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The Internet

US Rep. Joe Barton Has a Plan To Stop Terrorists: Shut Down Websites ( 275

Earthquake Retrofit writes: In an FCC oversight hearing, U.S. Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) asked Chairman Tom Wheeler if it's possible to shut down websites used by ISIS and other terrorist groups. He said, "Isn't there something we can do under existing law to shut those Internet sites down, and I know they pop up like weeds, but once they do pop up, shut them down and then turn those Internet addresses over to the appropriate law enforcement agencies to try to track them down? I would think that even in an open society, when there is a clear threat, they've declared war against us, our way of life, they've threatened to attack this very city our capital is in, that we could do something about the Internet and social media side of the equation." Wheeler pointed out that the legal definition of "lawful intercept" did not support such actions, but added that Congress could expand the law to validate the concept. Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee is exploring the idea of using the recent terror attacks in France as ammunition to force tech companies away from end-to-end encryption. "Lawmakers said it was time to intensify discussions over what technology companies such as Apple and Google could do to help unscramble key information on devices such as iPhones and apps like WhatsApp, where suspected terrorists have communicated."

Why Free Services From Telecoms Can Be a Problem On the Internet 89 writes: T-Mobile said last week that it would let customers watch as many movies as they wanted on services like Netflix and HBO as well as all other kinds of video, without having it count against their monthly data plans. But the NYT editorializes that there are real concerns about whether such promotions could give telecommunications companies the ability to influence what services people use on the Internet, benefiting some businesses and hurting others. Earlier this year, the FCC adopted net neutrality rules to make sure that companies like T-Mobile, Verizon and Comcast did not seek to push users toward some types of Internet services or content — like video — and not others. The rules, which telecom companies are trying to overturn in court, forbid phone and cable companies to accept money from Internet businesses like Amazon to deliver their videos to customers ahead of data from other companies. The rules, however, do not explicitly prevent telecom companies from coming up with "zero rating" plans like the one T-Mobile announced that use them treat, or rate, some content as free.

"Everybody likes free stuff, but the problem with such plans is that they allow phone and cable companies to steer their users to certain types of content. As a result, customers are less likely to visit websites that are not part of the free package." T-Mobile has said that its zero-rating plan, called Binge On, is good for consumers and for Internet businesses because it does not charge companies to be part of its free service. "Binge On is certainly better than plans in which websites pay telecom companies to be included," concludes The Times. "But it is not yet clear whether these free plans will inappropriately distort how consumers use the Internet."

FCC Clarifies: It's Legal To Hack Your Router ( 85

Mark Wilson writes with an update to an earlier report that the wording of new FCC regulations could mean that it would be illegal to modfiy the software running on wireless routers by installing alternative firmwares. Instead, The commission has now acknowledged that there was more than a little confusion from people who believed that manufacturers would be encouraged to prevent router modifications. The FCC wants to make it clear that most router hacking is fine and will remain fine. With a few exceptions, that is. In a blog post entitled Clearing the Air on Wi-Fi Software Updates, Julius Knapp from the FCC tries to clear up any misunderstandings that may exist.

The FCC Says It Can't Force Google and Facebook To Stop Tracking Their Users ( 127

An anonymous reader writes: The FCC announced that it will not prevent Facebook, Google, and other websites from not honoring users' Do Not Track requests that make it difficult for them to track online activities. The Washington Post reports: "The announcement is a blow to privacy advocates who had petitioned the agency for stronger Internet privacy rules. But it's a win for many Silicon Valley companies whose business models rely on monetizing Internet users' personal data. It's also the latest move in an ongoing battle to defend the agency's new net neutrality rules, which opponents warned would result in the regulation of popular Web sites and online services. By rejecting the petition, the FCC likely hopes to defuse that argument. The rules, which took effect this summer, allow the FCC to regulate only providers of Internet access, not individual Web sites, said a senior agency official."
The Internet

Comcast Expanding Data Cap Locations, Training Reps To Avoid Subject ( 264

An anonymous reader sends news that Comcast is about to expand its 300GB data cap to more cities in the Southeastern U.S. "Newly capped areas include Little Rock, Arkansas; Houma, LaPlace, and Shreveport, Louisiana; Chattanooga, Greeneville, Johnson City, and Gray, Tennessee; and Galax, Virginia." This happened at the same time organizations are calling on the FCC to investigate Comcast for this practice. A helpful Comcast employee decided to leak the internal training on how Comcast plans to message these data caps to consumers. For example, they direct their representatives to tell customers that areas without a data cap actually have a 250GB cap, but it just isn't being enforced. They even suggest avoiding the term "cap," instead preferring "usage plan." There's also this: "If a customer calls in with any questions associated with the usage policy and how it relates to Net Neutrality, Netflix or observations about how XFINITY services are or are not counted relative to third party services, do not address these items with the customer."

