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Communications

FCC Proposes 5G Cybersecurity Requirements, Asks For Industry Advice (fedscoop.com) 29

Presto Vivace quotes a report from FedScoop: "Cybersecurity issues must be addressed during the design phase for the entire 5G ecosystem, including devices. This will place a premium on collaboration among all stakeholders," said FCC chairman Tom Wheeler during a National Press Club event on June 20. "We continue to prefer an approach that emphasizes that industry develop cybersecurity standards just as we have done in wired networks." The FCC published a request Wednesday for comment on a new set of proposed 5G rules to the Federal Register focused on adding specific "performance requirements" for developers of example internet-connected devices. If a company hopes to secure a license to access higher-frequency 5G spectrum in the future then they will need to adhere to these specific requirements -- in other words, compliance is non-negotiable. Notably, these FCC "performance requirements" now include the submission of a network security plan. The report adds: "A quick review of the FCC's proposed 5G cybersecurity plan shows a six category split, organized by a companies' security approach, coordination efforts, standards and best practices, participation with standards bodies, other security approaches and plans with information sharing organizations. Security plans must be submitted to the commission at least six months before a 5G-ready product enters the market, according to the notice."
AT&T

ISP Lobbyists Pushing Telecom Act Rewrite (dslreports.com) 76

Karl Bode, reporting for DSLReports:Telecom lobbyists are pushing hard for a rewrite of the Telecom Act, this time with a notable eye on cutting FCC funding and overall authority. AT&T donated at least $70,000 to back Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, and clearly expects him to spearhead the rewrite and make it a priority in 2017. The push is an industry backlash to a number of consumer friendly initiatives at the FCC, including new net neutrality rules, the reclassification of ISPs under Title II, new broadband privacy rules, new cable box reform and an attempt to protect municipal broadband. AT&T's Ryan donation is the largest amount AT&T has ever donated to a single candidate, though outgoing top AT&T lobbyist Jim Cicconi has also thrown his support behind Hillary Clinton.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Accuses T-Mobile of Violating Net Neutrality With Throttled Video (arstechnica.com) 57

An anonymous reader writes: T-Mobile's new "unlimited" data plan that throttles video has upset the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which accuses the company of violating net neutrality principles. The new $70-per-month unlimited data plan "limits video to about 480p resolution and requires customers to pay an extra $25 per month for high-definition video," reports Ars Technica. "Going forward, this will be the only plan offered to new T-Mobile customers, though existing subscribers can keep their current prices and data allotments." EFF Senior Staff Technologist Jeremy Gillula told the Daily Dot, "From what we've read thus far it seems like T-Mobile's new plan to charge its customers extra to not throttle video runs directly afoul of the principle of net neutrality." The FCC's net neutrality rules ban throttling, though Ars notes "there's a difference between violating 'the principle of net neutrality' and violating the FCC's specific rules, which have exceptions to the throttling ban and allow for case-by-case judgements." "Because our no-throttling rule addresses instances in which a broadband provider targets particular content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices, it does not address a practice of slowing down an end user's connection to the internet based on a choice made by the end user," says the FCC's Open Internet Order (PDF). "For instance, a broadband provider may offer a data plan in which a subscriber receives a set amount of data at one speed tier and any remaining data at a lower tier." The EFF is still determining whether or not to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.
AT&T

AT&T, Apple, Google To Work On 'Robocall' Crackdown (reuters.com) 113

Last month the FCC had pressed major U.S. phone companies to take immediate steps to develop technology that blocks unwanted automated calls available to consumers at no charge. It had demanded the concerned companies to come up with a "concrete, actionable" plan within 30 days. Well, the companies have complied. On Friday, 30 major technology companies announced they are joining the U.S. government to crack down on automated, pre-recorded telephone calls that regulators have labeled as "scourge." Reuters adds: AT&T, Alphabet, Apple, Verizon Communications and Comcast are among the members of the "Robocall Strike Force," which will work with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. The strike force will report to the commission by Oct. 19 on "concrete plans to accelerate the development and adoption of new tools and solutions," said AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson, who is chairing the group. The group hopes to put in place Caller ID verification standards that would help block calls from spoofed phone numbers and to consider a "Do Not Originate" list that would block spoofers from impersonating specific phone numbers from governments, banks or others.
Cellphones

FCC Complaint: Baltimore Police Breaking Law With Use of Stingray Phone Trackers (baltimoresun.com) 108

