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Why Time Warner Cable Can Jack Up Rates Willy-Nilly: Lack of Competition | Stop the Cap!

Why Time Warner Cable Can Jack Up Rates Willy-Nilly: Lack of Competition | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Although cable and phone companies love to declare themselves part of a fiercely competitive telecommunications marketplace, it is increasingly clear that is more fairy tale than reality, with each staking out their respective market niches to live financially comfortable ever-after.


In the last week, Time Warner Cable managed to alienate its broadband customers announcing another rate increase and a near-doubling of the modem rental fee the company only introduced as its newest money-maker last fall. What used to cost $3.95 a month will be $5.99 by August.


The news of the “price adjustment” went over like a lead balloon for customers in Albany, N.Y., many who just endured an 18-hour service outage the day before, wiping out phone and Internet service.


“They already get almost $60 a month from me for Internet service that cuts out for almost an entire day and now they want more?” asked Albany-area customer Randy Dexter. “If Verizon FiOS was available here, I’d toss Time Warner out of my house for good.”


Alas, the broadband magic sparkle ponies have not brought Dexter or millions of other New Yorkers the top-rated fiber optic network Verizon stopped expanding several years ago. The Wall Street dragons complained about the cost of stringing fiber. Competition, it seems, is bad for business.


In fact, Verizon Wireless and Time Warner Cable are now best friends. Verizon Wireless customers can get a fine deal — not on Verizon’s own FiOS service — but on Time Warner’s cable TV. Time Warner Cable originally thought about getting into the wireless phone business, but it was too expensive. It invites customers to sign up for Verizon Wireless service instead.


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Will spectrum auctions disappear public TV? | Pat Aufderheide | CMSIimpact.org

Will spectrum auctions disappear public TV? | Pat Aufderheide | CMSIimpact.org | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In an important op-ed in public TV’s industry bible, Current, longtime public TV advocate (and spectrum guru) John Schwartz highlights a grim reality: the FCC’s recent Report and Order on spectrum auctions could jeopardize the future of public TV.


The problem: Public TV stations, like all other TV stations, can put their spectrum up for auction, and do what they like with the proceeds. Some of them are taking the opportunity not only to sell, but to close, as Elizabeth Jensen recently explained in the New York Times. Under the law and the internal regulations of public broadcasting, none of them has any obligation to do more than, say, pay their executives higher salaries with the money. 


And this despite the fact that American taxpayers have invested billions in the existence of a national network of stations with local presence and reach in 98% of the nation. 


Public TV, a headless horseman of a network, has no central planning entity, so there’s no one to coordinate how to maintain a national network of local stations that can air local news, Independent Lens,  or Downtown Abbey.  The Association of Public TV Stations, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS all asked the FCC to create set-asides to ensure that public broadcasting would make the transition alive. But the FCC declined to do so.


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US Senator Jay Rockefeller Wants to Revolutionize How You Watch TV | National Journal

US Senator Jay Rockefeller Wants to Revolutionize How You Watch TV | National Journal | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Sen. Jay Rockefeller is getting ready to settle into retirement. But before he does, he'd like to upend the entire television industry.


Although his ambitious gambit is unlikely to pay off in the final few months of his 30-year career, it could lay the groundwork for future congressional action that could change how Americans watch TV.


Rockefeller's goal is to boost online video services like Netflix to allow them to become full-fledged competitors to cable giants like Comcast. In his view, consumers are paying too much for too many channels they don't watch.

 

"Do people really want to see 500 channels when all they really want to look at are eight, like me?" asked Rockefeller, the chairman of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, during a hearing last week on the future of the video marketplace.


And things are only going to get worse, Rockefeller fears, with Comcast planning to buy Time Warner Cable and AT&T set to takeover DirecTV.


It's a twist of history for Rockefeller to be standing against the mega-mergers of our era. He is, after all, the great grandson and benefactor of John D. Rockefeller, a man whose company dominated the oil industry to the point of inspiring Congress's first antitrust laws more than a century ago.


