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Communications

AT&T Violated Rule Requiring Low Prices For Schools, FCC Says (arstechnica.com) 55

Jon Brodkin, reporting for Ars Technica: AT&T overcharged two Florida school districts for phone service and should have to pay about $170,000 to the U.S. government to settle the allegations, the Federal Communications Commission said yesterday. AT&T disputes the charges and will contest the decision. The FCC issued a Notice of Apparently Liability (NAL) to AT&T, an initial step toward enforcing the proposed punishment. The alleged overcharges relate to the FCC's E-Rate program, which funds telecommunications for schools and libraries and is paid for by Americans through surcharges on phone bills. The FCC said AT&T should have to repay $63,760 it improperly received from the FCC in subsidies for phone service provided to Orange and Dixie Counties and pay an additional fine of $106,425. AT&T prices charged to the districts were almost 400 percent higher than they should have been, according to the FCC. AT&T violated the FCC's "lowest corresponding price rule" designed to ensure that schools and libraries "get the best rates available by prohibiting E-Rate service providers from charging them more than the lowest price paid by other similarly situated customers for similar telecommunications services," the FCC said. Instead of charging the lowest available price, "AT&T charged the school districts prices for telephone service that were magnitudes higher than many other customers in Florida," the FCC said. Between 2012 and 2015, the school districts paid "some of the highest prices in the state... for basic telephone services."
AT&T

FCC Calls On Phone Companies To Offer Free Robocall Blocking (fastcompany.com) 120

The FCC chairman on Friday pressed major U.S. phone companies to take immediate steps to develop technology that blocks unwanted automated calls available to consumers at no charge. Chairman Tom Wheeler, in letters to CEOs of Verizon Communications, AT&T, Sprint, US Cellular, Level 3 Communications, Frontier Communications, Bandwidth.com, and T-Mobile, said that so-called robocalls, automated pre-recorded telephone calls often from telemarketers or scam artists continue because the industry isn't taking any action. Wheeler demands answers with "concrete, actionable solutions to address these issues" within 30 days. A report on FastCompany adds: Wheeler also urged carriers to create a list of institutions like government agencies and banks that are commonly impersonated by scammers and filter out overseas callers impersonating them through falsified caller ID data
Republicans

RNC Is Preparing For Cyberattacks (cnbc.com) 96

An anonymous reader writes from a report via CNBC: The Republican National Convention will be a popular target for cyberattacks. An official in charge of securing the network has said the RNC already had to fend off a wave of cyberattacks before the convention opened. Many more attacks are expected throughout the convention ranging from "nation-states hunting for intelligence or protesters trying to disrupt the network at the convention," said the consulting chief information officer for the RNC, Max Everett. Donald Trump's campaign appears to only fuel attackers, security experts said. The convention opens Monday afternoon and will attract roughly 50,000 people in addition to a global audience watching from afar. "A successful attack could impact physical security on the ground, for example, by taking connected security scanners offline. It could also affect online activity, for example, by hijacking the livestream and derailing the GOP's message," reports CNBC. The Secret Service has designated the conventions "national special security events." Everett and his team of 70 IT specialists will be using Microsoft and ForeScout software to monitor the network in real time, working with ATT and Cisco on securing external access to the network and a firm called Dark Cubed to share real-time threat information among the firms trying to defend against cyberattacks.
Open Source

AT&T Open Sources Its SDN Framework To The Linux Foundation (fiercetelecom.com) 42

An anonymous reader writes "It's no secret that AT&T has been planning to move to a software-defined network for quite a while. Now, they've decided to open-source the whole thing." From Fierce Telecom: AT&T today announced it will release its Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy (ECOMP) platform to the wider telecom industry as an open source offering managed by the Linux Foundation. The goal, the company said, is to make ECOMP the telecom industry's standard automation platform for managing virtual network functions and other software-centric network capabilities.
AT&T delivered 8.5 million lines of code to the Linux Foundation on Wednesday, saying "We want to build a community -- where people contribute to the code base and advance the platform..." AT&T said Wednesday they've already received interest from other major telecoms, and "we want this to help align the global industry." While their ultimate goal is to virtualize 75% of their own network by 2020, at least one analyst sees a larger trend where the whole telecom industry collectively bypasses equipment vendors and begins "taking network innovation into its own hands."
AT&T

