CyberschuulNews Editions 506 - 510

 
 

 

 

Cyberschuulnews 509

 

FTC lets Google off hook  

Google might have made the point to officials of Federal Trade Commission, FTC, that it is consumer satisfaction that matters, not satisfaction of 'rivals' to have made the Commission let it off hook.  

An almost 24 months of the antitrust probe of the giant web player ended up recently in a light verdict which made it go free but with a pledge to go and sin no more.  In a letter of commitment extracted from it by the Commission, Google has agreed to give online advertisers more flexibility to simultaneously manage ad campaigns on Google's AdWords platform and on rival ad platforms; and to refrain from misappropriating online content from so-called "vertical" websites that focus on specific categories such as shopping or travel for use in its own vertical offerings.  

There had been the charge that Google was manipulating search results to benefit its own products while hurting competitors and FTC went after Google with intense and serious investigations.  

But in a surprise conclusion after the highwire probe, FTC Chair, Jon Leibowitz told the world 'The American antitrust laws protect competition, not competitors'  

Those who understand the market have said that this probe gave the biggest trouble and headache in antitrust history of the American system far more complex than the Microsoft antitrust investigation of the early 1990's.  

And chances are that Google is smiling. 

 

2012, 2013 and the Broadband Expansion Program  

Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu, telecommunications engineer and founder of CyberschuulNews.com responded to email correspondence interview from Editor Leke Laja on questions relating to the Broadband Expansion Program, BbExPro, which he is coordinating. He also fielded questions on a review of the year 2012 but avoided questions on 2013. 

Q.  What did 2012 look like and what is 2013 likely to be for the Communication Technology industry? 

 A.             We can either see it using the common man's eyes or using informed analyst's lenses. The common man would not have seen anything but poor quality of service since it was an enveloping problem that had all other things encapsulated, regardless what service, voice or internet.

 As informed analysts, we had a year when the future for the industry was scripted and for the first time ever a newly created Ministry found its feet within a year of its creation, defined its mandate, and chart a path for its journey. Besides, the Ministry defined the future in technical terms and commenced implementing aspects of it pragmatically. It is unprecedented. 

If you listen carefully to the Minister of Communication Technology you will know we have a future and if you consider that three policy thrust issues were conceived and started within 2012, you would see pragmatism and the will and capacity to do it.

On the flip side of course are telephones that will rather disconnect than connect, electricity that would amass textbook megawatts but meant nothing to industry, a $100m loan for ICT projects that are yet to be explained and a fast Ministry operating within a slow government.  

Q.  Let's hear you out on our internet access generally  

A.             Pervasive but poor in bandwidth requirement terms. It is one of the issues that the Ministry's pronouncements and plans, in my opinion, concentrate on. Hopefully when things concretize, we shall drive out of the doldrums. 

Q.  What is Broadband Expansion Program and what is it designed to achieve?

 A.             It is an initiative that seeks to mobilise local players who are engaged in broadband solution businesses of any kind, for coordinated access to funding and capacity development with rapid spread of broadband Internet access, at last mile level, in focus. It came as outcome of several conferences and summits which were held in the past few years on the subject of expanding the reach of broadband Internet access in Nigeria. It is conceived by our company, Telecom Answers Associates, and we sought and got the collaboration of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.  

Q.  What is the coverage and how will it operate? 

A.             The program is a process and not an event. Although there is a Business Workshop component of the process which is scheduled for March 5 – 7, 2013, the entire program is conceived to be measurable over a period of about 36 months in the first instance. 

It will operate in a manner that those who choose to participate in the program will decide. It is a process whose implementation modalities are neither sacrosanct nor cast in stone. 

The point is: funding is available to big players who can bring solution to our shores but it is inaccessible to smaller payers who can take the solutions to our people. There is a disconnect and somebody has to solve that.

We did it before. We want to do it again. 

Q.  In penetration terms, what figures are we really looking at? 

A.             The figures will emerge as we progress on the process.  However the process will be guided by indices such as the current national penetration percentage which hovers around 5-6 per cent and the fact that some stakeholder groups and individuals have canvassed achievement of 50 per cent penetration by 2015. 

Q.  Explain the reason for limiting the program to industry players only 

A.             Simple. Whatever has a scope must have a boundary.

Q.  Is Government involved and if so to what level? 

 A.             Both the Ministry of Communication Technology and the Nigerian Communications Commission have endorsed the initiative as well thought out and they have given support in almost all manners that were sought. A Steering Committee is in place and will be expanded from time to time to ensure that the program is upbeat. 

Q.  How will it touch on the economy as a whole? 

A.             Credible experts have estimated that 10% increase in broadband penetration could boost GDP by 1.38% in low- and

middle-income countries. The future of the entire economy is destined to depend very largely on broadband Internet access resources and any initiative which promotes the frontiers of broadband Internet access is bound to uplift the economy of the country. This is just one initiative out of many that are being promoted by several efforts within the industry. 

