Australia

How Australia Bungled Its $36 Billion High-Speed Internet Rollout (nytimes.com) 148

Not very pleased with your internet speeds? Think about the people Down Under. Australia's "bungled" National Broadband Network (NBN) has been used as a "cautionary tale" for other countries to take note of. Despite the massive amount of money being pumped into the NBN, the New York Times reports, the internet speeds still lagged behind the US, most of western Europe, Japan and South Korea -- even Kenya. The article highlights that Australia was the first country where a national plan to cover every house or business was considered and this ambitious plan was hampered by changes in government and a slow rollout (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), partly because of negotiations with Telstra about the fibre installation. From the report: Australia, a wealthy nation with a widely envied quality of life, lags in one essential area of modern life: its internet speed. Eight years after the country began an unprecedented broadband modernization effort that will cost at least 49 billion Australian dollars, or $36 billion, its average internet speed lags that of the United States, most of Western Europe, Japan and South Korea. In the most recent ranking of internet speeds by Akamai, a networking company, Australia came in at an embarrassing No. 51, trailing developing economies like Thailand and Kenya. For many here, slow broadband connections are a source of frustration and an inspiration for gallows humor. One parody video ponders what would happen if an American with a passion for Instagram and streaming "Scandal" were to switch places with an Australian resigned to taking bathroom breaks as her shows buffer. The article shares this anecdote: "Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world have downloaded Hand of Fate, an action video game made by a studio in Brisbane, Defiant Development. But when Defiant worked with an audio designer in Melbourne, more than 1,000 miles away, Mr. Jaffit knew it would be quicker to send a hard drive by road than to upload the files, which could take several days."
Communications

Our Obsession With Trailers Is Making Movies Worse (cnet.com) 28

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via CNET: Our increasing obsession with trailers is changing how we watch movies. We're becoming audiences afraid of surprise, audiences that would rather watch movies we're certain we'll like than risk watching films that surprise us into love. In some cases, this fixation is even lowering the quality of movies themselves by encouraging bad filmmaking habits. The most extreme example happened when Warner Bros. released such a successful trailer for 'Suicide Squad' it brought on the company that cut it to edit the whole film -- dropping the director's original cut altogether. [...] Thanks to trailers' easy accessibility on YouTube and those shot-by-shot breakdowns that quickly appear online once trailers drop, anyone interested in a given flick can pore over all the available footage for hours -- even if that leads to major spoilers for them and everyone they share it with.
Businesses

Sprint Sues FCC For 'Capricious' Deregulation of Business Data Services (bizjournals.com) 19

An anonymous reader writes: Sprint and another wireless company have filed a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission for the agency's recent decision on business data services. Overland Park-based Sprint and Arkansas-based Windstream Services filed the petition for review earlier this week, seeking relief "on the grounds that the Report and Order is arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion," according to a filing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The lawsuit is based on an April 20 vote by the FCC to deregulate its business data services, among them wireless backhaul services, which are crucial for transmitting large amounts of data quickly. Sprint had supported the price caps proposed under former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, as the carrier pays companies like AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink to use their bandwidth to bridge gaps in the Sprint network during backhaul services. Although Sprint did not report the breakdown of these costs in its annual filing, the carrier noted that they are "a significant cost for our wireless and wireline segments."
Communications

Cyberattack Hits England's National Health Service With Ransom Demands (theguardian.com) 200

