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Submission + - Algorithms and how they may affect you (phys.org)

Muckluck writes: An interesting look via phys.org at how algorithms may be shaping your life:

When you browse online for a new pair of shoes, pick a movie to stream on Netflix or apply for a car loan, an algorithm likely has its word to say on the outcome. The complex mathematical formulas are playing a growing role in all walks of life: from detecting skin cancers to suggesting new Facebook friends, deciding who gets a job, how police resources are deployed, who gets insurance at what cost, or who is on a "no fly" list.

Submission + - Prosthetic Arm Control Improved Using Spinal Nerve Signals

CanadianRealist writes: Current prosthetic arms are usually controlled by detecting signals from the user twitching muscles in the shoulder or arm. This allows only a limited number of possible movements, such as grasp and release. Researchers have developed a new technique that interprets signals from motor neurons in the spinal cord, allowing for a greater range of control of an arm. Signals from nerves associated with hand and arm movements were mapped to the corresponding movements. Test subjects were able to move a virtual prosthetic arm with greater freedom than has been achieved with muscle-controlled prosthetics. (A virtual prosthetic arm was used rather than a real one as this work is still in the early stages.)

Submission + - Lockheed Martin screwup delays delivery of Air Force GPS satellites (bloomberg.com)

schwit1 writes: Incompetence by a Lockheed Martin subcontractor will delay the delivery of 32 new Air Force GPS satellites and will likely cost the government millions.

Lockheed has a contract to build the first 10 of the satellites designed to provide a more accurate version of the Global Positioning System used for everything from the military’s targeting of terrorists to turn-by-turn directions for civilians’ smartphones. The program’s latest setback may affect a pending Air Force decision on whether to open the final 22 satellites to competition from Lockheed rivals Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. “This was an avoidable situation and raised significant concerns with Lockheed Martin subcontractor management/oversight and Harris program management,” Teague said in a Dec. 21 message to congressional staff obtained by Bloomberg News.

The parts in question are ceramic capacitors that have bedeviled the satellite project. They take higher-voltage power from the satellite’s power system and reduce it to a voltage required for a particular subsystem. Last year, the Air Force and contractors discovered that Harris hadn’t conducted tests on the components, including how long they would operate without failing, that should have been completed in 2010.

Now, the Air Force says it found that Harris spent June to October of last year doing follow-up testing on the wrong parts instead of samples of the suspect capacitors installed on the first three satellites. Harris “immediately notified Lockheed and the government” after a post-test inspection, Teague said in his message.

So, the subcontractor first failed to do the required tests, then it did the tests on the wrong parts. Sounds like the kind of quality control problems we have seen recently in Russia and Japan.

The worst part? The contract is a cost-plus contract, which means the US tax payer has to absorb the additional costs for fixing the screw-up, not Lockheed Martin or its subcontractor.

Submission + - Cybersecurity Firm's Own Blog Is Hacked With Fake Articles

Mickeycaskill writes: In an era of unprecedented cyberthreats, many organisations turn to security firms for guidance on how to prevent and respond to incidents, and to their researchers for information about the latest threats.

But just to illustrate that you can never be too careful, cybersecurity specialist Trend Micro has confirmed that one of the blogs it uses to communicate with customers was itself the victim of a content spoofing attack.

The culprits exploited a vulnerability in WordPress to inject fake content onto the blog before it was removed by Trend Micro and the bug fixed.

“Unfortunately there are many different URLs attackers can use to carry out the same attack, so a couple of fake ‘articles’ ended up posted on CounterMeasures," head of security research Rik Ferguson told Silicon. "We have responded and shut down the vulnerability completely to resolve the issue."

Submission + - Police Use Pacemaker Data To Charge Homeowner With Arson And Insurance Fraud

JustAnotherOldGuy writes: If you're dependent upon an embedded medical device, the device that helps keep you alive may also be used to incriminate you in a crime. Ross Compton, a 59-year-old homeowner in Ohio called 911 in September 2016 to say that his house was on fire, however there were many irregularities to the blaze that investigators found suspicious, such as contradictory statements from Compton and the way that the fire had started. In the ensuing investigation, the police secured a warrant for the logs from his pacemaker, specifically, "Compton’s heart rate, pacer demand and cardiac rhythms before, during and after the fire." They subsequently filed charges of felony aggravated arson and insurance fraud. Middletown Police said this was the first time it had used data from a heart device to make an arrest, but the pacemaker data proved to be an “excellent investigative tool;” the data from the pacemaker didn’t correspond with Compton’s version of what happened. The retrieved data was used to help indict Compton. Lt. Jimmy Cunningham stated, “It was one of the key pieces of evidence that allowed us to charge him.”