Q.        Do you envisage any challenges? 

A.             Of course, yes but nothing to threaten us. The usual business, infrastructure, and bureaucracy related vicissitudes. Initiatives like this are not new to our company and they are never immune to the strains and stresses that exist in our environment. In 1995, we reached a conclusion that the Internet was a subject of the future for which the entire society had to be mobilised and we went ahead to promote it as such. In retrospect, the results were worth the effort and the process is still on-going. When we started, we did not know that THE CYBERSCHUUL would emerge to train and CyberschuulNews.com to inform. Ditto for all the technology application solutions that we promoted at their various times. These include Industry Liberalization (1992) The Internet Applications (1995), Mobile Telephony (1999), Co-location and infrastructure sharing (2009) and WiMAX (2010) to mention a few. 

Q.      What should change in 2013 and who should cause the changes?  

A.      Oh, so many things should change but I do not like doing a list. I have access to those who should change them and I will take my opinion to them directly.

 Industry Wedding  An Industry-made wedding  as two LME executives took a vow 

Rukevwe Gbagi and Olurotimi Balogun, both Managers at LM Ericsson Nigeria wedded in Cotonou, Benin Republic, last weekend. It was three days of celebrations which started with a Chill-out at the Benin Marina Hotel, through hanging out with the couple & their families, while the couple reenacted on memories of their proposal on the final day! The wedding proper held on the lawns of the Hotel with family, friends and colleagues at LM Ericsson Nigeria in attendance. CyberschuulNews.com was there too. 

 

Cyberschuulnews 509 

Leostan thumbs up CyberschuulNews 

The first to arrive among all New Year comments and greetings to CyberschuulNews came from Computer Guru and CEO of Zinox Technologies Ltd, Mr. Leostan Ekeh.  

Mr. Eke sent a terse greeting to say 'This is a smart Page. Congrats and happy New Year. I have been online with this Mag for sometime.' 

Another response from Manny Emecheta said 'I want to appreciate you and you crew for the good services you render to the ICT community. I wish you good health and a Happy New Year. Remain blessed in the Lord.'  while Afiz Salisu said 'U ve played an active role in d industry. Bravo!!!'  

CyberschuulNews, as it resumes after the annual short break, thanks all members for staying in touch. 

Please visit http://cyberschuulnews.com/telecomnews.html to catch the news as they break. 

An Archive of all the past 508 Editions are available at The Telecom Gallery.

  

CommTech Ministry chests High Performance Rating 

A performance review report of the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology was made public last week.

The review listed achievements of the Ministry in its 17 months existence to include the production of a draft National Communication Technology Policy which is awaiting final accent of the Federal Executive Council, launch of a Student PC Ownership Scheme, a Technology Launch Pad Initiative, development of two ICT Incubation Centres, and initiation of an IT innovation Venture Capital Fund. 

The Ministry said it went into collaboration with other Government agencies to produce business friendly Right of Way guidelines, reduce approval times for erecting base stations, migration of all governments MDAs to the .ng domain, and to commence work on deployment of a 10GB fibre optic based network to connect Nigerian Universities to the wider research and education Network 

It also worked on making essential input into legislative draft works such as the creation of a Critical Infrastructure Bill, local content guidelines, just as it signed an MoU with the Ministry of FCT to facilitate the construction of a 250 citizen call centre at the Abuja Technology Village. 

The report reeled out several performance indicators which show actual growth and projections for growth in critical areas of ICT deployment in the country. 

The report did not say if the indices were results of true study researches or intelligent guesses which they appeared to be in several areas. 

A full text of the Review is available at 

http://www.cyberschuulnews.com/commtech_ministry_achievements_in_2012.html

 

Also available here 

 

Xmas Day News DAAR floats Education Broadcast Program 

DAAR Communications Ltd announced in an early broadcast on Christmas Day that it plans to support Nigeria's Government to improve standard of education at foundation levels by dedicating 22 of its digital broadcast channels to a nationwide education broadcast program.  

Details are yet to be clear enough for use as public information 

Industry Watch: Active Year ahead for MainOne  

Nigeria's bulk supplier of international bandwidth, MainOne Cable Company, told CyberschuulNews in Lagos, end of 2012, that its 3 years of operations has witnessed satisfactory delivery of services ranging from bulk supply to last mile services, successful innovations, and expansion into international markets. Despite all, the company has used only 5% of its available capacity. 

Chief Finance Officer, Babatunde Dada, recounted major industry challenges to include unavailability of national fibre backbone, unfair competition practices, multiple taxation and even multiple regulations. 

Dada said MainOne would increase advocacy for infrastructure sharing, improve its product offering to include cloud computing, disaster recovery and tiers 3 and 4 type data centre services complete with a backup centre in the year ahead. 