Hospitals across England have been hit by a large-scale cyber-attack, the NHS has confirmed, which has locked staff out of their computers and forced many trusts to divert emergency patients. The IT systems of NHS sites across the country appear to have been simultaneously hit, with a pop-up message demanding a ransom in exchange for access to the PCs. NHS Digital said it was aware of the problem and would release more details soon. Details of patient records and appointment schedules, as well as internal phone lines and emails, have all been rendered inaccessible. From a report: "The investigation is at an early stage but we believe the malware variant is Wanna Decryptor. At this stage we do not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed. We will continue to work with affected organisations to confirm this. NHS Digital is working closely with the National Cyber Security Centre, the Department of Health and NHS England to support affected organisations and to recommend appropriate mitigations. "This attack was not specifically targeted at the NHS and is affecting organisations from across a range of sectors. "Our focus is on supporting organisations to manage the incident swiftly and decisively, but we will continue to communicate with NHS colleagues and will share more information as it becomes available." NPR adds: The problem erupted around 12:30 p.m. local time, the IT worker says, with a number of email servers crashing. Other services soon went down -- and then, the unidentified NHS worker says, "A bitcoin virus pop-up message had been introduced on to the network asking users to pay $300 to be able to access their PCs. You cannot get past this screen." The attack was not specifically targeted at the NHS and is affecting organizations from across a range of sectors, it appears. The report adds: Images that were posted online of the NHS pop-up look nearly identical to pop-up ransomware windows that hit Spain's Telefonica, a powerful attack that forced the large telecom to order employees to disconnect their computers from its network -- resorting to an intercom system to relay messages. Telefonica, Spain's largest ISP, has told its employees to shut down their computers.

Update
: BBC is reporting that similar attacks are being reported in the UK, US, China, Russia, Spain, Italy, Vietnam, Taiwan today.
Spam

Nuisance Call Firm Keurboom Hit With Record Fine (bbc.com) 81

An anonymous reader writes: A cold-calling firm has been fined a record $515,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for making almost 100 million nuisance calls. Keurboom Communications called people, sometimes at night, to see if they were eligible for road-accident or PPI compensation, the ICO said. It breached privacy laws by calling people without their consent. The company has since gone into liquidation but the ICO said it was committed to recovering the fine. It said it had received more than 1,000 complaints about automated calls from the Bedfordshire-registered company. The ICO said Keurboom Communications called some people repeatedly and during unsocial hours. It also hid its identity so that people would find it harder to complain. "The unprecedented scale of its campaign and Keurboom's failure to co-operate with our investigation has resulted in the largest fine issued by the Information Commissioner for nuisance calls," said Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO.
Verizon

Verizon Outbids AT&T For Nationwide 5G Wireless Spectrum (theverge.com) 34

Verizon has agreed to pay $3.1 billion for wireless spectrum holder Straight Path Communications, beating out rival AT&T, which had offered to buy Straight Path for $1.6 billion in stock. Verizon's acquisition will give it access to the frequencies necessary to build a 5G network across the U.S. The Verge reports: The news that AT&T was aiming to buy the Glen Allen, VA-based Straight Path was first reported last month, prompting a bidding war between the carriers that the WSJ describes as "unusually intense." Straight Path's purchase gives Verizon access to millimeter wave frequencies that are set to be used by 5G networks across the United States, making it a useful purchase from the start. Experts have also noted that the company's owner may also be afforded even more spectrum in future auctions with the FCC, potentially giving Verizon access to the entire 39GHz band down the line.
Government

Expiring Section 702 of FISA Helped US Conclude Russia Hacked Election To Help Trump, NSA Chief Says (reuters.com) 390

Dustin Volz, reporting for Reuters: A top U.S. intelligence official said Thursday a controversial surveillance law that allows the broad electronic spying of foreigners played a major role in understanding Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election. The statement from Admiral Mike Rogers, the director of the U.S. National Security Agency, may bolster efforts by intelligence agencies to fully preserve the authority, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, before it expires at the end of the year. Privacy advocates have for years said Section 702 allows for excessively broad surveillance, including warrantless access to some American communications, and should be reformed to include new curbs. "I would highlight much, not all, much of what was in the intelligence community's assessment, for example, on the Russian efforts against the U.S. election process in 2016, was informed by knowledge we gained through (Section) 702 authority," Rogers said. Rogers said allowing the statute to expire on Dec. 31, unless Congress votes to reauthorize it, would degrade U.S. intelligence agencies' ability to provide "timely warning and insight" on a variety of criminal and national security threats.
Advertising

Facebook Downranks News Feed Links To Crappy Sites Smothered In Ads (techcrunch.com) 95

