Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Broadband: FCC: Civil Right

Monday, December 14, 2009 Broadband Touted As 'Civil Right'

Broadband advocates, civil rights activists, and FCC officials described high-speed Internet service as a "civil right" during an FCC public hearing Monday night in Memphis focused on the digital divide. "Universal access to broadband needs to be seen as a civil right...[even though] not many people have talked about it that way," Commissioner Michael Copps said. The event was one in a series as the FCC works to craft a national broadband plan by February.

Panelists described a digital gap in which rural, minority, and low-income Americans subscribe to broadband at lower rates than the general population. Non-users face educational challenges, difficulty applying for jobs, and limited access to government services in a world where many of these functions have moved online, panelists said.

"Broadband is becoming a basic necessity," Benjamin Hooks, the first black FCC commissioner and a former NAACP executive director, said. Panelists noted that affordability and a lack of education about broadband's benefits are key barriers to universal adoption. Increased access at community centers could serve as a "first step" in informing these groups about the need to adopt broadband, Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association Vice President Dianne Polly said. (...)

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Microsoft Releases New Map App and Bing Features By Ryan Singel December 2, 2009

More impressively, Microsoft also launched a new beta mapping site Wednesday powered by its Adobe-Flash-like Silverlight technology, rather than HTML and JavaScript.

It gracefully renders cities in 3-D views using 45-degree aerial photos, paired with traditional satellite and street-based photography.

The Silverlight tech makes moving through the city very smooth, losing the jarring changes that are common as you move around various street views in products like Google Maps.

Users can then drop into photosynths — geo-located collections of photos created by users — by dropping their little map onto geo markers, say for example the large collection of photos documenting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Additionally, users can quickly see what places are nearby other places on the map. For instance, you could see what restaurants are near the MOMA, see which ones are best-rated on the web, and then zoom in to see the restaurant.

Finally, the new Silverlight-powered mapping site adds “apps” that let people check out newspaper headlines around the world, see roadside attractions across the United States and map local blog posts onto a city. Another app uses Twitter’s new geo-location features to see Twitter posts as bubbles on the map.

Real-time search: Google

  • In this information environment, seconds matter |"In the early days of Google, we used to crawl (the Web for) information every month, then put up new index," a process called the Google dance, Singhal said. "A month was not fast enough. Then we were crawling the Web every few days, then every day, then every few hours. Now we can crawl every few minutes."|"In today's world that's not fast enough," Singhal said. "In this information environment, seconds matter."
  • Gundotra said the future of search on phones involves search using microphones as the ears, the camera as eyes, the GPS chip as the location, and the speaker as a voice. (...)


Relevance meets the real-time web

12/07/2009 11:31:00 AM
Search is a natural starting point for discovering the world's information, and we strive to bring you the freshest, most comprehensive and relevant search results over an ever expanding universe of content on the multitude of devices you use to access it.

That's why today, at the Computer History Museum, we're excited to share a few new innovations in the areas of real-time, mobile and social search that we feel are important steps in the evolution of information access.

First, we're introducing new features that bring your search results to life with a dynamic stream of real-time content from across the web. Now, immediately after conducting a search, you can see live updates from people on popular sites like Twitter and FriendFeed, as well as headlines from news and blog posts published just seconds before. When they are relevant, we'll rank these latest results to show the freshest information right on the search results page.

Try searching for your favorite TV show, sporting event or the latest development on a recent government bill. Whether it's an eyewitness tweet, a breaking news story or a fresh blog post, you can find it on Google right after it's published on the web.

(...) Click on "Latest results" or select "Latest" from the search options menu to view a full page of live tweets, blogs, news and other web content scrolling right on Google. You can also filter your results to see only "Updates" from micro-blogs like Twitter, FriendFeed, Jaiku and others. Latest results and the new search options are also designed for iPhone and Android devices when you need them on the go, be it a quick glance at changing information like ski conditions or opening night chatter about a new movie — right when you're in line to buy tickets.

And, as part of our launch of real-time on Google search, we've added "hot topics" to Google Trends to show the most common topics people are publishing to the web in real-time. With this improvement and a series of other interface enhancements, Google Trends is graduating from Labs.

