Assimilate UK! The British Music Industry Now Controls Your Internet


via TechCrunch Assimilate UK! The British Music Industry Now Controls Your Internet


One by one the UK’s ISPs are falling to a creeping censorship of the web led not by some secretive government organisation but by the UK’s music industry in the shape of the British Phonographic Industry, the British record industry’s trade association. There is no democratic check on what’s happening and little recourse left open to the average person.

In a nice piece of investigation, Zack Whittacker at ZDNet has unpacked what’s happening before our eyes.

Not unlike SOPA, the U.K.’s antipiracy legislation, the Digital Economy Act, has a “three-strikes” system leading to Internet disconnections, but it’s been put on hold for implementation until 2014. So to get around this delay, the music industry is going to the courts.

In April 2011, the High Court in London ruled BT must block access to file-sharing site Newzbin2. BT did not appeal the decision, creating a precedent which means any person or organisation can bring a further action along the same lines.

That test case has led to other ISPs being forced to block access to the Pirate Bay, using, handily, the “Cleanfeed” system built originally to block child abuse imagery.

That means that now six of the U.K.’s largest broadband providers have been ordered by the High Court to block customers from accessing The Pirate Bay.

Virgin Media, TalkTalk and O2 Broadband have acceded to the demand, but only TalkTalk has made it explicit that the BPI is to blame.

U.K. citizens have not been barred from circumventing the blocks, but the total ban could extend to 20 million users, about a third of the U.K. population, although the six ISPs forced to block access to The Pirate Bay serve more than 92 percent of the U.K.’s broadband customers.

So that’s that then. The ISPs have capitulated in the courts and there’s no democratic recourse over where this will lead.

The fact that the BPI’s actions have now created a precedent which could be used by anyone else means the UK Internet is now up for grabs by any wanna-be censor. Nice work BPI.



Broadband speeds rise, but Brits still lag behind

By: Mark Brown

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has revealed that Brits are getting 22 percent faster broadband speeds than a year ago, but more than 40 percent are stuck on speeds of 10Mbps or less, even though they could get faster connections at no extra cost if they switched package or provider.

This data comes from Ofcom’s sixth report of UK broadband speeds, which measures the performance of home internet speeds, the differences between ISPs and the disparity between advertised speeds and actual download rates.

The regulator found that in November 2011, the average actual broadband speed was 7.6Mbps — up from 6.2Mbps in November 2010, and 6.8Mbps in May 2011. Also in November 2011, for the first time, more than half of UK connections were at an advertised speed of above 10Mbps.

Ofcom looked at 13 broadband packages, provided by the eight largest ISPs (BT, Plusnet, Virgin Media, Karoo, O2, Orange, Sky and TalkTalk) — a sample that represents over 75 percent of UK subscribers. 572 million separate performance tests were carried out in 1,710 homes in November 2011.

Not only did BT and Virgin Media offer the fastest speeds on their fibre-based and cable broadband technologies, the two firms were closest to their their advertised speeds. Virgin boasts “up to” 50Mbps, and delivered about 49Mbps. BT promises “up to” 40Mbps on its Infinity line, and delivered speeds of around 36Mbps.

The other ISP packages “did not change significantly from May 2011,” the telecoms authority said.

As we previously reported, internet connection advertising is going to get a major shake up in April 2012. Under new Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) guidelines, speed claims should be achievable by at least 10 percent of the ISP’s customers.

The rules state, “where a significant proportion of customers are unlikely to receive a speed sufficiently close to that advertised, further qualifying information, such as the speed range obtainable by those customers, should be included in the advertisement.”

If implemented in line with Ofcom data, speeds currently advertised as ‘up to’ 8Mbps and 20 or 24Mbps would have to instead be advertised as up to 6Mbps and 14Mbps respectively.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Edited by: Duncan Geere

Rats Causes Virgin Broadband Outage In Scotland | eWEEK Europe UK

Rats Causes Virgin Broadband Outage In Scotland | eWEEK Europe UK

Some Virgin Media customers in Scotland were briefly left without broadband when rats chewed cables

Virgin Media confirmed that some customers in Scotland experienced a broadband service outage earlier this week, after rats were found to have chewed through fibre optic cables.

Speaking to eWEEK Europe, a Virgin Media spokesperson confirmed that its services went offline  for a couple of hours on Monday and then again on Tuesday. “Full service was resorted on Tuesday evening and customers are no longer affected,” said the spokesperson.

