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Eurobites: UK's NHS goes its own way on COVID-19 app

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: trouble brews over French COVID-19 app; Virgin Media suffers major outage; CityFibre breaks ground in Bury.

  • Europe's disarray over its approach to the development of coronavirus contact-tracing apps continues with the news that Britain's National Health Service (NHS) has decided to reject the "decentralized" approach being championed by Apple and Google in favor of a "centralized matching" technique which relies on automatic Bluetooth alerts being sent to those who may have been at risk of infection. As the BBC reports, the NHS says that with the help of the National Cyber Security Centre it has discovered a way of making the centralized approach work on Apple's iPhones, which had until now proved a problem. The NHS also believes that a centralized approach, where the contact-tracing matches take place on a central server, will give it more insight into the spread of the virus than the tech giants' approach, which relies on a user's own handset to carry out the contact-matching process. (See Eurobites: Row grows over COVID-19 contact-tracing apps.)

  • In similar territory, Reuters reports ructions in France, where the ruling party is angry with its own government for withdrawing a vote on the introduction of a "StopCovid" coronavirus tracking app there. Over the weekend, says the report, the proposed agenda for a debate focused on the app that was promised for this week was broadened out to cover the government's whole strategy on ending the COVID-19 lockdown, denying some lawmakers to voice their data-privacy concerns about the whole StopCovid project. (See France unveils project team for StopCovid app.)

  • UK cable operator Virgin Media suffered a major outage on Monday, with more than 30,000 reports being sent to Downdetector, a website that monitors broadband failures, in less than half an hour. According to Metro, Virgin claimed that the problem had been fixed by the early hours of Tuesday morning, but thousands of customers said they were still unable to get online, with both fixed line and mobile access affected. Data from research firm ThousandEyes shows that UK outages have increased by 62% in a week during its two most recent measurement windows.

  • CityFibre, the UK full-fiber infrastructure provider, has begun work on its network in the eastern English town of Bury St. Edmunds. The £8 million (US$10 million) project is being delivered on the ground by specialist contractor Lite Access, observing "social distancing" protocols during the continuing coronavirus pandemic, which is hitting the UK hard.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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