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Why IP Will Be the Language of Smart Grids | NavigantResearch.com

Why IP Will Be the Language of Smart Grids | NavigantResearch.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Having completed research for Navigant Research’s forthcoming report, Smart Grid Communications Security, I’m now into the writing and modeling phase. 

 

As you might expect, the topic of IP-based communication came up a lot during the interviews.  There is nothing approaching consensus about IP in Smart Grids, and everyone has an opinion. 

 

Whenever I’m having trouble getting someone to talk, all I have to do is mention either IP or Linux, and then the floodgates open.  Dirty trick, I know, but it works.

 

So what do people think about IP in smart grids?  Well first, let me clarify that I mean all of smart grids.  Not only smart metering, but transmission networks, substations, and distribution networks too.  There appear to be three schools of thought:

 

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FCC Closing Loop On 2007 Franchise Decision | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com

FCC Closing Loop On 2007 Franchise Decision | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The FCC has circulated an item tying up some loose ends in a 2007 Second Report and Order to extend rules easing the awarding of franchises to new entrants, like telcos, to incumbent cable operators as well.

According to a source familiar with the item, which is only described as "Implementation of Section 621(a)(1) of the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 as amended by the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992," it confirms that FCC rule changes meant to prevent local franchising authorities from delaying the grant of franchises apply to incumbent cable operators as well, as telcos and other new entrants, and denies petitions to reconsider that decision in all but one part.

It has been circulated to the other commissioners for their vote, according to the FCC.

There had been some court challenges--in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals--to the FCC's decision. They have been on hold awaiting action on petitions at the FCC to reconsider the decision.

The practical impact is that the FCC won't have to keep telling the Sixth Circuit that it has not resolved those petitions yet.

The FCC launched the revamp of local franchising rules in 2006 to make sure localities were not "unnecessarily refusing" to award cable franchises to new entrants. In its first order, it eased the franchise path for those new entrants by, among other things, putting a shot clock on local franchise negotiations, limiting build-out requirements and franchise conditions, and capping public and government access channel investments.

It then issued a second Report and Order that extended most of those new rules to incumbent cable operators as well when their franchises came up for renewal, concluding that "to promote the federal goals of enhanced cable competition and accelerated broadband development, the Commission's rules regarding the local franchising process should be extended to incumbent cable operators."


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Attack campaign infects industrial control systems with BlackEnergy malware | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com

Attack campaign infects industrial control systems with BlackEnergy malware | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Since 2011 a group of attackers has been targeting companies that operate industrial control systems with a backdoor program called BlackEnergy.

“Multiple companies working with ICS-CERT have identified the malware on Internet-connected human-machine interfaces (HMIs),” the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT), a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said in a security advisory Tuesday.

HMIs are software applications that provide a graphical user interface for monitoring and interacting with industrial machinery. They are a component of SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems that are used in industrial environments.

ICS-CERT has not identified cases where the BlackEnergy malware was used to damage, modify or disrupt the processes controlled by the compromised HMIs and it’s not clear if attackers used those HMIs to gain deeper access into the industrial control systems.

The organization believes the BlackEnergy attackers targeted deployments of HMI products from three different vendors: General Electric’s Cimplicity HMI, Siemens’ SIMATIC WinCC and BroadWin’s WebAccess—also distributed by Advantech.

Cimplicity HMI installations were compromised through a vulnerability that GE issued a patch for in December 2013. However, ICS-CERT believes this group of attackers has been exploiting the vulnerability since at least January 2012.

“ICS-CERT is concerned that any companies that have been running Cimplicity since 2012 with their HMI directly connected to the Internet could be infected with BlackEnergy malware,” because attackers likely used automated tools to discover and compromise vulnerable systems, the organization said.


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MN: New plan for Lake County fiber optics | Duluth News Tribune

MN: New plan for Lake County fiber optics | Duluth News Tribune | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Four months after the first customers were connected to a new fiber optic network, the Lake County administrator has announced a fresh start.


Lake Connections, a telecommunications company owned by the county, started connecting Silver Bay and Two Harbors customers to Internet, telephone and TV services in June.

But in a news release Friday, Lake County Administrator Matthew Huddleston said an “alternate plan” had been formed.

The new plan stems from a late-August meeting with Rural Utility Services, the federal agency that provides money for the project, according to the news release. County officials said they were concerned about meeting federal timelines and having enough money to complete the project.

But the federal agency “responded by demanding a plan that demonstrates the project will be completed on time and on budget,” Huddleston said.

That led to the new plan, which will be presented to the Rural Utility Services, the release said.

Lake County received a $10 million grant and a $56 million loan.

Residents and businesses have continued to sign up for the service, said Jeff Roiland, Lake Connections’ general manager.

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Ecuador: CNT's CDMA mobile services switched off, in favour of LTE | TeleGeography.com

Ecuador’s National Telecommunications Council (Conatel) disclosed that as of 25 October 2014 CDMA mobile phones have ceased to be supported by the country’s last remaining CDMA network operator, state-owned Corporacion Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (CNT).


