Stories from Abroad

Since 2010, the Benton Foundation and the New America Foundation have partnered to highlight telecommunications debates from countries outside the U.S.

China’s Got a New Plan to Overtake the US in Tech

Beijing is accelerating its bid for global leadership in key technologies, planning to pump more than a trillion dollars into the economy through the rollout of everything from wireless networks to artificial intelligence.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee approves nominee to oversee US Agency for Global Media

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced the nomination of a Trump administration pick — whose nonprofit organization is being investigated for possible tax violations — to lead a federal media agency with oversight of a news service that has come under increasing criticism from President Donald Trump. The 12-to-10 party-line vote came after testy debate among senators over the propriety of voting on Michael Pack’s nomination to lead the US Agency for Global Media while his organization is being scrutinized by the District of Columbia’s attorney general.

Right to Privacy Extends to Foreign Internet Users, German Court Rules

Privacy rights enshrined in Germany’s Constitution extend to foreigners living abroad and cover their online data, the country’s highest court ruled, ordering Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to overhaul a law governing the foreign intelligence agency. The decision by the Constitutional Court found that parts of a 2016 law governing the country’s foreign intelligence agency, known by its German abbreviation BND, in part violated the universal right to privacy in communication.

Africa races to fill telecoms ‘not spots’

The economics of rolling out connections to the most rural parts of Africa presents a hefty challenge for the hopes of many in the telemedicine world. Data compiled by M-Lab, an open source project backed by Google and various universities, shows that Madagascar is the only African country with broadband speeds anywhere close to those available in Europe and Asia, as a submarine cable lands on the island. Most other African nations rely on 3G and 4G signals, or long-distance WiFi technology Wi-Max.

Commerce Dept Addresses Huawei’s Efforts to Undermine Entity List, Restricts Products Designed and Produced with U.S. Technologies

The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced plans to protect US national security by restricting Huawei’s ability to use US technology and software to design and manufacture its semiconductors abroad. This announcement cuts off Huawei’s efforts to undermine US export controls. BIS is amending its longstanding foreign-produced direct product rule and the Entity List to narrowly and strategically target Huawei’s acquisition of semiconductors that are the direct product of certain US software and technology. 

Facebook Investment in Africa to Expand Internet Capacity Moves Ahead

Facebook’s investment in an enormous underwater internet cable circling Africa will move forward with help from partners in China, Saudi Arabia and Europe. The 2Africa internet project, called Simba in its planning phase, would link 16 African countries with cable routes to Europe and the Arabian Peninsula. The 2Africa system would involve a massive investment even by Silicon Valley standards.

Netflix Is Still Degrading HD Video Quality Across Europe, Angering Some Users

Almost two months ago, Netflix said it would reduce video bit rates for 30 days in Europe, aiming to reduce bandwidth consumed by customers by 25% during the COVID-19 crisis. It has now been 55 days since that announcement — and Netflix customers in Europe and the UK say the streamer is still delivering throttled HD and Ultra HD video, in some cases with bit rates at less than 50% usual.

Big Tech Has Crushed the News Business. That’s About to Change.

News organizations have long hoped that tech platforms would pay them for news. Now regulators abroad are moving to make that happen. A report by Australian regulators left little doubt about what they see as the cause of local journalism’s demise — the near-monopolistic power of Google and Facebook.

Alphabet/Sidewalk Labs Drops Smart City Project in Toronto

Google’s parent abandoned plans to develop a “smart city” in a Toronto neighborhood, a controversial project that once embodied the tech giant’s futuristic ambitions. The move is the highest-profile example yet of retrenchment by Alphabet under new Chief Executive Sundar Pichai. The Toronto project, under Alphabet arm Sidewalk Labs, was a favorite of Google co-founder Larry Page, who held the CEO role until December. Sidewalk Labs cited economic uncertainty and pressure on the local real-estate market in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Liberty Global and Telefónica agree £31bn deal to merge UK groups O2 and Virgin Media

Liberty Global and Telefónica have struck a landmark deal to combine their British operations O2 and Virgin Media in a £31.4bn agreement that will reshape the UK’s telecoms market. Under the terms of the agreement, the companies will have equal ownership of O2 and Virgin Media and have built-in mechanisms for a potential float of the combined business in three years.