AT&T has been very interested in overseas expansion, investigating possible acquisitions of Vodafone (at least the wireless assets), European carrier EE, as well as part of Spain's Telefonica SA. Unfortunately for AT&T, it's believed that their coziness with the NSA ruffled political feathers during election season
, forcing AT&T to step back earlier this year and wait. With those worries settled down, rumors have again emerged of an AT&T Vodafone bid
, though the report notes AT&T's ambitions could be challenged by a counter offer from China Mobile.
This weekend, the UK's largest broadband provider and former incumbent, BT, is expected to raise prices for millions of households. A hike at BT usually immediately precedes price rises at the other big providers but if that happens this time it'll mean a double whammy for internet and calls customers: the other members of the UK's big four – Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media – have all increased prices or announced upcoming increases for at least some customers over the past few weeks. story continues..
A British man has received nearly three years in prison
for pirating a copy of Fast and Furious 6
. 25-year-old Philip Danks was the first person in the world to seed the file on BitTorrent networks after recording the film from the back of the theater with a hand-held camera. Danks pleaded guilty to three charges of distributing pirate copies of films (he also sold DVD copies of the film), and was sentenced to 33 months in prison. Investigators didn't have to work hard to identify Danks; he'd posted "Seven billion people and I was the first. F*** you Universal Pictures" on his Facebook page.
We recently noted how the UK's effort to force ISPs to filter porn by default wasn't working very well, with simple chrome proxy extensions
allowing porn hunters to easily bypass the filters. Worse perhaps is the fact that the filters aren't even really working, not only failing to filter a significant number of major porn sites, but accidentally filtering sexual education and rape support websites
For much of the last year or so, rumors have surfaced that AT&T was very interested in a European expansion, and was considering acquiring (just) the wireless assets of Vodafone in a deal that could have been worth an estimated $124 billion
. However, in January AT&T issued a statement indicating
that the company had no plans to acquire Vodafone -- at least anytime during the next six months.
The FCC's latest network neutrality proposal has seen no shortage of critics given it effectively legitimizes the sort of potentially anti-competitive "pay to play" or "fast lane" proposals companies like AT&T have lusted after for years. Yet speaking at the US Africa Leaders Summit in DC recently, Obama positively gushed
over the notion of network neutrality, insisting he was an avid supporter of net neutrality so that the "next Google or Facebook can succeed:"
Net neutrality in the United States -- one of the issues around net neutrality is whether you are creating different rates or charges for different content providers.
Despite efforts in several countries to impose ISP-level website filters blocking the site, operators of the Pirate Bay state that their web traffic has doubled since 2011
. While Denmark banned the site first, ISPs in both the UK and Netherlands were required to block access to the website in 2012. The Pirate Bay does not break down the traffic by country, so it's possible that filters did block users in those countries with growth coming from elsewhere. Most of the filters are easy to bypass; The Pirate Bay notes that about 9% of all visitors are using a proxy -- either to bypass the filters or avoid ISP copyright infringement warning letters.
100% of Europeans now have access to broadband, the European Union commission announced earlier this month. Total coverage was one of the 2012 goals of the EU's Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) and has been achieved, where the market wasn't providing already, largely by forcing networks to increase coverage from 3G and LTE networks and funding affordable access to satellite broadband. story continues..
After spending millions of dollars
over countless years on plans to implement "three strikes" anti-piracy measures on the ISP level, the UK government has finally come to the conslusion that having ISPs play content nanny does little to deter piracy. Instead of previous, more aggressive plans to boot repeat offenders off of the Internet, a new plan taking effect in 2015
would simply warn users four times that they're violating copyright -- with no follow up punishment:
Starting in 2015, persistent file-sharers will be sent four warning letters explaining their actions are illegal, but if the notes are ignored no further action will be taken. The scheme, named the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP), is the result of years of talks between ISPs, British politicians and the movie and music industries. The UK’s biggest providers – BT, TalkTalk, Virgin and Sky – have all signed up to VCAP, and smaller ISPs are expected to follow suit.
The UK's approach now more closely approaches the six strikes anti-piracy practices now established in the States
, where users are bombarded with "education material" and warned several times about copyright abuses, but are never disconnected -- with offenses untracked as users move between ISPs.
The concern now is that these data collection efforts will ultimately be used for either fines or legal action down the road as the entertainment industry pushes for expansion of these programs into the sort of heavy-handed territory they originally envisioned.
A report in the Telegraph
claims that Google may be interested in someday expanding Google Fiber into the UK. Google has held talks with a British company by the name of CityFibre, though those talks broke down after the company began worrying a partnership would damage their relationships with UK incumbents.
