Smartphone use blamed for road deaths

A sharp rise in US pedestrian deaths has been partly blamed on people using their smartphones while driving or crossing the road.
  
A sharp rise in US pedestrian deaths has been partly blamed on people using their smartphones while driving or crossing the road.
 
The US Governors Highway Safety Association estimates that there were 6,000 pedestrian deaths in 2016, the highest number in more than 20 years. In the last six years, fatalities have grown at four times the rate of overall traffic deaths. The report says a number of factors are to blame, including mobile use.
 
“A more recent factor contributing to the increase in pedestrian fatalities may be the growing use of smartphones by all road users, which can be a significant source of distraction for both drivers and pedestrians,” the report stated.
 
Other factors include increased driving, due to an improved economy, lower petrol prices and more walking for exercise and environmental reasons. Alcohol is also blamed, with 34% of pedestrians and 15% of drivers involved in fatal crashes being intoxicated at the time. The report is based on data from all states for the first six months of 2016.
 
The UK’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said it also saw mobile phones as dangerously distracting.
 
“More and more older teenagers and young adults are being injured as a result of ‘distraction’, as a result of crossing [roads] while using their phone. This can be as a result of having a conversation, listening to music, texting or using the net,” said road safety manager Nick Lloyd.
 
Some cities around the world are taking measures to counter the issue of smartphone distraction. In the Bavarian town of Augsburg, the station has fitted red and green lights in the ground to warn people who “stubbornly look at their smartphone”.
 
Officials in the Dutch town of Bodegraven ran trials in February of traffic lights that project a red or green lighting strip across the pavements to alert smartphone “zombies” who were glued to their mobiles as they cross the road.
 
“Social media, games, WhatsApp and music are major distractions in traffic,” town alderman Kees Oskam said at the time. 
 
Dutch road safety group VVN said that the idea “rewarded bad behaviour”.
 
 

Offender’s £45k phone bill paid by North Wales Police

North Wales Police paid a bill of £45,000 run up by a burglar while he was on bail after he was given a mobile phone by the force.
  
North Wales Police paid a bill of £45,000 run up by a burglar while he was on bail after he was given a mobile phone by the force.
 
The phone had been given to the offender from Llangefni, Anglesey as part of a project to reintegrate criminals into the community. When the error emerged in 2014, it was found he had been given a contract SIM rather than a pay-as-you-go. A criminal investigation was launched but no charges were brought. The inquiry showed three people may have had access to the phone. Two people were arrested but no charges were brought.
 
North Wales Police said no disciplinary action had been taken against any member of staff and it has since reviewed and tightened up its mobile phone policy. Details released under a Freedom of Information request showed that the Orange mobile was used for a number of months and the bills, which totalled £44,500, were paid monthly.
 
The force said it occasionally used “inexpensive pay as you go mobile phones” to maintain contact with “vulnerable victims of crime and offenders to integrate them back into the community”. This is done through the integrated offender management unit, working with those who are subject to court or prison licences or are not subject to probation supervision.
 
“This multi-agency team works to help individuals to positively change their life through access to support services,” said director of finance and resources Tracey Martin. “A phone allows two way communications between the offender and the support agencies to provide encouragement and to keep the individual on track for the benefit of the community as a whole. Unfortunately on this occasion a contract phone was mistakenly given and then misused. The situation was dealt with as soon as it came to light in 2014 and we have since improved our procedures to ensure that it can’t happen again.”
 
 

ASA to review advertising of ‘fibre’ broadband services

The UK’s advertising watchdog is looking into the way so-called “fibre broadband” services are marketed.
  
The UK’s advertising watchdog is looking into the way so-called “fibre broadband” services are marketed.
 
Over the last year, the ASA have announced major changes to the way broadband pricing should be advertised and published independent research into consumers’ understanding of broadband speed claims in ads.
 
The ASA are pleased that broadband providers have been sticking to our new standards on pricing, which states that the cost of line rental and broadband should be combined so consumers are not misled by the total monthly cost of their packages. We believe it is now much easier for people to see how much they will pay, when shopping around for a new broadband package.
 