Submission + - Adblock-Blockers 'Ineffective', Adblocking Up 30% Globally In Two Years

An anonymous reader writes: A new survey reveals that the countermeasures taken by various publishers in response to the rise of adblocking cause nearly three-quarters of users to simply abandon the sites which block adblockers. The report, from pro-ad organisation Playfair, estimates that adblocking has risen by 30% in two years, and by 40% in Asia in 2016 alone. The report predicts that a growing trend towards pre-service agreements by providers and hardware manufacturers will cause adblocking usage to rise further, practically becoming a 'default' position, unless the ad industry responds practically to users' dislike of unpopular ad formats such as unskippable video and autoplaying audio ads.

Submission + - GitLab.com Melts Down After Wrong Directory Deleted, Backups Fail (theregister.co.uk)

An anonymous reader writes: Source-code hub Gitlab.com is in meltdown after experiencing data loss as a result of what it has suddenly discovered are ineffectual backups. On Tuesday evening, Pacific Time, the startup issued the sobering series of tweets, starting with "We are performing emergency database maintenance, GitLab.com will be taken offline" and ending with "We accidentally deleted production data and might have to restore from backup. Google Doc with live notes [link]." Behind the scenes, a tired sysadmin, working late at night in the Netherlands, had accidentally deleted a directory on the wrong server during a frustrating database replication process: he wiped a folder containing 300GB of live production data that was due to be replicated. Just 4.5GB remained by the time he canceled the rm -rf command. The last potentially viable backup was taken six hours beforehand. That Google Doc mentioned in the last tweet notes: "This incident affected the database (including issues and merge requests) but not the git repos (repositories and wikis)." So some solace there for users because not all is lost. But the document concludes with the following: "So in other words, out of 5 backup/replication techniques deployed none are working reliably or set up in the first place." At the time of writing, GitLab says it has no estimated restore time but is working to restore from a staging server that may be “without webhooks” but is “the only available snapshot.” That source is six hours old, so there will be some data loss.

Submission + - Researcher Develops Explosion-Proof Lithium Metal Battery, 2X Power Of Li-Ion (hothardware.com)

MojoKid writes: Tufts University professor and founder of Ionic Materials, Mike Zimmerman, hopes that his resilient ionic battery technology will finally replace Lithium Ion. The reason scientists and researchers pay so much attention to battery design is because today's lithium-ion technologies have several downsides, as we saw recently with Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 recall. If you were to take apart a lithium-ion battery, you'd find a positive electrode called the anode and a negatively charged electrode called the cathode. There's a thin separator that sits between the anode and cathode. Everything else is filled up with liquid, or electrolyte. Charging the battery causes positively charged ions to flow through the liquid from the negative side to the positive side. As you use the battery, the ions flow in the opposite direction. However, the electrolyte is extremely flammable and they can explode when pierced or overheated. Zimmerman's ionic battery trades the flammable liquid for a piece of plastic film to serve as the electrolyte. It isn't prone to overheating and catching fire. The same goes for piercing, cutting or otherwise destroying the battery. Also, unlike lithium-ion batteries, Zimmerman's ionic batteries use actual lithium-metal, which can store twice as much power. Lithium-ion batteries don't contain lithium-metal because they're even more prone to overheating and exploding than lithium-ion, but that risk is removed by Zimmerman swapping out the liquid electrolyte for a solid.

Submission + - Delta Airlines grounds all domestic flights due to IT issues again (cnbc.com)

SonicSpike writes: Delta Air Lines U.S. domestic flights were grounded on Sunday evening due to automation issues, according to an advisory from the Federal Aviation Administration.

International flights were exempt from the halt.

Passengers stranded in airports took to social media, where a representative on Delta's official Twitter page told users the systems were down and that its IT department was working to rectify the situation.

The airline later put out a statement.

"Delta teams are expeditiously working to fix a systems outage that has resulted in departure delays for flights on the ground," the airline said in the statement. "Flights in the air remain unaffected. Delta apologizes to customers for the inconvenience."

