Friday, August 31, 2007

free muni Wi-Fi in peril

EarthLink's woes put free muni Wi-Fi in peril
EarthLink says it can't afford to foot the bill to build citywide Wi-Fi networks, jeopardizing cities' plans to provide low-income residents with affordable broadband.
By Marguerite Reardon
Staff Writer, CNET
Published: August 31, 2007, 4:00 AM PDT

EarthLink's scaled-back municipal Wi-Fi business has jeopardized many cities' plans to bring free or low-cost broadband to low-income residents.

A day after EarthLink announced a massive restructuring that would essentially put almost half its employees out of work, the company wriggled its way out of contracts with Houston and San Francisco to build their citywide Wi-Fi projects. For each of these cities, providing free or low cost wireless broadband was the main reason for building the networks.

Over the past few years, blanketing cities with unlicensed Wi-Fi signals has been viewed as a cheap solution to bringing affordable or even free broadband access to cities. Politicians and community leaders have rallied around the technology as an economic development tool that could help bring low-income individuals into the bustling economy of the 21st century.

But as the economic reality of building a network primarily to serve up low-cost broadband access settles in at EarthLink, the company's top brass says the strategy isn't viable. And as a leader in this industry, cities are now scrambling to find alternative ways to finance their Wi-Fi dreams. (...)


Google gphone:



wireless Internet, London


Tom Espiner ZDNet UK | Police: Wi-Fi arrest not part of a crackdown | Published: 23 Aug 2007 16:58 BST

The arrest of a man for piggybacking on someone else's Wi-Fi-enabled broadband connection is not part of a wider crackdown, police said on Thursday.


But this is not part of a proactive operation, said the Metropolitan Police. "This was not a strategic, pre-planned operation," said a spokesperson. "We're clearly not targeting broadband theft. The PCSOs saw a man acting suspiciously, and investigated."

The Met spokesperson denied that the arrest was a waste of police time and resources. "We're not going to ignore crime. If we find somebody committing an offence then we act on it, but this [crime] clearly doesn't happen in the hundreds or thousands."

On Tuesday morning the man was taken to Chiswick police station where the case was handed over to the Computer Crime Unit. The man has been bailed to return to the station in October pending further investigation, but may be let off with a caution, police said.

wireless Internet

"This arrest should act as a warning to anyone who thinks it is acceptable to illegally use other people's broadband connections," said Detective Constable Mark Roberts, of the Metropolitan Police.

"Computer users need to be aware that this is unlawful and police will investigate any violation we become aware of."

wireless Internet | Man held over wireless broadband "theft"
Wed Aug 22, 2007 6:29PM BST

Briton held for using Internet without asking
Officers spotted male suspect using laptop outside house near London
Updated: 6:12 p.m. ET Aug. 22, 2007

LONDON - A 39-year-old Briton has been arrested on suspicion of using someone else's wireless Internet connection without permission, police said on Wednesday.

Officers spotted the man using a laptop as he sat on a wall outside a house in Chiswick, west London, on Tuesday.

He told officers he had browsed the Internet via an unsecured broadband link from a nearby house, Scotland Yard said.

He was arrested and later released on police bail to Nov. 11 pending further inquiries.

"This arrest should act as a warning to anyone who thinks it is acceptable to illegally use other people's broadband connections," said Detective Constable Mark Roberts, of the Metropolitan Police.

"Computer users need to be aware that this is unlawful and police will investigate any violation we become aware of."

The practice, known as piggybacking, breaches the Computer Misuse Act and the Communications Act, he added.

Earlier this year, a man and a woman were arrested in the Midlands for wireless theft as they sat in their cars.

Gregory Straszkiewicz, from west London, is believed to be the first person to be convicted of the offense in 2005. He was fined 500 pounds and given a 12-month conditional discharge.

Internet security experts say people should secure their wireless connections to prevent identity theft and fraud.