Conatel recorded that up until the switch-off there were 16,400 users still using the CDMA network. These users will be allowed a 30-day period to migrate their CDMA phone number to another network, after which unclaimed numbers will be cancelled, Conatel added in a statement reported by local news source ElComercio.


It is assumed, although not immediately confirmed, that the CDMA mobile voice network shutdown also includes internet/data services (based on CDMA2000 1xEV-DO Rev A), while on the other hand it is assumed that some fixed-wireless CDMA services (including CDMA-450 connections) will continue to be operated by CNT.


TeleGeography says that the full-service telco is focusing on expanding its 4G LTE mobile services, of which it is Ecuador’s sole provider, having launched its commercial LTE network in Q1 2014, although not introducing LTE handset packages until late-August 2014.


Auxiliary telecoms agency Supertel reports that CNT’s number of LTE subscribers more than doubled in September 2014 to 11,700 (while the bulk of its 686,000 total mobile users were on its 3G W-CDMA/HSPA+ network at that date).


Ecuador’s government expects to issue LTE concessions to CNT’s rivals, foreign-owned mobile operators Claro and Movistar, by the end of this year, deputy telecoms minister Alvaro Armijos was quoted as saying earlier this month, as negotiations which began in the summer drag on.

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More smart meters in Michigan, but with some privacy worries | Zlati Meyer | Detroit Free Press

More smart meters in Michigan, but with some privacy worries | Zlati Meyer | Detroit Free Press | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

An electrical meter that tracks energy usage more accurately, lets utilities deal with outages faster and could lead to lower monthly bills.

Lightbulb!

Currently, 1.5 million DTE Energy customers and 330,000 Consumers Energy customers have had advanced metering infrastructure — better known as smart meters — installed, according to Michigan's two biggest utilities. They're planning to add more than 1 million and 1.47 million respectively in the near future.

Smart meters use radio waves to send detailed usage information to the utilities about loads on the electrical grid, plus rate-payers can use data about their household demands to strategize about ways to curtail usage and cut their electrical costs.

Analog meters are "a one-way street of communication. The utility will send energy and it gets monitored by the meter. Post-energy use, you get a bill. The meter accurately reports what's there," said Patrick Hudson, manager of the smart grids section of the Michigan Public Service Commission. "Enter the two-way communication. ... The utility gets more information back from the customer, and the customer gets more information from the utility and closer to real time rather than after the fact."

But some fear this advance could also equal a further loss of privacy in our ultra-connected world.

Collected energy usage data could be sold to anyone from insurance companies to insomnia-aid peddlers. Broader issues include cybersecurity and how secure the metering reporting systems are. (Both DTE and Consumers say their policies prohibit sharing such information).

"Some people are sensitive to the fact anyone would want information about their daily habit," explained Janice Beecher, director of Michigan State University's Institute of Public Utilities. "Like a lot of things, there probably are some tradeoffs involved, like the Internet or smartphones, as we get enhancements to devices and services and Web sites and so on that we like."


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The Feds Want to Redefine TV, and That Has Cable Giants Nervous | Brendan Sasso | National Journal

The Feds Want to Redefine TV, and That Has Cable Giants Nervous | Brendan Sasso | National Journal | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Major cable companies are getting worried they could face stiffer competition from online video, thanks to a new government proposal.

The Federal Communications Commission is working on a plan to give online TV services all of the same regulatory perks that cable companies get. Putting online companies on equal footing with cable providers like Comcast could usher in a new wave of competition in the TV industry—potentially meaning more choices and lower prices for consumers.

The FCC is mulling the change just as online video is making major strides toward becoming a mainstream alternative to the established TV providers. HBO plans to offer online-only subscriptions next year, and CBS launched its own digital service earlier this month.

But the cable companies are opposed to the plan and are lobbying the FCC to reverse course. The cable companies also have an ace up their sleeves: They control the Internet access that the new video competitors depend on.

The FCC's proposal, which is still in its initial stages, would classify certain online video services in the same category as cable and satellite TV providers ("multichannel video programming distributors," in the legal terminology). The change would make it easier for the online companies to offer popular channels.

Under the plan, the online services would have the same right as cable companies to negotiate fairly for access to broadcast networks such as Fox and CBS. TV providers that also own cable channels (such as Comcast) wouldn't be allowed to block their online rivals from carrying those channels.

The proposal would apply only to online services that offer multiple streams of pre-scheduled programming. So the rules wouldn't cover Netflix and Hulu, which allow subscribers to watch videos whenever they want. But it would apply to services that are in the works from Sony, Dish Network, and Verizon. The controversial website Aereo, which shut down earlier this year after a loss at the Supreme Court, could also make a comeback.

Aides to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler are still drafting the proposal. The commission will have to vote to seek public comments before finalizing any regulatory changes.