Starcomms: Rising from the Cooler 

Triple play telephone operator, Starcomms, may rise again if the shareholders' efforts at resuscitating it go as planned. The company piled up debts in recent time until it could no longer do so and all its services went comatose across Nigeria. Many of those who use its internet services are suspected to have migrated to other networks.  

Its shareholders are reported to have considered a reconstruction which will enable the company to benefit from a capital injection of $210 million by Capcom, a new core investor. A merger of the assets of MTS, Multilinks and Starcomms is about to commence operation in the name of Starcomms, hopefully a New Starcomms. 

 

UNCTAD thumbs up ISPON for local Industry Drive in Nigeria 

The United Nations Information Economy Report 2012 gives special attention to the role of software capabilities in accelerating progress towards a more inclusive information society. It says issues of mobile revolution, improved broadband internet connectivity, new ways of using the ICT by the government and the private sector are interesting trends that are shaping future of the ICT in the world.  

The report says the software industry in Nigeria was for a long time given limited attention by policymakers, thus the country became heavily dependent on foreign software, which accounts for more than 90 per cent of all software used in Nigeria. However the new Federal Ministry for Communication Technology is intending to change this situation relying largely on input from the private sector and especially the ISPON and the Nigeria Computer Society, NCS.  

In its paragraph under The Growing Relevance of Software for Development, the report recognizes and commends the input of the Nigerian Institution of Software Practitioners of Nigerian, ISPON, and mentions specific efforts of the Institute in driving the emerging communication technology industry in Nigeria.  

These include various software conferences and round tables organized by ISPON to promote indigenous software development and support services.  

Mr. Torbjörn Fredriksson, Chief, ICT Analysis Section, Division on Technology and Logistics, UNCTAD forwarded a copy of the report and the appreciation of the Agency to Mr. Chris Uwaje, President of IPON in an end of year 2012 letter in recognition of his personal initiatives.

 

CyberschuulNews 508 

Net Control divides the world 

Amidst acrimony, the two week long ITU's World Conference on International Telecommunications, W.C.I.T. ended in Dubai December 14 with the world body getting 89 countries to endorse a treaty that entrenches greater governmental oversight of the Internet. Those who attended the conference said chances are that the figure of signatories increases as time goes on. 

ITU says the treaty will forge 'solid new framework for tomorrow's hyper-connected world'. But United States of America and the European block were reluctant to sign on to the agreement immediately while Russia, China and many African countries did. 

 

Opeke on Local Development Prescriptions 

MainOne's CEO, Funke Opeke, argued in Lagos this weekend that Nigeria's good-bad economic indices presents a good prospect to turn things around once the right foot is put forward. Being third largest growing economy in the world, second largest economy in Africa but where 80% survive on $2 a day are indices that call for radical management of the economy to change things. 

She was speaking at a broadband forum hosted by a BusinessDay and NCC collaboration in Lagos. 

From a broadband requirement perspective, she said the 'underserved' are no longer the rural areas but the middleclass and the poor and prescribed radical development of skills and capacities especially of the youth who actually are those that adopt technology and drive innovation. 

She admonished government agencies to deliberately make it easier to do business by improving their record on performance on issues such as permits, taxes, licenses, fees, and delays. 

She called for more attention to be paid to building national capacity by deliberate support and protection for local entrepreneurs since 'foreign capital is good but capital travels to maximize profit not to drive development agenda' 

 

Multiple Regulation : Nigeria's latest barrier to further ICT growth 

At a version of Broadband Forum which was hosted by BusinessDay in collaboration with NCC in Lagos, industry leaders said the long list of high cost of power generation, lack of access to funds, high cost of spectrum, right of way, multiple taxation are now joined by the desire of state governments to also regulate telecommunications. 

Mrs. Omobola Johnson, Minister of Communication Technology said the matter was being addressed just as the envisaged policy was addressing demand stimulation by raising locally developed applications, driving government services online, and improving local software development. 

 

New Guidelines for Interconnect Relationships 

The Nigerian Communications Commissions says it is worried by the unacceptabl high incidence of interconnect indebtedness in the industry and has responded by modifying existing relations. The new regulation will make it sanction-able for operators to avoid paying their bills as at when due and this will come into effect in the first quarter of 2013. 

Earlier in the week at an ATCON's senior executives Forum, Dr Eugene Juwah, Executive Vice-Chairman NCC has said the Commission was re-planning the 800MHZ and 700 MHZ bands for LTE, while also re-farming the 2.5GHZ band. 

 

MainOne renews maintenance contract to improve service delivery 

MainOne Cable Company, a member of the Atlantic Private Maintenance Agreement (APMA) has renewed its maintenance agreement with Alcatel-Lucent to assure optimum performance. Under the service level agreement, Alcatel-Lucent will make available its maintenance vessels, as well as experienced, fully trained, and certified specialist personnel for cable repairs. 

