AT&T

FCC Approves AT&T's DirecTV Purchase 100 100

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has granted approval to AT&T to purchase DirecTV for $48.5 billion. AT&T will become the largest provider of cable or satellite TV in the U.S., with 26.4 million subscribers. "Adding TV customers gives AT&T more power to negotiate with big media companies over prices for those channels. The deal also combines a nationwide satellite TV service, the country's largest, with the No. 2 nationwide wireless network as time spent on mobile devices increases." The FCC did put conditions on the deal: AT&T must make fiber internet service available to 12.5 million people, offer cheaper internet plans to low-income customers, and not mess with the internet traffic of online video competitors.
Privacy

FCC CIO: Consumers Need Privacy Controls In the Internet of Everything Era 46 46

Lemeowski writes: Who is responsible for ensuring security and privacy in the age of the Internet of Things? As the number of Internet-connected devices explodes — Gartner estimates that 25 billion devices and objects will be connected to the Internet by 2020 — security and privacy issues are poised to affect everyone from families with connected refrigerators to grandparents with healthcare wearables. In this interview, U.S. Federal Communications Commission CIO David Bray says control should be put in the hands of individual consumers. Speaking in a personal capacity, Bray shares his learnings from a recent educational trip to Taiwan and Australia he took as part of an Eisenhower Fellowship: "A common idea Bray discussed with leaders during his Eisenhower Fellowship was that the interface for selecting privacy preferences should move away from individual Internet platforms and be put into the hands of individual consumers." Bray says it could be done through an open source agent that uses APIs to broker their privacy preferences on different platforms.
Privacy

Anonymizing Wi-Fi Device Project Unexpectedly Halted 138 138

An anonymous reader notes that a project to develop an anonymizing Wi-Fi device has been canceled under mysterious circumstances. The device, called Proxyham, was unveiled a couple weeks ago by Rhino Security Labs. They said it would use low-frequency radio channels to connect a computer to public Wi-Fi hotspots up to 2.5 miles away, thus obscuring a user's actual location. But a few days ago the company announced it would be halting development and canceling a talk about it at Def Con, which would have been followed with a release of schematics and source code. They apologized, but appear to be unable to say anything further.

"In fact, all [the speaker] can say is that the talk is canceled, the ProxyHam source code and documentation will never be made public, and the ProxyHam units developed for Las Vegas have been destroyed. The banner at the top of the Rhino Security website promoting ProxyHam has gone away too. It's almost as if someone were trying to pretend the tool never existed." The CSO article speculates that a government agency killed the project and issued a gag order about it. A post at Hackaday calls this idea absurd and discusses the hardware needed to build a Proxyham. They say using it would be "a violation of the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, and using encryption over radio violates FCC regulations. That’s illegal, it will get you a few federal charges — but so will blowing up a mailbox with some firecrackers." They add, "What you’re seeing is just the annual network security circus and it’s nothing but a show."
Cellphones

Cell Phone Radiation Emission Tests Assume Use of Belt Clip 184 184

jfruh writes: Most Slashdotters rightfully roll their eyes when people panic about the "radiation" put out by cell phone. But there is a germ of truth to some of the nervous talk: when the FCC assesses how much radio-frequency radiation a phone user will absorb, they work on the assumption you'll be wearing it in a belt clip, rather than putting it in your pocket as most people do. With the size of some recent phones, I think assuming use of a backpack might be just as realistic.
The Media

Making FOIA-Requested Data Public: Too Much Transparency For Journalists? 139 139

schwit1 writes: From The Washington Post's Lisa Rein comes news that the federal government is launching a six-month pilot program with seven agencies to post online documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act. That means that information requested (whether by a journalist, nonprofit group or corporation) asks for the records under FOIA, it's not the just the requester who will get to see the results, but also the public at large. What's the problem with that? For journalists whose province is the scoop, it could mean less incentive to go through the process of asking for the record in the first place. Washington Post Investigations Editor Jeff Leen says in the story that public posting could therefore "affect long-term investigations built on a number of FOIA requests over time." An excerpt offers a similar defense of documents being released only to the requesting party: "FOIA terrorist" Jason Leopold has big issues with the approach. "It would absolutely hurt journalists' ability to report on documents they obtained through a FOIA request if the government agency is going to immediately make records available to the public," writes the Vice News reporter via e-mail. Leopold has already experienced the burn of joint release, he says, after requesting information on Guantanamo Bay. The documents were posted on the U.S. Southern Command's Web site. "I lost the ability to exclusively report on the material even though I put in all of the work filing the requests," he notes. Another reason FOIA requesters might be annoyed by a general-release policy: filing FOIA requests isn't free.
Cellphones

