Wireless Networking

How A Contractor Exploited A Vulnerability In The FCC Website (wirelessestimator.com) 68

RendonWI writes: A Wisconsin wireless contractor discovered a flaw in the FCC's Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) database, and changed the ownership of more than 40 towers from multiple carriers and tower owners into his company's name during the past five months without the rightful owners being notified by the agency, according to FCC documents and sources knowledgeable of the illegal transfers. Sprint, AT&T and key tower companies were targeted in the wide-ranging thefts... Changing ASR ownership is an easy process by applying online for an FCC Registration Number (FRN) which is instantly granted whether the factual or inaccurate information is provided. Then, once logged in, an FRN holder can submit a form stating that they are the new owner of any or multiple structures in the database. As soon as it is submitted, the change is immediately reflected in the ASR.
Space

FCC Grants OneWeb Approval To Launch Over 700 Satellites For 'Space Internet' (theverge.com) 89

OneWeb has been granted approval from the FCC to launch a network of internet-beaming satellites into orbit. FCC chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement: "Humans have long sought inspiration from the stars, from the ancient Egyptians orienting the pyramids toward certain stars to the Greeks using constellations to write their mythology. In modern times, we've done the same, with over 1,000 active satellites currently in orbit. Today, the FCC harnesses that inspiration as we seek to make the promise of high-speed internet access a reality for more Americans, partly through the skies..." The Verge reports: OneWeb plans to launch a constellation of 720 low-Earth orbit satellites using non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) technology in order to provide global, high-speed broadband. The company's goal has far-reaching implications, and would provide internet to rural and hard-to-reach areas that currently have little access to internet connectivity. Additionally, OneWeb has a targets of "connecting every unconnected school" by 2022, and "bridging the digital divide" by 2027. According to OneWeb, the company plans to launch an initial 10 production satellites in early 2018, which, pending tests, will then be followed by a full launch as early as 2019.
Government

FCC Proposes $120 Million Fine On Florida Robocall Scammer (reuters.com) 80

The FCC on Thursday proposed a $120 million fine on a Florida resident alleged to have made almost 100 million spoofed robocalls to trick consumers with "exclusive" vacation deals from well-known travel and hospitality companies. Reuters reports: The man, identified as Adrian Abramovich, allegedly made 96 million robocalls during a three-month period by falsifying caller identification information that matched the local area code and the first three digits of recipient's phone number, the FCC said. The calls, which were in violation of the U.S. telecommunications laws, offered vacation deals from companies such as Marriott International Inc, Expedia Inc, Hilton Inc and TripAdvisor Inc. Consumers who answered the calls were transferred to foreign call centers that tried to sell vacation packages, often involving timeshares. These call centers were not related to the companies, the FCC said.
The Internet

Verizon Is Killing Tumblr's Fight For Net Neutrality (theverge.com) 75

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: In 2014, Tumblr was on the front lines of the battle for net neutrality. The company stood alongside Amazon, Kickstarter, Etsy, Vimeo, Reddit, and Netflix during Battle for the Net's day of action. Tumblr CEO David Karp was also part of a group of New York tech CEOs that met with then-FCC chairman Tom Wheeler in Brooklyn that summer, while the FCC was fielding public comment on new Title II rules. President Obama invited Karp to the White House to discuss various issues around public education, and in February 2015 The Wall Street Journal reported that it was the influence of Karp and a small group of liberal tech CEOs that swayed Obama toward a philosophy of internet as public utility. But three years later, as the battle for net neutrality heats up once again, Tumblr has been uncharacteristically silent. The last mention of net neutrality on Tumblr's staff blog -- which frequently posts about political issues from civil rights to climate change to gun control to student loan debt -- was in June 2016. And Tumblr is not listed as a participating tech company for Battle for the Net's next day of action, coming up in three weeks. One reason for Karp and Tumblr's silence? Last week Verizon completed its acquisition of Tumblr parent company Yahoo, kicking off the subsequent merger of Yahoo and AOL to create a new company called Oath. As one of the world's largest ISPs, Verizon is notorious for challenging the principles of net neutrality -- it sued the FCC in an effort to overturn net neutrality rules in 2011, and its general counsel Kathy Grillo published a note this April complimenting new FCC chairman Ajit Pai's plan to weaken telecommunication regulations.
The Internet

