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Improvements to rural broadband connections to commence after state funding approved by European Commission

Nearly a year after initial plans were submitted for a £530m project to bring faster internet to the UK countryside, the European Commission has finally approved the scheme. The plan to improve rural connections was part of the coalition government’s goal to give the UK the best broadband network in Europe.

BT will be carrying out the work, starting in Surrey and Wales first, with Cumbria, Rutford, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire to follow.

Cultural Minister Maria Miller MP said: “Britain is in a global race today. To succeed in that race we must have the infrastructure to match our aspiration, providing people who work hard with the tools they need to get on and prosper; this green light will benefit both businesses and communities across the UK.

“Our broadband plans are hugely ambitious – to connect 90 per cent of homes to superfast broadband and ensuring the rest have access to at least 2Mbps. The Government will not allow parts of our country to miss out on the digital age.”

48% of U.S. children want an iPad this Christmas

The
annual festive holiday survey by Nielsen has revealed that the iPad has risen
in popularity by 17% since 2010, allowing Apple to claim four out of the top five
most wanted Christmas presents.

At
39%, and coming in second on kids’ wishlists is Nintendo’s latest offering; the
Wii U. However, with the iPod Touch and the iPad Mini joint third at 36% and
the iPhone coming in fifth with 33%, it is safe to say that Apple have
dominated Christmas lists this year.

“Apple’s
dominance in the US Christmas market looks likely to be replicated in the UK
this season as the company’s popularity and product range increases,” comments
Greg Poulson of Freetimers.

Will Microsoft break the smartphone market?

Microsoft’s latest foray into the smartphone market begins as the Windows
Phone 8 goes on sale. Whilst reviewers and the relative few who bought the
Windows Phone 7 praised the product, sales were slow despite the fast growing
market.  Even with more features and
improvements on the original, it would seem that many people are reluctant to
stray from their iPhone or Android counterparts.

The story of Microsoft having a great product that fails to impress the masses
sounds strangely familiar to Microsoft’s venture into the gaming market. X-Box
was first launched back in 2001, but until recent years has always been placed
behind Nintendo and Sony in the market. After some necessary tweaks, and the
launch of X-Box Live, the X-Box is now a very close second behind Sony’s
Playstation3.

The big pull for the Windows Phone 8 will be Microsoft itself; with software
provided by Microsoft Office, Skype and Windows 8, it would seem that just like
Apple and Google, Microsoft is building an eco system of gadgets that will work
harmoniously together. Speaking about Windows Phone and Windows in a video
Blog, Bill Gates said, “It’s evolving, literally, into being a single
platform.”

“The signs are that many users will to migrate to Windows 8 over the next
few years,” comments Greg Poulson of Freetimers. “If this happens, it looks
possible that the Windows Phone 8 could prove considerably more successful than
its predecessor.”

UK’s first 4G mobile service launches today

The long awaited new 4G service has gone live in cities across the country including London, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Glasgow with Southampton to have access to network EE’s 4G from next week. Belfast, Derby, Hull, Newcastle and Nottingham will be active by Christmas.

Network EE, formerly known as Everything, Everywhere and which owns Orange and T-Mobile in the UK, has promised speeds of between 8 to 12Mbps – up to five times faster than current 3G mobile technology.

The extra speed will allows for high-quality streaming of audio, video and other content whilst on the move.

“It’s a significant and much anticipated launch.  It further strengthens the argument that in the future more and more people will be using their phones and other mobile
devices to access the internet.  Companies with websites that are not designed for mobile devices will lose out on this fast growing market” comments Greg Poulson Managing Director of Freetimers Internet.

It’s hard to imagine that only 10 years ago most people were accessing the internet via dial up technology at speeds that would be intolerably slow today.  4G marks the
next significant step towards universal fast internet delivery across the UK.  More and more people will be accessing the internet via mobile technology, but many companies have not
prepared their sites for it.

The Office for Fair Trading (OFT) has warned online retailers to check they are not breaking consumer laws.

The OFT has found that more than a third of UK online
retailers could be breaking consumer laws by adding unexpected charges to
orders. They have warned retailers to change their websites before Christmas.

 

62 of the UK’s 156 most popular websites were found not to be complying with current laws. They
found unreasonable restrictions on refunds and compulsory charges being added
at the checkout.

 

Nearly two-thirds of all the retailers checked failed to
provide an email contact address, as opposed to a web contact, which is a
breach of the E-Commerce regulations.

 

“The OFT recognises that most businesses want to play
fair with their customers and to comply with the law,” said Cavendish
Elithorn, a senior director at the OFT.

“We encourage all online retailers to check their
websites so customers can be confident their rights are being respected when
they shop online.”

 

With Christmas shoppers hitting sites in the coming weeks
the OFT has warned retailers to make sure they are not ignoring their legal
obligations.

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