AT&T Thinks Drones Can Fix Terrible Reception At Baseball Games, Music Concerts (marketwatch.com) 114

Cell services are at some of their worst behaviors at music concerts, baseball games and other similar large public gatherings. AT&T thinks it might have a solution for it. In a blog post today, the carrier company announced the idea of building cell extensions into drones and flying them in to handle the large dense traffic demands. From a report:AT&T has dubbed the drones "Flying COWs" -- the COW stands for âoeCell on Wings.â The drones would boost LTE coverage to areas in need of it during occasional large events. They would be tethered to the ground to prevent them from going rogue and flying away. The trial project is part of AT&T's just-launched national drone program, which will focus on how AT&T and its customers can benefit from drones. The program director, Art Pregler, said they wouldn't have to fly too high, perhaps just under the roofline of stadiums or buildings. AT&T also envisions that Flying COWs could provide boosted coverage in disaster response situations, particularly when vehicles aren't otherwise able to drive into the affected areas.
Android

Samsung Galaxy S7 Active Fails Consumer Reports Water-Resistance Test (consumerreports.org) 83

An anonymous reader writes: The Samsung Galaxy S7 Active is apparently not-so-active. It should be the more durable version of the Galaxy S7 family but apparently it's not. Because of this, Consumer reports is not going to mark it as "Recommended" even though it performed very well in all the other tests it ran. [Jerry Beilinson writes from Consumer Reports:] "Consumer Reports technicians placed a Galaxy S7 Active in a water tank pressurized to 2.12 pounds-per-square-inch, the equivalent of just under five feet of water, and set a timer for 30 minutes. When we removed the phone, the screen was obscured by green lines, and tiny bubbles were visible in the lenses of the front- and rear-facing cameras. The touchscreen wasn't responsive. Following our standard procedure when a sample fails an immersion test, we submitted a second Galaxy S7 Active to the same test. That phone failed as well. After we removed it from the tank, the screen cycled on and off every few seconds, and moisture could be seen in the front and back camera lenses. We also noticed water in the slot holding the SIM card. For a couple of days following the test, the screens of both phones would light up when the phones were plugged in, though the displays could not be read. The phones never returned to functionality." Samsung has said "The Samsung Galaxy S7 active device is one of the most rugged phones to date and is highly resistant to scratches and IP68 certified. There may be an off-chance that a defective device is not as watertight as it should be." Although, given the fact that Consumer Reports tested multiple devices, Samsung could have a widespread issue on their hands. They company said it is investigating the issue.
Businesses

Landlords, ISPs Team Up To Rip Off Tenants On Broadband (backchannel.com) 173

"Network operators like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and ATT, in cahoots with [real estate] developers and landlords, routinely use a breathtaking array of kickbacks, lawyerly games of Twister, blunt threats, and downright illegal activities to lock up buildings in exclusive arrangements," reports Harvard Law Professor Susan Crawford. itwbennett writes: Eight years ago, the FCC issued an order banning exclusive agreements between landlords and ISPs, but a loophole is being exploited, leaving many tenants in apartment buildings with only one choice of broadband service provider. The loophole works like this: Instead of having an exclusive agreement with one provider, the landlords refuse to let any other companies than their chosen providers access their properties...
"This astounding, enormous, decentralized payola scheme affects millions of American lives," Crawford writes, revealing Comcast's revenue-sharing proposals for property owners and urging cities (and national lawmakers) to require broadband neutrality in residential buildings. Other loopholes are also being exploited, Crawford writes, and "it's why commercial tenants in NYC pay through the nose for awful Internet access service in the fanciest of commercial buildings... We've got to take landlords out of the equation -- all they're doing is looking for payments and deals...and the giant telecom providers in our country are more than happy to pay up."
AT&T

Frontier Teams With AT&T To Block Google Fiber Access To Utility Poles (arstechnica.com) 117