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Baltimore Sun: Civil rights groups have complained to the FCC over the Baltimore Police Department's use of stingray phone tracking devices. They claim that "the way police use it interferes with emergency calls and is racially discriminatory." Baltimore Sun reports: "The complaint argues that the police department doesn't have a proper license to use the devices and is in violation of federal law. It calls on regulators at the Federal Communications Commission to step in and formally remind law enforcement agencies of the rules. 'The public is relying on the Commission to carry out its statutory obligation to do so, to fulfill its public commitment to do so, and to put an end to widespread network interference caused by rampant unlicensed transmissions made by BPD and other departments around the country,' the groups say in the complaint. Police in Baltimore acknowledged in court last year that they had used the devices thousands of times to investigate crimes ranging from violent attacks to the theft of cellphones. Investigators had been concealing the technology from judges and defense lawyers and after the revelations Maryland's second highest court ruled that police should get a warrant before using a Stingray. The groups argue that surveillance using the devices also undermines people's free speech rights and describe the use of Stingrays as an electronic form of the intrusive police practices described in the scathing Justice Department report on the police department's pattern of civil rights violations."
Communications

FCC Loses Court Battle To Let Cities Build their Own Broadband (theverge.com) 160

Jacob Kastrenakes, writing for The Verge: The Federal Communications Commission's plan to let cities build their own broadband networks hit a major roadblock today, as a federal appellate court ruled that the commission was overstepping its authority. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said today that the FCC is not able to, essentially, remove state laws that prevent the construction of municipal broadband networks, as it attempted to do in Wilson, North Carolina and Chattanooga, Tennessee last year. Both Wilson and Chattanooga had petitioned the FCC for permission to build out their own broadband networks -- a measure some cities are turning to in order to increase competition among internet providers, who often hold regional monopolies and more or less refuse to compete. State laws, however, prevented them from doing so; that's the case in 19 states in total, all of which could have been affected by future FCC orders had the court ruled in its favor.Ars Technica has more details.
Communications

US Broadband: Still No ISP Choice For Many, Especially at Higher Speeds (arstechnica.com) 95

Despite things getting better with adoption -- however slow -- of Google Fiber in several regions of the United States, the broadband market has gotten slightly less competitive since 2013, says a new report from the FCC. The report adds that, as a result, Americans still have little choice of high-speed broadband providers (PDF). From an ArsTechnica report: At the FCC's 25Mbps download/3Mbps upload broadband standard, there are no ISPs at all in 30 percent of developed census blocks and only one offering service that fast in 48 percent of the blocks. About 55 percent of census blocks have no 100Mbps/10Mbps providers, and only about 10 percent have multiple options at that speed. At the 10Mbps/1Mbps threshold -- which captures slower DSL technology in addition to cable and fiber -- about 90 percent of census blocks have at least two providers. These numbers exclude satellite, which is available nearly everywhere but has high latency and often low data caps. Even these numbers overstate the amount of competition, because an ISP might offer service to only part of a census block. The percentage of households with choice is thus even lower.
AT&T

AT&T Is Paying $7.75 Million in Refunds and Fines Over Sham Calls (fortune.com) 38

AT&T will pay $7.75 million after a federal investigation found it allowed unauthorized third-party charges on its customers' telephone bills, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said Monday, reports Reuters (via Fortune). From the report: The company allowed "scammers to charge customers approximately $9 per month for a sham directory assistance service," the FCC said Monday. The fraud was uncovered by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration while investigating two Ohio companies for drug-related crimes and money laundering, the FCC said. The settlement includes $6.8 million in refunds and a $950,000 federal fine, the FCC said. AT&T signed a consent decree with the FCC and agreed to cease billing for nearly all third-party products and services on landline bills and adopt procedures to obtain express consent from customers prior to allowing third-party charges. The company also agreed to revise its billing practices to ensure third-party charges are conspicuously identified on bills.
Communications

Robocalling Scourge May Not Be Unstoppable After All (arstechnica.com) 236

Dan Goodin, writing for Ars Technica: New data shows that the majority of robot-enabled scam phone calls came from fewer than 40 call centers, a finding that offers hope the growing menace of robocalls can be stopped. The calls use computers and the Internet to dial thousands of phone numbers every minute and promote fraudulent schemes that promise to lower credit card interest rates, offer loans, and sell home security products, to name just a few of the scams. Over the past decade, robocall complaints have mushroomed, with the Federal Trade Commission often receiving hundreds of thousands of complaints each month. In 2013, the consumer watchdog agency awarded $50,000 to three groups who devised blocking systems that had the potential to help end the scourge. Three years later, however, the robocall problem seems as intractable as ever. On Thursday at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, a researcher said that slightly more than half of more than 1 million robocalls tracked were sent by just 38 telephony infrastructures. The relatively small number of actors offers hope that the phenomenon can be rooted out, by either automatically blocking the call centers or finding ways for law enforcement groups to identify and prosecute the operators. "We know that the majority of robocalls only come from 38 different infrastructures," Aude Marzuoli, research scientist at a company called Pindrop Labs, told Ars. "It's not as if there are thousands of people out there doing this. If you can catch this small number of bad actors we can" stop the problem."
Television

