Tag Archives: eu

Google’s Android bundling strategy whacked by EU

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Google set two records yesterday: it was hit with the largest fine ever assessed by European Union anti-trust enforcers, which didn’t scare Wall Street because its stock price – actually, its nominal parent company Alphabet’s share price – hit the highest level ever.

The $5 billion fine was accompanied by an order for Google to radically change the way it markets the Android mobile phone operating system, according to a tweet by Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commission and a former member of the Danish parliament…

Fine of €4,34 bn to @Google for 3 types of illegal restrictions on the use of Android. In this way it has cemented the dominance of its search engine. Denying rivals a chance to innovate and compete on the merits. It’s illegal under EU antitrust rules. @Google now has to stop it.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai shot back, also via Twitter, saying that the company will appeal.

The three business practices that Vestager says are illegal are:

  • Requiring mobile phone manufacturers who install the Google Play store to also install the Chrome browser and Google Search apps.
  • Paying manufacturers to give Google Search exclusivity, by not preinstalling other search apps.
  • Requiring manufacturers who preinstall Google apps to pledge not to make, or even develop, devices that run alternate Android versions, aka Android forks.

Big manufacturers have tried to launch their own app stores and operating systems, notably Samsung with Bada and Tizen, but could not compete with Google Play’s ecosystem of apps, services and content. The only company that’s made any headway with an Android fork is Amazon, which installs the Android-based Fire OS on its own devices, and uses them to sell its own services. Amazon has also attracted Vestager’s attention and, like Google, hit a record high valuation yesterday.

2018 is shaping up to be a rough year for tech giants. Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. and regulators in Brussels are taking aim at them. Politics and protectionism might be behind it, but big, dominant companies are properly the concern of trust busters. They need to move cautiously and prudently, though, else the cure will be worse than the disease.

Where one big economy leads the Internet, others must follow

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A flood of odd looking messages are swelling email boxes in the U.S., telling recipients that they have to take action – click a button, enter an email address, log on to an account – because of something called GDPR. That’s not something that was dreamed up by a Nigerian prince to funnel millions of dollars your way (but be careful – it is a golden opportunity for fraudsters to exploit complacency). It’s a new European Union online privacy rule that’s about to effect – the general data protection regulation, as it’s formally known.

The new regulation imposes strict data privacy requirements, including plain language notices and opt-in permission, on companies anywhere in the world…

The GDPR not only applies to organisations located within the E.U. but it will also apply to organisations located outside of the E.U. if they offer goods or services to, or monitor the behaviour of, E.U. data subjects. It applies to all companies processing and holding the personal data of data subjects residing in the European Union, regardless of the company’s location.

The GDPR applies to ‘personal data’ meaning any information relating to an identifiable person who can be directly or indirectly identified in particular by reference to an identifier. This definition provides for a wide range of personal identifiers to constitute personal data, including name, identification number, location data or online identifier, reflecting changes in technology and the way organisations collect information about people.

A U.S. company with only U.S. customers can ignore it, but since on the Internet, no one knows if you’re a dog or a European, the safe route is to accept the E.U. rule as the lowest common denominator and apply the required safeguards across the board.

That’s how the online world works. Legal borders exist, but you never know when you’re going to cross one. The U.S. congress can debate privacy rules all it wants, but the E.U. has effectively preempted it. Unless U.S. lawmakers want to raise the stakes and implement even tougher safeguards.

It’s a principle that’s worth keeping in mind as the California legislature considers enacting its own network neutrality laws. If the E.U. – counted as one, the world’s second largest economy – can write default rules for the Internet, then maybe California, the fifth largest economy, can too.

Mobile industry group calls for less 5G hype while standards are established

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A European trade group wants more 5G coordination and less marketing misdirection, while at the same time AT&T is running as fast as it can in the opposite direction. On the one hand, it’s an interesting contrast between the technocratic central planning that European telecoms companies often take comfort in (and often ignore, when it suits them), and the Wild West, grab-it-while-you-can ethic of the U.S. mobile industry.

On the other, it’s a useful reminder that the overheated press releases and aggressive lobbying by U.S. mobile companies, and AT&T in particular, does more than just confuse consumers and policy makers. It also creates needless distractions and delays for technology and infrastructure that relies on international standards and a global supply chain.

