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CyberschuulNews 419

Enter 'ReVoDa' – Nigeria’s Election monitoring app

One of the highlights of the Titans of Tech 2011 Conference held in Lagos this week was the display of a mobile application usable for election monitoring and designed by the Enough is Enough, eienigeria group.


The application code-named ReVoDa works on any GPRS enabled phone and can be downloaded via text messaging or online via http://eienigeria.org/revoda .


According to the ÉiEnigeria’s coordinator, Mr Gbenga Sesan, ReVoDa Mobile app allows voters to report as independent citizen observers from their respective polling units across Nigeria. The process begins with registration on the ReVoDa network by sending your name and polling unit number by SMS to 08128882011, using this format: PU# Name (e.g. 24/13/02/015 Oluwangozi Danladi). If you are sending from someone else's phone, enter your own mobile number after the PU number and name, using this format: PU# Name Mobile# (e.g. 24/13/02/015 Oluwangozi Danladi 0800 000 0000). You will get a return SMS confirming your registration and advising you to download the app. ReVoDa also allows EiE Nigeria to send relevant information about the electoral process to registered users in specific locations. ReVoDa was designed and built for EiE Nigeria by a team of tech volunteers.


Japanese earthquake adversely affects global ICT industry

In the wake of the earthquake that has devastated Japan last week, it is difficult to decipher what impact this catastrophe will have on the global ICT industry. Guestimates vary according to analysts, but with Japan producing nearly two thirds of the world’s silicon based components and accounting for 14% of all global electronic equipment sales last year, it is incontrovertible that the semiconductor industry and chip supply chain will be adversely affected.

Industry analysts IHS iSuppli has issued a warning to the tech community saying that the earthquake that hit Japan and the subsequent Tsunami that affected large areas of the country could result in "significant" shortages of particular types of electronic components triggering massive price hikes jeopardising the fragile recovery that the tech industry had experienced in the last 18months

As manufacturers of household names such as Sony, Panasonic, Sharp and Sanyo halt production and others like Toshiba, Hitachi and Fujitsu announcing an alteration to their activities, it is inevitable that production of components like NAND flash memory, DRAM, microcontroller parts, logic chips LCD panels, Plasma screens will be decimated which in turn will affect consumer electronics devices like tablets, laptops, digital cameras and mobile phones will also affected as they struggle to source components

Experts are also warning that the supply chain disruption may adversely affect the electronics products introduced by new entrants to the market.

"Suppliers are likely to encounter difficulties in getting raw materials supplied and distributed and shipping products out. This is likely to cause some disruption in semiconductor supplies from Japan during the next two weeks," said iSuppli in a statement.

Along with electronic component supply chain issues, there is the added problem of a shortfall in electricity supply due to the shutdown of several nuclear reactors in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami

Thousands of people evacuated their homes on Friday as the Japanese government declared a nuclear emergency. Latest figures suggest the death toll could reach over 10,000 after the earthquake.


US Government asks ICANN to be more transparent and accountable

The Obama administration has called for improvements in the mechanisms used to oversee Internet domain names, in a manner that is consistent with the principles of increased accountability and transparency.


The call came through Larry Strickling a Commerce Department Assistant Secretary who heads the department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).


There has been some friction between national governments and ICANN, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and things reached a head when 23 points of disagreement, including how much influence nations will enjoy when objecting to proposed suffixes, and how much power trademark holders will have to monitor new domain names registered under those suffixes, were listed.


Larry Strickling said specifically that ICANN had not responded appropriately to an April 2010 accountability review. This came on the heels of a push by some governments to divest ICANN of its powers and hand it over to an agency of the United Nations.


‘Internet must work on democratic principles’, report says

In the light of the role of advanced mobile technology in recent events in North Africa and the Middle East, there has been a call for the internet to be based on ‘people-centric’ principles. The call was made by Alun Michael MP who represents the UK at the UN’s Internet Governance Forum which since its inaugural meeting in 2006, has brought together representatives from the United Nations, national governments, the private sector, civil society, and NGOs to discuss public policy issues related to Internet governance.

