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Technology 8 February 2021

The Week in Internet News: Toronto Looks to Community Broadband

Grant Gross
By Grant GrossGuest AuthorTechnology Reporter

Broadband for the city: Toronto, the largest city in Canada, will consider building a municipal broadband network to bridge the digital divide, Now Toronto reports. A government committee has endorsed the ConnectTO initiative, which aims to fill in underserved areas in the city while avoiding competition with current Internet service providers. Meanwhile, Tucson, Arizona, is building its own municipal broadband network, StateScoop says. The network will focus on serving government offices, students, and elderly residents who lack reliable Internet service.

Protesting subsidies: In another broadband story, some rural ISPs are questioning an $886 million U.S. Federal Communications Commission rural broadband subsidy to SpaceX, the Elon Musk-owned company that has launched a satellite-based Internet service, reports Bloomberg on Al Jazeera. Some rural ISPs have suggested the satellite service is still in beta and plans to serve parts of New York City and airports in Newark and Miami, which don’t fit in with the mission of the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

Giant regulation: A new Japanese law requires tech giants to disclose terms of contracts with business partners and submit reports regularly to the government, in an effort to enforce fair business relationships with smaller companies, The Japan Times reports. The law comes from concerns about large companies like Amazon unilaterally revising contracts with small sellers using their platforms. The law will affect not only U.S. companies like Amazon and Google, but also large Japanese companies like Rakuten and Yahoo Japan.

Spy vans: Speaking of Amazon, the company is getting flack for artificial intelligence-powered  cameras in its delivery vans, the BBC says. Amazon says the cameras will be on all the time but will only upload footage for 16 actions, including hard braking, driver distraction and drowsiness. Apparently, yawning will be flagged. Privacy advocates have called the cameras a surveillance tool. “Amazon’s appetite for surveillance knows no bounds,” said Silkie Carlo, director of the U.K.-based Big Brother Watch. “This intrusive, constant monitoring of employees creates an oppressive, distrustful and disempowering work environment that completely undermines workers’ rights.”

Internet coup: Facebook was blocked in Myanmar after users protested a military coup in the country, The Verge reports. For many residents, Facebook is the major way they interact with the Internet. Meanwhile, some ISPs saw disruptions after the coup, ZDNet says.

Read the Public Policy Brief on Internet Shutdowns, which highlights the impact of Internet shutdowns on local people, economy, and infrastructure and provides guidance to policymakers.

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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