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Wildman named chief economist at FCC | The Hill's Hillicon Valley

Wildman named chief economist at FCC | The Hill's Hillicon Valley | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski on Thursday named Steven Wildman as the agency's new chief economist.

Wildman currently serves as the acting chairman of Michigan State University's Telecommunications, Information Studies and Media Department. He will start work at the commission next month and step into role held by outgoing chief economist Marius Schwartz, who will return his former post as a professor of economics at Georgetown University.

 

 

The FCC chairman said in a statement that Wildman "has conducted important research on broadband adoption and spectrum management, among other topics."

 

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How Google’s new central privacy page works | Hayley Tsukayama | WashPost.com

How Google’s new central privacy page works | Hayley Tsukayama | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Google knows a lot about you, and now the company is making it a little simpler for you to know exactly how deep its knowledge goes.

In a blog post Monday, Google laid out a redesign of users' account settings pages, with a focus on giving them a centralized place to control data that the firm picks up from your Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube and normal Google use.

From the new dashboard, users can see a number of the types of data Google collects -- location, ad preferences, search history, YouTube watch history, and more -- and choose to opt out (or in) to data collection. In some cases, such as when clearing some YouTube information, you will have to leave the main hub to manage the data you want. The same is true for service-specific settings, such as how you want your mail forwarded or your playback preferences for YouTube; you'll find those things within the settings of the respective Web sites.

But having a central location for the basic privacy and data information is nicer than having to futz around with each service individually.


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Netflix says its promos for other shows won’t devolve into actual advertising | Brian Fung | WashPost.com

Netflix says its promos for other shows won’t devolve into actual advertising | Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

You may have noticed that Netflix has been putting bits of promotional material in your programming for its other shows. Sitting down to an episode of "House of Cards," perhaps Netflix has given you a teaser for another original series, Marvel's "Daredevil." It's a small test so far, but it already has some wondering if real, third-party advertising is coming down the pipe.

Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings is trying to shoot down that speculation. In a post on Facebook Monday, Hastings promised that the streaming video service won't be getting ads anytime soon.

"No advertising coming onto Netflix. Period," Hastings said. "Just adding relevant cool trailers for other Netflix content you are likely to love."


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Cablevision's Seibert: Cord-cutter package is 'giving our programming friends heartburn' | Daniel Frankel | Fierce Cable

Cablevision's Seibert: Cord-cutter package is 'giving our programming friends heartburn' | Daniel Frankel | Fierce Cable | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Cablevision Vice Chairman Gregg Seibert conceded that the MSO's bundling of broadband services and over-the-air antennas in a so-called "cord-cutter" package is giving its "programming friends heartburn."

Speaking to investors, he also downplayed the significance of the product, adding: "Is that going to be our core product in the future? No."

Seibert made these comments while delivering a wide-ranging address at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Telecom & Media Conference in London, an event covered by The Hollywood Reporter.

Asked to follow up on Cablevision CEO James Dolan's public plea to consolidate the New York cable market, Seibert indicated that Charter Communication's $56.7 billion purchase agreement with Time Warner Cable probably means that consolidation won't happen soon.

"That feels to me like it's a ways away," he said. "I don't see it as a today or tomorrow opportunity."


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Brazil utilities want 3.5, 2.5 GHz spectrum for smart grids | Telecompaper.com

Brazil utilities want 3.5, 2.5 GHz spectrum for smart grids | Telecompaper.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

About 40 Brazilian electricity distribution companies, including giants such as Eletropaulo, CPFL, AES, Cemig and Copel, and smart grid solution providers have requested the National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) release frequencies in the 3.5 GHz and 2.5 GHz bands for telecommunication services geared to critical services such as energy, reports Teletime.


Specifically, the WiMAX Forum and the energy utilities have asked Anatel to consider changes to resolutions in order to authorize the use of a block of 10 MHz for data communication dedicated to digital inclusion projects, using TDD technologies.


In the case of the 2.5 GHz band, they asked for 15 MHz TDD, also for digital inclusion. The industry group would like to see the definition of digital inclusion services expanded to also include critical services such as government, security, utilities and transportation, provided over smart grids.

