Virgin Media customers enjoy a connected Christmas

virgin media woman on gadgets peoples phone

The average Virgin Media UK household had five different internet-enabled gadgets connected to their network on Christmas day.
Data released by the ultrafast broadband provider shows that between 5pm and 10pm on Christmas day there were 24 million devices being used on the Virgin Media UK network across almost 4.5 million active broadband connections. The peak number of devices connected occurred at 10pm on Christmas day with the majority of devices used being smartphones connected via Wi-Fi.
The number of internet-enabled devices has grown significantly in the past decade, as homes and businesses are increasingly connected to multiple devices simultaneously. In February 2015, 60 per cent of Virgin Media customers had at least three devices connected to their home broadband, up from 37 per cent in 2014.
Data usage on the Virgin Media network is growing at a rate of around 60 per cent every year which, if this trend continues, will be 10,000 per cent higher in 10 years.


UK mobile network mast heights under reform

The UK Government has pledged to reform the planning restrictions that currently limit the height of mobile masts across Britain.
 
The UK Government has pledged to reform the planning restrictions that currently limit the height of mobile masts across Britain.

 
UK masts average around 15 metres in height, this is significantly shorter than the 25 metre sites found across Europe. Mobile network operator Vodafone have stated that taller sites would offer wider reaching coverage, providing greater service range and lower costs for operators.
 
Vodafone’s EMF unit manager Rob Matthews has said that, “Taller sites would improve the network by making it more resilient. There needs to be a shift around planning legislation because if we want to have world-class coverage and better mobile broadband, it will be delivered more quickly and efficiently through taller sites.”
 
During a recent parlimentary debate on reforming the Electronic Communications Code (ECC), Digital Minister Ed Vaizey commented that the UK Government was committed to im proving mobile signal strength across the UK by increaseing the height of mobile masts.
 
Vaizey said, “We want to increase the height at which cells can go and to increase the time in which operators are allowed to take emergency measures to repair masts. I have a huge mast on the top of the ridge half a mile from my home. It is unsightly. Would I prefer it not to be there? Of course I would. Does it provide great mobile coverage around the area? Yes, it does. I think that is a compromise worth making.”
 
 

Nuisance call fines increase threefold

peoples phone ico logo information commissioners ofice

Fines by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) against nuisance call firms have increased by more than three times this year. The watchdog imposed fines of £1.14m for nuisance calls and texts compared with £330,000 of penalties in 2014.
 
It comes after a change to the law in April made it easier to penalise firms. The biggest fines were for companies selling pharmaceuticals, call blocking services and payment protection insurance (PPI) compensation.
 
From April, the ICO only had to demonstrate calls and messages were a “nuisance” rather than the cause of “serious damage and distress”. An ICO spokesman said the lower threshold helped “enormously” in bringing more fines.
 
The regulator received 170,000 complaints this year and has made unsolicited calls one of its top priorities.
‘The law is clear’ 
 
Andy Currey of the ICO said the regulator had another 90 investigations in the pipeline with fines likely to total £1m. Mr Currey said: “The law is clear around what is allowed, and we’ve been clear that we will fine companies who don’t follow the law. That will continue in 2016.”
 
Help Direct UK, a Swansea-based call centre, was fined £200,000 after sending thousands of spam texts for PPI claims, bank refunds and loans, prompting almost 7,000 complaints in one month. Two firms selling call blocking services, Cold Call Eliminations and Point One Marketing, were fined £75,000 and £50,000 respectively. Other penalties included £200,000 for a solar panels company that made six million nuisance calls, and £130,000 for Pharmacy 2U for selling customer details to marketing companies.
 
Last month, the ICO sent over 1,000 letters to companies involved in buying and selling personal data to check they were acting lawfully.
 
Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer watchdog Which? said: “Millions of people are still being plagued with nuisance calls so it’s good to see more firms being fined for flouting the rules. “However we also need to see further action including much tougher penalties for senior executives of companies making unlawful calls including board directors being held personally accountable.”

