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Now that’s “fast” roadside assistance: AT&T’s LTE will power GM’s OnStar | GigaOM Tech News

Now that’s “fast” roadside assistance: AT&T’s LTE will power GM’s OnStar | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

General Motors’ OnStar system is going to get a turbo boost. AT&T and GM revealed at Mobile World Congress that starting in 2015 the automaker would embed LTE chips in millions of vehicles allowing them to connect back to AT&T’s 4G network. The deal would add considerable heft to the typical OnStar connection, which today utilize 2G connections.

 

GM said it would use the increased bandwidth to offer new infotainment features such as audio and video streaming direct to the car in addition to the usual complement of OnStar navigation, security and emergency services.

 

The deal is a bit puzzling because it contradicts the bring-your-connectivity strategy GM has adopted of late. While GM cars are all linked via cellular networks for its low-bandwidth telematics services, GM has relied on it customer’s smartphones to provide the heftier connections necessary to support infotainment services.

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Singapore: The Social Laboratory | Shane Harris | ForeignPolicy.com

Singapore: The Social Laboratory | Shane Harris | ForeignPolicy.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In October 2002, Peter Ho, the permanent secretary of defense for the tiny island city-state of Singapore, paid a visit to the offices of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Defense Department's R&D outfit best known for developing the M16 rifle, stealth aircraft technology, and the Internet. Ho didn't want to talk about military hardware.


Rather, he had made the daylong plane trip to meet with retired Navy Rear Adm. John Poindexter, one of DARPA's then-senior program directors and a former national security advisor to President Ronald Reagan. Ho had heard that Poindexter was running a novel experiment to harness enormous amounts of electronic information and analyze it for patterns of suspicious activity -- mainly potential terrorist attacks.


The two men met in Poindexter's small office in Virginia, and on a whiteboard, Poindexter sketched out for Ho the core concepts of his imagined system, which Poindexter called Total Information Awareness (TIA). It would gather up all manner of electronic records -- emails, phone logs, Internet searches, airline reservations, hotel bookings, credit card transactions, medical reports -- and then, based on predetermined scenarios of possible terrorist plots, look for the digital "signatures" or footprints that would-be attackers might have left in the data space. The idea was to spot the bad guys in the planning stages and to alert law enforcement and intelligence officials to intervene.


"I was impressed with the sheer audacity of the concept: that by connecting a vast number of databases, that we could find the proverbial needle in the haystack," Ho later recalled. He wanted to know whether the system, which was not yet deployed in the United States, could be used in Singapore to detect the warning signs of terrorism. It was a matter of some urgency. Just 10 days earlier, terrorists had bombed a nightclub, a bar, and the U.S. consular office on the Indonesian island of Bali, killing 202 people and raising the specter of Islamist terrorism in Southeast Asia.


Ho returned home inspired that Singapore could put a TIA-like system to good use. Four months later he got his chance, when an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) swept through the country, killing 33, dramatically slowing the economy, and shaking the tiny island nation to its core.


Using Poindexter's design, the government soon established the Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning program (RAHS, pronounced "roz") inside a Defense Ministry agency responsible for preventing terrorist attacks and "nonconventional" strikes, such as those using chemical or biological weapons -- an effort to see how Singapore could avoid or better manage "future shocks." Singaporean officials gave speeches and interviews about how they were deploying big data in the service of national defense -- a pitch that jibed perfectly with the country's technophilic culture.


Back in the United States, however, the TIA program had become the subject of enormous controversy. Just a few weeks after Poindexter met with Ho, journalists reported that the Defense Department was funding experimental research on mining massive amounts of Americans' private data. Some members of Congress and privacy and civil liberties advocates called for TIA to be shut down. It was -- but in name only.


In late 2003, a group of U.S. lawmakers more sympathetic to Poindexter's ideas arranged for his experiment to be broken into several discrete programs, all of which were given new, classified code names and placed under the supervision of the National Security Agency (NSA). Unbeknownst to almost all Americans at the time, the NSA was running a highly classified program of its own that actually was collecting Americans' phone and Internet communications records and mining them for connections to terrorists. Elements of that program were described in classified documents disclosed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, sparking the most significant and contentious debate about security and privacy in America in more than four decades.


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US Senate committee report: Mobile phone 'cramming' widespread, profits carriers | Grant Gross | NetworkWorld.com

US Senate committee report: Mobile phone 'cramming' widespread, profits carriers | Grant Gross | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Mobile carriers have pulled in hundreds of millions in profits through third-party charges tacked onto customers’ bills without their consent, according to a report from a U.S. Senate committee.


The carriers have been slow to act against scammers tacking third-party charges onto mobile bills even after thousands of complaints by customers and investigations by multiple state attorneys general during the past six years, said the staff report from the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, released Wednesday.


While the mobile industry has suggested unauthorized third-party billing—often called cramming—is a minor problem, the practice has been “widespread and has likely cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to the committee staff report.


