Last week, British Foreign Secretary William Hague stated at the opening of the London Conference on  Cyberspace that while the Internet "... can drive equitable and sustainable growth ... gives access to knowledge and the exchange of ideas... nurtures innovation and investment... [and] nurtures opportunities for participation in social and economic activities for those on the margins," it also creates  "...significant challenges which could undermine these benefits and pose a serious threat to reaping the full potential of cyberspace."

"In tackling the threats," Secretary Hague said, "We must not allow improved security to come at the expense of fundamental human rights."

Secretary Hague, who was chair of the conference, re-emphasized this belief at the end of the conference where he said again:

"The conference agreed that efforts to improve cyber security must not be at the expense of human rights."

The British Foreign Minister then added, according to a Reuters story, this thought as well:

"My message to governments is that in the long term efforts to resist the freer flow of information, the tide that is flowing towards greater transparency and accountability, will fail."

You can read Secretary Hague's official statement(s) to the conference here at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office site,  which interestingly, does not seem to include that last remark that I can find.

The purpose of the London Conference on Cyberspace was to launch a "... more focused and inclusive  dialogue between key cyberspace actors from across the world including from government, industry and civil society." It was hosted by the UK Foreign Office, and some 60 countries were represented.

Among those attending were Facebook policy director Richard Allan, European Commissioner Neelie Kroes, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and US Vice President Joseph Biden.

Vice President Joe Biden echoed Secretary Hague's sentiments, stating:

 "What citizens do online should not, as some have suggested, be decreed solely by groups of governments making decisions for them somewhere on high."

China was one of the countries represented at the conference, but this story by Reuter's reported that its small delegation  "... did not participate actively in the open sessions."

China's Consulate in Edinburgh, seems to have a different view of its participation at the conference, however:

"At the invitation of the UK Foreign Secretary Hague, a joint Chinese delegation composing Ministry of  Foreign Affairs, the Information Office of the State Council and other departments attended the conference and took an active part in discussions on related topics. China hopes the London Conference and  discussions at related forums will be [a] useful supplement to the international process of discussing and  formulating international rules on cyberspace within the UN."

And the cyberspace rules the Chinese seem to have in mind, according to an article the Financial Times of London this week, aren't likely to be of the liking of Secretary Hague or Vice President Biden.

The FT reported that following a "three-day political schooling session," the CEOs of 39 Chinese Internet, telecom and computer groups have apparently voluntarily pledged to the Chinese government that they will exert tighter censorship over the 500 million users of the Internet in China.

The CEOs are have said to reached an agreement among themselves to "...strengthen self control, self restraint and strict self discipline ...[to] contain the tendency of spreading online rumours, pornography, fraud and other illegal, harmful information on the Internet."

The FT also says that the group plans future political schooling sessions to reinforce their commitment to their objectives.

So while Secretary Hague and Vice President Biden may believe that countries trying to control the free flow of information over the Internet will fail, the Chinese government - and the CEOs of its major IT companies - aren't letting such beliefs interfere with their ongoing attempts to prove otherwise.

The Conversation (0)

Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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