This is the second time in 6 months this has happened, with a power outage at DAL HQ in August grounding all DAL traffic worldwide.

Last week, a computer problem forced United Airlines to ground all domestic flights for about an hour.

Submission + - Silicon Valley's AI Ethics Boards Shouldn't Be Secret (backchannel.com)

mirandakatz writes: Earlier this month, the MIT Media Lab joined with the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society to anchor a $27 million Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence initiative. It's one of a number of AI ethics initiatives we've seen emerge from Silicon Valley in recent years—but those efforts that have originated from tech companies themselves have long been too tight-lipped. At Backchannel, Jeremy Hsu writes that "the responsibility for humanity’s future need not rest entirely in the hands of tech companies. But Silicon Valley will have to resist its more shadowy corporate tendencies and spend more time sharing ideas."

Submission + - Who is liable if open source autonomous car software causes an accident. (ieee.org)

Registered Coward v2 writes: IEEE Spetrum asks that question in an article about Comma.ai’s and its CEO George Hotz who have released, on GITHub, their open source software for self driving cars. It currently adds capabilities to some Hondas and Acuras. Given the difficulties in testing such software it is possible bugs exist and might cause a crash. While many legal experts agree OSS is "buyer beware" and that Comma.ai and Hotz would not be liable, it is a gray area in the law.


SCOTUS,in a series of court cases in the 1990s, ruled open source code as free speech protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The question is does that release the author(s) from liability. The EU has no EU wide rules on liability in such cases.

One open question is even if the person who used the software could not sue, a third party injured by it might be able to since they are not a party to the license agreement.

Submission + - UK Military To 'Harden' iPhone 7 For Communicating State Secrets

An anonymous reader writes: Apple is to offer its iPhone 7 as the device of choice for the UK military’s secure communications. British telecom giant BT is said to be hardening the Apple device in order for it to be able to handle the Ministry of Defence’s military communications, including state secrets and highly-sensitive data. While BT has not provided further details on the development, due to security reasons, the telco is reportedly in the process of upgrading the iPhone 7 to support various modes of operation and to add secure apps or ‘storage containers’, as well as military-grade encryption features. The iPhone 7 will now replace Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 smartphone, which was originally selected for the project, as security in the Samsung model was found to be inadequate.

Submission + - From $85 Luxury Mansion to High Profile Corruption Case (medium.com)

BillPradi writes: Head of the Russia's Investigation Committee department for the Samara Region Valery Samodaikin, who had been under the protection of Governor Nikolai Merkushkin, is the latest to face a high profile corruption case in Russia. The Western world doubted Putin was serious about tackling corruption at a high level, only bringing down the ‘flies’ rather than political ‘tigers’ according to the New York Times last year.

However the Kremlin has insisted that it is highly serious about tackling corruption, and repeated this stance after the September arrest of Dmitry Zakharchenko, the top anti-corruption official at the Russian interior ministry who was caught with over $120 million in cash. The winter then brought the biggest corruption case of the Putin era, with Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev detained in November. Ulyukayev was caught in the act and faces charges of receiving a $2 million bribe for his approval of a major privatization sale.

The latest case has seen a great scandal flare up in the Samara Region concerning the head of the local Investigation Division of the Russian Investigation Committee (IC) — Valery Samodaikin. The Public Prosecution Department ascertained that the chief investigator of the region moved into a plush villa on the state-owned residential estate of the Governor, Nikolai Merkushkin. Samodaikin pays rent at a nominal rate of just 5000 rubles (less than $85) a month. Under this arrangement it seems quite clear that Merkushkin and his inner circle benefitted from a protective relationship with Samodaikin, regarding anything that may be ‘dug up’ on them. On top of the housing assistance, individual wealth was also well accounted for thanks to TogliattiAzot, its director Sergey Makhlai, and a trio of Moscow-based lawyers — Denis Simachov, Sergey Koronets and Pavel Zaitsev. They can resolve "any" issue that may arise in relation to law-enforcement authorities, through the Russian IC.

$1 Million Road for the General

Novaya Gazeta newspaper lit the spark that set the scandal alight, potentially sounding the death knell for Samodaikin’s further career prospects. The newspaper published investigation documents regarding the residential area of Governor Nikolai Merkushkin. The residential complex is located in a nature reserve on the banks of the Volga River, right in front of Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure. During the era of the former USSR, it functioned as guest accommodation for the Kuybyshev Reception Palace, where party representatives used to stay. It is worth mentioning that on the 12th of April 1961, Yuri Gagarin went there for rehabilitation after his landing in Smelovka Village, Saratov Region.

