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AT&T

FCC Calls On Phone Companies To Offer Free Robocall Blocking (fastcompany.com) 119

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
Advertising

China Bans Ad Blocking (adexchanger.com) 103

An anonymous reader writes: Two weeks ago, China released its first ever set of digital ad regulations that impacted Chinese market leaders like Baidu and Alibaba. "But hidden among (the new regulations) is language that would seem to all but ban ad blocking," wrote Adblock Plus (ABP) operations manager Ben Williams in a blog post Wednesday. The new regulations prohibit "the use of network access, network devices, applications, and the disruption of normal advertising data, tampering with or blocking others doing advertising business (or) unauthorized loading the ad." There is also a clause included that addresses tech companies that "intercept, filter, cover, fast-forward and [impose] other restrictions" on online ad campaigns. ABP general counsel Kai Recke said in an email to AdExchanger that the Chinese State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) has much more control over the market than its otherwise equal U.S. counterpart, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). "After all it looks like the Chinese government tries to get advertising more under their control and that includes that they want to be the only ones to be allowed to remove or alter ads," said Recke. "Ad-block users are a distinct audience and they require a distinct strategy and ways to engage them," said ABP CEO Till Faida at AdExchanger's Clean Ads I/O earlier this year. "They have different standards they've expressed for accessing them, and advertising has to reflect that."
Communications

FCC OKs Sweeping Spectrum Frontiers Rules To Open Up Nearly 11 GHz Of Spectrum (fiercewireless.com) 64

Monica Alleven, reporting for FierceWirelessTech: In one fell swoop, the FCC today put the U.S. in a 5G leadership position, voting 5-0 to approve its Spectrum Frontiers proceeding and make spectrum bands above 24 GHz available for 5G. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, noting his previous remarks on the proceeding, kept his remarks brief to avoid repeating himself. But he summed it up this way before the final vote: "This is a big day for our nation. This is a big day for this agency," he said. "I do believe this is one of the, if not the most, important decision this agency will make this year. By becoming the first nation to identify high-band spectrum, the United States is ushering in the 5G era of high capacity, high-speed, low-latency wireless networks. By not getting involved in the technologies that will use the spectrum, we're turning loose the incredible innovators of this country," he said. The new rules open up nearly 11 GHz of high-frequency spectrum for mobile and fixed wireless broadband -- 3.85 GHz of licensed spectrum and 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum. The rules create a new Upper Microwave Flexible Use service in the 28 GHz (27.5-28.35 GHz), 37 GHz (37-38.6 GHz) and 39 GHz (38.6-40 GHz) bands, and a new unlicensed band at 64-71 GHz. The FCC will continue to seek comment on bands above 95 GHz.
Communications

Entire Federal Government Exempt From Robocall Laws, FCC Rules (thehill.com) 188

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Hill: Late Tuesday night, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that the entire federal government is exempt from consumer protection laws that limit unwanted robocalls. They ruled that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 doesn't apply to the federal government, while the law does bar businesses from making numerous autodialed or prerecorded calls to a person's cellphone. The FCC did also make contractors working on behalf of the government exempt from the law as well. Earlier this year, a Supreme Court case found that the law does not apply to the government because of sovereign immunity. However, the FCC ruled that the government falls outside the law's definition of a "person." "Indeed, had Congress wanted to subject the federal government to the TCPA, it easily could have done so by defining 'person' to include the federal government," according to the ruling. Therefore, contractors hired by members of Congress can robocall individuals to participate in town halls, government researchers can place autodialed calls to the cellphones of survey respondents, and contractors can make similar calls to offer information about social security. The ruling does not apply to lawmakers who are using the calls for political campaigns.
Crime