Looking at the positive and clandestine use of mobile technology as well as its impact on developed and developing societies, Michael said: ‘All new technical advances can be a doubled edged sword. All aspects had to be correctly managed.’ Talking of the clandestine aspects of the internet, he said that online criminality had increased with development of the web as criminal groups and tyrannical governments have become better organised to exploit it to their own ends. He said protesters in Africa and the Middle East had used it to co-ordinate and publicise their efforts. "But governments in the region have used it to their advantage too, as mobile technology can be used to pin-point the location of protesters."

"The challenge is to nurture the internet as an instrument for fuelling democracy while keeping pace with technology," Michael said.

He was however quick to point that he was not prescribing a concentrated top-down regulation of the internet, but rather making a plea for a people-centric approach, following the co-operative principles of the Internet Governance Forum process.

Michael also highlighted the benefits conferred by mobile technology saying: "The increasing use of mobile technology hasn't just made it easier for us in developed countries to contact each other - it's used in the developing world to provide banking services, medical and veterinary advice and to disseminate knowledge on best agricultural practice


Michael was responding to the recent UK Parliamentary IT Committee’s (PITCOM) analysis of the use of advanced mobile technology in the prevailing political unrest in the Middle East and Africa which noted that Egypt's former government sought to slow down the process of change by instructing mobile phone companies to suspend coverage, raising questions over the limits and risk to their autonomy. It also noted that Egypt was a "pinch-point" for undersea cables east of Suez, notably India. There were other pinch-points, notably the UK and the US eastern seaboard. Local action to cut off political opposition could have unpredictable global consequences for communications traffic.



Web Inventor to make the case for net neutrality in the UK

With the argument on both sides of the net neutrality raging on in the UK and with the communications minister Ed Vaizey at one point or another endorsing both sides, the web inventor Tim Berners-Lee is to work with the Broadband Stakeholders Group to ensure the UK works towards a more open internet.

Having previously taken a position that was in contravention to Berners-Lee’s on net neutrality (though he had since changed his mind), the minister recently chaired a meeting on net neutrality as it relates to business, industry and government agencies.

This move has come off the back of roundtable discussions with an A- Z of top ICT and affiliated businesses including Amazon, BBC, Broadband Stakeholder Group, BSkyB, BT, CBI, Channel 4, Channel 5, Consumer Focus, Ebay, Everything Everywhere, Facebook, Federation of Communications Services, Google, ISPA, ITV, Mobile Broadband Group, Nominet, Ofcom, Open Rights Group, Skype, Talk Talk, Tax Payers Alliance, Three, Virgin Media, Vodafone, W3C, WE7, Which? and Yahoo. At the top of the agenda were issues around managing traffic on the web and protecting the open internet, as well as creating an industry-wide agreement for self-regulation.

Vaizey welcomed Berners-Lee's involvement, saying the development of the internet should be based on access to legal content, non-discrimination against content providers, and clear traffic management policies.

Berners-Lee agreed to help the group to include the rights of consumers and business to connect to whomever they want on the internet without discrimination, in its new transparency document. He said, ‘While transparency about traffic management policy is a good thing, best practices should also include the neutrality of the net. The web has grown so fast precisely because we have had two independent markets, one for connectivity, and the other for content and applications.’
Vaizey described the meeting as "useful and productive" saying: "Handling heavier [internet] traffic will become an increasingly significant issue so it was important to discuss how to ensure the internet remains an open, innovative and competitive place."



X websites may now have their .xxx domains


If ICANN does not renege and if the policy decision does not suffer another summersault as it did in the past, Porn Web sites may soon appear in their own virtual red light identity in the form of a .xxx domain.

Many governments and several adult groups rose in protest against the controversial .xxx domain but ICANN’s board voted in its favour last Friday at its San Francisco meeting.