But it's not a new position for the West Virginia Democrat, who has been a longtime critic of industry consolidation.


Now, with months left in his last term, the senator is gearing up for one last battle: He argues that providing regulatory protections to online video companies would inject much-needed competition into the TV industry, driving down prices and opening up new choices.


So what would your television experience look like if Rockefeller reigned supreme?


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Aereo Asks 10th Circuit To Lift Injunction, Says DVR Service Legal | MediaPost.com

Aereo might have been shot down by the Supreme Court, but the startup isn't yet ready to close up shop.


Not only is Aereo trying to convince regulators and the courts that it's now a "cable system" -- and therefore entitled to a compulsory license -- but the company is also arguing that it should be allowed to continue offering its DVR service.


Aereo points out that the recent Supreme Court ruling only addressed the company's real-time streaming service, which streamed over-the-air programs to users' smartphones and tablets as the shows were broadcast. The Supreme Court said that those streams were public performances, which infringed broadcasters' copyrights.


But the court didn't rule on Aereo's cloud service, which the company says merely enables “time-shifted playback of recordings by the user.” In fact, the Supreme Court specifically noted that it wasn't taking a position on the legality of Aereo's DVR service.


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Chernin and AT&T Set to Buy Control of Fullscreen YouTube Network | Re/Code.net

Chernin and AT&T Set to Buy Control of Fullscreen YouTube Network | Re/Code.net | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Fullscreen, the YouTube network that has been talking to prospective buyers for months, is ready to make a deal. Sources familiar with the company say it is finalizing a deal to sell a majority stake to Otter Media, the joint venture between AT&T and the Chernin Group.


The deal will value Fullscreen, which says it generates 3.5 billion views a month on YouTube, between $200 million and $300 million, sources say. Last spring, Disney bought Maker Studios, which generates more than 5.5 billion views a month, for $500 million, and could end up paying out up to $450 million more depending on the company’s performance.


The move represents the Chernin Group’s second bet on Fullscreen. In 2013, the company, along with Comcast*, led a $30 million investment round that valued the company at around $110 million.

Sources say Fullscreen CEO George Strompolos, who started the company after working at Google’s YouTube, will continue to run Fullscreen, and will retain a meaningful equity stake.


Representatives for Fullscreen and Otter Media declined to comment.


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Vint Cerf Calmly Explains Why You Should Stop Freaking Out About NTIA Handover Of ICANN | Techdirt.com

Vint Cerf Calmly Explains Why You Should Stop Freaking Out About NTIA Handover Of ICANN | Techdirt.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Back in March, we wrote a story explaining why the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) decision to "relinquish" what little "power" it had over ICANN was no big deal. It's sort of an accident of history that NTIA (a part of the US Commerce Department) even had any "mandate" over the IANA functions -- which manages domain name allocations. The "control" over ICANN/IANA has always been mostly a paper thing. ICANN is really run by a large group of folks -- the so-called "multistakeholders." I think many of us can agree that ICANN policies are currently a mess, but that has nothing to do with the NTIA's technical connection to it.

If anything, the NTIA's paper link to ICANN only served to undermine the goals of good internet governance, because it allowed other countries to falsely imply that the US government "owned" or "controlled" the internet -- opening up dangerous attempts for foreign governments to try to really take control of the internet, wiping out the multistakeholder process and replacing it entirely by governments. That would be dangerous.

Unfortunately, as we expected when we wrote our original "this means absolutely nothing" post, some people decided to freak out about it. They've insisted that NTIA's move is the US handing over the internet, potentially to foreign governments. That those same individuals have previously insisted that things like "net neutrality" are the "government taking over the internet" -- and the inherent contradiction therein -- is never really mentioned. Unfortunately, some in Congress are trying to make a big deal out of this by totally misrepresenting what's been going on.

