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Stewart Mitchell

Europe’s best broadband by 2015? Maybe – but what next?

Monday, March 4th, 2013

broadband bt data

The UK government keeps talking about having the best broadband in Europe by 2015, but that target – poorly defined and unlikely to stand up to scrutiny as it is – shouldn’t be the end point. Other countries are already looking way beyond the next few years, while the UK looks likely to fall over panting even if it reaches its finishing line.

The government has made much fuss about the £530 million it’s pumped into projects run by Broadband Delivery UK – with all the work so far handed to BT in a bid to meet goals of 90% of the population having access to 25Mbits/sec, with a minimum 2Mbits/sec for those left behind.

It’s better than nothing, but there’s nothing else on the agenda. Once that money’s been spent by BT, there’s not much left in the pot — a few scattered rural funds, and some money for fibre in the UK’s major cities. Even in the unlikely event that the UK really does have the best broadband in the continent by 2015, it’s likely to be a briefly held title.

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How PayPal is perpetuating the phishing problem

Friday, February 15th, 2013

paypalPhishing has been a problem for years, with ne’er-do-wells sending emails stuffed with links to lure you into typing passwords into their mocked-up sites resembling your bank or some other service.

With the criminals making fewer stupid grammatical errors and getting better at designing mocked-up sites, the one rule of thumb recommended by banks and security experts is to not click through links in emails from companies without checking they’re safe — and if in doubt, to head to the site directly to log in.

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How adult books ended up on my young son’s Kindle

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Kindle Fire, Landscape

At £99, the Kindle Fire looked the perfect gift for a seven year old, with plenty of content aimed at children, some very playable games and a fairly rigorous set of child-friendly filters built into the device. In fact, Amazon was even touting the device’s child friendliness in the run-up to Christmas, with an offer that included Disney and Nickelodeon content.

It was something of a surprise, then, to find that as said youngster explored the device with child protection turned on, a trio of adult books turned up in the carousel display on the Kindle’s homepage. To be fair, this wasn’t something pushed by Amazon, but the result of the child’s account being linked with my Amazon account.

During research for a feature on online porn and child protection (Yeah, I know, lame excuse, but I’m sticking with it) three erotica titles of the 50 Shades ilk had found their way into the main account controlling the Kindle in question.

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Do we need the Snooper’s Charter to save lives?

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Theresa May and the Sun have teamed up to deliver the Home Secretary’s message on the importance of the Communications Data Bill – AKA the Snooper’s Charter – in an interview article that borders on gratuitous with its level of scare mongering.
The Home Offices uses the article to ram home why it believes additional surveillance measures are needed with  a piece headlined “Track crime on net or we’ll see more people die” and littered with emotive reasoning.
“The people who say they’re against this bill need to look victims of serious crime, terrorism and child sex offences in the eye and tell them why they’re not prepared to give the police the powers they need to protect the public,” the piece asserts. “ “Criminals, terrorists and paedophiles will want MPs to vote against this bill. Victims of crime, police and the public will want them to vote for it. It’s a question of whose side you’re on.”
The warning comes as Whitehall waits for a parliamentary committee report into the draft DCB, with many people expecting a negative response and Nick Clegg reportedly ready to oppose the surveillance legislation.
Yet despite calls for clearer evidence on why and how the changes would make a difference, there is again very little actual fact in the claims that the bill would save lives..
In its evidence that the legislation is relevant, the article cites two cases that have been helped using technology, one in which a child pornography ring was partially brought to justice because of IP addresses being identified, and another in which police tracked down a suicide attempt and cut the would-be victim down before he died.
“Cops were provided with the IP addresses of everyone who had been accessing the site and many people were identified from the data and prosecuted,” the example suggested adding that although some were arrested ”others escaped because internet access companies had no record of who had used the IP addresses”.
The second example, has little to do with terror, organised crime or paedophiles, which is apparently the whole point, and the first could have been dealt with under existing laws.
As Big Brother Watch said in its blog on the subject “In this case, it would be proportionate to go to internet service providers and ask for the IP address of any computer accessing the website, and for data to be retained about that use. Those people could be identified and prosecuted without needing to record every website visit of every person.”
IP addresses are already routinely kept by ISPs under data retention guidelines from the European Union that are in effect in the UK. Although not all ISPs are covered by this – and the government doesn’t disclose the list of those that are – it’s understood that larger ISPs are all required to keep the data. The Home Office could quite easily extend that list to all UK ISPs.
For those that are required to keep the data it’s not “random” as the report suggests, but, according the ISP Association, is a legal requirement.
Using IP address information, therefore, really doesn’t go any way to justifying the bill, and in fact if the government really wanted to make its point surely it would be better to highlight the cases where authorities couldn’t solve a case because they didn’t have access to data.
But the confusion over using lack of IP address seems even more bizarre given that over at the Department of Culture Media and Sport, officials have enough confidence in current IP address information to base the policing of copyright protection measures in the Digital Economy Act on IP addresses, it rather begs the question of whether IP addresses are reliable or not – the government appears to want them to both at the same time.Theresa May and the Sun have teamed up to deliver the Home Secretary’s message on the importance of the Communications Data Bill – AKA the Snooper’s Charter – in an interview article that borders on gratuitous with its level of scare maysunmongering.