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FCC Joins Worldwide Privacy Enforcement Network | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com

FCC Joins Worldwide Privacy Enforcement Network | John Eggerton |  Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The FCC said Tuesday (Oct. 28) that it has joined the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN), whose members include some 50 data protection authorities.

The network collaborates on cross-border privacy enforcement actions. The FCC joins the Federal Trade Commission in representing U.S. interests in GPEN.

“We live in an interconnected world where threats to consumer privacy and data security often require the cooperation of numerous law enforcement agencies around the world,” said Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, in announcing the FCC's participation in the network. “Every day Americans continue to have their personal data compromised by attacks from beyond our borders – like phone scams operated by identity thieves based thousands of miles away. If we are to detect, disrupt, and dismantle these persistent global privacy assaults, it is critical that we work closely with our international partners abroad, as well as our federal, state, and local partners here at home.”

The FCC just last week said it planned to fine two phone companies a total of $10 million for not sufficiently protecting data and exposing personal information of over 300,000 consumers on the Internet.


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Netherlands: Getting chipped: Why I will live with an NFC chip implant for a year | Rene Schoemaker | NetworkWorld.com

Netherlands: Getting chipped: Why I will live with an NFC chip implant for a year | Rene Schoemaker | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

There are days when even your wife thinks you're crazy. In my case one of those days was when I told her I decided to implant a near-field communication chip in my hand.

"You of all people? And that thing will stay in your arm for a year?" she asked incredulously. She had a point, of course, because I'm the one who always says that any possible breach of my own -- and my reader's -- privacy should be contested with all possible measures.

While that may be the case, I've been living with an NFC chip in my left hand since Sept. 25. It was implanted between my thumb and index finger, and I can tell you that it hurt quite a bit. But that was mainly because of all the TV camera people trying to film it, which dragged the process out from the normal five seconds to about 30 seconds.

I got chipped together with nine other volunteers during the IT Innovation Day organized by IDG Netherlands. The other volunteers and I will spend the next 12 months testing the use of an NFC chip in our daily lives to see whether having the chip implanted in our bodies is more useful than using a chip embedded on a card or in a smartphone.

So far, it has been pretty useless though. We are still in the process of coming up with possible applications such as using the chip to pay for public transportation or in shops and restaurants.


I'm most interested in the possible negative consequences of being chipped, though. What kind of privacy and security breaches would I expose myself to, for instance?


I have already had contact with a well-known global IT-security firm about a program that can install malware on smartphones by using the chip in my hand. If you can get spyware on a phone, you can easily snoop on people, for example, your spouse or your boss. But perhaps we will try to get our hands on our secretary of Justice and Homeland Security to show how easy it is to breach security.


The chip is a showcase to make people think more about security when it comes to new technology.


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Backbone business deals blamed for broadband congestion | Grant Gross | ComputerWorld.com

Backbone business deals blamed for broadband congestion | Grant Gross | ComputerWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Business relationships between major broadband providers and Internet backbone providers appear to be the cause of major drags on performance from early 2013 to early this year, according to a new study from a think tank advocating for strong net neutrality rules.


Five major U.S. broadband providers, including Comcast, AT&T and Verizon Communications, saw major performance degradation during those months, according to the study published Tuesday by the New America Foundation's Measurement Lab Consortium [M-Lab].

Broadband providers questioned the study, saying it wasn't able to pinpoint the exact cause of congestion.

For some customers of major broadband providers, download speeds were less than 0.5 Mbps for months at a time, said M-Lab, which used network diagnostic tools installed on Internet backbone providers' networks.

M-Lab found frequent traffic congestion problems when specific broadband providers were connected with specific backbone providers, the study said. "From this we conclude that ISP interconnection has a substantial impact on consumer Internet performance -- sometimes a severely negative impact -- and that business relationships between [broadband and backbone providers], and not major technical problems, are at the root of the problems we observed," the study said.

The study resurrects a contentious debate about whether proposed net neutrality rules at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission should apply to backbone interconnection deals. That debate, dating back to Netflix complaints about Comcast in 2010, has flared up during the past year as the FCC debates new net neutrality rules.

The New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute has advocated for strong net neutrality regulations. The foundation gets funding from several sources, including net neutrality supporters Netflix and Google.

Broadband providers disputed the conclusions of the study, however. While the study points to backbone business relationships as the cause of traffic degradation, it isn't able to pinpoint which business relationships were the problem, said David Young, vice president of public policy at Verizon.

Other studies have pointed to Netflix business deals as the cause of traffic degradation, broadband providers said. "This is a problem that's been discussed pretty extensively and documented pretty extensively," Young said.

AT&T didn't mention Netflix by name, but said commercially negotiated traffic peering agreements on the Internet need to be balanced.


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Comcast Starts To Deploy IP-Only Boxes For X1 | Jeff Baumgartner | Multichannel.com

Comcast Starts To Deploy IP-Only Boxes For X1 | Jeff Baumgartner | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Comcast confirmed that it has begun to introduce an all-IP HD client video for its X1 platform in select markets around the country.