Following their research on broadband speed, the sister body CAP is currently considering how best to tighten standards on speed claims in ads with an announcement expected in the next few weeks. They are also aware of evolving concerns about the advertising of ‘fibre’ broadband services. 
 
The term ‘fibre’ is currently used in advertising to describe both part-fibre and full-fibre broadband services.
 
The UK Government’s recently published Digital Strategy made clear its commitment to invest in full-fibre broadband infrastructure, which is likely to make those services available to significantly more people, and also made clear its view that the term ‘fibre’ should only be used to describe full-fibre broadband services.  A recent debate in Parliament saw those MPs who participated also expressing their concerns about the use of the term ‘fibre’ to describe part-fibre broadband services.
 
In response to that context and those concerns, the ASA are now scoping a review of how we interpret the Advertising Codes when judging the use of the term ‘fibre’ to describe broadband services. In particular, they will be considering whether the use of that term is likely to cause people to be materially misled. their work has already begun and they will provide an update with more information by the summer. 

 
In some cases, ISPs are advertising services as fibre that rely on slower copper wires for the final link to a customer’s home. The probe has been prompted by consumer complaints and calls from MP Matt Warman to investigate. Mr Warman said ISPs were misleading customers by giving them copper when they expected fibre.
 
In a statement, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it was acting because of “evolving concerns” about the way fibre broadband services were advertised, and recent changes to government policy, which meant far more people would potentially have access to such services.
 
If you are unsure that you get theadvertised sppeds or anywhere close then use our Network Speed Checker and if your not then consider switching. We provide a Digital Comparison Service listing all the current best deals.
 
 
 

Ofcom moves to cut superfast broadband prices

Ofcom has today announced measures designed to promote investment in new fibre networks and ensure that customers are protected from higher prices.
  
Ofcom has today announced measures designed to promote investment in new fibre networks and ensure that customers are protected from higher prices.
 
They are proposing to maintain their policy of pricing flexibility for Openreach’s fastest broadband products, including those based on BT’s own network investments in full-fibre and its new G.Fast technology.
 
Ofcom plan to protect broadband customers and promote competition, by cutting the wholesale price that Openreach – the part of BT responsible for its network – can charge telecoms companies for its popular superfast broadband service, which has a download speed of up to 40 Mbit/s. They would expect these savings to be passed on to residential customers through cheaper prices. This promotes competition in the superfast broadband service most used today by consumers, while companies construct their own full-fibre ultrafast networks to compete with Openreach.
 
The new rules would also include stricter requirements on Openreach to repair faults and install new broadband lines more quickly. These will set higher binding quality standards on the company’s performance. Should Openreach fail to meet the new targets, Ofcom has the power to impose fines.
 
Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom’s Competition Group Director, said: “Our plans are designed to encourage long-term investment in future ultrafast, full-fibre networks, while promoting competition and protecting consumers from high prices. People need reliable phone and broadband services more than ever. We’re making sure the market is delivering the best possible services for homes and business across the UK”
 
 
Ofcom wants to provide incentives to invest in ultrafast networks, while promoting competition and protecting consumers from high prices. BT is required by Ofcom to allow competing broadband companies to use its network to sell broadband services to people and businesses. Openreach offers fibre packages of varying speeds, and levies a different wholesale charge to providers for using each one.
 
As more people continue to take superfast broadband over the coming years, Ofcom’s analysis shows that the most important package will be one offering a 40 Mbit/s download speed, and 10 Mbit/s upload speed.
 
Until now, BT’s ability to raise prices has been constrained by people’s willingness to consider cheaper, standard broadband as an alternative. However, this constraint is weakening, as people require faster, more reliable connections to support a new generation of online services.
 
So Ofcom intends to reduce Openreach’s charges for its ‘40/10’ Mbit/s broadband package, with the price falling from today’s level of £88.80 per year to £52.77 in 2020/21.1 We would expect much of this reduction to be passed through by retail providers to their customers, resulting in lower bills.
 
