On our radar

last 7 days

12 Dec

The government of Australia has introduced the new Universal Service Guarantee (USG) which is an update to the long existing Universal Service Obligation (USO). The USG which was announced on 5 December 2018 has the primary aim of ensuring that all Australians have access to broadband services. The USG assures all Australian homes and businesses of the government's commitment to provide them access to broadband and voice services regardless of their locations. The USG will leverage Australia’s National Broadband Network and the expanded mobile coverage services under the Mobile Black Spot Programme to fulfil this objective.  

In an interview with The Washington Post, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that concerns about potentially harmful applications of artificial intelligence (AI) are legitimate, but that the industry should be trusted to regulate the development and use of the technology in a responsible manner. Pichai argued that technology companies should not merely build technology and 'fix it 'afterward; instead, they should think in advance about how the technology could be abused, and develop ethical guidelines to avoid such abuses. While being optimistic about the long-term benefits of AI, Google's chief also noted that the tech industry had to ensure that AI 'with agency of its own' does not harm humanity. Speaking about the attempts made by governments worldwide to assess the potential need for AI-specific regulation, he argued that 'regulating a technology in its early days in hard' and AI 'companies should self-regulate.​

10 Dec

The European Commission launched an annual scoreboard to monitor women's participation in the digital economy. The Women in Digital (WiD) Scoreboard is a tool to measure and assess the participation of women in the digital economy through four types of analysis: 1) evaluating the general characterisation of the performance of individual Member States, 2) pinpointing areas for improvement by analysing individual indicators, 3) assessing progress over time, 4) pointing out the need for improve relevant policy areas. The scorecard revealed a gender gap in all 13 indicators at EU level which is largely manifested in the area of ICT specialist skills and employment; 76 % for ICT specialists and 47 % for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics graduates. Nonetheless, the difference is reduced within the younger age group (16 to 24) between women and men vis-à-vis digital participation; 55% of women compared to 60% of men. This gap is even reversed in certain countries where women overperform men in digital participation. 

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, experts are of the view that artificial intelligence (AI) 'will make most people better off over the next decade', but they are also concerned about how technological advancements will affect 'what it means to be human, to be productive and to exercise free will'. The 'Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humans' study builds on input collected from over 900 technology pioneers, innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists. According to these experts, AI is expected to amplify human effectiveness. For example, smart systems in communities, vehicles, buildings, utilities, and business processes will save time, money and lives and give individuals more opportunities to enjoy a customised future. AI applications in health and formal and informal education systems are also looked at with optimism. However, most experts also expressed concerns about the long-term impact of AI on what it means to be human. These concerns are related to human agency, data abuse, job loss, dependence lock-in, (reduction of individuals' cognitive, social and survival skills) and possible further erosion of traditional socio-political structures (due to accelerated growth of autonomous weapons, cybercrime, and weaponised information). Suggestions on how to address such concerns were also made. For example, 'digital cooperation to serve humanity's best interests' was seen as the top priority: human collaboration across borders and stakeholder groups must be improved, so they come to common understandings and agreements.

As reported by the Financial Times, Mobike, a leading Chinese bike-sharing group is now under investigation by the German data protection authority after allegedly breaching the EU general data protection regulation (GDPR).

Symantec published a report revealing the details on the cyber espionage group acting in 2017-2018 to gather intelligence on targets in telecom and IT services that opened the access to oil and gas sector mainly in Pakistan and Turkey. Seedworm also affected Russia (11 victims belongs to one Russian firm), Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Jordan, and organizations in Europe and North America that have ties to the Middle East. The group used GitHub to store the malware and exploit several publicly available open-source tools like LaZagne and Crackmapexec which they customize to carry out their attacks.

last 30 days

8 Dec

The 2018 edition of World Radiocommunication Seminar (WRS-18), has been held in Geneva from 3 to 7 December.This year’s seminar focused on the regulatory aspects of the use of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits, in particular the application of the provisions of the ITU Radio Regulations, the international treaty that regulates the use of spectrum and orbit resources by wireless and satellite communications.