EU drops a broadband bombshell | EU drops a broadband bombshell | By Sarah Laitner in Brussels and Philip Stafford in London | Published: August 30 2007 01:46 | Last updated: August 30 2007 01:46

Britain is sometimes embroiled in bruising battles in Brussels. But it finds
itself singled out by the European Union's telecoms chief as a model pupil in
the drive to boost broadband competition.

Viviane Reding, the EU media commissioner, this week cited the decision to
split the networks and services division of BT of the UK as a potential
template for other former state-run telecoms operators.

Her suggestion goes to the heart of a debate on how to spur investment in new
ultra-fast broadband networks to meet European business and consumer hunger
for bandwidth.

EU broadband subscriptions have risen sharply since 2002. Nearly three in 10
households use the service and prices have fallen faster than the global
average. So why suggest splitting companies such as Deutsche Telekom or

In the British case, BT agreed in 2005 with national regulator Ofcom to create
an independent unit responsible for giving rivals access to its networks. The
division, which BT still owns, is obliged to treat competitors on the same
basis as its own services.

The split came after Ofcom felt competition was weak and that the UK was
trailing the rest of the EU in broadband adoption. Now, Ofcom says this
"functional separation" is a reason behind a doubling of maximum broadband
speeds in the UK. Rivals to BT say British broadband subscriptions are
approaching the levels of the world-leading Nordic countries.

Many younger telecoms operators in the EU relish the prospect of
change. ­Stefano Parisi, the chief executive of Fastweb of Italy, says: "We
fully support Ms Reding's position. More transparency and investment is

Still, EU officials insist that such a forced administrative division of
operators would be a last resort if all other attempts to overcome a company's
dominant market position had failed. Nevertheless, a number of question marks

First, would a forced split of big operators hinder spending on new ultra-fast
broadband networks? Critics say that it could reduce incentives for companies
to build infrastructure.

For example, Ms Reding is embroiled in a court case with Berlin over its
decision to stop rivals from selling services on Deutsche Telekom's ?3bn
($4bn, £2bn) new broadband infrastructure, amid a spat over how big operators
guarantee a decent return on investments.

Second, a soon-to-be published European Commission study concedes that the
experience of the UK model is "still rather limited".

A third concern is that market conditions vary widely across the EU. While the
Italian watchdog is considering splitting Telecom Italia, the paper reveals
that French and Dutch regulators question whether "functional separation"
would work on their markets.

Big telecoms operators have hit out at Ms Reding's suggestion. Etno, their
lobby group, says: "Consumer prices are consistently falling and markets are
increasingly competitive. Mandatory functional separation would entail a
costly and lengthy reorganisation of major European companies, which is

Will this stop Ms Reding, as she seeks to push through the biggest overhaul of
the rules governing the EU's ?289bn-a-year telecoms rulebook?

The limelight-loving Luxembourger was behind a contentious law to slash the
cost of international mobile phone use, a move that enraged big operators.

Now, she must convince her fellow 26 commissioners that her approach is right,
before formally launching her plan. EU countries and the European parliament
must also back it.

No stranger to controversy, Ms Reding has a remarkably consistent method. The
former journalist and ex-member of the European parliament is seen by some in
the industry to use a "bomb-dropping" technique. First, she outlines
outlandish ideas then waits for the air to clear before returning to the table
to get a deal.

The coming months will reveal what effect her approach has on the EU's leading
telecoms groups.

Editorial Comment: Broadband battles

Word cloud

Word cloud for Prism, created using snapshirts

Everything Is Miscellaneous

This blog discusses the topics covered in Everything Is Miscellaneous (May 2007, Times Books).


Patrick Leary had a terrific article in Journal of Victorian Culture in 2005 that Alexander Macgillivray just pointed out to me. It’s called “Googling the Victorians,” and the premise is: “Fortuitous electronic connections, and the information that circulates through them, are emerging as hallmarks of humanities scholarship in the digital age. ” ( x )

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Universal Access to Broadband in the UK

Communications Management Association

Universal Access to Broadband in the UK | A Paper by CMA | 15 March 2007


“Universal service" means an obligation imposed on one or more operators of electronic communications networks and/or services to provide a minimum set of services to all users, regardless of their geographical location within the national territory, at an affordable price.

