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MI: Clare one of seven state counties named broadband certified | Clare County Review

MI: Clare one of seven state counties named broadband certified | Clare County Review | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Clare City Manager Ken Hibl announced in his agenda report Monday evening that Clare County will be honored  in Harrison November 6 as a “broadband-certified” county, one of only seven in the State.


“Clare City has played a key role in this initiative,” Hibl added.
He said Clare City Treasurer and Director of Information Technology Steven Kingsbury, and Ken Chinavare, director of Technology Regional Information Technology Services at the Clare-Gladwin Regional Education Service District, will both be featured speakers at the event, which will be held in the south lobby area of the Clare County Courthouse at 10 a.m.


Broadband came to the area in the mid 1990s through a project by the Clare Gladwin Regional Education Service District in collaboration with Mid Michigan Community College. The Clare County Enterprise Community also began working on technology infrastructure and in late 2008; the Clare County Broadband initiative was first conceived.


In 2009 the CCEC provided funds to expand the focus and develop wireless for those without cable access. Phase I connected the Cities of Clare, Harrison, Farwell, County offices, Sheriff’s Department, Village of Farwell Surrey Township and the three community libraries. Phase II involved a partnership with ISP Management, a wireless Internet Service Provider based in Alma, to develop the county-wide wireless service. Towers in Sheridan, Arthur, Hamilton, Freeman and Franklin Townships, were erected covering the eastern side of Clare County.


At a City meeting last year, Kingsbury said Merit Communication would receive $100,000 through a Governor’s initiative to be used throughout the state to upgrade technology and provide high speed access.


Through the installation of towers throughout the county, much of this area is now “connected.” “It took seven years,” Kingsbury said.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Data breach costs varied dramatically by industry and by geography.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Google’s plan to spread the Internet with massive balloons is coming to America | Brian Fung | WashPost.com

Google’s plan to spread the Internet with massive balloons is coming to America | Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The mission of Google's Project Loon may be to bring Internet connectivity to the developing world. But someday, perhaps soon, even some of the richest countries on Earth could benefit from Google's big, floating balloons.


In an interview with MIT Review, Loon project lead Mike Cassidy says the project would help parts of America get connected:


As for bringing Loon to places like the U.S. that are already largely connected but could still use improved Internet connectivity, Cassidy says that will also happen.


“Even in my house, I don’t have a cell signal,” he said. “We’re going to come to the United States, too.”


When the airborne network is complete, users will be able to surf the Web from LTE signals beamed to earth by Google. What's less clear is whether the U.S. deployment will also involve the drones and satellites Google will likely need to power its global network of Internet access.

The company didn't address this when I reached out for a comment. But Google said in a statement that within the next year, it will begin testing Loon more widely by setting up a string of floating access points around the world.

Google has been pressing federal regulators for greater flexibility in how it develops Loon. It's been getting approvals from the Federal Communications Commission to test radio transmissions in certain spectrum bands in different regions. And it's active in an FCC proceeding aimed at studying how drones can help spread Internet access from high altitudes.


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Americans hate Internet and cable providers even more than airlines | Brian Fung | WashPost.com

Americans hate Internet and cable providers even more than airlines | Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Hitting a seven-year low, Internet providers and pay-TV companies were literally just ranked as the least popular industries in America.

Those businesses come tied in last place in the latest update to the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, which ranks 43 industries on a 0-to-100 scale. The country's most hated industries, each with a score of 63, fall behind the U.S. Postal Service (69), wireless carriers (70) and even airlines (71).

That's a drop from even two years ago, when subscription television scored a 68 and Internet providers got a 65. (Then, as now, they were still the least popular industries on the index.)

Claes Fornell, ACSI's chairman and founder, attributes much of the recent decline with a growing share of options for consumers who are fed up with the industries' business models.


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Obama’s push on trade splits Democrats along economic lines | David Nakamura | WashPost.com

Obama’s push on trade splits Democrats along economic lines | David Nakamura | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

On their annual pilgrimage to Silicon Valley, a group of moderate congressional Democrats got an earful recently from some of the tech industry’s most powerful players about why they should support President Obama’s Pacific Rim trade accord.

During stops at Apple, Cisco Systems and GoPro, among others, members of the New Democrat Coalition heard from frustrated tech executives who pleaded with them to help boost global growth and demanded to know why the president’s party was not lining up behind his trade push.

“They were obviously perplexed that trade has become so contentious and so difficult,” said Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), chairman of the congressional coalition.

The emerging support for Obama’s trade initiative in Silicon Valley, a liberal-leaning enclave of cutting-edge businesses, stands in sharp contrast to the fierce opposition from the labor unions that represent the working-class heart of the Democratic Party. The tension reflects mounting anxiety within the party over the nation’s widening income gap and a fear that the trade deal will produce a clear set of winners and losers among U.S. industries.

