• United States
by Staff Writers

In brief: SEC approves MCI settlement

Aug 11, 20034 mins

Plus: Maryland investigates e-voting; consumerd prefer DSL to cable; EC could fine Microsoft for monopoly offenses; and more.

  • MCI last week won approval from the court overseeing its bankruptcy case for its settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York approved the settlement, under which victims of MCI’s fraud are to receive $500 million in cash and $250 million in shares. The ruling resolves all claims by the SEC against MCI – still legally called WorldCom – for its past accounting practices, the company said. Shareholders, bondholders and other victims will get the settlement proceeds when MCI emerges from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the Ashburn, Va., telecom company said.

  • Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich last week ordered an independent review by Science Applications International Corp., into the electronic voting machines made by Diebold Electronic Systems. The call follows public accusations from Johns Hopkins University researchers two weeks ago that software code believed to be used in the AccuVote-TS touch-screen voting machines was flawed to the point that a single voter could trick it with multiple ballots. Johns Hopkins researchers said the software had been posted to the Internet by an activist. Diebold says the software in question – which Johns Hopkins said is based on Windows proprietary code, working with a smart card – is outdated and was never used in an election. Maryland has made a $55.6 million investment for 11,000 Diebold voting machines and has 5,000 of the machines already in use. Most of the other machines are to be in place before the presidential primary next March.

  • Slightly more than half of dial-up Internet access users would upgrade to DSL service rather than cable modem service if both were available in their area, according to a survey of 7,700 consumers issued last week by J.D. Power and Associates. Although there are many more cable modem users than DSL users today, only 38% of dial-up users said they would upgrade to cable modem service rather than DSL if both options were available to them. Of all Internet access services, dial-up connectivity still dominates, with about 74% of consumers connecting that way. About 17% use cable modem and 9% using DSL.

  • The European Commission could fine Microsoft up to 10% of its global annual sales for monopoly offenses, the commission said last week. Microsoft is still committing the monopoly abuses it was first accused of in 1998, the EC said in a preliminary ruling in its long-running antitrust case against the company. The commission has sent an updated statement of objections to Microsoft, reiterating previous accusations that it has leveraged its dominance in the market for computer operating systems into the markets for server systems and media-player software. The latest statement also outlines remedies the commission wants to impose on Microsoft to ensure that competition in these markets is freed up. Microsoft is studying the new statement, a spokesman said. The fact that the commission believes the monopoly abuse is still ongoing makes a large fine likely. Under European Union law the gravity of an antitrust offense is determined in part by how long it lasts. However, it has never fined a company the maximum 10% of sales.

  • Small-business and home users seeking to connect bandwidth-hungry audio and visual devices will appreciate a new IEEE standard for streaming multimedia data over high-speed wireless networks. The new 802.15.3 standard for high-rate wireless personal-area networks (WPAN) lets these networks link as many as 245 wireless fixed and portable devices at data rates up to 55M bit/sec and at distances from a few centimeters to 100 meters. The standard, which substantially increases the initial 1M bit/sec speed of WPANs, comes in response to strong demand from users, the IEEE says. The standard also addresses user priorities such as network economy, frequency performance, power consumption and data-rate scalability.