Password Sharing Is a Federal Crime, Appeals Court Rules (vice.com) 165

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Motherboard: An appeals court ruled Wednesday that sharing passwords can be a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a catch-all "hacking" law that has been widely used to prosecute behavior that bears no resemblance to hacking. Motherboard reports: "In this particular instance, the conviction of David Nosal, a former employee of Korn/Ferry International research firm, was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who said that Nosal's use of a former coworker's password to access one of the firm's databases was an 'unauthorized' use of a computer system under the CFAA. In the majority opinion, Judge Margaret McKeown wrote that 'Nosal and various amici spin hypotheticals about the dire consequences of criminalizing password sharing. But these warnings miss the mark in this case. This appeal is not about password sharing.' She then went on to describe a thoroughly run-of-the-mill password sharing scenario -- her argument focuses on the idea that Nosal wasn't authorized by the company to access the database anymore, so he got a password from a friend -- that happens millions of times daily in the United States, leaving little doubt about the thrust of the case. The argument McKeown made is that the employee who shared the password with Nosal 'had no authority from Korn/Ferry to provide her password to former employees.' At issue is language in the CFAA that makes it illegal to access a computer system 'without authorization.' McKeown said that 'without authorization' is 'an unambiguous, non-technical term that, given its plain and ordinary meaning, means accessing a protected computer without permission.' The question that legal scholars, groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and dissenting judge Stephen Reinhardt ask is an important one: Authorization from who?"
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."
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.
Communications

FCC To Vote On Spectrum For 5G Wireless Networks (reuters.com) 38

5G has been in the news for years, but it's not available for commercial use just yet. Things will become clearer this week. The Federal Communications Commission will vote on July 14 to decide new rules to identity and open spectrum for next-generation high-speed 5G wireless applications. Reuters reports: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said if the FCC "approves my proposal next month, the United States will be the first country in the world to open up high-band spectrum for 5G networks and applications." He said the FCC also will seek comments on opening other high-frequency spectrum bands. Policymakers and mobile phone companies say the next generation of wireless signals needs to be 10 to 100 times faster and be far more responsive to allow advanced technologies like virtual surgery or controlling machines remotely.
Television

Cable Companies Pledge Industry-Wide Commitment But Want Control Over UI (arstechnica.com) 83

The FCC proposed rules to force pay-TV providers to make video programming -- and the right to record video -- available to the makers of third-party apps and devices. Under this model, third-party app and equipment makers would be able to create their own interfaces through which cable TV subscribers could access their programming. On Thursday, cable companies noted that they still cannot fully comply with FCC's attempt to open up the set-top box market, but have resigned themselves to accepting some form of regulation. From an Ars Technica report: Cable companies still aren't giving up on the apps approach, but now they say they would agree to rules that make it mandatory for large operators to build apps providing access to all the video customers subscribe to on a wide range of devices. Pay-TV companies with at least 1 million subscribers would have to follow the mandate. Industry representatives told the FCC that they are open to the commission "enforcing an industry-wide commitment to develop and deploy video 'apps' that all large MVPDs [multichannel video programming distributors] would build to open HTML5 Web standards," they said in an ex parte filing released today. The filing describes meetings with FCC officials involving the cable industry's top lobbyist, National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) CEO Michael Powell, representatives of Comcast and AT&T/DirecTV, and reps from cable networks Vme TV, Revolt TV, and TV One.
Communications

Tom Wheeler Defeats the Broadband Industry: Net Neutrality Wins In Court (bloomberg.com) 165

Andrew M Harris and Todd Shields, reporting for Bloomberg: The Federal Communications Commission won a major appeals court ruling supporting its efforts to prevent broadband Internet service providers from favoring some types of web traffic over others. The Washington-based court Tuesday denied challenges to the federal government's so-called net neutrality regulations, which were backed by President Barack Obama. The ruling hands a victory to those who champion the notion of an open internet where service providers are prevented from offering speedier lanes to content providers willing to pay for them. It's a defeat for challengers including AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp., which said the rule would discourage innovation and investment.FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, "Today's ruling is a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web, and it ensures the Internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth. After a decade of debate and legal battles, today's ruling affirms the Commission's ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections -- both on fixed and mobile networks -- that will ensure the internet remains open, now and in the future."
Network