A report by CNET’s Declan McCullagh says concerns about the creation of .xxx ranged from the cost for adult Web sites to register .xxx domains in addition to their existing .com real estate, the likelihood that many nations will block .xxx domains, and concerns from antiporn groups worried about granting official sanction to sexually explicit material. That's what led the Bush administration to formally object to the .xxx suffix in 2005.

Cyberschuulnews 418

ICT funding galore!!! 

…. As Nigerian ICT Forum gets Google’s funding support …

 

Nigerian ICT Forum has this week been one of the beneficiaries of a bouquet of grants which came to Africa from the Google stable aimed at getting more people and information online in Africa. To help bring the world’s historical heritage online, it adjudged that the internet offers new, radical and effective ways to preserve and share this information. Other recipients include Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and Desmond Tutu Peace Centre among others. 

An announcement for the ICT Forum in Abuja, Nigeria said it received $500,000 (N78m) in grants to support efforts in improving access to Internet infrastructure in tertiary education institutions in Nigeria. 

The Nigeria ICT Forum founded in 2005 and owned by Nigerian Research and Education Institutions is an initiative of the Nigerian Caucus (a joint meeting of the Vice-Chancellors and ICT Coordinators) of six Partnership Nigerian Universities.

 The Forum partnered with ATCON, and Fantsuam Foundation under the auspices of Association for Progressive Communications (APC) to produce the Broadband internet access roadmap which stakeholders endorsed in July 2010 as the document for government to work with. There at the Stakeholders Forum, Nigerians argued that access to broadband internet should be a fundamental right of all Nigerians. 

Mr. Nasir Bello, Secretary to the Board of the Nigeria ICT Forum, expressed delight at the grant and hopes it would support the efforts in developing the community around shared Internet infrastructure, greatly reducing cost and consequently, other barriers to affordable connectivity in tertiary educational institutions in Nigeria. 

 

….UK Rural Communities to get £20m broadband funding

Responding to the need to close the digital divide, and as part of a concerted digital inclusion campaign which aims to bring the benefits of Internet Communications Technology (ICT) to rural communities across the UK, it has been revealed such rural communities will be prime beneficiaries of high speed broadband access thanks to the UK’s government to provide £20m for a new rural community broadband program.

The broadband scheme will be jointly funded by the Rural Development Programme for England and Broadband Delivery UK, which is the team leading the Government's drive UK to have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015. With the emergence of the fund, rural communities which had hitherto been excluded will now be able to apply for help with small-scale broadband projects that foster access to digital services and business opportunities

Speaking about the award, the Communications Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ‘Remote and rural areas have the most to gain from access to broadband but these are the communities that are currently missing out.’ 

 

….and Glasgow wins IBM’s ‘Smart City’ grant 

As part of IBM’s $100m ‘Smarter Cities’ program, Glasgow has become the first city in the UK to receive a grant worth £250,000. Back in September 2009 IBM launched a marketing campaign: "Let's Build a Smarter Planet" to which Smarter Cities program is integral. The program treats the city as an ecosystem composed of multiple subsystems to manage transportation, energy, commerce, communications and water resources. Leveraging the Internet, cloud computing, business analysis optimization and other information technologies, these subsystems can be interconnected to form a system that will facilitate commands, decisions, real-time response and collaborative operation on activities as  collecting data on health or as complex as building a public information management on education. 

On awarding the grant, Jennifer Crozier, director at IBM Corporate Citizenship & corporate Affairs said: ‘The cities we picked are eager to implement programs that tangibly improve the quality of life in their areas and to create road maps for other cities to follow. We’re excited at the prospect of helping cities tackle the most pressing challenges of our time’

 Expressing his delight with the award, Gordon Matheson, Leader Glasgow City Council, said: ‘This is fantastic news and will help Glasgow as we move forward with our aim to become a European leader in environmental, social and economic sustainability.’ 

 

Poor telecom service persists

There is palpable concern about the deteriorating levels of telecommunications service in Nigeria. Despite continued promotion and appears on the face of it to be pyrrhic tariff cuts, there remains a discernible concern about unsteady and clearly substandard services especially from mobile services which account for over 98%of the national total.