In response, the NTIA has told everyone to calm down, but the absolute best response has to be from the "father of the internet," Vint Cerf, the guy who set up ICANN in the first place, giving his best "knowing uncle storytime" explanation of why everyone should calm down about all of this, and how, if anything, it should lead to better oversight of the ICANN IANA process. Oh, and if you watch all the way through, you might just see Vint Cerf riding a grumpy cat under a double rainbow. Because this is the internet.


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FCC’s Republican Commissioner Pai: Net Neutrality Debate Is a Distraction | Broadcasting & Cable

FCC’s Republican Commissioner Pai: Net Neutrality Debate Is a Distraction | Broadcasting & Cable | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The network neutrality debate is a distraction from what the FCC should be focusing on, which is "modernizing its regulatory framework to account for the IP Transition."


That was the message from FCC commissioner Ajit Pai to an Internet Innovation Alliance forum in Washington.


He said that instead of using scarce resources to refight old common carrier battles, the FCC should "prioritize policies that will encourage the private sector to expand and upgrade high-speed broadband networks. And that means that we need to concentrate on expediting the Internet Protocol (IP) Transition."


He framed that distracting net neutrality debate in the following terms.


First, he said, Title II harkens back to railroad regulation of the 1800s, bogging the FCC down in a debate of the past with the difference being that the FCC should have learned from that example how common carriers can "take us off track."


Second, he said, it is using up countless staff hours in meetings and phone calls devoted to net neutrality. "That’s effort that isn’t being devoted toward modernizing many of our rules to expedite the IP Transition."


Third, he said, the Title II discussion is being driven by a "parade of horribles" that are hypothetical. "The evidence in the Internet marketplace does not justify dramatic regulatory change solely for the purpose of assuaging fears that have not materialized," he argues.


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Title II is the only path to net neutrality. Here's why almost nobody thinks the FCC will take it | GigaOM Tech News

Title II is the only path to net neutrality. Here's why almost nobody thinks the FCC will take it | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

“Speak softly and carry a big stick,” is good advice, but it only works if you use the stick to smash someone in the mouth from time to time. If people think your stick is just decoration, you lose power.


This is the FCC’s dilemma as it tries to design rules to prevent broadband providers from playing favorites when they deliver web traffic. It has a big stick, called “Title II,” but most people think the agency lacks the political juice to wield it against some very powerful companies.


And while some have proposed “light touch” options to avoid a confrontation, that may be wishful thinking: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will have to go all-in and swing the Title II stick, or just it lay down altogether. To get a better idea of Wheeler’s predicament, here’s a fresh look at Title II: what it is, who is for and against it, and why insiders think Wheeler won’t use his only weapon to enforce net neutrality.


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EPB Petitions FCC to Enable Local Broadband Choice | MarketWatch.com

EPB Petitions FCC to Enable Local Broadband Choice | MarketWatch.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Today EPB announced that it has filed a petition to the FCC in an effort to respond to neighboring communities’ requests for access to the company’s gigabit enabled high-speed Internet service.


EPB offers high-speed Internet access, video programming and voice services using a fiber optic communications network that allows the company to deliver these services to every home and business in its 600 square mile electric service territory. Yet, a digital desert exists just outside of EPB’s electric service territory, where citizens and businesses have little or no broadband Internet connectivity.


For several years EPB has received regular requests to help some of these communities obtain critical broadband Internet infrastructure. Under current Tennessee law, EPB is authorized to provide telephone services anywhere in the state, which would be provided using a fiber optic communications system. However, a territorial restriction prohibits EPB from using the same fiber optic communications network to provide advanced services such as high-speed Internet outside of its electric power service territory.


Because of the importance of broadband Internet to the nation, the FCC is required by Congress to identify and remove barriers to the expansion of access to broadband Internet. EPB asserts that the territorial restriction in Tennessee law should be removed if the Congressional objective of advancing widespread availability of broadband is to be carried out.