Ofcom is not proposing to cap Openreach’s wholesale charges for its higher-speed packages including its planned new G.Fast network, as we expect the cap on the 40/10 Mbit/s package should be sufficient to protect competition and protect consumers from higher prices.
 
Regulating the price of the 40/10 Mbit/s package would help BT’s rivals to compete for customers. Our proposals also provide an incentive for BT’s rivals to invest in their own ultrafast networks for the longer term. Standard broadband delivered over Openreach’s copper network will continue to be subject to a charge control with the price remaining broadly stable.
 
Service problems can occur at the telephone exchange, on the lines that connect homes and businesses, or be due to factors outside Openreach’s control, such as faulty equipment in the home, or poor customer service (see graphic below). The whole sector – not just Openreach – has a role to play in delivering significantly better quality of service than it does today.
 
Where faults fall on Openreach to fix, Ofcom is proposing that it will in future be required to: complete 93% of fault repairs within one to two working days of being notified, compared with 80% today; complete 97% of repairs no later than six or seven working days; provide an appointment for 90% of new line installations within 10 working days of being notified, compared to 80% within 12 days currently; and install 95% of connections on the date agreed between
Openreach and the telecoms provider, up from 90% today.
 
These new requirements would need to be met in full by 2020/21. Ofcom has also proposed transitional targets to ensure progressive improvements in service before then. Ofcom will monitor Openreach’s performance closely and step in if the required standards are not met.2
 
Today’s proposals are part of a range of measures designed to allow telecoms providers to compete effectively and to ensure that they provide the quality of service that customers expect.
 
Separately, Ofcom is already consulting on plans to offer broadband and telephone customers automatic compensation when things go wrong. We will also shortly be launching new performance tables on quality of service, identifying the best and worst operators on a range of performance measures so that customers can shop around with confidence.
 
Openreach fixes faults with the wire, and some problems at the exchange. Other providers fix the Wi-Fi router and some problems at the exchange and in their own network.
 
These measures form part of Ofcom’s Wholesale Local Access Market Review for the period from April 2018 to March 2021. The consultations close on 9 June 2017, and Ofcom expects to publish its final decisions in early 2018, with new rules taking effect on 1 April 2018. As part of this market review, Ofcom will also consult soon on detailed plans to open up BT’s network of telegraph poles and underground tunnels to competitors. This should further promote competitive investment in full-fibre, ultrafast networks.
 
 
 
 

Firm fined £80,000 over nuisance phone calls

A Glasgow building restoration firm has been fined £80,000 for making nuisance phone calls, following an investigation by the information watchdog.
  
A Glasgow building restoration firm has been fined £80,000 for making nuisance phone calls, following an investigation by the information watchdog.
 
Xternal Property Renovations made more than 109,000 unlawful marketing calls. The case centred on calls made to people registered with Telephone Preference Service, which meant they had opted not to receive sales calls.
 
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said nuisance marketing would not be tolerated.
 
Example of complaints from people who had received calls included: “I get these calls from early in the morning until late at night. I’m disabled and I worry about these calls.” and “I was concerned about how this company got my details – particularly my name. My number is TPS-registered and has been ex-directory for more than 30 years.”
 
Ken Macdonald, of ICO regions, said: “Nuisance marketing, whether it’s by calls to people’s landline or mobile, or through spam texts, causes disruption, annoyance and, in the worst cases, serious upset. We issue fines like these to firms behind nuisance marketing to send a clear message that such action will not be tolerated.”
 
 

Virgin Media overstated superfast broadband rollout

Virgin Media has suspended four members of staff and begun an investigation after it admitted overstating the expansion of its superfast broadband network, dubbed Project Lightning.

 
Virgin Media has suspended four members of staff and begun an investigation after it admitted overstating the expansion of its superfast broadband network, dubbed Project Lightning.
 
According to parent company Liberty Global, Virgin Media originally said it had connected 465,000 new premises in the UK and Ireland in 2016. But following a review, that number has been revised down to 314,000. Liberty said Virgin had exaggerated how fast it could complete the connections.
 
