Category Archives: Commerce

U.S. Blocks Global Chip Supplies to Huawei Technologies



The U.S. Department of Commerce unveiled a new rule that expands U.S. authority to require licenses for sales to Huawei Technologies of semiconductors made abroad with U.S. technology, according to Reuters, who was the first to report this. The new rule will enable the United States to vastly expand its ability to halt exports to Huawei Technologies.

Part of the wording of the Department of Commerce’s rule says:

The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) today announced plans to protect U.S. national security by restricting Huawei’s ability to use U.S. technology and software to design and manufacture its semiconductors abroad. This announcement cuts off Huawei’s efforts to undermine U.S. export controls. BIS is amending its longstanding foreign-produced direct product rule and the Entity List to narrowly and strategically target Huawei’s acquisition of semiconductors that are the direct product of certain U.S. software and technology.

The Commerce Department’s rule, effective Friday but with a 120-day grace period, also hits Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd, the biggest contract chipmaker and key Huawei supplier, which announced plans to build a U.S.-based plant on Thursday.

According to Reuters, China’s response to this new rule is that Beijing is ready to put U.S. companies on an “unreliable entity list”. The measure includes launching investigations and imposing restrictions on U.S. companies such as Apple Inc., Cisco Systems Inc, Qualcomm Inc, and the suspension of purchases of Boeing Co airplanes.


Vodafone to Remove Huawei from European Networks



Vodafone is going to strip Huawei systems out of the core of its European network, according to Financial Times. Doing so will cost €200m as the European telecoms sector moves to adapt to new limits on the use Huawei’s equipment. Financial Times reported that Vodofone Chief executive Nick Read said the process would take five years because of the complexity of removing systems critical to its network.

The Guardian reported that Nick Read said the Huawei equipment replacement program would have “very limited financial impact” on its UK operations as they were already mostly compliant with the new government measures.

In January of 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson approved the use of equipment made by “high-risk vendors”, but restricted access to “sensitive core” parts of the network. It is understood that “high-risk vendors” was a reference to Huawei. The UK will exclude “high-risk vendors” from all “safety critical networks” in the UK.

Huawei posted a statement on its Twitter account about the UK’s 5G decision. The statement said:

“Huawei is reassured by the UK government’s confirmation that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G roll-out on track. This evidence-based decision will result in a more advanced, more secure and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future. It gives the UK access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market.”

“We have supplies cutting-edge technology to telecoms operators in the UK for more than 15 years. We will build on this strong track record, supporting our customers as they invest in their 5G networks, boosting economic growth and helping the UK continue to compete globally.”

“We agree a diverse vendor market and fair competition are essential for network reliability and innovation, as well as ensuring consumers have access to the best possible technology.”

Also in January of 2020, the European Union unveiled security guidelines for next generation high-speed wireless networks. Their recommendations don’t specifically call for a ban on Huawei. Instead, its recommendations include blocking high-risk equipment suppliers from “critical and sensitive” parts of the network, including the core, which keeps track of data and authenticates smartphones connecting to cell towers.

That said, individual countries in the EU would be able to decide for themselves what kind of role Huawei will play in their own wireless network infrastructure.


AirPaper Cancels Comcast Bills for $5.00



AirPaper logoThere are a lot of reasons to cancel service with an ISP or cable TV provider. Perhaps the quality of service has gone done hill. Or maybe a competitor has offered a better deal. It could also be something as simple as moving out of that particular company’s service area. Whatever the reason, these companies have become notoriously difficult about letting customers cancel their service.

That’s where a clever new service called AirPaper comes in. For a small fee of $5.00, AirPaper removes the hassle of calling Comcast yourself when it’s time to cancel service. AirPaper will cancel the service using a quasi-loophole in Comcast’s terms of service.

Apparently, Comcast offers its customers two ways to cut the cord. The first one (and the one everyone would prefer to avoid) is by phone. The other is thru the mail. AirPaper gathers a customer’s details, determines which Comcast office is closest to them, and then composes a goodbye later and mails it directly to Comcast.

And AirPaper isn’t stopping with Comcast. The company is currently planning on developing systems to help with obtaining a San Francisco parking permit, registering a San Francisco business, and getting a Visa to travel to China.

Is there a bureaucratic process you think AirPaper should tackle? The company has an open form on its website where it’s accepting suggestions.


BeZilch Marketplace for Unwanted Tech



beZilch LogoFreshly-launched beZilch is a marketplace for the trade of unwanted tech in the space between the auction houses and the fixed price trade-in centres. Jared Hansen, Founder and CEO, sells it to Todd and Todd.