Dietary Fibre?

“We’re aware that a number of customers in the Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes and Leven areas may have experienced intermittent loss of their Virgin Media services from Monday morning until Tuesday evening,” said Virgin Media in a statement.

“The loss of service was due to rodent damage to some underground cabling,” it said. “On Monday morning our engineers were on site as soon as possible and worked at the highest priority to repair the damage, with service restored early evening on Monday.”

However it seems that the pesky rodents were not finished with just one snack upon the ‘tasty’ fibre optic cables, but also opted for dessert the next day.

“Further damage was incurred on Tuesday afternoon and our engineers returned to repair the damage,” said Virgin Media. “We’ve now put additional measures in place to prevent further damage to our cables to avoid further disruption for our customers. We’re extremely sorry for any inconvenience caused.”

It is thought that at least 100 customers were affected by the cable damage caused by the rat attack, which must be an inherent risk when your cabling infrastructure is based in underground ducts.

However it is worth remembering that this Virgin Media outage is nowhere near the scale of the recent outage experienced by thousands of BT customers. A major power failure at a BT exchange in Birmingham was blamed for causing connectivity problems for broadband  customers across the UK.

Business Growth

Meanwhile Virgin Media Business has published research that shows that investment in internet technologies does help businesses drive growth – presumably so long as rats arekep ta bay.

The research revealed that over two thirds of British companies believe that advances in technology are vital to the success of their business.

The Virgin Media Business study was compiled after a survey of 5,000 UK businesses. It found that cloud computing and e-Commerce technologies are the most valued, with 32 percent citing cloud computing investments as significantly benefitting their company. This was closely followed by e-Commerce solutions, at 27 percent.

The study also found that more and more staff are demanding to use their own devices (smartphones etc) in the workplace. Virgin Media said that this worker demand for consumer gadgets in the workplace has now reached a tipping point, going from nice-to-have to must-have.

The study found that 70 percent of smartphone owners would rather give up alcohol than be without their phone.

And it seems as though businesses are taking this demand in hand, with 23 percent letting staff members choose whatever kind of device will suit them best for work.

“With more organisations embracing new technologies, the business world is clearly showing it’s open to change,” said Virgin Media Business’ director, corporate sector, Andy Marshall. “New technologies such as cloud computing are helping smaller players to compete on the same stage as massive corporates because of economies of scale.”

Marshall said that computing cloud also helps businesses become far more responsive, besides the usual cost benefits.

“This can help companies to make huge productivity gains, with workers being able to access corporate information on the go, or by working from home, which has been proven to improve morale by addressing employee’s work and life balance,” said Marshall.

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Virgin Media to ‘take a punt’ on free London WiFi network – Telegraph

Virgin Media
Image via Wikipedia

The firm’s chief executive Neil Berkett told investors that it was in “quite advanced negotiations” with London councils over the plans and said he was optimistic the rollout would begin “in the not too distant future”.

“The proposition would be that we would provide free Wifi access for all,” he said.

Virgin Media’s WiFi network will be freely available to anyone at 0.5Mbps, and to its home broadband subscribers at up to 10Mbps.

The approach contrasts with BT’s extensive Openzone network, which although free to BT broadband customers, is charged at as much as £5.99 for 90 minutes’ browsing.

Mr Berkett described the plans as “a punt” that will cost Virgin Media “a few million pounds” and will “keep them [BT] honest”.

“It is part of our ethos of advancing digital lifestyles,” he said.

He said that 3G mobile broadband networks were not satisfying consumers’ demands for data on the move and suggested that the few years’ delay expected before 4G networks and devices are widely available left a gap in them market.

“The gap that is increasingly occurring between consumers’ need for data outsidfe the home and what they can get on 3G,” said Mr Berkett, adding that Virgin Media might wholesale the faster level of access to mobile networks.

The firm’s interest in public WiFi was first revealed in Novemeber, when its director of advanced technology said virgin media had been “inspired” by a scheme launched by the United States cable network Cablevision. It covered New York with WiFi at a time when American 3G networks were struggling to cope with the smartphone boom.

Virgin Media plans to install WiFi routers in its existing infrastructure, including the street-side cabinets that distribute its cable network into home. The talks with councils are focused on gaining permission for the necessary works.

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