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Alphabet's Loon not commercially viable and is due to shut
by Paul Hill
Alphabet’s Loon has announced that it’s shutting down. The project delivered the internet to cut off communities using stratospheric balloons. X’s Captain of Moonshots Astro Teller said that the Loon subsidiary was not commercially viable describing the project as “riskier than hoped.”
In the coming months, Teller said that Alphabet will begin winding down Loon and that employees “will be moving on.” A small group of the Loon team is going to wrap up operations in places like Kenya where the project is being used to deliver connectivity. For those that have come to rely on Loon, the service will be going away but Alphabet will share what it has learned with telcos, mobile network operators, governments, NGOs and technology companies to help find replacement technology.
Some innovations developed by the project live on according to Teller who said:
While it’s a shame that Loon could not become commercially viable, there are alternative solutions that are being built to help connect those with poor or no internet connectivity. While still expensive, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been creating its Starlink constellation which delivers speeds of 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s from space.
U.S. to fund the removal of Chinese tech in its networks
by Paul Hill
U.S. lawmakers are set to back a $1.9 billion fund to help remove Huawei and ZTE equipment from its mobile networks after they were deemed to be a threat by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) back in June. Earlier this year, the FCC published rules that require carriers to replace equipment from Huawei and ZTE.
The fund mentioned earlier is part of the wider COVID-19 relief bill which provides a total of $900 billion for different initiatives. $3.2 billion, for example, will be spent on emergency broadband for those on a low-income, a $50 monthly subsidy will help eligible households afford their internet connection and an internet-connected device.
According to leading Democrats, the low-income program is set to “help millions of students, families and unemployed workers afford the broadband they need during the pandemic”. With lockdowns caused by COVID-19, many people have been forced to use technology that they may not have utilized in the past in order to get on with their lives, and as a result people all over are finding it harder than ever to meet bill payments.
The funding expected to be approved in the U.S. will also help in several other ways, for example:
$285 will be spent to connect minority communities and establish an Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). $250 million will go towards additional FCC support for telehealth. $1 billion is being allocated for a NTIA tribal broadband connectivity grant program. $300 million will fund a NTIA grant program to promote broadband expansion to underserved Americans in rural areas. $65 million will improve broadband maps which will help the agency better target government money for deploying broadband. The replacement of Huawei and ZTE equipment in U.S. networks comes after several years of the Trump administration asking countries in Europe and around the world to take similar actions.
By Usama Jawad96
Google launches XS-Leaks Wiki to secure the web against cross-site leaks
by Usama Jawad
Cross-site leaks - also referred to as "XS-Leaks" - is a category of issues in the design of the web which allows web apps to interact with each other, even when they are not related. This leads to user data being shared across web applications, which is a serious security breach. Noting the increase in security flaws which rely on cross-site leaks, Google has now announced a knowledge base so developers and security researchers better understand the problem and build defenses around it.
Image via Rusbase Dubbed "XS-Leaks Wiki", this repository of information contains articles which explain cross-site leaks, some common attacks which hinge upon this, and the defenses you can set up against them. Along with the details of each attack, proof-of-concept code is available as well.
Another goal of this knowledge base is also to help developers understand the various security features offered by browsers to protect against cross-site leaks, such as Cross-Origin Resource Policy and SameSite cookies.
Google hopes that making this knowledge base available to everyone will increase collaboration between the company, security researchers, and web developers. Building upon the years of experience offered by all involved parties, it aims to make the web safer for all users by protecting them against threats that utilize this behavior. You can find out more about cross-site leaks by visiting Google's dedicated website here or the associated GitHub repository here.
Sky Broadband announces new FTTP broadband packages
by Paul Hill
Sky Broadband has announced that it’s launching Sky Broadband Ultrafast and Sky Broadband Superfast, both using Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) which the company has been rolling out to homes around the country. Over three million homes currently have access to the new technology but it’ll become available to 31,000 homes each week and 7.3 million homes by March 2021.
New and existing customers in the supported areas will get an average download speed of 145Mbps and an upload speed of 27Mbps. The firm said this will eliminate buffering on streaming content and easily support multiple devices using the Wi-Fi at any one time.
Commenting on the new FTTP packages, Aman Bhatti, Director of Propositions, Sky Broadband said:
Sky Broadband Superfast is available for £27 per month on an 18-month contract and gives customers a download speed of around 59Mbps. Sky Broadband Ultrafast is available for £35 per month on an 18-month contract and comes with an average download speed of 145Mbps. If you’re interested in the new packages, head over to Sky Broadband’s website.
SpaceX's Starlink internet beta expands to more customers, and it's expensive
by João Carrasqueira
SpaceX, the space exploration company owned by Elon Musk, has been working on its satellite-based internet service, Starlink, for a few years now, but it's taken some time for it to come to fruition. Today, the company is inviting customers to test the service in what it calls the "Better Than Nothing Beta", as reported by CNBC.
The name of the test program doesn't lie, and SpaceX is fairly upfront about what users are signing up for, telling users that it's "trying to lower" their initial expectations. The company says users can expect to see speeds varying from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s, and latency ranging from 20ms to 40ms over the next few months, as it continues to improve the system. At times, it's possible that service won't be available at all.
On top of the spotty internet service, the initial Starlink price is not for the faint of heart. Customers need to buy the Starlink kit to get set up, which includes a terminal to connect to the satellite network, a Wi-Fi router, and a mounting tripod. That costs $499, and on top of that, the service itself costs $99 per month. To help users get set up, a Starlink app is now available for Android and iOS, meant to help users find the best place to install the terminal, check for obstructions, and more.
Naturally, this isn't something that's meant for everyone to subscribe to just yet, and it remains to be seen how things will look when the service is fully available. On that note, the description for the app mentioned above says that this beta program will enable service in the United States and Canada this year, with near global coverage being attainable in 2021. Of course, that too is yet to be seen.