Third-party billing on mobile phone bills has been “a billion dollar industry that has yielded tremendous revenues for carriers,” the committee report said. The four largest U.S. carriers—AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon—generally take 30 to 40 percent of the cut for third-party services, often tacked on as charges of less than US$10 a month, but continuing indefinitely, the report said.


Those four carriers had assured the committee they were taking “robust” steps to combat a minor problem with mobile cramming when the committee began asking about the issue, said Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat.


“There is now overwhelming evidence that these statements were just not true—cramming on wireless phones has been widespread and has caused consumers substantial harm,” Rockefeller said in a statement.


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Verizon’s slowing down data for some of its heaviest users. And the FCC is calling them out on it. | Brian Fung | WashPost.com

Verizon’s slowing down data for some of its heaviest users. And the FCC is calling them out on it. | Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Federal Communications Commission has sent a strongly worded letter to Verizon warning that changes in the way it handles mobile Internet traffic may violate federal regulations.


More broadly, the letter by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is the latest sign that the commission is considering applying its new net neutrality rules to wireless carriers.


Last week, Verizon announced that wireless customers on the company's unlimited 4G LTE data plans would become subject to restrictions on that service beginning in October. The most voracious data users — meaning the top 5 percent, the company said — would see their traffic slowed during periods of heavy demand, with the limits lifted once the congestion had passed or the users moved into range of another cell tower. Verizon already does this for 3G users; the new changes would extend the policy to 4G LTE users, too.


"The vast majority of data customers will not see any impact from Verizon Wireless’ Network Optimization policy, and will be able to browse the Internet, stream music and videos, upload pictures and send emails as they always have," Verizon said in a blog post announcing the changes last week.


A Verizon Wireless spokesman said Wednesday that the announcement last week was "highly targeted and very limited."

"We will officially respond to the chairman's letter once we have received and reviewed it," the company said.


But the targeted nature of the slowdowns may be precisely the problem; citing Verizon's Web site, Wheeler accused the company of discriminating against unlimited data customers but leaving its other customers alone. Wheeler said he was "deeply troubled" by the attempt to apply data restrictions on Verizon's "much more efficient" LTE network, and implied strongly that the company was invoking "network management" as an excuse to make more money.


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Rural Indiana Looks to Tax Increment Financing to Build Fiber Networks | community broadband networks

Rural Indiana Looks to Tax Increment Financing to Build Fiber Networks | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Wabash County, Indiana wants to expand its access to high speed internet through a fiber optic network build out, and is planning to use a distinctive financial tool to do so. The Wabash County Redevelopment Commission has begun the process of assigning a special Economic Development Area designation for the purpose of helping to finance new fiber deployment through parts of the mostly rural county of 33,000 people.


Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is method of public financing that uses future gains in property or sales taxes within a defined area to subsidize a redevelopment or infrastructure project. A local jurisdiction can borrow money up front, build the project, and then use the increased tax receipts it generates to pay off the debt over a period of years. The concept is actually pretty simple: capture the value that something will have in the future to build it now.


TIF  has been a popular approach among local politicians around the country for decades as a way to work around tight budgets and finance improvements in blighted areas, often in the form of public infrastructure. It has sometimes drawn criticism, especially in cities like Chicago where it is very heavily used. One downside is that it effectively takes properties off the general tax rolls. 


More important for our purposes, however, is that the use of TIF for next generation fiber optic networks is a fairly new phenomenon. While municipal networks around the country have used a wide range of financing approaches to cover upfront costs, most have revolved in some way around bonds that are repaid from network revenue. Using TIF to capture the increased property value that a fiber optic network would create is an interesting approach.


In the case of Wabash County, it’s not yet clear exactly how the funds would be used. There is a local private incumbent provider, Metronet, which received $100,000 last year to match its own $1 million investment to bring fiber to a town on the north edge of the county. The county also has a cooperative utility (Wabash County REMC) that provides power and telephone services in rural areas and has expressed interest in using TIF to build out a fiber network. Whichever entity ultimately receives TIF money, it does not appear that the county is interested in owning the network itself.


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BlackBerry buying German firm for voice encryption | John Cox | NetworkWorld.com

BlackBerry buying German firm for voice encryption | John Cox | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

BlackBerry has always touted its mobile devices as secure. But now it plans to make them “more secure” by acquiring a German company that specializes in voice encryption.


BlackBerry will acquire Secusmart GmbH, which offers encryption systems to scramble voice calls, and also data communications. The company was silent about the details of the transaction, except to say it hinges on regulatory approvals.


The company also announced a plan to automatically scan Android apps selected for download by BlackBerry smartphone users. BlackBerry Guardian already combines automated and manual app analysis with Trend Micro’s Mobile App Reputation Service, and continuously monitors apps in the BlackBerry World online store.


Starting with the release later this year of the square-shaped BlackBerry Passport “phablet,” Guardian will autoscan any Android app that the device downloads from any source. Suspicious apps are flagged, and the user can cancel the installation or go forward with it. 