Every two years, ITU World Radiocommunication Seminars are organized, alongside Regional Radiocommunication Seminars, which are regularly held throughout the year to assist ITU Members to prepare for World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRCs). WRCs are held every four years to update the ITU Radio Regulations so as to ensure interference-free operations of radiocommunication systems and provide all countries with equitable access to the radio spectrum.

International Telecommunications Union(ITU), the United Nations specialised agency for information and communication technologies has published its 2018 global and regional ICT estimates, contained in a press release on its website.

The estimates show that by the end of 2018, 51.2 per centof the global population, or 3.9 billion people, will be using the Internet. The 2018 estimates according to Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary General, are a pointer to the great strides the world is making to build a more inclusive society. He however stressed that although the projections show that by the end of 2018, the 50/50 milestone for Internet use will be surpassed, many people around the world are still waiting to reap the benefit of the information economy.

The details of the estimates are summarised in terms of statistics here.

7 Dec

Cubans will now for the first time have the opportunity to access internet from their phones through commercial 3G service deployed across the island nation. This was announced on national television by the president of the state telecoms company (ETESCA), Mayra Arevich on 4 December 2018. Further details of the new 3G service contained in a press release has also been published on the ETESCA website.

The press release provided the basic mobile phone configurations and the short code for accessing the internet packages. The mass role out of the service is between 6-8 December 2018, after which new subscribers would have to ensure that they key in ETESCA’s APN in their compatible phone settings to access the 3G internet packages of their choice.  

Australia passed a controversial law, the Assistance and Access Bill, designed to compel technology companies to grant law enforcement agencies access to encrypted messages. According to the Guardian, the law intends to ‘co-opt technology companies, device manufacturers and service providers into building the functionality needed for police to do their spying’ and ‘give to Australian agencies the ability to install key logging software to enable them to see, keystroke by keystroke, what users type into a message’. The law was adopted despite strong criticism from civil society organisations and leading tech companies, such as Apple, Cisco, Mozilla, Google, and Facebook.

The European Commission has presented a Coordinated Plan to foster the development and use of artificial intelligence (AI) in Europe. The plan was prepared by the Commission in co-operation with EU member states, Norway, and Switzerland. The document notes that Europe is lagging behind in private investments in AI, and without significant efforts, the EU 'risks losing out on the opportunities offered by AI'. In this context, the plan focuses on the need for strengthened co-operation among all involved parties in several key areas: encouraging more investments and financing for start-ups and innovative small and medium-sized enterprises; increasing excellence in trustworthy AI technologies and broad diffusion; adapting learning and training programmes and systems to better prepare the society for AI; building an European data space for AI for Europe; developing ethical guidelines, while also ensuring an innovation-friendly legal framework; and tackling security-related aspects of AI applications. The high-level group on AI previously established by the Commission is expected to publish the first version of AI ethics guidelines by the end of 2018, and the final version in March 2019, after extensive consultations. Another important element of the document is that EU member states are encouraged to develop national AI strategies by mid-2019.

6 Dec

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) on 3 December 2018, celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2018. In an article published on ITU’s news page, it was underscored that this year’s theme of “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”, resonated with the ITU’s efforts to empower persons with disabilities (PwD) through information and communication technologies.

The article went on to site features such as captioning, screen-readers, assistive robotics technologies and navigational tools as examples of how ICTs can provide opportunities and benefits for people with visual, hearing or motor disabilities and persons with specific needs to overcome difficulties in going about their most ordinary everyday activities

In an article published on nocable.org, the author gives an explanation of the impact of the revelation by the US Federal Communication Commission’s recent report that there are still 34 million Americans without access to high-speed internet services. “Digital Deserts”, according to the article refers to areas with few or no broadband service providers, and offer download speeds, similar to dial-up and early DSL. The impact is that about 10% of the population of the US are without reliable internet access and where they are available, it is not good enough to access contents online.