In a regulatory filing, the US company explained that – under Virgin’s own reporting standards – the figures included premises where installation work was “essentially complete” but not actually finished. That included 142,000 sites that had been expected to be connected during the first three months of 2017.
 
However, Liberty said that in late February 2017, it had discovered that “the construction work necessary to connect a substantial number of [these premises] had not progressed as originally understood”. This prompted it to carry out a review, in which it found “the completion status” of some premises had been “misrepresented”.
 
Liberty also said Virgin Media had “inadvertently” classified a further 9,000 unfinished premises as connected, when they had not been.
 
Four Virgin Media employees have been suspended in connection with Liberty’s investigation and could face disciplinary action “including dismissal”. The company said the setback would affect the total number of premises Virgin Media connected during the first half of 2017.
 
However, it said it had taken steps to speed up Project Lightning, including appointing a new managing director, Robert Evans, to lead the scheme. It also said Virgin would no longer include uncompleted connections in its figures.
 
Launched in 2015, Virgin’s Project Lightning is designed to connect about four million more UK homes and businesses to broadband speeds of 300Mbs. By the end of December it had reached 567,000 premises in total – down from the 718,000 previously reported.
 
 

iPhone users fooled by fake ransomware

Apple has issued an iPhone software update after reports of fake ransomware attacks where money was demanded in order to unlock the handset’s browser.

  
Apple has issued an iPhone software update after reports of fake ransomware attacks where money was demanded in order to unlock the handset’s browser.
 
A pop-up screen accused the phone owner of accessing illegal pornography or pirating music and could not be removed. However the ransomware was fake – and clearing the browser cache was actually enough to restore full access. It ran on JavaScript, a code commonly employed by many websites.
 
The attackers demanded £100 in the form of an iTunes gift card with the code sent via text message to a designated mobile number, said security firm Lookout in a blog about the malware.
 
“…the attack doesn’t actually encrypt any data and hold it ransom,” wrote its security researchers. “Its purpose is to scare the victim into paying to unlock the browser before he realizes he doesn’t have to pay the ransom to recover data or access the browser.”
 
The patch closed the loophole but Professor Alan Woodward, cybersecurity expert at Surrey University said some iPhone users have put off the update because it also includes other changes to the running of the device.
 
 “Some people have held off thinking it sounds fairly major, but obviously if they do that they won’t get the protection,” he said. “There is this feeling that iOS [Apple’s operating system] and Apple devices in general are less vulnerable. This shines a light on the fact that nothing is invulnerable. JavaSript is cross-platform and it’s a matter of how you manage it.”
 
 

Samsung plans to relaunch refurbished Note 7 devices

Samsung hopes to refurbish the 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 devices that it recalled after a battery fault led to some catching fire.
  
Samsung hopes to refurbish the 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 devices that it recalled after a battery fault led to some catching fire.
 
If local authorities and carriers agreed, and there was demand, it may then resell the phones, Samsung said. It also unveiled two other proposals for recycling the devices, including detaching the components and retrieving the hardware’s precious metals.
 
Samsung had faced pressure from environmental campaigner Greenpeace. The organisation had lobbied the technology giant over its plans for the devices, launching a petition and staging global protests including at the Mobile World Congress event.
 
“While we welcome this news, Samsung must share as soon as possible more detailed timelines on when it will implement its promises, as well as how it intends to change its production system to make sure this never happens again,” said Greenpeace East Asia campaigner Jude Lee.
 
Samsung said it would have to liaise with “regulatory authorities and carriers” and measure local demand before determining where and when refurbished handsets would be released.
 
 
 

BT fined record £42m for late installations

BT will be fined £42m for a serious breach of Ofcom’s rules, after the company reduced compensation payments to other telecoms providers for late installations.
  
BT will be fined £42m for a serious breach of Ofcom’s rules, after the company reduced compensation payments to other telecoms providers for late installations.
 
The penalty is a result of an investigation by Ofcom into BT’s network arm, Openreach. The investigation found that, between January 2013 and December 2014, BT misused the terms of its contracts to reduce compensation payments owed to other telecoms providers for failing to deliver ‘Ethernet’ services on time.
 