At the end of the 1990s, local developers replaced the Reception Palace with modern villas and mansions, which initially served as guest residences. In particular, during the 2007 Russia-EU Summit the complex hosted German Chancellor Angela Dorothea Merkel, the Head of the European Commission José Manuel Durão Barroso, the Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and other high ranking officials.

After the appointment of Merkushkin as governor, the Samara Region’s SPI Hotel and Representative Complex (the official name of the former Kuybyshev Reception Palace) was turned into the residence of the Regional Governor, who allocated dwellings to his closest associates.

Novaya Gazeta drew attention to the fact that some of the villas in "Merkushkin’s nature reserve had recently been connected by a separate 700 meter long (half-mile road) asphalt road, which cost 60 million rubles ($1 million) from the local budget. In order to conceal this spending, the road construction costs were officially documented as the "repair of pedestrian footpaths". i.e., there was a direct breach of laws, confirmed by the inspection of regional Public Prosecution Department. The materials were forwarded to the IC of the Samara Region, which found a number of Articles to support initiation of proceedings: theft with fraud (expensive firms were engaged in construction); misuse of public funds; and abuse of power or authority (as was the case with "Serdyukov’s (former Minister of Defence) road"). However, Samodaikin’s office never initiated a criminal case and miraculously the claims were not investigated.

Consequently the local lawmakers decided to find out what mansions the $1 million road leads to. It was discovered that the road leads to mansion No. 6 – a luxurious building with a private sauna, a swimming pool with a hydro-massage feature, a pool hall and a “relaxation” room. However, the contracts drawn up by the SPI Hotel and Representative Complex of the Samara Region revealed that mansion No. 6 is occupied by Valery Samodaikin. Yes, the very same Valery Samodaikin — the Head of the Regional ID of the Russian IC, which dropped the investigation into the construction of the road leading to mansion No. 6. Perhaps the only real surprise is that he is the only representative of the local law enforcement authorities who resides at "the court of Merkushkin".

When it was questioned whether there might be an element of corruption in a situation in which the chief investigator of the region lives in a mansion on the Governor’s estate, the reply was that Samodaikin pays for the mansion at a "nominal price".

By reviewing the contract with SPI, we can establish how much the Head of ID of the RF IC pays for this luxurious house, with swimming pool. Believe it or not—5000 rubles a month. At less than 25% of the average Russian income, everybody could lease a mansion at such a price.

It is interesting to note that Merkushkin’s neighbour blatantly ignores all and any documents related to the Governor and his inner circle. For instance, evidence of theft in the construction of the soccer stadium for FIFA World Cup 2018; documents in which local blogger Dmitry Begoun confessed that Merkushkin, personally, and employees of his administration hired the blogger at 300,000 rubles (approx. $5000) a month to write positive articles about the Governor; prohibition of negative references to Mordovia, which has been managed by Merkushkin for the last 17 years; and concealing information on expansion of the Mordovian business, including "Mordovspirtprom" (local alcohol producer) in the Samara Region.

In addition, he wrote a scathing criticism of Merkushkin’s enemies: Igor Sechin, CEO of Rosneft; Vladimir Artyakov, former Governor of the Region; as well as Viacheslav Volodin, Deputy Head of the President’s Administration; Sergey Chemezov, the Head of RosTech; and Vitaliy Mutko, the Minister of Sports. However, Samodaikin personally forbade interrogation of Governor Merkushkin in order to prevent verification of blogger Begoun’s testimony.

At present, the scandal over mansion No. 6 and the road leading to it is in full spate. The situation attracted the attention of the Head Office of the RF Investigative Committee, which repeatedly articulated its intention to get rid of any persons found to be discrediting the esprit of the Investigative Committee.

Fixing Problems for TOAZ

It could be quite interesting to research the warm relationship between Samodaikin and the top managers of TogliattiAzot (TOAZ).

