Businesses

All Major ISPs Have Declined In Customer Satisfaction, Says Study (dslreports.com) 76

The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index survey finds that Verizon FiOS has been rated the highest in customer satisfaction with a score of 70 out of 100. But, as DSLReports notes, that's nothing to write home about since that score was a one point decline from one year earlier. Furthermore, the industry average was 64 points, which is not only a decline from last year but lower than most of the other industries the group tracks. From the report: According to the ACSI, high prices and poor customer service continues to plague an U.S. broadband industry with some very obvious competitive shortcomings. "According to users, most aspects of ISPs are getting worse," the ACSI said. "Courtesy and helpfulness of staff has waned to 76 and in-store service is slower (74). Bills are more difficult to understand (-3 percent to 71), and customers aren't happy with the variety of plans available (-3 percent to 64)." Not a single ISP tracked by the firm saw an improvement in customer satisfaction scores.

The worst of the worst according to the ACSI is Mediacom, which saw a 9% plummet year over year to a score of 53, which is lower than most airlines, banks, and even the IRS according to the report. Charter Spectrum and Suddenlink also saw 8% declines in satisfaction year over year, and despite repeated claims that customer service is now its top priority, Comcast saw zero improvement in broadband satisfaction and a slight decline in pay TV satisfaction.

Advertising

Should T-Mobile Stop Claiming It Has 'Best Unlimited Network'? (arstechnica.com) 54

An anonymous reader writes: Speed isn't everything, or is it? According to a report from Ars Technica, the National Advertising Division (NAD) says T-Mobile should stop claiming that is has "America's Best Unlimited Network" because it needs to prove it also has the widest geographic coverage and best reliability. T-Mobile is saying that speed outweighs all other factors.

"T-Mobile's claim is based on data from Ookla and OpenSignal, which offer speed-testing apps that let consumers test their wireless data speeds," reports Ars Technica. "Both Ookla and OpenSignal have issued reports saying that T-Mobile's speeds were higher than Verizon's, AT&T's, and Sprint's. The OpenSignal tests also gave T-Mobile an edge over rivals in latency and 4G signal availability." T-Mobile "did not provide evidence that its network is superior in providing talk and text mobile services or in providing high-speed data more reliably or to a greater coverage area," the industry group's announcement said.

Android

The Verge Goes Hands-On With the 'Wildly Ambitious' RED Hydrogen One Smartphone (theverge.com) 53

It's been almost a year since RED, a company known for its high-end $10,000+ cameras, teased a smartphone called the RED Hydrogen One. Several months have passed since the phone was announced and we still don't know much about it, aside from it having a very industrial design and "Hydrogen holographic display." Earlier this week, AT&T and Verizon confirmed that they'll launch the device later this year. Now, The Verge's Dieter Bohn has shared his hands-on impressions with the device, which he claims to be "one of the most ambitious smartphones in years from a company not named Apple, Google, or Samsung." Here's an excerpt from the report: The company better known for high-end 4K cameras with names like "Weapon" and "Epic-w" isn't entering the smartphone game simply to sell you a better Android phone. No, this phone is meant to be one piece of a modular system of cameras and other media creation equipment -- the company claims it will be "the foundation of a future multi-dimensional media system." To that end, it has a big set of pogo-pins on the back to connect it to RED's other cameras also to allow users to attach (forthcoming) modules to it, including lens mounts. If it were just a modular smartphone, we'd be talking about whether we really expected the company to produce enough modules to support it.

RED is planning on starting with a module that is essentially a huge camera sensor -- the company is not ready to give exact details, but the plan is definitely more towards DSLR size than smartphone size. Then, according to CEO Jim Jannard, the company wants any traditional big camera lens to be attached to it. Answering a fan question, he joked that support for lenses will be "pretty limited," working "just" with Fuji, Canon, Nikon, Leica, and more. [...] The processor inside will be a slightly-out-of-date Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, but it seemed fast enough in the few demos I was able to try. Honestly, though, if you're looking to get this thing just as a phone, you're probably making your decision based on the wrong metrics. It's probably going to be a perfectly capable phone, but at this price (starting at $1,195) what you're buying into is the module ecosystem.