Yahsat, the UAE-based satellite broadband internet service provider has launched its ka-band satellite broadband services in Brazil. The arrival of Yahsat’s services will help in addressing the country’s shortage or reliable internet which traditionally relies mainly on terrestrial connectivity. In the news report on Yahsat’s website announcing the launch, Masood M. Sharif Mahmood, Chief Executive Officer, commented that the launch in Brazil goes to ensure that the company meets their goal of bringing Yahsat’s services to rural and underserved areas around the world. This is supported by their fleet of state-of-the-art satellites, and backed by trusted local Service Partners.

In its third annual report on the state of artificial intelligence (AI), the USA-based AI Now institute calls for governments to regulate AI 'by expanding the powers of the sector-specific agencies to oversee, audit, and monitor AI technologies by domain'. The AI Now 2018 Report, which focuses on the US context, draws attention to a lack of meaningful accountability and oversight (including with regards to responsibility, liability and due process) when it comes to the development and use of AI technologies. To tackle this and other issues, the Institute makes nine other recommendation in addition to the need for governmental regulation. For example, because internal governance structures at many technology companies are found to be failing in ensuring accountability for AI systems, new approaches to governance are recommended as a matter of urgency. Another recommendation says that AI companies should waive trade secrecy and other legal claims that contribute to making AI systems opaque and unaccountable. Moreover, consumer protection agencies should apply 'truth-in-advertising' laws to AI products and services, to avoid the risks that 'marketing promises' can cause to both individuals and commercial customers. For meaningful fairness, accountability and transparency in AI, a better understand and tracking of the full supply chain of an AI system is needed.

Ofcom, the UK telecommunications regulator has by a statement released on their website on 5 December 2018  proposed BT and KCOM as the sole universal service providers in the UK.

This proposal has come up because Ofcom is responsible for the implementation of a legislation introduced in March by the UK government for a broadband universal service obligation (USO).

The USO is to to give eligible homes and businesses the right to request a decent broadband connection. The proposal will see BT as the universal service provider across the whole of the UK except the Hull area, which will be provided for by KCOM.

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) has successfully launched its heaviest and most-advanced high throughput communication satellite named GSAT-11. The launch was made on the back of a French rocket from the Spaceport in French Guiana on 5 December 2018.

According to Dr. K Sivan, ISRO Chairman, “GSAT-11 will boost the broadband connectivity to rural and inaccessible Gram Panchayats in the country coming under the Bharat Net Project, which is part of Digital India Programme.” The Bharat Net Project is Government of India’s flagship programme that aims to enhance the public welfare with schemes such as e-banking, e-health, e-governance among others

5 Dec

On 4-5 December, European data protection authorities, assembled in the European Data Protection Board (EPDB), met for their fifth plenary session, and adopted an opinion on the EU-Japan draft adequacy decision. Though recognising that the Japanese legal framework could not replicate the EU general data protection regulation (GDPR), the EPDB indicated that a number of concerns remained, in particular regarding the protection of personal data transferred from the EU to Japan. This adequacy decision is expected to be the first adopted by the EU since the GDPR came into force.

As reported by CNBC, Damian Collins, a British MP, released confidential internal Facebook e-mails revealing discussions of payments for user data from certain companies, including Netflix and Airbnb. The e-mails detail the exchanges between Facebook’s chiefs regarding the threat of competitors, how to handle user data, and the possibility of major changes in the business model of the company. The BBC also reported that ‘the emails showed the firm had also sought to make it difficult for users to know about privacy changes, and had surreptitiously studied smartphone users' habits to identify and tackle rival apps’.