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Florida Agency Says Uber Drivers Are Employees, Not Contractors | Mike Masnick | Techdirt

Florida Agency Says Uber Drivers Are Employees, Not Contractors | Mike Masnick | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

There are a series of big important lawsuits currently under way, exploring the question of whether or not drivers for ride hailing services like Uber and Lyft are "employees" or "contractors." It seems fairly obvious that they should be contractors -- they use their own equipment, they set their own schedules, they work on their own, etc.


However, some are really trying to have them declared as employees, giving them access to things like regular salaries, overtime pay, benefits and such. It would also, most likely, mean many fewer opportunities for drivers, less flexibility and a lot less innovative a service.


While the lawsuits are ongoing, down in Florida, the Department of Economic Opportunity has skipped all the judicial nonsense and just declared that Uber drivers are employees, allowing them to sign up for unemployment benefits.

This week, Florida notified Cutler Bay’s Darrin McGillis that he was in fact an employee of Uber while driving for the company earlier this year.

“I’m no longer an independent contractor,” the 46-year-old said while driving in the seven-seat Mitsubishi Outlander he bought to boost his Uber income. He’s now hoping there might be a change to pursue reimbursement on gasoline and even overtime. “All these things come into play.”

Yes, you can understand why some drivers want this kind of designation -- but it seems ridiculously short-sighted. It will almost certainly mean fewer opportunities for those drivers and a lot less flexibility. Yes, there are some "on demand" companies that seem to be skirting the rules and having "employees" who they pretend are contractors. But when the participants truly are independent, get to set their own schedule and are using their own equipment, it seems ridiculous to argue that they're anything but independent contractors.


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Movistar Video ‘TV everywhere’ service goes live in Colombia | TeleGeography.com

Movistar Colombia has launched Movistar Video, a ‘TV everywhere’ service targeting mobile video consumers across the country. The new platform enables users to watch live content from five channels, namely Cablenoticias, ET-Canal El Tiempo, TyC Sports, Hola TV and the BBC, and also includes a 1,600-strong video-on-demand (VoD) catalogue, comprising films, series and documentaries.


Movistar Video will reportedly also allow each user to connect up to five devices – including smartphones, tablets and computers – with the same log-in credentials, allowing simultaneous play on two devices.


After being made available free of charge for the first month, the service will be priced at COP9,900 (USD3.9) for existing pay-TV subscribers, or COP15,900 for new subscribers.

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The FCC Just Made It Easier to Raise Your Cable Rates | Brendan Sasso | The National Journal

The FCC Just Made It Easier to Raise Your Cable Rates | Brendan Sasso | The National Journal | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Federal Communications Commission has quietly approved a proposal that could make it easier for major cable providers like Comcast to raise prices.

The decision is a rare win at the FCC for the cable industry, which has suffered a series of losses on net neutrality and other major issues under Chairman Tom Wheeler, himself a former cable lobbyist.


The FCC voted 3-to-2 Tuesday to limit the power of state and local regulators over cable TV packages and prices, according to agency officials. The agency declared that it will assume that there is "effective competition" for cable services nationwide.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler won support from the commission's two Republicans, but the two other Democrats opposed the decision, officials said. It is extremely unusual for an FCC chairman to side against the commissioners in his own party. A spokesperson for Wheeler declined to comment on the decision, which has not yet been made public.

A number of top congressional Democrats had urged Wheeler not to loosen the regulations on major cable companies, warning it could lead to higher prices for consumers to get access to news, sports, weather, and other programming.

"As the cable industry becomes increasingly concentrated, the Federal Communications Commission must maintain meaningful protections to ensure that American consumers have affordable access to the programming most relevant to them," Democratic Sens. Al Franken, Ed Markey, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and others wrote in a letter last month. "The FCC's proposal runs contrary to this important responsibility."

The FCC's own intergovernmental advisory committee had also recommended against the change.

Before the FCC's ruling, state and local utility regulators could cap the prices that cable providers charged for basic TV packages and equipment, require uniform rates in an area, and ensure that customers didn't have to buy extra tiers of programming to get access to premium channels. Cable providers could petition the FCC to escape those regulations, but only if they provided evidence that there was already effective competition in their area.