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How Big Telecom came to fear one Tennessee town | Yahoo!.com

How Big Telecom came to fear one Tennessee town | Yahoo!.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A Tennessee city with fewer than 200,000 residents has arguably become private cable companies' worst nightmare. How? The city of Chattanooga's public electric utility provides super-fast broadband Internet service to residents at competitive prices. Now, the utility -- the EPB -- is trying to expand its reach beyond city limits. Private sector telecom companies are fighting this effort and appear worried other cities will follow Chattanooga's lead.


To expand to more residents in a state where one in five are without Internet access, the EPB needs the Federal Communications Commission to preempt a statute that prohibits the utility from competing with private telecom companies outside its current market. David Sirota, senior writer at International Business Times, tells us in the video above telecom companies are trying to get the FCC to not to preempt this law.


As for why this issue exists, Sirota argues "private cable companies don't like publicly-owned municipalities to compete with them," and so have successfully lobbied for passage of laws in 20 states that ban or restrict local governments from offering Internet service.

Check out the video to see how Chattanooga, known as "Gig City," has been able to offer what analysts say is the fastest Internet in the country -- 50 times the average speed for homes in the rest of the U.S. -- for $70 a month.


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Entrepreneur's 'iCloak' Gadget Aims to Boost Internet Privacy | GovTech.com

In an age when online privacy is elusive at best, an Orlando. Fla. tech entrepreneur has launched a project to protect your cyber self from the prying eyes of government, criminal hackers and data marketers.


Eric Delisle and his startup company have created the iCloak Stik — a pinky-sized USB drive that offers online anonymity for the layperson — and they're doing it with support from the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter. A little more than halfway into the four-week funding effort, it has drawn more than 1,300 backers from 30 countries and $70,000 of its $75,000 goal.


That ranks iCloak in the top 20 among more than 150,000 Kickstarter campaigns.


"It has been insane — in a good way," said Delisle, CEO of DigiThinkIT Inc., a custom-software developer. "I totally underestimated the response."


Delisle, 43, said he began stewing about the need for such a tool in recent years as government "intrusion" in civilian life and well-financed corporate influence seemed to grow. The leaks by former National Security Agency subcontractor Edward Snowden revealing an extensive NSA surveillance program targeting American citizens were the final impetus.


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Microsoft verging on single OS across all devices | Tim Greene | NetworkWorld.com

Microsoft verging on single OS across all devices | Tim Greene | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Microsoft seems on the brink of announcing a major enhancement to its operating system lines, namely merging them into a single OS that could bring big benefits for corporate users.


The next version of Windows will pull together the company’s three Windows OSes – Windows for PCs and tablets, Windows Phone and Xbox One – to enable apps that span all types of devices and that are available in a single Microsoft store, CEO Satya Nadella told investors and journalists during the company’s Q4 earnings meeting this week.


While this is something he has talked about before, this time he gave it some immediacy. “We look forward to sharing more about our next major wave of Windows enhancements in the coming months,” he says, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the conference call. He didn’t say how many months.


The company already announced support for Universal Apps that can be written to the Windows Runtime architecture, and have the bulk of the code reused for an app that runs on all other Windows devices. Combined with developer support to write such apps and buying into Microsoft cloud services like Office 365, OneDrive for Business and Azure could give businesses new apps that workers can access and sync from anywhere so long as they have Internet connections.


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Charter Business Will Cover Early Termination Fees | Multichannel.com

Charter Business Will Cover Early Termination Fees | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Looking to entice potential commercial customers to switch service providers, Charter Business announced that it will start to buy out the early termination fees associated with business customers that are seeking an alternative.

 

"Business customers who would like to experience the higher internet speeds and robust suite of products offered by Charter Business often feel trapped in their current contracts." said Don Detampel, EVP and president for Charter Communications, in a statement. "Charter has taken the worry of early termination fees out of the equation for our new customers so business owners can try Charter Business with confidence."