Mr Titi Omo-Ettu, President ATCON, who customarily has trumpeted the cause of adequate service delivery, avoided questions on the issue early in the week readily admitting that there are justifiable reasons for concern. 'I am truly worried but those who are in charge are certainly at work about it', he said.

 

Is ‘Blackberry’ on the wane?

It would appear that a year is a very long time in the cut throat world mobile telecoms. This time last year, while there was some concern about Research in Motion’s roadmap for its BlackBerry device, analysts were saying sales appear to be chugging along at a healthy clip. Particularly looking at its popularity in Nigeria, it is no wonder its maker, Research in Motion reported that international sales were strong prompting its co-CEO Jim Balsillie said we’ll be ‘blown away’ in 2011. 

Almost 12 months on, a survey by the enterprise mobility company iPass (one wonders) say that the popularity of Blackberry smartphones is on the wane and declined in the fourth quarter of 2010 as employees  Apple devices. The introduction of Android smartphones and tablets (which significantly dented PC sales) last year undoubtedly contributed to the fact that of the 3500 employees polled for the survey only 8% had chosen a Blackberry smartphone significantly down from 33% in the same survey a year earlier. 

In the last quarter of 2010, we finally entered the post-PC age and for the first time the global sale of smartphones (101million) exceeded PCs (92million). Steven Wastie, Senior VP of Marketing and Product management at iPass put forward: ‘Tablet and smartphone use in the enterprisenis being driven by the growth of cloud based applications, in addition to the availability of these devices being reasonably priced’ as contributory factors.

RIM riposte was the launch of its Tablet PCs the BlackBerry PlayBook in September 2010, with plans to release it in November, 2011.

 

Cyberschuulnews 417

"ATCONNews This Week" debuts

An e-news bulletin service which is designed to publish news of ATCON members has been introduced by the Secretariat of Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, ATCON. It comes under the name ATCONNews This Week. The Secretariat’s media relations department announced during the week that ATCON members would use the medium as part of the secretariat’s services to its members. It is designed to publish news relating to services, products, career opportunities and social events of ATCON members. 

Subscription to the bulletin is free (request to atconnews@gmail.com ). Placement of materials in the magazine is also free but reserved only for Members of the Association.

When Steve came to present iPad2

Those who were amazed didn’t quite say it. They just clapped to the reality that Steve Jobs himself came on last week to introduce the iPad 2. Steve had announced weeks ago, the second time in two years, that he was going on indefinite health vacation. Good word, indefinite, which is what it has turned out to be. Nice to see Steve do the thing he loves doing. He must have found it abominable to watch from the sidelines, iPad2 being launched.  

ICT industry invites Presidential candidates for talks on industry

ICT Industry Associations ATCON and ITAN said last weekend they were making steady progress in their plan to dialogue with politicians who are currently campaigning to be President of Nigeria. The associations are known to have said they would assist Nigerian leaders to account themselves to the Nigerian people in using the resources of modern technology and especially improving on the gains which the telecommunication industry made in recent past 

Although no date is yet fixed for the meeting, spokespersons for the associations said such details were being worked out for sometime in March. 

Main One Cable Collaborates with Cisco on Broadband Capacity

Main One Cable Company, says it will be deploying Cisco’s Internet Protocol Next- Generation Network (IP-NGN) solution to take broadband capacity in West Africa to the next level. The platform will provide a strong foundation for meeting Main One’s present and future business services requirements. 

Demand for highly secure, high bandwidth network capacity from government and global enterprise customers is driving Main One to deploy its new network. Working with Cisco, Main One will develop a high quality IP based network and application service offerings to create efficient content delivery highway to private and public communications networks in West Africa. Customers will benefit from various value-added services enabled by IP technology such as Virtual Private Networks (VPN), Voice Over IP (VOIP), IPTV and advanced collaboration technologies. Also, the Main One network will provide its customers the flexibility of being able to purchase bandwidth in smaller increments further enabling broadband penetration within West Africa. Integral to meeting these customer requirements will be the deployment of the Cisco® CRS-3 and ASR 9000 Series routers for enhanced capacity, high resiliency, and robust IPv6 support.  