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Ars Technica: Frontier submitted a court filing last week supporting ATT's efforts to sue local governments in Louisville and Jefferson County, Kentucky to stop a new ordinance designed to give Google Fiber and similar companies access to utility poles. They're concerned the ordinances will spread to other states. Frontier's filing said, "the issues raised by the case may have important implications for Frontier's business and may impact the development of law in jurisdictions throughout the country where Frontier operates." The ordinance in Louisville lets companies like Google Fiber install wires even if ATT doesn't respond to requests or rejects requests to attach lines. Companies don't have to notify ATT when they want to move ATT's wires to make room for their own wires, assuming the work won't cause customer outages. ATT claims that the ordinance lets competitors "seize ATT's property." Frontier is urging the court to consider the nationwide implications of upholding Louisville's ordinance, saying Louisville's rule "is unprecedented" because "it drastically expands the rights of third parties to use privately owned utility poles, giving non-owners unfettered access to [a] utility's property without the [...] utility in some cases even having knowledge that such third-party intrusion on its facilities is occurring." Frontier said companies should be required to negotiation access with the owners if they didn't pay to install the utility poles. They urged the court to deny Louisville Metro's motion to dismiss ATT's complaint.
Businesses

FCC Says TV Airwaves Being Sold For Wireless Use Are Worth $86.4 Billion (reuters.com) 72

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The U.S. Federal Communications Commission said on Wednesday the price of 126 MHz of television airwaves taken from broadcasters to be sold for wireless use in an ongoing auction is $86.4 billion. The FCC disclosed the price in a statement after completing the first part of an auction to repurpose low-frequency wireless spectrum relinquished by television broadcasters. The so-called "broadcast incentive" spectrum auction is one of the commission's most complex and ambitious to date. In this round, called a reverse auction, broadcasters competed to give up spectrum to the FCC for the lowest price. In the next stage, the forward auction, wireless and other companies will bid to buy the airwaves for the highest price. If wireless companies are unwilling to pay $86.4 billion, the FCC may have to hold another round of bidding by broadcasters and sell less spectrum than had been expected, analysts said. The Wall Street Journal points out that $86.4 billion is more than the market cap of T-Mobile and Spring combined. It's roughly double the amount raised in the last FCC auction, where ATT spent $18.2 billion and Verizon spent $10.4 billion. It's highly likely we'll see multiple rounds stretching into 2017 that will eventually match the supply with the demand.
AT&T

Net Neutrality Advocates To FCC: Put the Kibosh On Internet Freebies (cnet.com) 173

An anonymous reader cites a CNET report:Net neutrality advocates demand action. Representatives from Fight the Future, the Center for Media Justice and Free Press on Friday hand-delivered a 6-foot tall package containing 100,000 letters of complaint to the Federal Communications Commission. They ask the agency to take action against AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile and Verizon for violating the agency's Open Internet order by offering so-called zero-rating service plans. While the practice offers some benefits to customers, critics say it violates the agency's Net neutrality principles, which requires all services on the internet be treated the same. They claim it puts smaller competitors at a disadvantage and highlights the fact that data caps are unnecessary. Carriers say they are simply experimenting with new business models that will make their service more affordable for consumers.
Google

Like Comcast, Google Fiber Now Forces Customers Into Arbitration (arstechnica.com) 89

An anonymous reader writes: In Google Fiber's updated terms, the company now says they "require the use of binding arbitration to resolve disputes rather than jury trials or class actions." Ars Technica reports: "While the clause allows cases in small claims court, it otherwise forces customers to waive the right to bring legal actions against the ISP. Arbitration must be sought on an individual basis, as the clause also prevents class arbitration. The previous terms of service did not have the binding arbitration clause, though they did limit Google Fiber's liability to the amount customers pay to use the services." The good news: customers can opt out of the change. The bad news: they have 30 days. "According to the terms, the new agreement kicks in within 30 days of accepting the new language. Customers can, however, during that time period use this online form (you must be logged in to your Fiber account to access it) to opt out of this change and future changes to the arbitration agreement," writes The Consumerist. Ars Technica reports that Google told them customers have 60 days to opt out. "An e-mail sent to customers on June 14 says the new terms of service will apply unless they call to cancel service within 30 days. If customers do nothing, they will have "accepted" the terms at that 30-day mark. After that, customers who remain with Google Fiber have another 30 days to opt out of the new terms using the online form," writes Ars.
AT&T