A Comcast official said the MSO is starting to deploy the new Pace-made device slowly in a number of unidentified markets, but added that Comcast expects the device to become “widely available across our footprint in Q1 or Q2 of next year.”

 

Comcast hasn’t made a formal announcement about the deployment of the Xi3, but word that it is being offered on select markets has begun to appear on Comcast message boards about X1, the MSO’s next-gen video platform that is currently being anchored by the XG1, a hybrid (MPEG/IP) HD-DVR that’s the MSO is presently sourcing from Arris and Pace.

 

The new Xi3 model (referred to as a “non-DVR HDMI Only” device on the Comcast support site) can work in tandem with the XG1, though it's expected to also work with an emerging class of “headless” gateways as well. According to data on the Comcast site about the Xi3, the model does support the MSO’s whole-home DVR architecture, but doesn’t yet support DVR trick-play functions such as pause and rewind. Update: Comcast said the only DVR-related function that is not currently supported on the Xi3 is "pause," but noted that it the function will be added to the mix by the end of the year.

 

The Xi3, however, is capable of using the X1’s full complement of applications, and it’s anticipated that it will also work with Comcast’s new Cloud DVR product.

 

All of Comcast’s X1-class boxes are based on the Reference Design Kit (RDK), a preintegrated software stack for IP-capable devices that’s being managed by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Liberty Global.


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Cities’ fiber announcements are great, “but no one should uncork the champagne” | Jon Brodkin | Ars Technica

Cities’ fiber announcements are great, “but no one should uncork the champagne” | Jon Brodkin | Ars Technica | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Our weeklong virtual conference, Ars UNITE, kicked off today with an examination of how city and town governments are going the extra mile to improve residential broadband.


After our feature on the topic—“Fed up, US cities take steps to build better broadband”—we hosted a live discussion with four experts: Blair Levin, a former FCC official who oversaw the development of the National Broadband Plan under President Obama and now the executive director of the Gig.U fiber initiative; Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance; Will Aycock, operations manager of Greenlight Community Broadband in Wilson, North Carolina; and Ted Smith, chief of the Civic Innovation office in Louisville, Kentucky.


To wrap up day one, let’s take a look at what readers and experts had to say. After a summary, we’ll post a lightly edited transcript of the live discussion.


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John Rinehart's curator insight, October 29, 10:55 AM

Great insights on the state of municipal fiber networks. Good insight on the political handcuffs that limit to potential for the communities these networks serve. 

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CA: San Francisco mayor signs law making Airbnb legal | Dara Kerr | CNET

CA: San Francisco mayor signs law making Airbnb legal | Dara Kerr | CNET | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signed on the dotted line on Monday and officially legalized peer-to-peer home sharing in the city -- a practice that is touted through websites like Airbnb.

"Now, San Franciscans who just want to share their home with occasional visitors will have a clear set of rules and restrictions to earn extra money to make ends meet," Lee said in a statement.

San Francisco is one of the first cities in the world to make short-term rentals legal -- but, it's been a long road. Legislators have held countless meetings and forums over the past two years to hammer out the bill, which has faced opposition from a range of players, including hotel owners, affordable housing advocates and landlords. Airbnb still faces obstacles and roadblocks from lawmakers in other cities that haven't been as receptive to their business.


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iPhone, Android users unite to boycott anti-Apple Pay retailers | Colin Neagle | NetworkWorld.com

iPhone, Android users unite to boycott anti-Apple Pay retailers | Colin Neagle | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A Redditor really describes this situation better than anyone else could: "an unholy alliance forged in the fires of hate."

An expletive-laden post (on Reddit, I know, I was surprised too) to the r/Apple subreddit invites its rival r/Android subreddit to join in a boycott against retailers that are disabling near-field communication (NFC) payment terminals.

The bipartisan boycott comes days after pharmacies CVS and RiteAid disabled their stores’ NFC terminals after learning that they were compatible with Google Wallet and the recently released Apple Pay. CVS and RiteAid are both members of a retailer consortium called the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), which reportedly plans to release a competing mobile payment offering, called CurrentC, in early 2015. Since mobile payments systems can only succeed if retail stores support them, MCX companies appear to be attempting to nip the threat of Apple Pay in bud.

Disabling the NFC terminals also means alienating users of NFC-enabled Android smartphones that employ Google Wallet, thus providing the two opposing legions of fanatics a common enemy and a rare cause for which to join forces.

The r/Windows Phone subreddit also appears to be showing support, which is kind of adorable. The r/Windows Phone post had about 3,000 fewer votes at the time this was published.

If the boycott actually reaches enough users, it could impact many more retailers than just CVS and RiteAid. The Reddit post lists all retailers linked to the MCX’s mobile payment system, which includes 7-11, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Dunkin' Donuts, ExxonMobil, K-Mart, Lowe's, Southwest Airlines, and Wal-Mart, among many others listed on the MCX website.