PPI firm that made 40 million nuisance calls is suspended

peoples phone ico logo information commissioners ofice

A company that made 40 million calls about PPI in just three months has had its licence suspended. Falcon and Pointer, based in Swansea in South Wales, used automatic dialling technology to make the calls.
 
An investigation by the Claims Management Regulator (CMR) found the firm had set out to “plague the public and rip off consumers”. Meanwhile the government has confirmed that a promised crackdown on nuisance calls will be in place by the spring.
The CMR said that Falcon and Pointer had coerced people into signing contracts without giving them enough time to understand the terms and conditions. It described it as a “serious breach” of the rules, and stripped the company of its operating licence. It had previously been warned about its practices by both the CMR and the Information Commissioner’s Office.
 
“Falcon and Pointer has demonstrated the worst excesses of the industry,” said Kevin Rousell, head of the CMR. “This firm clearly set out to plague the public and rip off consumers.”
 
“They ignored warnings by us and the Information Commissioner’s Office, and today have had their licence revoked as a result of that wilful ignorance.” he said.
Under new laws being introduced by the government, direct marketing companies will soon have to display their phone numbers to customers, so preventing anonymous calls.
Research for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has shown that around 20% of marketing calls do not provide a valid caller ID.
Companies that do not show numbers will face fines of up to £500,000.
The government said the new rules would make it easier for consumers to refuse unwanted calls, and then to report them.
It will also help the ICO take enforcement action against persistent offenders.
“Being pestered by marketing calls is annoying at the best of times, and at its worst it can bring real misery for the people on the receiving end,” said Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the minister for data protection.
“There is no simple solution to the problem of nuisance calls, but making direct marketing companies display their phone number will help consumers and regulators take action.”
Since January 2012, the ICO has issued fines totalling £2m for nuisance calls.
In 2015, there were 170,000 complaints.
The Department of Culture Media and Sport has launched a consultation on the issue, which will close on 23 February.
Measures will be in force by the spring, the government promised.

Airwave Solutions hit out at EE’s flawed network offerings for emergency services

Airwave’s chief operating officer John Lewis has slammed the decision made by the Home Office to stop using their Terrestrial Radio Systems network and switch over to EE in 2017.
 
Airwave’s chief operating officer John Lewis has slammed the decision made by the Home Office to stop using their Terrestrial Radio Systems network and switch over to EE in 2017.
 
The decision has been hailed as life threatening by Lewis who believes that the network that EE has in place is unfit for purpose in life or death situations. 

Airwave currently has 99 per cent geographical network coverage compared with EE’s 60 per cent coverage. 

 
Lewis has stated, “We have unique sites where no-one else has, like in remote areas or the London Underground. These are places where EE doesn’t cover. The entire Airwave network has been designed to not fail as frequently as a mobile network.”
 
EE have dismissed these claims, arguing that their network will have the necesary infrastructure in place to fully support Britain’s emergency services by mid-2017 and will be boasting over 90 per cent geographical coverage. The mobile network also stated that they own 20,000 masts, significantly more than the 4,000 that airwave own.
 
An EE spokesperson has commented, “We’ll create an entirely new system for the emergency services providing new levels of reliability.”
 
They also added, “If one site goes down, any other nearby site will provide coverage and we’ll have a fleet of rapid response vehicles able to quickly fix any site that goes down and we’ll [also] be able to provide temporary mobile sites, batteries and generators.”
 
 

Broadband adverts confuse public, says Citizens Advice

peoples phone superfast broadband

Broadband adverts have been criticised by Citizens Advice for misleading potential customers. More than half of people would be unable to chose the cheapest deals when comparing the information in adverts, the charity said.
 
Three quarters of those in the research said information in the adverts was too complicated to make an easy comparison.
In particular, line rental costs were often not included in the advertised headline cost.
Earlier this year, Citizens Advice said that teaser deals in adverts were masking the long-term cost of broadband packages.
 
Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, said the continuing problem with broadband adverts meant that potential customers were often left unable to make an informed decision. 
 
“Attractive headline offers that don’t include line rental costs make it impossible for people to work out the best broadband deal on offer without doing complicated sums,” she said. “Broadband providers need to make the costs of a contract clear in their advertising and the Advertising Standards Authority should also review the code of practice to make sure it works well for consumers.”In its latest research, Citizens Advice took a sample of just over 2,000 adults and split them into four groups.
 
Eight adverts, produced by seven unidentified companies, were selected by the charity and divided into four pairs. Each of the four groups of people were then asked to compare a different pair of adverts, and also to look at marketing information on the websites of the companies involved. The research found that 56% of those involved could not work out the cost of the deals on offer, and thus were unable to decide which was cheapest. 
 
One advert, which the charity declined to identify, was so bad that only 22% of people in the research could work out accurately how much the deal on offer might cost them. The charity said the source of the problem lay in the prominence given to temporary “teaser” rates, while at the same time the cost of line rental was often downplayed. “The adverts typically are advertised with a promotional period featured prominently, which can be free or significantly lower than the overall cost of the contract,” said Citizens Advice. “The cost of line rental and the length of time that the ‘teaser’ price applies is included separately and often only in small print,” it explained.
 
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said: “We’ve conducted research jointly with Ofcom on this important matter and will be publishing the outcome of that work early in the New Year.”
 

Kim Dotcom declares he is ‘broke’ because of legal fight

Kim Dotcom, the founder of the seized file-sharing site Megaupload, has declared himself “broke”. The entrepreneur said he had spent $10m (£6.4m) on legal costs since being arrested in New Zealand in 2012 and accused of internet piracy.
 
Kim Dotcom, the founder of the seized file-sharing site Megaupload, has declared himself “broke”. The entrepreneur said he had spent $10m (£6.4m) on legal costs since being arrested in New Zealand in 2012 and accused of internet piracy.
 
Mr Dotcom had employed a local law firm to fight the US’s attempt to extradite him, but his defence team stepped down a fortnight ago without explaining why. Mr Dotcom said he would now represent himself at a bail hearing on Thursday. He denies charges of racketeering, conspiring to commit copyright infringement and money laundering.
 
He told a conference in London, via a video link, that his lawyers had resigned because he had run out of money.
 
“The [US authorities] have certainly managed to drain my resources and dehydrate me, and without lawyers I am defenceless,” he told the audience at the Unbound Digital event. “They used that opportunity to try and get my bail revoked and that’s what I’m facing.” The law firm Simpson Grierson, which had represented Mr Dotcom, could not be reached for comment.
 
Mr Dotcom’s declaration comes seven months after he won back access to about $750,000 worth of property – including several of his cars – that had been taken at the time of his arrest. However, other assets, including dozens of bank accounts, remained frozen.
 
The German national’s finances have also been put under strain after he helped bankroll a political party that failed to win a seat in September’s general election in New Zealand.
 
“Before I started my political movement – the Internet Party – I was quite popular in New Zealand,” Mr Dotcom told the digital business conference. “After I got involved in politics and the prime minister of New Zealand and his party attacked me viciously, labelling me a Nazi… and [saying] I’m only starting my political party to fight my extradition… New Zealanders unfortunately have bought into that narrative and today I’m a pariah. The witch-hunt worked, and everyone wants to see me burn, and next Thursday I might go to jail because of that.”
 
Mr Dotcom does, however, continue to retain a lawyer in the US, who gave an interview to Radio New Zealand after Mr Dotcom’s comments

 
“There are assets frozen across the globe, there are mechanisms in place for getting relief from those frozen assets – we’re hopeful that courts across the globe, including in Hong Kong and New Zealand, will do the right thing and release funds to counsel,” said Ira Rothken. This is the largest copyright case in the history of the United States and New Zealand. It’s a very expensive case. And the governments are making this a war of attrition. They’re trying to outspend Kim Dotcom. They are trying to win on procedure rather than merit. And we’re going to do the best that we can so Kim Dotcom has a fair playing field.” He added there were still about 20 lawyers working on the case.
 
