Category Archives: Digital Inclusion

At least 2.3 billion people now using the Internet, says ITU

The world has seen impressive growth in areas such as Internet use, particularly in developing countries, the UN Agency International Telecommunication Union (ITU) says. An ITU mini-report, “The World in 2011”, released Tuesday at the ongoing ITU Telecom World conference in Geneva, Switzerland, also confirms that ICT growth has been equally rapid, with close to 6 billion mobile cellular subscriptions forecast by the end of 2011, and around 2.3 billion people using the Internet. Growth is fastest in the developing world, and among the young,
it says,with almost half of the world’s online population now under 25 years old. That number should continue to increase steadily as Internet penetration continues to grow in schools. The new ITU figures provide a quick snapshot of broadband deployment worldwide, revealing gaping disparities in high-speed access. While international Internet bandwidth has grown from 11,000 Gbps in 2006 to close to 80,000 Gbps in 2011, Europeans enjoy on average almost 90,000 bps of bandwidth per user compared to Internet users in Africa, who are limited
to around 2,000 bps per user. The report shows that the world’s top broadband economies are all located in Europe, Asia and the Pacific. In the Republic of Korea, mobile broadband penetration now exceeds 90 percent, with nearly all fixed broadband connections providing speeds equal to or above 10 Mbps. In comparison, broadband users in countries such as Ghana, Mongolia, Oman and Venezuela are limited to broadband speeds below 2 Mbps

European Commission urged to close digital divide

The European Union’s Committee of the Regions has called on the European Commission (EC) to close the digital divide by ensuring that all citizens in the region have affordable broadband access. The EC has outlined its desire to get everyone online with high-speed connections by 2013 as part of the Europe 2020 plan, and the Committee has backed the initiative in a report written by Belgian MEP Jean-François Istasse. However, the report goes on to say that the EC must not rely on markets alone to deliver high-speed internet in hard-to-reach rural communities, mountainous regions and islands. The Committee has called on the EC to create policies that acknowledge market failure, and to set up public initiatives to help develop open networks in these areas. The Committee also warned of the potential impact on town planning and the environment from widespread deployments of antennas and masts

Rural Scotland ‘set to benefit from super-fast broadband’

A £70 million project to bring high-speed broadband internet connections to thousands of people across Scotland has been completed. The Pathfinder North programme links 801 schools, libraries and council buildings in the Highlands, Moray, Argyll and Northern Isles with super-fast broadband. With five regional authorities involved in the scheme, it is one of the UK’s largest ever broadband investments.

Highland Council’s resources committee chairwoman Carolyn Wilson said: “The Pathfinder North scheme represents a major investment in rural locations, which depend so heavily on good communications. We are looking forward to using the network to the best of its capability, ensuring that we continue to meet the needs of all the communities we serve” Ms Wilson added that the provision of high-speed broadband is great news for the establishments involved – all of whom will now benefit from quicker download rates and smoother web browsing.

An evaluation period will take place between March and April, designed to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the Pathfinder North project in preparation for similar schemes in the future. Concerns have been raised previously about the broadband access offered to people in rural locations across Britain – especially in the Scottish Highlands.

Prime minister Gordon Brown last month announced the government would invest £1 billion in providing Britain with ultrafast broadband access. The cash would ensure more than 90 per cent of Britons – including many of those in rural areas – could enjoy state-of-the-art speeds.

UK Government To Offer Free Laptops, Broadband To Poorer Families

The UK government has announced plans to revive the Home Access Scheme, which will see a nation wide rollout of free laptops and broadband internet connections to pupils from poorer backgrounds, with the intention of ‘bridging the gap between rich and poor pupils.’ 

The scheme, which was first announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in October 2008, will provide free laptops and internet connection to around 270,000 poor families in Britain and has already been initiated in two local areas. 

The scheme will allow the students to keep the laptops but the internet connection will be funded for just one year.

Earlier, this very scheme was a component of the Home Computing Initiative, in which companies were asked to lease out free computers to their employees in return to tax breaks. However, after garnering the support of around 60 firms, the scheme died down in just 7 years. 