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Internet of things devices contain high number of vulnerabilities, study finds | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com

Internet of things devices contain high number of vulnerabilities, study finds | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A security audit of 10 popular Internet-connected devices—components of the so-called “Internet of things”—identified an alarmingly high number of vulnerabilities.


The study lasted three weeks and was performed by researchers from Hewlett-Packard’s Fortify division. It targeted devices from some of the most common IoT categories: TVs, webcams, home thermostats, remote power outlets, sprinkler controllers, hubs for controlling multiple devices, door locks, home alarms, scales and garage door openers.


All of the analyzed devices, which weren’t named in the resulting report published Tuesday, communicated with some type of cloud service, as well as mobile applications that allowed users to remotely control them.


The HP researchers identified a total of 250 vulnerabilities ranging from issues that could raise privacy concerns to serious problems like lack of transport encryption, vulnerabilities in the administration Web interface, insecure firmware update mechanisms and weak or poorly protected access credentials.


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AT&T defends benefits of proposed DirecTV merger | CNET.com

AT&T defends benefits of proposed DirecTV merger | CNET.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was in the hot seat in two different congressional hearings Tuesday defending his company's promised benefits and rationale for a proposed merger with satellite TV provider DirecTV.


During judiciary committee meetings in both the US Senate and House of Representatives, CEOs from AT&T and DirecTV reiterated the benefits of their $48.5 billion proposed merger, which includes expanded broadband access for all AT&T customers. The companies also emphasized that without such a merger neither company would be able to compete against cable giants like Comcast.


Public interest advocates from Free Press and Public Knowledge called AT&T's bluff on its promises, stating the company has made similar promises and justifications for each merger it's proposed since buying BellSouth in 2006.


"Again and again, AT&T makes the same arguments and the same promises when it wants to acquire a competitor," said John Bergmayer of Public Knowledge during the House Judiciary Committee hearing. "Yet no merger ever seems to be quite enough for it to achieve its goals, leaving AT&T ample headroom to re-promise and re-commit to the same goals the next time around."


This merger is the second major marriage between communications companies that the government is considering this year. Regulators are also reviewing a merger between the nation's largest and second largest cable operators Comcast and Time Warner. There are also rumors that the two smallest national wireless operators, Sprint and T-Mobile, will strike a deal to merge.


Even though the public opposition to the Comcast/Time Warner merger has been more intense than criticism of possible AT&T/DirecTV or Sprint/T-Mobile mergers, for many consumer advocates the deal between AT&T and DirecTV is another sign that the market is in danger of too much consolidation.


Generally speaking, AT&T is promising improved Internet access for rural customers, faster speed services for many of its customers, and greater efficiencies, which will allow it to invest more in its network. Specifically, in its public interest statement with the Federal Communications Commission it said it will "upgrade two million additional locations to high-speed broadband with GigaPower fiber to the premise and expand our high-speed broadband footprint to an additional 13 million locations."


Bergmayer of Public Knowledge said in his House testimony that it's hard to know if these promises are really above and beyond what AT&T has already promised. Matt Wood of Free Press reiterated this argument in his Senate testimony. AT&T has already allocated billions of dollars through its Project VIP to upgrade its wireless and wireline broadband networks, including the deployment of more fiber to at least 21 additional markets.


These critics each pointed out that when AT&T was seeking approval for its merger with T-Mobile in 2011, the company made similar arguments Then, AT&T said that it needed T-Mobile's spectrum in order to cost-effectively expand its 4G LTE network to 294 million potential customers.


At the time, AT&T's Stephenson said, "this transaction represents a major commitment to strengthen and expand critical infrastructure for our nation's future."


Regulators actually rejected AT&T's arguments, and the company withdrew its acquisition of T-Mobile. As a result, AT&T ended up giving T-Mobile wireless spectrum and paying a hefty break-up fee, which T-Mobile used to upgrade its own network. In spite of these setbacks and the loss of the merger, AT&T still managed to expand its 4G LTE network. The company is on track to cover more than 300 million potential customers with the service by the end of this summer.


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Sky Deutschland's Second Biggest Shareholder Rejects BSkyB's Offer

Sky Deutschland's Second Biggest Shareholder Rejects BSkyB's Offer | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Hedge fund manager Crispin Odey, who is the former son-in-law of Rupert Murdoch, has turned down an offer from U.K. pay TV operator BSkyB to buy his shares in Germany’s Sky Deutschland, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.


Odey’s hedge fund Odey Asset Management is Sky Deutschland’s second biggest shareholder, after Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, with a stake of around 8%.


Last week, BSkyB, which is controlled by 21st Century Fox, announced a deal to buy Fox’s 57% stake in Sky Deutschland, and its 100% shareholding in Sky Italia.


BSkyB intends to pay £2.9 billion ($4.92 billion) for Fox’s stake in Sky Deutschland, and offer the same share price for the remaining publicly traded shares, valuing them at €6.75 ($9.09) a share.