(...) The new features will be rolling out in the next few days and will be available globally in English. You can try them out today by visiting Google Trends and clicking on a "hot topic," which in most cases will bring you to a search results page with the new real-time feature.

(...) We have also made some new strides with mobile search. Today's sensor-rich smartphones are redefining what "query" means. Beyond text, you can now search by a number of new modes including voice, location and sight — all from a mobile device. So we've been working to improve technology that takes advantage of these capabilities.


December 7, 2009 11:02 AM PST | Google launches real-time search


In this information environment, seconds matter

"In the early days of Google, we used to crawl (the Web for) information every month, then put up new index," a process called the Google dance, Singhal said. "A month was not fast enough. Then we were crawling the Web every few days, then every day, then every few hours. Now we can crawl every few minutes."

"In today's world that's not fast enough," Singhal said. "In this information environment, seconds matter."


Google announced Monday the fruits of its earlier deal with Twitter, showing off how it has decided to present real-time Internet content within search results.

Amit Singhal, Google fellow, introduced the real-time section during an event at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. "We are here today to announce Google real-time search," Singhal said, calling it "Google relevance technology meets the real-time Web."

Twitter search will show the latest matches for a particular search term, but Google wants to do more than sort results by time. "Relevance is the foundation of this product," Singhal said. "It's relevance, relevance, relevance."

Google will build a section called "latest results" into the regular Google search results page that automatically refreshes Internet content from sources like Twitter.


Those who don't yet see the service can get to a version of it using the Google Trends site, which just emerged from beta testing.

  • The "hot topics" area that shows items of high search interest at the moment, and clicking on one of the results shows search results with the scrolling real-time feed of information.


Week in review: Getting real with Google, Yahoo

  • Days after Google announced its plan for integrating content from sources such as Twitter and blogs, Yahoo launched its own feature to integrate tweets into search results.
  • Microsoft already displays Twitter results for queries placed on its Bing search engine, although they are displayed on a separate page that is not directly integrated into the main search results.


  1. News results for google real time search

    Google's Real-Time Search Ready to Challenge Bing‎ - 3 days ago
    Google on Monday unveiled its real-time search capability, the latest salvo in its ongoing feature war with Bing. Microsoft's search engine already ...
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  2. Official Google Blog: Relevance meets the real-time web

    - 13:15
    7 Dec 2009 ... And, as part of our launch of real-time on Google search, we've added "hot topics" to Google Trends to show the most common topics people ... - Cached -
  3. Google Launches Real-Time Search

    7 Dec 2009 ... Google real-time search updates as stuff is happening around the Web: live tweets, Yahoo Answers, news articles and Web pages stream in on ... - United States - Cached -
  4. Google Real Time search: the experts' view | Blog | Econsultancy

    - 13:28
    9 Dec 2009 ... Google has started rolling out real time search, which has lots of potential implications for brand reputation and SEO, as well as paid ... - Cached -
  5. Google Launches Search Options, Declares Real-Time Search Biggest ...

    12 May 2009 ... Google has just launched a new search options feature on its main search page. When you click on Search options you can filter ... - Cached -
  6. Google Real-Time Search

    7 Dec 2009 ... Google launched a real-time search service that that aggregates recent news articles, blog posts and messages from Twitter, FriendFeed, ... - Cached -
  7. Google Introduces Real-Time Search | Epicenter |

    7 Dec 2009 ... MOUNTAIN VIEW, California -- Google said Monday it will begin indexing much of the web in real time, and marry those results with its ... - Cached -
  8. Make Google Search Real-Time With This URL Hack

    - 13:29
    13 Sep 2009 ... Google web search results can be limited by timeframe using the. - Cached -
  9. Google answers Twitter's real-time search • The Register

    12 May 2009 ... Searchology Google has rolled out its answer to Twitter's much-discussed real-time search. Beginning today, the world's largest search ... - Cached - Similar -
  10. Google real-time search to feature Twitter updates - Telegraph

    8 Dec 2009 ... Google has announced that real-time news from Twitter and other information from the Internet will start appearing in its search results. -
  11. Blog posts about google real time search

    Google Real-Time Search Is Now Live - ReadWriteWeb - 1 day ago
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    Google Real Time Search
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Google Real Time search: the experts' view

Posted 09 December 2009 09:35am by Graham Charlton

Google has started rolling out real time search, which has lots of potential implications for brand reputation and SEO, as well as paid search.