New York city officials passed the first US minimum pay rate for drivers who work for ride-hailing apps, including Uber, Lyft, Juno, Via and any other similar business model. Drivers are low paid, and the issue is related to the fact that they are independent contractors and not employees. Transportation sharing economies do not need to make sure that drivers earn the minimum wage. Having that in mind, the city council decided that drivers are entitled to make the equivalent of $17,22 an hour after expenses. The measure aims at increasing the quality of their lives. In New York, most drivers work full-time for ride-hailing apps and 18 percent of drivers have so low earnings that they qualify for food stamps. The new regulation attacks the core of transportation sharing economies, which relies on a large number of drivers to be available at any given time, meaning competition for rides is high and drivers must work long hours. The same regulation provides that out of town trips must include payment for returning; higher pay for drivers of wheelchair accessible vehicles and prohibition on underpaying drivers on certain trips as part of incentive schemes

4 Dec

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming relevant for online education, especially in terms of monitoring and personalising the educational experience. Derek Haoyang Li, founder and CEO of Squirrel AI, built an AI-driven online educational platform. This was done in partnership with ‘a global network of educators and participating institutions, including the National University of Ireland, Stanford University, UCLA, UC Irvine, Shanghai Jiaotong University, and Remin University of China.’ It aims to tailor learning to individual participants’ need and rate progress.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decided in case of MAGYAR JETI ZRT v. HUNGARY concerning liability for hyperlinks in the domestic defamation law and its compatibility with freedom of expression. In its decision, the ECHR stated that hyperlinks can not be equated to the traditional publication, as they only direct the users to already available content. The ECHR noted that information in a hyperlink can be changed at any time and to subject publishers to liability for a hyperlink would "have foreseeable negative consequences on the flow of information on the Internet, impelling article authors and publishers to refrain altogether from hyperlinking to material over whose changeable content they have no control. This may have, directly or indirectly, a chilling effect on freedom of expression on the Internet."

The European Court of Human Rights (HCHR) ruled that publishers who share hyperlinks on the Internet cannot be held liable for the content of those hyperlinks. The HCHR found that a ruling in Hungary violated 444.hu's rights by holding it liable for the content reached through a hyperlink in a news article. Online content often uses electronic hyperlinks to substantiate or offer further information to readers. This judgement is considered a 'breakthrough for Internet freedom'.

3 Dec

The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice under the Council of Europe has adopted the first-ever European Ethical Charter on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in judicial systems. The charter outlines a series of principles to guide public and private stakeholders in the design and deployment of AI tools and services that involve the processing of judicial decisions and data. It is also addressed to decision makers who set out the legislative and regulatory frameworks governing the development, audit or use of such tools and services. The outlined principles include respect for fundamental rights; non-discrimination; quality and security; transparency, impartiality, and fairness; and the 'under user control' principle. The document also includes a study on the use of AI in judicial systems, and an overview of uses of AI in European judicial systems that can be encouraged, that need methodological precautions, that require additional studies, and that need to be considered with extreme reservation.

The UN Flagship Report on Disability and Development 2018 – Realizing the SDGs by, for and with persons with disabilities shows that people with disabilities are at a disadvantage regarding most Sustainable Development Goals, but also highlights the growing number of good practices that can create a more inclusive society in which they can live independently”, noted UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The report further underlines the digital divide between persons and disabilities who still can’t share the benefits of information and communication technologies (ICTs). This gap amounts to 30% for internet use and 10% in access to internet in the household in some countries due to accessibility and affordability issues. This further poses challenges for disabilities to reap the benefits of internet technologies to improve their lives and hence realize the various SDGs for persons with disabilities. The report pinpoints some recommendations to strengthen the ICT ecosystem to ensure inclusion and accessibility for persons with disabilities which includes: promoting the principles of Universal Design in the mainstream ICT industry and the public sector, adopting national ICT accessibility policies and regulations, involving all relevant stakeholders and increase funding to support low-cost ICTs for persons with disabilities, and develop and publish comparable data on access to and use of ICTs disaggregated by disability as well as on accessibility of ICTs.