Facebook's New Feed algorithm is targeting links that send people to crappy websites filled with advertisements. According to their blog post, Facebook defines a "low-quality site" as one "containing little substantive content, and that is covered in disruptive, shocking or malicious ads." TechCrunch reports: The change could help Facebook fight fake news, as fakers are often financially motivated and blanket their false information articles in ads. High-quality sites may see a slight boost in referral traffic, while crummy sites will see a decline as the update rolls out gradually over the coming months. Facebook tells me that the change will see it refuse an immaterial number of ad impressions that earned it negligible amounts of money, so it shouldn't have a significant impact on Facebook's revenue. Facebook product manager for News Feed Greg Marra tells me Facebook made the decision based on surveys of users about what disturbed their News Feed experience. One pain point they commonly cited was links that push them to "misleading, sensational, spammy, or otherwise low-quality experiences... [including] sexual content, shocking content, and other things that are going to be really disruptive." Today's change is important because if users don't trust the content on the other side of the links and ads they see in News Feed, they'll click them less. That could reduce Facebook's advertising revenue and the power it derives from controlling referral traffic. Getting sent to a low-quality, shocking site from News Feed could also frustrate users and cause them to end their Facebook browsing session, depriving the social network of further ad views, engagement and content sharing.
Businesses

How One Little Cable Company Exposed Telecom's Achilles' Heel (backchannel.com) 197

Reader mirandakatz writes: Forget net neutrality -- the real fight is over controlling price-gouging monopolies. As Susan Crawford writes at Backchannel, a little-known cable company, Cable One, just exposed the telecommunications industry's Achilles' heel: regulation. Cable One has been raising its data transmission prices quickly, and it's making cable giants very, very nervous. If people begin noticing that there's no competition, that Americans are paying too much for too little, and that the entire country is suffering as a result, that's a big problem for Big Cable. As Crawford writes, 'don't fixate on net neutrality... Even though the state of internet access is an issue that touches the bank accounts and opportunities of hundreds of millions of Americans and gazillions of businesses, very few people understand what's actually going on. Now you are among them. Do something about it.'
Communications

A Bot Is Flooding the FCC's Website With Fake Anti-net Neutrality Comments (zdnet.com) 102

An anonymous reader writes: A bot is thought to be behind the posting of thousands of messages to the FCC's website, in an apparent attempt to influence the results of a public solicitation for feedback on net neutrality. A sizable portion of those comments are fake, and are repeating the same manufactured response again and again, ZDNet reports. So much so that more than 58,000 identical comments have been posted since the feedback doors were opened, now representing over one-in-ten comments on the FCC's feedback docket. The comment reads as following: "The unprecedented regulatory power the Obama Administration imposed on the internet is smothering innovation, damaging the American economy and obstructing job creation. I urge the Federal Communications Commission to end the bureaucratic regulatory overreach of the internet known as Title II and restore the bipartisan light-touch regulatory consensus that enabled the internet to flourish for more than 20 years."

ZDNet claims that all other comments follow the same pattern: the bot appears to cycle through names in an alphabetical order, leaving the person's name, and postal address and zip code. And some -- if not all -- of these comments are fake, the publication adds, claiming that it reached out to the people and many of them confirmed that they had not left any comments on the website.
Communications

Draft Horses Are Helping Upgrade Cell Towers In Wisconsin (npr.org) 96

Companies that provide cell phone service are constantly racing to provide the most reliable signal. In Wisconsin, one of the providers has turned to a surprising option to get the job done: draft horses. From a report on NPR: The horses are helping U.S. Cellular upgrade equipment on about 200 cell towers in Wisconsin, some of which are served by hard-to-navigate access roads. "We call them roads. They're more of a path," says Brandi Vandenberg, the company's regional planning manager for engineering. "So when you don't have a firm structure to travel on, any type of inclement weather can make it a challenge." Wisconsin's deep snow and heavy rains can make the access roads all but impassable for trucks. Vandenberg says with construction planned at so many tower sites, the company has a tight timetable for delivering equipment and scheduling technicians to install it. Jason Agathen, a driver for CH Coakley, the logistics company hired to coordinate the tower upgrades, knows how tricky the access roads can be. Agathen has delivered thousands of pounds of electronics gear to the cell tower sites. One trip, he says, involved snow so deep it blew the transmission on an ATV. So the company hired farmer Jason Julian of Medford, Wisc., and his draft horses to keep the tower upgrades on track.
Chrome

Chrome For Android Now Lets You Save Web Pages For Reading Later (techcrunch.com) 46