A Solution To the Security Guidelines Proposed By FCC For Home Routers (imgtec.com) 55

An anonymous reader writes: Back in March 2015, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a security document that included a series of provisions related to the use of wireless devices. In order to comply with these security guidelines, some manufacturers of home routers and other networking equipment decided to lock down the software powering these devices. This caused an outcry from the open source community who demanded that the FCC and manufacturers would not restrict the free use of the operating system and associated software running on their devices. Now Imagination Technologies is presenting a proof of concept demonstration that addresses the next-generation security requirements mandated by the FCC and other similar agencies. The demo makes use of a feature of MIPS Warrior CPUs called multi-domain, secure hardware virtualization. This technology allows developers to create system-wide, hardware-enforced trusted environments that are much secure compared to current solutions. The platform used for the demonstration runs three virtual machines (VMs) on a MIPS P-class CPU integrated in a router-type evaluation kit; this approach securely separates the OpenWrt operating system from the Wi-Fi driver, allowing them to co-exist in isolation and thus comply with the FCC guidelines.Ars Technica has more details.
Businesses

Gigabit Internet With No Data Caps May Be Coming To Rural America (arstechnica.com) 147

Jon Brodkin, writing for Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission is making another $2.15 billion available for rural broadband projects, and it's trying to direct at least some of that money toward building services with gigabit download speeds and unlimited data. The FCC voted for the funding Wednesday (PDF) and released the full details yesterday (PDF). The money, $215 million a year for 10 years, will be distributed to Internet providers through a reverse auction in which bidders will commit to providing specific performance levels. Bidders can obtain money by proposing projects meeting requirements in any of four performance tiers. There's a minimum performance tier that includes speeds of at least 10Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream, with at least 150GB of data provided each month. A "baseline" performance tier requires 25Mbps/3Mbps speeds and at least 150GB a month, though the data allotment minimum could rise based on an FCC metric that determines what typical broadband consumers use per month.
Businesses

Comcast Users Must Now Pay $50 Per Month Extra To Avoid Caps (dslreports.com) 218

Karl Bode, reporting for DSLReports: In a letter being sent to Comcast customers in usage capped markets, the company says that with the recent announcement of usage caps being bumped to 1 terabyte, the company is also capping the amount of additional charges capped users can incur -- to $200 in a single month. As it stands, customers that cross the 1 terabyte limit face overage fees of $10 per each additional 50 GB consumed. But under the revised plans, customers have to pay $50 (up from $30 to $35) extra per month to avoid usage caps entirely. "Because you are an unlimited data customer, we will maintain your current rate of $35 until the end of 2016," the letter reads. Comcast's recent decision to bump their caps to 1 terabyte weren't driven by altruism. With the FCC preventing Charter from imposing caps for seven years as a merger condition, the agency has signaled that it may start getting more serious about cracking down on usage caps in the broadband market.
Cellphones

FCC Formalizes Massive Fines For Selling, Using Cell-Phone Jammers (networkworld.com) 135

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Network World: Two years ago the FCC announced its intention to fine a Chinese electronics maker $34.9 million and a Florida man $48,000 for respectively selling and using illegal cell-phone jammers. Today the agency has issued press releases telling us that those fines have finally been made official, without either of the offending parties having bothered to mount a formal defense of their actions. From the press release announcing the fine against CTS. Technology: "[...] The company's website falsely claimed that some jammers had been approved by the FCC, and advertised that the company could ship signal jammers to consumers in the United States." The company did not respond to the FCC's allegations, although the agency does report that changes were made to its website that appear to be aimed at complying with U.S. law. Next up is Florida man, Jason R. Humphreys, who is alleged to have used a jammer on his commute: "Mr. Humphreys' illegal operation of the jammer continued for up to two years, caused interference to cellular service along Interstate 4, and disrupted police communications." Last Fall, a Chicagoan was arrested for using a cell-phone jammer to make his subway commute more tolerable.
Network