 

Charter announced that it had launched a dedicated web site for the offer at http://www.charterbusiness.com/ContractBuyout, though it did not appear to be active as of this writing.

 

Update: The link is now live, directing visitors to a downloadable Contract Buyout form (PDF) that outlines the three-step process. Once those steps have been completed and Charter Business verifies eligibility, it will issue a check in the amount equal to the early termination fee charged by the customer's previous provider, but in an amount that is capped at $500.

 

Charter is putting the new policy in place as commercial services continue to represent a key growth engine for cable operators.


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AT&T: State Reviews of DirecTV Merger Complete | Multichannel.com

AT&T: State Reviews of DirecTV Merger Complete | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

AT&T CFO John Stephens told Wall Street Wednesday that the states that have been reviewing its proposed merger with DirecTV have concluded those reviews without proposing any conditions. Those states are Arizona, Louisiana and Hawaii, all of which had "unique statutes or commission rules for the transfer," said a source familiar with the reviews.

 

Stephens also confirmed Wednesday (July 23) that Brazil's antitrust regulator has approved the DirecTV deal, also without any restrictions. DirecTV's satellite service includes to almost 18 million subs in Latin America, including in Brazil.

 

As part of the proposed deal, AT&T is divesting its interest in América Móvil, a telecom company based in Mexico.

 

Stephens was talking to analysts on an earnings call Wednesday when he made the point that the deal process was moving along, using those as examples. He said AT&T was focused on working with regulatory agencies to get the deal done.


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Cities Petition FCC In Fight For Municipal Broadband | TechCrunch.com

Cities Petition FCC In Fight For Municipal Broadband | TechCrunch.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Cities like Chattanooga, Tenn., have led the charge of providing public broadband services to local communities. 


Today, Chattanooga and Wilson, N.C., another city that provides municipal broadband, took it a step further by filing petitions to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), asking them to remove state laws that restrict the right to provide broadband services outside their territories, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.


Last week, the House of Representatives approved legislation from Republican Marsha Blackburn that would forbid the FCC from removing remove state-level restrictions on municipal broadband networks.


What are municipal networks? It’s when a city decides to build infrastructure to provide the local community with its own broadband network service, rather than people having to rely solely on private companies.


The amendment is a part of the Financial Services appropriations bill and was approved by the House of Representatives and would have to be approved by the Senate and then signed by President Obama. It is unlikely Obama will sign it as he instated FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who is pushing for more municipal broadband networks.


“I have said before, that I believe the FCC has the power – and I intend to exercise that power – to preempt state laws that ban competition from community broadband,” Wheeler said in a meeting of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association in April.


At the meeting, Wheeler mentioned this push for municipal broadband is to drive investment and encourage broadband providers to upgrade their services.


A large part of this push for municipal networks comes because these networks can and are providing faster speeds than private companies. To put things in perspective, Internet speeds in Chattanooga, which offers public broadband to its community, reach up to 1 gigabit per second, which is 10 to 100 times faster than the rest of the U.S. at similar costs compared to companies such as AT&T or Comcast, according to Chattanooga’s Times Free Press.


Unsurprisingly, these telecommunications companies are heavily lobbying against municipal broadband networks, as it would only add competition to their businesses.


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Moody’s: Broadband Subs To Surpass Video in 2015 | Multichannel.com

Moody’s: Broadband Subs To Surpass Video in 2015 | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

High-speed data customers will surpass video customers for cable companies by next year, according to debt rating agency Moody’s Investor’s Service, as cable operators concentrate more on selling higher-margin data services.

 

Already cable HSD and video customers are about even: Moody’s estimates that they both reached about 50 million subscribers in the first quarter of this year. As more and more customers consider broadband service an must-have product – a Pew Research Center study showed that 53% of adults said it would be “very hard or impossible” to give up their broadband service while just 35% said the same for TV – Moody’s predicts that cable operators will make it easier to unbundle broadband offerings.