UK Government needs new approach to IT projects

In an environment where IT is expected to be the driver of access and provision of public services, the UK government has been urged to think up and implement a new and radical approach to IT projects. 

The call came from the Institute for Government - an independent charity with cross-party and Civil service governance working to increase government effectiveness. In its report launched last week aptly titled, ‘The £16billion question: What’s wrong with government IT?’  it finds that government is struggling to get the basics of IT right and seriously lags behind the fast-paced and exciting technological environment that citizens are familiar and interact with daily with the consequence of the governments IT locked in a vicious circle of failure, inefficiency as well as billions in wasted money and time.

The report, based on 70 interviews with Whitehall insiders, suppliers and external experts, highlighted the difficulties of getting government IT to work with the realities of day-today government. Top of the list is what the report called a ‘glacial pace’ of procurement which on average is an astonishing 77 weeks. It cited a number of huge IT projects as examples such convoluted procurement often exacerbated by the change in political priorities and the pace of technological development.

Lord Adonis, Director of the Institute said, ‘Our report has looked behind the scenes at this often un-explained back office function that is fundamental to the effective and efficient running of government and public services. If a new approach in IT in government is not now put into practice, this will risk further haemorrhaging of public money.’

The report recommended the new approach be underpinned by the concepts of agility - a comprehensive methodology that looks at making projects become more flexible, responsive to change and innovative using modular, iterative and software development  based on user involvement and feedback; and platform which refers  to a shared, government-wide approach to simplifying elements of IT in a bid to bear down on costs, reduce duplication and establish shared standards of  facilities and services and supporting interoperability.  

 

Telecoms doing its bit for charity

Just as it does in the advent of an earthquake, or pandemic strikes, the emergency telecommunications charity Telecoms San Frontieres (TSF) has sprung into action in Libya providing aid for refugees fleeing from the government-sponsored reign of terror in that troubled country.

Very close to its border with Tunisia the situation has reached crisis point according to UN reports as tens of thousands of foreigners flee unrest in the country.

Aid staff are battling to cope with an exodus that has seen some 140,000 people crossing into Tunisia and Egypt and thousands of people are setting up transit camps where the TSF, in collaboration with the humanitarian charity organisation Red Crescent, is providing aid to the displaced population.

As part of the regime’s crackdown, civilians have been stopped at several checkpoints and their ID cards and the SIM cards of their mobile phones are confiscated, said the charity.

The first TSF teams that arrived at the border last weekend offered call to refugees 98% of which was made to Egypt but reports from the charity talk of crowds of people are waiting in long queues to make phone calls  to Sudan, Iraq, Eritrea, Somalia, Chad and the Palestinian territories.

TSF is using Inmarsat's BGAN and IsatPhone Pro satellite communications equipment to coordinate activities working alongside with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Tunisian Civil Defense and the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Department.

 

Are convergence and regulation mutually exclusive?
by
 Abi Bilesanmi

Back in June last year, the lead paper at the WiMax Forum in Lagos delivered by Professor Raymond Akwule entitled ‘Regulatory and Policy Imperatives of Emerging Last Mile Technologies’ clearly established that with the  digitilisation of content, the emergence of IP, and the adoption of high speed broadband by end users have been a catalyst for the convergence of networks, services and devices which have remarkably transformed the market with the fusion of triple and sometimes quadruple offers providing data, televisual, fixed and mobile services.

The trend towards the convergence of the broadcasting and telecom sectors is widely acknowledged but not without the thorny issue of the regulatory consequences with regard to telecom and broadcasting networks, services and operators, including the new emerging markets such as broadcasting to mobile devices, broadcasting over the Internet, over broadband networks, and the like which remains to be assessed, fully understood and tackled.