US Copyright Office Sides With Cable Companies Against FCC's Set Top Rules (arstechnica.com) 137

An anonymous reader writes: The United States Copyright Office has sided with cable companies in their fight against a Federal Communications Commission plan to boost competition in the TV set-top box market. The FCC proposal would force pay-TV providers to make channels and on-demand content available to third parties, who could then build their own devices and apps that could replace rented set-top boxes. Comcast and other cable companies complain that this will open the door to copyright violations, and US Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante agrees with them. The Copyright Office provided advice to the FCC at the FCC's request, and Pallante yesterday detailed the concerns her office raised in a letter to members of Congress who asked her to weigh in. "In its most basic form, the rule contemplated by the FCC would seem to take a valuable good -- bundled video programming created through private effort and agreement under the protections of the Copyright Act -- and deliver it to third parties who are not in privity with the copyright owners, but who may nevertheless exploit the content for profit," Pallante wrote. "Under the Proposed Rule, this would be accomplished without compensation to the creators or licensees of the copyrighted programming, and without requiring the third party to adhere to agreed-upon license terms." There are already "third-party set-top box devices, mainly produced overseas, that are used to view pirated content delivered over the Internet," and the FCC's plan could expand the market to include devices "designed to exploit the more readily available [cable TV] programming streams without adhering to the prescribed security measures," Pallante wrote. Cable companies are willing to pledge industry-wide commitment, but have expressed no desires of leaving control over the UI.
Businesses

Comcast Wants To Charge Broadband Users More For Privacy (dslreports.com) 182

Comcast believes it should be able to charge its broadband users who want to protect their privacy. FCC, on other hand, has indicated that such practices should not be there. In a new filing with the FCC, Comcast says that charging consumers more money to opt out of "snoopvertising" should be considered a perfectly acceptable business model (PDF). DSLReports: "A bargained-for exchange of information for service is a perfectly acceptable and widely used model throughout the U.S. economy, including the Internet ecosystem, and is consistent with decades of legal precedent and policy goals related to consumer protection and privacy," Comcast said in the filing. The company proceeds to claim that banning such options "would harm consumers by, among other things, depriving them of lower-priced offerings." In short, Comcast is arguing that protecting your own privacy should be a paid luxury option, and stopping them from doing so would raise broadband rates. But as we've noted for years it's the lack of competition that keeps broadband prices high. It's also the lack of competition that prevents users upset with broadband privacy practices from switching to another ISP. That's why the FCC thinks some basic privacy rules of the road might be a good idea.
Hardware Hacking

FCC Requires TP-Link To Support Open Source Router Firmware 52

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier today, the FCC reached a settlement with TP-Link over Wi-Fi router interference. Most of the agreement was routine, addressing compliance with radio emission rules.

But the FCC also did something unprecedented. It required TP-Link to support open source firmware on its routers. You might recall that, last year, the FCC caused a ruckus when it mistakenly suggested it was banning open source router firmware. In fact, the FCC only required that router vendors implement protections for specific radio emission parameters. But the FCC didn't work with router vendors in advance to maintain open source compatibility, resulting in certain vendors (including TP-Link) trying to lock down their routers.

The FCC eventually issued a clarification, but the damage was done. Only recently have a couple router vendors (Linksys and Asus) affirmed that they will continue to support open source firmware.

Today's settlement is a milestone for the FCC. The agency is finally doing something, with deeds and not just words, to demonstrate its support for the open source community. It would be better if the agency hadn't created this mess, but they deserve serious credit for working so hard to fix it.
Network

Cable Companies Urge Judges To Kill 'Net Neutrality' Rules 170

An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: Trade associations representing wireless, cable and broadband operators on Friday urged the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reverse...the Federal Communications Commission's so-called net neutrality rules, put in place last year to make internet service providers treat all internet traffic equally...

The cable groups said the court should correct "serious errors" in a decision "that radically reshapes federal law governing a massive sector of the economy, which flourished due to hundreds of billions of dollars of investment made in reliance on the policy the order throws overboard".. In its filing on Friday, the CTIA said it was illegal to subject broadband internet access to "public-utility style, common carrier regulation" and illegal to impose "common-carrier status on mobile broadband."

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he wasn't surprised to see "the big dogs" challenging net neutrality.

Compare cable TV providers at Wirefly.
Communications

AT&T Violated Rule Requiring Low Prices For Schools, FCC Says (arstechnica.com) 58

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
Advertising

China Bans Ad Blocking (adexchanger.com) 126

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."

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