2 Dec

During the G20 Summit in Argentina from 30 November – 1 December 2018, the leaders of countries and global organisations reached an agreement on areas for development and economic growth through an agenda that is people-centred, inclusive, and forward-looking. The G20 Leaders’ declaration building consensus for fair and sustainable development focuses on digitalisation and emerging technologies for innovative growth and productivity. To this aim, it endorses different measures that include, but not limited to, overcoming the digital gender divide, promoting digital inclusion, and enhancing digital government, digital infrastructure as well as measurement of the digital economy. Additionally, The G20 leaders marked a desire to embrace the G20 Repository of Digital Policies aiming at espousing the adoption of innovative digital economy business models. In that sense, the declaration emphasises the importance of the interface between trade and the digital economy. It further calls upon the digital industry to collaborate to combat the exploitation of the internet and social media for terrorist purposes.

1 Dec

G20 leaders recognised that transformative technologies are expected to bring new and better jobs. Policy options for the future of work will draw on ‘harness technology to strengthen growth and productivity’; ‘support people during transitions and address distributional challenges’ and ‘secure tax systems’. The leaders remained committed to build an inclusive, fair and sustainable future of work by reskilling workers and recognising the importance of social dialogue in the area, including work delivered through digital platforms, aiming at labour formalisation and making social protection systems strong and portable. Access to education to enhance digital skills was underlined as a strategic policy area for the development of more inclusive, prosperous, and peaceful societies. To expand the benefits of digitalization, G20 nations will promote measures to boost micro, small and medium enterprises, bridge the divide and further digital inclusion. They will also improve digital government, digital infrastructure and measurement of the digital economy.

30 Nov

On 30 November 2018, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hosted a Forum on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. During his opening remarks, FCC chairman Ajit Pai spoke about the US government's regulatory approach towards AI, noting that, in his view, 'one of the foundation principles for government [when it comes to regulating emerging technologies' should be regulatory humility'. Because emerging technologies evolve at a fast pace, 'early intervention can forestall or even foreclose certain paths to innovation'. And it would, therefore, be 'foolish and counterproductive' for the government to try to manage the evolution of such technologies. However, Pai noted, regulatory agencies, as well as the general public, need to be aware and informed about advancements in the field of AI and their potential impact on currently regulated markets.

29 Nov

The US House of Representatives passes SMART IoT ActThe unanimous vote sends the ‘State of Modern Application, Research, and Trends (SMART) of IoT Act’ to be approved by the US Senate. The bill tasks the US Department of Commerce (DoC) with conducting a comprehensive study concerning the status of Internet of things (IoT) in the country. According to the bill, the research should focus on the following aspects: listing US tech companies and public-private partnerships (PPP) that develop and promote the use of IoT; evaluating the status of IoT standards and federal regulations of IoT; and identifying federal government resources for consumers and small businesses to assess connected devices

United Nations Secretary-General kicked off a global task force including public and private sector as well as finance leaders – serving in their personal capacities – from both developed and developing countries to recommend strategies to the digital finance of Sustainable Development Goals. “Not just financial institutions, but entire financial systems are being transformed by the digital revolution. We have an historic opportunity to ensure that what emerges are financial systems that put people at the centre”, said Maria Ramos, co-Chair of the Task Force and Chief Executive Officer of the Absa Group Ltd. (South Africa) and Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. The Task Force on Digital Financing will meet in Davos in January and is expected to present its preliminary report of recommendations to the Secretary-General in September.

28 Nov

The sharing economy Take Eat Easy used an online platform to connect restaurants, users who wanted to order meals and riders to deliver food to the users of the platform. Since the beginning of Take Eat Easy operations, the riders developed their activity under the status of independent contractors. In 2016, a rider required to the conseil de prud’hommes to have its employment status recognised. His requirement was denied and he appealed to the Cour de Cassation, which overruled the decision by holding that (1) the system of geolocation allowing the real-time monitoring of the position of the rider (2) the control of the total number of kilometers rode by the riders and (3) the sanctions applied to the riders in some particular cases demonstrated that Take Eat Easy had powers of direction and control over its contractors. Direction and control are typical aspects of an employment relationship. The decision sets a precedent to all similar sharing economies in France.

