WASHINGTON, July 22, 2011 – Broadband experts examined whether New Zealand’s ‘Ultra-Fast Broadband Initiative’ contained lessons that could be applied to the U.S.’ own broadband situation Tuesday at a New America Foundation Panel (NAF).
Panelist Blair Levin, Communications and Society Fellow at the Aspen Institute and one of the primary authors of the National Broadband Plan, exhibited confidence in America’s broadband future.
“The achievement that [New Zealand] will accomplish we’re going to achieve without spending any government dollars,” said Levin.
While the success of achieving the stated goals of the National Broadband Plan – originally published in March of 2010 – is contingent upon voluntary private sector participation through investment of dollars and innovation upon existing cable networks, the plan was first initiated by Congressional mandate in 2009 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Under ARRA, $7.2 billion was appropriated towards investments in improving broadband infrastructure in the form of federal loans and grants, according to Recovery.gov. While investments called for by the National Broadband Plan are privately funded, significant upgrades to U.S. broadband infrastructure have already been publicly funded.
Panelist and speaker Graham Mitchell, CEO of Crown Fiber Holdings Limited (CFH), presented to a room of industry experts at NAF’s L-Street headquarters New Zealand’s version of the U.S. National Broadband Plan, the Ultra-Fast Broadband Initiative. New Zealand’s plan – which involved a $1.5 billion NZ dollar investment from the government – seeks to bring broadband connections of 100 Mbps downstream and 50 Mbps upstream to more than 3 million people – 75 percent of the population – by 2019, stated Mitchell during the presentation.
Akamai Technologies – a company that monitors Internet conditions – ranked New Zealand’s Internet speed 27th fastest of 45 countries in its 2010 fourth quarter “State of the Internet” report, while the U.S. was ranked 5th and Russia ranked 1st. In 2009, Oxford University’s Said Business School ranked New Zealand 32th of 40 countries in its Broadband Leadership Score, while the U.S. ranked 15th.
The NZ government established CFH to manage the government’s direct investment and work to achieve the goals of the plan through the creation of a new broadband infrastructure. The investment subsidizes the private sector in New Zealand to deploy fiber throughout the country.
By comparison Broadband.gov, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) website detailing the U.S. National Broadband Plan, states a goal to bring download speeds of at least 100 Mbps to 100 million American homes by 2020. According to Census.gov, between 2005-2009 there were approximately 112 million U.S. households. Under the National Broadband Plan, nearly 89 percent of U.S. homes would have access to faster broadband speeds.
The FCC’s National Broadband Plan, however, leverages the existing cable infrastructure readily accessible in American homes. Panelist Joanne Hovis, President of Columbia Telecommunications Corporation, worried that this part of the plan would lead to the U.S. falling behind other nations in terms of broadband speed and quality.
“Why are other countries doing something that we’re not? They’re building something that is future proof and upgradeable, and we’re not,” said Hovis. “We’re relying on systems that were built in the 1970s, and at the time, nobody else had it.”
Can Geofencing Provide a Defense Against Contempt of Court Over an Australian Gag Order?
February 2, 2021—Can a global news organization be held liable for breaching a court order in Australia when their publications never set foot down under?
And is “geofencing” by digital news organizations – in which they block access to content based on geography – an effective defense against contempt of court?
Both questions – which centered on the news company’s coverage of Cardinal George Pell’s since-overturned conviction in a sexual abuse case in Australia — were part of a lively discussion at the American Bar Association conference on Tuesday.
The conversation focused on the geofences put up by publishers of information under a gag order in Australia.
This discussion was held on the heels of 12 Australian news networks admitting that they breached the order banning the identification of Cardinal Pell, even though none of them named him in news coverage. (They used headlines like, “Secret scandal. It’s Australia’s biggest story. A high-profile person found guilty of a terrible crime. The world is reading about it but we can’t tell you a word.”)
“We record it in the U.S., and then geofence Australia,” said Micah Ratner, assistant general counsel for National Public Radio. Even though NPR did not have a representative in the courtroom, they do maintain people on the ground in Australia, and there could have been contempt-of-court consequences for them if NPR had not geoblocked the region, said Ratner.
This compromise is not perfect, said Katharine Larson, chief general counsel for Reuters, referring to virtual private networks: “People can VPN around [a geofence]. No matter what you do, if you [print information] only in the physical form, people can photograph it, and then you’ve lost control.”
But Associated Press Assistant General Counsel Brian Barrett said that geofencing can still serve as an important gesture. “I think it can be a strong statement of intent–and a sense of, ‘look, we tried–here’s the steps we took to comply with your order.”
The discussion took place the day after charges were dropped against Australian journalists for breaching the ban.
Using Signal versus WhatsApp
Another focus of the workshop was the developing situation in Ethiopia, where journalists have been subjected to a pattern of intimidation and violence on behalf of the Ethiopian government.
This culminated in the detention of Reuters cameraman, Kumerra Gemechu, and the beating of Reuters photographer, Tiksa Negeri, by two Ethiopian police officers, late last year. Gemechu was released after being held for two weeks without charge.
Larson of Reuters advised those working with journalists abroad to make sure that if “you know who all your people are, [and] the next thing you want to know is all their devices.”