The head of the local division of the RF IC is on friendly terms with Viacheslav Suslov, General Director of TOAZ; Nikolai Neplyuyev, Finance Director, who makes regular runs to his office; and Igor Grishin, Deputy Commercial Director, who has stayed out of prison thanks to Samodaikin. Neither TogliattiAzot nor its in-house lawyers (Denis Simachov, Sergey Koronets and Pavel Zaitsev) keep this a secret – Samodaikin, in fact, is a "family member”, the main protector and supporter. That is why they don't care a straw about all those investigations of the Head Office of the Russian IC partly related to huge thefts at TogliattiAzot, the channelling of billions of rubles from Russia abroad, and brazen tax dodging.

Moscow is far away, while reliable Samodaikin is apparently by their side. The endeavours of the Chief Investigator of the Region, who is on friendly terms with Governor Merkushkin, resulted in no serious criminal lawsuits being filed against TogliattiAzot. All materials acquired by the Directorate of Internal Affairs (DIA) were consigned to the bin by the Public Prosecution Department or blocked by Samodaikin. One could spend an eternity giving examples.

Thus, due to Samodaikin’s efforts, the evidence collected by RosFinMonitoring (Russian Financial Monitoring service) on theft and money laundering at TOAZ were never disclosed, but were covered up by sham construction contracts with OOO MSA Stroy. The detectives’ evidence was consistently blocked, in spite of the availability of direct documents that testify to the fact that: “Suslov Viacheslav Valeryevich, General Director of ZAO TogliattiAzot Corporation, I.V. Grishin, Deputy General Director, jointly with N.V. Neplyuyev, Deputy General Director, and D.V. Mezheyedov, Audit Director, have entered into collusion with the majority shareholder of OAO TogliattiAzot and Chairman of the Board of Directors, U.S. citizen Sergei Makhlai, for the purpose of tax evasion by a group of individuals on a massive scale and legalization of criminal proceeds”.

Everyone seems to have forgotten the evidence of cash withdrawals by this company on the pretext of construction work in the Port of Taman. Samodaikin goes to great lengths to conceal the investigation of the fact that considerable quantities of marketable TOAZ products are acknowledged as defective in order to sell them at dumping prices to firms controlled by the Company’s top managers, who then resell the same products (carbomide) at market prices.

Furthermore, it was Samodaikin who once helped Grishin escape from prosecution when Grishin was detained by police with an envelope of suspicious contents.

The latest achievement of the Head of Investigation Dept. of the Russian IC relates to his fight against the initiation of an investigation into a cover-up of ammonia leakages at TOAZ. Local police have ascertained that Shop No. 13 of OAO TogliattiAzot, for several years now, has been tolerating leakages of liquefied ammonia. As a result, the employees and communities of Togliatti were exposed to hazardous chemicals, and the environment suffered irreparable harm. The management of TOAZ was aware of the situation, but concealed it due to its enormous greed. Viacheslav Suslov, General Director, was found guilty. But Samodaikin stood up for his friend and did his best to prevent a lawsuit against him.

Friends Among the Investigators and Prosecutors

Communications between Samodaikin and the managers of TogliattiAzot are maintained both directly and through the company’s three lawyers — Denis Simachov, Sergey Koronets and Pavel Zaitsev. Zaitsev is well known. He once served in the DIA of the Tver Region, and subsequently was seconded to the Investigation Committee of the Russian MIA. During his entire police career in Moscow, Zaitsev has initiated only one lawsuit (a record-setting achievement for an IC investigator of the Russian MIA), and that lawsuit was already drawn up with the conclusion to indict.

Zaitsev was in charge of an investigation into the illegal trade of furniture, which was retailed by trading centres of "Three Whales" and "Grand". Surprise, surprise! Even at the initial stage Zaitsev nearly ruined the case, which subsequently was acknowledged as a "headliner". Having no authorisation or warrant he performed a search, which resulted in the entire investigation process being discredited. As a result, a criminal case was instituted against him. However, Zaitsev managed to portray himself as a hero in the eyes of the media, alleging that he was being persecuted for “digging up” evidence against the “wrong” suspects and on the “wrong” sites, rather than for an attempt to destroy the case. Zaitsev was eventually fired from the Russian MIA.

TOAZ paid the three lawyers a staggering 25 million rubles a month, each. Clearly their contribution was extremely valuable. In the Moscow Region, they have 28-year-old Alexander Neplyuyev, Deputy Prosecutor of Schelkovo District, who acts as a gatekeeper sniffing out required information and advising directions for them to move next. This of course is a matter of family loyalty – Alexander’s brother Nikolai is the Financial Director of TOAZ. It was Makhlai and Nikolai Neplyuyev who sponsored Alexander’s admission to the law enforcement system.