If you want the most money for unwanted gadgetry, generally an online auction is the way to go, but the auction takes time to run and the fees can be expensive. At the other end of the spectrum, fixed price trade-in centres give you the cash quickly but the price can often be quite low. beZilch proposes a middle ground where both buyers and sellers can post ads.

Say you want a phone for your careless kids; first you can check to see if anyone is selling a phone in the price range you are thinking about. If not, post that you want a Samsung S3 and you’ll pay $100 for it.

Sellers can then check out the ads and consider if they’re willing to sell at that price for a quick sale. If they’re not happy with the prices on offer, they can post an ad with the price they’re looking for. Both sides can see what’s on offer and beZilch lets people choose between convenience and money.

Transactions are secured by PayPal so both sides are covered and for sellers the auctions fees are a flat 4% – there’s no complicated fee structure.

It’s a neat idea and offers an alternative channel to the big sites that we’re all familiar with. Let’s hope it gets some traction.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Todd Aune of The Elder Divide for the TechPodcast Network.

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AirBaltic is the First Airline to Accept Bitcoin



airBaltic logoAirBaltic has become the world’s first airline to accept Bitcoin as payment for some of its tickets. The company is Latvia’s national airline. It is now possible for people to use Bitcoin to buy an airline ticket to 60 destinations in Europe, Middle East, Russia, and the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States).

Those who want to use Bitcoin to pay for their airline tickets must make their purchase through the airBaltic website. The prices on their website are listed in Euros. When a customer uses Bitcoin as payment, the Bitcoins are automatically converted into Euros at whatever the current exchange rate happens to be.

There are some limitations. The Bitcoin payment option is only available when a person purchases the cheapest tickets. Those tickets are called airBaltic Basic Class.

The airBaltic fleet of planes consists of 25 aircraft. It includes 5 Boeing 737-500, 8 Boeing 737-300, and 12 Bombardier Q400Next planes. The Latvian state is the primary shareholder in airBaltic, with 99.8% of stock. I’ve never heard of this airline before. It appears that, if nothing else, being the first airline to accept Bitcoin as payment is resulting in quite a bit of publicity for airBaltic!


Payleven Mobile Payments at The Gadget Show



Payleven Chip and PINOne of the common problems facing start-ups and small businesses are the costs associated with taking credit card payments. The transaction costs can be high for small turnovers and point-of-sale machines are expensive with a monthly rental fee. To counter this problem, Payleven offers a low-cost mobile payment solution for European businesses using a Chip’n’PIN card reader that uses Bluetooth to communicate with both Apple, Android and Amazon smartphones and tablets. The Chip’n’PIN unit costs only GB£60 (ex-VAT) with a transaction charge of 2.75%. Payleven have partnered with GoTab to offer a complete solution for around £250 including a tablet and the card reader.

The approach is similar to US-based Square, but as Chip’n’PIN is only beginning to be required across the pond, Square’s reader unit is a simpler card-swipe device that plugs straight into the smartphone. Having a full Chip’n’PIN card reader in Europe is a necessity but the independent unit makes the transaction look much more professional anyway.

Simon from Payleven tells me about their solution and takes me through some of the features.


Posting a Negative Review Could Harm You



b1keyboard02What happens when you receive bad customer service? For many people, the answer to that question is that they go online and post a negative review of the company that treated them badly. It turns out that, in at least some cases, doing so can result in harm to the person who posted the negative review.

KUTV.com and CNN both have written about a situation where a woman was fined by a company that she wrote a negative review about. One might consider it a cautionary tale about what can happen if you don’t read the fine print (or if you end up dealing with a less than honest company).

John Palmer bought his wife a Christmas gift from a particular website. The gift never arrived. The company sent the money back to John Palmer’s Paypal account. His wife, Jen Palmer, wrote a negative review of the company on Ripoffreport.com.

Three years later, the company sent an email to the couple that stated that they would be fined $3,500 if their negative review was not taken down within 72 hours. Long story short, the Palmers could not simply take down the review themselves (because it wasn’t posted on a website that they owned or had control of).

The couple refused to pay the fine. The company sent it to collections agents. The Palmer’s have now had their credit score damaged as a result of the situation. There may or may not be legal battles regarding what happened, but I will not speculate about that.

This holiday season, make sure you take a close look at the fine print before you make an online purchase. Some companies are including a “non-disparagement clause” in customer agreements. It is this clause that is being used by some companies to silence negative reviews.

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