“Universal Access” has no formal definition in legal or regulatory circles. It is used to indicate access to broadband (of some speed) by anyone, living anywhere. However, it is not clear how or by whom connectivity would be provided, nor who would fund the provision. Ofcom’s current Discussion Paper on next generation access, and an imminent formal consultation, are designed, inter alia, to address such issues.

It is important to note that the formal definition of universal service includes the notion of access to services, but the form of such access is not specified. This lies at the heart of the matter.

“Universal Service” is defined by Directive 2002/22/EC on universal service and users' rights relating to electronic communications networks and services.
In the UK DTI is the formal Universal Service authority, not Ofcom. However, DTI delegates to Ofcom most of the duties under the Directive and does so by the universal service order. One such duty is to ensure “availability” of the universal service. (The Member States must ensure that the telecommunications services are made available to all users in their territory, regardless of their geographical location, at a specified quality level and an affordable price). Ofcom has not changed the old (1998) Oftel definition of “availability” as providing basic telephony and dial-up access to internet-based services at a minimum speed of 28.8kbps.

Section 65 of the Coms Act 2003 states:
(1) The Secretary of State must by order ("the universal service order") set out the extent to which the things falling within subsection (2) must, for the purpose of securing compliance with Community obligations for the time being in force, be provided, made available or supplied throughout the United Kingdom.
(2) Those things are-
(a) electronic communications networks and electronic communications services;
(b) facilities capable of being made available as part of or in connection with an electronic communications service;

The Schedule to the current universal service order says:
(1) At least one designated universal service provider shall meet all reasonable requests by end-users for connection at a fixed location to the public telephone network and for access to publicly available telephone services at a fixed location.
(2) The connection referred to in sub-paragraph (1) shall be capable of allowing end-users to make and receive local, national and international telephone calls, facsimile communications and data communications, at data rates that are sufficient to permit functional Internet access, taking into account prevailing technologies used by the majority of subscribers and technological feasibility. (CMA’s italics)

Universal Access (to broadband)

Universal Service is primarily associated with “users’ rights” and consumer protection. Universal Access (to broadband) is more closely associated with the wider economic benefits to society.
Previous debates on universal access to broadband have taken place in the shadow of discussions on Universal Service. Given the focus on “availability” this has been an entirely logical approach. However, universal, dial-up access (at 28.8kbps) is a concept that has its roots in the days of the monopoly provider and its relevance is fading fast. The Ofcom report (Dec 06) into the “Wireless Last Mile”, Part 1, concludes with the comment:
“We also noted that the USO as it stands at 28kb/s may in fact not define the new digital divide:
Any bandwidth/latency offering below the cut-off for new, future services would be effectively no useful connection at all. Hence a new service driven requirement (probably based on some large screen display service, e.g. HDTV) could set the effective future digital divide for subscribers.”
Moreover, the rationale for extending the scope of universal service to include broadband derives from public policy objectives that are enshrined in the Lisbon Agenda and the Commission’s subsequent implementation programme, “i2010”.
It is now argued that only clear separation of the concepts of Universal Service and Universal Access seems likely to promote transparent and uncluttered discussion.

Recent Developments

In a “Communication” of 24 May 2005, on the review of the scope of universal service, the Commission examined whether the scope of universal service should be changed in the light of recent technological, social and economic developments. In this the Commission analysed in particular mobile communication services and broadband services and concluded that ;
“… the regulatory data complemented by market-based analyses show that only a small, although rapidly growing, minority of European consumers currently make use of broadband services. As the figure of 6.5% actual take-up per head of population shows, the EU as a whole does not meet the criterion of use of the service by a “majority of consumers”. Broadband has not yet become necessary for normal participation in society, such that lack of access implies social exclusion. At the present time, therefore, the conditions for including broadband services within the scope of universal service (as set out in the Directive) are not fulfilled.”
However, that same Communication asked:
“Taking into account existing and expected technological developments, should universal service at some point in future separate the access to infrastructure element from the service provision element and address only access to the communications infrastructure, on the grounds that competitive provision of services, (e.g., telephone service provided using Voice over IP) will ensure their availability and affordability?”
However, the current view taken by the Commission (Apr 2006) remains:
“bringing mobile and broadband internet services to users is best left to the market – except where structural problems such as geographical remoteness justify specific public investment "to help bridge the broadband gap."
BUT - While consumer organisations specialising in electronic communications supported the Commission’s conclusions, a number of consumer and other organisations felt that the review criteria of the Universal Service Directive or the Commission’s assessment were too restrictive. They advocated extending the scope of universal service to mobile and/or broadband services. The Commission decided in March 2006 to take account of some of the remaining concerns by its "Broadband for all Policy".
The Commission has said that it will issue a “Green Paper” on universal service in July 2007.