There should be a complete inventory of the laptops, phones, and any other devices that could potentially store sensitive information.
She also suggested that journalists opt for “burner” devices that could be disposed of or turned into the authorities easily. She also advised that reporters and other members of a multimedia crew regularly upload and delete unnecessary data.
Larson referred to engaging in these behaviors as “maintaining good digital hygiene.”
One of her final recommendations under this label was to switch from the centralized messaging system, WhatsApp, to a competitor, Signal. She made this recommendation after two Reuters reporters were arrested in Myanmar in 2017, and the contents of their WhatsApp conversation divulged.
Broadband News from Around the World: 4G in Lusaka, Australia’s National Broadband Network and Scotland Fiber Link
WASHINGTON, March 25, 2013 – A recent wrap-up of global broadband news included the following items:
Zamtel, a Zambian Telecommunications company, has announced plans to increase mobile broadband Internet service and availability in the nation, according to the Lusaka Times. Zamtel Chief Eexecutive Officer Dr. Mupanga Mwanakatwe spoke of the company’s plans to increase internet availability in both rural and urban areas. Zamtels aims to see increased access to 2G and 3G connections. These second- and third-generation broadband connections are slower than the 4G customarily available in the developed world. Zamtel will also invest $4 million into the broadband infrastructure of Livingstone, in preparation for the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s general assembly to be held in late May. The Livingstone plan will allow for 4G connectivity at the UN event.
Australia’s National Broadband Network
Malcolm Turnbull, communications spokesman for of the opposition political party in Australia, warned that at its current pace of implementation, the government’s National Broadband Network could take 20 years to complete. Turnbull noted that when the government announced their National Broadband Plan, they promised to connect over 12 million homes by 2020. In 2012, the first year of the plan the government only connected 70,000 homes. Turnbull said of his own party’s upcoming broadband plan” will be released sooner rather than later, and there will be plenty of time – many months – before the election for people to consider it and debate it.”
Following damage to a subsea fiber cable, residents of Shetland, Scotland, were disconnected from broadband internet or cellular service for at least 48 hours. The local company Shetland Telecom noted that the damage to the cable and resulting unavailability is indicative of why more money must be invested into broadband infrastructure. According to the Shetland News, “Shetland Telecom manager Marvin Smith said that the situation demonstrated the value of the £1 million investment in a Shetland fibre optic cable that provides the first leg of the resilient link protecting local users.” Shetland Telecom is hoping to extend its local cable to Vidlin this year. It currently runs from Sandwick in the south to Sella Ness in the north of the isles.
Broadband News from Around the World: Indian Cable, Kiwi Education and Mongolian Digital Divide
WASHINGTON, February 25, 2013 – A recent wrap-up of global broadband news included the following items:
Leading Indian Cable Operator Speaks to Expanding Telecommunications Climate
In preparation for the coming “TV Connect Asia” summit in Hong Kong, InCablenet, India’s leading cable provider, has recently spoken about their support of improving telecommunications in India. Ravi Mansukhani, managing director of InCablenet, said, “India is one of the fastest growing telecoms markets in the world. The government plans to make available affordable, reliable and secure telecommunication and broadband services across the entire country. The target is to have 175 million broadband connections by 2017 and 600 million by 2020.” India has yet to make the transition from analog to digital television. However, it recently adopted its own national broadband policy. The first phase of the analogue to digital conversion is set to be completed by the end of March. This conversion will immediately impact the major cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.
New Zealand Government Attempts to Maximize Education Through Broadband
A recent opinion piece in the New Zealand Herald called on the local and federal governments to continue to support and improve broadband availability. Speaking with great attention to the education system, author Nikki Kaye discussed the Kiwi government’s plan to improve schools via broadband. Kaye states that “our government has invested significantly in ensuring New Zealand school children have access to the best, most innovative 21st century learning opportunities. This includes more than $200 million connecting schools to ultra-fast broadband. The plan is to ensure schools will be connected to fibre or an alternative technology by 2016. We are nearly halfway there with more than 1,200 schools connected.” Kaye went on explain the challenge in maximizing new technologies into the educational infrastructure. “Adopting the right approach to 21st century learning will require change across the education sector. It is important to recognize that much of this change is being driven by students themselves, who are thirsty to learn online through new applications, tools and content.”
Attempts Made to Bridge Mongolian Digital Divide
Mongolian internet provider Nomsys LLC has selected Ruckus Wireless Inc to provide Wi-Fi devices to increase broadband technology in the capitol city of Ulaanbaatar, according to marketwatch.com. “The large-scale Wi-Fi network, known as the Community Involved Nomad Wi-Fi project, is currently being deployed by Nomsys throughout Ulaanbaatar, bringing Wi-Fi service to consumers and businesses via hundreds of Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the rural countryside where 70 percent of the city’s one million residents live.” This application is predicted to help Mongolia continue to embrace a mobile and digital structure as opposed to being tethered to wireline infrastructure. Due to the modest economic climate of even the most densely-populated areas of Mongolia, a move to increase Wi-Fi availability could allow users to interact with broadband technologies previously outside of their price range.
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