The FCC's decision shifts the burden to the local authorities to prove that competition is lacking to justify their regulations.


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UT: Orem is now a Gig City, joins Provo, others in distinction | Karissa Neely | Daily Herald

UT: Orem is now a Gig City, joins Provo, others in distinction | Karissa Neely | Daily Herald | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

CenturyLink is ready to speed things up for its customers.

By the end of the year, more than 100,000 residential customers throughout the state of Utah will have access to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) broadband service. In Orem, it’s available and in the ground for select businesses and residential developments.

“We are extremely pleased to welcome Orem to the growing list of Utah cities that we are enabling with ultra-fast gigabit service,” said Jeremy Ferkin, vice president of Utah operations, CenturyLink. “This advanced, fiber-based solution allows businesses to operate and innovate more effectively than ever before and can bring new capabilities to residents.”

Orem joins a growing list of cities known for their 1 Gbps service offerings for residents and small businesses. American Fork, Lehi, Lindon, are CenturyLink 1 Gig cities. Provo boasts the same level of service throughout most of the city through Google Fiber. According to Steven Downs, Orem assistant to the city manager, roughly one third of Orem already had 1 Gig access through UTOPIA.

CenturyLink's offering seeks to cover more of the city as well. Many businesses in Orem, if they don’t have CenturyLink, are within 500 feet of a fiber line. For those companies, CenturyLink can build it to these businesses for free, Ferkin said. By extending these connections to Orem business locations, the company has scaled its fiber network to offer competitive pricing on IP-based fiber bundles that converge data, Internet and voice service.


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MN: Connect Itasca Update: Demonstrating broadband interest to the providers | Ann Treacy | Blandin on Broadband

MN: Connect Itasca Update: Demonstrating broadband interest to the providers | Ann Treacy | Blandin on Broadband | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Last week, Mark Zimmerman, IEDC president, gave an update to the Itasca County board of commissioners about Connect Itasca. (His report is available on video – starting at about 10 minute mark.) It was great to hear what was going on.

Connect Itasca has been around for about 9 months. They are working on getting broadband to everyone at the state at speeds of 10-20 Mbps down and 5-10 Mbps up. They plan to build from existing services and find ways to expand to neighboring areas – especially where we can demonstrate demand.

IEDC wants to help the providers deliver service. They are working with the County, Blandin Foundation and the local providers (Paul Bunyan, CenturyLink, Mediacom and Arvig). They have been surveying local residents to demonstrate need and interest. They have 1,000 people respond. They also have 37 champions in various communities who are armed to drum up interest in their communities.

They are trying to create markets that bridge the gap that creates areas that look (and would be) less profitable. They have created an map to help providers see the need. This compliments the work they have done through the Blandin Broadband Community boost broadband adoption.


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New FCC rules would crack down on spam texts, unwanted calls | Grant Gross | ComputerWorld.com

New FCC rules would crack down on spam texts, unwanted calls | Grant Gross | ComputerWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

New rules proposed by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission aim to give owners of mobile phones more tools to protect themselves against unwanted text messages and phone calls.

The proposal, from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, would close some loopholes in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), a law that restricts telemarketing, but has allowed some marketers, bill collectors and other businesses to make hundreds of unwanted calls, or send hundreds of unwanted text messages to some mobile and telephone customers.

"Few things rankle consumers as much as unwanted calls and texts," Wheeler said in a blog post. "The responsibility to protect consumers from robocalls that can be both costly and intrusive does not expire with changes in technology."

Most of the new rules, to be debated at the FCC's June 18 meeting, apply to mobile phone customers, but some cover traditional telephone service, FCC officials said Wednesday. Unwanted calls and text messages are the top consumer complaint to the agency, with 215,000 TCPA complaints made to the FCC in 2014, the agency said.

Wheeler's proposal would allow mobile and telephone consumers to revoke their consent to receive robocalls and robotexts in any reasonable way at any time, including through a verbal request during a telemarketing call, FCC officials said. Some telephone marketers have required recipients of these calls and texts to jump through hoops, including sending a letter asking to be removed from the telemarketing lists, FCC officials said.

In addition, Wheeler will ask the FCC to give telecom carriers a green light to offer robocall-blocking technology to their customers. The commission action would declare robocall-blocking technology to be a legal service, FCC officials said during a press conference.