The show of support from users explains Apple’s blasé statement in response to the snub from MCX companies, which appears to have been intended only to show how little Apple is worried about them:


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FBI demands new powers to hack into computers and carry out surveillance | Ed Pilkington | The Guardian

FBI demands new powers to hack into computers and carry out surveillance | Ed Pilkington | The Guardian | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The FBI is attempting to persuade an obscure regulatory body in Washington to change its rules of engagement that would grant it significant new powers to hack into and carry out surveillance of computers throughout the US and around the world.

Civil liberties groups warn that the proposed rule change amounts to a power grab by the agency that would ride roughshod over strict limits to searches and seizures laid out under the fourth amendment of the US constitution, as well as violating first amendment privacy rights. They have protested that the FBI is seeking to transform its cyber capabilities with minimal public debate and with no congressional oversight.

The regulatory body to which the Department of Justice has applied to make the rule change, the advisory committee on criminal rules, will meet for the first time on November 5 to discuss the issue. The panel will be addressed by a slew of technology experts and privacy advocates concerned about the possible ramifications were the proposals allowed to go into effect next year.

“This is a giant step forward for the FBI’s operational capabilities, without any consideration of the policy implications. To be seeking these powers at a time of heightened international concern about US surveillance is an especially brazen and potentially dangerous move,” said Ahmed Ghappour, an expert in computer law at UC Hastings college of the law who will be addressing next week’s hearing.

The proposed operating changes related to rule 41 of the federal rules of criminal procedure, the terms under which the FBI is allowed to conduct searches under court-approved warrants. Under existing wording, warrants have to be highly focused on specific locations where suspected criminal activity is occurring and approved by judges located in that same district.

But under the proposed amendment, a judge can issue a warrant that would allow the FBI to hack into any computer, no matter where it is located. The change is designed specifically to help federal investigators carry out surveillance on computers that have been “anonymized” – that is, their location has been hidden using tools such as Tor.


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Apple downplays disruptive potential of Apple SIM, while carriers rush to protect turf | Jared Newman | NetworkWorld.com

Apple downplays disruptive potential of Apple SIM, while carriers rush to protect turf | Jared Newman | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Although Apple's latest cellular iPads include a carrier-agnostic SIM card, users shouldn't get their hopes up for an iPhone version.

The so-called Apple SIM works with AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, and lets users select their carrier through the iOS settings menu. Because it's theoretically so easy to switch between carriers, some tech observers have hailed the carrier-agnostic card as a disruptive force within the wireless industry.

But Apple doesn't see it that way, at least not yet. According to Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of iPhone, iPod and iOS product marketing, the company hasn't even discussed putting the Apple SIM inside of smartphones. Speaking at Re/code's Code Mobile conference, Joswiak explained that most iPhones are sold through wireless carriers, and they won't be so eager to hook customers up with a SIM card that facilitates easy switching. “I don't think you're going to go to the Verizon store and say, 'Can you hook me up with AT&T?'” he said.

As for why the iPad includes Apple SIM, Joswiak said the company sells most of its tablets through the Apple Store, where it's just easier to give customers the iPad and let them choose the carrier themselves.

There's also another reason that Joswiak didn't mention: With the iPad, Apple sells a single cellular model that works with any network. But with the iPhone, it's not so simple. Verizon and Sprint don't use SIM cards for voice service, and they don't provision their phones for each others' networks. An iPhone purchased through AT&T or T-Mobile won't work on Sprint's network, and will only work with LTE data on Verizon. A carrier-agnostic SIM card alone doesn't resolve those issues.


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Apple Pay vs. CurrentC: Which will retailers choose? | Steven Max Patterson | NetworkWorld.com

Apple Pay vs. CurrentC: Which will retailers choose? | Steven Max Patterson | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

CVS and RiteAid’s much-derided break with Apple Pay makes perfect sense for them.


Apple Pay, like Uber, is a good product with a great user experience, but unlike Uber, Apple Pay is not disruptive. Apple Pay won’t reduce costs or improve efficiency in the credit card payments industry, which taxes merchants 2% to 5% of top-line revenues to pay transaction fees. Merchants’ acceptance of Apple Pay is for their consumers’ convenience, no different than accepting cash, checks, and credit cards. Saving the consumer the time it takes to put down his or her iPhone to pull out a credit card is Apple Pay’s only advantage.


Currently, at least three organizations are involved in every credit card transaction: the merchant acquirer bank that represents the merchant taking the payment, the issuing bank that issues the credit card to the consumer making the payment, and the credit card company that transfers the funds between them. All share the fees.


Now Apple has its hand out for its share of the fees attributable to credit card transactions with Apple Pay. The merchant cost of Apple Pay transactions will be the same or more than a regular credit card transaction. Where is the efficiency from disruptive industry restructuring that accompany the growth and make tech companies legends? There isn't any.


CVS and Rite Aid, the second- and third-largest pharmacies in the U.S., are part of a consortium led by Wal-Mart called the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) that is building a cheaper mobile payment system for retailers called CurrentC. If Wal-Mart could bypass credit cards and convert all Apple Pay and credit card fees at 2% to debit cards fees at 0.5% by adopting CurrentC, the impact on the company’s profits and market capitalization would be significant.


