Climbers at the top of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, will now be able to make video calls and surf the Internet on their mobile phones, a Nepalese telecom group claims. Ncell, a subsidiary of Swedish phone giant TeliaSonera, says it has set up a high-speed third-generation (3G) phone base station at an altitude of 5,200 metres near Gorakshep village in the Everest region. Climbers who reached Everest’s 8,848-metre peak previously depended on expensive and erratic satellite phone coverage and a voice-only network set up by China Mobile in 2007 on the Chinese side of the mountain. The installation will also help tens of thousands of tourists and trekkers who visit the Everest region every year. The 3G services will be fast enough to make video calls and use the Internet, said the company, which also claims the world’s lowest 3G base at 1,400 metres below sea level in a mine in Europe. A total of eight base stations, four of which will run on solar power, have been installed in the Everest region with the lowest at 2,870 metres at Lukla, where the airport for the area is situated. Despite the installation in Everest, telecom services cover less than one-third of the 28 million people of Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world. TeliaSonera said it planned to invest USD 100m in the next year to ensure that mobile coverage increases to more than 90 percent of the Himalayan nation’s population.
Over the next decade, the benefits of being social online will greatly outweigh any hindrances that come with it, according to a study. With tools like e-mail and social networks at hand, people have a low-cost means of connecting with new people, as well as with old friends, irrespective of geography and normal time constraints, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. In a survey of 895 Internet experts and users conducted between December 2009 and January 2010, 85 percent said they believe the Internet will be a positive force in their lives in 2020. About 14 percent believe the opposite, saying the Internet will mostly have been a negative force by the year 2020. “Most of the people who participated in the survey were effusive in their praise of the social connectivity already being leveraged globally online,” the study noted. “They said humans’ use of the Internet’s capabilities for communication — for creating, cultivating, and continuing social relationships — is undeniable. Many enthusiastically cited their personal experiences as examples, and several noted that they had met their spouse through Internet-borne interaction.” However, the Internet wasn’t coming up as a positive force for everyone in the survey. Some respondents said the Internet robs them of time they would have otherwise spent on face-to-face relationships. Some also noted that the Internet fosters mostly shallow relationships, may make people feel more isolated and can expose people’s personal information
Internet domain names using Cyrillic characters may start working this week after the world governing body for Internet domain names officially delegates the .рф domain to Russia. Representatives of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, may officially assign the .рф domain suffix to Russia at the Internet Governance Forum, which begins on Thursday in Moscow, said Andrei Vorobyov, a spokesman for Ru-Center, a domain registrar. Once the .рф suffix, known as a top-level domain, is assigned, the Cyrillic domain names they have registered will become operational. ICANN in November approved the use of non-Latin characters in Internet domain names, clearing the way for domain names in Cyrillic and other national scripts. The first domain names using a non-Latin character set became operational last week, after web sites in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates began using Arabic script in their web addresses.
A top Google executive on Wednesday called for rules to put pressure on governments that filter the Internet, saying the practice was hindering international trade. Alan Davidson, director of public policy for Google, told a joint Congressional panel that the United States should consider withholding development aid for countries that restrict certain Web sites. He said censorship had become more than a human rights issue and was hurting profit for foreign companies that rely on the Internet to reach customers. The fallout from China’s restrictive Internet policies widened on Wednesday when officials from Go Daddy Group, an Internet services company, told the commission that the company would halt registration of Chinese domain names. Christine Jones, general counsel of Go Daddy, said the company was concerned about privacy after Chinese officials requested photo identification and signatures of its customers. For the first time, she said, Go Daddy had been asked to retroactively obtain documentation for individuals who had registered a domain name. In a statement to the commission, Chinese officials defended their policies, saying, “foreign companies need to abide by Chinese laws and regulations when they operate in China.”
The United States said Thursday that the battle for human rights is increasingly being fought on the Internet as China, Iran and other states try to block access by political activists and others. In its 2009 report on human rights abuses worldwide, the State Department highlighted how the Internet has become a battleground for supporters and opponents of fundamental rights like freedom of expression and assembly. It was “a year in which more people gained greater access than ever before to more information about human rights through the Internet, cell phones, and other forms of connective technologies,” it said. “Yet at the same time it was a year in which governments spent more time, money, and attention finding regulatory and technical means to curtail freedom of expression on the Internet and the flow of critical information,” it added. Such governments also sought “to infringe on the personal privacy rights of those who used these rapidly evolving technologies,” it added. In Iran, after the contested presidential elections, authorities cracked down on new media such as Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites. In China, the government “increased its efforts to monitor Internet use, control content, restrict information, block access to foreign and domestic Web sites, encourage self-censorship, and punish those who violated regulations. “The government employed thousands of persons at the national, provincial, and local levels to monitor electronic communications,” the report said.
Four in five adults believe access to the Internet is a fundamental right and half believe it should never be regulated, according to a global survey. A poll of 27,000 adults in 26 countries for the BBC World Service showed 78 percent of Internet users believed the Web gave them greater freedom, while nine in 10 said it was a good place to learn. Respondents in the United States were above the average in believing the Internet was a source for greater freedom and they were also more confident than most in expressing their opinions online. However, others felt concern about spending time online, with 65 percent of respondents in Japan saying they did not feel they could express their opinions safely online, a sentiment that was also felt in South Korea, France, Germany and China. Of the 27,000 surveyed, more than half agreed that the “Internet should never be regulated by any level of government anywhere.” That belief was particularly strong in South Korea, Nigeria and Mexico while residents in Pakistan, Turkey and China were the least likely to agree, with only 12 percent, 13 percent and 16 percent respectively strongly agreeing. Over 70 percent of respondents in Japan, Mexico and Russia said they could not live without the Internet. Almost 50 percent of those who used the Internet said they most valued the ability to find information. Over 30 percent valued the ability to interact and communicate with others while 12 percent saw it as a source for entertainment. Of the areas of concern, the poll found that fraud was the greatest worry, ahead of violent and explicit content and threats to privacy
The Japanese government has released a package of bills including a revision to the Broadcast Law in a bid to respond to the rapidly changing environment surrounding communications and broadcasting. The bills, announced Tuesday for submission to the current Diet session, are aimed at realigning the eight laws concerning communications and broadcasting into four laws. The move marks the first drastic legal review of the sector in 60 years since the implementation of the Broadcast Law in 1950. The major overhaul comes as there is an increasing demand for services transcending the barrier between communications and broadcasting, such as distribution of TV programmes via the Internet. According to the measures, part of a ministerial order limiting investments in multiple broadcasters will be legislated, while the cap on investment ratio will be relaxed in consideration of local broadcasters that have been financially strapped due to a decline in advertisement revenues and the preparation for a shift to digital terrestrial broadcasting. A revision to the Broadcast Law stipulates in its appendix that regulations on cross-ownership in which a single principal dominates multiple media organs such as newspapers, TV broadcasters and radio stations will be reviewed within three years. Such regulations virtually limit newspaper companies investing in TV and radio stations even though a number of TV and radio broadcasters were inaugurated with financial backing from newspapers.