With Prof Akwule’s assertion that ‘we live in a converging world but our regulatory institutions are very un-converged’ and exemplified by the ensuing debate at the Forum about the proposed merger between the Nigerian Communications Communication (NCC) and the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), where industry players all agreed on the need to accomplish convergence to streamline the allocation of broadcast and telecommunications frequency spectrum, there is a school of thought that suggests the reality of that  bottlenecks may arise because of convergence that might result in the appearance of new monopolies that restrict access to certain resources, such as networks, spectrum and content, might have been oversimplified or completely ignored. Regulation to guarantee fair competition and access to scarce resources will need to be addressed, focusing upon the regulatory approaches that are being applied or considered. In this context Professor Akwule said the prevailing regulatory framework has done reasonably well in achieving its socio-economic objectives of ensuring effectively competitive markets, investment as well as improved access and quality of service.

To alter this regulatory system that has served the industry well thus far to accommodate the impending converging phenomenon, the questions for consideration and focus for stakeholders need to address and focus upon are:

 Should all service providers be subject to the same regulation?  

Who has access to the necessary resources?

How should access to networks or spectrum be provided and regulated?

Who shall be authorised or licensed?  

Who can access, develop and deliver content?

 Who is entitled to distribute self-generated content? and

  What sort of competition should be encouraged and guaranteed in order to access content?

Answers are not easy to come by. In contemporary debates, analysts are saying that today’s convergence frenzy is couched in mass hysteria in the telecom sector and some realism needs to be injected into the debate. They argue that by solely  concentrate marketing and operations based upon a so-called  multi-utilities concept, convergence is now seen, however, in joint offers of integrated communication services that bundle fixed telephony and broadband access to the Internet for a double-play package, the addition of audio-visual content for triple play and, finally, the inclusion of mobile services to create a quadruple-play bundle.

It is still difficult to say how these will contribute to the growth of individual operators and the impact it will have on the growth of the industry and the economy. This piece is by no means anti-convergence which is inevitable, its simply saying things are not as simple as they seem and we need to exercise caution so as not to throw the baby out with the bath water. We need to be cognisant of the fact that  if these services are to succeed, the government, the industry and the regulatory institutions in particular, need to adopt a long-term strategy that fosters and facilitates the dissemination of convergent services; to understand that convergence is reliant on the urgency  to build update and modernise the telecom infrastructures - especially the broadband networks and convergence needs to at least tolerate practical , administrative  and operational boundaries.

 

Cyberschuulnews 416 

Middle East governments are stepping up net censorship

While we can say with some authority that the digital revolution holds many promises for developing countries and it is largely delivering on those promises thus allowing them to leapfrog through stages of development, recent events in the North of Africa and the Middle East have shown that the idea of joining the global information society with freedoms conferred on citizens by technology will only be tolerated in as much as it not an affront to the powers of tyrants and despots.

The internet having proven to be the effective and chosen tool of mobilization for socio-political change across the Middle East, is pitching itself in a straight ‘good vs evil’ contest for hearts and minds of the population

 According to Arbor Networks - a leading provider of secure service control solutions for global networks - the events of the last 3 weeks in the region have seen governments in the region increase internet filtering epitomised by the abortive effort to block calls for the resignation of Mubarak. Reports and data from more than 100 ISPs indicate marked changes in traffic level in countries. In Iran and Yemen while internet traffic has not altered significantly, it has been aggressively filtered whilst in Egypt, Bahrain and Libya, there has been a significant slow down, an abrupt loss of internet traffic but in Egypt there was an upsurge restoring previous traffic levels following a week of complete shut down.

 

Business Intelligence market to grow 10% this year

In a clear demonstration of increased interdependency between IT and business, analysts at Gartner in a recent report increased investment in Business Intelligence (BI)-  IT-based techniques used in analyzing business data to get historical, current, and predictive views of business operations.

