The Internet

Verizon Is Killing Tumblr's Fight For Net Neutrality (theverge.com) 67

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

Apple's New iPhones May Miss Out On Higher-Speed Data Links (bloomberg.com) 114

Due to Apple's complicated way of managing the supply of the components embedded in its flagship devices, the company's upcoming iPhones may miss out on the higher-speed data links that many rival smartphones employ. "One of Apple's suppliers, Qualcomm, sells a modem capable of the 1 gigabit download speeds," reports Bloomberg. "Another supplier, Intel, is working on a modem with the same capability, but it won't be ready for the iPhone's introduction, according to people familiar with Apple's decision." From the report: Apple could in theory just use Qualcomm's chips, but it has an aversion to being dependent on a single supplier, and its relationship with San Diego-based Qualcomm is particularly thorny. Cupertino, California-based Apple is embroiled in a bitter legal fight with the chipmaker, accusing the supplier of maintaining an illegal monopoly, and it's seeking to loosen Qualcomm's grip on the market for high-end smartphone modems. That's why Apple will stick with Qualcomm modems for some of its new iPhones while relying on Intel for others. Until Intel is able to offer its chips with matching features, Apple won't enable some of capabilities of the phones running with Qualcomm modems, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plan isn't public. Apple, Qualcomm and Intel declined to comment. Apple's decision clashes with the marketing plans of a cellular industry desperate to show off faster network speeds to grab market share. The top U.S. wireless carriers -- Verizon AT&T, T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. -- have declared 2017 the year of 1 gigabit speeds.
AT&T

AT&T Uses Forced Arbitration To Overcharge Customers, Senators Say (arstechnica.com) 165

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Five Democratic US senators allege that AT&T's use of forced arbitration clauses has helped the company charge higher prices than the ones it advertises to customers. The senators pointed to a CBS News investigation that described "more than 4,000 complaints against AT&T and [subsidiary] DirecTV related to deals, promotions and overcharging in the past two years." But customers have little recourse because they are forced to settle disputes with AT&T in arbitration, according to Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Edward Markey (D-Mass.). "Forced arbitration provisions in telecommunications contracts erode Americans' ability to seek justice in the courts by forcing them into a privatized system that is inherently biased in favor of providers and which offers virtually no way to challenge a biased outcome," the senators wrote in a letter yesterday to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. "Forced arbitration requires consumers to sign away their constitutional right to hold providers accountable in court just to access modern-day essentials like mobile phone, Internet, and pay-TV services." Forced arbitration provisions such as AT&T's also "include a class action waiver; language which strips consumers of the right to band together with other consumers to challenge a provider's widespread wrongdoing," they wrote.
AT&T

ESR Shares A Forgotten 'Roots Of Open Source' Moment From 1984 (ibiblio.org) 79

Eric S. Raymond recently documented one of the first public calls for free software, which happened immediately after AT&T's fateful decision commercialize Unix: [I]n October 1984 I was in a crowd of people watching a presentation by a woman from Bell Labs describing the then-new getopt(3) library, written by AT&T as a way to regularize the processing of command-line arguments in C programs... Everybody thought this was a fine idea, and several people asked questions probing whether AT&T was going to let anyone else use the getopt code they had written. These questions related to the general anxiety about Unix source code distributions drying up. Frustration mounted as the woman gave evasive answers which seemed to add up to "No, we refuse to commit to allowing general access to this code." Which seemed to confirm everyone's worst fears about what was going to happen to Unix source code access in general. At which point Henry Spencer stands up and says (not in these exact words) "I will write and share a conforming implementation." -- and got a cheer from the assembled.

If you're thinking "That's not a big deal, we do this sort of thing all the time," my actual point is that in October 1984 this was indeed a big deal. It took an actual imaginative leap for Henry Spencer to, in effect, say "Screw AT&T and its legalisms and evasions, if they're going to cut off source access we hackers are gonna do it for ourselves"... [H]e got an actual cheer exactly because he was pushing forward, exposing the possibility of doing not just small projects and demos and quirky little tools but at competing with the likes of AT&T itself at software production.