26 Nov

Member states of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) – EU, Australia, Canada, China, Iceland, India, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, and Switzerland - published a proposal for specific changes to address the deadlock in the WTO Appellate Body. The proposal includes an increase to 9 full time working Appellate Body Members, with the term increased to 8 years, and new rules for outgoing members in order to increase efficiency and independence. In addition, the proposal sets measures to ensure that the appeal proceedings are concluded within 90 days (as set by WTO rules), explicitly excludes domestic legal issues from the subject matter jurisdiction, and mandates the Appellate Body to address only the issues necessary to resolve the dispute. The proposal foresees annual meetings between the WTO members and the Appellate Body in order to address trends in jurisprudence and any systemic issues. The proposal will be presented at the meeting of the WTO General Council on 12 December 2018.

25 Nov

5G wireless home broadband will provide households in UK with a cheaper and more flexible alternative to fibre connections, offering customers double the current internet download speed. This is according to a reportby Ovum Research and commissioned by Three UKon 20 November 2018.

According to the report, the technology also known as 5G ‘Fixed Wireless Access’ (FWA), is almost 50% cheaper to deploy than fibre, and much quicker to implement, providing a viable alternative for home broadband services.

The technology is expected to deliver speeds of 80 to 100 Mbps, which is averagely double what customers in the UK currently obtain using traditional fixed broadband services of approximately 46 Mbps speed.

The report further highlights the benefits that UK stands to gain in terms of the availability and affordability of 5G technology due to economies of scale. This is because of the widespread adoption of wireless broadband globally and the fact that 5G-FWA developments are helping to connect 50% of the world's households that are currently not connected to the internet.

23 Nov

For the European Union, the Indian draft data protection bill raises several concerns.   As detailed in a written submission to the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), the main issues for the EU concern the level of discretion on key matters given to the government and the DPA, the independence of the DPA, the exemptions from data protection safeguards provided to law enforcement authorities, and the introduction of data localization requirements.

22 Nov

The Spanish Senate recently approved a draft law in order to implement at the national level certain provisions of the EU’s GDPR. Certain provisions have triggered strong reactions from civil society groups, in particular regarding an amendment giving the possibility to political groups to "use personal data obtained from web pages and other publicly accessible sources to carry out political activities" before elections.

According to Telecompaper, EU telecom ministers will not vote on the ePrivacy reform at their next meeting in December. Due to divides between member states on key provisions of this legislative text and calls from the industry to delay its adoption process, it appears now unlikely that this regulation will be concluded before the next European elections in 2019. In parallel, a number of NGOs are urging the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union to take action towards ensuring the finalisation of the e-Privacy reform.

Movinga, a Berlin-founded house removals and relocation platform, received 15 million euros in funding. The company says the new capital will support “further process automation”, the launch of new services, and international expansion. Movinga aims to make it easier to book a city-to-city house move online, in a context in which the relocation industry is notoriously fragmented and inefficient. The company combines consumer app technology with logistics and a marketplace that allows it to work with relocation partners.

In an effort to modernise the education sector and work towards achieving the SDGs, Zimbabwe has launched 10 e-learning kits, including tablets and an overhead projector.The kits were donated by Devtech, a Rwandan organisation. In addition, Zimbabwean president Mnangagwa urged all learners to take advantage of e-learning platforms.