Cable Lobby Tries To Stop State Investigations Into Slow Broadband (arstechnica.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Broadband industry lobby groups want to stop individual states from investigating the speed claims made by Internet service providers, and they are citing the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules in their effort to hinder the state-level actions. The industry attempt to undercut state investigations comes a few months after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Charter and its Time Warner Cable (TWC) subsidiary that claims the ISP defrauded and misled New Yorkers by promising Internet speeds the company knew it could not deliver. NCTA-The Internet & Television Association and USTelecom, lobby groups for the cable and telecom industries, last month petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for a declaratory ruling that would help ISPs defend themselves against state-level investigations. The FCC should declare that advertisements of speeds "up to" a certain level of megabits per second are consistent with federal law as long as ISPs meet their disclosure obligations under the net neutrality rules, the groups said. There should be a national standard enforced by the FCC instead of a state-by-state "patchwork of inconsistent requirements," they argue. Another cable lobby group, the American Cable Association (ACA), asked the FCC to approve the petition in a filing on Friday. An FCC ruling in favor of the petition wouldn't completely prevent states from filing lawsuits, but such a ruling would make it far more difficult for the states to protect consumers from false speed claims.
Businesses

Netflix Changes Course, Says It Will 'Never Outgrow' Fight For Net Neutrality (vice.com) 107

After a few months of wishy-washy statements on net neutrality indicating that the company had largely given up on it, Netflix is changing course. From a report: On July 12, the video streaming company will join Amazon, Reddit, Pornhub, Imgur, and more to incorporate slowed-down or disrupted service to raise awareness for the importance of strong net neutrality guidelines, giving visitors to its site a taste of what a future without a free and open internet could look like. The protest, organized by Fight for the Future, freepress, and Demand Progress, takes place five days before the first deadline for comments on the FCC's proposal to roll back net neutrality protections. The change in heart comes days after Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said, "[Net neutrality is] not narrowly important to us because we're big enough to get the deals we want."
Cellphones

We Could Have Had Cellphones Four Decades Earlier (reason.com) 263

_Sharp'r_ writes: Professor Thomas Hazlett of Clemson University analyzed the history of wireless spectrum and concluded the technology was known and available for cellphones in the 40s, but there was no spectrum available. Based on assumptions cellphones would always be luxury goods without mass appeal, significant spectrum for divisible cellular networks wasn't legally usable until the early 80s. Instead, the unused spectrum was reserved for the future expansion of broadcast TV to channels 70-83. Here's an excerpt from the report: "When AT&T wanted to start developing cellular in 1947, the FCC rejected the idea, believing that spectrum could be best used by other services that were not 'in the nature of convenience or luxury.' This view -- that this would be a niche service for a tiny user base -- persisted well into the 1980s. 'Land mobile,' the generic category that covered cellular, was far down on the FCC's list of priorities. In 1949, it was assigned just 4.7 percent of the spectrum in the relevant range. Broadcast TV was allotted 59.2 percent, and government uses got one-quarter."
Communications

FCC Can't Cap the Cost of Cross-State Prison Phone Calls, Court Rules (theverge.com) 173

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The Federal Communications Commission does not have the authority to cap the cost of prison and jail phone calls within states, an appeals court ruled in a decision today, dealing a massive blow to inmates and their advocates who have spent years litigating caps on the cost of such calls. Over several years, the FCC, under Democratic leadership, moved to cap the cost of calls for inmates. Activists argued that prisoners were effectively being extorted by private companies charging exorbitant rates -- a move that benefited private prisons and the states that got cuts of the revenue. Some of those states joined with companies in appealing the FCC's rules. The agency first moved to cap rates across state lines, and then, later, within states. Today, the court ruled that the FCC had overstepped when it attempted to regulate the price of calls within states. In the majority opinion, the court left little wiggle room for advocates of price-capping, with the possible exception of the cross-state caps, which are a minority of calls made by inmates. The opinion vacated not only the agency's proposed caps for in-state calls, but said the agency also lacked justification to require reports on video calling services. It also vacated a provision that would ban site commission payments.
Communications