This commoditization of business intelligence is attributed to the transformation of mobile business intelligence via Android smartphones (Google’s OS is gaining market share in the smartphone market at a much faster pace than its rivals), tablets (such as the iPad from Apple and Galaxy from Samsung) and the possibilities it presents; as well as the realisation by many businesses of the need to put analytics and performance management at the core of their operational model in a bid to achieve increased transparency, improved productivity and reduced costs. The consequence of this continued investment in Business Intelligence was revealed in recent report by Gartner which anticipates global market for BI software to increase by 10% this year.

Despite this increase, Gartner contend that 70-80% of corporate Business Intelligence projects fail. The reason for such failure was articulated by Patrick Meehan, President and Research Director in Gartner’s CIO research group who said, ‘If you don’t ask the right questions, BI is not a crystal ball that pops out the answer. People in IT need to stop approaching BI as a vendor or an engineering solution, or as a tool. They need to understand what business they are in. They are in the information and communications business.’

The anticipated areas of BI growth include the augmentation of intuitive and interactive BI via mobile with the proliferation of smartphones; increased capabilities to analyse large data using in-memory technology and analytics; and increased use of Business Intelligence as a platform for improved decision making

 

US Congress checks the FCC

The US regulator the Federal Communications Commission’s independence has been severely challenged undermined for quite a while and its efforts to wrestle back its authority was dealt a further blow last week when the US House of Representatives last week rejected proposals that would have let internet service providers block legal content but allowed rationing for bandwidth hogs

Back in December last year  the FCC  proposed  to prevent ISPs from manipulating “normal” traffic for Internet users, but allow them to implement “traffic management on P2P networks and levy fees on providers of bandwidth-intensive content. Consequently it incurred the wrath of ISPs like Verizon which has sued the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), arguing that it overstepped its authority in proposing the rules. Research shows that a few internet users take up a large proportion of bandwith, and they are chiefly responsible for network congestion.

 The regulator's plan to impose its plans just became much more difficult to pull off. In what appears an attack on FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski,(an Obama appointee),  a bipartisan group of politicians this week told him in no uncertain terms, to abandon his plans to impose controversial new rules on broadband providers until the U.S. Congress changes the law.

Seventy-four House Democrats sent Genachowski, a letter saying his ideas will "jeopardize jobs" and "should not be done without additional direction from Congress."

A separate letter from 37 Senate Republicans, also sent Monday, was more pointed. It accused Genachowski of pushing "heavy-handed 19th century regulations" that are "inconceivable" as well as illegal.

Criticism of the FCC is not limited to the legislative corridors of power. Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior vice president for legislative affairs, also waded in saying, "Questions about the FCC's legal authority should be decided by the Congress itself, and not by applying to the Internet a set of onerous rules designed for a different technology, a different situation, and a different era,"

Not only does this developments inject a new element of uncertainty into whether the FCC will try to repurpose analog telephone-era rules to target broadband providers, but they also sharply increase the likelihood of the process dragging on ad infinitum.

Regardless of the merits, the regulator is probably circumspect about taking on Congress particularly during the budgetary process unless it has very good odds of winning. All indication suggest Genachowski will deploy all his skills as general counsel and chief of business operations and kick this into the long grass but for now it seems the battle over net neutrality has momentarily shifted  a few blocks down Independence Avenue from the FCC to Capitol Hill. Watch this space. 

As NCC moves close to taking drastic measures on cost and quality

Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Dr Eugene Juwah attending the recent GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Spain took some time to visit Bharti Airtel stand where,  he expressed concern about quality of service and what seems a pyrrhic reduction in tariff by telephone operators in Nigeria.  

In his statement, Dr Juwah said, “Apart from Quality of Service, we need to see the operators reduce prices far more than they are doing at the moment. It appears the reductions are currently based on special packages. We don’t think that is enough. We want to see reductions that affect the subscribers generally, and we think it is about time that the operators do something so that we don’t have to introduce other measures that will be drastic to achieve that”. 