According to Bernard Logan, Main One Chief Commercial Officer "To ensure the optimal network availability for continuity and quality of communications that our customers demand, we rely on world-class technical support including state-of-the-art cable ships capable of delivering rapid response repair services in any weather condition," 

 

CyberschuulNews 507 

The Internet 

A proposal from the Russian Federation to include in the ITRs a new provision on the Internet (new Article 3A) was supported and endorsed by Algeria. China and the United Arab Emirates also agreed that the Internet should be included in the ITRs and should be discussed in Working Group 2 of Committee 5. Canada, France, Europe, Sweden, and the United States do not support the proposal, and do not want it discussed in Committee 5. The matter, they said, should only be discussed in plenary.

 

The Chairman of the Conference deferred the discussion on the proposed new provision to the next plenary, with informal discussions in the meantime. Concern was raised, though, that informal discussions might not result in satisfactory conclusions. 

taken from http://www.itu.int/osg/wcit-12/highlights/dec04.html

 

  

Where will two weeks of talk take US and the Internet to?
by
Titi Omo-Ettu, December 6, 2012 

There is no human being who does not love the Internet. That is because the internet does not discriminate in the sense that it works for all except for communities or countries that do not invest in it. 

But come to think of it, governments are not human beings. We know many governments that do not love the internet. It's all about their temperament to issues of civil liberty, corruption, crime and criminality and what they wish of social media, a creation of the internet, which is taunting societies, sometimes to the discomfort of many governments. 

In fact when you mention names like Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan you are regarded to be writing an equation which is easy to define. On the other side are US, Canada, France, and the European Union block 

Just about now, a jaw-jaw is going on in Dubai (Why Dubai of all places!) under the auspices of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and set to pitch those two groups against themselves discussing about the next level in internet governance. But why ITU?To the extent that the hosts are international civil servants who represent governments one way or the other, we may expect more of diplomatic rhetoric than anything.

Where will emerging economies place in all of these and how are they represented is an issue we shall concern ourselves with as we watch the next two weeks of World Conference on International Telecommunications or WCIT. 

Even the description of the assembly is rhetoric of a kind as it does not say anything about its mission. 

taken from http://www.titiomoettu.com/blog.html

 

 

Hands off the Internet!
by
Jermyn Brooks
, December 6, 2012 

A chorus of human rights groups, diplomats, companies and technologists has achieved something remarkable. They are shining a media spotlight on the most boring international conference you have never heard of: an obscure gathering of governments called the World Conference on International Telecommunications, or W.C.I.T. 

Campaigners and companies alike are concerned by the prospect of authoritarian states using the opaque processes of diplomacy to grab greater control over the Internet. Governments, now meeting in Dubai, will update a global telecommunications treaty under the auspices of a U.N. agency, the International Telecommunication Union, or I.T.U. But in a world where most governments have long since lost their monopoly over cross-border communications, top-down structures are not suitable forums for making difficult decisions about Internet policy. 

Decentralized by design, the Internet is a network-of-networks, much of which is built and operated by the private sector. As the Internet's social, economic and political significance has grown, so have government efforts to control it. Some governments urge that the telecommunications treaty, last updated in 1988, should be expanded to support those efforts. 

From my perspective as a free expression and privacy advocate, the most problematic of the proposals to be presented in Dubai concern topics like cybersecurity, cybercrime and online identification. Expanding the treaty to address these challenges would begin to bring the Internet under the purview of the I.T.U. Some proposals imply taking away authority from the variety of venues where Internet governance currently takes place — a constellation of technical standards bodies and other organizations that include more than just governments in their decision-making processes. Unlike governments, which tend to prioritize their own political interests when making policy, the groups involved share a general commitment to maintaining the technical efficiency of the Internet. They also use transparent processes that are open to scrutiny. 

Many governments, companies and civil society groups, particularly from developing countries, feel that they are insufficiently represented in the Internet governance ecosystem. The Internet was developed in the United States, and the existing governance institutions like the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and the Internet Engineering Task Force often include greater participation from companies, governments and individuals in the developed world. These institutions should do better at reaching out to constituencies across the global community. Individuals and governments should join them and work to improve them. 

As advocates for a free and open Internet come together in Dubai to push back against the most alarming proposals, they should also work together to find solutions and seek reforms that would ensure a genuinely inclusive approach to governing the Internet. 

The conference is just one in a number of venues where Internet policymaking will be contested. At other international gatherings, governments will continue to push an agenda of greater control over Internet. We have already seen this with the International Code of Conduct for Information Security proposed to the U.N. General Assembly by Russia, China, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. 

It is a testament to the power of activists, companies and technical experts that the human rights implications of international telecommunications regulations are receiving attention from policymakers. But in an era in which many multinational technology companies have global footprints that rival diplomatic services, and where an NGO campaign can mobilize as many constituents as a national politician, participation by these groups should not be the exception to international diplomatic practices. 

The recent U.N. Human Rights Council resolution affirming that the same rights that people enjoy offline also apply online was, in part, the product of extensive advocacy by voices from the global north and south alike. This was an important step that shows the positive potential for international cooperation on human rights and the Internet. 