The Office of National Statistics report “Internet connectivity, December 2006” states:
Nearly eight out of ten connections to the Internet are now via broadband. In December 2006, broadband connections accounted for 79.2 percent of all Internet connections, up from 75.8 per cent in September 2006. This is according to the latest update to the survey of Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Dial-up connections continued to decline and accounted for 20.8 per cent of all Internet connections in December 2006.
As dial-up subscriptions decrease, there is less interest in measuring the different types of dial-up, and more in broadband. Therefore, with effect from this release, data on metered and unmetered dial-up subscriptions have been discontinued. These have been replaced by data on broadband connection speeds. The three categories of broadband connection speed used are; less than or equal to 2 megabits per second; greater than 2 megabits per second and less than or equal to 8 megabits per second; and greater than 8 megabits per second.

Action Required

It is requested that DTI give consideration to:
(a) the merit of convincing the Commission that it should allow Member States to implement their own universal access to broadband policies, uncluttered by the consumer protection focus of the Universal Service Directive.
(b) the need to update the wording in the Schedule to the UK’s universal service order: “at data rates that are sufficient to permit functional Internet access, taking into account prevailing technologies used by the majority of subscribers and technological feasibility” . “Functional Internet Access” is a term that is no longer entirely relevant in today’s market, where, for example, VoD supplied over the telco’s own, private network goes nowhere near the internet. And, as Ofcom’s own report into the Wireless Last Mile (above) states: “Any bandwidth/latency offering below the cut-off for new, future services would be effectively no useful connection at all”. “The majority of subscribers” is a phrase that does no service to the case for e-inclusion. However, it does suggest that once the number of broadband users exceeds 50%, then Ofcom has a duty under the universal service order to take this into account when reviewing the need to upgrade data rates. The ONS report of Dec 06 (above) suggests that the 50% figure has long since been exceeded.

CMA, 15 March 2007

Fibre access essential says industry group


Fibre access essential says industry group
David Meyer ZDNet UK
Published: 16 Apr 2007 13:18 BST

High-speed fibre access must be rolled out across the UK if the country is to avoid falling behind the rest of the world in the broadband stakes, a key industry body has warned.

A report by the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) — which includes representation from organisations as diverse as Ofcom, the government, BT, the BBC and Time Warner — suggests that such a rollout must begin within the next two years, despite a current lack of evidence that "fibre to the premises" (FTTx) will be necessary. The report also claims that the investment required for this rollout could be recouped by telcos such as BT selling wholesale access to their networks and making deals with content providers. (...)


CMA Communications Management Association | Press Release | 16th April 2007


The CMA today welcomed the latest report from the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG). The report exposes the dangers of the UK falling behind in broadband provision. This recognition of the need for Next Generation Broadband will, said the CMA, come as a considerable relief to business enterprises who increasingly depend on high quality services.

For the first time a reputable and independent body has declared in print what many customers have been saying to government, suppliers and Ofcom for some time.

There is, said CMA’s David Harrington, a lack of clear policy direction. We intend to continue to press, on behalf of business consumers, to update the UK’s time-expired policy on access to broadband.

CMA emphasises the report’s finding that the cost estimates for nationwide fibre to the home have now fallen to less than £10bn – less than half of the amount invested in 3G spectrum licences. The BSG report explains that the UK has a narrow window of opportunity in which to change the investment climate for Next Generation Broadband.