Today, Google has introduced a series of improvements to Chrome for Android to make it easier to save content for offline access. The improvements will be made to the "Downloads" feature rolled out in December that allows you to save webpages, music and videos for offline access. TechCrunch reports: To download a web page previously, you would open Chrome's menu in the top-right of the browser, then tap the "save" icon that's located next to the star for bookmarking the site. You could then see all the content you had saved for offline access by tapping on "Downloads" from this same menu. Now, Google is adding more ways to save content, including a way to long press on a link the way you do when you want to open up a page in a new tab. The option to "Download Link" will appear on the pop-up screen you see after your press, below the options to open the page in a new tab or incognito tab. Google says this long press action will also work on its article suggestions on its New Tab page. This New Tab page will also include the articles you've already downloaded, which will be flagged with an offline badge.
The Internet

Pepe the Frog Is Dead (theguardian.com) 358

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The creator of Pepe the Frog has symbolically killed off the cartoon frog, effectively surrendering control of the character to the far right. Matt Furie, an artist and children's book author, created the now-infamous frog as part of his "Boy's Club" series on MySpace in 2005. Pepe took on a life of its own online as a meme, before being eventually adopted as a symbol by the "alt-right" in the lead-up to last year's U.S. election. In September, Hillary Clinton identified Pepe the Frog as a racist hate symbol, and Pepe was added to the Anti-Defamation League's database of hate symbols. Furie launched a campaign to "Save Pepe," flooding the internet with "peaceful or nice" depictions of the character in a bid to shake its association with white supremacy and antisemitism. But he now seems to have conceded defeat, killing the character off in a one-page strip for the independent publisher Fantagraphics' Free Comic Book Day. It showed Pepe laid to rest in an open casket, being mourned by his fellow characters from Boy's Club.
Communications

John Oliver Gets Fired Up Over Net Neutrality, Causes FCC's Site To Temporarily Crash (fortune.com) 153

Three years ago, late night comedian John Oliver propelled an arcane telecom topic into the national debate by spurring millions of ordinary Americans to file comments with the Federal Communications Commission in favor of "net neutrality." Among other things, that effort caused the FCC website to crash, which couldn't handle the "overwhelming" traffic. Now Oliver is back at it, and he is already causing the site some troubles. From a report on Fortune: On Sunday night, Oliver devoted a chunk of his Last Week Tonight show to condemning a plan by the FCC's new Chairman, Ajit Pai, to tear up current net neutrality rules, which forbid Internet providers from delivering some websites faster than others. In the clip, Oliver urges viewers to visit a website called "GoFCCYourself," which redirects users to a section of the FCC site where people can comment on the net neutrality proceeding, known as "Restoring Internet Freedom" in Pai's parlance. Viewers took up Oliver's offer in spades -- so much so that the FCC's servers appeared to be overwhelmed by the flood of traffic. The comment page is currently loading with delays and, according to reports from several outlets, the site went down altogether for a while. On Monday, Ashley Boyd, VP of Advocacy for Mozilla, also published a blog post to remind people that the next 10 days are critical for the internet's future. Much like Oliver, Mozilla is also making it easier for people to voice their opinion. The post adds: Add your name to our letter, and we'll deliver your message straight to the FCC. You can also record an impassioned voicemail using Mozilla's call tool. So far, Internet users have recorded more than 50 hours of audio for the FCC's ears.
Microsoft

Microsoft Patents Flagging Technology For 'Repeat Offenders' Of Pirated Content (torrentfreak.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes TorrentFreak's report on Microsoft's newest patent: Titled: "Disabling prohibited content and identifying repeat offenders in service provider storage systems," the patent describes a system where copyright infringers, and those who publish other objectionable content, are flagged so that frequent offenders can be singled out... "The incident history can be processed to identify repeat offenders and modify access privileges of those users," the patent reads. [PDF] The "repeat infringer" is a hot topic at the moment, after ISP Cox Communications was ordered to pay $25 million for its failure to disconnect repeat offenders...

As far a we know, this is the first patent that specifically deals with the repeat infringer situation in these hosting situations, but it's not uncommon for cloud hosting services to prevent users from sharing infringing content. We previously uncovered that Google Drive uses hash matching to prevent people from sharing "flagged" files in public, and Dropbox does the same.

