European Lawmakers Push for Universal Chargers
Today in international tech news: A European Parliament committee wants to mandate uniform electronic chargers -- or, put differently, it wants Apple to cooperate. Also: Portugal could be next to block The Pirate Bay; the UN releases an exhaustive report on global broadband and Internet use; and the Hong Kong financial community laments losing Alibaba's stock offering.
Members of the European Parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee voted unanimously Thursday in favor of a new law mandating universal chargers for mobile devices.
In addition to convenience -- German parliamentarian Barbara Weiler called the current situation "cable chaos" -- the measure is motivated by a desire to curb electronic waste.
While the measure is not necessarily targeted at Apple, the company is an obvious outlier. Apple chargers are notoriously incompatible with other devices (and vice versa).
In 2009, the European Commission partnered with the International Telecommunications Union and mobile phone manufacturers to create a voluntary agreement around the micro USB connector. Apple signed up for the agreement but has yet to adopt such a charger.
Despite the committee's vote, the single-charger measure must still make it through the European Council and European Parliament.
Portugal to Pursue 'Pirate' Blockade
In Portugal, a coalition of copyright trade groups will file an injunction to force Internet service providers to block The Pirate Bay and other file-sharing sites.
The Pirate Bay, the 29th most-visited website in Portugal, has been similarly blocked in other European nations, including the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium.
The group filing the injunction, reportedly backed by major movie studios, says it will deliver the injunction by the end of the year. If successful, it would mark the first time that Portuguese ISPs would be required to block a website because of copyright concerns.
UN Report Details Global Broadband Growth
The United Nations Broadband Commission released a report on broadband and Internet use around the world.
By the end of the year, the total number of mobile broadband connections will hit 2.1 billion, the report says -- about three times more than fixed-line subscriptions.
Singapore and Japan lead the world in per-capital mobile broadband use, with 123 and 113 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, respectively.
Perhaps surprisingly, Oman and Kazakhstan, of all places, have higher broadband penetration than some European countries, including Germany and Switzerland. Meanwhile, Europe is tops in fixed-line broadband connections, with Switzerland leading the way at 41.9 subscriptions per 100 residents.
Europe is also tops in overall Internet use. Iceland -- which used the Internet to help draft its constitution -- is No. 1 at 96 percent.
Hong Kong Laments Losing Alibaba
The Hong Kong financial community is calling for reforms after the Hong Kong Stock Exchange rejected Alibaba Group's plans to list shares.
The Hong Kong Stock Exchange denied Alibaba's planned Hong Kong offering because of the group's ownership structure: 28 partners want to keep control of the company, even though they own but one-tenth of the company. This ran afoul of the Exchange's policies, and that was that.
Alibaba is a Chinese e-commerce giant whose net worth is estimated at US$80 billion. The company's stock offering is expected to be one of the biggest in years.
Thus is Hong Kong's business community bemoaning the regulations that cause the Hong Kong Stock Exchange to spurn Alibaba, which is now coveted by the NYSE Euronext and Nasdaq OMX Group.
Reuters cites bankers, lawyers and advisers in Hong Kong who wonder whether regulators should have done more to let Alibaba slide despite the bizarre ownership structure.