21 Nov

In the view of the permeability of algorithmic technics and automated data processing in all aspects of the contemporary life, the Committee of Ministers of the CoE has drafted recommendation to member states to evaluate the impacts of the application of algorithmic systems in public and private spheres on the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The document outlines that the misuse of algorithmic systems can jeopardise the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and prohibition of discrimination provided by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Although public and private sector initiatives to develop ethical guidelines for the design, development and deployment of algorithmic systems are welcome, they do not substitute the duty of member States to guarantee that human rights obligation are embedded into all steps of their algorithmic operations. In addition, member States should ensure appropriated regulatory frameworks to promote human rights-respecting technological innovation by all actors. The guidelines for States on actions to address the use of algorithmic system include data quality and modelling standards; principles of transparency and contestability; provision of effective judicial and non-judicial remedies to review algorithmic decisions; the implementation of precautionary measures to maintain control over the use of algorithmic systems; and empowerment through research and public awareness. The document also engages responsibilities for private actors that member States should ensure, including guidelines on data quality and modelling.  ​

As reported by The Guardian, Amazon suffered a major data breach, days before Black Friday, causing customer names and email addresses to be disclosed on its website. Amazon has indicated the issue has been fixed and customers who could be impacted have been informed.

The European Commission has referred Portugal to the Court of Justice of the EU to ensure a correct implementation of the Universal Service Directive, as regards the financing of universal service obligations. This is contained in a press releaseissued in 8 November, 2018.

Member States of the EU are allowed to introduce compensation mechanisms to balance the costs of the provision of universal service, which are not always profitable. According to the release however, Portuguese authorities have imposed an obligation on telecom operators to compensate the net costs of all universal services provided from 2007 by the telecom service provider. Portugal did this in 2012 by exploring the possibilities of provided the Electronic Communication Law (No 5/2004), by enacting a new law which establishes an extraordinary contribution by the operators.

The EC finds this extraordinary contribution in 3 consecutive years levied on operators for the financing of the net cost of the universal service in the past as contrary to EU law. This is because it infringes on the requirements of transparency, non-discrimination and least market distortion established by the Universal Service Directive (Directive 2002/22/EC) in force in the EU since 2002. The commission is accordingly calling on the Court of Justice of the EU to confirm that the extraordinary compensation infringes this Directive.

Facebook announced it would dispute the financial penalty which had been imposed by the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK on the company for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook indicated it would appeal against this fine of £500,000, because this decision “challenges some of the basic principles of how people should be allowed to share information online”.


20 Nov

Uber has partnered with paratransit provider MV Transportation to improve service and response times to wheelchair users in some areas of the USA and Canada. Uber does not own the vehicles its services provide, and not enough wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAV) have been available. This step comes after feasibility studies and lawsuits alleging discrimination against wheelchair users. Acknowledging the situation, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote: 'We know there is still a long way to go—and that we’re at the beginning, not the end, of this journey'.

The recent decision of the French data protection watchdog against Vectaury challenges the validity of the IABEurope consent framework. As reported by TechCrunch, CNIL’s decision suggests that “bundling consent to partner processing in a contract is not, in and of itself, valid consent under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) framework”.

The European Patent Office (EPO) published new study that is focused on the examination of patents applications in the self-driving car industry. Given the necessity of high R&D investment in this industry, patent applications are becoming one of the major tools to safeguard and monetise these investments. The study presents trends, and the most important implications of patent protection that presents a valuable source of information both for the industry and any interested party. Also, this should help policymakers understand the novelties that this industry will bring to the regulatory area.

The last ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, held in Dubai, managed to make Resolution WGPL/3 through adoption. It was recognised that emerging over-the-top (OTT) telecommunications technologies pose both opportunities and regulatory challenges for national telecommunication regulations. Specifically, the Resolution resolves (1) 'to raise awareness and promote a common understanding and dialogue among stakeholders for enabling OTT environment and ecosystem within the remit of ITU'; (2) 'to continue fostering studies on OTT aspects'; (3) 'to foster capacity-building programmes among ITU members in order to share information related to best practices and technical guidance on OTTs, especially for developing countries'. It also instructed the Secretary-General to continue collaboration with other relevant organisations to further the objectives of the resolution; and to submit an annual report on the council on the activities undertaken under the resolution.