FCC Fines Another Large Firm For Blocking WiFi 138

AmiMoJo writes: Another company is learning about the fine points of Section 333 of the Communications Act, which prohibits willful interference with any licensed or authorized radio communications. This time, M.C. Dean, who provided the Baltimore Convention Center's in-house WiFi service, were caught by the FCC sending deauthentication frames to prevent hotspot users maintaining a connection. The complainant alleged that M.C. Dean's actions were identical to those that had earned Marriott a $600,000 fine only weeks earlier.

Debt Collectors Sneaking Robocall Exemptions Into Budget Bill 216

TCPALaw writes: Hate robocalls? In July, the FCC tightened the rules regarding robocalls to cell phones, especially debt collection calls (in particular limiting calls to wrong numbers or to anyone who is not the debtor). Now the debt collection industry is getting their revenge by sneaking in a massive exemption (see section 301 on page 10 to the PDF) to the the FCC's rules that would expressly permit debt collection robocalls to cell phones (and even collect calls!) for student loans, mortgages, taxes, and any other debt owed or guaranteed by the government. Time to make a few phone calls myself to some senators. The Senate switchboard is (202) 224-3121 or go to to find the number for your senators. This may come up for a vote in 24 hours or less.

Google, Facebook, Microsoft Deliver K-12 CS Demands To Congress ( 120

theodp writes: Politico reports that just one day after Facebook launched TechPrep, a highly-publicized initiative to attract more minorities and women to coding, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and quietly sent a letter to top education lawmakers in the House and Senate insisting that computer science "must" be added to the list of "core academic subjects" and states be given resources to improve STEM education programs. "Computer science is marginalized throughout K-12 education," reads the letter. "We need to improve access for all students, particularly groups who have traditionally been underrepresented." Echoing the last point at this month's Grace Hopper Women in Computer Celebration, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki called for mandatory computer science in schools, suggesting that boys — like her own son — are monopolizing the family computer across America, leaving girls — like her own daughter — out of the conversation when it comes to technology (video @38:33). The new round of hand-wringing comes as tech companies face the deadline for filing their 2015 EEO-1 surveys and seek more tech-friendly U.S. visa and OPT STEM policies, so it's probably worth remembering that Microsoft proposed tech could turn workforce diversity lemons into H-1B visa lemonade by connecting tech immigration to K-12 CS education.

FCC Passes Landmark Reform of 'Egregious' Prison Phone Charges ( 173

derekmead writes: The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to crack down on exorbitant prison phone rates, in a landmark victory for criminal justice reform advocates who have long criticized what they call abusive and predatory practices by phone companies. The new FCC rules cap the cost of prison phone calls at 11 cents a minute for debit or prepaid calls in state and federal prisons, and reduce the cost of most inmate calls from $2.96 to $1.65 for a 15-minute in-state call, and from $3.15 to $1.65 for a 15-minute long distance call. The new policy also cracks down on excessive service fees and so-called "flat-rate calling," in which inmates are charged a flat rate for a call up to 15 minutes regardless of the actual call duration.

Sprint Will Start Throttling Customers Who Exceed 23GB Monthly ( 153

CNET reports (and CTO John Saw explains on the company's blog) that Sprint has decided to taper access to a slice of its "unlimited" wireless data customers, by throttling access (not curtailing it, at least) to those who slurp down more than 23 gigabytes per month -- the same cap that T-Mobile has imposed. If you think "throttled" and "unlimited" don't quite jibe to describe the same service, you're not the only one to quibble: CNET notes that regulators have "begun scrutinizing the carriers' practice [of slowing access past a cap]. In June, the Federal Communications Commission threatened to fine AT&T $100 million for deceiving its customers by mislabeling its service as unlimited. The FCC also challenged Verizon when the company planned to expand its data throttling policy to its 4G customers. The company retracted that policy last fall. In June, Verizon also stopped slowing unlimited-data traffic for 3G customers."

FCC's WiFi Rule-Making: Making It Fair For Both Open Source and Proprietary ( 173

Bruce Perens writes: The FCC wants to be sure that WiFi drivers don't cause interference with airport weather radars, but their proposal to lock down WiFi firmware, won't fly. Many commenters in the proceeding have made it clear that Open Source firmware for WiFi devices must remain legal. While an "alternative" proposal to the FCC that would require that all WiFi routers be Open Source is getting most of the publicity today, I have proposed another alternative that would be fair for both Open Source and proprietary software. It requires approval of the source code of a WiFi driver by a person with a technical license from FCC, the GROL+Radar, if that driver is to be mass-distributed in binary form for use by RF-naïve users by either the manufacturer or Open Source. The license assures that the responsible person actually understands how to protect radar systems in a WiFi driver. It's pretty easy for someone competent in radio engineering to pass the license test, and many thousands of people hold the license today. Vendors and Open Source are treated the same. It doesn't place restrictions on testing and development, or conversion of WiFi equipment to other radio services. And it includes an explanation of the problem, for those of you who don't know what the uproar is about.

Why Cybersecurity Experts Want Open Source Routers ( 177

derekmead writes: A coalition of 260 cybersecurity experts is taking advantage of a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) public comment period to push for open source Wi-Fi router firmware.

