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EU Cuts Affect Broadband in Europe February 11, 2013

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Government, Internet.
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In recent news, politicians in Europe were seen hammering out a deal for the European Union budget. Though some in Europe were keen to see the budget increased, the leaders of countries including the UK and Germany placed enormous pressure on the decision-makers to cut back – reflecting the general health of the European economy.

And cuts were made. But one area that was hit particularly hard was the funding for rural broadband. The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) had a target of ensuring that half of Europe’s population could use Internet with a speed of at least 100 megabits per second (Mbps) by 2020, with the rest of the population on at least 30 Mbps.

With people fearing for their jobs and food banks on the rise, broadband access may seem like a first-world problem, but broadband is the basic infrastructure that underpins the entire digital economy and it is not good enough for it to only be available in major cities alone.

We are moving away from the traditional industrial model of the large cities with suburbs and armies of commuters travelling to the office at 9am each morning. Entire business models can be formulated and delivered online alone – and therefore based anywhere, even remote rural areas.

Considering the entire programme that is being cut was really only a few billion euros – contrasted with the banking system bailouts and quantitative easing that are costing hundreds of billions, it would seem to be a good investment in the future. Why cut back on infrastructure that can drive the future of the digital economy?

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Photo by Nebojsa Mladjenovic licensed under Creative Commons

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Internet Explorer Ruling is Old News Anyway September 27, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet.
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The European Union antitrust head has announced that Microsoft is to be charged with failing to follow a ruling from 2009 related to their failure to offer a selection of web browsers.

This ruling is centred on the ability of Microsoft to bundle their Internet Explorer system with Windows, the web browser that for many years was the dominant choice for browsing the web.

But this ruling feels like old news, even though it was just announced this week.

Internet Explorer is no longer the dominant product for web browsing.

The crown now belongs to Google with their Chrome system and Firefox from the Mozilla Foundation is close on the heels of Internet Explorer. In fact if you now add together Chrome and Firefox, they are used for almost half of all Internet web browsing. Internet Explorer retains just over 23%, but this figure is dropping.

The EU may be throwing their legal muscle at Microsoft, but the market has moved on anyway. Internet Explorer became a bloated, slow product that was full of bugs and subject to endless virus attacks. Google offered a light, very fast product with Chrome and users switched in droves.

Now the browser has become more than just a browser anyway, with Chrome offering a gateway to all the services offered by Google, further locking in users and preventing them from seeking out an alternative.

Microsoft can only wish they spent more time focused on improving the product and letting users decide on the best tool for web browsing. Now they are suffering the irony of being fined by an antitrust body as their product is losing market share to the competition.

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Photo by Varawat Prasarnkiat licensed under Creative Commons

Bill shock to end? March 16, 2010

Posted by Mark Hillary in IT Services.
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This month, new EU laws to protect users with roaming mobile devices came into effect. The aim of the new legislation is to prevent what the media has termed “bill shock” as many users of telephones or Internet dongles have found that roaming data charges can be extremely high – especially when compared to the charge (often in contract anyway) when used in the home market.

Look at the case of William Harrison, a student at Nottingham University who visited Paris last year to begin an internship. Mobile phone company Orange advised him to use a 3G dongle, but Harrison never counted on his first month of internet use costing £8,000.

Other examples recently documented in the Sunday papers include a £4,900 bill for downloading a copy of The Apprentice on the BBC iPlayer and a £31,500 Vodafone bill for similar TV downloads. Vodafone did slash that bill to a more manageable £229, but how can such huge bills be racked up in the first place?
It’s all about data use. A laptop or phone that is using broadband on a roaming package – rather than the locally agreed fixed monthly price – will rack up additional charges based on how many megabytes (mb) of data are downloaded. The March 2nd edition of Eastenders on the BBC can be downloaded in 319mb. At the Virgin mobile roaming rate of £5 per mb, that’s going to be a cool £1,595 on your phone bill, just for catching up on the latest happenings in Albert Square.

So will the new legislation work? It’s aimed at ensuring mobile operators cap roaming usage to no more than €50 per month, and they now have until July to implement the procedures. If every provider implements the new rules then it should prevent further “bill shock”, but what if one company doesn’t, or their systems fail to give warnings in time? Who’s liable for the bill then?