However, Odey Asset Management told the stock market Tuesday that it “does not intend to tender its shares in this proposed offer.” Odey believes the proposal, effectively a nil premium takeover offer, understates the company’s true value.


Odey told the Telegraph that while Sky Deutschland was already an expensive stock, it was “undervalued on a three-year basis” as there was significant growth in the German TV market.


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LPTVs Lobby for Digital Transition Relief | TVTechnology.com

LPTVs Lobby for Digital Transition Relief | TVTechnology.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Low-power TV stations are asking to get out from under a digital transition deadline requiring them build new facilities potentially rendered useless by next year’s spectrum incentive auction.


The Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance has requested a blanket extension or waiver of the Sept. 1, 2015 deadline for LPTV licensees to construct digital facilities. The incentive auction tentatively will take place next June. Non-Class A LPTVs will not be guaranteed a spot in the post-auction channel repacking.

“The commission has acknowledged consistently that requiring LPTV licensees to construct facilities that may be eliminated in repacking after the broadcast spectrum auction… makes no sense,” ATBA said in its petition to the FCC for an extension or waiver. “Without an extension of the applicable construction deadline, an LPTV permittee would have to build facilities that may be unusable after 2015.”

The ATBA, which represents 700 LPTVs, “hundreds of translators” and around 100 full-power stations, reasoned that the commission likely will be inundated with hundreds of individual waiver requests between now and the current Sept. 1, 2015 deadline, that it would to evaluate case-by-base. The commission’s Media Bureau has acknowledged granting more than 650 six-month construction deadline extensions, one at a time.

The commission is taking the petition under consideration and is now seeking comments via Docket. No. 03-185. The comment deadline is Aug. 14, 2014. Replies are due Aug. 29, 2014.

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Powerful new patent service shows every US invention, and a new view of R&D relationships | GigaOM Tech News

Powerful new patent service shows every US invention, and a new view of R&D relationships | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The website for the U.S. Patent Office website is famously clunky: searching and sorting patents can feel like playing an old Atari game, rather than watching innovation at work. But now a young inventor has come along with a tool to build a better patent office.


The service is called Trea, and was launched by Max Yuan, an engineer who received a patent of his own for a bike motor in 2007. After writing a tool to download patents related to his own invention, he expanded the process to slurp every patent and image in the USPTO database, and compile the information in a user-friendly interface.


Trea has been in beta for a while, but will formally launch on Wednesday. The tool not only provides an easy way to see what inventions a company or inventor is patenting, but also shows the fields in which they are most active. Here is a screenshot from Trea that shows what Apple has been up to in the last 12 months:


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Broadcasters Oppose Aereo's Bid To Restart DVR Service | MediaPost.com

Broadcasters Oppose Aereo's Bid To Restart DVR Service | MediaPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Aereo suspended its online streaming service days after the Supreme Court ruled against the company. But to the obvious chagrin of broadcasters, the Barry Diller-backed cord-cutting company is obviously hoping to find a way to continue with its business.


Not only is Aereo now arguing that it's a “cable system” and entitled to a compulsory license, but the startup is also trying to pave the way to resume its DVR service. Until last month, Aereo offered an $8 a month service that allowed users to stream over-the-air television shows in real time to their smartphones, tablets and other deivces. The company also let users “record” shows for playback at a later date.


Last week, Aereo asked the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to lift an injunction prohibiting the company from operating its DVR service. In response, a coalition of broadcasters says the court should reject Aereo's request on procedural grounds: The broadcasters say that the federal appeals court shouldn't consider Aereo's argument now, because it didn't raise the issue to U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball in Utah, who issued the injunction in February.


“Aereo ... made strategic decisions not to present certain arguments to the District Court, and now that it has lost in the Supreme Court it wants to make these 'Plan B' arguments for the first time in this appeal,” the broadcasters say in papers filed late last week.


Procedural technicalities aside, Aereo's argument ultimately could gain traction on the merits.


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GAO: FCC Can't Ensure Station-Sharing Limits Further Public Interest | Broadcasting & Cable

GAO: FCC Can't Ensure Station-Sharing Limits Further Public Interest | Broadcasting & Cable | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The FCC does not have enough data to determine whether its current of future policies toward station sharing arrangements—it has recently moved to limit them in some circumstances—actually serve the public interest, a shortfall that could undermine its goals.


That is one of the principal observations in a new Government Accountability Report on whether the FCC should review the effects of those broadcasters sharing arrangements on its media policy goals of competition, localism and diversity. GAO suggests that answer is yes, but leaves it up to the FCC to decide.


"[The] FCC does not collect data and has not completed a review on the prevalence of agreements, how they are used, or their effects on its policy goals and media ownership rules," said GAO in releasing the report, "yet federal standards for internal control note the importance of agencies' having information that may affect their goals. Without data and a fact-based analysis of how agreements are used, [the] FCC cannot ensure that its current and future policies on broadcaster agreements serve the public interest."