I've been asking some of the UK's search and social media experts for their opinions on how Google's real time search will affect brands and SEO...

What will the major effects of Real Time search be?

For brands...

Andrew Heaps, Head of SEO at Latitude:

For me it puts the emphasis right back on brands, just as Eric Schmidt said would be the case 12+ months ago. With the inclusion of live Twitter (et al) streams in the natural SERPs, social media, and in particular brand reputation has never been so important. Those brands that dismiss the need to monitor their online sentiment or are just not well equipped to do so will suffer.

Ciaran Norris, Head of Social Media at Mindshare:

In terms of what it does for brands, it makes constant monitoring for potential reputation issues more important than ever. If I slag off a brand, and that starts showing at number one on Google, that's something a brand needs to know about and be prepared to respond to.

Henry Ellis, Head of Social Media at Tamar:

This move really does cement Social Media at the centre of search. Before now, people would use Twitter, for example, to do their ‘emotional research’ and trust Google to deliver the factual side, the best deals, information and so on.

Now, Google is more fully addressing those emotional needs, and brands are going to have to get serious about social media very quickly. If somebody does a branded search for a product and finds less-than-favourable messages from Twitter or a blog, this will have an effect on their purchase choices.

Dave Wilding, Senior SEO Analyst at Epiphany:

With the proliferation of mobile internet, consumers will no longer wait to get home to rave, or complain, about the new restaurant they just visited, they'll do it straight away, and these reviews will instantly appear within search results.

I predict a number of big brands will experience brand protection issues during 2010; and these issues will break out of Twitter into everyone's browser. Results are not only going to appear for 'Big Brand Name & Product Fault', but for 'Big Brand' by itself. Consumers who are just Googling for a brand are soon going to know all about the current hot issue for that company.


Google web search results can be limited by timeframe using the "search options" link on every page, but one startup company CEO discovered today that searches can also be limited to results indexed minutes or seconds ago by making a simple change to the search results page URL.

Startup search engine Omgili's CEO Ran Geva wrote on his company blog today that time-limited search results pages include a parameter called QDR - perhaps standing for Query Date Range. You can change the number following the letters qdr and change the timeframe for your search.

By default when you click on "search options" and limit a search to the last day, the qdr appears as "d." Change that to "n" and you'll be limited to results from the last minute, to "n10" and you'll see results discovered in the last 10 minutes - or "s30" to see results from the last 30 seconds. It couldn't be simpler. Here's a sample search for Portland Oregon Coffee with the search options already turned on.


Geva isn't the first person to discover this, but he's the first we've seen place it within the context of real-time search and we didn't know about it until reading his blog post.


Google Introduces Real-Time Search

    By Ryan Singel December 7, 2009 | 2:13 pm | Categories: Search

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California — Google said Monday it will begin indexing much of the web in real time, and marry those results with its relevance-ranking technology to make sense of the torrents of information being published via Twitter, Facebook and blogs.

The announcement, at a news conference at the Computer History Museum here, signals an aggressive push by Google to maintain its mantle as search-innovation leader amid unaccustomed pressure from rivals. Microsoft effectively beat Google to the real-time punch, announcing Facebook and Twitter partnerships for its Bing search engine at the Web 2.0 Summit in October.

“Google Real Time search is Google’s relevance technology meeting the real-time web,” said Google Fellow Amit Singhal. “There is so much information being generated that relevance is the key to any product, and that’s where Google comes in.”

Monday’s announcement aims to address a major perceived shortcoming in Google’s technology, which has drawn criticism lately for not keeping up with the flood of short status updates on social networks, which some see as creating a new information revolution defined by instantaneous, or “real time,” distribution of information.

