Week in Review: January 27, 2016

by Muira McCammon

Africa: The Continent Severe Internet Outages

On January 21, Internet outages impacted many netizens across Africa. Seacom, an undersea cable operator, announced that it was experiencing outages on its land-based network based in Egypt and that that construction activity in Egypt was to blame for the multiple outages that left much of Africa without Internet. Later that day, it released the following statement: " The SEACOM terrestrial network was successfully repaired on the 21st January 2016 at 16:46 GMT." It was also reported that WACS, the Western African Cable System that runs from Cape Town to Europe, had also experienced difficulties. Russell Southwood, the CEO of Balancing Act, a consultancy and research company focused on telecoms, internet and broadcast in Africa, said, "This week's failure on the international fibre routes to the continent provides a sharp reminder that while infrastructure has improved immeasurably over the last decade, much still needs to be done." Sources noted that connectivity issues throughout Africa lasted for several hours.

Cuba: Government Officials Hold Talks with U.S. Delegation about Internet Access

U.S. Ambassador Daniel Sepúlveda, the Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy in the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, led a 14-member delegation that held talks with Cuban representatives about the future of telecom and Internet service in the country. The U.S. delegation included Thomas Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission; Dean Garfield, president of the Information Technology Industry Council, and representatives from Cisco Systems, Comcast, the North American division of Erisson, and a Swedish communications company. Today, Cuba still has one of the lowest connectivity rates in the world; the country is able to get Internet access through satellites and an undersea fiber-optic cable that runs between Cuba and Venezuela. Sepúlveda highlighted the price of Internet access as well, noting that it can cost the average Cuban about 10 percent of his or her salary to get online. “We’re doing as much as we possibly can on our side. At this point, the biggest thing that is missing is trust," Sepúlveda said in an interview with the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald.

Germany: Government Arrests Admins of Far-Right Internet Platform

Today, on January 27th, the German government implemented a ban against the Altermedia Deutschland platform and arrested two individuals associated with the site. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere called the move "a clear sign that the rule of law doesn't allow hate crime." German prosecutors said that the two Germans arrested, Jutta V. and Ralph Thomas K., were charged with founding a criminal organization and incitement. Additionally, government officials conducted raids in four properties in Germany and northeastern Spain. A press statement released by the German Federal Prosecutor's Office remarked that administrators of the site were responsible for spreading Nazi ideologies and for inciting violent behavior against foreigners in Germany. German officials have also asked Russian authorities to shut down the site's server, which was strategically kept outside of Germany.

United States: Connecticut's Office of Consumer Counsel Release Report on Internet Quality, Cost

Connecticut's Office of Consumer Counsel published a report that about the state's Internet quality and cost. The report, "A Brief Overview of Broadband Deficiencies in Connecticut," was compiled by CTC Technology & Energy, the state government's independent broadband consultant. Researchers found that many Connecticut businesses, institutions and residents struggle to obtain affordable broadband services. They also state, "We found many rural areas where cellular mobile broadband service was poor or nonexistent. In areas between towns, and even in towns—inside buildings and in basements—service would diminish or cut out." In the past, residents of Connecticut have debated whether or not state tax money should be used for Internet development. That debate continues today.