As a growing number of governments have recognized, we should seek to empower an inclusive set of stakeholders from outside government to participate in policy debates when considering the Internet. The growing significance of the Internet to development, commerce and human rights requires nothing less. 

Importantly, the delegates in Dubai have chosen to open some portions of the conference to the public. This could be the first step toward lasting change. Activists and innovators alike have found common ground on the importance of human rights standards, stakeholder collaboration and transparency as minimum standards for future treaty negotiations. They must make their voices count, beginning but not ending in Dubai. 

Jermyn Brooks is the Independent Chair of the Global Network Initiative. 

Taken from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/07/opinion/hands-off-the-internet.html?ref=global&_r=0 

 

 

The U.N. and the Internet: What to expect, what to fear (FAQ)
by
Declan McCullagh, December 6, 2012 

The U.S., Canada, and European allies are squaring off against Russia and China at a U.N. Internet summit. At stake: the future of how the Internet will be run. 

The inner workings of United Nations telecommunications agencies aren't usually headline news. But then again, most U.N. confabs don't grapple with topics as slippery as Internet censorship, taxation, and privacy. 

A U.N. agency called the International Telecommunication Union has kicked off what has become a highly controversial summit this week in Dubai, capping over a year of closed-door negotiations over an international communications treaty that could have a direct impact on the Internet. The summit continues through the end of next week. 

It's true, of course, that U.N. meetings often yield more rhetoric than substance. During a summit in Tunisia in 2005, for instance, Iran and African governments proclaimed that the Internet permits too much free speech, with Cuba's delegate announcing that Fidel Castro believed the time had come to create a new organization "which administers this network of networks." 

The difference here is that this meeting actually matters: the ITU event is aimed at rewriting a multilateral treaty that governs international communications traffic. It was last updated back in 1988, when home computers used dial-up modems, the Internet was primarily a university network, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was a mere 4 years old. 

For answers to some of your questions about the ITU summit, formally called the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT, pronounced "wicket"), read on: 

Q: What's going to happen at the summit?

It's too early to say for sure. A series of ITU committees are meeting to draft proposals, with a deadline of December 12. On December 13, the final texts are presented. On December 14, the final treaty is signed. 

But a coalition of Internet companies, nonprofit groups, and Western governments have taken extraordinary steps in the last few months to warn that proposals from nations with less than a sterling commitment to civil liberties -- among them Algeria, China, and Russia -- could do grave harm to the current free and open Internet. 

It's no coincidence that some of those nations have geopolitical interests that are in conflict with those of the United States. The Dubai summit gives them an opportunity to depict the current way the Internet is governed as overly U.S.-dominated, and in need of significant changes, a proposal that many poorer nations support for reasons of their own. 

Q: What are some of the concerns?

They deal primarily with areas including free speech, taxation, privacy, and cybersecurity. There are secondary concerns about the ITU process itself: meetings are held behind closed doors, and key documents are withheld from public scrutiny -- the precise opposite of the way traditional Internet standards-setting works. A site called WCITLeaks.org, by two policy analysts at the free-market Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., has sprung up to shine more light on what's happening in secret. 

Vint Cerf, co-creator of the Internet's technical underpinnings, warned in a CNN op-ed last week that the ITU "is the wrong place to make decisions about the future of the internet." That's because, he wrote: "Only governments have a vote at the ITU. This includes governments that do not support a free and open internet. Engineers, companies, and people that build and use the Web have no vote." 

Google has organized a campaign to draw attention to the summit, saying some governments "are trying to use a closed-door meeting in December to regulate the Internet." Advocacy groups Fight for the Future and AccessNow have launched WhatIsTheITU.org to warn that the ITU poses "a risk to freedom of expression" online. 

The Internet Society has told the ITU (PDF) that some of the proposals that could be inserted in the treaty will harm "the long term prospects of a global, open Internet." And Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World Wide Web, warned this week about an ITU power grab, telling the BBC that: "Countries that want to be able to block the Internet and give people within their country a 'secure' view of what's out there would use a treaty at the ITU as a mechanism to do that, and force other countries to fall into line with the blockages that they wanted to put in place." 

Q: What's the official position of the U.S. government?

In a sharply partisan U.S. election year, this has been a rare point of bipartisan accord: the House of Representatives unanimously approved a resolution this week aimed at sending a strong message to the ITU. It said, in part, that "the consistent and unequivocal policy of the United States [is] to promote a global Internet free from government control." 

During a May 2012 House hearing, Democrats and Republicans alike warned that this month's summit could lead to a virtual takeover of the Internet if proposals from China, Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are adopted. 

"These are terrible ideas," Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, said. They could allow "governments to monitor and restrict content or impose economic costs upon international data flows," added Ambassador Philip Verveer, a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration. 

Unless the U.S. and its allies can block these proposals, they "just might break the Internet by subjecting it to an international regulatory regime designed for old-fashioned telephone service," Rep. Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican said. 