maysun

Theresa May and The Sun have teamed up to deliver the home secretary’s message on the importance of the Communications Data Bill – AKA the Snooper’s Charter – in a scare-mongering article.

The Home Office uses the article to ram home why it believes additional surveillance measures are needed with an emotive piece headlined: “Track crime on net or we’ll see more people die” — and illustrated with a photo of the bus torn apart in the attacks on 7 July 2005.

(more…)

How many BDUK staff does it take to change an Ethernet cable?

Friday, October 19th, 2012

houses parliament big benThe work of Broadband Delivery UK clearly involves more than plugging in new broadband connections, but figures revealed in response to a written parliamentary question show that the DCMS unit responsible for next-gen broadband rollout has a staggering 75 full-time equivalent staff.

That’s right, 75 people to oversee fewer than 40 projects, that are effectively being run by BT and contracted out by the regions responsible for the individual projects.

(more…)

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Was Fujitsu just making up the numbers for BDUK?

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

it_photo_180748_52

Broadband officials were so desperate for a second company on the procurement framework for nationwide broadband projects that they had to beg a company since blacklisted by the government to get onboard the scheme.

BDUK is the official body responsible for handling the rollout of the UK’s partly public-funded broadband projects, but the framework put in place has been widely criticised as being too unwieldy and slow to attract operators.

According to a report in yesterday’s Financial Times, Fujitsu – along with BT one of only two companies cleared to bid for BDUK projects – has been blacklisted by the Cabinet Office for being too “high risk” to win future government contracts.

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Will the UK learn from France’s anti-piracy failure?

Monday, August 6th, 2012

downloads

Over the weekend, the French press reported that the country’s Hadopi anti-piracy tools could be scaled back or even cancelled, with the government saying it was too expensive and was largely failing to meet its goals.

The announcement comes at a time when the UK government is still working on its similar Digital Economy Act (DEA), which would use some of the same techniques to target habitual illegal downloaders.

Like the DEA, Hadopi has a three-strikes rule, where illegal downloaders are sent warning emails and letters if they are seen to be downloading copyright material using P2P or other sites. After three infractions, the subscriber could have their internet access cut off, but the scheme looks set to be pushed into a dark cupboard due to mounting costs.

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ISPs’ playground fight has no real winner

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

virgin1

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) adjudications page is looking increasingly like an incident report book from a nursery school playground.

Almost every Wednesday, either BT or Virgin (although sometimes other ISPs feature) indulges in petty bickering over how the other one over-eggs its services: “he stole my conker, and then claimed it was the bestest in school”.

BT and Virgin are, frankly, making themselves and the ASA look ridiculous by constantly making questionable claims and running to teacher every time someone else omits an asterisk from the small print.

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With mobile data, it pays to be European

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

money mobile

The EU might not be everyone’s cup of lattechino, but when it comes to representing the masses it does at least stand up for the man in the street.

While some of its proposals – such as the widely ignored cookie laws  - are near worthless, others are more robust. It’s not all about regulating carrot length and ruling on the smelliness of cheese.

Take, for example, the pressure being put on mobile networks by EU officials that want to see an end to the cash grab that is mobile data roaming. Charges for a MB of data cost more than a beer in many parts of Europe, a situation which the EU believes is restricting usage and lining the pockets of mobile operators. (more…)

Why is email so ugly?

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

fluent

When the decorators come in for a makeover, you’d hope that the end result would a nicer, new-look living room – otherwise, what’s the point? But sometimes, a look “just works”, making changes a perfect example of fixing something that isn’t broken.

App designers are caught between these two divergent camps, which is perhaps why email clients and services seem never to have had a proper revamp – they are still based on linear rolls of messages that generally have all the design hallmarks of a 1970s filing cabinet, which perhaps reflects the way they are used.

(more…)

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