Google’s results page will now include a scrolling box of links that update constantly even as you scan through the other results. Clicking through takes one to a page of real-time scrolling updates. This feature is now available on iPhones and Android, Singhal said. The update will be rolled out progressively over the next two days. If you don’t see it yet in your search results, you can try it here. (...)


Mayer was followed on stage by Vic Gundotra who quickly demoed how good Google’s search by voice on mobile phones has gotten. He spoke, “Pictures of Barack Obama with the French president at the G8 summit,” into his phone, which then returned exactly those results in seconds. Gundotra then demoed how voice works in Mandarin, and announced that it would now work with Japanese as well.

Gundotra said the future of search on phones involves search using microphones as the ears, the camera as eyes, the GPS chip as the location, and the speaker as a voice. (...)

Gundotra also showed off a demo of an automatic translator that lets you speak English into your phone and then have it translated into Spanish which is then spoken. For instance, Gundotra said, “My name is Dick. Please show me to the nearest hospital.” In seconds a woman’s voice said this in perfect Spanish. The app is expected to be released in 2010 in many languages, Gundotra said.

Google also showed off customized Google Suggest that uses location. For instance, starting a query “RE” in Boston suggest the Red Sox, while the same start of query in San Francisco suggests the outdoor store REI, one of the city’s most popular retailers.

Google Local has a button called “Near Me Now” right now that lets you see the surrounding local businesses — and their online ratings. That same feature is now available in a new version of Google Maps for Android, which sends your latitude and longitude from your phone to Google and returns a list of what’s nearby and good.

Finally, Google Goggles lets you take a picture using your phone and send it to your phone, which scans it for text and searches for it. It can also take a picture of a famous landmark such as the Itsukushima Shrine and actually tell you what it is, and show you pages about it. You can try this out by dipping into Google Labs, if you have an Android phone.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

"Public Wireless" | November 27, 2009 | Sponsored WiFi Access, Sending Party Pays and The Future Of Media

WiFi Direct


Strong peer-to-peer mode added to Wi-Fi portfolio:

The Wi-Fi Alliance has announced Wi-Fi Direct, a peer-to-peer wireless networking method that takes the group into a new realm of creating specifications de novo, instead of following IEEE groups. The spec will appear in hardware by mid-2010.

Wi-Fi Direct will allow any device to advertise itself as a combination of software access point and peer. Newer hardware--which will include some existing equipment with firmware upgrades--will be able to maintain a wireless LAN connection to a so-called infrastructure network (via an access point), while also creating a peer-to-peer link to a device like a printer, mouse or keyboard, computer, or handheld. This could be used for file transfers, printing, input, and synchronization, among other purposes. (....) /


The new networking standard (coming soon) that will make traveling easier
by Glenn Fleishman,

Wi-Fi: 802.11n


The recent formal approval of the IEEE 802.11n wireless standard marks not the end but the start of a wave of Wi-Fi innovation. In the next three to five years, the Wi-Fi experience will be very different from today / x


The King is Dead, Long Live the King: 802.11n dramatically improves Wi-Fi outdoors

IEEE 802.11n is the new international standard for wireless Local Area Networks, incorporating new smart antenna technologies (MIMO – Multiple In and Multiple Out) permitting a 5x performance and 2x coverage improvement for WLANs. While this new technology is becoming the de facto standard in consumer and enterprise networks, it has not yet made an appearance in outdoor, metropolitan scale networks derived from Wi-Fi technology. (Note: Meraki just released today the first 802.11n outdoor mesh product)

"First UK wi-fi town"

Mobile: Worksnug-iPhone | Mobile workers of the world unite? With Worksnug there is an app for that! | Posted by Mercedes Bunz Friday 20 November 2009

Mobile workers of the world can finally unite, as the neat augmented reality application Worksnug has just been approved by Apple for the iPhone. (...)

Worksnug allows you to find wifi locations available nearby, from Starbucks to independent cafes, to libraries and shared offices, complete with reviews describing the atmosphere, power situation and coffee quality. Just what you might have dreamed about as a mobile worker.