Mr Dotcom launched a follow-up online storage company, Mega, in 2013, and in March said it was valued at 210m New Zealand dollars ($164m; £104m). The business is set to be floated on New Zealand’s stock exchange later this year. However, he does not directly own a stake in the business himself and is no longer one of its directors.

 
His wife, Mona, does own 16.2% of its shares, but the two are separated. Ms Dotcom revealed in June that she had moved into a guest house about 50m (164ft) away from Mr Dotcom’s mansion so their five children could still be close to their father. Mr Dotcom has revealed that his rent is pre-paid until mid-2015 and he plans to return to court “soon” to try to unfreeze more of his assets.
 
The next extradition hearing into his case is not scheduled until February 2015, providing him an opportunity to hire more local lawyers if he can obtain the funds.
 
“Not having legal representation should not prevent an individual from challenging extradition proceedings if he or she has good grounds to do so,” Neil Smyth, a partner at the law firm Taylor Wessing, said. “However, the process is such that having advisers that are experts on not only the law, but also the procedure and the tactics, undoubtedly gives that individual a greater advantage in fighting extradition.”
 
The US Justice Department claims Megaupload made more than $175m before it was closed and cost film, TV and other rights-holders more than $500m.
 

Apple raises concerns over UK’s draft surveillance bill

apple store peoples phone

Apple has raised concerns about the UK’s draft Investigatory Powers Bill. The proposed law aims to overhaul rules governing the way the authorities can access people’s communications.

The US-based firm has passed on its thoughts to a parliamentary committee scrutinising the legislation.

It focuses on three issues: encryption, the possibility of having to hack its own products, and the precedent it would set by agreeing to comply with UK-issued warrants.

The BBC has also learned that Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Twitter have also filed their own responses to the committee, which will publish the details in due course.

None of the companies have disclosed what they have said.

However, a spokesman for Microsoft commented: “The legislation must avoid conflicts with the laws of other nations and contribute to a system where like-minded governments work together, not in competition, to keep people more secure. We appreciate the government’s willingness to engage in an open debate and will continue to advocate for a system that is workable on a global basis.”

The Home Secretary Theresa May said in November that the new law was needed to fight crime and terror.

 

Monday was the final deadline for written evidence. The committee is expected to report in February 2016.

Apple’s submission to the committee runs to eight pages. The first issue raised is encryption. Apple designs some of its products – including iMessage – using a technique called end-to-end encryption. This means only the sender and recipient of a message can see it in an unscrambled form. The company itself cannot decrypt the contents. This is something that law enforcement agencies have complained about.

Apple says that ensuring the security and privacy of customer’s information against a range of malicious actors – such as criminals and hackers – is a priority. Current legislation demands that companies take reasonable steps to provide the contents of communications on production of a warrant, but that has not been interpreted as requiring firms to redesign their systems to make it possible.

The government had briefed at the time that the bill was published that the legislation did not constitute any change to existing legislation. But Apple appears to be concerned that the bill’s language could still be interpreted more expansively and force the creation of a so-called “backdoor” to provide the authorities with access.

Apple argues that the existence of such a backdoor would risk creating a weakness that others then might exploit, making users’ data less secure. “A key left under the doormat would not just be there for the good guys. The bad guys would find it too,” the company says. It notes it still provides metadata – data about a communication – when requested, but not the actual content.

A second area of concern relates to the issue of “extra-territoriality”. Existing British legislation – and the bill – maintain that companies need to comply with warrants for information wherever they are based and wherever the data resides. The government argues this is vital when criminals and terrorists often use communications platforms based in other countries.

US companies have long resisted extra-territoriality on the basis that if they accept they are obliged under UK law, then they fear other countries – they often point to Russia and China – will simply demand the same right, and that such assertions may conflict with the privacy laws of the countries in which the data is held.