Android

With Steam Link App, Your Smartphone Can Be An Imperfect Gaming Monitor (arstechnica.com) 47

Ars Technica's Kyle Orland shares his experience with Valve's recently announced Steam Link app, which lets users play games running on a PC via a tablet, mobile phone, or Apple TV on the same network. The app launches today for Android 5.0+ devices; iOS support is "pending further review from Apple." From the report: Valve isn't kidding when it says a Wi-Fi router in the 5Ghz band is required for wireless streaming. I first tested iPad streaming on the low-end 2.4Ghz router provided with my Verizon FiOS subscription (an Actiontec MI424WR), with a wired Ethernet connection to my Windows gaming rig on the other end. The Steam Link network test warned me that "your network may not work well with Steam Link," thanks to 1- to 2-percent frame loss and about 15ms of "network variance," depending on when I tested. Even graphically simple games like The Binding of Isaac ran at an unplayably slowed-down rate on this connection, with frequent dropped inputs to boot.

Switching over to a 5GHz tri-band router (The Netgear Nighthawk X6, to be precise), the same network test reported a "fantastic" connection that "look[s] like it will work well with Steam." On this router, remotely played games ran incredibly smoothly at the iPad's full 1080p resolution, with total round-trip display latency ranging anywhere from 50 to 150ms, according to Steam Link's reports (and one-way "input lag" of less than 1ms). At that level of delay, playing felt practically indistinguishable from playing directly on the computer, with no noticeable gameplay impact even on quick-response titles like Cuphead.

Communications

US Cell Carriers Are Selling Access To Your Real-Time Phone Location Data (zdnet.com) 146

Four of the largest cell giants in the US are selling your real-time location data to a company that you've probably never heard about before. ZDNet: In case you missed it, a senator last week sent a letter demanding the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) investigate why Securus, a prison technology company, can track any phone "within seconds" by using data obtained from the country's largest cell giants, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint, through an intermediary, LocationSmart. The story blew up because a former police sheriff snooped on phone location data without a warrant, according The New York Times. The sheriff has pleaded not guilty to charges of unlawful surveillance.

Yet little is known about how LocationSmart obtained the real-time location data on millions of Americans, how the required consent from cell user owners was obtained, and who else has access to the data. Kevin Bankston, director of New America's Open Technology Institute, explained in a phone call that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act only restricts telecom companies from disclosing data to the government. It doesn't restrict disclosure to other companies, who then may disclose that same data to the government. He called that loophole "one of the biggest gaps in US privacy law. The issue doesn't appear to have been directly litigated before, but because of the way that the law only restricts disclosures by these types of companies to government, my fear is that they would argue that they can do a pass-through arrangement like this," he said.
Further reading: The Tech Used To Monitor Inmate Calls Is Able To Track Civilians Too.
AMD

AMD Integrates Ryzen PRO and Radeon Vega Graphics In Next-Gen APUs (zdnet.com) 76

The three biggest PC OEMs -- Dell, HP, and Lenovo -- are now offering AMD Ryzen PRO mobile and desktop accelerated processing units (APUs) with built-in Radeon Vega graphics in a variety of commercial systems. There are a total of seven new APUs -- three for the mobile space and four for the desktop. As AMD notes in its press release, the first desktops to ship with these latest chips include: the HP Elitedesk G4 and 285 Desktop, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M715, and the Dell Optiplex 5055. ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes writes about what makes Ryzen PRO so appealing: Ryzen PRO has been built from the ground up to focus on three pillars -- power, security and reliability. Built-in security means integrated GuardMI technology, an AES 128-bit encryption engine, Windows 10 Enterprise Security support, and support for fTPM/TPM 2.0 Trusted Platform Module. One of the features of Ryzen PRO that AMD hopes will appeal to commercial users is the enterprise-grade reliability that the chips come backed with, everything from 18-moths of planned software availability, 24-months processor availability, a commercial-grade QA process, 36-moth warranty, and enterprise-class manageability.