Customers who inherit a number whose previous owner allowed telemarketing calls shouldn't be subject to a "barrage" of unwanted calls, according to the FCC. So the agency's proposal would require telemarketers to call those numbers only once.

Wheeler's proposal addresses more than 20 petitions to the FCC from businesses seeking clarification of TCPA rules on telemarketing and texting.


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Drug Enforcement wiretaps triple in 9 years, agents avoid federal oversight | Megan Geuss | Ars Technica

Drug Enforcement wiretaps triple in 9 years, agents avoid federal oversight | Megan Geuss | Ars Technica | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration conducted 11,681 electronic intercepts in 2014, according to information obtained by USA Today. That's up from 3,394 in 2005. And over the course of those nine years, federal agents increasingly went to state judges to get warrants for wiretaps, bypassing the more rigorous federal procedure for obtaining warrants.

The DEA attributed the increased use of wiretaps to a corresponding increase in the types of devices and methods that drug traffickers use to communicate. Some of the wiretap orders “could be counted more than once, if they include the collection of both voice calls and text messages, for example,” USA Today wrote.

But beyond the simple increase in the number of intercepts that the DEA conducted, it seems that the agency is bypassing more stringent federal rules for getting wiretap approval. The wiretap counts show that in 2005, there were twice as many intercepts approved by federal courts as there were intercepts approved by state courts. In 2009 there were about as many intercepts approved by federal courts as there were intercepts approved by state courts. And in 2012, the number of intercepts approved by state courts began definitively surpassing those approved by federal courts.

Although state wiretap laws “must include all of the safeguards federal law requires,” getting approval to go ahead with the wiretap is generally easier if the DEA makes its case to a state court. USA Today explains: “Federal law requires approval from a senior Justice Department official before agents can even ask a federal court for permission to conduct one. The law imposes no such restriction on state court wiretaps, even when they are sought by federal agents.”

The DEA did not respond to Ars' request for comment.


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Senate Vets FCC Lifeline Programs | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com

Senate Vets FCC Lifeline Programs | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Senate Commerce Committee's Communications Subcommittee put the FCC's Lifeline subsidy program through its paces Tuesday (June 2).

At issue in a hearing on how to reform the program -- something the FCC has been doing since at least 2012, with more proposed changes last week -- was whether those reforms were enough, how successful they had been or could be, and what else needed to be done.

Both sides of the aisle agreed the program needed modifying, with Democrats united in support of expanding it from phone service to broadband, but Republicans were less sure about the increased costs of such an expansion as well as preventing waste, fraud and abuse.

Republicans were looking for some more cost-containment -- like a budget on the program -- before expanding eligibility to broadband, while Democrats argued that the FCC could do both at the same time and had already made strides with targeted reforms meant to increase efficiency and prevent waste, fraud and abuse.

Lifeline is a subsidy, paid by phone customers, to provide basic communications connectivity to low-income Americans. The FCC last week proposed adding broadband to phone service as eligible for the subsidy (of a little more than $9 per month).

At the hearing, Michael Clements, acting director, physical infrastructure issues, for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) talked about a recent GAO study that concluded there are a number of issues with the program.

Among those they cited were the FCC's lack of progress: While having made progress on some 2012 reforms, the agency still had three of 11 reforms to complete; the FCC had not evaluated the effectiveness and efficiency of the program; and a pilot program the FCC conducted to test expanding the program to broadband had a low turnout. The FCC has agreed to come up with a way to better evaluate the program.


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USA Freedom Draws Crowd | John Eggerton | Broadcasting & Cable

USA Freedom Draws Crowd | John Eggerton | Broadcasting & Cable | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Industry and advocacy groups were generally pleased with the passage of the USA Freedom Act Tuesday, though for many it was viewed as a step in an ongoing process.

For example, New America's Open Technology Institute (OTI) called it the first major victory in an ongoing battle for surveillance reform.