The CMA agrees with BSG Chairman, Kip Meek, that the report contains ‘substantial and challenging recommendations’. It seems that, at last, we have a menu that will take the UK off its present addiction to a low fibre diet.

See also:

UK regulators 'relaxed' on net neutrality

David Meyer ZDNet UK
Published: 20 Mar 2007 17:42 GMT

Putting the fibre back into Britain
Leader ZDNet UK
Published: 21 Mar 2007 16:10 GMT

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ofcom gives green light to Wireless USB

Ofcom gives green light to Wireless USB | August 9, 2007

Ofcom, the UK regulator for the communication industry, has changed its regulations to ensure that short-range wireless USB devices can be used in more consumer devices, in line with the USA and Japan.

Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology, which enables the wireless transfer of up to 2 Gbps of data over short distances, is expected to be certified Wireless USB, enabling peripherals to be connected to a PC without cables and allowing the devices to be made and used without a licence. Ofcom is expected to introduce the Wireless Telegraphy (Ultra-Wideband Equipment) (Exemption) Regulations 2007 on August 13 of this year.

“Radio spectrum is an essential raw material in the development of converged communications services,” commented Ofcom’s chief executive, Ed Richards. “Where possible, we want to remove restrictions on the use of spectrum to allow the market to develop new and innovative services – such as UWB – for the benefit of consumers.”

The move is expected to mean the arrival of a raft of Certified Wireless USB devices in the UK, with router, camera and printers manufacturers among those keen to use the technology in their products.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cook | The Stupidity of Spectrum Auctions

The Stupidity of Spectrum Auctions in a World of SDR | August 7th, 2007 by Gordon Cook

We had some informative discussion on spectrum policy on my list in July. (...)

(...) Basically it is because spectrum regulation was built on a 1920s knowledge of spectrum behavior. What we have put in place is something similar to economics as run by the Chicago school of macro economics.

(...) All of the above are techniques - ones that are not employed, and in many cases, not legal for employment because they postdate the 1934 regulatory structure and are too hard for the lawyers to incorporate into a fundamentally decade-time-constant static frequency allocation scheme. In other words, the rate of change *built in* to the radio systems in the field by the *laws* is that radio system innovations take 10-20 years to introduce, though they now take 12 months to invent, and soon will take days to invent (with Software Defined Radio).”

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Ofcom | UWB licence-exempt

Ofcom | UWB licence-exempt:

Ofcom | Press release | 09|08|07 | Enabling new wireless technologies in the UK

Ofcom today announced a change to the law to enable the use of a new technology that wirelessly connects digital devices in the home.

From 13 August 2007 Ofcom will remove the requirement to hold a licence to operate equipment using approved Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology. UWB allows the transfer of large amounts of data (up to 2 Gb/s) over relatively short distances (around 30 metres).

The technology could promote the convergence of communications devices and services by, for example, connecting personal computers, DVD players, portable music players and digital cameras without the need for wires. In addition, research has shown that devices that transfer data using UWB equipment use low power technologies which can enhance battery life compared with other wireless technologies.

UWB equipment is already exempt from the need to hold a licence in the US and Japan, and technology companies have started to develop and sell UWB products – such as UWB home hubs – for these markets.

UWB equipment will be made licence-exempt in the UK though the introduction of the Wireless Telegraphy (Ultra-Wideband Equipment) (Exemption) Regulations 2007, which will come into force on 13 August. Ofcom has participated in European negotiations to develop a common set of technical standards for UWB. Over the coming months, other EU members are expected to introduce the necessary legislation to allow approved UWB equipment to be used without a licence in their countries.

Ofcom’s Chief Executive, Ed Richards, said: “Radio spectrum is an essential raw material in the development of converged communications services. Where possible, we want to remove restrictions on the use of spectrum to allow the market to develop new and innovative services – such as UWB – for the benefit of consumers.”

The full statement can be found at:



1. UWB equipment operates in bands between 3.1 to 10.6 GHz.