There are no worries on the performance front either, with the Ryzen PRO with Vega Graphics being the world's fastest processor currently available for ultrathin commercial notebooks, with the AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 2700U offering up to 22 percent more productivity performance than Intel's 8th-generation Core i7-8550U in testing carried out by AMD. AMD has also designed the Ryzen PRO processors to be energy-efficient, enabling up to 16 hours of battery life in devices, or 10.5 hours of video playback. The Ryzen PRO with Vega Graphics desktop processors are also no slouches, opening up a significant performance gap when compared to Intel Core i5 8400 and Core i3 8100 parts.
AMD also announced that it is sampling its second-generation Threadripper 2900X, 2920X and 2950X products. "For Threadripper Gen2 you can expect a refresh of the current line-up; an 8-core Threadripper 2900X, a 12-core Threadripper 2920X and of course a 16-core Threadripper 2950X," reports Guru3D.com. "AMD will apply the same Zen+ tweaks to the processors; including memory latency optimizations and higher clock speeds."

AMD has something for the datacenter enthusiasts out there too. Epyc, AMD's x86 server processor line based on the company's Zen microarchitecture, has a new promo video, claiming more performance, more security features, and more value than Intel Xeon. The company plans to market Epyc in an aggressive head-to-head format similar to how T-Mobile campaigns against Verizon and AT&T. Given Intel Xeon's 99% market share, they sort of have to...
Privacy

New California Ballot Measure Demands Groundbreaking Privacy Rights (mercurynews.com) 180

Supporters gathered 625,000 signatures to put the "California Consumer Privacy Act" on the ballot in November -- far exceeding the 365,880 signatures needed to qualify. The Mercury News reports: The proposed initiative aims to allow consumers to see what personal information companies are collecting about them and ask the companies to stop selling that information, and also seeks to hold businesses accountable for data breaches. "Today is a major step forward in our campaign, and an affirmation that California voters care deeply about the fundamental privacy protections provided in the California Consumer Privacy Act," said Alastair Mactaggart, the San Francisco real estate developer who is bankrolling the measure. He has spent $1.65 million on the effort, according to filings with the California secretary of state.

The measure is opposed by companies such as AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Google, which have all donated $200,000 each to fight the measure. Facebook has also given $200,000 to the opposition. However, Facebook last month said it would leave the effort to fight the initiative.

The article notes that Facebook's decision to stop publicly opposing the privacy measure occurred "around the time Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was testifying to Congress about the company's Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal."
Businesses

Will the T-Mobile, Sprint Merger Be Bad For Consumers? (vice.com) 130

On Sunday, T-Mobile and Sprint said that they have agreed to a $26.5 billion merger, creating a wireless giant to compete against industry leaders AT&T and Verizon. While a new website has been set up by the companies to help quell consumers' and regulators' fears by promising new jobs, improved broadband service, and increased competition, Motherboard's Karl Bode cites previous telecommunications mergers and Wall Street analysts to argue against the merger. From the report: The two companies attempted to merge in 2014 but had their efforts blocked by regulators who were justly worried about the deal's impact on overall competition. As Canadian wireless users can attest, the reduction of major wireless competitors from four to three only reduces the overall incentive for wireless carriers to engage in real price competition. That was the central point repeatedly made by regulators when they prohibited AT&T from gobbling up T-Mobile back in 2011. Even with four competitors, the industry frequently does its best to avoid genuine price competition, and industry watchers have noted that the overall volume of quality promotions for wireless consumers had been dropping so far in 2018. After regulators blocked the AT&T merger, T-Mobile wound up being a largely positive impact on the sector, forcing its competitors to adopt more consumer-friendly policies like eliminating long-term contracts and early termination fees. However, even with T-Mobile intact, price competition in the sector tends to be theatrical in nature.