Indeed, for Richard Leyland, the man behind the application, Worksnug is not just about finding the next free wifi hotspot, or being able to boast about the potential of your iPhone in front of your collegues and friends. While both might be appealing, the London-based technology entrepreneur envisaged worksnug as a tool to solve some of the problems of the worker of the 21st century – often isolated, occasionally lonely and highly mobile.

And Leyland knows what he is talking about: "As a mobile worker I spent two years commuting from my kitchen table to Starbucks or the next best library. It worked, but it felt lonely. There is an atomisation of work. We are not employed in big companies anymore, we work for ourselves."

For him, developing Worksnug came directly out of this this experience and was designed as a solution to the challenges of modern working practices. "Over the last 15 or 20 years the way we work has changed tremendously. Work was always an ordered thing, and it's not anymore. In the past, there was a hierarchy, there were certain rules and an office, and we also had a very clear sense of what the job was. All of that has changed. Now, we have the mobile phone, the laptop, the internet.", he says.

"The knowledge-based economy confronts us with a style of work that is new and different. The working situation is a bit like the wild west – there's no guide to tell you when to start or when to stop or where you should work. Worksnug is a small attempt to bring back some order. We want Worksnug users to feel part of a community again."

To produce that feeling of community, the application sets priorities for the sort of locations it identifies. Independent coffee chains, art galleries and libraries are more important than Starbucks, for example. "In Starbucks you are a mobile island," Leyland says. "I wanted to help Worksnug users to be able to meet other people who do what they do."

Users can share their experiences by leaving comments both in the application itself or on the website from early next year. To point them in the right direction a team of reviewers was recruited to assess 700 places in London, where the application has rolled out first. San Francisco is next, with New York, Berlin and Madrid to follow soon. (...)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cloud London, City of Bits


MIT News Office
Proposed monument for London 2012 Olympics unveiled

A team of leading architects and engineers has just unveiled designs for The Cloud - a landmark structure to commemorate London's role as host of the 2012 Olympics. The lightweight transparent tower, composed of a "cloud" of inflatable, light-emitting spheres, would create a spatial, three-dimensional display in the skies of London, fed by real time information from all over the world. The structure is "a new form of collective expression and experience and an updated symbol of our dawning age: code rather than carbon," said Carlo Ratti, head of the MIT SENSEable Cities Laboratory and one of the project leaders. Other members of the design team include artist Tomas Saraceno, digital designer Alex Haw, lightweight-structures expert Joerg Schleich, engineering group Arup, landscape architects Agence Ter and the Internet company Google. Those advising the team include writer Umberto Eco and and MIT professor and artist Antoni Muntadas. "Our main idea is to apply to architecture some of the distributed processes that are currently revolutionizing the digital world," says Professor Ratti. "For instance, we would like the Cloud to become a symbol of global ownership built through a bottom up fundraising effort." The size of the Cloud will not be set in advance, but it will evolve based on the level of contributions received. The global "cloudraising" effort will be supported by platforms such as Facebook and Twitter; Google will provide advertising on YouTube and in search results. "We look forward to applying lessons learned from the Obama campaign to involve the global community in support of the Cloud", said Margo Miller, immediate past Chair of Democrats Abroad UK. The Cloud will also be "a vast, collective energy-harvesting effort," explains Alex Haw. People can choose to ascend the Cloud on foot or bicycle; the energy that it would take to descend the Cloud is converted, on the way down, into electricity through elevators with regenerative breaking, similar to those that are present in hybrid cars. "The people's energy, coupled with solar energy collected through on-site and off-site photovoltaic cells and various energy saving strategies will allow us to reach carbon neutrality, whereby the Cloud produces all the energy it uses."
The structure of the Cloud is an innovation in and of itself. "Many tall towers have preceded this, but our achievement is the high degree of transparency, the minimal use of material and the vast volume created by the sphere - all on exceedingly slender columns, stabilized by a cable net such as the one I built in Stuttgart in 2001", commented professor Joerg Schleich. "The Cloud is a delicate yet robust filigree of reliable high-tech components, its ingredients familiar, their composition radically new."
The LEDs in the Cloud, fed by real time information, will be viewable from all over London - something which was of particular interest to Google. "When Carlo Ratti approached our founder Larry Page, we chose to collaborate because of his bold and visionary concept, and because the project fit with Google's mission of organizing the world's information and making it universally accessible and useful," explain Obi Felten and Matt Brittin, Managing Director of Google UK. "We
particularly like the idea of the Cloud in the sky above London displaying information to the city and beyond - a powerful symbol for the openness and diversity of London, befitting the first truly digital Olympics." Moving inside the Cloud will be like floating inside a three-dimensional display, animated by information feeds that could include energy use, spectator numbers, decibel levels, medal updates, transport patterns, mobile phone activity, Internet traffic, and others. "The Cloud develops our ongoing interest in the idea of the 'civic-scale smart meter', acting as a real-time feedback loop on collective urban activity," said Dan Hill from Arup. The Cloud was initially designed for the 2012 Olympic Park, although other sites in London are also currently being explored. The team states that no public funding will be required. "We can build our Cloud with 5 million pounds or 50 million," says team member Walter Nicolino. "The flexibility of the structural system will allow us to tune the size of the Cloud to the level of funding that is reached." The Cloud team at the MIT Senseable City Laboratory is composed of Carlo Ratti, Assaf Biderman, Mauro Martino, E Roon Kang, working together with Walter Nicolino and Giovanni de Niederhausern. The Cloud team includes artist Tomas Saraceno, digital designer Alex Haw, lightweight-structures expert Joerg Schleich, engineering group Arup, landscape architects Agence Ter, graphic designers Studio FM, visualization experts GMJ. Advisors to the team include Umberto Eco, Marco Santambrogio, Chris Bangle, Giuliano da Empoli, Antoni Muntadas, William Mitchell, Paul Richens, Gianluca Salvatori, Caterina Ginzburg, Liza Fior, Margo Miller.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Liquid Modernity