Raymond also remembers this as an important moment for him. "I was a young, unknown programmer then -- just 27, still figuring out what I wanted. I watched Henry make that promise. I heard the cheer, and felt the change in the air as culturally, we realized what the solution to AT&T fscking us over had to be. And I thought 'I want to be like that guy.'"
AT&T

About 37,000 AT&T Workers Go On Three-Day Strike (reuters.com) 23

Roughly 37,000 AT&T workers -- less than 14 percent of the company's total workforce -- began a three-day strike on Friday after failing to reach an agreement with the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier over new contracts. Reuters reports: This is the first time that AT&T wireless workers are on strike, which could result in closed retail stores during the weekend, according to the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union. The workers on strike are members of the CWA. The workers are demanding wage increases that cover rising healthcare costs, job security against outsourcing, affordable healthcare and a fair scheduling policy. Slightly over half of the workers on strike are part of the wireless segment and the rest wireline workers, including a small number of DirecTV technicians, AT&T spokesman Marty Richter told Reuters. The CWA had said on Wednesday that wireless workers across 36 states and Washington, D.C. would walk-off their jobs if an agreement was not reached by Friday 3 p.m. ET.
Communications

More Than 35,000 AT&T Workers Threaten Weekend Strike (fortune.com) 57

More than 35,000 AT&T workers plan to go on strike on Friday if they don't reach an agreement with the company for new contracts. From a report: The Communications Workers of America union said about 17,000 workers in AT&T's traditional wireline telephone and Internet business in Nevada and California who have been working without a contract for over a year would walk off the job on Friday afternoon for a three day strike if no deal is reached. On Tuesday, the union made a similar threat for 21,000 workers in AT&T's wireless business spread across 36 states and Washington, D.C. Workers are fed up with delays in the negotiations, Dennis Trainor, vice president of CWA District 1, said. "Now, AT&T is facing the possibility of closed stores for the first time ever," Trainor said. "Our demands are clear and have been for months: fair contract or strike. It's now in AT&T's hands to stand with workers or at 3pm Eastern Time on Friday workers will be off the job and onto picket lines across the country."
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.
AT&T

AT&T To Roll Out 5G Network That's Not Actually 5G (yahoo.com) 89

AT&T announced plans to deliver what it's calling the "5G Evolution" network to more than 20 markets by the end of the year. While the company is "using some wordsmithing to deliver to you faster internet speeds," it's important to note that this is not actually a real 5G network. Yahoo reports: 5G still has years of development and testing before it will be rolled out across the U.S. So don't let AT&T's use of "5G" make you think that the next-generation wireless standard has arrived. In reality, the 5G AT&T is talking about is a bumped-up version of its 4G LTE to help it bridge the gap until the real 5G, with its ultra-fast speeds and better bandwidth, is rolled out. It's also important to note that AT&T won't offer its 5G Evolution technology to all of its customers initially. In fact, it's currently only available in Austin, TX, and the company plans to extend it to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other big markets in the coming months. If you're in a smaller metro market, you'll be out of luck. Perhaps the biggest limitation, and the reason few people will likely have the chance to actually use the 5G Evolution, is that AT&T is restricting it to select devices -- specifically, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+. While that's great if you have one of those particular phones in one of the specific cities where AT&T's faster service exists, it's not so great if you're using another device.
AT&T

AT&T Brings Fiber To Rich Areas While the Rest Are Stuck On DSL, Study Finds (arstechnica.com) 167

According to a new study from UC Berkeley's Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, AT&T has been focused on deploying fiber-to-the-home in the higher-income neighborhoods of California, giving wealthy people access to gigabit internet while others are stuck with DSL internet that doesn't even meet state and federal broadband standards. Ars Technica reports: California households with access to AT&T's fiber service have a median income of $94,208, according to "AT&T's Digital Divide in California," in which the Haas Institute analyzed Federal Communications Commission data from June 2016. The study was funded by the Communications Workers of America, an AT&T workers' union that's been involved in contentious negotiations with the company. By contrast, the median household income is $53,186 in California neighborhoods where AT&T provides only DSL, with download speeds typically ranging from 768kbps to 6Mbps. At the low end, that's less than 1 percent of the gigabit speeds offered by AT&T's fiber service. The median income in areas with U-verse VDSL, which ranges from 12Mbps to 75Mbps, is $67,021. In 4.1 million California households, representing 42.8 percent of AT&T's California service area, AT&T's fastest speeds fell short of the federal broadband definition of 25Mbps downloads and 3Mbps uploads, the report said.
The Internet