Wall Street analysts are on record predicting that a Sprint, T-Mobile merger could result in the loss of up to 30,000 jobs -- potentially more than Sprint even currently employs. From retail operations to middle managers, there's an endless roster of human beings who, sooner or later, will be viewed as redundant. "If approved, this deal would especially hurt consumers seeking lower-cost wireless plans, as the combined company's plans would likely increase while competitors AT&T and Verizon would have even less incentive to lower prices," said Phillip Berenbroick, lawyer for the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge. "Unless the merging parties can demonstrate clear competitive benefits we have yet to see, we will urge the Department of Justice and the FCC to reject this deal."

Communications

Sprint, T-Mobile Agree To Combine in a $26.5 Billion Merger (bloomberg.com) 105

T-Mobile and Sprint said on Sunday that they have agreed to combine in a $26.5 billion merger, creating a wireless giant to compete against industry leaders AT&T and Verizon. From a report: Deutsche Telekom AG, the Bonn, Germany-based company that controls T-Mobile, and SoftBank Group, the Tokyo-based owner of Sprint, agreed to a combination that values each Sprint share at 0.10256 of a T-Mobile share, the companies said in a statement Sunday. That ratio values Sprint at $6.62 a share based on T-Mobile's Friday closing price of $64.52. The new company will use the T-Mobile name, with T-Mobile's John Legere as chief executive officer and Mike Sievert at chief operating officer. The German company's chairman, Tim Hoettges, will serve in that role at the combined company, and the board will include SoftBank Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son. The companies said they expect synergies of about $43 billion, with more than $6.5 billion on a run-rate basis.
The Internet

100 US Mayors Sign Pledge To Defend Net Neutrality Against Crooked ISPs (gizmodo.com) 91

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: More than 100 U.S. mayors have signed a pledge to hold internet service providers accountable for net neutrality violations, despite the FCC's vote to repeal the regulations late last year. The pledge, initiated by Mayors Bill de Blasio of New York City, Steve Adler of Austin, and Ted Wheeler of Portland, promises that cities will refuse to do business with ISPs that violate net neutrality standards. The mayors, brought together by a coalition of open internet advocates, including Free Press, Demand Progress, and Daily Kos, have accused FCC Chairman Ajit Pai of caving to corporate interests by giving companies such as AT&T and Verizon the power to "block, throttle and slow access to sites and services at will." A complete list of the cities taking the pledge is available on the campaign's website. At time of writing, nearly 80,000 letters have been sent urging mayors across the country to participate.
Businesses

Sprint, T-Mobile Aiming To Reach Merger Deal Next Week (reuters.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: U.S. wireless carriers T-Mobile and Sprint have made progress in negotiating merger terms and are aiming to successfully complete deal talks as early as next week. The combined company would have more than 127 million customers and could create more formidable competition for the No.1 and No.2 wireless players, Verizon and AT&T, amid a race to expand offerings in 5G, the next generation of wireless technology. T-Mobile majority-owner Deutsche Telekom and Japan's SoftBank, which controls Sprint, are considering an agreement that would dictate how they exercise voting control over the combined company. This could allow Deutsche Telekom to consolidate the combined company on its books, even without owning a majority stake. Deutsche Telekom owns more than 63 percent of T-Mobile, while SoftBank owns 84.7 percent of Sprint. Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile are also in the process of finalizing the debt financing package they will use to fund the deal, the sources said. There is no certainty that a deal will be reached, the sources cautioned.
Businesses

SmugMug Buys Flickr, Vows To Revitalize the Photo Service (usatoday.com) 61

On Friday, Silicon Valley photo-sharing and storage company SmugMug announced it had acquired Flickr, the photo-sharing site created in 2004 by Ludicorp and acquired in 2005 by Yahoo. SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill told USA TODAY he's committed to revitalizing the faded social networking site, which hosted photos and videos long before it became trendy. Flickr will reportedly continue to operate separately, and SmugMug and Flickr accounts will "remain separate and independent for the foreseeable future." From the report: He declined to disclose the terms of the deal, which closed this week. "Flickr is an amazing community, full of some of the world's most passionate photographers. It's a fantastic product and a beloved brand, supplying tens of billions of photos to hundreds of millions of people around the world," MacAskill said. "Flickr has survived through thick-and-thin and is core to the entire fabric of the Internet." The surprise deal ends months of uncertainty for Flickr, whose fate had been up in the air since last year when Yahoo was bought by Verizon for $4.5 billion and joined with AOL in Verizon's Oath subsidiary.
AT&T