The 5G Infrastructure Association is a creature of the European Commission, one of the main governing branches of the European Union. It’s job is to coordinate development, trials and, eventually, full roll out of 5G mobile technology and networks across Europe. It released its latest road map earlier this week, showing true commercialisation of 5G technology coming sometime after 2020, and warning carriers that “it is very important to avoid premature ‘5G’ launch announcements and the subsequent potential fragmentation among the different countries, which would hurt both industry and consumers”.

It’s no shock that an E.U.-sponsored group is calling for more coordination and consumer protection – it’s what they do. Nor is it a surprise that AT&T is completely ignoring them – it’s what they do. The tension between the two helps maintain a balance between innovation and cooperation, both of which are indispensable to the telecommunications industry.

What’s not necessary, though, is misleading hype. More industry groups should follow the 5G Infrastructure Association’s lead and insist on clarity and truth in labelling. Facts are important.

EU’s net neutrality choices favor networks over innovation

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500 gigabits and nothing to watch.

The European Union will implement network neutrality rules that are significantly friendlier to telecoms companies than the ones adopted earlier this year in the U.S. The European parliament rejected amendments –proposed by pretty much the same high tech companies that successfully pushed for the more stringent U.S. rules – that would have closed gaping loopholes.

According to the BBC

Part of the problem with the rules in their current form, argued Joe McNamee at the European Digital Rights campaign group, is that they are ambiguous.

“As the text currently stands there is no indication as to how much abuse of dominance would be permissible under this arrangement,” he told the BBC.

The sort of scenarios that could impact internet use include the creation of “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” or the creation of “zero ratings” in which some services may be accessed without using up any of the internet user’s data quota.

It’s an interesting contrast between the U.S., where Internet content and services companies are the sexy power brokers, and the E.U., where quasi-public telecoms companies are a collegial fit with the bureaucratic political culture. It’s outfits like Google and Facebook that are getting slapped on a regular basis by E.U. regulators – privacy rules and the so-call right to be forgotten, for example – while in the U.S. it’s telecoms companies that are on the defensive.

Looked at another way, it’s the U.S.-based innovators that are creating the demand that higher capacity European networks are better provisioned to fulfill in many cases. It’s not paradox or irony. It’s the natural result of different regulatory choices made from the same set of options. The next time someone touts the fast fiber sprouting in European cities, ask yourself: would you trade innovation for bandwidth?

South Africa endorses best practices for broadband development policy

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South Africa’s goal is to bring a minimum of 5Mbps Internet access to half its population by 2016 and 90% by 2020, with 100% of school, medical and government sites getting at least 10 Mbps by then. To do it, the government is adopting essentially the same policy playbook as the European Union, Google, and Californian communities such as Santa Cruz, San Leandro and Loma Linda

  • Efficient permit granting: Responsible authorities will provide network operators with a clear, simple, transparent and efficient mechanism for granting permits for civil works.
  • Access to and use of existing physical networking infrastructure: [the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa] will enforce regulations requiring network operators’ obligations to meet all reasonable requests for access to infrastructure on a non-discriminatory basis to their physical infrastructure (such as ducts, conduits, manholes, cabinets, poles, masts, antennae, towers and other supporting constructions).
  • Coordination and exploiting synergies with other civil works: Transparency of information on and mechanisms for accessing on a reasonable basis existing and planned public infrastructure suitable for hosting high-speed internet such as electricity, water and sewage, transport infrastructures and high sites. Such sharing across different civil domains will also facilitate future smart cities and regions.
  • Transparency will assist in preventing accidental damage to water pipes or electricity and cables during construction of broadband infrastructure.
  • Coordination of civil works: Frameworks will be put in place facilitating coordination and cooperation of civil works amongst network operators.
  • In-building equipment:
    • All newly-constructed buildings and buildings undergoing major renovation will be equipped with facilities, such as ducting for fibre optic cabling, for high-speed-ready in-building physical infrastructure, up to the network termination points from 2015.
    • Every internet provider will have the right to terminate its network at a concentration point located inside or outside a building and will have the right to access any existing high-speed-ready in-building physical infrastructure on reasonable terms.

The full report – South Africa Connect: Creating Opportunities, Ensuring Inclusion; South Africa’s Broadband Policy – is interesting reading. The policy prescriptions for addressing the broadband needs of sprawling, densely packed townships and distant undeveloped rural communities are all but identical to those independently developed for European cities and Californian suburbs. Regardless of circumstance, there’s a growing international consensus that the basics of broadband development policy are universal.