Tennessee Could Give Taxpayers America's Fastest Internet For Free, But It Gave Comcast and AT&T $45 Million Instead (vice.com) 341

Chattanooga, Tennessee is home to some of the fastest internet speeds in the United States, offering city dwellers Gbps and 10 Gpbs connections. Instead of voting to expand those connections to the rural areas surrounding the city, which have dial up, satellite, or no internet whatsoever, Tennessee's legislature voted to give Comcast and AT&T a $45 million taxpayer handout. Motherboard reports: The situation is slightly convoluted and thoroughly infuriating. EPB -- a power and communications company owned by the Chattanooga government -- offers 100 Mbps, 1 Gbps, and 10 Gpbs internet connections. A Tennessee law that was lobbied for by the telecom industry makes it illegal for EPB to expand out into surrounding areas, which are unserved or underserved by current broadband providers. For the last several years, EPB has been fighting to repeal that state law, and even petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to try to get the law overturned. This year, the Tennessee state legislature was finally considering a bill that would have let EPB expand its coverage (without providing it any special tax breaks or grants; EPB is profitable and doesn't rely on taxpayer money). Rather than pass that bill, Tennessee has just passed the "Broadband Accessibility Act of 2017," which gives private telecom companies -- in this case, probably AT&T and Comcast -- $45 million of taxpayer money over the next three years to build internet infrastructure to rural areas.
Privacy

How To Protect Your Privacy Online (theverge.com) 130

Though the U.S. Congress voted to roll back privacy rules, broadband customers can still opt-out of targeted advertising from Comcast, Charter, AT&T, and T-Mobile. But an anonymous reader explains why that's not enough: "It's not clear that opting out will prevent ISPs from putting your data to use," reports The Verge, adding "you're opting out of seeing ads, but not out of providing data." Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, tells NPR that consumers can also "call their providers and opt out of having their information shared." But he also suggests a grass roots effort, calling this "an opportunity to pressure companies to implement good practices and for consumers to say 'I think that you should require opt-in consent and if you're not, why not?'"

To try to stop the creation of that data, Brian Krebs has also posted a guide for choosing a VPN provider, and shared a useful link to a chart comparing VPN providers that was recommended by the EFF. This may help avoid some of the problems reported with VPN services, and Krebs also recommends Tor as a free (albeit possibly slower) option, while sharing an informational link describing Tor's own limitations.

I'm curious what steps Slashdot's readers are taking (if any) to protect their own privacy online?
AT&T

AT&T Receives $6.5 Billion To Build Wireless Network For First Responders (reuters.com) 57

The First Responder Network, FirstNet, an independent arm of the Department of Commerce, has awarded a contract to AT&T to build a nationwide wireless broadband network to better equip first responders. "FirstNet will provide 20MHz of high-value, telecommunications spectrum and success-based payments of $6.5 billion over the next five years to support the network buildout," AT&T said in its announcement. Reuters reports: The effort to set up a public safety network was triggered by communications failures during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, when first responders were unable to effectively communicate as they used different technologies and networks. The FirstNet network will help emergency medical personnel, firefighters and police officers communicate vital information on one single network in real time, as opposed to using thousands of separate, incompatible systems. The rollout of the network, which will cover will cover all states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, will begin later this year, AT&T said on Thursday. AT&T will spend about $40 billion over the period of the 25-year agreement to build, operate and maintain the network.
AT&T