Liquid Modernity

"Liquid Modernity" is Bauman's term for the present condition of the world as contrasted with the "solid" modernity that preceded it.

According to Bauman, the passage from "solid" to "liquid" modernity has created a new and unprecedented setting for individual life pursuits, confronting individuals with a series of challenges never before encountered.

Social forms and institutions no longer have enough time to solidify and cannot serve as frames of reference for human actions and long-term life plans, so individuals have to find other ways to organise their lives.

Individuals have to splice together an unending series of short-term projects and episodes that don't add up to the kind of sequence to which concepts like "career" and "progress" could be meaningfully applied.

Such fragmented lives require individuals to be flexible and adaptable — to be constantly ready and willing to change tactics at short notice, to abandon commitments and loyalties without regret and to pursue opportunities according to their current availability. In liquid modernity the individual must act, plan actions and calculate the likely gains and losses of acting (or failing to act) under conditions of endemic uncertainty.


See also:

Precarious work | Precarious Reader


Top that for an obit.

The notoriety of this Man of Steel - and Coal was marked by many obits:


    Daily Telegraph, 14 April 1998; The Times, 14 April 1998; The Independent, 15 April 1998; The Scotsman, 14 April 1998; The Guardian, 14 April 1998; Financial Times, April 14 1998, p.8 New York Times, 15 April 1998.

    Monday, July 06, 2009

    BuddeBlog: Digital Britain in summary

    Digital Britain in summary - taxes for an insufficient network lacking a broader vision

    Henry Lancaster – Senior Analyst, Europe – BuddeComm


    Missed opportunities
    There are few governments which consider future IP networks in a larger framework. The UK is a case in point. When building a nation’s NGN, policy makers should take the opportunity to think big, which means thinking far beyond broadband as is currently perceived. At present, the Digital Britain report has taken a silo approach in that it addresses elements such as telecoms, content, radio and TV in isolation of each other.

    The trans-sector approach, by which broadband taps into and co-ordinates with other sectors, is currently being championed by Australia, and under its example and guidance is being explored by New Zealand, The Netherlands and the USA. Other sectors include the use of IP infrastructure for a range of services, of which telecoms is only one. Bandwidth tenants will include government departments developing e-health and tele-education services (as well as the private sector doing the same), utilities managing their smart grids, security and entertainment firms, and a plethora of new and entrepreneurial services yet to be thought of. Applications such as e-health, tele-education and smart grids will together account for at least 50% of the digital infrastructure capacity, while broadband as we now know it will represent 10-15%. In effect, broadband will in future years become such a small component of overall IP-enabled services that it can provided for free, much as email and computer-to-computer VoIP are currently free.

