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Broadband reaches access limits in Europe.

The European Union (EU) released survey results about internet use by businesses across the 27 member states. The survey, which was conducted by Eurostat (the Statistical Office of the European communities), polled companies that had at least 10 employees working in a range of industries.

In January 2008, the survey noted that 93% of EU27 enterprises had access to the internet, 81% had broadband connections, and 64% had company websites. In comparison with January 2007, the survey noted that overall access had not changed, broadband access rose from 77%, and websites increased slightly from 63%.

Iceland, Finland, and the Netherlands topped the lists with companies having the most access at broadband speeds. Belgium, Spain, and France also had more than 90% of companies with broadband access. At the other end, Poland, Lithuania, and Romania had the lowest percentages with broadband access at less than 60%. The survey noted that internet access reached a virtual saturation point in most European countries and that the focus in the next few years will be growth of broadband access and ever-increasing speeds.

U.K. broadband service providers had been criticized for claiming they had access speeds that are unachievable in many parts of the country. Users expecting advertised speeds of "up to 8 Mbps" can barely reach half that speed depending on their distance from an exchange and the network loads. Ofcom, the industry regulator, released a consumer guide for broadband users that explains what to expect from an ISP with a new broadband service and provides troubleshooting tips if the speeds are not up to expectations. Ofcom also published a code of practice for internet service providers that is designed to provide greater clarity for consumers and reduce the likelihood of consumers being misled about achievable speeds from broadband service.

Britain currently lags behind other countries in the rollout of ultrafast broadband. In December, Virgin Media became the first British ISP to launch a next-generation network with a capability of 50Mbps. The existing 12.6 million Virgin Media subscribers will be transferred to the faster network by summer 2009.Virgin Media reports the investment will double the capacity of its U.K. network and will ultimately lead to 200Mbps speeds. Shortly after the Virgin Media announcement, Be Broadband (a part of the O2 company) announced that it was doubling its 24Mbps service to 48Mbps, and NTL announced 100-Mbps network trials.


However, the question remains whether consumers will be able to afford higher-priced packages for ultrafast internet in these trying economic times. The Virgin Media offering is 51 [pounds sterling] per month (about $77 U.S.) or 35 [pounds sterling] per month (about $53 U.S.) with phone service. Deloitte U.K. reports that broadband take-up in the U.K. slowed to a virtual standstill in October 2008.The Deloitte "Digital Index" showed that 61.5% of U.K. households had broadband access, up 0.5% from the figure in July and up 2.5% from April. Deloitte estimates that the overall increase for 2008 will be 5%.

Digital New Zealand

In October 2008 IT, I described the New Zealand government's investment in promoting broadband access and supporting the creation of digital content, the so-called Digital Strategy 2.0. In December 2008, the National Library of New Zealand launched a new website that is designed to make more New Zealand digital content available online. The mission of the Digital New Zealand A-tihi o Aotearoa (DigitalNZ) is to make New Zealand content easy to find, share, and use. This includes content from government departments, publicly funded organizations, the private sector, and community groups. DigitalNZ will test new ways to create digital content; collect and share existing digital content; and build smart, freely available, search and discovery tools.

The website was launched with two showcases that relate to the commemoration of New Zealand's troops and their return from World War I. The Memory Maker remix editor allows users to create their own multimedia expression of what "coming home" means to them. Users can remix photos, graphics, film clips, and music from post-World War I years and then share the new video with friends and family. A search widget permits users to search digital content related to the return of New Zealand troops from overseas conflicts and the impact of war on the country or embed a version of the search on their own websites.

Honorary Fellowship for Saad Eskander

Saad Eskander, the director-general of the Iraq National Library and Archive (INLA), was awarded an honorary fellowship of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) in December. Eskander gave a memorable report on the destruction of Iraqi collections at ITI's Internet Librarian International conference in 2004.

The British Library (BL) hosted the award ceremony. Referring to the days immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein, CILIP chief executive Bob Mc-Kee said, "Dr. Eskander was appointed at a time when fire, looting and the actions of the previous regime had left INLA as the most damaged cultural institution in Iraq. While operating under conditions of unimaginable difficulty Dr. Eskander has succeeded in restoring INLA to some semblance of professional normality."

Dame Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the BL, said, "The British Library has been working with Dr. Saad Eskander to collaborate in the reconstruction of the Iraq National Library and Archives since 2004. He is a very special man; an inspiration and a role model for our profession and I am delighted that CILIP has conferred upon Saad its highest honour."

Eskander has campaigned tirelessly to reconstruct Iraq's collections and archives. While his initial problems were centered on locating treasures hidden by the Hussein regime or looted in the aftermath of the battle for Baghdad, his current focus is on the U.S. Department of Defense.

In a paper written for the Social Science Research Council, a New York City-based not-for-profit organization, Eskander appealed for the repatriation of Iraqi records seized by U.S. military and intelligence agencies. In June 2008, the Pentagon issued a grant opportunity where universities could submit proposals to use the records to study the political, social, and cultural workings and changes within Iraq during Hussein's reign. The grant proposal, known as the Minerva Research Initiative, describes the records as offering "a unique opportunity for multidisciplinary scholarship combined with research in methods and technologies for assisting scholarship in automated analysis, organization, retrieval, translation, and collaboration."

Eskander doesn't mince words: "This latest Pentagon initiative is not only a continuation of its previous negative attitudes, but it also constitutes an escalation in its violation of international conventions on the safeguarding of cultural heritage of occupied territories, and goes against the principles of rule of law, self-determination, and human rights that are supposed to govern the so-called Free World."

He also addresses any university or researcher who is thinking about applying for the grant. "A true academic institute will not give shelter to the illegitimately-seized and illegally-shipped records of the Ba'ath party," he says. "American universities, research centers and independent scholars should reflect on what has happened in Iraq, since the 2003 Invasion, before applying to the Pentagon's Minerva Research Initiative. We believe that they should be interested in supporting our efforts to make all the records of the former regime accessible to all of us in a responsible manner, without violating the sovereignty of Iraq and the dignity of its people."

A Brand New National Library

The times may be tough for libraries worldwide, but one country celebrated the opening of a new national library in December. His Majesty King Hamad opened the Shaikh Isa National Library of Bahrain on Dec. 18 in Juffair as a part of Bahrain's National Day celebrations. According to the Gulf Daily News, the library, which cost $45.3 million to build, opened with 75,000 books, a collection that will grow to 250,000 titles. It will be one of the most advanced libraries in the region with four reading halls with wireless internet access.The conference center will also provide 400-seat and 1,000-seat auditoriums.



Ofcom Consumer Guide

Ofcom Code of Practice

Deloitte Digital Index,1002,cid%253D200112,00.html

Digital New Zealand

Saad Eskander's article
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Title Annotation:International REPORT
Author:Ashling, Jim
Publication:Information Today
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Feb 1, 2009
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