AT&T Joins The Linux Foundation as a Platinum Member (linuxfoundation.org) 40

From a press release: The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit advancing professional open source management for mass collaboration, today announced that AT&T has become a Platinum member. This follows news of the company's contribution of several million lines of ECOMP code to The Linux Foundation, as well as the new Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) Project based on production-ready code from AT&T and OPEN-O contributors. Chris Rice, senior vice president of AT&T Labs, joins The Linux Foundation Board of Directors and was also recently selected as the ONAP chairman. "Open source is crucial to AT&T's software transformation," said Chris Rice, chairman of ONAP and senior vice president of AT&T Labs. "So, it was a natural decision for us to join The Linux Foundation. SDN is helping us meet performance, capital spending and efficiency goals and we expect continued benefits. But more so, we recognize that the open source community accelerates innovation. We're excited to work with The Linux Foundation and its members to promote a globally accepted platform for SDN and NFV technologies."
AT&T

17,000 AT&T Workers Go On Strike In California and Nevada (fortune.com) 172

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: Approximately 17,000 workers in AT&T's traditional wired telephone business in California and Nevada walked out on strike on Wednesday, marking the most serious labor action against the carrier in years. The walkout -- formally known as a grievance strike -- occurred after AT&T changed the work assignments of some of the technicians and call center employees in the group, the Communications Workers of America union said. The union would not say how long the strike might last. A contract covering the group expired last year and there has been little progress in negotiations over sticking points like the outsourcing of call center jobs overseas, stagnant pay, and rising health care costs. The union said it planned to file an unfair labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board over the work assignment changes. "A walkout is not in anybody's best interest and it's unfortunate that the union chose to do that," an AT&T spokesman told Fortune. "We're engaged in discussion with the union to get these employees back to work as soon as possible."
AT&T

DirecTV Admits Screwing Up Regional Sports Fees, Starts Issuing Credits (arstechnica.com) 15

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T this week acknowledged that DirecTV has been charging the wrong regional sports fees to some customers and is now issuing bill credits to those who paid more because of the mistake. "We have identified a small percentage of customers who are receiving some inaccurate bills for regional sports network fees," an AT&T spokesperson told Ars yesterday. "We are working as quickly as possible to notify those customers and issue credits. We apologize for the error." AT&T bought DirecTV, the nation's largest satellite TV provider with about 21 million customers, in 2015. The mistake affects bills going back to late January. Customers will not have to do anything to get the credit, as it will be issued automatically. The billing problem came to light last week when Consumerist published a report detailing how the regional sports network fees vary by ZIP code in ways that simply didn't make sense. It wouldn't be surprising to see different fees in different metro areas and states, since different local sports networks and teams are broadcast in different areas. But there were numerous cases in which people in adjacent ZIP codes were charged very different amounts to watch the same exact networks and teams. Some customers were charged no sports fee, while others were charged amounts of $2.47, $5.83, or $7.29 a month.
Verizon

Verizon Wireless Wades Right Back Into the Net Neutrality Debate With Fios Deal (theverge.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Verizon is taking a page out of AT&T's book by zero rating its Fios cable TV service for all Verizon Wireless customers. That means that if you purchase your mobile data plan from Verizon Wireless and your cable TV plan from Fios, you can now use the Fios Mobile app to stream live channels and on-demand shows and not have it count against your monthly data cap. (It should be noted that Verizon Wireless and Fios are separate subsidiaries, but both are owned by Verizon Communications.) This builds on Verizon's previous decision to zero rate its Go90 mobile app for customers of its own wireless service, which net neutrality advocates see as prioritizing its own products to the detriment of those from competitors and upstarts. One notable exception here is for customers with unlimited mobile data plans. Streaming Fios Mobile content will in fact count toward the unlimited plans' 22GB a month cap, after which Verizon will cap speeds. This caveat is not made clear in Verizon's marketing language, and instead is found only in the App Store release notes.
AT&T

FCC Investigating Coast-To-Coast 911 Outage For AT&T Wireless Users (nbcnews.com) 53

AT&T says it has fixed a nationwide outage that prevented its wireless customers from making 911 emergency calls. "Service has been restored for wireless customers affected by an issue connecting to 911. We apologize to those affected," the company officials said in a statement. The outage was serious enough to gain the attention of the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, said via Twitter that they are investigating what went wrong. NBC News reports: The company didn't say how widespread the outage was, but as reports poured in from across the country, Karima Holmes, director of unified communications for the Washington, D.C., government, said her office had been "advised there is a nationwide outage for AT&T." At 10:20 p.m. ET, about 10 minutes before AT&T gave the all-clear, DownDetector, a site that monitors internet traffic for real-time information on wireless and broadband carriers, indicated that outage reports for AT&T were clustered most prominently around New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. But emergency authorities across the country confirmed 911 outages and publicized direct police, fire and ambulance dispatch telephone numbers that AT&T customers should call in emergencies.
Businesses