Someone Built a Tool To Get Congress' Browser History (vice.com) 68

A software engineer in North Carolina has created a new plugin that lets website administrators monitor when someone accesses their site from an IP address associated with the federal government. It was created in part to protest a measure signed by President Trump in April that allows internet service providers to sell sensitive information about your online habits without needing your consent. Motherboard reports: A new tool created by Matt Feld, the founder of several nonprofits including Speak Together, could help the public get a sense of what elected officials are up to online. Feld, a software engineer working in North Carolina, created Speak Together to share "technical projects that could be used to reduce the opaqueness between government and people," he told Motherboard over the phone. "It was born out of just me trying to get involved and finding the process to be confusing." The tool lets website administrators track whether members of Congress, the Senate, White House staff, or Federal Communications Commission (FCC) staff are looking at their site. If you use Feld's plug-in, you'll be able to see whether someone inside government is reading your blog. You won't be able to tell if President Trump viewed a web page, but you will be able to see that it was someone using an IP address associated with the White House. The tool works similarly to existing projects like CongressEdits, an automated Twitter account that tweets whenever a Wikipedia page is edited from IP addresses associated with Congress.
Cellphones

No, Your Phone Didn't Ring. So Why Voice Mail From a Telemarketer? (lifehacker.com) 210

Slashdot reader midwestsilentone tipped us off to a growing problem. Lifehacker reports: New technology allows telemarketers to leave ringless voicemail messages, and it's a method that's gaining traction. While there are laws to regulate businesses when they call consumers, some groups argue that ringless voicemail shouldn't count. The New York Times reports,"ringless voicemail providers and pro-business groups...argue that these messages should not qualify as calls and, therefore, should be exempt from consumer protection laws that ban similar types of telephone marketing"... After receiving a petition from a ringless voicemail provider, the Federal Trade Commission has started to collect public comments on this issue. So what can you do about it? First, you can head here to leave your public comment and if you're getting these voicemails, you can file a complaint with the FCC here.
Presumably that only applies if you're in the U.S. But I'd be curious to hear how many Slashdot readers have experienced this.
Mozilla

Americans From Both Political Parties Overwhelmingly Support Net Neutrality, Poll Shows (mozilla.org) 245

Mozilla conducted a survey in which it found that a majority of Americans do not trust the government to protect Internet access. From an article, shared by a reader: A recent public opinion poll carried out by Mozilla and Ipsos revealed overwhelming support across party lines for net neutrality, with over three quarters of Americans (76%) supporting net neutrality. Eighty-one percent of Democrats and 73% of Republicans are in favor of it. Another key finding: Most Americans do not trust the U.S. government to protect access to the Internet. Seventy percent of Americans place no or little trust in the Trump administration or Congress (78%) to do so. Mozilla and Ipsos carried out the poll in late May, on the heels of the FCC's vote to begin dismantling Obama-era net neutrality rules. We polled approximately 1,000 American adults across the U.S., a sample that included 354 Democrats, 344 Republicans, and 224 Independents.
Mozilla

Amazon, Mozilla, Kickstarter, and Reddit Are Staging a Net Neutrality Online Protest (washingtonpost.com) 70

An anonymous reader shares a report: Some of the Internet's biggest names are banding together for a "day of action" to oppose the Federal Communications Commission (alternative source), which is working to undo regulations for Internet providers that it passed during the Obama administration. Among the participants are Etsy, Kickstarter and Mozilla, the maker of the popular Firefox Web browser. Also joining the day of protest will be Reddit, the start-up incubator Y Combinator, and Amazon. On July 12, the companies and organizations are expected to change their websites to raise awareness of the FCC effort, which is aimed at deregulating the telecom and cable industries. Mozilla, for example, will change what users see on their screens when they open a new browser window. Other participants include Demand Progress, Etsy, Vimeo, Private Internet Access, Fight for the Future, EFF, DreamHost, Creative Commons, BitTorrent, American Library Association, ACLU, GreenPeace, Open Media, and Patreon. Find more details here.
Government

FCC Seeks To Increase ISP Competition In Apartment Buildings (arstechnica.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Exclusive deals between broadband providers and landlords have long been a problem for Internet users, despite rules that are supposed to prevent or at least limit such arrangements. The Federal Communications Commission is starting to ask questions about whether it can do more to stop deals that impede broadband competition inside apartment and condominium buildings. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai yesterday released a draft Notice of Inquiry (NOI) that seeks public comment "on ways to facilitate greater consumer choice and to enhance broadband deployment in multiple tenant environments (MTEs)." The commission is scheduled to vote on the NOI at its June 22 meeting, and it would then take public comments before deciding whether to issue new rules or take any other action. The NOI discusses preempting local rules "that may expressly prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the provision of telecommunications services" in multi-unit buildings. But one San Francisco regulation that could be preempted was designed to boost competition by expanding access to wires inside buildings. It's too early to tell whether the FCC really wants to preempt any state or city rules or what authority the FCC would use to do so. The NOI could also lead to an expansion of FCC rules, as it seeks comment on whether the commission should impose new restrictions on exclusive marketing and bulk billing arrangements between companies and building owners. The NOI further seeks comment on how "revenue sharing agreements and exclusive wiring arrangements between MTE owners and broadband providers may affect broadband competition" and "other contractual provisions and non-contractual practices that may impact the ability of broadband providers to compete in MTEs." The NOI also asks whether the commission should encourage cities and states to adopt model codes that promote competition in multi-unit buildings, and the document asks what practices those model codes should prohibit or mandate.
Communications

