News and Information – September 2010

September 2010

News and Information for the Cross Party Group in the Scottish Parliament on Digital Participation

New Cross Party Group Website

Most of you will already be aware of the launch of our website but please go and take a look. It’s at

Meeting dates, agendas, news items and notes of meetings will be posted here along with posts from Willie and updates on new reports or new developments in policy from Government or members. There is a section for presentations and submissions from members and also get in touch if you think you would like to take a slot at a meeting to talk about a project or want to help with sponsorship of catering for one of our meetings.

The most recent post from Willie is a reflection on the development of technology and education over the last few years, a great read and one many of you will no doubt have thoughts on. We want to encourage the site to become an area that we can use for discussions and questions in between meetings so please leave a comment on anything you find interesting and engaging.

UN reveals global disparity in broadband access

The report comes as preparation for the Summit on the UN Millennium Development Goal Review on 15 September. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is the leading United Nations agency for information and technology issues. The ITU consider broadband networks “an essential and uniquely powerful tool for achieving those goals and lifting people out of poverty worldwide”

The Broadband Commission for Digital Development is made of up a number of representatives from government, industry, civil society and UN agencies all with a shared interest in accelerating broadband deployment worldwide. The commission comprises 58 leaders from across the public and private sector.

The establishment of the Broadband Commission in 2010 comes 5 years after the World Summit on the Information Society and 10 years after the launch of the Millenium Development Goals. Expanding broadband access in every country is considered to be the key way to accelerate the attainment of these goals by the target date of 2015. The Broadband Commission will define practical ways in which countries – at all stages of development – can achieve this, in co-operation with the private sector.

The initial outcomes of the Commission will take the form of two reports. Broadband: A Leadership Imperative, will be a concise, high-level report that directly reflects input from the Commissioners. Broadband: A Platform for Progress will be a comprehensive analytical report that looks at financing models, return on investment, technology choices, and strategies for deployment across a range of different types of economies.

In terms of public investment America is making by far the largest spend at $3.7 billion ut is seeking the private sector to help bridge the gap between this and the $350 billion investment required to create universal access at 100Mbps. In other countries there are also sizeable public investments being made:

• Japan – $3.7 billion

• Australia – $3 billion

• Canada – $150 million

• Finland – $130 million

• Spain – $90 million

The Broadband Commission website is full of interesting articles and information and can be found at:

A broadband milestone – 7 million ‘unbundled’ lines in the UK

The number of unbundled lines – where rival communications providers such as Sky or TalkTalk offer services over BT’s copper telephone network – has passed the 7 million mark.

The spur for the surge in unbundling was a set of legally-binding Undertakings that Ofcom agreed with BT Group plc in September 2005. These required BT to set up a new division, called Openreach, to provide services to rivals.

At the time there were just 123,000 unbundled lines in the UK and the majority of people could only get their broadband and landline telephone service from one provider – BT.

According to Ofcom’s latest research, there are now over 19 million broadband lines in the UK. Of these more than 70% are provided by companies other than BT many on the basis of unbundled lines.

Today there are over 30 different companies offering unbundled services to homes and small businesses. This has helped to drive up broadband take-up and drive down fixed-line prices.

In September 2005, 37 per cent of households and small businesses had broadband; today the figure is 71 per cent.

Competition also means lower bills for consumers. According to Ofcom research consumers were paying on average £23.30 a month (excluding VAT) for a broadband service delivered over a copper phone line* in the last quarter of 2005. Today they are paying around £13.31 for the same service.

Mobile company 3 to make £38 million investment in Scottish network

BRITAIN’S smallest mobile network operator is investing almost £40 million in the broadband market in Scotland.

The firm has revealed that it is spending 37 per cent more per head in Scotland on network expansion than in England. Kevin Russell, chief executive of 3, said £38.2 million will be invested in doubling the number of mobile broadband masts north of the Border to more than 1,400 by next month.

“We believe the Scottish expansion is worth it because the demand for people to access the internet through mobile broadband is greater in Scotland than in many other parts of the UK,” Russell said.

“The take-up of internet services in Scotland lags the UK, with some calculations that 60 per cent of people in Scotland don’t access the internet.

“That has previously been down to not enough towers with equipment to broadcast strong enough signals.”

3 believed this was because “Scotland is not the easiest part of the UK to cover, with the mountainous topography, the general landscape”, Russell added.”But we have shown our seriousness with this investment.”

He said the breakthrough for 3 was its joint venture on mast-sharing with bigger rival T-mobile in the UK in 2007.

The company has made a pledge as part of Martha Lane Fox’s Race Online 2012 challenge to get 100, 000 people connected to the internet for the first time by 2012. They have identified Glasgow as an area in need of particular development in the light of its poor home broadband take-up. Three believes that it can offer more affordable internet access packages that will stimulate take-up.

Scottish Liberal Democrats petition Jeremy Hunt over broadband access

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have set up an online petition via their website to try and ensure that Scotland is considered for one of the high speed pilot projects announced by the Minister. The website says that:

“…..everyone in Scotland – no matter what their location – should have access to fast and reliable broadband.

Business interests in remote and rural areas in particular perhaps have the most to gain from the roll out of universal broadband access. High speed internet is fast becoming an essential tool for trading in the 21st century and the link between the availability of broadband and economic competitiveness is well established. By providing every business in Scotland with quick and easy access to the internet we can help them realise their potential and hasten our return to economic prosperity.

For these reasons, we want to see every home and business in the country – from Shetland to Stranraer – given the opportunity to make the most of our growing digital world.”

‘Privacy-Aware’ social network launched

Developers have been given their first glimpse of a community-funded and open alternative to Facebook.

Diaspora describes itself as a “privacy-aware, personally-controlled” social network.

It was conceived earlier this year by four US students during a period when Facebook came under fire for its privacy settings.

Many of the features shown on the site will be familiar to people already on social networks such as Facebook, including the ability to share messages, photos and status updates.

The team said they are currently working to integrate the site with Facebook and to make it easy for people to take control of and move their personal data.

They aim to launch the first public product in October.

Their idea of building Diaspora started earlier this year during a period of intense criticism of Facebook, the world’s largest social network.

The site, which boast 500 million members, was criticised for having overly complex and confusing privacy settings. It was eventually forced to roll out simplified controls.

Story from BBC News

Location Based Services – what are they?

As Facebook prepares to launch ‘Facebook Places”, a location based application that has raised further privacy concerns, it seemed useful to have a look at what location based services are and why there are such concerns around them.

A location-based service (LBS) is an information and entertainment service, accessible with mobile devices through the mobile network and utilizing the ability to make use of the geographical position of the mobile device.

LBS services can be used in a variety of contexts, such as health, work, personal life, etc. LBS services include services to identify a location of a person or object, such as discovering the nearest banking cash machine or the whereabouts of a friend or employee. LBS services include parcel tracking and vehicle tracking services. LBS can include mobile commerce when taking the form of coupons or advertising directed at customers based on their current location. They include personalized weather services and even location-based games. They are an example of telecommunication convergence.

Some examples of location-based services are:

• Requesting the nearest business or service, such as an ATM or restaurant

• Turn by turn navigation to any address

• Locating people on a map displayed on the mobile phone

• Receiving alerts, such as notification of a sale on gas or warning of a traffic jam

• Location-based mobile advertising

• Asset recovery combined with active RF to find, for example, stolen assets in containers where GPS wouldn’t work

One implication of this technology is that data about a subscriber’s location and historical movements is owned and controlled by the network operators, including mobile carriers and mobile content providers.


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