In addition to the lack of data, "the long delays in completing FCC's review makes it difficult to objectively determine the effect of the agreements on FCC's policy goals of competition, localism, diversity," GAO said.


In response to the report, FCC Media bureau chief Bill Lake agreed with the need for more info, and pointed out that the FCC has proposed requiring disclosure of sharing arrangements as a way to better understand their terms and prevalence in the marketplace.


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FCC Commissioners: FCC Needs to Review Designated Entity Rules | Broadcasting & Cable

FCC Commissioners: FCC Needs to Review Designated Entity Rules | Broadcasting & Cable | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

On a panel at the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council Access to Capital Conference in Washington Tuesday (July 29) the FCC commissioners Tuesday agreed that the FCC needs to look at revamping its designated entity rules [the chairman had a previous engagement, and so sent a brief video greeting].


MMTC has been pushing for a review of those rules to insure that minorities and women are not excluded from the move to wireless communications, as many were in the rise of broadcasting and cable.


Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said that, no matter what the pressure to do otherwise, she would not support the notion that entrepreneurship opportunities are reserved for a particular class. She vowed that the commission would do all it can, in a legally sustained way, to promote meaningful participation for small and diverse businesses.


Commissioner Ajit Pai said that the key to incentive auction participation, and that one way that he has proposed it allowing people to bid on smaller economic areas, which he said would allow more smaller DE's to bid in the upcoming AWS-3 and broadcast incentive auctions.


Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said that court decisions including Adarand and Council Tree have made DE rules less effective, and a review is necessary.


Commissioner O'Rielly said he was optimistic the incentive auction would be "very successful." To that point, he said the FCC had to balance helping designated entities with raising enough money for funding FirstNet, next-generation 911 and deficit reduction.


FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced an incentive auction timeline last month, that includes opening a proceeding to review the DE rules, "including whether any revisions made to the DE rules should apply to the incentive auction."


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Countries don't own their Internet domains, ICANN says | Stephen Lawson | NetworkWorld.com

Countries don't own their Internet domains, ICANN says | Stephen Lawson | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Internet domain name for a country doesn’t belong to that country—nor to anyone, according to ICANN.


Plaintiffs who successfully sued Iran, Syria and North Korea as sponsors of terrorism want to seize the three countries’ ccTLDs (country code top-level domains) as part of financial judgments against them. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which oversees the Internet, says they can’t do that because ccTLDs aren’t even property.


After the plaintiffs filed papers to ICANN seeking the handover of the domains, the organization said it sympathized with their underlying claims but filed a motion on Tuesday to quash the attempted seizure.


A ccTLD is the two-letter code at the end of a country-specific Internet address, such as .us for the U.S. or .cn for China. There are more than 280 of them, all of which need to have managers, administrative contacts and technical contacts who live in the countries they represent. The domains in this case are .ir for Iran and .sy for Syria, plus Arabic script equivalents for each, and .kp for North Korea.


But the domains aren’t property and don’t belong to the countries they point to, ICANN said. Instead, they’re more like postal codes, “simply the provision of routing and administrative services for the domain names registered within that ccTLD,” which are what let users go to websites and send to email addresses under those domains, ICANN wrote. If ICANN stepped in and reassigned the domains on its own, that would disrupt everyone who uses a domain name that ends in those codes, including individuals, businesses and charitable organizations, the group said.


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MA: Comcast moves to swallow Charter | Telegram.com

MA: Comcast moves to swallow Charter | Telegram.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Charter Communications Inc. could be leaving Massachusetts next year, if an agreement with Comcast Corp. is approved by federal and state officials.

"All assets of Charter in Massachusetts will become Comcast. Charter will carry on until the transaction is complete," said Timothy G. Murnane, vice president of external affairs for the Greater Boston region for Comcast's north central division.

He spoke Tuesday at an Oxford selectmen's meeting.

The complex Comcast/Charter transaction, announced in April, raises questions about the possible impact on cost and service.

Mr. Murnane said, "There will be no effect whatsoever" on prices, at least at first, though new choices, equipment and services will be offered.

The transfer of all 182,699 Massachusetts Charter customers in 53 communities to Comcast, which already has 1,488,659 customers in 246 Massachusetts communities, is one of several results of a merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, which Comcast is purchasing for $45.2 billion.

To gain approval from the Federal Communications Commission, Comcast agreed to divest itself of 3.9 million customers so that its "post-merger subscriber total" will be less than 30 percent of the total national multichannel video programming distributor subscriber base, according to Comcast.


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How Video Is Changing the Internet | Richard Bennett | GigaOM Tech News

How Video Is Changing the Internet | Richard Bennett | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The rise of video streaming is dramatically affecting the Internet, according to a two-year study of Internet traffic trends that Arbor Networks recently presented to the North American Network Operators Group.