After Bomb Threats, FCC Proposes Letting Police Unveil Anonymous Callers (cnbc.com) 116

Police should be allowed to unmask anonymous callers who have made serious threats over the phone, the Federal Communications Commission has proposed. From a report: The proposal would allow law enforcement, and potentially the person who's been called, to learn the phone number of an anonymous caller if they receive a "serious and imminent" threat that poses "substantial risk to property, life, safety, or health." Specifics are still up in the air. The FCC is asking (PDF), for instance, whether unveiled caller ID information should only be provided to law enforcement officials investigating a threat, to ensure that this exemption isn't abused.
Security

Democrats Ask FBI To Probe Reported FCC Cyberattack (thehill.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: A group of Democratic senators is asking the FBI to investigate an alleged cyberattack on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website earlier this month. In a letter to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe sent Wednesday, the senators asked the bureau to "investigate the source" of the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. "Any cyberattack on a federal network is very serious," Democratic Sens. Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Al Franken (Minn.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Ed Markey (Mass.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.) wrote. "This particular attack may have denied the American people the opportunity to contribute to what is supposed to be a fair and transparent process, which in turn may call into question the integrity of the FCC's rulemaking proceedings," they wrote. In the Wednesday letter to McCabe, the senators asked to be briefed by the FBI on the matter by June 23. "We ask that the FBI prioritize this matter and investigate the source of this attack," they wrote. On May 8, the FCC claimed that it was a victim of "multiple" DDoS attacks. The alleged attacks occurred after comedian John Oliver spurred millions of Americans to file comments with the FCC in favor of net neutrality. "Many had attributed the website's slowdown to the volume of comments produced by Oliver's segment, but the FCC instead blamed malicious actors days later," reports The Hill.
Businesses

Netflix CEO Says Net Neutrality Is 'Not Our Primary Battle' (theverge.com) 128

Speaking with Recode's Peter Kafka at the Code Conference today, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings explained his position on the current net neutrality debate that's happening at the FCC. Or, more to the point, he addressed the fact that he's been awfully quiet about it compared to how loudly he defended net neutrality in previous fights. From a report: "It's not narrowly important to us because we're big enough to get the deals we want," Hastings said. It was a candid admission: no matter what the FCC decides to do with Title II, Netflix isn't worried about its ability to survive. Hastings says that Netflix is "weighing in against" changing the current rules, but that "it's not our primary battle at this point" and "we don't have a special vulnerability to it." He does believe that smaller players are going to be harmed if net neutrality goes away, saying that "where net neutrality is really important is the Netflix of 10 years ago."
Government

Investigation Demanded Over Fake FCC Comments Submitted By Dead People (bbc.com) 140

An anonymous reader writes: Fight for the Future has found another issue with the fake comments submitted to the FCC opposing net neutrality. "The campaign group says that some of the comments were posted using the names and details of dead people," according to the BBC. The exact same comment was also submitted more than 7,000 times using addresses in Colorado, where a reporter discovered that contacting the people at those addresses drew reactions which included "I have never seen this before in my life" and "No, I did not post this comment. In fact, I disagree with this comment." Fight for the Future also knocked on doors in Tampa, Florida, where the few people who answered "were shocked to hear that their name and address were publicly listed alongside a political message they did not necessarily understand or agree with." An alleged commenter in Montana told a reporter she didn't even know what net neutrality was.

14 people have already signed Fight for the Future's official complaint to the FCC, which calls for notification of all people affected, an investigation, and the immediate removal of all fake comments from the public docket. "Based on numerous media reports, nearly half a million Americans may have been impacted by whoever impersonated us," states the letter, "in a dishonest and deceitful campaign to manufacture false support for your plan to repeal net neutrality protections."