“The end of bulk collection under the USA PATRIOT Act is just the beginning – not the end – of reform," said OTI policy director Kevin Bankston. "We will need to be vigilant to ensure that the reforms in USA FREEDOM are implemented faithfully, using the transparency and accountability tools created by the bill to make sure that the new bans on bulk collection are working. Congress must also quickly turn its attention to the important work of ending mass surveillance and warrantless searches of Americans’ online activities under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act."

"Today’s vote is a tangible victory for citizens around the world, and a step toward restoring trust in the U.S. government and the ability of lawmakers to do what is right in the face of tremendous political pressure," said Computer & Communications Industry Association president Ed Black. "It also begins the process of rebuilding the confidence of Internet users worldwide in American providers of digital services.

“The USA Freedom Act is not a complete panacea, and serves only as the first step in what will prove to be a lengthy and difficult process to reform the mass surveillance programs in use by the U.S. government. However, it does much to end the bulk collection of Americans' data across a number of authorities, provides for significant privacy reporting by the private sector, the intelligence community, and secret FISA court, and should lead to improved oversight of surveillance programs by our citizens."

The bill sets a six-month transition for the reforms, so in the interim the bulk collection will continue.

Tech Freedom say it is a big win and an end to "all" bulk collection of phone records. “By passing the USA FREEDOM Act, the Senate has restored legitimate intelligence capabilities while putting an end to needless domestic dragnet data collection,” said Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom. “While the Section 215 sunset was a symbolic victory for privacy, it would have allowed bulk collection to continue under other authorities, such as the FISA pen/trap statute and National Security Letters.”

Software makers were celebrating.


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The Supreme Court just made the Web even more hostile for women | Brian Fung | WashPost.com

The Supreme Court just made the Web even more hostile for women | Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

You have to mean it before it's a crime.

So said the Supreme Court in a ruling this week about online threats of violence. The opinion reverses a lower court's conviction of a man who fantasized on Facebook about killing his ex-wife. That may ease the fear many of us have about inadvertently putting something on the Internet that gets misconstrued. But the finding is a major setback for those trying to make the Web a less hateful and hostile place, particularly for women.

Women are subject to tremendous amounts of harassment online. It's on Periscope. It's on blogs. It has forced some women to flee their homes. It's unfair, pervasive and seemingly unstoppable, though not for lack of trying. Entire teams of people — the New Republic once called them Deciders — now help tech companies police hateful speech with a mix of human oversight and computer algorithms.

If the Supreme Court had ruled the other way, it wouldn't have necessarily eased the burden on these folks. But it might have offered them, the perpetrators and the victims of hate speech a bit more guidance. The case's outcome instead places even greater responsibility on tech companies to figure out strong harassment policies on their own, and on the people who write and struggle to enforce them judiciously, often on a case-by-case basis.


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No Patriot Act? Snuggly the NSA Security Spy Bear Might Just End Up Working for Verizon or AT&T | Stop the Cap!

No Patriot Act? Snuggly the NSA Security Spy Bear Might Just End Up Working for Verizon or AT&T | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

“After tracking your every move and spying lovingly on each and every one of you, I feel like I know you all personally, because I do!”

Is this the end of our domestic spying pal, Snuggly the Security Bear? Most likely not. Snuggly will probably still be in business and up to his usual tricks, he just may have to work with Verizon or AT&T or some kind of NSA-corporate partnership.


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Google Bashes NBCUniversal, Fox, Viacom & MPAA Over Secret Anti-Piracy Effort | Dominic Patten | Deadline.com

Google Bashes NBCUniversal, Fox, Viacom & MPAA Over Secret Anti-Piracy Effort | Dominic Patten | Deadline.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The search engine giant is not getting the results it wants and Google has turned to the courts to make NBCUniversal, Viacom, 21st Century Fox and a heavyweight law firm cough them up. In virtually identical filings in federal court in New York and Washington D.C. earlier this week, the tech giant seeks court orders to make the studios and lobbyists at Jenner & Block hand over subpoenaed internal documents that allegedly reveal the shadowy harmonized efforts behind an investigation of Google by Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood.


As they have in the past, Google claims the Motion Picture Association of America strung together a “supposed consumer rights organization heavily funded by the MPAA called the Digital Citizens Alliance” to pursue “an anti-Google agenda” as well as provide cover for Hood.