Australians not only pay significantly more for US content than US customers, a significant amount of content simply isn't available -- with companies like Netflix still unable to secure licensing rights for TV and film from disruption-phobic Australian broadcasters. To get around this "geo-blocking," many Australians subscribe to VPNs as to hide their locations. Now one New Zealand ISP says they're making this easier by, for the first time, offering to geoblock all broadband subscribers by default. Australian consumer advocacy group Choice is applauding the move by New Zealand ISP Slingshot to enable a "global mode" for all subscribers
allowing them to access oversease content without having to configure proxies or VPNs.
Last fall as part of the company's "uncarrier" brand strategy, T-Mobile announced
that the company would be offering their users free data roaming while travelling internationally -- albeit it EDGE (2G) speeds. While EDGE (128 kbps or so) speeds may turn off many, T-Mobile states that fewer than 1% of the 2 million people who have used a Simple Global Plan
have opted to upgrade to a higher-speed option -- suggesting 2G's fast enough for most.
Not too surprisingly, when you offer free international texting, free EDGE data and calls at the flat rate of 20 cents per minute, people take you up on your offer:
A survey T-Mobile released last month found that, since the implementation of its new roaming strategy, its customers have called three times as much when abroad, texted seven times more often, and used 28 times more data than they did previously. What's more, 53% more of its customers now roam on cellular in supported countries than before it unveiled the plans.
Of course when your option is free 2G connectivity or spending big bucks on what are frequently absurd overseas data roaming rates, it's little surprise users make due with EDGE speeds.
Mobile operators in the UK could be forced to share infrastructure to improve signal in rural parts of the country. Networks should have to sign sharing, or roaming, agreements with one another so that their customers are never stuck in a 'not spot' and left without signal when there is coverage available from a different network or networks, Sajid Javid MP said
Theresa May, the UK's Home Secretary, called for more powers to keep and collect online data but said that "there is no mass surveillance programme" in a recent speech
. Files released by Edward Snowdon show that the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has been intercepting fibre optic cables with the participation of major US and UK communications providers, an operation called Tempora, since 2011.
Internet monitoring firm Renesys states that Iraq’s Ministry of Communications has ordered the blocking of numerous websites
, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Whatsapp and Skype -- in the hopes of slowing the growing ISIS uprising there. Last weekend Twitter moved to try and shut down at least ISIS accounts, but appears engaged in an unsuccessful game of Whac a Mole
While ultra-fast networks used predominately for research aren't exactly new, Wired
offers up an interesting read on ESnet, or the Energy Science Network, which NASA uses to transmit data at speeds up to 91 gigabits per second. ESnet, operated by the US Department of Energy, is often used to transmit mammoth swaths of data for projects like the Large Hadron Collider and the Human Genome Project. Many of the advancements made while tinkering with ESnet may someday find their way to the broader commercial Internet. The 91 gigabits per second mark was only just reached last fall; the organization is already working on a 400 gigabit network, and the long-term goal is a terabyte per second network.
Cisco's latest Visual Networking Index
offers up the company's latest assortment of network traffic stats and growth projections. The VNI is a treasure trove of data bits and bytes; Cisco for example predicts that global Internet traffic will reach a total of 1.6 zettabytes by 2018 -- roughly thirteen times the global Internet network traffic seen in 2008.
During the Snowden leaks the discussion has been preoccupied with the collection of "metadata" (time, participants, length of calls), even though AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein proved back in 2007 a bigger issue is telecom companies giving intelligence agencies the unfettered ability to monitor every shred of data that goes over a network
(pdf) in real time, often without meaningful oversight or transparency.
Driving that point home today is a report
by UK carrier Vodafone, which notes that numerous governments have the frequently-used ability to directly tap into most communications networks to monitor voice and data transmissions at any time, without warrants.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry recently declared that whistleblower Edward Snowden should "man up
" and come back to the United States, though Snowden remains doubtful he'd get a fair trial. Were it a true trial by his peers he might; a new poll conducted by cloud storage service Tresorit
found that 55% of Americans think Snowden did the right thing in exposing NSA domestic surveillance secrets. 29% of those polled think Snowden was wrong, and 16% don't have an opinion one way or the other.
Last month the European Union passed new net neutrality laws
, which require that European ISPs deliver bits "without discrimination, restriction or interference, independent of the sender, receiver, type, content, device, service or application." While each European country still needs to pass the rules themselves, it appears that the UK won't be playing along. Why? The rules require that only a court order (not legislative pushes) can be used to ban content, which would disrupt the UK government's attempts to censor the Internet of all its naughty bits
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