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Facebook completes first phase of its Indiana fiber network
by Paul Hill
Map via Wikimedia Facebook has announced the successful completion of the first phase of its latest fiber network in Indiana. The firm said that new fiber routes will help it support its 3 billion users around the world as the connections between its data centers become faster. The network route, which spans 80 miles, runs along Interstate 70 between Indiana and Ohio.
In partnership with the communications infrastructure provider Zayo, Facebook has now begun the second phase of the network. The second phase will connect from Indianapolis, along Highway 40, to the Indiana/Illinois border. It’s expected that the second phase will be completed by the end of the year and together both network routes will go from east to west across the state.
When complete, the counties of Wayne, Henry, Hancock, Marion, Hendricks, Putnam, Clay, and Vigo will benefit from the improved infrastructure which Facebook hopes will boost economic growth, opportunity, and job creation.
Commenting on the announcement, Michele Kohler, Business Development Manager, Network Investment at Facebook, said:
Facebook said it plans to form partnerships with local and regional internet providers so that broadband access for people can be boosted, including in underserved rural areas where connection speeds are slower.
Vodafone scheme helps organisations support vulnerable customers
by Paul Hill
Vodafone UK has launched new connected plans that give organisations in the public and private sector a way to offer cost-effective connectivity to their vulnerable customers. The firm said that these plans build on its schools.connected program which helped kids get online to continue their education at home during the lockdown.
The new scheme is called communities.connected and will run until the end of June, by which time lockdown measures will have been significantly eased and a large proportion of the country will have received their first vaccine and some will have got their second jab. The new plans have been designed for, but are not limited to, schools, further education colleges, universities, local authorities, and charities.
The plans start from £15 per month for a SIM-only, unlimited data contract. Customers can also buy a six and 12-month package which includes unlimited data and a free dongle or MiFi device (that is, a mobile hotspot) for £100 (£16.66 per month) and £180 (£15 per month) respectively.
Through its schools.connected programme, Vodafone has given 350,000 SIM cards to 9,000 schools and colleges. It has also donated 10,000 dongles to help children get online and it has donated to the Raspberry Pi Foundation which will use the money to hand out 500 computer kits to disadvantaged young people who don’t have computer access.
Commenting on the new initiative, Vodafone Business UK Director Anne Sheehan said:
If you’re in the UK and need to find a more affordable phone or broadband provider, Citizens Advice has a page giving you important information on switching as well as links to approved comparison websites that offer up the best deals.
Safer Internet Day is more relevant than ever
by Paul Hill
Today, February 9, is Safer Internet Day and with COVID-19 making us work and learn digitally, it’s more relevant than ever. In the 18 years that the day has been marked, it has grown from a European Union initiative to being observed in more than 170 countries around the world.
The Safer Internet Day campaign is aimed at all of the Internet's stakeholders including young people, parents and carers, teachers and educators, organisations and industry, policymakers, and media representatives. To help these groups use the net more safely, the campaign has compiled a set of resources that are aimed at different age groups and come in lots of different languages.
For this year's Safer Internet Day, Google has graduated its Fi VPN from beta and is bringing it to iOS devices and Facebook has compiled a list of all the privacy features it has introduced to Messenger recently.
Commenting on this year’s Safer Internet Day, Hans Martens, Digital Citizenship Programme Manager at European Schoolnet and Coordinator of the Insafe network said:
Aside from the resource directory, Safer Internet Day also has an official account on both Facebook and Twitter that it regularly updates with inspiration for using the internet more safely. The accounts also share content from national partner organisations from participating countries.
Ofcom proposes One Touch broadband switching process
by Paul Hill
Ofcom has announced new plans to make switching broadband provider easier. The regulator is currently in the consultation phase where it asks the public if they agree with the proposals, this will run until March 31. The final plans are expected to be introduced by December 2022.
As things stand in the UK, switching between providers on the Openreach network is fairly straightforward but if you switch from a copper line to fibre or from Virgin Media to an operator on Openreach you may have to get in contact with both your existing operator and your new one to arrange the switch-over.
Under Ofcom’s plans, you would contact the new provider about switching, then you’d receive any important information from your current provider and consent to the switch, and then your new contract would start on the agreed date and your old services would end, no matter which providers you switch between.
Commenting on the proposals, Ofcom’s Networks and Communications Group Director Lindsey Fussell said:
Ofcom’s plan to make switching broadband providers easier comes just a few years after it introduced changes that allow mobile phone users to get their PAC code via text making a switch to a new provider easier. It hopes that lowering barriers to switching will help make the broadband market more competitive which should result in better prices for customers.
The regulator recently found that 40% of people avoid switching broadband providers due to the hassle of needing to contact more than one provider. A similar number of people were also discouraged from switching because they thought the process would be too time-consuming. With the new rules, customers will only have to interact with their new provider, limiting unwanted attempts from the current provider to keep you as their customer.
ISRG to begin making Apache HTTP Server more secure
by Paul Hill
The Internet Security Research Group, the organisation behind Let’s Encrypt, has announced that it’ll be making the Apache HTTP Server implementation of httpd more secure by incrementally moving core components from C to Rust to address memory safety issues. First, work on a new TLS module for httpd, called mod_tls, will be re-written using the Rustls library in place of OpenSSL.
The ISRG’s Josh Aas said that he hopes the new mod_tls will someday replace mod_ssl that httpd currently uses as the default. The ISRG has secured funding from Google to contract Stefan Eissing – an httpd committer – to write the new module in Rust.
The ISRG has decided to look at httpd because it is used on hundreds of millions of websites every day to serve requests. By fixing issues with it, the security improvements will have a broad impact. The most common types of issues affecting httpd are memory safety issues which arise due to the use of the C programming language being used to write the software. In the last decade, the Rust programming language has matured and by default only lets you compile memory-safe programs; by writing httpd components in this language you eliminate a whole host of vulnerabilities.
Commenting on the role of C and Rust, ISRG’s Josh Aas said:
One of Apache httpd’s founders, Brian Behlendorf, also commented on the project saying:
The ISRG’s Let’s Encrypt project has already made a huge impact on the internet, ensuring that more sites can offer HTTPS connections to their users which provides a more secure experience.