“Google expects the documents will show that the Attorney General, the Subpoenaed Parties, and their lobbyists understood that his actions invaded the exclusive province of federal law,” said a memorandum of law attached to the motion filed in District Court on June 1 (read it here). “More fundamentally, the documents are likely to show that the Attorney General’s investigation was intended not to uncover supposed violations of Mississippi law, but instead to coerce Google into silencing speech that Viacom, Fox, and NBC do not like (such as search results, user-generated content and advertising), in violation of Google’s constitutional rights.”


While mentioned frequently in both the NYC and DC filings, the MPAA is not formally named as a defendant though obviously the three studios that are named are all members of the lobby group.


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Time Warner Cable Customers - Your Price to Cover Executive Golden Parachutes, Deal Fees: $19.48 Each | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

Time Warner Cable Customers - Your Price to Cover Executive Golden Parachutes, Deal Fees: $19.48 Each | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Each of 15.4 million Time Warner Cable customers will effectively pay $19.48 to cover executive golden parachutes and Wall Street bank advisory fees if the merger with Charter Communications is approved by regulators.

Five senior executives at Time Warner Cable will split $200 million with an additional $100+ million going to a variety of investment banks that provided advice for the merger deal.

A required filing with regulators disclosed the exit bonuses likely to be paid to the departing executives of Time Warner Cable, some who have been in those positions for less than two years:

  • CEO Robert Marcus, who has served in that role for only a year and a half, will receive roughly $4.5 million in salary, $23 million in bonuses and stock worth $74 million. His total golden parachute: $102 million;
  • COO Dinesh Jain: $32 million;
  • CFO Arthur Minson: $32 million;
  • General Counsel Marc Lawrence-Apfelbaum: $22 million;
  • Chief Strategy Officer Peter C. Stern: $18 million.


Ironically, golden parachutes were originally designed to protect shareholders from executives’ self-interest. Instead of interfering in merger and acquisition deals to protect their salaries and positions, the incentive of a generous exit bonus encouraged executives to do the right thing for shareholders.


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Malone: Charter Could Create 3rd Wireless Player | Mike Farrell | Multichannel.com

Malone: Charter Could Create 3rd Wireless Player | Mike Farrell | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Liberty Media chairman John Malone said a lot of things at his companies’ rapid-fire annual meetings on Tuesday – he held four in less than an hour and a half for Liberty Media, Liberty Interactive, Liberty Trip Advisor Holdings and Liberty Broadband – but perhaps most interesting was his theory that the recent pairing of Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable could help create a third major wireless carrier to compete with Verizon and AT&T.

Malone pointed to Time Warner Cable’s MVNO deal with Verizon – part of cable consortium SpectrumCo’s sale of wireless frequencies to Verizon in 2012 for about $3.9 billion. As part of that deal, SpectrumCo’s members – TWC, Comcast, Bright House Networks and Cox – received the option of participating in a wireless MVNO cellular service from Verizon.

Malone noted that Charter was not part of that consortium – it will be after the TWC deal closes – which now becomes more important as the bulk of wireless traffic originates on the cable-dominated WiFi network.

“The concept that Comcast, a greatly enlarged Charter and Cox could together offer a WiFi-optimized connectivity service with a default to a Verizon MVNO is an interesting concept,” Malone said at the annual meeting.


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Comcast System Audit in Tallahassee Takes Away Dozens of Channels It Will Restore for a Price | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

Comcast System Audit in Tallahassee Takes Away Dozens of Channels It Will Restore for a Price | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A system audit by Comcast has created a firestorm across Florida’s Panhandle after customers lost dozens of channels while Comcast used it as an opportunity to sell customers more expensive television packages.

The cable company has been installing new technology that will help it verify customers are not getting channels or services they are not entitled to receive. After auditing subscribers in the Tallahassee area, many long-time Comcast customers found their TV lineup dramatically reduced, often with no warning.

“We found customers had access to channels not included with their service level,” Comcast spokeswoman Mindy Kramer told the Tallahassee Democrat. “Meaning, they were getting some channels that they had not subscribed to in their specific package.”

Comcast used the audit to upsell customers to a pricier package to get those missing channels back, annoying customers.