The U.S. could choose to refuse to sign and ratify the new treaty, of course. But that would create additional problems: U.S. network operators and their customers would still be expected to comply with new rules when dealing with foreign partners and governments, leading to a Balkanization of the Internet. 

Q: Are the U.S. and its allies in Europe and Canada having any luck at the summit?

The U.S., Europe, and Canada advanced a proposal in Dubai to limit the ITU's rules to only telecommunications providers, not Internet companies like Google and Facebook. 

"We want to make sure [the ITU treaty] stays focused squarely on the telecom sector," said U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer, according to Reuters. "We thought we should deal with that up-front." Reuters reported this week that this effort stalled, but Kramer said a day later that the wire service report was inaccurate and progress was being made. 

The ITU's own Web site describes the situation thus (keep reading for more on what Russia proposed):

 A proposal from the Russian Federation to include in the [treaty] a new provision on the Internet (new Article 3A) was supported and endorsed by Algeria. China and the United Arab Emirates also agreed that the Internet should be included... Canada, France, Europe, Sweden, and the United States do not support the proposal, and do not want it discussed [in the committees]. The Chairman of the Conference deferred the discussion on the proposed new provision to the next plenary, with informal discussions in the meantime. 

Q: What does the ITU say?

For their part, ITU officials have attempted to downplay criticism, saying that whatever is decided in Dubai is up to the member countries that are sending delegates to the summit. Hamadoun Touré, the ITU's secretary general, wrote in an opinion article in Wired last month:

Governments are looking for more effective frameworks to combat fraud and other crimes. Some commentators have suggested such frameworks could also legitimize censorship. However, Member States already have the right, as stated in Article 34 of the Constitution of ITU, to block any private telecommunications that appear "dangerous to the security of the State or contrary to its laws, to public order or to decency."

An ITU spokesman, Paul Conneally, wrote a blog post that defended the organization against allegations of secrecy. "At ITU, transparency is achieved at the national level, through national consultations in national languages," Conneally wrote. "A process we believe more inclusive than simply posting an English language text online."

Another WCITLeaks-posted document (PDF) from a staff retreat in Geneva in September shows the ITU is highly sensitive to public criticism and the perception it's engaged in a power grab. The internal document says: "Negative media coverage in the U.S. continues, and is now starting to appear in developing countries, and the Secretariat continues its effort to counter this." The ITU has also set up a blog that has denounced "some of the deliberate misinformation that has been spread before the conference."

In addition, delegates to the summit agreed to a suggestion by Touré to, in the words of the ITU, "issue a press release that would send a strong signal about the need to protect the right to freedom of expression."

Q: Why choose to have this event in Dubai?

In part it's due to which nations are willing to host a summit. But the choice of the United Arab Emirates is an odd one: the nation has blocked Web sites arbitrarily, has fined journalists for exposing corruption in a state-run company, and has enacted a law allowing any Internet user to be imprisoned for "opposition to Islam," "insult to any religion recognized by the state" or "contravening family values and principles," according to Reporters Without Borders. 

FreedomHouse scores the UAE's press freedom laws as "not free," citing "restrictive legal provisions and widespread censorship, especially online." 

Q: What's going on with deep packet inspection?

At another Dubai summit that took place last month, the ITU adopted recommendations proposed by China that will help network providers target BitTorrent uploaders, detect trading of copyrighted MP3 files, and, critics say, accelerate Internet censorship in repressive nations. 

The ITU adopted the confidential Y.2770 standard for deep packet inspection -- only members, not the public, currently have access to the document -- despite objections from Germany. It had warned the ITU must "not standardize any technical means that would increase the exercise of control over telecommunications content, could be used to empower any censorship of content, or could impede the free flow of information and ideas."

Because Y.2770 is confidential, many details remain opaque. But a document (PDF) posted by a Korean standards body describes how network operators will be able to identify "embedded digital watermarks in MP3 data," discover "copyright protected audio content," find "Jabber messages with Spanish text," or "identify uploading BitTorrent users." Jabber is also known as XMPP, an instant messaging protocol.

 

In a joint blog post, Alissa Cooper and Emma Llansó from the Center for Democracy and Technology say that the U.N. agency "barely acknowledges that DPI has privacy implications, let alone does it provide a thorough analysis of how the potential privacy threats associated with the technology might be mitigated."

 

One reason why deep packet inspection is so controversial is that it has been used by repressive regimes -- dozens of which are members of the ITU -- to conduct extensive surveillance against their own citizens.

 

A Wall Street Journal report last year described how Amesys, a unit of French technology firm Bull SA, helped Moammar Gadhafi spy on his people. Boeing's Narus unit was in talks with Libya about controlling Skype, censoring YouTube, and blocking proxy servers, the report said.

 

The ITU said in a subsequent blog post that it has "resolved some concerns regarding maintaining privacy after it was noted that the standard deals with the identification of the application used rather than the inspection of users content."