Communications

After 19 Years CMU Discontinues Cyrus IMAP In Favor Of Microsoft Exchange And Gmail (cmu.edu) 72

Long-time Slashdot reader Hobart writes: The Cyrus IMAP server, created by and for Carnegie Mellon University, has lost support of its founding institution. As of last fall, they announced that student and faculty email will be run on Microsoft Exchange, or Google's Gmail suite of apps. The company FastMail seems to be the primary driver of Cyrus IMAPd software now, per their December blog post. Are any Slashdot readers migrating their Cyrus-based services, or are there compelling reasons to chose it over the competition?
Communications

FCC Considers Fining Stephen Colbert Over Controversial Trump Joke (rollingstone.com) 520

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said on Friday his agency will be looking into complaints made against Late Show host Stephen Colbert for what some labeled a homophobic joke about President Donald Trump. From a report: On Monday's Late Show, Colbert quipped that "the only thing [Trump's] mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin's c**k holster." The joke drew accusations of homophobia, a viral #FireColbert campaign and FCC complaints against Colbert. In an interview Friday, FCC chairman Ajit Pai told a Philadelphia radio station, "I have had a chance to see the clip now and so, as we get complaints -- and we've gotten a number of them -- we are going to take the facts that we find and we are going to apply the law as it's been set out by the Supreme Court and other courts and we'll take the appropriate action." Pai added, "Traditionally, the agency has to decide, if it does find a violation, what the appropriate remedy should be. A fine, of some sort, is typically what we do."
Blackberry

BlackBerry KeyOne Review By The Verge: Part Productivity, Part Nostalgia (theverge.com) 34

Dan Seifert reviews the new BlackBerry KeyOne flagship smartphone via The Verge. Here's an excerpt from the report: It was in about the third hour of using the new BlackBerry KeyOne, available this month for $549 unlocked, that I started to question my longtime preference for touchscreen keyboards. Because as I was pushing on the KeyOne's tiny little buttons with the tips of my thumbs, I remembered why some people still have such an affinity for these things. It wasn't that I was able to type faster with the BlackBerry's keyboard (I wasn't), or that I was more accurate with it (I still used autocorrect). It was that I felt like I was more productive when using it. I wasn't wasting time tweeting nonsense or sending emoji in ephemeral messages. I was sending important emails, working with my colleagues in Slack, creating and completing to-do lists, and adding appointments to my calendar. I was Getting Shit Done. Getting shit done is really the entire ethos of the new KeyOne, and arguably, the many BlackBerry devices that preceded it. The KeyOne is a phone for a very specific person, one that longs for the days when the BlackBerry Bold was the most important device in the office and the majority of business communications happened over email. It's not the best choice for watching hours of YouTube videos, sending thousands of Snaps, or reading novel-length ebooks (though it can technically do all of those things). It is for sending email. Lots of email.
Privacy

Leaked Document Reveals UK Plans For Wider Internet Surveillance (zdnet.com) 92

The UK government is planning to push greater surveillance powers that would force internet providers to monitor communications in near-realtime and install backdoor equipment to break encryption, according to a leaked document. From a report on ZDNet: A draft of the proposed new surveillance powers, leaked on Thursday, is part of a "targeted consultation" into the Investigatory Powers Act, brought into law last year, which critics called the "most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy." Provisions in proposals show that the government is asking for powers to compel internet providers to turn over the realtime communications of a person "in an intelligible form," including encrypted content, within one working day. To that end, internet providers will be forced to introduce a backdoor point on their networks to allow intelligence agencies to read anyone's communications.
Cellphones

Majority of US Households Now Cellphone-Only, Government Says (networkworld.com) 133

The National Center for Health Statistics has released a report that says, for the first time in history, U.S. households with landlines are now in the minority. Network World reports: The second 6 months of 2016 was the first time that a majority of American homes had only wireless telephones. Preliminary results from the July-December 2016 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicate that 50.8% of American homes did not have a landline telephone but did have at least one wireless telephone (also known as cellular telephones, cell phones, or mobile phones) -- an increase of 2.5 percentage points since the second 6 months of 2015. Young adults (25-34) and those who rent are most likely to live wireless-only, as 70 percent of that demographic lives with a landline.

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