    So despite the posturing, the government faces a bleak fact: that without a broader vision and a coordinated approach to IP infrastructure it will be impossible to maximise the economic and social benefits from its Digital Britain initiative. This will be shameful for the government, and a pity for all citizens.

    Wednesday, July 01, 2009

    Digital Britain - Parliamentary inquiry

    Parliament to probe Digital Britain plan | David Meyer | Published: 30 Jun 2009 12:47 BST

    A parliamentary select committee is to check whether the recommendations proposed in the Digital Britain report are realistic, particularly those regarding broadband speed.

    The Business and Enterprise Committee inquiry was announced on Monday. Many of the government's recommendations in Lord Carter's Digital Britain report, published earlier this month, require new legislation if they are to be put into practice.

    According to a parliamentary spokesperson, the select committee's inquiry is intended to "inform the House to better amend legislation" when that legislation is put before MPs after the summer recess.

    The cross-party committee will examine several questions. It will ask whether the 2Mbps universal baseline broadband speed is ambitious enough, and will also investigate whether ISPs are providing the speeds they promise to consumers.

    The 50p-per-month levy on each fixed copper line, as proposed by Carter, will also come under scrutiny. This charge, if allowed by the new legislation, will feed into a fund that will be used to roll out high-speed next-generation broadband access in areas of the UK where commercial companies do not see a sufficient business case for investment.

    The committee will also attempt to find out whether the government's plans for next-generation broadband access will work, and whether current regulation "strikes the right balance between ensuring fair competition and encouraging investment in next-generation networks".


    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    The Digital Britain report | Critics slam Digital Britain over file-sharers and tax plans

    A "colossal disappointment", say Tories

    By David Meyer Published: 18 June 200 09:15 BST

    The Digital Britain report has drawn criticism from politicians and technology experts over its proposals for dealing with fibre rollouts and illegal file-sharing.

    The report, published on Tuesday, outlines the government's plans for the UK's telecommunications infrastructure and digital economy. Shortly after its publication, Jeremy Hunt, the Conservative Party's shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport, called Digital Britain a "colossal disappointment" and lambasted the plan's proposal for a monthly 50p tax on fixed copper lines.

    Lord Carter, the report's author, proposed the levy as a way of funding the rollout of fibre-based next-generation broadband to areas of the country where operators might not see a business case for investment. Speaking in Parliament, Hunt said a better tactic would be to stimulate investment by changing regulations to encourage providers to spend on fibre development.

    "The cable revolution happened without a cable tax. The satellite revolution happened without a satellite tax," Hunt told Parliament on Wednesday. "Everyone recognises that public investment may be necessary to reach more remote parts of the country but simply slapping on an extra tax is an old economy solution to a new economy problem."

    Hunt also pointed out that Digital Britain announced 12 new consultations, and called the report "government of the management consultants, for the management consultants, by the management consultants".

    The tax will benefit the biggest existing providers in the UK, according to Chris Smedley, chief executive of fibre-optic network company Geo.

    "The tax will only raise around £170m per year from consumers, and [this will] be presumably handed straight back to BT and Virgin Media - who will still have the UK market in a stranglehold - and then only [used] to deliver fibre to the cabinet," Smedley said in a statement.

    "Just as importantly, the government will still levy rates on fibre once it's in use, perpetuating the problem of cable lying dormant in the ground. Removing these [rates] would have been a quick and easy way to promote a fibre future for the UK."

    Smedley also attacked the 2Mbps base speed for universal broadband coverage proposed by Carter, saying it leaves the UK open to ridicule. "The UK is the world's sixth-largest economy, yet this report says it cannot justify similar investments to those already promised in the US, Australia, Singapore, Korea and Japan, which are aiming to deliver 100Mbps as standard," he said.