 

Broadband has become an anchor product for most households and we believe a primary purchase decision for anyone moving into a new residence,” Moody’s wrote in a report by lead author and Moody’s vice president and senior analyst Karen Berckmann.


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Uphill task for Ultra HD TVs | BroadbandTVNews.com

Uphill task for Ultra HD TVs | BroadbandTVNews.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

High pricing is preventing Ultra HD televisions (UHD TVs) from securing a meaningful share of the overall flat-panel TV market through the world.


According to a report entitled TV Systems Databases: Monthly TV Shipments – June 2014 by IHS Technology, among the top 13 brands for liquid-crystal-display televisions (LCDTV) worldwide, the share of UHD TV shipments reached 5% in May, up from 4% in April, 3% in March and 2% in February.


But while UHD TV share has expanded by at least 1 percentage point for the last three months, growth hasn’t increased much since September last year, when the market was already at the 2% level.


The top 13 brands account for more than 75% of total LCD TV shipments, and also represent over 90% of overall UHD LCD TV shipments.


UHD TV shipments this year are projected to grow to 14.5 million units, up from just 2.0 million in 2013, as global brands deploy aggressive marketing efforts and roll out new models.


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Deaf advocacy groups to Verizon: Don’t kill net neutrality on our behalf | Ars Technica

Deaf advocacy groups to Verizon: Don’t kill net neutrality on our behalf | Ars Technica | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

No company has lobbied more fiercely against network neutrality than Verizon, which filed the lawsuit that overturned the FCC's rules prohibiting ISPs from blocking and discriminating against Web content. But the absence of net neutrality rules isn't just good for Verizon—it's also good for the blind, deaf, and disabled, Verizon claims.


That's what Verizon lobbyists said in talks with congressional staffers, according to a Mother Jones report last month. "Three Hill sources tell Mother Jones that Verizon lobbyists have cited the needs of blind, deaf, and disabled people to try to convince congressional staffers and their bosses to get on board with the fast lane idea," the report said. With "fast lanes," Web services—including those designed for the blind, deaf, and disabled—could be prioritized in exchange for payment.


Now, advocacy groups for deaf people have filed comments with the FCC saying they don't agree with Verizon's position.


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Making optical cables out of air could boost communication in space | GigaOM Tech News

Making optical cables out of air could boost communication in space | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Under our feet, cables carry data between our homes, offices and data centers at a pace that can match the speed of light. The data travels as light that runs through strings made of materials like glass and plastic.


Researchers at the University of Maryland want to do away with the cable altogether and just use air to guide the light. That’s not as simple as it sounds, because a laser sent through air will spread apart and interact with particles, gradually losing its intensity over time.


The research team instead caused patches of air to mimic a fiber optic cable by creating tubes of dense air surrounded by low-density air. In a fiber optic cable, a laser travels through a string of glass. When it tries to leave the glass, it hits a wall that reflects it back into the center, guiding it along the length of the cable. The cable made of air works in the same way.


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FTC takes out “tech support” scammers; $5.1 million in fines, retribution | Michael Cooney | NetworkWorld.com

FTC takes out “tech support” scammers; $5.1 million in fines, retribution | Michael Cooney | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

While a number of these scams still persist, the Federal Trade Commission today said it got a US District court to slap the operators of several international tech support rip-offs to pay more than $5.1 million in fines and retribution on charges they masqueraded as major computer companies, including Dell, Microsoft, McAfee, and Norton, to trick consumers into believing their computers were riddled with malware and then charge them to “fix” the “problems.”


The FTC said that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued default judgments against fourteen corporate defendants and fourteen individual defendants that allegedly operated the tech support scams. The operations were mostly based in India and targeted English-speaking consumers in the United States and several other countries, the FTC stated.