Two years ago, Internet traffic was distributed evenly among a dozen Tier-1 network providers, but today the majority of traffic flows through direct peering agreements among large content providers, content delivery networks and ISPs.


Consequently, Tier-1 networks have shifted their business models from simple packet delivery to richer cloud computing and content hosting services, and new players Google and Comcast have joined the top 10 list of Internet traffic producers — and the more traffic they put on the Internet, the more control it gives them over your online experience.


Traffic is growing much faster than the 50 percent year-to-year rate found by studies such as the Minnesota Internet Traffic Study; yet the “exaflood” of video traffic hasn’t drowned the Internet because network operators have found more efficient paths. The dramatic shift in traffic patterns has to do with the rise of what Arbor calls “the Hyper Giants,” 30 large companies that contribute 30 percent of Internet traffic.


Thanks to YouTube, Google alone is responsible for 7 percent of all the traffic on today’s Internet, which puts it in the privileged position of prioritizing its VoIP and video calling services over YouTube without FCC permission.


The onslaught of video is also changing the nature of peering agreements. Traditionally, peering and so-called transit were very distinct from a revenue perspective: Peering agreements were “settlement free” arrangements in which packets changed hands between networks of roughly equal size and scope, but money didn’t.


Fee-based network interconnects were confined to “transit agreements” in which a large network operator connected a small player to the entire Internet for a fee; peering is also strictly a “one network to one other network” arrangement.


The new wrinkle is “paid peering” agreements in which a large operator permits direct connection for a small fee. Paid peering replaces transit fees that run $2-9 per Mbps with direct connection at $1-3, and enhances service, according to an article on Bill Norton’s “Ask Dr. Peering” web site which explains the value of Comcast’s paid peering and its potential collision with net neutrality regulations:


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The article by Richard Bennett was published by GigaOM on November 22, 2009 and raises issues now being dealt with yet again by the current FCC NN Rulemaking.

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iPhone gets first free app for encrypting voice calls | Jeremy Kirk | NetworkWorld.com

iPhone gets first free app for encrypting voice calls | Jeremy Kirk | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

An open-source project has released the first free application for the iPhone that scrambles voice calls, which would thwart government surveillance or eavesdropping by hackers.


Signal comes from Open Whisper Systems, which developed RedPhone and TextSecure, both Android applications that encrypt calls and text messages.


The application is compatible with RedPhone and eventually RedPhone and TextSecure will be combined in a single Android application and called Signal as well, according to a blog post.


Signal is notable for two reasons. First, it’s free. There are many voice call encryption products on the market for various platforms, most of which are not cheap and are aimed at enterprise users.


Second, Signal is open source code, meaning developers can look at the code and verify its integrity. That’s important because of concerns that software vendors have been pressured into adding “backdoors” into their products that could assist government surveillance programs.


The beauty of Signal is its simplicity. Setup requires verifying the device’s phone number through a one-time code that is sent by SMS. Signal displays only the contact details of the other user who has it installed.


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Tor hints at possible U.S. government involvement in recent attack | Jon Gold | NetworkWorld.com

Tor hints at possible U.S. government involvement in recent attack | Jon Gold | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Hackers attacked the infrastructure of Tor, the anonymizing service, earlier this month in an incident that may have compromised a number of hidden services, according to an announcement posted today by the Tor Project’s director, Roger Dingledine.


Dingledine said that it’s possible the attack wasn’t carried out with malicious intent, although the effect is harmful in any case, potentially weakening Tor’s encryption and making it more vulnerable to a state actor attempting to compromise it.


“If the attack was a research project, it was deployed in an irresponsible way because it puts users at risk indefinitely into the future,” he said, suggesting that the researchers behind a recently-cancelled talk scheduled for Black Hat 2014 may be behind the attack.


“In fact, we hope they were the ones doing the attacks, since otherwise it means somebody else was,” Dingledine wrote.


The researchers in question are part of a team at Carnegie Mellon University that “works closely with the Department of Homeland Security,” according to a Washington Post report by Andrea Peterson from last week on the cancellation of the Black Hat talk.


Tor operates as a large-scale proxy network, encrypting and routing web communications through a series of randomized hosts around the world to protect the identities of users and obfuscate their activities from surveillance. Tor also provides the option of so-called hidden services, which uses servers configured to only accept incoming connections from the Tor network, allowing for secure email and the like.


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How the history of electricity explains municipal broadband | Brian Fung | WashPost.com

How the history of electricity explains municipal broadband | Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

With the fight over net neutrality still simmering, the Federal Communications Commission has opened up another front in the battle over the Internet's future. The agency wants to explore the possibility of helping cities build their own connections to the Internet and bypassing the commercial broadband providers like Verizon and Comcast that have generally served as America's onramps to the Web.


On Monday, the FCC opened up new proceedings for a pair of petitions asking for the government's help, and as with the net neutrality docket, members of the public can now weigh in on the issue for themselves. Should the FCC try to preempt state laws that block cities from building out publicly owned Internet infrastructure?