There have been discussions – led by former British Ambassador to Washington Sir Nigel Sheinwald – to try to come to some form of agreement between the US, UK governments and Silicon Valley to overcome some of the concerns and facilitate better sharing of data.

A third concern from Apple relates to the provisions of the bill relating to “equipment interference”. This refers to a range of techniques used by police and intelligence agencies, which extend from hacking into devices remotely to interfering with the hardware itself. This is one way around the spread of encryption and is one of the areas of activity – along with bulk data collection – that the UK state has been doing for some time but is aiming to be more transparent about.

Apple’s concerns relate to the possibility that it could be ordered to hack products belonging to its customers and to do so in secret. “The bill as it stands seems to threaten to extend responsibility for hacking from government to the private sector,” the company’s submission states.

Aspects of these issues have been voiced by Apple and other companies before. But one of the key concerns about the new legislation is that it contains ambiguities. Previous laws, such as the 1984 Telecoms Act, were stretched and expanded in secret to carry out acts that the public knew little about.

The stated aim of the current bill is to improve transparency and accountability. Apple may well be hoping that it can force the government to clarify what is really intended and possible.

One in 10 UK adults would give up alcohol to get online this Christmas

virgin media christmas needs peoples phone

The average Virgin Media UK household had five different internet-enabled gadgets connected to their network on Christmas day.
 
Data released by the ultrafast broadband provider shows that between 5pm and 10pm on Christmas day there were 24 million devices being used on the Virgin Media UK network across almost 4.5 million active broadband connections. The peak number of devices connected occurred at 10pm on Christmas day with the majority of devices used being smartphones connected via Wi-Fi.
 
The number of internet-enabled devices has grown significantly in the past decade, as homes and businesses are increasingly connected to multiple devices simultaneously. In February 2015, 60 per cent of Virgin Media customers had at least three devices connected to their home broadband, up from 37 per cent in 2014.
 
Data usage on the Virgin Media network is growing at a rate of around 60 per cent every year which, if this trend continues, will be 10,000 per cent higher in 10 years.


One in 10 UK adults would give up alcohol to get online this Christmas

virgin media christmas needs peoples phone

One in 10 UK adults would sacrifice alcohol in order to stay online this Christmas in what is being dubbed ‘going Dry-Fi’, whilst 9% would give up chocolate, according to the latest research commissioned by Virgin Media.    
The UK’s ultrafast broadband provider has revealed how the internet underpins the nation’s festive needs. According to the survey of over 2,000 UK adults celebrating the Christmas holiday, carried out by YouGov, two thirds (67%) of respondents plan to go online on Christmas day.
Of those, 38% will spread festive cheer on Facebook while nearly one in five (18%) will check out Boxing Day sales. These figures are higher among 25-34 year olds with just under half (48%) using social media and a quarter (25%) looking for online deals.
In fact, one in five 25-34 year olds said that having Wi-Fi will be ‘essential’ for a successful Christmas day.
Wi-Fi etiquette
However, our ever growing appetite for all things digital will not be without domestic politics this Christmas as Virgin Media’s research has revealed some of the new rules of engagement when hosting or visiting family and friends.
The research reveals 43% of those surveyed said they will ask for, or expect to be offered, their host’s Wi-Fi password this Christmas.
This generosity must be reciprocated, with 39% of people believing they should extend the same connectivity courtesy when they have visitors – a good reason to ensure your broadband speed will support the additional use.
Over a quarter (27%) of those polled said that a host’s internet connection should only be used for basic internet activities such as checking emails or social media, however 14% expect guests to be able to use the internet to do whatever they like.
For those without a reliable and fast Wi-Fi connection, there may be repercussions – the data showed that 14% of guests would let the host know if their Wi-Fi didn’t meet their browsing needs.
The UK’s love of digital life is not at the cost of festive traditions. Of those asked, the most popular essentials for a successful Christmas were being with friends and family (80%), Christmas dinner with all the trimmings (65%), giving and receiving presents (61%) and having access to festive TV (42%).