AT&T, Verizon Under US Investigation For Collusion To Lock In Customers (nytimes.com) 39

bongey writes: AT&T and Verizon are currently under investigation for colluding with the GSMA standards group to thwart eSIM technology and hinder consumers from easily switching wireless carriers. eSIM technology lets people remotely switch wireless providers without having to insert a new SIM card into a device. According to The New York Times, the two companies "face accusations that they colluded with the GSMA to try to establish standards that would allow them to lock a device to their network even if it had eSIM technology." The Justice Department opened the investigation roughly five months ago after at least one device maker and one wireless carrier filed formal complaints. Compare cell plans at Wirefly to see the current plans being offered by AT&T and Verizon.
Businesses

Marissa Mayer is Back (bloomberg.com) 104

Former Yahoo Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer is starting a technology business incubator, Lumi Labs, with longtime colleague Enrique Munoz Torres, she revealed in an interview with The New York Times. Bloomberg: The venture will focus on consumer media and artificial intelligence, according to the company's website, which is set against a backdrop of snow-covered peaks. Lumi means snow in Finnish, Mayer told the New York Times, which reported the news earlier Wednesday. The next project for Mayer, who was an early employee at Google and worked there until leaving to run Yahoo in 2012, had been a matter of considerable speculation in Silicon Valley. She left Yahoo, once a leading search engine and web destination, after it was sold to Verizon Communications last year.
Yahoo!

Yahoo's New Privacy Policy Allows Data-Sharing With Verizon (cnet.com) 38

"Yahoo is now part of Oath and there is a new Privacy and Terms contract..." warns long-time Slashdot reader DigitalLogic. CNET reports: Oath notes that it has the right to read your emails, instant messages, posts, photos and even look at your message attachments. And it might share that data with parent company Verizon, too... When you dig further into Oath's policy about what it might do with your words, photos, and attachments, the company clarifies that it's utilizing automated systems that help the company with security, research and providing targeted ads -- and that those automated systems should strip out personally identifying information before letting any humans look at your data. But there are no explicit guarantees on that.
The update also warns that Oath is now "linking your activity on other sites and apps with information we have about you, and providing anonymized and/or aggregated reports to other parties regarding user trends." For example, Oath "may analyze user content around certain interactions with financial institutions," and "leverages information financial institutions are allowed to send over email."

Oath does offer a "Privacy Controls" page which includes a "legacy" AOL link letting you opt-out of internet-based advertising that's been targeted "based on your online activities" -- but it appears to be functioning sporadically.

CNET also reports that now Yahoo users are agreeing to a class-action waiver and mutual arbitration. "What it means is if you don't like what the company does with your data, you'll have a hard time suing."
Communications

Oregon Becomes Second State To Pass a Net Neutrality Law (katu.com) 91

An anonymous reader quotes a report from KATU: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill Monday withholding state business from internet providers who throttle traffic, making the state the second to finalize a proposal aimed at thwarting moves by federal regulators to relax net neutrality requirements. The bill stops short of actually putting new requirements on internet service providers in the state, but blocks the state from doing business with providers that offer preferential treatment to some internet content or apps, starting in 2019. The move follows a December vote by the Federal Communications Commission repealing Obama-era rules that prohibited such preferential treatment, referred to generally as throttling, by providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon. Brown's signature makes the state the second to enact such legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. It also stakes out the state's claim to a moderate approach, compared to others: Five weeks to the day before Brown, Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill in his state to directly regulate providers there. The prohibition, which restricts with whom the state may contract for internet services, applies to cities and counties, but exempts areas with only a single provider.
Privacy

Comcast, AT&T, Verizon Pose a Greater Surveillance Risk Than Facebook (theguardian.com) 65