“During a recent system audit, it was discovered that you may be receiving channels that are not part of the video service to which you currently subscribe,” a Comcast letter said. It then gave an example of a channel the person had been receiving in error and suggested the customer upgrade if they wanted to continue receiving the same service.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this change may cause,” the letter said. “We appreciate your business and thank you for being a loyal Comcast customer.”

Numerous Tallahassee customers contacted the newspaper and local media outlets to complain they lost dozens of channels without notice, many they had received for years. More recent subscribers also discovered their packages were suddenly much smaller.


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AT&T's Acquisition of DirecTV Will Likely Be Approved With a Number of Conditions | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

AT&T's Acquisition of DirecTV Will Likely Be Approved With a Number of Conditions | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

While consumer groups were busy fighting the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, AT&T’s $49 billion purchase of DirecTV has largely flown under the radar, with no comparable organized consumer opposition to the deal. But that does not mean the FCC will approve it as-is.

Negotiations with federal regulators and an exchange of regulatory filings and comments between AT&T, the FCC, and deal critics have apparently forced AT&T to agree to several concessions to make regulators amenable to approving the transaction.

The Washington Post reports that chief among those concessions is AT&T’s willingness to voluntarily abide by certain Net Neutrality rules regardless of any court challenges, including banning the slowing or blocking of websites and agreeing not to accept payments from website operators to speed up their content. AT&T has not said how long it intends to keep that commitment.

Deal opponents are also seeking other concessions from AT&T:


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Net neutrality critics hedge bets on delay request | Mario Trujillo | The Hill

Net neutrality critics hedge bets on delay request | Mario Trujillo | The Hill | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Critics trying to kill new net neutrality rules are hedging their bets that a federal court will grant their request to put the regulations on hold.

Lawyers for the telecom industry on Wednesday expressed broad confidence that their ultimate court challenge to the Federal Communications Commission regulations would prevail, but they said their request for a stay is a lot harder to predict.

"It's very difficult to say because the court does not usually give a lot of guidance about how they weigh how much harm is necessary,"said Miguel Estrada, the former assistant solicitor general who now represents the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA).

"Although we have made what we believe is a very compelling showing of irreparable harm, there is not a lot of information from this particular court about how they go about assessing whether the harm has risen to the critical point or whether it is just merely nearly critical," he added during a press briefing Wednesday.

A host of lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. Appeals Court of D.C. to fully strike down the FCC's new regulations, which would reclassify Internet access under authority governing traditional telephones.

While the broader case moves along, critics want the court to put the rules on hold before they take effect June 12. All the briefs have been filed in the stay request and the decision could be handed down at any point.

Estrada noted that for a court to grant a stay request, it has to be convinced of two main things: That the telecom companies are likely to succeed in the overall case and that the net neutrality rules would cause irreparable harm while the court battle proceeds, which can take a year or more.

He emphasized the ruling would not be a decision on the merits.


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New 'robocall' rules could leave Americans in the dark | Steven Shepard | POLITICO.com

New 'robocall' rules could leave Americans in the dark | Steven Shepard | POLITICO.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

For many Americans, the idea of technology that can block automated telephone calls sounds like a solution to all those annoying “robocalls” and interrupted family dinners.

But to the nation’s pollsters and campaign professionals, many of whom are gearing up for the 2016 election cycle, a federal government proposal circulated Wednesday to encourage phone companies to embrace the technology feels like an existential threat.

As a result, they say, Americans might soon know much less about what they think about everything from which candidates are gaining or losing ground to what issues voters care about most. And political campaigns might be forced to abandon tools they currently use to reach large numbers of voters in a short period of time.

The Federal Communications Commission says it receives more complaints about unwanted phone calls than any other issue. As a response, the FCC is asking phone companies to offer services to their customers that block calls placed by an automatic dialer.

Pollsters are asking to be exempted from the new guidelines, arguing that legitimate researchers shouldn’t be grouped with telemarketers and debt-collectors. But, for now, the FCC has no plans to establish a carve-out for telephone surveys.

In a blog post on the FCC’s website on Wednesday, chairman Tom Wheeler said that the commission was “giving the green light for robocall-blocking technology.”

“The FCC wants to make it clear: Telephone companies can — and in fact should — offer consumers robocall-blocking tools,” Wheeler wrote.