According to BBC News, a recent report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies had claimed that students with a laptop at home saw an increase of 2 grade points in one subject at GCSE level

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UK broadband slower than Greece

The UK is lagging behind other countries at providing high speed broadband and fares only marginally better when it comes to national broadband penetration, according to research

The UK ranks 21st out of 30 countries surveyed by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, falling behind the likes of Greece and Spain.

Japan, Finland and Sweden make up the top three countries with the widest provision of high-speed broadband and Belgium, Turkey and Mexico make up the bottom three.

The OECD’s figures also show that the UK comes 13th out of 30 countries when it comes to broadband penetration, again falling behind the likes of Finland, Denmark and Sweden, but beating the US, Greece and France.

The OECD has said that the total broadband subscriber numbers in the areas it covers have swelled to 271 million as of June 2009, which is a 10 per cent increase on the year, but there is still a major need for governments to keep investing in new technologies. The report says fibre optic networks are likely to be the technology that generates the most future growth in broadband uptake, as opposed to cable networks.

The report urged for continual investment, saying: “This upgrade [to fibre optic networks] is important because high-speed broadband networks are increasingly seen as a fundamental infrastructure for the economy, like roads, water and electricity. Telecommunication firms have been investing heavily to upgrade older copper and coax networks to fibre to accommodate our ever increasing thirst for bandwidth.

“The economic crisis has threatened to halt this investment just as consumers and businesses are using more internet bandwidth. Many governments have stepped in to fill the gap using stimulus funds to pay for new broadband networks. But there is still a lot of debate about whether these investments make economic sense, particularly as governments are wading into an area which has recently been entrusted to the private sector.”

The Digital Britain report aims to generate more money to fund the increased roll-out of faster broadband with a monthly 50 pence tax on fixed landlines

Pub Landlord fined £8000 over customer’s illegal Wi-Fi download – shouldn’t the Digital Economy Bill sort this type of thing out? I think not…the first of many ridiculous cases

Given that we as a species have only been widely using the internet for about ten years, it’s quite understandable that we’re still finding our feet. It’s ambitious in the least to expect to fully understand how to run, legislate and control such an endlessly changing thing which is so unlike anything we’ve been in charge of before. It’s because of this that the pursuit of making and enforcing laws on internet use is still a very confusing, sometimes fruitless and often contradictory one.

Case in point is the lawsuit just handed to a UK pub landlord over a fine he’s faced with to the princely sum of £8000. The pub, which offered free Wi-Fi courtesy of The Cloud network, has been handed the fine after one nameless user was caught downloading pirated digital media.

The case has been brought about by the copyright holder itself (whoever that may be), and as such is the first of its kind in the UK. That said, it seems strange that the landlord has been landed with the fine, given that the Digital Economy Bill, announced only last week, declared Wi-Fi hotspots as “public communications services”, and therefore any responsibility when it comes to misuse should sit with the users, not the service providers. Problem is, there’s legally no need for these providers to keep tabs on who’s using it, and so Mr Landlord looks set to swallow the £8000 bill.

Right or wrong, it seems that – until a proper system for catching internet pirates is put in place – we’ll be seeing cases like this (where unlucky randoms are prosecuted merely to be made examples of) for some time to come

Shouldn’t the Digital Economy Bill sort out this type of mess!!!!  I think not, it will be the first of many in 2010’s-illegal-wi-fi-download?=42551

Broadband tax to be levied per line not per household, says report

The government’s proposed £6 annual broadband levy would be charged per phone line rather than per household according to leaked government documents seen by The Times.

The tax will also include VAT, meaning that a household with separate phone lines for telephone, fax and broadband would pay £21.15 a year, rather than the £6 that had been mooted initially.

The tax is being introduced to help pay for the introduction of super-fast broadband delivery in rural areas of Britain. It is part of the Finance Bill that will be introduced early next year.

 The Times reports that up to 1.7 million households could be affected by the plan to charge per line, and that the tax will be levied not just on copper lines, as initially planned, but on high-speed fibre-optic connections. The charge is to be levied through phone bills. The Conservative Party has said that if it is voted in, plans for the broadband tax will be scrapped.