An anonymous reader writes: "Comcast, AT&T and Verizon pose a greater surveillance risk than Facebook -- but their surveillance is much harder to avoid," writes Salome Viljoen in an opinion piece for The Guardian. From the report: "Facebook isn't the only company that amasses troves of data about people and leaves it vulnerable to exploitation and misuse. As of last year, Congress extended the same data-gathering practices of tech companies like Google and Facebook to internet providers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon. Because service providers serve as gatekeepers to the entire internet, they can collect far more information about us, and leave us with far less power to opt out of that process. This means that the risks of allowing our internet providers to collect and monetize the same type of user data that Facebook collects -- and the potential that such data will therefore be misused -- are much, much worse. Your internet provider doesn't just know what you do on Facebook -- it sees all the sites you visit and how much time you spend there. Your provider can see where you shop, what you watch on TV, where you choose to eat dinner, what medical symptoms you search, where you apply for work, school, a mortgage. Everything that is unencrypted is fair game. But internet providers don't just pose a greater surveillance risk than Facebook -- their surveillance is also far harder to avoid. 'Choosing' not to use an internet provider to avoid surveillance is not really a choice at all. As of 2016, only about half of Americans have more than one option for broadband internet. In rural areas, this number drops to just 13%.
AT&T

Verizon Has Been the Fastest US Mobile Carrier in Last Six Months: Wirefly (wirefly.com) 33

Verizon was the fastest mobile carrier in the United States during Q4 2017 and Q1 2018, according to 2018 Internet Speed Rankings Report published by Wirefly. According to the report, Verizon Wireless offered its subscribers 19.92 Mbps "overall" Internet speed, followed by AT&T at 18.26 Mbps, T-Mobile at 17.29 Mbps, and Sprint finishing at last with 14.77 Mbps. (The report defines overall speed capability as a summation of download speed with a 90% weight, and upload speed with a 10% weight.) T-Mobile was ranked as the fastest Internet service provider by Wirefly in Q1 and Q2 2017.

Verizon was also the carrier with fastest average download and upload speeds during the aforementioned period. It offered 20.44 Mbps (down) and 15.26 Mbps (up), compared to AT&T, which offered an average of 19.11 Mbps download speed and 10.53 Mbps as its average upload speeds. You can read the full report here. The results were collected from the results of users using the Wirefly Internet Speed Test.
AT&T

Huawei Commits To Bringing Its Products To the US Despite Government Security Concerns (phonedog.com) 40

Within the last few months, AT&T and Verizon have reportedly decided not to sell Huawei's flagship smartphone due to pressure from the U.S. government, with Best Buy opting to stop offering all Huawei products. Despite all of this, though, the company isn't giving up its U.S. ambitions. PhoneDog reports: Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's consumer business group, says that Huawei will continue working to establish itself in the U.S. and earn consumers' trust. Yu's statement to CNET: "We are committed to the U.S. market and to earning the trust of U.S. consumers by staying focused on delivering world-class products and innovation. We would never compromise that trust." Yu went on to say that the security concerns that the U.S. government has about Huawei are "based on groundless suspicions and are quite frankly unfair." He added that Huawei is open having a discussion with the heads of the CIA, FBI, and NSA so long as it is based on facts.
Android

Verizon Plans To Launch a Palm Smartphone Later This Year (androidpolice.com) 45

Verizon is planning on launch a Palm-branded smartphone later this year, an anonymous source told Android Police. The rumor backs up what a TCL executive said last August, when they confirmed that the company would launch a Palm phone this year. From the report: Sadly, we don't know anything about the phone itself at this time (well, we know it runs Android), but the fact that TCL is working with Verizon is telling. The carrier was a longtime Palm partner, selling most of the brand's webOS handsets all the way through the Pre 2. Verizon had intended to carry the ill-fated Pre 3, but the phone was cancelled by Palm's then-buyer HP before it could be released in the U.S. TCL acquired the rights to the Palm name back in 2015, and it's starting to get something of a reputation for reviving dead and dying brands: the Chinese firm manufactures BlackBerry handsets, which have received a surprising amount of attention in the mainstream press.

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