Ethernet services are the most common type of ‘leased lines’ – dedicated, high-speed cables used by large businesses, and mobile and broadband providers, to transmit data. These lines also provide vital, high-capacity links for hospitals, schools and libraries.
 
Ofcom has taken enforcement action because BT breached rules that address the company’s ‘significant market power’. This market power comes from the fact that most telecoms companies rely on access to BT’s network to provide services such as broadband to their customers. Ofcom’s rules are therefore fundamental in ensuring BT does not act in a way that could harm competition and, ultimately, consumers and businesses.
 
Gaucho Rasmussen, Ofcom’s Investigations Director, said: “These high-speed lines are a vital part of this country’s digital backbone. Millions of people rely on BT’s network for the phone and broadband services they use every day. We found BT broke our rules by failing to pay other telecoms companies proper compensation when these services were not provided on time. The size of our fine reflects how important these rules are to protect competition and, ultimately, consumers and businesses. Our message is clear – we will not tolerate this sort of behaviour.”
 
BT is obliged, under Ofcom’s rules, to install Ethernet services to its wholesale customers (providers such as Vodafone and TalkTalk), in accordance with its contracts, and to make compensation payments for late delivery. BT’s contracts require it to deliver Ethernet services within 30 working days, or pay compensation to the company affected.
 
If BT encounters problems that require more time to resolve, in certain circumstances it can assume that a customer has agreed to an extension. But Ofcom found that BT did this retrospectively over a sustained period, to reduce the level of compensation it owed to telecoms providers. Not only did this harm other telecoms companies, but it was also likely to have harmed the UK businesses and consumers who rely on high quality, high-speed, broadband services every day.
 
Ofcom opened the investigation in November 2015. This happened shortly after Vodafone brought allegations to Ofcom that BT had misused its contractual terms through the late delivery of Ethernet services without Vodafone’s consent, and by failing to compensate the company for these delays.
 
As a result of these findings, Ofcom will impose a penalty of £42,000,000 on BT. The penalty incorporates a 30% reduction to reflect BT’s agreement to settle Ofcom’s investigation by admitting full liability, and to set up a scheme to compensate the telecoms providers that have been affected.
 
BT must compensate, within twelve months, all the telecoms providers who faced financial loss because of its conduct. We anticipate that BT’s customers will engage constructively in the compensation process.
 
BT will also be fined £300,000 for failing to provide information to Ofcom. Through this Ethernet investigation, Ofcom became aware that BT failed to provide accurate and complete information for the original dispute, the Business Connectivity Market Review 2016 and this investigation.
 
Ofcom takes any breach of our information gathering powers very seriously as such failures undermine the integrity of the regulatory regime. Any company that breaks these rules should expect similar consequences.
 
 

Cheques will clear in 24 hours with smartphone imaging tech

Bank customers who pay cheques into their accounts will soon be able to get the money cleared within one working day.
 
Bank customers who pay cheques into their accounts will soon be able to get the money cleared within one working day. 
 
At the moment, the process can take up to six days. The organisation that manages the cheque clearing system said the changes would be phased in from October 2017. However, it will be the second half of 2018 before all UK banks and building societies are able to offer the faster service.
 
Under the new arrangements, co-ordinated by the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company, banks will be able to clear cheques by exchanging pictures of them. At the moment, all cheques have to be physically transported back to the bank that issued them.
 
“These changes will put cheques firmly in the 21st century, delivering real and important benefits for the many individuals, charities and businesses that regularly use cheques,” said James Radford, chief executive of the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company. “Not only will cheques clear faster but banks and building societies may offer their customers the option of paying in an image of a cheque rather than the paper cheque itself.”
 
Barclays already allows some of its customers to pay in cheques via pictures on their banking apps. However at the moment they have to be cheques issued by Barclays.
 
Although cheque use has declined in recent years, there were still 477 million written in the UK last year. The industry had wanted to phase them out entirely by 2018. However MPs said they should be retained, as many older people in particular relied on them.