Neplyuyev and Makhlai provide Alexander with the financial backing to collect information from law enforcement authorities and counteract the investigators’ activities. By doing so, they are quite well off: they’ve got Samodaikin in Samara and Neplyuyev in the Moscow Region. Naturally they are now trying to propel him upwards, first to the Public Prosecution Department of Moscow Region, and then to the General Prosecutor’s Office.

Promoted to General and Fell into a Coma

These are not the only unpleasant situations that occurred with Valery Samodaikin in connection with his work. He started ascending the promotion ladder in Omsk Region, where he was born, and his successful career began in 1999. At that time there was a conflict between Governor Leonid Polezhaev and Sibneft; patronized by Polezhaev, and owned by Roman Abramovich and Boris Berezovskiy, from one side; and Valery Roschupkin, the mayor of Omsk, and Vladimir Fedorenko, the head of the local tax inspectorate, from the other side.

Fedorenko continually accused Sibneft of blatant tax dodging, until it was decided to jail Fedorenko – the young investigator Samodaikin was hired and initiated a criminal case related to the construction of a personal apartment. The case was terminated when no evidence of any offence was found. Samodaikin later called Fedorenko in for ‘extraordinarily urgent’ interrogation at 11pm in relation to a separate criminal case against the head of the construction company. By 1am Fedorenko was arrested, accused of "repeated bribery”, and “misappropriation and embezzlement”. While this initially led to three years of imprisonment and release from the courtroom due to amnesty, the accusation was later completely dismissed by the decision of the Russian Supreme Court.

The scandal was by no means the end for Samodaikin’s career, with Polezhaev and the Sibneft owners impressed by his “diligence” – he proceeded to climb the promotion ladder. Samodaikin became deputy prosecutor of the Sovetsky District of Omsk, then was appointed prosecutor of the Tarsky interregional prosecution department of Omsk Region, and subsequently was named deputy head of the Investigation Division of the Investigation Committee.

In 2012 Samodaikin moved on, and assumed the role of first deputy head of the Central Investigation Division of the Investigation Committee of the Russian Federation in Krasnoyarsk Territory. After promotion to the Major General of Justice in 2013, Samodaikin disappeared for two months – it turns out he was in a coma for that time. The general was a man who enjoyed monumental and extended celebrations of landmark events where ridiculous things could occur due to the participants’ inebriated state, although there was no official announcement made.

When Samodaikin was available for duty, he was consistently well regarded by local governors and connected businessmen. In the Samara Region the bureaucrats were joined by TogliattiAzot on Samodaikin’s list of friends, for whom criminal cases were conveniently avoided.

Submission + - First Human-Pig 'Chimera' Created In Milestone Study (theguardian.com)

dryriver writes: The Guardian reports: Scientists have created a human-pig hybrid in a milestone study that raises the prospect of being able to grow human organs inside animals for use in transplants. It marks the first time that embryos combining two large, distantly-related species have been produced. The creation of this so-called chimera – named after the cross-species beast of Greek mythology – has been hailed as a significant first step towards generating human hearts, livers and kidneys from scratch. Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, who led the work on the part-pig, part-human embryos at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, said: “The ultimate goal is to grow functional and transplantable tissue or organs, but we are far away from that. This is an important first step.”

Submission + - Google, Netflix Join Fight against Virginia Municipal Broadband Restrictions

HughPickens.com writes: Research and Ideas reported that Google, Netflix, and Ting have joined advocacy groups and other companies lobbying against a proposed Virginia state law that would make it far more difficult for municipalities to offer Internet service. "This bill would effectively ban new public broadband networks and public-private partnerships and cripple existing ones, harming both the public and private sectors, retarding economic growth, preventing the creation or retention of jobs around the Commonwealth, particularly in rural areas, hampering work force development, and diminishing the quality of life in Virginia," bill opponents including Google and Netflix wrote in a letter last week to State House Commerce Committee Chairman Terry Kilgore. According to Ars Technica Virginia legislation was proposed by Republican lawmaker Kathy Byron, and it was referred to the Commerce Committee, which will discuss it at a hearing today. The legislation would prohibit municipal broadband deployments except in very limited circumstances. Among other things, a locality wouldn't be allowed to offer Internet service if an existing network already provides 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds to 90 percent of potential customers.

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