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The Internet

CenturyLink Takes $3B In Subsidies For Building Out Rural Broadband 196

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.
Communications

A "Public Health" Approach To Internet of Things Security 45

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.
Censorship

"Sensationalized Cruelty": FCC Complaints Regarding Game of Thrones 194

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.
AT&T

AT&T Hotspots Now Injecting Ads 184

An anonymous reader writes: Computer scientist Jonathan Mayer did some investigating after seeing some unexpected ads while he browsed the web at an airport (Stanford hawking jewelry? The FCC selling shoes?). He found that AT&T's public Wi-Fi hotspot was messing with HTTP traffic, injecting advertisements using a service called RaGaPa. As an HTML pages loads over HTTP, the hotspot adds an advertising stylesheet, injects a simple advertisement image (as a backup), and then injects two scripts that control the loading and display of advertising content. Mayer writes, "AT&T has an (understandable) incentive to seek consumer-side income from its free Wi-Fi service, but this model of advertising injection is particularly unsavory. Among other drawbacks: It exposes much of the user's browsing activity to an undisclosed and untrusted business. It clutters the user's web browsing experience. It tarnishes carefully crafted online brands and content, especially because the ads are not clearly marked as part of the hotspot service.3 And it introduces security and breakage risks, since website developers generally don't plan for extra scripts and layout elements."
Communications

FCC Fines Smart City $750K For Blocking Wi-Fi 188

schwit1 writes: FCC's Enforcement Bureau today announced a $750,000 settlement with Smart City Holdings, LLC for blocking consumers' Wi-Fi at various convention centers around the United States. Smart City, an Internet and telecommunications provider for conventions, meeting centers, and hotels, had been blocking personal mobile 'hotspots' that were being used by convention visitors and exhibitors who used their own data plans rather than paying Smart City substantial fees to use the company's Wi-Fi service.
Communications

New Rules From the FCC Open Up New Access To Wi-Fi 64

CarlottaHapsburg writes: White space — unused channels in the VHF and UHF spectrum — is already part of daily life, from old telephones to going online at your coffee shop or plugging in baby monitors. The time has come to 'permit unlicensed fixed and personal/portable white space devices and unlicensed wireless microphones to use channels in the 600 MHz and television broadcast bands,' according to the FCC. One of the ramifications is that Wi-Fi could now blanket urban areas, as well as bringing it to rural areas and machine-to-machine technology. Rice University has tested a super Wi-Fi network linked by next-generation TV or smart remotes. Carriers are sure to be unhappy about this, but consumers will have the benefit of a newly open web.
Robotics

Robotic Lawn Mower Gets Regulatory Approval 75

Dave Knott writes with news that US regulators have given iRobot clearance to make and sell an unmanned lawn mower. The company, known for its robot vacuum cleaner Roomba, has designed a robot lawn mower that would wirelessly connect with stakes in the ground operating as signal beacons, rising above the ground by as much as 61 centimetres. The Federal Communications Commission usually prohibits the operation of "fixed outdoor infrastructure" transmitting low-power radio signal without a licence. iRobot's lawn mower beacons fall in that category, and the stake design required a waiver from the FCC, which was opposed by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, stating that the lawn mowers would interfere with its telescopes. An anonymous reader writes with another piece of automated plant-related hardware at a slightly different scale: The tractor pulling the grain cart in the video has no one in the cab. It is controlled by an open source autopilot, and it can operate autonomously all day in the field without a driver. I can't take credit for every bit of hardware and software used but I did put it all together.
The Internet

Russian Government Threatening To Block Reddit Over Cannabis 141

An anonymous reader writes: The Russian Government is threatening to block the social linking site Reddit across its country if they do not comply with removing a thread dedicated to growing cannabis. According to a post on VK.com, Roskomnadzor the Russian FCC, has asked Reddit administrator to read their emails and their social media posts stating that they want /r/trees brought down which had posted an article about growing narcotic plants. Recently, Reddit changed its rules to allow illegal discussions on its site but they say that they would continue to block things such as copyrighted material.
The Courts

ISPs Claim Title II Regulations Don't Apply To the Internet Because "Computers" 124

New submitter Gryle writes: ArsTechnica is reporting on an interesting legal tactic by ISPs in the net neutrality fight. In a 95-page brief the United States Telecom Association claims Internet access qualifies as information service, not a telecommunication service, because it involves computer processing. The brief further claims "The FCC's reclassification of mobile broadband internet access as a common-carrier service is doubly unlawful." (page 56)
AT&T

FCC Approves AT&T's DirecTV Purchase 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.