The default judgments permanently ban the defendants from marketing any computer security-related technical support service.  The judgments also ban them from continuing their deceptive tactics and from disclosing, selling or failing to dispose of information they obtained from victims. The cases, which we part of a 2012 FTC crackdown on such tech support scams included:


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Washington's NTIA & FCC starts hunt for a ‘model city’ for wireless experimentation | WashPost.com

Washington's NTIA & FCC starts hunt for a ‘model city’ for wireless experimentation | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

No, the federal government isn't whipping up a new American city from scratch to test out its ideas about the wireless Internet. Can you imagine getting budget approval for that? But it is doing something new and provocative: searching for an urban area in the United States willing to host experiments on how the private sector can tap the limited and valuable radio spectrum that the federal government, by general consensus, currently hogs.


Last week, two federal telecommunications agencies put out a call for such a spectrum-sharing "model city."


Radio spectrum is the oxygen that gives life to mobile technologies like smartphones and tablets, and the U.S. government has been nudged by many to figure out how the country can wring more use out of the frequencies it controls; as of 2012, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, federal agencies dominated some 43 percent of the best radio frequencies.


But tests on so-called smart radio or cognitive radio (think "radio" as in radio waves, not the music and chatter you might listen to in the car) have been generally limited to military bases, computer labs or rural areas. "Small-scale settings" is how one NTIA official describes them, "where nobody is going to get hurt."


Those locations can fall short as testing grounds for dynamic sharing. For one thing, government frequencies are used on Army and Navy bases for everything from training to communications to air traffic safety, skewing research toward believing that federal spectrum is more crowded than it generally is in the outside world.


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White House Rural Council annoucnes $10 billion dollar to promote rural economic development | Blandin on Broadband

OK the press release didn’t include a direct connection to broadband – but it’s not a big stretch to add it in. The scoop is that there’s a big Rural Opportunity Investment Conference (ROI) happening this week to encourage public and private investment in rural economic development. For investors it’s an opportunity for new markets; for economic developers and businesses, it’s a new investment pool…


"In conjunction with this event, the White House Rural Council is announcing a $10 billion dollar investment fund to promote rural economic development. This fund will continue to grow the rural economy by increasing access to capital for rural infrastructure projects and speeding up the process of rural infrastructure improvements. The fund is immediately open for business and more investors can now add to the initial $10 billion in available capital."


The White House Fact Sheet includes more info on this fund as well as details on others that may be of interest.

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It's Put Up or Shut Up Time For FCC On Community Broadband | DSLReports.com

It's Put Up or Shut Up Time For FCC On Community Broadband | DSLReports.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

New FCC boss Tom Wheeler has now stated several times he's going to take aim at incumbent-ISP state laws that ban or prohibit towns and cities from deploying their own broadband -- even in cases where nobody else will. Chattanooga utility EPB broadband is ready for Wheeler to actually start following through with this promise any day now, and is giving the FCC boss the opportunity to show his rhetoric on the subject isn't empty.


The city utility wants to expand their successful 1 Gbps municipal broadband service to additional users, but finds themselves running up against protectionist Tennessee laws literally written and purchased by the likes of Comcast. This week EPB formally filed a request with the FCC (pdf) urging them to overturn a portion of Tennessee's law, one of twenty such laws nationwide.

Under said law, EPB is allowed to offer voice service anywhere in the State, but the law prohibits the company from using those very-same lines to offer broadband outside of their current electrical area. That restriction obviously only really benefits Comcast, who tried to sue the project out of existence before turning to the state legislative process.

