers of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) serving well over 80 percent of the residential market.

In this report, we are pleased to include results on satellite technology for the first time, based on test results collected from ViaSat, a major satellite services provider.

It notes the improved satellite performance:

In the past, satellite broadband faced certain technological challenges not experienced by wireline technologies. Previous generations of satellites had limited bandwidth, which restricted the speeds available to the consumer. In addition, due to the physical characteristics of satellite technology, latencies are significantly larger than for terrestrial technologies. Starting in 2011, the consumer broadband satellite industry began launching a new generation of satellites which have greatly improved overall performance.