A back-of-the-envelope estimate using Wal-Mart’s 2014 income statement offers a very compelling reason to break with credit cards and never accept Apple Pay; Wal-Mart would realize a $3.6 billion increase in profits and a $55 billion increase in the value of its investors’ shares. Even if the Wal-Mart’s profit improvement is half this estimate, the magnitude will intrigue senior management paid on the company’s financial performance.

Though information is limited on CurrentC’s website, it indicates that QR codes will be used to generate a one-time payment transaction code, read at the checkout counter. QR codes don’t compare in user experience with touching an iPhone to an in-store NFC reader.


CurrentC is limited to QR codes because Apple has locked out other payment providers from using the iPhone’s secure element necessary for secure transactions.


Softcard, the consortium of AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, also lock out other payment providers from using the secure element in the Android smartphones they sell unless they get a piece of the credit card fee action. QR codes are the only payment method that will work on Android and iOS that bypass the credit card tax.


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Aereo Applauds FCC OTT Definitional Move | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com

Aereo Applauds FCC OTT Definitional Move | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's circulation of a proposal to define some over-the-top video providers as MVPDs with program access rights drew immediate responses from some interested stakeholders.

Aereo, which sees the move as a possible path to a workable business plan for its own over-the-top programming service, was, not surprisingly, pleased by the development.

“This is an important step in the right direction for consumers," said Aereo CEO and founder Chet Kanojia. "Clarifying the definition of MVPD to encompass linear online video distributors will create a stronger, more competitive television landscape for consumers."

"By moving this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) forward, the FCC will provide much-needed regulatory clarity and a clear set of rules for linear video programming systems, which ultimately, will increase investment in the video programming market."

“The way people consume television is rapidly changing and our laws and regulations have not kept pace. By clarifying these rules, the FCC is taking a real and meaningful step forward for competition in the video market. The FCC recognizes that when competition flourishes, consumers win.”

The American Cable Association is still looking for action out of the FCC on program access rule reforms. It did not comment directly on the proposal, but instead used it as a jumping-off point for its call for that reform, a point it made after Multichannel News first broke the story of the proposal last month.


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Wilson, NC on Public’s Vital Role in Deploying High Capacity Broadband | CLIC

Wilson, NC on Public’s Vital Role in Deploying High Capacity Broadband | CLIC | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

CLIC readers should enjoy this detail from Wilson, NC’s Reply comments on the the vital role the public plays in the deployment of high capacity broadband for our country:

“…the Commission must also seek to ensure that America makes adequate progress in deploying high-capacity broadband networks. Why is this critically important? As CenturyLink candidly acknowledges in its opposition, “From an economic development, education, healthcare and public safety standpoint, fiber-based broadband is certainly in the best interest of the nation.” 4 Similarly, AT&T claims that it “shares petitioners’ desire to ensure that all Americans, including, but not limited to, those living in and around Chattanooga and Wilson, have access to world class broadband infrastructure.”5

“…Unfortunately,… the opposition does not want communities to play a significant role … According to AT&T and USTA, the Commission has a better option – it should subsidize extensions of low-bandwidth private networks through federal programs such as the Connect America Fund.6 In other words, it is fine for the federal government to subsidize low-capacity private networks, but it is inappropriate for communities to invest in their own state-of-the-art fiber networks, from which they and the Nation have so much to gain.”

The Reply comments then go on to quote Senator John McCain who, ten years ago, described what he saw as the appropriate policy framework for viewing the role of the public sector in deploying broadband networks:

“… when private industry does not answer the call because of market failures or other obstacles, it is appropriate and even commendable, for the people acting through their local governments to improve their lives by investing in their own future. In many rural towns, the local government’s high-speed Internet offering may be its citizens only option to access the World Wide Web.”

Summing it up, Wilson states:

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Verizon is scared of the truth | T.C. Sottek | The Verge

Verizon is scared of the truth | T.C. Sottek | The Verge | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In the last decade the written word has been devoted largely to declaring the death of the written word. The harbingers of journalism's doom refer to dramatic charts, like this one from The Pew Research Center, that show a precipitous decline in newspaper advertising revenue.


Fortunately, though, the internet is here to fill the content void, and we have technology barons to thank for becoming our new media benefactors.


Amazon's Jeff Bezos, who once peddled quesadillas for Taco Bell, bought The Washington Post last year at a bargain. eBay founder Pierre Omidyar poached prolific security state reporter Glenn Greenwald to start his own publication, The Intercept. Even Facebook wants to get in on the action by convincing publishers to simply give up and post their shit directly on Facebook.

And now, there's Verizon.

