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Submission Summary: 0 pending, 4 declined, 4 accepted (8 total, 50.00% accepted)

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Submission + - City of Austin Locked in Regulations Battle With Uber, Lyft

AcidPenguin9873 writes: This past fall, the Austin City Council drafted regulations for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft requiring drivers to submit to fingerprint-based background checks, similar to other taxi services in Austin. Uber and Lyft threatened to leave the Austin market if the fingerprint-based background checks were passed. After lots of heated public comments and debate from both sides, the fingerprint requirements were passed by the council in December. Shortly thereafter, a PAC called Ridesharing Works for Austin was formed, and, with financial backing from Uber and Lyft, delivered a petition with over 25,000 valid signatures to the City that seeks to remove the fingerprint requirement. According to Austin city code, since the petition had enough valid signatures, the City Council was required to either adopt the language in the petition and remove the fingerprint requirement, or hold a referendum election on the issue. This past Thursday, the council declined to adopt the petition, so Austin voters will go to the polls in May to decide how Uber and Lyft should be regulated.

This case is quite interesting and has a lot of questions. Uber and Lyft have said that their electronic tracking makes them safer than traditional taxi services, and so they shouldn't be subject to the same regulations. However, some citizens and council members don't like corporations strong-arming local government and effectively writing their own regulations. On the other, one of the council members who introduced the fingerprinting requirement had received campaign donations from at least one local taxi company, leading some to question her motives for introducing the stricter regulations for Uber and Lyft, and even going so far as to start a separate petition campaign to recall that council member. What does Slashdot think Austin should do?

Submission + - AT&T Pauses Fiber Rollout, Citing Obama's Net Neutrality Regulations

AcidPenguin9873 writes: Following Monday's request by President Obama to the FCC to impose tough net-neutrality regulations on ISPs, AT&T has announced that they are pausing the fiber-optic network upgrades that they had previously announced for 100 U.S. cities. AT&T cited regulatory uncertainty as the primary cause for the pause: " 'We can't go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed,' [the company's chief executive Randall Stephenson] said."

Submission + - AT&T Pauses Fiber Rollout, Citing Obama's Net Neutrality Regulations (macobserver.com)

Submission + - SpaceX Chooses Texas Site For Private Spaceport

AcidPenguin9873 writes: Today, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced that SpaceX has chosen a site at Boca Chica Beach, Texas, as the location where SpaceX will build its rocket launch facility. The Boca Chica site, at the southern tip of Texas near Brownsville and South Padre Island, had been competing with sites in Florida, Georgia, and Puerto Rico, but had been named the frontrunner to land the site by Musk when he testified to the Texas state legislature in 2013. The spaceport will be the first privately-owned vertical rocket launch facility in the world, and will target commercial customers. State and local governments have pledged to provide a total of about $20 million in incentives to attract SpaceX to the site.

Submission + - Google Fiber in Austin Hits a Snag: Incumbent AT&T

AcidPenguin9873 writes: Earlier this year, Google announced that it would build its next fiber network in Austin, TX. Construction is slated to start in 2014, but there's a hitch: AT&T owns 20% of the utility poles in Austin. The City of Austin is considering a rules change that would allow Google to pay AT&T to use its utility poles, but AT&T isn't happy about it. The debate appears to hinge on a technicality that specifies what types of companies can attach to the utility poles that AT&T owns. From the news story: "Google 'would be happy to pay for access (to utility poles) at reasonable rates, just as we did in our initial buildout in Kansas City,' she said, referring to Google Fiber’s pilot project in Kansas City...Tracy King, AT&T’s vice president for public affairs, said in a written statement that Google 'appears to be demanding concessions never provided any other entity before.' 'Google has the right to attach to our poles, under federal law, as long as it qualifies as a telecom or cable provider, as they themselves acknowledge. We will work with Google when they become qualified, as we do with all such qualified providers,' she said."
Republicans

Submission + - Senator Ted Stevens Indicted For Corruption

AcidPenguin9873 writes: Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), most famous to Slashdotters for his 2006 metaphor comparing the internet to a "series of tubes", has been brought up on corruption charges. From today's NY Times article: "Mr. Stevens, 84, was indicted on seven counts of falsely reporting income. The charges are related to renovations on his home and to gifts he has received." Today's indictment raises the broader issue of lobbyists, gifts, and campaign contributions to politicians. Will the charges have any effect on the upcoming November election?
Privacy

Submission + - Eavesdropping Helpful Against Terrorist Plot (nytimes.com)

AcidPenguin9873 writes: The New York Times reports that the U.S. government's ability to eavesdrop on personal communications helped break up a terrorist plot in Germany. The intercepted phone calls and emails revealed a connection between the plotters and a breakaway cell of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad Union. What does this mean for the future of privacy in personal communications? From the article:

[McConnell's] remarks also represent part of intensifying effort by Bush administration officials to make permanent a law that is scheduled to expire in about five months. Without the law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Mr. McConnell said the nation would lose "50 percent of our ability to track, understand and know about these terrorists, what they're doing to train, what they're doing to recruit and what they're doing to try to get into this country."

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