TracFone Finally Agrees To Allow Phone Unlocking 85 85

jfruh writes: While most Slashdot readers probably enjoy the latest and greatest smartphones and heavy-use data plans, millions of Americans use low-cost, prepaid featurephones, and many of those are sold under various brand names owned by TracFone. Today, after much pressure from the FCC, TracFone admitted that its customers also have the right to an unlocked phone that they can port to a different provider, including those low-income customers who participate in the government-subsidized Lifeline program, widely (though incorrectly) known as "Obamaphone".
The Internet

Charter Hires Net Neutrality Activist To Make Policy 70 70

An anonymous reader writes: The Federal Communications Commission has been at loggerheads with many ISPs lately, after the agency pushed through net neutrality rules that have now gone into effect. The defeat of Comcast's attempted acquisition of Time Warner Cable was hailed by many net neutrality activists as a victory, but then came the news that Charter was looking to buy TWC instead — which brought the worries back. But now Charter has taken the unusual step of hiring one of those activists to help develop its policy: Marvin Ammori. He says, "Charter hired me—which, to be honest, took some humility on its part since I have helped lead public campaigns against cable companies like Charter—to advise it in crafting its commitment to network neutrality. After our negotiation, I can say Charter is offering the strongest network neutrality commitments ever offered—in any merger or, to my knowledge, in any nation. In fact, in the end, I personally wrote the commitments." Put briefly, Charter agreed to abide by the interconnection mandates and prohibition of paid prioritization — regardless of the outcome of pending litigation from the ISPs fighting it — for a minimum of three years. The company has also promised no data caps and no usage-based billing.
The Internet

Study: Major ISPs Slowing Traffic Across the US 181 181

An anonymous reader writes: A study based on test results from 300,000 internet users "found significant degradations on the networks of the five largest internet service providers" in the United States. This group includes Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and AT&T. "The study, supported by the technologists at Open Technology Institute's M-Lab, examines the comparative speeds of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), which shoulder some of the data load for popular websites. ... In Atlanta, for example, Comcast provided hourly median download speeds over a CDN called GTT of 21.4 megabits per second at 7pm throughout the month of May. AT&T provided speeds over the same network of of a megabit per second." These findings arrive shortly after the FCC's new net neutrality rules took effect across the U.S.
Wireless Networking

Sprint Begins Punishing Customers For FCC's Net Neutrality Rules 272 272

ourlovecanlastforeve writes: A few days ago Sprint announced their intent to stop throttling certain customers' bandwidth in the wake of the FCC fining ATT $100,000,000 for doing the same. Sprint has now begun circulating an internal memo to their front-line reps that the 12-month warranty on non-branded accessories, a featured selling point, will be eliminated. Additional rumors are emerging that Sprint may increase prices on unlimited data plans and stop offering wireline long distance service.
Government

FCC Votes To Subsidize Broadband Connections For Low-Income Households 283 283

Mark Wilson writes: Today the FCC voted in favor of updating its Lifeline program to include broadband. This would mean that households surviving on low incomes would be able to receive help paying for a broadband connection. It might not be as important as electricity or water, but having a broadband connection is seen as being all but essential these days. From helping with education and job hunting, to allowing for home working, the ability to get online is seen as so vital by some that there have been calls for it to be classed as a utility. The Lifeline program has been running since the 80s, and originally provided financial help to those struggling to pay for a phone line. It was expanded in 2008 to include wireless providers, and it is hoped that this third expansion will help more people to get online.
Businesses

FCC To Fine AT&T $100M For Throttling Unlimited Data Customers 205 205

New submitter Wargames writes: According to the article in the New York Times, AT&T is getting fined $100,000,000 for its doublespeak redefinition of the word "Unlimited". The FCC says AT&T failed to adequately notify its customers that they could receive speeds slower than the normal network speeds AT&T advertised and that these actions violated the FCC's 2010 Open Internet Order. “Unlimited means unlimited,” Travis LeBlanc, the F.C.C.’s chief of the enforcement bureau, said in a statement on Wednesday. “As today’s action demonstrates, the commission is committed to holding accountable those broadband providers who fail to be fully transparent about data limits.”
The Internet

First Net Neutrality Lawsuit Will Target Time Warner Cable 88 88

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. government's new net neutrality rules finally took effect last Friday, and a company is already using them to line up a lawsuit against Time Warner Cable. A firm called Commercial Network Services, which runs a bunch of webcams, says TWC is charging them unreasonable rates to stream video to their customers. "The [FCC's] regulations establish hard and fast rules against slowing or blocking Web traffic, as well as a ban on content companies paying for speedier service once their traffic enters a provider's network. But by design, they don't say nearly as much about how companies should negotiate the private agreements that ensure Web traffic flows smoothly into an Internet provider's network — and to your home." TWC has been arranging "settlement-free peering" with various companies, but refused such a deal with CNS. The complaint will ask the FCC to rule that ISPs must strike free peering deals with website operators.
The Internet