Citigroup Sues AT&T For Saying 'Thanks' To Customers (techdirt.com) 281

An anonymous reader writes: Citigroup has a trademark on "THANKYOU" and is currently using it to sue ATT for using "Thanks." Ars Technica reports: "Who knew? Banking giant Citigroup has trademarked 'THANKYOU' and is now suing technology giant ATT for how it says thanks to its own loyal customers. This is 'unlawful conduct' amounting to wanton trademark infringement, Citigroup claims in its federal lawsuit." Citigroup doesn't appear to be gracious in its branding: Despite actual knowledge of Citigroup's substantial use of and exclusive rights in the THANKYOU Marks, Citigroup's use of the marks in connection with ATT co-branded credit cards, and Citigroup's concerns regarding ATT's proposed trademarks, ATT launched a customer loyalty program under the trademarks "thanks" and "ATT thanks" on or about June 2, 2016. ATT's use of the "thanks" and "ATT thanks" trademarks is likely to cause consumer confusion and constitutes trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and unfair competition in violation of Citigroup's rights. Citigroup therefore seeks to enjoin ATT's infringing conduct and to recover damages based on the injury ATT's conduct has caused to Citigroup as well as ATT's unjust enrichment. In April, ATT applied to trademark "ATT THANKS." Citigroup wants that trademark to be rejected because it thinks that proposed trademark is "confusingly similar to Citigroup's "THANKYOU Marks," according to its lawsuit.
AT&T

Broadband CEOs Admit Usage Caps Are Nothing More Than A Toll On Uncompetitive Markets (techdirt.com) 167

Though giant ISPs such as AT&T and Comcast continue to impose caps on users with several of their data plans, a crop of local ISPs is no longer hesitating from admitting that there is no justification for these caps as the cost to provide broadband services has only dropped in the past years. From a TechDirt article (condensed): "The cost of increasing [broadband] capacity has declined much faster than the increase in data traffic," says Dane Jasper, CEO of Sonic, an independent ISP based in Santa Rosa, Calif. [...] Frontier Communications CEO Dan McCarthy adds, "There may be a time when usage-based pricing is the right solution for the market, but I really don't see that as a path the market is taking at this point in time." Suddenlink CEO Jerry Kent said, "I think one of the things people don't realize [relates to] the question of capital intensity and having to keep spending to keep up with capacity. Those days are basically over, and you are seeing significant free cash flow generated from the cable operators as our capital expenditures continue to come down."
AT&T

No, Apple Won't Become a Wireless Carrier (fortune.com) 33

Don Reisinger, reporting for Fortune: Apple won't be competing with its carrier partners anytime soon. Speaking at Startup Fest Europe in Amsterdam during an interview on Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook squashed rumors that his company is planning to eventually get into the cellular market to compete with the likes of AT&T and Verizon. "Our expertise doesn't extend to the network," Cook said. "We've worked with AT&T in the U.S., O2 in the U.K., as well as T-Mobile and Orange, and we expanded as we learned more. But generally, the things Apple likes to do, are things we can do globally. We don't have the network skill. We'll do some things along the way with e-SIMs along the way, but in general, I like the things carriers do."
AT&T

AT&T Begins Capping Broadband Users (dslreports.com) 180

Karl Bode, reporting for DSLReports (edited for clarity): Just a reminder to AT&T customers: the company's usage caps on U-Verse broadband connections is now in effect. When AT&T originally announced broadband caps on fixed-line connections back in 2011, it capped DSL customers at 150 GB per month and U-Verse customers at 250 GB per month. But while the DSL customer cap was enforced (by and large because AT&T wants these users to migrate to wireless anyway), AT&T didn't enforce caps for its U-Verse customers. Until now, anyway. Back in March AT&T announced it would begin enforcing usage caps on all connections starting May 23. As of today, U-Verse customers face different caps depending on their speed tier. AT&T says customers on U-Verse tiers with speeds between 768 Kbps and 6 Mbps will now face a 300 GB cap; customers on U-Verse tiers of speeds between 12 Mbps and 75Mbps will see a 600 GB cap, and customers on speeds between 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps will see a cap of 1 terabyte. Users who exceed these caps in any given month will automatically have to pay for 50 GB of additional data for $10 each.
The Almighty Buck

Drones Could Replace $127 Billion Worth Of Human Labor (businessinsider.com.au) 254

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Business Insider: A new report from PwC finds that drones could replace $127 billion worth of human labor and services across several industries. Infrastructure and agriculture make up the largest chunks of the potential value -- some $77.6 billion between them -- including services like completing the last mile of delivery routes and spraying crops with laser-like precision. Economists seem to agree that robot automation poses real threats to human labour within the next few decades. Drones are a cheap, versatile first step toward that future. According to the new PwC report, they're also a solid cost-cutting measure. Along with infrastructure and agriculture, drones will help tech giants like Amazon deliver packages, allow security companies to better monitor their sites, help producers and advertisers to film projects, allow telecommunication firms to easily check on their towers, and give mining companies a new way to plan their digs.
Communications