 

Q: And taxes or other fees for Web companies and their users?

In June, a proposal to the ITU was leaked that would target the largest Web content providers, including Google, Facebook, Apple, and Netflix, and possibly cripple their ability to reach users in developing nations. It was drafted by the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association, or ETNO, a Brussels-based lobby group representing companies in 35 nations that wants the ITU to mandate these fees.

 

ETNO refers to it as the "principle of sending party network pays" -- an idea borrowed from the system set up to handle payments for international phone calls, where the recipient's network set the per minute price. A sender-pays framework, however, could prompt U.S.-based Internet services to reject connections from users in developing countries, who would become unaffordably expensive to communicate with.

 

Luigi Gambardella, chairman of the ETNO's executive board, told CNET in an interview in August that the principle of sender-party-pays for Internet traffic was a fair solution. (Not-so-coincidentally, a lot of Internet traffic is sent to Europe from the United States.)

 

"We believe that this situation is putting at risk our capacity to invest," Gambardella said. "We need to rethink together and to establish a new balance."

 

While this is the first time this proposal been advanced to the ITU, European network providers and phone companies have been bitterly complaining about U.S. content companies for some time. France Telecom, Telecom Italia, and Vodafone Group want to "require content providers like Apple and Google to pay fees linked to usage," Bloomberg reported in December 2011.

 

Q: What's the history of the U.N., the ITU, and the Internet?

This isn't exactly the first time that the U.N. or its agencies wanted to expand their influence over the Internet. At a 2004 summit at the U.N.'s headquarters in New York, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan criticized the current system through which Internet standards are set and domain names are handled -- that would be the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, and the Internet Engineering Task Force -- and delegates from Cuba, Ghana, Bolivia and Venezula objected to what they said was too much control of the process by the U.S. government and its allies.

 

Two years later, at another U.N. summit in Athens, then-ITU Secretary General Yoshio Utsumi criticized the current ICANN-dominated process, stressing that poorer nations are dissatisfied and are hoping to erode U.S. influence. "No matter what technical experts argue is the best system, no matter what self-serving justifications are made that this is the only possible way to do things, there are no systems or technologies that can eternally claim they are the best," Utsumi said.

 

In an interview with CNET at the time, Houlin Zhao, director of the ITU's Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, said: "The ITU is trying to ensure its value. Any public network of communications is naturally of interest to ITU. ITU has a lot of expertise and a lot of experience."

 

In 2008, CNET disclosed that the ITU was quietly drafting technical standards, proposed by the Chinese government, to define methods of tracing the original source of Internet communications and potentially curbing the ability of users to remain anonymous. A leaked document showed the trace-back mechanism was designed to be used by a government that "tries to identify the source of the negative articles" published by an anonymous author.

In 1999, a report from the United Nations Development Program proposed Internet e-mail taxes to help developing nations, suggesting that an appropriate amount would be the equivalent of one penny on every 100 e-mails that an individual might send. But the agency backed away from the idea a few days later.

 

And in 2010, the U.N.'s World Health Organization contemplated, but did not agree on, a "bit tax" on Internet traffic.

 

Q: What has Russia proposed?

Last fall, China, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan submitted a proposal to the U.N. asking for the creation of an "International Code of Conduct for Information Security." It called for international cooperation in controlling "dissemination of information" that "undermines other countries' political, economic, and social stability" -- which appears to mean censoring political speech appearing on Web pages, social network posts, and so on.

 

At the time, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin described the proposal as handing the U.N. "international control of the Internet."

 

Recently leaked documents show that Russia hasn't moderated its position much since. Russia proposed that the U.N. take over the responsibilities of the Internet Society and ICANN, which manages domain names and addresses. But after criticism of the proposal, which was first reported by CNET, Russia moderated its position.

 

Cyberschuulnews 506

 

The Proposed Nigcomsat Bill: A spoiler in the making – CommTech Stakeholders

 

Communication technology industry eggheads and analysts many of who attended the joint sitting of Senate Committees on Communications and Science and Technology two weeks ago might have regarded the proposed Nigcomsat Bill which was said to have passed all readings in the Lower House as capable of reversing the gains which the Communication Technology industry recorded in the past two decades.

 

 

 

 

What surprised many was that such a bill was proposed and read several times without an input from the Communication Technology Ministry, let alone any of the parastatals under it, except, perhaps, Nigcomsat Ltd itself. And that must have set everybody emotional and the motive of the lawmakers suspicious.

 

A good number of industry leaders and activists have shown emotional distrust for intention of those who sat down to craft such negative literature for the only thriving sector of the economy. One specifically said Poor power delivery from NEPA pulled our industry back. The authors of this draft bill intend to pull it down.

 

The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, which made a submission via its Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, Mr. Okechukwu Itanyi, requested the Senate to reject the proposed bill as its provisions run contradictory to existing telecommunication laws, saying it would be inimical to the stability of the sector if passed into law.