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Apple’s Tim Cook Delivers Blistering Speech On Encryption, Privacy | Matthew Panzarino | TechCrunch.com

Apple’s Tim Cook Delivers Blistering Speech On Encryption, Privacy | Matthew Panzarino | TechCrunch.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Yesterday evening, Apple CEO Tim Cook was honored for ‘corporate leadership’ during EPIC’s Champions of Freedom event in Washington. Cook spoke remotely to the assembled audience on guarding customer privacy, ensuring security and protecting their right to encryption.

“Like many of you, we at Apple reject the idea that our customers should have to make tradeoffs between privacy and security,” Cook opened. “We can, and we must provide both in equal measure. We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy. The American people demand it, the constitution demands it, morality demands it.”

This marked the first time that EPIC, a nonprofit research center in Washington focused on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues, has given the honor to a person from the business world. The hosts of the event included cryptographer Bruce Schneier, EPIC president Marc Rotenberg, Lobbyist Hilary Rosen and Stanford Lecturer in Law Chip Pitts.

Cook was characteristically passionate about all three topics. A theme that has persisted following his appearance on Charlie Rose late last year to define how Apple handled encryption, his public letter on Apple’s new security page in the wake of the celebrity nude hacking incidents and his speech earlier this year at President Obama’s Summit on Cybersecurity at Stanford — an event which was notably not attended by other Silicon Valley CEOs like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt.

Cook lost no time in directing comments at companies (obviously, though not explicitly) like Facebook and Google, which rely on advertising to users based on the data they collect from them for a portion, if not a majority, of their income.

“I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information,” said Cook. “They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”

Cook went on to state, as he has before when talking about products like Apple Pay, that Apple ‘doesn’t want your data.’


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Data breach costs now average $154 per record | Maria Korolov | ComputerWorld.com

Data breach costs now average $154 per record | Maria Korolov | ComputerWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The per-record cost of a data breach reached $154 this year, up 12 percent from last year's $145, according to a report released by IBM and the Ponemon Institute,

In addition, the average total cost of a single data breach rose 23 percent to $3.79 million.

Loss of business was a significant, and growing, part of the total cost of a data breach. Higher customer turnover, increased customer acquisition costs, and a hit to reputations and goodwill added up to $1.57 million per company, up from $1.33 million the previous years, said Ponemon Institute chairman and founder Larry Ponemon.

Ponemon analyzed results from 350 companies in 11 countries, each of which had suffered a breach over the past year.

Data breach costs varied dramatically by industry and by geography.

The U.S. had the highest per-record cost, at $217, followed by Germany at $211. India was lowest at $56 per record.

Sorted by industry, the highest costs were in the healthcare industry, at an average of $363 per record.

The reason, said Caleb Barlow, vice president at IBM Security, is because the information in a medical record has a much longer shelf life than that of, say, a credit card number.


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N.S.A. Compensates for Loss of Surveillance Powers by Logging on to Facebook | Andy Borowitz | The New Yorker

N.S.A. Compensates for Loss of Surveillance Powers by Logging on to Facebook | Andy Borowitz | The New Yorker | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The National Security Agency is compensating for the expiration of its power to collect the American people’s personal information by logging on to Facebook, the agency confirmed on Monday.

The director of the N.S.A., Admiral Michael S. Rogers, said that when parts of the Patriot Act expired at midnight on Sunday, intelligence analysts immediately stopped collecting mountains of phone metadata and started reading billions of Facebook updates instead.

“From a surveillance point of view, the transition has been seamless,” Rogers said.

While the N.S.A. has monitored Facebook in the past, it is now spending twenty-four hours a day sifting through billions of baby pictures, pet videos, and photographs of recently enjoyed food to detect possible threats to the United States.

“Those status updates contain everything we want to know,” Rogers said. “In many cases, a good deal more than we want to know.”

Citing one possible downside of the new surveillance regime, Rogers said that some N.S.A. analysts who now do nothing but monitor Facebook all day report feelings of worthlessness and despair. “I remind them that they’re doing this for America,” he said.

The N.S.A.’s new strategy drew a sharp rebuke from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), who told reporters, “I just blocked them.”

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