19 Nov

The European Commission adopted an updated version of the EU cyber defence policy framework.  The purpose of the framework is to take into account the changing security challenges since the original framework of 2014. The updated framework identifies six priority areas for cyber defence: development of cyber defence capabilities, protection of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) communication and information networks, training and exercises, research and technology, civil-military cooperation and international cooperation. and clarifies the roles of the different European actors. It also clarifies the roles of European actors within these six areas, including EU member states, the European Commission, the European Defence Agency (EDA), the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Security and Defence College (ESDC), the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and CERT-EU.

The US Department of Commerce (DoC) published an Advance notice of proposed rulemaking, asking for public comments on criteria for identifying emerging technologies that are essential to the US national security, and could be included on the list of technologies subject to export controls. Currently, the Bureau of Industry and Security within the DoC controls the export of dual-use and less sensitive military items, to 'protect sensitive US technology'. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information, and additive manufacturing have not yet been evaluated for their security impact. But this is about to change, as the DoC is inviting the public to help define and identify such emerging technologies for which 'effective controls can be implemented that avoid negatively impacting US leadership in the science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing sectors'. In the field of AI, the targeted technologies include, among others, neural networks and deep learning, reinforcement learning, computer vision, and natural language processing. In reaction to the notice, voices in the USA argued that AI export controls could be counterproductive to US goals: 'If the US government bans the export of AI technology, other countries will likely enact reciprocal policies. [...] It will mean US companies are locked out of certain markets, allowing firms in other countries to compete unchallenged.' argued Daniel Castro, vice president of the Washington-based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.​

18 Nov

Global delegates attending the 2018 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Dubai 29 October – 16 November have reached a consensus that global digital inclusion is vital to ensure the full benefits of 5G is attained. 

Khaled Ahmed, adviser to the Ministry of ICT in Djibouiti speaking at the conference said although the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is working to remove the barriers inhibiting digital inclusion, a fresh push is needed at the global level in the advent of the rollout of 5G and various technologies. Mr. Ahmed also called for standardization of rules and regulations to ensure a fair ground for all countries.  

According to V Raghunandan, deputy director general, international relations at Indian Ministry of Communications, any generation of technology could be looked at in the same way whether 3G, 4G or 5G, however it must be inclusive.

5G, a name used to describe the fifth generation of cellular mobile communications is believed to be the technology to support the Internet of things (IoT) era since it will include rapid data transfer rate, energy saving, cost reduction, and widespread device connectivity capabilities.

Two Initial Coin Offer (ICO) issuers, CarrierEQ Inc. and Paragon Coin Inc, was found in breach of the security law in the United States. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ruled that companies when selling its 'utility tokens' were actually selling securities. Utility tokens are 'tokens which are intended to provide digital access to an application or service' (by FINMA classification). Companies are to return the funds to harmed investors, register its tokens as security, and pay $250.000 penalties. In a press release The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's Co-Director of the Enforcement Division stated: “We have made it clear that companies that issue securities through ICOs are required to comply with existing statutes and rules governing the registration of securities,”

SpaceX has overcome a major regulatory hurdle the company needed to clear in its ambitious plan to provide global internet connectivity from space. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on 15 November 2018 approved the company’s request to launch an additional 7,518 satellites into space. SpaceX now has permission to launch nearly 12,000 satellites into orbit following an earlier approval by the FCC in March 2018 for a constellation of 4,425 satellites. SpaceX has also been authorised to add 37.5-42.0 GHz and 47.2-50.2 GHz frequency bands to its previously authorised non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) constellation.

The unique value of the satellite internet constellation under the name Starlink is that it will maintain a line of site to connect everyone on Earth thereby providing global internet connectivity. The approval also grants SpaceX the flexibility to both provide diverse geographic coverage and the capacity to support a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, governmental, and professional users in the United States and globally.


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