Skeptics have raised questions as to whether the federal government can legally intervene in states that have put up barriers to greater public investment in municipal broadband networks. But others, including one of the cities petitioning for federal assistance, say that there's a valuable precedent in U.S. history that shows why Washington shouldn't be afraid to step in.


The analogy they have in mind is electricity.


Unlike today, electricity wasn't always common or plentiful in the United States. Direct-current electricity was hard to transmit over long distances, because the power faded over long distances. Those limitations gave rise to lots of power plants being built in the 1890s that were meant to serve very small areas within a city. As technology improved, those small power plants led to much larger ones serving wider areas and more customers.


Eventually, the companies running these plants effectively got taken over by even bigger companies that held ownership stakes in numerous utility firms across the country. The Smithsonian Institution says that by 1932, the vast proportion of privately owned utility companies were held by just eight holding companies — and their operations were largely exempt from state regulatory oversight. The 1929 stock market crash did nothing to improve the holding companies' reputations. President Franklin Roosevelt vowed to reform the holding companies if he won reelection in 1932.


The following year, Roosevelt launched the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Rural Electrification Administration, among a number of other offices meant to provide power to those who'd been passed over by the privately owned utilities because those areas weren't as profitable. TVA in particular worked with cities like Chattanooga to provide affordable energy.


"TVA went in with the notion of, 'Let's make power cheap enough that the average person can afford it, and let's make money by selling on volume — not on massive margins," said Harold DePriest, chief executive of the public electric utility in Chattanooga, Tenn. "That worked for TVA. And at the time, it forced the private power companies to reduce the rates."


Chattanooga's electric utility, EPB, is among those who have petitioned for the FCC's help.


One of TVA's original directors, David Lilienthal, seemed to go about his work with a near religious belief in the power of technology, if applied correctly, to become a tool for what he called "grassroots democracy."


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FCC Chairman Questions Verizon's Decision to Throttle Some Heavy Users | Re/code.net

FCC Chairman Questions Verizon's Decision to Throttle Some Heavy Users | Re/code.net | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is questioning Verizon Wireless’ decision to slow connection speeds for certain customers during times of peak network congestion.


In a letter to the carrier, Wheeler pronounced himself “deeply troubled” by Verizon’s plans to slow connection speeds for a subset of its subscribers — those with older, unlimited data plans — during times when the network is experiencing high demand. The carrier has said that the plan, which is to take effect in October, is part of its network management strategy.


“‘Reasonable network management’ concerns the technical management of your network; it is not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams,” Wheeler wrote in a letter Wednesday. “It is disturbing to me that Verizon Wireless would base its ‘network management’ on distinctions among its customers’ data plans, rather than on network architecture or technology.”


Verizon said it would respond to Wheeler’s letter more fully once it has received and reviewed it. However, it defended the practice, which it described as limited in scope.


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MT: Study finds Missoula city, county should spend $10M on broadband | Missoula.com

MT: Study finds Missoula city, county should spend $10M on broadband | Missoula.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Missoula city and county should spend an estimated $10 million to build a fiber-optic network that would help public agencies and businesses that need fast, reliable Internet services, according to a “next generation” broadband study released Tuesday.


Magellan Advisors issued the report, which was commissioned by the Bitter Root Economic Development District. The proposed network would link more than 50 public entities, including Missoula County Public Schools, the University of Montana, health care centers, and city and county facilities.


“How do we deliver 21st century curriculum to kids in our schools without 21st century infrastructure?” said Councilwoman Caitlin Copple, chair of the Missoula City Council’s Economic Development Subcommittee.


A presentation on the full report takes place at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the council’s Committee of the Whole meeting in Council Chambers, 140 W. Pine St. The seed of the report came out of the Economic Development Subcommittee.


As proposed, the city and county together would invest $10 million toward a $17 million system, with the local government funds leveraging other money, Copple said. The local money would be paid through user fees, not taxes, and it would build roughly 60 miles of an “open access” fiber-optic network.


“Everybody has the same chance to use it,” Copple said.


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The Story of Cell Phone Unlocking Reform | Public Knowledge

The Story of Cell Phone Unlocking Reform | Public Knowledge | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

This is the story of the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act.


In late 2012, the iPhone 5s had just come out, President Obama had been reelected, and the Library of Congress issued an odd ruling. The ruling had to do with the digital locks that are in the software of everyone’s cellular phone, mostly put there by the carrier they originally signed up with for service. The Library of Congress said that consumers could no longer unlock the cell phones they owned in order to take the phones they own to other carriers, even though the Library of Congress had previously ruled in 2006 and 2010 that cell phone unlocking was legal and not a violation of copyright law.


This change in the law came as a part of a process that the Library of Congress has to go through according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Every three years, the Library issues rules on what digital locks people can and can’t legally break under copyright law. And while this convoluted process might seem esoteric, this particular ruling caused a real uproar, especially among several entrepreneurs, DIY-ers, and groups that worked on copyright, like Public Knowledge.