Verizon is backing a publication called Sugarstring that covers technology, culture, and entertainment. All of the advertisements on Sugarstring are for Verizon. The color palette — red, everywhere — screams Verizon. Its about page, which says "Sugarstring publishes thoughtful tech-focused stories that track humanity's climb towards the new next" appears to have been written by a corporate robot employed by Verizon. Every page brandishes a badge to let you know that the content you have just consumed has been ᴘʀᴇsᴇɴᴛᴇᴅ ʙʏ ᴠᴇʀɪᴢᴏɴ. There's just two things Verizon won't be presenting, which happen to be two of the biggest stories in the world right now: stories about how Verizon is fucking over America.


As The Daily Dot has learned, Sugarstring expressly prohibits its reporters from writing anything about domestic surveillance or net neutrality. (But reporting on foreign surveillance, The Daily Dot noted, is just fine!)


If you've been reading the news for the past year, you'll know that Verizon is heavily involved in both of these areas. As the country's largest wireless provider it was one of the first companies implicated in the NSA's scandalous call record collection program. And as one of the country's largest internet service providers it has thrown its weight behind killing net neutrality and making the internet worse for everyone.


The irony in Verizon's censorship is palpable. The following passage from Sugarstring appears in an article on the internet's "morality police."


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FCC moves to treat online video like cable, a boon for Aereo | Joe Mullin | Ars Technica

FCC moves to treat online video like cable, a boon for Aereo | Joe Mullin | Ars Technica | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

TV-over-Internet company Aereo, shut down this summer by a Supreme Court decision, may still pull victory from the jaws of defeat. As was rumored last month, the FCC may be its savior.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler published a blog post today saying that Aereo, and other "linear channels" of online programming, should be allowed to negotiate for programming just like cable companies. Just like satellite companies needed regulatory change in order to be allowed to compete in 1992, Internet video providers should be able to negotiate on the same terms, he wrote.

While Wheeler writes that "Aereo visited the commission to make exactly this point," he emphasizes that this isn't a rule that would be for just one company. Dish, Sony, Verizon, and DirecTV have all showed interest in offering preprogrammed content online, he noted; CBS and HBO, which recently announced it would offer online-only service, may well join in. Wheeler wrote, in part:


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FTC's Ramirez: No Net Management Defense for AT&T 'Throttling' | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com

FTC's Ramirez: No Net Management Defense for AT&T 'Throttling' | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In a press conference with reporters Tuesday (Oct. 28), Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said that according to evidence it collected, AT&T's "throttling" of unlimited data plan users was not directly related to any network management issues.

"In our view," said Ramirez, "based on evidence," the AT&T plan limits "had no direct relation to any type of network congestion." An FTC official said that the "throttling" trigger was when use reached a threshold, after which it would be limited through the rest of the billing cycle, even if it was not a peak period or did not involve a congested cell site. By contrast, he said, a tiered customer could be using data at a peak period and not be throttled.

Ramirez said the FTC would prove that in court.

The FTC Tuesday filed suit against AT&T saying it had failed to disclose to customers with those plans how decision back in 2010 to stop offering those unlimited plans would affect grandfathered customers. Ramirez said it was the first such "throttling" action the FTC has taken.

AT&T responded in a statement that it had informed those customers through bill stuffers and an e-mail of its efforts to "manage its network resources to provide the best possible service to all customers."

Asked about AT&T's response that the charges were "baseless," Ramirez said the FTC saw it differently. She said the FTC could prove in court that AT&T did not adequately disclose its "throttling: program or the extent to which it would be reducing speeds, and that when grandfathered customers were renewing their plans, it did not adequately inform them of the impact on services provided."


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Cox Starts Gigabit Rollout In Virginia | Jeff Baumgartner | Multichannel.com

Cox Starts Gigabit Rollout In Virginia | Jeff Baumgartner | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Cox Communications followed up its recent launch of Gigabit services in Phoenix by announcing a limited rollout of 1-Gig in Virginia, starting with new homes at the Viridian Reserve at Hickory in Chesapeake.

Cox laid claim to being the first “national communications provider” in the state to commit to a residential Gigabit Internet strategy.


The Virginia announcement comes after Cox announced earlier this year that it will begin market-wide deployment of gigabit speeds by the end of 2016. Earlier this month, Cox began to roll out its new service, branded as “G1GABLAST,” in Phoenix, where the MSO will initially offer it to more than 5,000 homes there this year, and ramp that up to 150,000 homes in Phoenix by the end of 2015. Cox has also identified Las Vegas and Omaha among markets that will get access to Gigabit speeds in the early phases of deployment.

 

The number of homes that initiallyi will have access to the new offering in Virginia as well as anticipated pricing on the product weren’t immediately known. In Phoenix, Cox is selling 1-Gig for $99 per month as a stand-alone service, and $69.99 per month when bundled with other Cox services.


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Feds pave way for online TV | Julian Hattem | The Hill

Feds pave way for online TV | Julian Hattem | The Hill | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to bring cable television to the Internet.

The agency on Tuesday circulated a draft change to its rules that would open the door to online TV options that go above and beyond Netfix, Hulu and similar services.