The cybersecurity experts asked the FCC on Wednesday to require router makers to open-source their firmware, or the basic software that controls its core functionality, as a condition for it being licensed for use in the US. The request comes amid a wider debate on how the FCC should ensure that Wi-Fi routers' wireless signals don't "go outside stated regulatory rules" and cause harmful interference to other devices like cordless phones, radar, and satellite dishes.


ESR On Why the FCC Shouldn't Lock Down Device Firmware ( 144

An anonymous reader writes: We've discussed some proposed FCC rules that could restrict modification of wireless routers in such a way that open source firmware would become banned. Eric S. Raymond has published the comment he sent to the FCC about this. He argues, "The present state of router and wireless-access-point firmware is nothing short of a disaster with grave national-security implications. ... The effect of locking down router and WiFi firmware as these rules contemplate would be to lock irreparably in place the bugs and security vulnerabilities we now have. To those like myself who know or can guess the true extent of those vulnerabilities, this is a terrifying possibility. I believe there is only one way to avoid a debacle: mandated device upgradeability and mandated open-source licensing for device firmware so that the security and reliability problems can be swarmed over by all the volunteer hands we can recruit. This is an approach proven to work by the Internet ubiquity and high reliability of the Linux operating system."

What Non-Geeks Hate About the Big Bang Theory 406

v3rgEz writes: It has been said that there is a lot to dislike about the Big Bang Theory, from the typical geek's point of view: It plays in stereotypes of geekdom for cheap laughs, makes non-sensical gags, and has a laugh track in 2015. But what does the rest of America (well, the part of America not making it the number one show on television) think? FCC complaints recently released accuse the show of everything from animal cruelty to subliminal messaging, demanding that the sitcom be ripped from the airwaves lest it ruin America. The full complaints for your reading pleasure.
Wireless Networking

25 Years Ago, a Meeting Spawned Wi-Fi 75

alphadogg writes: It was retail remodeling that spurred NCR, a venerable cash-register company, to find out how it could use newly opened frequencies to link registers and mainframes without wires. Its customers wanted to stop drilling new holes in their marble floors for cabling every time they changed a store layout. In 1985, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted to leave large blocks of spectrum unlicensed and let vendors build any kind of network they wanted as long as they didn't keep anyone else from using the frequencies. NCR jumped at the chance to develop a wireless LAN, something that didn't exist at the time, according to Vic Hayes, a former engineer at the company who's been called the Father of Wi-Fi.

New FCC Rules Could Ban WiFi Router Firmware Modification 242

An anonymous reader writes: Hackaday reports that the FCC is introducing new rules which ban firmware modifications for the radio systems in WiFi routers and other wireless devices operating in the 5 GHz range. The vast majority of routers are manufactured as System on Chip devices, with the radio module and CPU integrated in a single package. The new rules have the potential to effectively ban the installation of proven Open Source firmware on any WiFi router.

ThinkPenguin, the EFF, FSF, Software Freedom Law Center, Software Freedom Conservancy, OpenWRT, LibreCMC, Qualcomm, and others have created the SaveWiFi campaign, providing instructions on how to submit a formal complaint to the FCC regarding this proposed rule. The comment period is closing on September 8, 2015. Leave a comment for the FCC.
The Internet

CenturyLink Takes $3B In Subsidies For Building Out Rural Broadband 199

New submitter club77er writes with a link to a DSL Reports article outlining some hefty subsidies (about $3 billion, all told) that CenturyLink has signed up to receive, in exchange for expanding its coverage to areas considered underserved: According to the CenturyLink announcement, the telco will take $500 million a year for six years from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s Connect America Fund (CAF). In exchange, it will expand broadband to approximately 1.2 million rural households and businesses in 33 states. While the FCC now defines broadband as 25 Mbps down, these subsidies require that the deployed services be able to provide speeds of at least 10 Mbps down.

A "Public Health" Approach To Internet of Things Security 48

New submitter StewBeans writes: Guaranteeing your personal privacy in an era when more and more devices are connecting our daily lives to the Internet is becoming increasingly difficult to do. David Bray, CIO of the FCC, emphasizes the exponential growth we are facing by comparing the Internet we know today to a beachball, and the Internet of Everything future to the Sun. Bray says unless you plan to unplug from the Internet completely, every consumer needs to assume some responsibility for the security and overall health of the Internet of Everything. He says this might look similar to public health on the consumer side — the digital equivalent of hand washing — and involve an open, opt-in model for the rapid detection of abnormal trends across global organizations and networks.

"Sensationalized Cruelty": FCC Complaints Regarding Game of Thrones 197

v3rgEz writes: As a cable channel, the FCC has little to no jurisdiction over HBO's content. That doesn't stop people from complaining to them about them, however, and after a FOIA request, the FCC released numerous complaints regarding the network's Game of Thrones. While there were the usual and expected lamentations about 'open homosexual sex acts,' other users saw Game of Thrones as a flashpoint in the war of Net Neutrality.