ISP Breaking Net Neutrality? The FCC's Got a Complaint Form For That 99 99

Presto Vivace writes with news from The Consumerist that the FCC has updated its consumer help center with a revamped form for complaining about an unsatisfactory ISP. From the article: Among the issues concerned consumers can complain about, the form now contains "open internet/net neutrality," right there alphabetically between "interference" and "privacy." So what, specifically, qualifies as a net neutrality violation you can complain about? The FCC has guidance for that, too. In general, paraphrased, it's a problem if there's:

Blocking: ISPs may not block access to any lawful content, apps, services, or devices.
Throttling: ISPs may not slow down or degrade lawful internet traffic from any content, apps, sites, services, or devices.
Paid prioritization: ISPs may not enter into agreements to prioritize and benefit some lawful internet traffic over the rest of it on their networks.
Communications

FCC Nixes PayPal's Forced Robocalls Plan 122 122

jfruh writes: As part of a new user agreement created in preparation for its spinoff from eBay as an independent company, PayPal told users that the only way to avoid advertising robocalls from PayPal and its 'partners' was to stop using the service. This caused something of a firestorm, and now the FCC is saying the policy may violate Federal law, which requires an explicit opt-in to receive such messages.
The Courts

Appeals Court Rejects ISP Stay of Neutrality Rules 53 53

An anonymous reader writes: The Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules will go into effect Friday after a court decided not to block them. The ruling is an early win for the FCC, whose assertion of enforcement authority over ISP's is being challenged in court by cable and wireless industry groups. Techdirt reports: "According to the court order (pdf), broadband providers failed to provide 'the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review,' meaning that the FCC's new net neutrality rules will remain in place for the duration of the ISPs assault on the FCC. While the courts have promised to expedite it, a resolution to the case could still take more than a year. FCC boss Tom Wheeler was quick to take to the FCC website to applaud the ruling."
The Internet

SpaceX Wants Permission To Test Satellite Internet 98 98

An anonymous reader writes: SpaceX has filed documents with the FCC asking for permission to begin testing a project to serve internet access from space. "The plan calls for launching a constellation of 4,000 small and cheap satellites that would beam high-speed Internet signals to all parts of the globe, including its most remote regions." This follows news that Facebook and Google had stepped back their efforts in that arena. SpaceX could prove to be a better fit for the project, given that they need only rely on themselves for launching satellites into orbit. "The satellites would be deployed from one of SpaceX's rockets, the Falcon 9. Once in orbit, the satellites would connect to ground stations at three West Coast facilities. The purpose of the tests is to see whether the antenna technology used on the satellites will be able to deliver high-speed Internet to the ground without hiccups."
Networking

5G Is On Its Way, But Approaching Slowly 86 86

New submitter CarlottaHapsburg writes: Ericsson and Nokia are leading the pack when it comes to developing 5G, but there are some major complicating factors: flexible architecture, functioning key standards, the U.S.'s lethargy in expanding mmWave, and even the definition of what 5G is and can do. It'll get here, but not soon: "5G networks are widely expected to start to roll out by 2020, with a few early debuts at such global events as the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. It is an ambitious deadline given what is expected from 5G -- no less than the disruption of the communications market in general, and telecom in particular, as well as related sectors such as test equipment." The FCC's Tom Wheeler says 5G is different for every manufacturer, like a Picasso painting. It should be an exciting five years of further developments and definitions — and, hopefully, American preparedness.
Space

SpaceX Applies To Test Internet Service Satellites 50 50

lpress writes: Elon Musk's SpaceX and Greg Wyler's OneWeb both hope to provide global Internet access using constellations of low-Earth orbit satellites. Neither company plans to be in operation for several years, but Musk's SpaceX is ready to test two satellites. They have applied for permission to launch two satellites that will orbit at 625 km. Time reports: "The application describes two satellites, the first of up to eight trial satellites that are each expected to last up to 12 months. The satellites will likely be built using the $1 billion that SpaceX raised mostly from Google earlier this year. For these first tests, the launch location will likely be Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast rather than Cape Canaveral in Florida, according to the orbital parameters in the application."
The Internet

FCC Proposes To Extend So-Called "Obamaphone" Program To Broadband 413 413

jfruh writes: The FCC's Lifeline program subsidizes phone service for very poor Americans; it gained notoriety under the label "Obamaphone," even though the program started under Reagan and was extended to cell phones under Clinton. Now the FCC is proposing that the program, which is funded by a fee on telecom providers, be extended to broadband, on the logic that high-speed internet is as necessary today as telephone service was a generation ago.