In making his case for the sweeping, 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Obama has sought to reframe the debate, away from a narrow focus on traditional manufacturing jobs to encompass sectors that are ascendant and, in his view, critical to maintaining the United States’ competitive edge in an increasingly interconnected and high-tech global economy.

But the president has run into staunch resistance from his own party, threatening to derail the trade deal, which Obama has made a legacy priority of his second term. The White House also regards the TPP as an important tool in confronting a rising China, because it would shift more U.S. attention to the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region.

The argument between the president and progressive Democrats has gotten barbed and personal, and only a small fraction of House Democrats — about 17 so far — have said they will support the fast-track trade legislation, which was narrowly approved by the Senate last month.


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The barrier to rural broadband is sometimes ideology | Ann Treacy | Blandin on Broadband

Supporting rural broadband has been a bipartisan goal in Minnesota. We saw this in the debates last fall. We’re seeing less of it this spring. The issue I think has much less to do with broadband than it does in how people feel about investing public money.

Some folks just want no taxes. They see them as an expense, not an investment. President Obama spoke eloquently about this on a panel at Georgetown University, using broadband as an example…

I think it is important for us at the outset to acknowledge if, in fact, we are going to find common ground, then we also have to acknowledge that there are certain investments we are willing to make as a society, as a whole, in public schools and public universities; in, today, I believe early childhood education; in making sure that economic opportunity is available in communities that are isolated, and that somebody can get a job, and that there’s actually a train that takes folks to where the jobs are — that broadband lines are in rural communities and not just in cities. And those things are not going to happen through market forces alone.


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Comcast Was So Incredibly Full Of Crap During Its Merger Sales Pitch, The Government Is Considering Additional Punishment | Karl Bode | Techdirt

Comcast Was So Incredibly Full Of Crap During Its Merger Sales Pitch, The Government Is Considering Additional Punishment | Karl Bode | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

While Comcast's attempted acquisition of Time Warner Cable may be dead in the water, information revealed during the company's ugly but often entertaining merger sales pitch may come back to haunt it. When Comcast started selling regulators on the idea of the Time Warner Cable merger, you'll recall it highlighted repeatedly how Comcast should be trusted because it had done such a bang up job adhering to the conditions placed on its acquisition of NBC Universal. Except when regulators tried to verify this M&A claim (which is already rare enough in telecom), they discovered that not only did Comcast write most of the conditions itself, it still somehow managed to repeatedly fail to adhere to them.

For example Comcast had to be fined $800,000 by the FCC for failing to offer and clearly advertise a relatively paltry 5 Mbps, $50 per month broadband tier. Similarly, the company's Internet Essentials program, which promised 5 Mbps, $10 broadband for low income communities and was a phenomenal PR boon for Comast -- at one point resulted in Philadelphia street protests for being hard to find, qualify, and sign up for. It was also revealed that Comcast ignored conditions intended to keep the company from hamstringing Internet video competitor Hulu, which it acquired as part of the NBC deal.

So yes, Comcast, you're really great at adhering to merger conditions, just as long as nobody actually bothers to look at how well you adhere to merger conditions. Given how closely the FCC had looked at whether companies adhered to merger conditions in the past (as in: not at all), Comcast's hubris here was understandable.


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Verizon tops another consumer satisfaction poll, but pay-TV metrics slide 3% overall | Daniel Frankel | Fierce Cable

Verizon tops another consumer satisfaction poll, but pay-TV metrics slide 3% overall | Daniel Frankel | Fierce Cable | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Just one day after Consumer Reports found declining consumer satisfaction among American consumers using pay-TV services, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released a report nearing mirroring the unhappy findings.

In the annual independent survey of 70,000 U.S. consumers, Verizon FiOS (NYSE: VZ) finished atop pay-TV services, with its "71" score rising 4 percent over 2014 and placing it just ahead of AT&T U-verse (flat with last year's results).

Notably, Verizon also finished atop Consumer Reports' telecom satisfaction report, which was released Monday.

ACSI, which polled customers on everything from picture quality to the ease to which they understand their bill to call center responsiveness, ranked DirecTV, down 1 percent, third in the poll and Dish Network fourth, with a score flat with 2014.

A flat Cablevision and Charter Communications, up 5 percent, led the moribund cable sector, with Time Warner Cable (down 9 percent) finishing dead last behind Mediacom (flat).

Those two final MSOs also finished last in the Consumer Reports study, with Mediacom at the absolute bottom.


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Source: Dems Not Backing Effective-Competition Change | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com

Source: Dems Not Backing Effective-Competition Change | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

With a June 2 deadline from Congress for an order streamlining its effective-competition petition process, a federal Communications Commission source speaking on background at press time said three votes had been cast on the effective-competition order, and another source said they did not include the two Democrats -- commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler circulated the order, and the Republicans support it, while an FCC source said Clyburn would not be voting to approve, and Rosenworcel likely will not support it either.

