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The Internet

India Blocks Facebook's Free Basics Internet Service (thestack.com) 81

An anonymous reader writes: India's leading telecom regulator, TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India), has today voted against differential pricing, ruling with immediate effect that all data prices must be equal, and that companies cannot offer cheaper rates than others for certain content. The call is a significant blow to Facebook's Free Basics (previously Internet.org) initiative and Airtel Zero – projects which work to make internet access more accessible by providing a free range of "basic" services. The watchdog confirmed that providers would no longer be able to charge for data based on discriminatory tariffs but instead that pricing must be "content agnostic." It added that fines of Rs. 50,000 – 50 Lakh would be enforced should the regulations be violated.
Bitcoin

Ask Slashdot: Time To Get Into Crypto-currency? If So, Which? 259

Qbertino writes: With the ever-looming cyberpunk future in close proximity, I'm starting to wonder if it isn't time to get myself familiar with crypto currency as a means of trade. Bitcoin is all the hype, but the blockchain has flaws, in that it isn't as anonymous as one would hope for — you can track past transactions. Rumors of Bitcoin showing cracks are popping up and also there are quite a few alternatives out there. So I have some questions: Is getting into dealing with crypto currency worthwhile already? Is Bitcoin the way to go, or will it falter under wide use / become easily trackable once NSA and the likes adapt their systems to doing exactly that? What digital currency has the technical and mind-share potential to supersede bitcoin? Are there feasible cryptocurrencies that have the upsides of Bitcoin (such as a mathematical limit to their amount) but are fully anonymous in transactions? What do the economists and digi-currency nerds here have to contribute on that? What are your experiences with handling and holding cryptocurrency? And does Bitcoin own the market or is it still flexible enough for an technology upgrade?
Piracy

All 12 Member Countries Sign Off On the TPP (freezenet.ca) 180

Dangerous_Minds writes: News is surfacing that the TPP has officially been signed by all 12 member countries. This marks the beginning of the final step towards ratification. Freezenet has a quick rundown of what copyright provisions are contained in the agreement, including traffic shaping, site blocking, enforcement of copyright when infringement is "imminent," and a government mandate for ISPs to install backdoors for the purpose of tracking copyright infringement on the Internet.
Businesses

Senators Blast Comcast, Other Cable Firms For "Unfair Billing Practices" (arstechnica.com) 174

An anonymous reader writes: Six Democratic US senators [Wednesday] criticized Comcast and other TV and broadband providers for charging erroneous fees, such as cable modem rental fees billed to customers who bought their own modems. The senators have written a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler asking the commission to 'stop unfair billing practices.'.....Last year, more than 30 percent of complaints to the FCC about Internet service and 38 percent of complaints about TV service were about billing...
Privacy

EU Proposes End of Anonymity For Bitcoin and Prepaid Card Users (thestack.com) 158

An anonymous reader writes: In June the European Commission will propose new legislation to effectively end the possibility of anonymous payment, by forcing users of virtual currencies like Bitcoin, and of prepaid credit cards, to provide identity details. Additionally the EC intends to propose monitoring inter-bank transfers within Europe, a measure which had not been implemented with the launch of the EU-US Terrorist Financing Tracking Programme (TFTP). Though the proposed measures are intended to heap new pressure on the financing of terrorism, a report from Interpol last week concluded that terrorist funding methods have not changed substantially in recent years, stating 'Despite third party reporting suggesting the use of anonymous currencies like Bitcoin by terrorists to finance their activities, this has not been confirmed by law enforcement.'
Biotech

U.K. Researcher Receives Permission To Edit Genes In Human Embryos (sciencemag.org) 64

sciencehabit writes: Developmental biologist Kathy Niakan has received permission from U.K. authorities to modify human embryos using the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology. Niakan, who works at the Francis Crick Institute in London, applied for permission to use the technique in studies to better understand the role of key genes during the first few days of human embryo development.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which grants licenses for work with human embryos, sperm, and eggs in the United Kingdom, approved Niakan's application at a meeting of HFEA's license committee on 14 January. The minutes of that meeting state that, '[o]n balance, the proposed use of CRISPR/Cas9 was considered by the Committee to offer better potential for success, and was a justified technical approach to obtaining research data about gene function from the embryos used.'

Government

Cable Lobby Steams Up Over FCC Set-Top Box Competition Plan (arstechnica.com) 167

An anonymous reader writes: Cable TV industry lobby groups expressed their displeasure with a Federal Communications Commission plan to bring competition to the set-top box market, which could help consumers watch TV on different devices and thus avoid paying cable box rental fees.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed new rules that would force pay-TV companies to give third parties access to TV content, letting hardware makers build better set-top boxes. Customers would be able to watch all the TV channels they're already paying cable companies for, but on a device that they don't have to rent from them. The rules could also bring TV to tablets and other devices without need for a rented set-top box. The system would essentially replace CableCard with a software-based equivalent.

The Internet

T-Mobile's Binge On Violates Net Neutrality, Says Stanford Report (tmonews.com) 217

An anonymous reader writes: The debate over whether or not Binge On violates Net Neutrality has been raging ever since the service was announced in November. The latest party to weigh in is Barbara van Schewick, law professor at Stanford University.

