Sony Investing $345M in Selfies

Sony selfiesWomen once used restaurant washrooms to fix their hair or touch up their make-up – today they’re used for selfies. In fact, the popularity of the digital self-portraits has become so intense that major players in the tech industry are focusing efforts on including them in their devices.

Sony – which supplies cameras for some of the world’s top smartphone makers – is one such company, announcing it is investing $345 million in better front-facing image sensors. It is allegedly increasing production at two of its factories by 13 percent, producing 68,000 sensors a month.

Improved cameras will allow for users of Samsung and Apple phones to enjoy the benefits of better selfie-taking, as well as Skyping and other video-call services. Currently the Samsung Galaxy S5 has a two megapixel front camera, while the iPhone 5 has a 1.2 megapixel camera.

Sony leads the market for rear-facing cameras, but Omnivision Technologies Inc. currently has a lock on screen-side sensors, which typically are poorer quality, something Sony’s recent announcement may soon change.

*Source: Reuters

CRTC Takes Aim at Paper Bills

CRTC Wireless CodeAre you paying extra for a paper copy of your wireless bill each month? The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) wants to do something about that and is preparing to sit down with industry execs to gather more information on the practice.

A survey conducted last November found 36 percent of wireless companies do not charge a fee to customers who wish to have a paper bill mailed to them each billing cycle. Twenty-seven percent said they charged between 99 cents and $5.95 per month. Some offer exemptions to customers who do not have Internet access.

“The CRTC is concerned that the approach taken by the industry in transition from paper to electronic bills may not have taken into account the specific circumstances of some Canadians,” states a press release. “The CRTC is inviting representatives from communications companies to a meeting that will be held on Aug. 28 at its central office.”

The CRTC aims to develop a consistent approach to paper bills that can be applied by all wireless companies and has warned if there is disagreement it is prepared to escalate the matter.

“We are concerned that not all Canadians have a reasonable choice when it comes to paper bill fees for communications services,” said CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais, in a statement.

“We are challenging telecommunications and broadcasting distribution companies to come up with a comprehensive approach that will enable Canadians to make informed decisions. We are prepared to explore regulatory options if the industry fails to find an appropriate approach.”

Italy: Google Has 18 Months to Change its Ways

Google ItalyGoogle has been under a lot of fire in Europe concerning privacy laws. Now, Italy has given the company 18 months to alter the way it collects and stores user data.

A group of regulators from the European Union has been pushing the Internet giant to change its ways for several months. The move came after Google combined 60 privacy policies into one, meshing data collected on individual users across its services including YouTube, Gmail and Google+.

Italian regulators have ordered Google to change its system in the next year in a half, requiring users to give consent before Google can use their information for commercial purposes. As well, Google must meet requests from users to delete their accounts within two months.

A Google spokesman has assured that the company will comply with the Rome-based regulator’s decision, as it has with other European regulators, such as France and Spain. As a part of that, it will present a plan on how it will follow through with the new regulations. If it does not meet Italy’s requirements, Google could be subject to a €1 million fine and criminal proceedings.

*Source: The Star

Canada Making Large Broadband Investment

Broadband infrastructure

Rural communities stand to benefit from a major broadband investment from the Canadian government. On Tuesday, the government called for communities lacking high-speed Internet to apply for a share of the $305 million funding that will be available over the next three years.

“Connecting Canadians is about ensuring that Canadians, whether they live in urban centers or remote regions of the country, have access to the latest wireless technologies and high-speed networks at the most affordable prices possible,” Industry Minister James Moore said in a statement.

If the project is successful, about 98 percent of Canadians will have access to high-speed Internet. Western provinces, including British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta are among the most underserved.

*Source: Reuters

AT&T Billing Error Leaves Municipalities on the Hook

AT&TSometimes it’s not the telcos that suffer most for their mistakes. This is a lesson the City of Springfield, Ill. is learning the hard way after it was ordered to repay $273,000 thanks to an AT&T billing error.

The fallout is just one stemming from a huge AT&T federal telecommunications tax error, where the company overcharged customers on data plans from November 2005 to September 2010. A class action settlement has called for AT&T to refund the money to users, meaning governments that already received the funding will have to return it.

“It was a letter saying a settlement was negotiated with AT&T and oh, by the way, you owe $273,000 in overpayments in taxes and we’re going to start collecting that,” Springfield director of budget and management Bill McCarty was quoted as saying.

It also means those same governments will face a funding shortfall for projected revenues already included in their budgets. While it is not expected to do major damage in Springfield – the city may end up short in its budget surplus – there is no doubt other areas will be harder hit.

*Source: ABC News