Fight for the Future says they've already verified "dozens" of instance of real people discovering a fake comment was submitted in their name -- and that in addition, more than 2,400 people have already used their site to contact their state Attorneys General demanding an investigation. They note the FCC has taken no steps to remove the fake comments from its docket, "risking the safety and privacy of potentially hundreds of thousands of people," while a campaign director at Fight for the Future added, "For the FCC's process to have any legitimacy, they simply cannot move forward until an investigation has been conducted."
Cellphones

Republicans Want To Leave You Voicemail -- Without Ever Ringing Your Cellphone (recode.net) 443

bricko quotes a report from Recode: The GOP's leading campaign and fundraising arm, the Republican National Committee, has quietly thrown its support behind a proposal at the Federal Communications Commission that would pave the way for marketers to auto-dial consumers' cellphones and leave them prerecorded voicemail messages -- all without ever causing their devices to ring. Under current federal law, telemarketers and others, like political groups, aren't allowed to launch robocall campaigns targeting cellphones unless they first obtain a consumer's written consent. But businesses stress that it's a different story when it comes to "ringless voicemail" -- because it technically doesn't qualify as a phone call in the first place. In their eyes, that means they shouldn't need a customer or voter's permission if they want to auto-dial mobile voicemail inboxes in bulk pre-made messages about a political candidate, product or cause. And they want the FCC to rule, once and for all, that they're in the clear. Their argument, however, has drawn immense opposition from consumer advocates.
Censorship

FCC Won't Punish Stephen Colbert For Controversial Trump Insult (slashdot.org) 305

Earlier this month, the FCC said it would look into complaints made against The Late Show host Stephen Colbert over a homophobic joke he made about President Donald Trump. Well, it turns out the FCC is not going to levy a fine against the comedian for using the word "cock" on late-night network television, reports The Verge. From the report: "Consistent with standard operating procedure, the FCC's Enforcement Bureau has reviewed the complaints and the material that was the subject of these complaints," reads the FCC's statement, according to Variety. "The Bureau has concluded that there was nothing actionable under the FCC's rules." Helping Colbert's case was the fact that the broadcast, time delayed for incidents like these, bleeped out the questionable word and also blurred the host's mouth as he was saying it. The FCC has broad authority to regulate what can and cannot be broadcast based on legal precedent regarding obscenity laws. Yet looser rules apply during the hours of 10PM and 6AM ET, when Colbert's show airs. So it would appear that the ample self-censorship on behalf of CBS saved the program from a guilty verdict in this case.
Communications

Comcast Proves Need For Net Neutrality By Trying To Censor Advocacy Website (fightforthefuture.org) 153

Reader mrchaotica writes: As most Slashdot readers are probably aware, the FCC, under the direction of Trump-appointed chairman Ajit Pai, is trying to undo its 2015 decision to protect Net Neutrality (PDF) by classifying ISPs as common carriers. During the recent public comment period, the FCC's website was flooded with pro-Net-Neutrality comments from actual people (especially those who heeded John Oliver's call to arms) as well as anti-Net-Neutrality comments posted by bots using the names and addresses of people without their consent. The fake comments use boilerplate identical to that used in a 2010 press release by the conservative lobbying group Center for Individual Freedom (which is funded by Comcast, among other entities), but beyond that, the entities who perpetrated and funded the criminal acts have not been conclusively identified. In response to this brazen attempt to undermine the democratic process, the Internet freedom advocacy group Fight for the Future (FFTF) created the website Comcastroturf.com to call attention to the fraud and allow people to see if their identity had been misappropriated. Comcast, in a stunning display of its tone-deaf attitude towards free speech, has sent a cease-and-desist order to FFTF, claiming that Comcastroturf.com violates its "valuable intellectual property[sic]." According to the precedent set in Bosley Medical Institute, Inc. v. Kremer , websites created for the purpose of criticizing an organization can not be considered trademark infringement. As such, FFTF reportedly has no intention of taking down the site.

"This is exactly why we need Title II net neutrality protections that ban blocking, throttling, and censorship," said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, "If Ajit Pai's plan is enacted, there would be nothing preventing Comcast from simply blocking sites like Comcastroturf.com that are critical of their corporate policies," she added. "It also makes you wonder what Comcast is so afraid of? Are their lobbying dollars funding the astroturfing effort flooding the FCC with fake comments that we are encouraging Internet users to investigate?"

Could there be a better example to illustrate why ensuring strong Net Neutrality protections by regulating ISPs as common carriers is so important?


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