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UK creates a new unit in the CMA to regulate big tech
by Paul Hill
The UK government has announced the creation of the Digital Markets Unit that will oversee “a pro-competition regime” for tech giants such as Facebook and Google. The creation of such a body comes with numerous benefits and ensures that platforms like Google and Facebook don’t become too powerful.
One of the duties of the new unit, which is being set up within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), is that consumers will be given more choice and control over the use of their data. The regulator will ensure that platforms, including those funded through digital ads, are transparent about the services they provide and how consumer data is being used. It will also ensure consumers have a choice over whether they receive personalised ads and that companies can’t place restrictions on their customers that makes it difficult to use rival platforms.
The regulator could be good for small businesses too as they’ll have fair access to things like digital advertising. Under the new code, firms would be prohibited from applying unfair terms, conditions or policies to certain business customers, including news publishers.
Regarding news publishers, it is no secret that things have got tough as physical newspaper sales have declined. One way in which they gain readers is through services like Google News. The new regulator will be able to govern commercial arrangements between publishers and platforms to ensure things remain fair for both parties. The government believes these powers will “enhance the sustainability of high-quality online journalism and news publishing in the UK.”
Commenting on the new regulator, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said:
The government said that the Digital Markets Unit will begin work in April and will have the ability to suspend, block and reverse decisions of tech giants. It will also be able to issue orders to tech firms to take certain actions to achieve code compliance and impose fines on those that do not come into compliance.
UK MPs criticise lacklustre tech sustainability efforts
by Paul Hill
A new report from UK Members of Parliament (MPs) has criticised Amazon and other online retailers for not pulling their weight when it comes to collecting electronic waste from consumers. They said that high streets are under “severe pressure” and new laws due in 2021 will only entrench online retailers’ unfair position.
The report highlighted that the UK is currently the second-highest contributor of electronic waste driven by relentless consumption of new tech products, the inability to repair some devices, and relatively short software support. To add to the problems, a lot of this waste is going to landfill, being incinerated or dumped overseas which is sometimes illegal.
According to the report, even if you send it off for recycling, the device still may be processed incorrectly:
The report highlighted a wide range of solutions to address these issues, they include:
Online retailers must allow customers to send back electronic waste; Online marketplaces should ensure all electrical equipment sold on their website is compliant with the law and producers should pay the same responsibility fees they pay to sell offline; The government should ban the practice of intentionally shortening the lifespan of products through planned obsolescence; Devices should be labelled with their expected lifetime including how long they will receive software updates, how repairable they are, whether spare parts of accessible and affordable and how accessible repair manuals are; They said the government should give people the right to repair electronic products in law which would require producers to supply repair manuals, affordable spare parts for products, and for products to be designed so that repair is not prevented through limited access to physical or software tools; VAT charged on repairs should be reduced to make the option more attractive to customers; Manufacturers should ensure their products are recyclable and dismantlable by waste treatment operators. They should provide recyclers with information about the materials and quantities of the materials used in the products. To help achieve these, the government should offer incentives and fast-track the national material datahub to help monitor the movements of rare materials critical to our healthcare, defence, and low-carbon technologies; The government should spend more money on high-quality recycling methods that ensure that rare materials are recovered for reuse; The Environment Agency in England should undertake stronger enforcement and actively collect data to estimate the actual quantities of E-waste being exported illegally. In 2015, all 193 member states of the United Nations signed up to the Sustainable Development Goals which are supposed to be met by 2030. Goal 12 - Responsible consumption and production, has several indicators to see if countries are meeting their pledges. According to SDG Index, many areas including Europe, Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand and several others have huge challenges to solve when it comes to electronic waste.
UK government sets less ambitious gigabit broadband goal
by Paul Hill
The UK’s Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced that the country’s original plan to bring gigabit broadband to every home in the country by 2025 has been scaled back so that the technology will be available in 85% of residences. While those in towns and cities around the country will likely be unaffected by the watering down of the plan, those out in more rural areas will be left with poorer internet connections.
According to the BBC, commercial deployments of gigabit fibre are expected to reach more than 70% of premises by the end of 2025 without help from the government. Under the initial plans, the government would have helped with the last 30% of connections but this has now been reduced to 15%.
Previously, the government cast doubt on whether it would ever have reached the 100% target because about 1% of very remote homes would have been really expensive to connect. Many of those living outside towns and cities typically have speeds under 30Mbps and over the next decade may begin to see the limitations of their network as they try to connect more Internet of Things devices such as smart home gadgets.
Interestingly, the government has not scaled back the budget for this work, keeping it at £5 billion. What has changed, though, is that the amount it will spend next year is much lower. Up to 2024, only £1.2 billion of the £5 billion will be spent with the rest of the money coming nearer the deadline.
Source: BBC News
By Jefferson Mangubat
Samsung Chromebook 4 series is now available to purchase in the UK
by Jefferson Mangubat
Samsung has rolled out the Chromebook 4 and Chromebook 4+ to the UK market. The Chromebook 4 series was initially announced last year for budget-conscious consumers.
Starting today, UK customers can purchase the Chromebook 4 in Platinum Titan for £299.99 via Samsung UK's online marketplace. If you opt for its larger and heavier sibling, you can snap up the Chromebook 4+ in the same color offered in two storage variants for £349.99 (32GB storage) and £379 (64GB variant).
Both laptops are thin and lightweight, although the Chromebook 4+ weighs 3.7 pounds while the smaller variant comes in at 2.6 pounds. As a quick reminder, the Chromebook 4+ has a 15.6-inch FullHD display while the Chromebook 4 sports an 11.6-inch HD screen. Both variants have narrow bezels.
This lineup is powered by Intel's Celeron N4000 (Gemini Lake) processor and feature Intel's UHD Graphics 600. The Chromebook 4 series come with 4GB of RAM. Of course, both laptops come with the Google Play Store preloaded to run Android apps. Finally, the Chromebook 4 series is integrated with Google Assistant to let you perform various tasks such as responding to a message or checking the news just by using your voice.
By Ather Fawaz
U.K. considering banning the installation of Huawei equipment by September 2021
by Ather Fawaz
Image via Dawn.com The United Kingdom is considering a ban on the installation of Huawei's 5G equipment as concerns over privacy issues linked to Huawei equipment continue to loom large. Citing people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg writes that the ban could come as early as September next year.
Lawmakers from the Conservative Party have voiced these demands via a telecommunications bill that is due in parliament next week. The draft legislation proposes fines of as much as 10% of sales or 100,000 pounds ($133,000) a day for violations. This would affect prominent U.K. carriers like Vodafone and BT Group, who have already warned that the country could face blackouts if they’re forced to remove Huawei products from their networks over national security concerns.
The government is due to publish more details about diversifying the U.K. 5G supply chain in the next few weeks. Should this bill pass, the pressure will shift to companies like Nokia Oyj and Ericsson as U.K. networks would seek their equipment.
This proposal comes at a time when lawmakers are pushing for enforcing a stricter ban on the use of Huawei telecommunication equipment in the country. Earlier in July, the government decided that all existing 5G infrastructure from the Chinese electronics manufacturer must be removed from networks by 2027. This ban on installing Huawei equipment would also add to the strict legislation surrounding the buying of the firm's equipment that is meant to kick in next month.