Late last year when Bharti Airtel,   took over of the business of Zain in Nigeria, it  announced some tariff movements, which  many assumed will precipitate a  price-war a but it was quickly succeeded by an across board poor quality of service which has persisted  to date.

Commentators  who worried over the seeming war within the pricing system of GSM mobile networks in the country sought to understand the milieu and various opinions and perceptions emerged. Many thought the time of lower prices had come and hailed the forces of competition.

President of Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria, Titi Omo-Ettu seemingly unimpressed at the time,  called for caution  and a detailed study of the goings on by the NCC. He said ‘It is nothing new that a new comer does something to establish its presence and if he has a big war chest, what he does may jolt everybody into a jerk. But beyond that it is no big deal. That is why a multi-network environment supports competition but the competition we want to see, and which ATCON is working towards is in quality not in prices. Reason is that the former assures the latter while the converse is not necessarily true’. 

“Consumers are free to jubilate. It is normal for spectators to jubilate when goals are scored but it is not the end of the game. When operators fight war, it is expected that they should do it ‘neat’ and they must not be allowed to fight ‘dirty’. And it explains why we have the regulator. The regulator is not meant to watch and enjoy the game but to moderate it”.

 

NITEL/Mtel layoffs engage in midweek riot

Afternoon hours of Tuesday February 22 was unpleasant for workers of the Accountant General’s office in Abuja as protesting layoffs of NITEL/Mtel descended into chaos with windows and doors smashed and workers, security personnel and news crews manhandled. 

The protesters had clearly lost faith in the government’s processing of their terminal claims which prompted them to lock in all workers of the Accountant General’s office from 3pm till 7.20pm when a riot situation ensued. 

There had been a barrage of complaints over the aloof attitude of Federal Government officials who, in  handling  claims of retired civil servants, had made them jump through hoops  in making their approved claims causing undue distress even after very long processes of getting approval for ordinarily legitimate claims. According to the protesters,  officials had made  retired officials travel long distances at unbearable expense and dangers to lives only to come in for identification exercises which never ended. 

The whole objectionable  method of Federal government officials present in trying to avoid making the necessary payments to beneficiaries had been so lamentable it disregarded the fact that even if a beneficiary died between the last identification exercise and now, the money that was being paid had been earned and it could only have been paid electronically into the bank account of the beneficiaries. 

Fraud, the protesters say, was at the root of the officials’ attitude and they wanted it sorted out.

 

Nokia and Microsoft make a pact

Although it still controls the lion share of the global market, the failure of Nokia to assert itself in the smartphone market with the advent of the Google’s Android software and the iPhone has become all too apparent.  Who can be credited for this revelation? Nokia’s new boss Stephen Elop, who admitting that the phone giant is in real danger of being left behind.  He said the company is standing ‘on a burning platform with a blazing fire around us’  

To douse this fire, Elop announced this week that Nokia was forming a ‘broad strategic partnership’ with Microsoft. In an announcement that shocked the ICT world, he revealed plans that will see Nokia phones running on Microsoft software. Having conceded that Nokia was struggling to keep pace, Elop has adopted high stakes strategy to stem the tide.

 Announcing the deal at a press conference in London last week, Elop said ‘Nokia is at a critical juncture where significant change is necessary and inevitable in our journey forward’.  He highlighted the inevitability of the deal due to Nokia’s loss of market share (10 percentage points last year) and competition from Google and Apple, ‘Today we are accelerating that change through a new path aimed at regaining our smartphone leadership. It is now a three horse race

 But it is rather a safer alliance than it appears. They have deployed the law of comparative advantage.  Nokia is good at hardware but has struggled in the smartphone arena because its  software is so outdated.  But Microsoft, with its Windows phone 7 software which Nokia will now use is believed, an believed  even by Microsoft’s ardent critics to be pretty good, Google and Apple know that have a real battle on their hands. 

It is a gamble for Nokia but a necessary one if it is going to stop haemorrhaging market share.



 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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