The new proposal would allow Web-based companies to compete on a level playing field with cable and satellite companies, according to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

“Twenty-first century consumers shouldn’t be shackled to rules that only recognize 20th century technology,” he said in a blog post explaining the draft proposal.

“Taking advantage of this rule, new [Web-based television companies] may offer smaller or specialized packages of video programming, so consumers will be able to mix-and-match to suit their tastes,” he added. “And perhaps consumers will not be forced to pay for channels they never watch.”


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Why Quantum "Clippers" Will Distribute Entanglement Across The Oceans | MIT Technology Review

Why Quantum "Clippers" Will Distribute Entanglement Across The Oceans | MIT Technology Review | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

One possible future for communication is to create a quantum version of the internet that will have the ability, among other things, to send information with perfect security. This network will use entangled photons to transmit information from one locations to another without it passing through the space in between, hence the security.

Photons can only travel hundred kilometres or so through optical fibres before being absorbed. Conventional optical networks get around this with repeaters that boost the optical signal as it passes by.

This is more difficult with a quantum network but physicists have already tested many of the building blocks necessary to make quantum repeaters work. Nevertheless, quantum repeaters will be delicate pieces of kit, operating close to absolute zero with all the necessary cooling and power that is also required.

That should be relatively straightforward for quantum networks that stretch across land. But it is entirely unsuitable for undersea cables where conditions are far more hostile and the absence of infrastructure is a potential showstopper.

In fact, nobody is quite sure how it will be possible to operate the number of quantum repeaters necessary to carry one half of an entangled photon pair across the Atlantic or the Pacific. And without any technology even on the horizon that can do this job, there is a very real possibility that the quantum Internet might only ever consist of isolated quantum islands on different continents.

Today, Simon Devitt from Ochanomizu University in Japan and a few pals have come up with a way to solve this problem. Their idea is to transport the quantum bits or qubits across the ocean on a containership, a kind of quantum Clipper, that will shuttle back and forth across the seas with a ghostly quantum load.

Devitt and co say the idea is the quantum equivalent of the sneakernet, an informal name for the practice of moving classical information stored on memory sticks or other physical media. One of the big disadvantages of the sneakernet is the time it takes to transport information from one location to another, the so-called latency of the system.

But Devitt and co point out that this will not be a problem for the quantum Internet because information will not be carried on board the containership. Instead, the resource in transit is entanglement, the strange quantum phenomena in which two quantum objects share the same existence even when they are vast distances apart.

The information transport occurs later when each half of the entangled pair is on opposite sides of the ocean. Then, a measurement on one particle immediately determines the state of the other on the other side of the planet, a phenomena that physicists can use to transmit information with perfect security.

So by shipping large quantities of qubits, Devitt and co say it will be possible to send information at bandwidths measured in teraahertz. That’s faster than a quantum internet connected together with quantum routers. “Bandwidth in excess of one terahertz is feasible under realistic physical assumptions, exceeding even the fastest proposals for traditional repeater networks,” they conclude.

That’s the theory. The devil will be in the detail.


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Secretive, unblockable Verizon perma-cookies kick up privacy concerns | Ian Paul | NetworkWorld.com

Secretive, unblockable Verizon perma-cookies kick up privacy concerns | Ian Paul | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Verizon Wireless has kicked up something of a privacy scandal in recent days over how it tampers with user's web traffic sent via the company's wireless network. Hoping to cash in on lucrative advertising dollars from mobile devices, Verizon inserts a unique string of letters and numbers into individual users' HTTP requests that can be used to identify a specific device.

These strings, called a Unique Identifier Header (UIDH), are inserted into almost every web request a Verizon user makes on the company's network, security researchers say. The UIDH is supposed to be used for Verizon's advertising program. The carrier also told Wired it doesn't use the UIDH to create profiles of its customers.

But since the UIDH is bundled into every plain text web request a user makes the strings are public and can thus be used as tracking beacons by anyone who knows to look for them.

Why this matters: Dealing with browser cookies, the most common way to track users online, is one thing. But those little text files stored in your browser can be deleted or blocked. Verizon's UIDH scheme is much harder to deal with or even discover, because the company inserts the UIDH into your web request at the network level. “ISPs are trusted connectors of users and they shouldn’t be modifying our traffic on its way to the Internet,” Jacob Hoffman-Andrews, a senior staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Wired.

Imagine an ad network discovered the existence of these UIDHs. The company could start recording them across multiple websites that show its ads. Pretty soon, the ad network could build a profile about users based on this information.

"Any website can easily track a user," Jonathan Mayer, a computer scientist and lawyer at Stanford said in a recent blog post regarding UIDHs. "Regardless of cookie blocking and other privacy protections. No relationship with Verizon is required."

Verizon told Wired that users can opt-out of having their device tracked as part of the company's advertising scheme. However, even if you opt-out it appears Verizon will still insert a UIDH into your web traffic rendering the opt-out pointless.

It's not clear how long a specific UIDH lasts, but it seems the unique string persists at least over several days perhaps even a week. We've asked Verizon for comment and will update this post should the company respond.


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