Sprint 'Betting Big On Trump,' Could Merge With T-Mobile Or Comcast (arstechnica.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Speculation that Sprint will merge with T-Mobile USA or another competitor has ramped up since the inauguration of President Donald Trump. That continued Friday when a report from The New York Times suggested that Sprint could be combined with either T-Mobile or Comcast, the nation's largest cable company. Masayoshi Son, founder and CEO of Sprint owner SoftBank, "and his financial advisers are weighing several major possible deals for Sprint," the Times wrote. "Be it a tie-up with T-Mobile U.S., Sprint's closest competitor, or a more ambitious marriage with the cable colossus Comcast, a transaction would allow Mr. Son to fulfill a long-held ambition to invest aggressively in wireless networks in the United States and enable next-generation mobile technology." Titled "The World's Top Tech Investor Is Betting Big on Trump," the Times report says that "the Trump administration's push for lighter regulation and lower taxes has been a powerful lure for cash-rich investors the world over." SoftBank, which is based in Japan, had several of its executives "spen[d] a day in Washington talking to senior members of Mr. Trump's economic team" last month, according to bankers who were briefed on the meetings, the Times report said. U.S. regulators opposed wireless consolidation during the Obama administration, preventing potential mergers between AT&T and T-Mobile and later between Sprint and T-Mobile. With four major nationwide carriers, U.S. wireless competition recently led to an expansion of unlimited data plans.
Communications

FCC Chair Wants Carriers To Block Robocalls From Spoofed Numbers (arstechnica.com) 178

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The FCC in 2015 made it clear that voice service providers can offer call blocking tools to customers, but commissioners said at the time that more needed to be done about Caller ID spoofing. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has now scheduled a preliminary vote for March 23 on new rules designed to solve the problem. "One particularly pernicious category of robocalls is spoofed robocalls -- i.e., robocalls where the caller ID is faked, hiding the caller's true identity," the proposal says. "Fraudsters bombard consumers' phones at all hours of the day with spoofed robocalls, which in some cases lure consumers into scams (e.g., when a caller claims to be collecting money owed to the Internal Revenue Service) or lead to identity theft." The proposed rules would let providers "block spoofed robocalls when the spoofed Caller ID can't possibly be valid." Providers would be able to block numbers that aren't valid under the North American Numbering Plan and block valid numbers that haven't been allocated to any phone company. They'd also be able to block valid numbers that have been allocated to a phone company but haven't been assigned to a subscriber. The proposal would also codify the FCC's previous guidance that phone companies can block calls when requested by the spoofed number's subscriber. The upcoming vote on March 23 is for a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which means the rules won't take effect immediately. The FCC uses NPRMs to seek comment on proposals before issuing final rules.
AT&T

FCC Chairman Says His Agency Won't Review AT&T's Time Warner Purchase (engadget.com) 104

Today, FCC commissioner Ajit Pai confirmed that his agency would not review AT&T's Time Warner purchase, clearing the way for the Justice Department to likely approve the deal. Engadget reports: Last month, AT&T revealed how it might structure its deal to acquire Time Warner without having to go through FCC review. The communications giant noted that it "anticipated that Time Warner will not need to transfer any of its FCC licenses ... after the closing of the transaction." That means that the FCC wouldn't need to review the transaction. "That is the regulatory hook for FCC review," Pai said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "My understanding is that the deal won't be presented to the commission." The WSJ notes that this would leave the Justice Department as the only governmental agency reviewing the potential deal. Time Warner has said that it has "dozens" of FCC licenses, but the company believes those won't need to be transferred to AT&T as part of the merger, thus keeping the FCC out of the deal. The report notes that the deal still might not go through even if the FCC won't review the transaction. There's a lot of opposition to it from consumer advocacy groups, and President Donald Trump has said he opposes the deal.

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