In a new report published today — and filed to the FCC, as well — van Schewick says that Binge on "violates key net neutrality principles" and "is likely to violate the FCC's general conduct rule." She goes on to make several arguments against Binge On, saying that services in Binge On distorts competition because they're zero-rated and because video creators are more likely to use those providers for their content, as the zero-rated content is more attractive to consumers.

Businesses

Uber's Short-lived Helicopter Service In Utah Grounded (ksl.com) 81

New submitter captaindomon writes: It may come as no surprise that the Uber helicopter flights which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival were apparently illegal and quickly grounded. "Thanks to the support and partnership we have with Sundance and Park City Municipal Corporation, we were able to come to an agreement," said Summit County spokeswoman Katie Mullaly. "We are glad to have this issue resolved, not only for the safety of all those involved, but also for the wildlife of the area, affected residents and environmental concerns."
Medicine

US Regulators Find Serious Deficiencies At Theranos Lab (wsj.com) 66

An anonymous reader writes: 2016 has not started well for blood-testing startup Theranos. Already facing allegations of data manipulation, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have found problems with Theranos' laboratory in Newark, California, putting the company's relationship with the Medicare program in danger. WSJ reports: "It isn't clear exactly what regulators have faulted Theranos for in their latest inspection, which took several months. Adverse findings would be another regulatory setback for one of Silicon Valley's highest-profile startups, valued at about $9 billion in 2014. Theranos already has stopped collecting tiny samples of blood from patients' fingers for all but one of its tests while it waits for the Food and Drug Administration to review the company's applications for wider use of the proprietary vials called 'nanotainers.' In October, the FDA said it had determined that the nanotainers were an 'uncleared medical device.'"
Advertising

German Court: "Sharing" Your Amazon Purchases Is Spamming (reuters.com) 195

An anonymous reader writes: A court in Germany has ruled that the 'Share' links which Amazon provides to customers directly after making a purchase at the site are unlawful. The "Share" functionality provides buttons which allow the consumer to signal a new purchase via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or email. The court, ratifying an earlier decision made at a lower court, declared that emails initiated via the Share function constitute "unsolicited advertising and unreasonable harassment."
Government

Privacy Ombudsman Could Handle EU Complaints About US Surveillance (betanews.com) 44

Mark Wilson writes with this story from Beta News: One of the greatest problems facing anyone trying to tackle the problem of privacy on the web is dealing with the ideologies of different countries, and how this affects data sharing. A level of surveillance that is deemed acceptable in the US, for instance, may be considered completely objectionable in another. The latest suggestion to help overcome this seemingly insurmountable problem is to set up a privacy ombudsman that would be able to handle European complaints and queries about US surveillance.
Privacy

DOJ and 4 States Want $24 Billion In Fines From Dish Network For Telemarketing (arstechnica.com) 117

walterbyrd writes: The DOJ as well as Ohio, Illinois, California, and North Carolina say that Dish disregarded federal laws on call etiquette. US lawyers are asking for $900 million in civil penalties, and the four states are asking for $23.5 billion in fines, according to the Denver Post. 'Laws against phoning people on do-not-call lists and using recorded messages allow penalties of up to $16,000 per violation,' the Post added.
Power

Gambling State Says the Solar Gamble Is Over 298

New submitter mdnuclear writes: In a strange echo of the depressed oil economy SolarCity recently announced a layoff of a quarter of its workforce as the apparent result of the Nevada PUC's decision to phase solar net-metering customers down from retail to wholesale per kWh. A scathing editorial in the WSJ last December took both solar leasing companies and their financial underwriters to task, calling net metering a "regressive political income redistribution in support of a putatively progressive cause."

Wednesday the PUC fronted a possible compromise, 'grandfathering' existing net metering customers to their current rates to create a third caste of energy consumers, those who had been in the right place at the right time — for awhile. One who had paid $22k into solar lamented, "I'm not happy; my wife isn't happy, we could have done something else with that money." Like many who leave Vegas, perhaps they should have. But this begs the real question... are net-metering schemes ultimately 'right' or 'wrong' for the grid?
Facebook

India Telecom Regulator Pooh-Poohs Facebook's Orchestrated Lobbying Campaign 32

theodp writes: After India's telecom regulator asked a local company to temporarily stop Facebook's Free Basics service amid questions about whether it violates net neutrality, Facebook launched a controversial lobbying campaign, encouraging FB users to write to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which oversees the country's Internet policy, urging the service be preserved. As of Jan. 7, the deadline for accepting comments, the regulator said it had received nearly two million comments from accounts affiliated with the site, including the domain names "@supportfreebasics.in" and "@facebookmail."

But many of these comments, the regulator said in a statement, are "basically template responses and the content are identical in nature." TRAI's we-ain't-buying-it response to the orchestrated flood of millions of comments (from both sides) differs markedly from the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, which recently told the Court (PDF) it couldn't possibly comply with a Judge's six-month deadline to address issues with the OPT STEM Extension Program because it was overwhelmed by "the approximately 50,500 comments" (about what the average Slashdot reader reviews in a day!) from individuals urged on by the White House and other organizations. By the way, among the comments received by DHS was one from NAFSA — the lobbying powerhouse that represents 3,500 colleges and universities — calling for DHS to have OPT extensions expanded to include all fields of study (PDF).

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