Wireless Carriers To Adopt New Real-Time Text Protocol By December 2017 (engadget.com) 28

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: The FCC is ready to adopt a proposal that'll bring a new protocol to wireless networks to help people with disabilities communicate. It's called real-time text (RTT) and will be a replacement for the aging teletypewriter devices that let users transmit text conversations over traditional phone lines. According to the FCC's statement, RTT will "allow Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech disabled or deaf-blind to use the same wireless communications devices as their friends, relatives and colleagues, and more seamlessly integrate into tomorrow's communications networks." The big differentiator for RTT over current, commonly-used text-based messaging systems is that RTT messages are sent immediately as they're typed. The RTT technology will let text users communicate with people on voice-based phones and vice versa; it can also work easily in your standard smartphone, eliminating the need for specialized equipment. The proposal calls for RTT to roll out over wireless networks run by "larger carriers" by December of 2017.
Communications

The Critical Hole At the Heart Of Our Cell Phone Networks (wired.com) 32

An anonymous reader writes: Kim Zetter from WIRED writes an intriguing report about a vulnerability at the heart of our cell phone networks. It centers around Signaling System No. 7 (SS7), which refers to a data network -- and the protocols or rules that govern how information gets exchanged over it. Zetter writes, "It was designed in the 1970s to track and connect landline calls across different carrier networks, but is now commonly used to calculate cellular billing and send text messages, in addition to routing mobile and landline calls between carriers and regional switching centers. SS7 is part of the telecommunications backbone but is not the network your voice calls go through; it's a separate administrative network with a different function." According to WIRED, the problem is that SS7 is based on trust -- any request a telecom receives is considered legitimate. In addition to telecoms, government agencies, commercial companies and criminal groups can gain access to the network. Most attacks can be defended with readily available technologies, but more involved attacks take longer to defend against. T-Mobile and ATT have vulnerabilities with fixes that have yet to be implemented for example.
Wireless Networking

Americans Abandoning Wired Home Internet, Shows Study (seattletimes.com) 352

An anonymous reader writes: Americans as a whole are growing less likely than before to have residential broadband, according to new data on a sample of 53,000 Americans. In plain English, they're abandoning their wired Internet for a mobile-data-only diet -- and if the trend continues, it could reflect a huge shift in the way we experience the Web. The study, conducted for the Commerce Department by the U.S. Census Bureau, partly upholds what we already knew. Low-income Americans are still one of the biggest demographics to rely solely on their phones to get online. Today nearly a third of households earning less than $25,000 a year exclusively use mobile Internet to browse the Web. That's up from 16 percent in 2013. They're often cited as evidence of a digital divide; families with little money to afford a home Internet subscription must resort to free Wi-Fi at libraries and even McDonald's to do homework, look for jobs and find information. But people with higher incomes are ditching their wired Internet access at similar or even faster rates. In 2013, 8 percent of households making between $50,000 and $75,000 a year were mobile-only. Fast-forward a couple of years, and that figure is 18 percent. Seventeen percent of households making between $75,000 and $100,000 are mobile-only now, compared with 8 percent two years ago. And 15âpercent of households earning more than $100,000 are mobile-only, versus 6 percent in 2013.
Piracy

MPAA Wants ISPs to Disconnect Persistent Pirates (torrentfreak.com) 263

Ernesto Van der Sar, reporting for TorrentFreak: The MPAA wants Internet providers and services to take stronger actions against persistent copyright infringers. Ideally, the most egregious pirates should lose their accounts permanently, the group says. To accomplish this ISPs should be required to track the number of notices they receive for each account. In recent weeks, many groups and individuals have voiced their opinions about the future of the DMCA, responding to a U.S. Copyright Office consultation. This includes the MPAA, which acts on behalf of the major Hollywood studios. In a 71-page submission the group outlines many problems with the current law, asking for drastic reforms. Ideally, the group would like search engines to enforce a "stay down" policy ensuring that content can't reappear under different URLs. In addition, it would like registrars to suspend domain names of pirate sites, such as The Pirate Bay.The problem is that ISPs don't necessarily see this abuse as a problem.

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