 

 

 

Mr. Itanyi specifically referred to 9 sections of the Bill which are in direct conflict with existing laws and others which, at best, aim at creating a monopoly service provider in direct conflict with the objects and intent of existing policies of government. He said the Commission opposes in its entirety, the passage of the Bill as it serves to add nothing positive to the current state of the industry but will destabilize and distort the achievements which the industry has recorded in terms of regulatory certainty, investor encouragement and healthy competition.

 

In line with the clamor by the Ministry of Communication Technology and other stakeholders, Mr. Itanyi said a privatized NIGCOMSAT can seek any license it wishes to operate to provide whatever service it intends to provide from the regulator and that currently, the company is a licensee of the NCC, wondering what difference the bill will deliver to the company.

 

The bill which is already interpreted as a bad omen for the telecommunications industry, and tantamount to the National Assembly issuing telecom licenses to government agencies, against the provisions of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, is also opposed by the Communications Technology Ministry, which supervises NIGCOMSAT, as well as the Ministry of Science and Technology under which it served until the recent reforms.

 

Mr. Itanyi said the provision that empowers NIGCOMSAT to provide for the bandwidth requirements of government agencies on commercial basis also contradicts the provision of Section 121 of NCA Act, while also conflicting with government's policies on Space development and ICT growth.

 

"By placing the company as both the regulator and operator, the Bill has the potential of distorting the market, discouraging competition and stifling consumer choice of service in the telecommunications industry, and is a contradiction of section 90 of NCA 2003 that gives the Commission the exclusive competence over competition matters in the Nigerian Communications market".

 

Indeed some of the provisions including the section that would allow NIGCOMSAT to operate its current services on commercial basis, like transponder leasing, is trite as NIGCOMSAT currently operates those services as a licensee of the NCC, while the provision that it would engage in activities that would enhance the space industry in Nigeria is vague and subject to several interpretations.

 

Mr. Itanyi also pointed out that the NIGCOMSAT Bill is in conflict with the Public Procurement Act 2007, which provides for approval conditions and limits for Ministries, Departments and Agencies on one hand, and duplicates the core functions of the National Agency for Space Research and Development Agency, NARSDA, thereby contradicting NARSDA 2010 Act. This, he said, is an invitation to multiplicity of regulations and legislations.

 

The Commission is also vehemently opposed to the section that intends to empower NIGCOMSAT with the duty of international cooperation on communications satellite technology, including but limited to membership of the International Telecommunications Union, ITU, arguing that this section contradicts the provisions of the existing laws that empowers the Commission to perform those duties.

 

Mr. Itanyi also submitted that some of the provisions in the bill regarding the activities of NIGCOMSAT Corporation would also require the type-approval certificate of the Commission, as well as Sales and Installation License, hence would amount to a duplication of regulations in the country. In the section that gives powers to NIGCOMSAT to purchase or otherwise acquire or takeover all or any of the assets, business, company, firm or person in furtherance of any business engaged in by the Corporation, Mr. Itanyi said "this provision gives unlimited, inequitable, and unfettered powers to the corporation, which makes it ambiguous and subject to many interpretations.

 

In the section which indicated that NIGCOMSAT would work in collaboration with other government agencies, such as the Universal Service Provision Fund, USPF, Mr. Itanyi drew the Senators' attention to the fact that the USPF is an organ established by the NCA 2003, and funded by the Nigerian Communications Commission, and should not be isolated in contradiction to existing laws as the NIGCOMSAT bill intends.

 

Interestingly the arrowhead of the draft Bill Mr. Ahmed Rufai who is Managing Director of Nigcomsat, while not saying Okechukwu Itanyi's observations are unfounded, has been saying that the bill was not intended to do all that is written in the presentation.

 

 

Omatek refocuses: Now providing total solutions

 

 

 

Omatek Computers may have metamorphosed from a computer assembly plant into a total InfoTech solution provider.

 

This impression was gathered at the company's re-commissioning event midweek where its management took industry leaders on a tour of the new factory in Oregun, Lagos.

 

 

Not only is the company now providing solar power solutions, energy saving bulbs and Omatek android tablets, speakers and boards, it is infact researching into power saving technologies.

 

Speaking during the tour, Mrs. Florence Seriki, an engineer and Managing Director of the company said research showed that Nigeria's power problem was not just power generation and distribution but also of power consumption, so a solution to this problem was informed. The manufacturer has therefore designed power saving fluorescents that consume 18W instead of the normal 42W and other power consumers from which 85% saving is already being made on power consumption.

 

Combining the power saving bulbs with the solar solution gives a 24 hour power solution even when public power is absent. Tertiary institutions like University of Lagos whose Director of works Mr. Ezekiel Adeniran was on the tour said they were already test running the Omatek solar solution.

 

Mrs. Seriki pleaded with government to help reduce the cost of broadband access as this will encourage people to acquire computers and other digital devices.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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