In response to the ruling, entrepreneur Sina Khanifar started a “We the People” petition to the White House in an effort to rally President Obama to oppose the Library’s decision. With advocates like Derek Khana amplifying the call for reform, the petition overwhelmingly succeeded and got the signatures of over 114,000 others who thought it was wrong that their ability to unlock their phones had been taken away. The White House came out in strong support of legislative action to overturn the Library of Congress and directed the FCC to start working on a voluntary solution with cell phone carriers. Still, a real solution that would restore the ability for consumers to unlock their phones was over a year away.


Following the We the People petition, media coverage picked up and several members of Congress introduced different bills, each trying to fix the problem. Early on, lots of people expressed skepticism that anything could succeed in the midst of a divided and highly partisan Congress.  However, many advocacy groups continued to keep up the drum beat on unlocking following the President’s response.


These groups, Public Knowledge among them, continued to have conversations about cell phone unlocking with congressional offices and explained the odd reversal by the Library of Congress, the importance of the issue to consumers, and the problems with the underlying law that causes the whole mess: the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.


One piece of legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate by the respective chairs of the Judiciary Committees, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. While this wasn’t the most ambitious of the bills available, it still represented a significant, positive change. We decided to support the bill, while also calling attention to the broader problems with the law. As the House version of the bill came to a vote, however, a new wrench was thrown into the works.


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UT: What’s the Latest on UTOPIA? | Transmission.xmission.com

UT: What’s the Latest on UTOPIA? | Transmission.xmission.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Since the inception of UTOPIA nearly a decade ago, I have managed XMission’s services on the 11 city municipal network in Utah.  


As such, I have earned a unique insider persective and understanding of not only UTOPIA’s current situation but also its long term challenges and successes.  In recent months, I have attended a figurative magnitude of city council meetings, private presentations, public inquiry sessions and open houses in which the proposal by Macquarie Capital has been discussed.


At these events, a number of thoughtful questions inevitably arise again and again.  I thought I would take a few minutes to address some of the ones I hear repeatedly asked by concerned citizens and city leaders, while bringing everyone up to speed on the current status of the Macquarie proposal and its traction with the member cities.


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Time Warner's Bewkes faces Wall Street grilling over Fox offer | NYPost.com

Time Warner's Bewkes faces Wall Street grilling over Fox offer | NYPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes will be first on the heat seat next week when he gets grilled by Wall Street over the media giant’s rejection of an $80 billion takeover bid from 21st Century Fox.


Bewkes was quick to rebuff Fox’s $85-a-share bid as too low earlier this month, saying the board decided the company can do better on its own. That puts pressure on Bewkes to explain why the stand-alone company is worth more than combined with Rupert Murdoch’s Fox, analysts said.


Both Time Warner and Fox are set to report earnings on Aug. 6, with Time Warner first up in the morning.


“The biggest outstanding question has to do with Time Warner’s assertion that the initial offer undervalues the company as it was $14 above where it had previously closed,” said analyst Michael Morris of Guggenheim Securities. “I’d like to hear more about why $85 is too low.”


Bewkes has his supporters, including former Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons. In a Bloomberg interview, Parsons called the initial offer inadequate.


“The price offered is way off the mark and the form of currency is way off the mark,” Parsons told Bloomberg.


Laura Martin at Needham & Co. said Time Warner will also face questions about its “poison pill”-styled takeover defense. The board moved to prevent its shareholders from calling special meetings, effectively blocking an unsolicited bid.


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Honig Defends MMTC Against 'Smears' | Broadcasting & Cable

Honig Defends MMTC Against 'Smears' | Broadcasting & Cable | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Minority Media & Telecommunications Council President David Honig came out swinging Tuesday against critics of the groups opposition to Title II and its support of the FCC's waiver to Grain Management, a minority tower company, and its leader, David Grain, who Honig said was akin to MMTC's Rosa Parks


That came in his keynote for MMTC's Access to Capital Conference in Washington.


Honig said MMTC, Rainbow Push and the over 40 other groups that joined in supporting the FCC's Sec. 706 approach to new net neutrality rules had studied the issue and did not believe a Title II approach made sense, an approach he called risky and irresponsible.


"You can't say these 42 organizations are too stupid to know what the net neutrality issue is about," he said, adding that the smears of his group smacked of....He did not finish the sentence, but if so, it probably would have been "racism."


He said the group had been pilloried for doing what it thought was right, and that while it has been "generally quiet" about the smears, "no more."  He said that MMTC would "take them on anywhere" that he had confidence in their research into the issue and that he would not allow anyone to continue to repeat a smear that was not true.


The defense came even before Honig could take to the rostrom. Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee, VP and chief research and policy offer for MMTC, said the organization would not tolerate "digital lynch mobs" trying to discredit Honig and MMTC.


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