The group, via lawyer Jim Baller (who I've talked to about this issue many times over the last decade), argues that the FCC's mandate is to ensure the deployment of broadband "in a reasonable timely basis," and as such they can and should declare the restrictive portion of the law unenforceable:


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Meet Executive Order 12333: The Reagan rule that lets the NSA spy on Americans | WashPost.com

Meet Executive Order 12333: The Reagan rule that lets the NSA spy on Americans | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In March I received a call from the White House counsel’s office regarding a speech I had prepared for my boss at the State Department. The speech was about the impact that the disclosure of National Security Agency surveillance practices would have on U.S. Internet freedom policies. The draft stated that “if U.S. citizens disagree with congressional and executive branch determinations about the proper scope of signals intelligence activities, they have the opportunity to change the policy through our democratic process.”


But the White House counsel’s office told me that no, that wasn’t true. I was instructed to amend the line, making a general reference to “our laws and policies,” rather than our intelligence practices. I did.

Even after all the reforms President Obama has announced, some intelligence practices remain so secret, even from members of Congress, that there is no opportunity for our democracy to change them.


Public debate about the bulk collection of U.S. citizens’ data by the NSA has focused largely on Section 215 of the Patriot Act, through which the government obtains court orders to compel American telecommunications companies to turn over phone data. But Section 215 is a small part of the picture and does not include the universe of collection and storage of communications by U.S. persons authorized under Executive Order 12333.


From 2011 until April of this year, I worked on global Internet freedom policy as a civil servant at the State Department. In that capacity, I was cleared to receive top-secret and “sensitive compartmented” information. Based in part on classified facts that I am prohibited by law from publishing, I believe that Americans should be even more concerned about the collection and storage of their communications under Executive Order 12333 than under Section 215.


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US House E&C Committee Republicans: Something Smells Rotten at FCC | Broadcasting & Cable

US House E&C Committee Republicans: Something Smells Rotten at FCC | Broadcasting & Cable | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The leadership of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and Communications Subcommittee said Wednesday that something "smells rotten on the [FCC's] 8th Floor" — where the commissioner offices are located — and that a report about a waiver related to an upcoming auction raises "a cloud of favoritism."


Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the full committee and subcommittee, respectively, were responding to a Bloomberg News story that the FCC had granted a waiver to a private equity firm and Obama supporter, Grain Management, and had done so in a nonpublic 3-2 vote.


According to Grain, it invests in media and communications for "leading academic institutions, endowments, and public pension funds," as well as managing wireless infratructure for commercial and government customers.


"The waiver would permit Grain to circumvent commission rules designed to ensure the independence of small businesses that receive bidding credits in FCC auctions," they said.


"Process rules are in place for a reason," they added, "and there is a transparent process available if the commission wants to pursue changes to the rules. Instead, a troubling pattern of process neglect is emerging, leaving a commission that too often shrouds its work in secrecy and takes shortcuts to impose its desired policies. This action raises additional questions about the decision-making process at the FCC and underscores the need for additional transparency and process reform.”


Grain sought the waiver in March, and an FCC source points out it was unopposed when it was put out for public comment. Grain contended that the rule was “overly broad” and could deny DE benefits to entities, like itself, that Congress intended should receive them. The Minority Media & Telecommunications Council supported Grain's petition, though it would ultimately like to see the rule go away, the FCC pointed out in approving the waiver. 


The FCC released its decision late Wednesday. It said the waiver applied only to the specific circumstances presented by Grain, concluding that "Grain’s transaction with AT&T and Verizon Wireless would result in public interest benefits, 'including by promoting spectrum license opportunities for entrepreneurs and other small businesses.'"


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How Serious Is James Clapper About Cybersecurity When His Office Can't Even Get Its SSL Certificate Right? | Techdirt.com

How Serious Is James Clapper About Cybersecurity When His Office Can't Even Get Its SSL Certificate Right? | Techdirt.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

James Clapper and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) have been among the loudest FUD-spewers concerning the "threats" to cybersecurity out there, and the need for massively dangerous "cybersecurity" legislation that would really just open up the ability for the Intelligence Community to get more access to private data.


However, security researcher and ACLU guy Chris Soghoian noticed yesterday that the SSL security certificate on the ODNI website isn't even valid:


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