Linksys WRT Routers Won't Block Open Source Firmware, Despite FCC Rules (arstechnica.com) 113

The FCC requires all manufacturers to prevent users from having any direct ability to change RF parameters (frequency limits, output power, country codes, etc). The easiest way for a router manufacturer to comply with FCC's guideline is to block the open source router firmware -- which is what TP-Link has been doing. But thankfully, at least one router manufacturer doesn't think blocking the firmware is the right way to go about it. Ars Technica reports: Linksys has been collaborating with chipmaker Marvell and the makers of OpenWrt to make sure its latest WRT routers can comply with the new rules without blocking open source firmware, company officials told Ars. Linksys' effort stands in contrast with TP-Link, which said it would entirely prevent loading of open source firmware on its routers to satisfy the new Federal Communications Commission requirements. "They're named WRT... it's almost our responsibility to the open source community," Linksys router product manager Vince La Duca told Ars. Cybersecurity experts have urged the router manufacturers to not block open source firmware.
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.
Businesses

Cable Industry Threatens To Sue If FCC Tries To Bring Competition To Cable Set Top Boxes (techdirt.com) 100

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Techdirt: Back in February the FCC voted on a new plan to open up the traditional cable box to competition. According to a fact sheet being circulated by the agency (pdf), under the FCC's plan you'd still pay your cable company for the exact same content, cable operators would simply have to design systems -- using standards and copy protection of their choice -- that delivered this content to third-party hardware. The FCC's goal is cheaper, better hardware and a shift away from the insular gatekeeper model the cable box has long protected. Given this would obliterate a $21 billion captive market in set top box rental fees -- and likely direct consumers to more third-party streaming services -- the cable industry has been engaged in an utterly adorable new hissy fit. And now, the industry is also threatening a lawsuit. Former FCC boss turned top cable lobbyist Michael Powell is arguing that the FCC has once again overstepped its regulatory authority: "An agency of limited jurisdiction has to act properly within that jurisdiction," Powell said, making it abundantly clear the NCTA does not believe the FCC has not done so in this case. He said that the statute empowers the FCC to create competition in navigation devices, not new services. "Every problem does not empower an FCC-directed solution. The agency is not an agency with unbridled plenary power to roam around markets and decide to go fix inconveniences everywhere they find them irrespective of the bounds of their authority."
Advertising

In Internet Age, Pirate Radio Arises As Surprising Challenge (ap.org) 157

K7DAN writes: Just as the demise of terrestrial radio has been greatly exaggerated, so has the assumed parallel death of pirate radio. Due to the failure of licensed stations to meet the needs of many niche communities, pirate radio continues to increase in popularity. Helping facilitate this growth is the weakening power of the FCC to stop it, reports the Associated Press. Rogue stations can cover up to several square miles thanks largely in part to cheaper technology. The appeal? "The DJs sound like you and they talk about things that you're interested in," said Jay Blessed, an online DJ who has listened to various unlicensed stations since she moved from Trinidad to Brooklyn more than a decade ago. "You call them up and say, 'I want to hear this song,' and they play it for you," Blessed said. "It's interactive. It's engaging. It's communal." It's upsetting many congressional members who are urging the FCC to do more about the "unprecedented growth of pirate radio operations." They're accusing said pirates of undermining licensed minority stations while ignoring consumer protection laws that guard against indecency and false advertising.
Businesses

US Justice Dept Approves Charter's Time Warner Cable Purchase With Conditions (reuters.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The U.S. Justice Department has approved Charter Communications Inc's proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable Inc and Bright House networks, which would create the second-largest broadband provider and third largest video-provider. The Justice Department valued the purchase of Time Warner Cable at $78 billion and Bright House at $10.4 billion. Under terms, New Charter has agreed to refrain from telling its content providers that they cannot also sell shows online. The deal must also be approved by the Federal Communications Commission. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said Monday he circulated an order seeking approval of the merger with conditions that "will directly benefit consumers by bringing and protecting competition to the video marketplace and increasing broadband deployment."

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