The order is expected to be voted by the other two commissioners by June 2 and pass 3-2 in a split decision.

Currently, to get out from under basic-cable rate regulation, a cable operator has to petition the FCC for a ruling that it is subject to effective competition. As part of the STELAR satellite license reauthorization bill, Congress directed the FCC to come up with a streamlined effective competition process for smaller, particularly rural, operators. But since the FCC has granted ll such requests, in whole or in part, since 2103. The FCC in March proposed reversing it for all cable operators and the chairman circulated an order to that effect.


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

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

CenturyLink is ready to speed things up for its customers.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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USA Freedom Draws Crowd | John Eggerton | Broadcasting & Cable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Software makers were celebrating.


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No More Subsidies on iPhones at Verizon or AT&T: Buy Your Own Phone on a Payment Plan | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

No More Subsidies on iPhones at Verizon or AT&T: Buy Your Own Phone on a Payment Plan | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

AT&T and Verizon Wireless are ditching subsidies for the popular (and expensive) Apple iPhone in favor of straight installment payment plans.

9to5Mac reports Apple has sent a memo to employees outlining major changes in how iPhones will be sold to AT&T and Verizon Wireless customers.

Apple iPhones sold via AT&T and both Apple’s retail and online stores will shift exclusively to AT&T’s Next financing plans this month and end device subsidies. AT&T Next allows customers to buy a device at retail price and pay it off in 20, 24, or 30 installments on their AT&T bill. The primary benefit of the Next plan is it permits customers upgrade to a newer device after 12, 18, or 24 installment payments. For now, customers transitioning away from their existing plan to Next will be able to keep their unlimited AT&T data plan.

Verizon Wireless is also planning to drop its two-year subsidy programs, perhaps entirely across all devices, as early as the end of this summer. That will force Verizon Wireless customers onto the Edge installment payment program unless they are willing to pay for a device upfront.


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After Seeing Broadband-a-Plenty in Longmont, Fort Collins, Colorado Wants Public Broadband Too | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

After Seeing Broadband-a-Plenty in Longmont, Fort Collins, Colorado Wants Public Broadband Too | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

It’s an acute case of broadband envy.

Residents of Fort Collins, Colo., that have an excuse to take an hour’s drive south on U.S. Route 87 to visit Longmont and experience the Internet over the community’s public broadband service can’t believe their eyes. It’s so fast… and cheap. Back home it is a choice between Comcast and CenturyLink, and neither will win any popularity contests. While large parts of Colorado have gotten some upgrades out of Comcast, Fort Collins is one of the communities that typically gets the cable company’s attention last.

The city of Longmont took control of its digital destiny after years of anemic and expensive service from Comcast and CenturyLink. Longmont Power & Communications’ NextLight Internet service delivers gigabit fiber to the home service to the community of 90,000. The service was funded with a $40.3 million bond the city issued in 2014, to be paid back by NextLight customers, not taxpayers, over time. It remains a work in progress, but is expected to start construction to reach the last parts of Longmont by next spring.


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WikiLeaks raising $100k bounty for a copy of the Trans-Pacific trade pact | Grant Gross | NetworkWorld.com

WikiLeaks raising $100k bounty for a copy of the Trans-Pacific trade pact | Grant Gross | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

WikiLeaks wants to raise US$100,000 to offer as a reward for whoever leaks the full text of the controversial free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The news leaks website launched a fund-raising campaign Tuesday to come up with the bounty money. The free trade agreement, involving the U.S., Japan, Canada, Australia and eight other countries, has been negotiated in secret, and just three of its 29 chapters have been leaked.

“The transparency clock has run out on the TPP,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in a statement. “No more secrecy. No more excuses. Let’s open the TPP once and for all.”

With the TPP bounty, WikiLeaks also launched a new competition system that allows the public to pledge prizes towards each of the world’s most wanted leaks.

Supporters of the TPP say the agreement will make it easier for companies to sell their products to the nations involved in the deal.

Opponents in the U.S. say the trade deal will make it easier for domestic companies to ship jobs to countries with much lower minimum wages and to set up manufacturing facilities in countries with looser environmental regulations.

In addition, leaks have shown that the U.S. and some other countries are pushing for signatory nations to adopt strong new intellectual property laws. The proposed intellectual property protections would require some signatory countries to rewrite their existing laws, criminalize noncommercial sharing of works protected by copyright, and, critics say, create new criminal penalties for whistleblowers and journalists who access computer systems without permission.


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Wireless Bills are Rising: Prices Up More than 50% Since 2007 and Will Head Even Higher When 5G Arrives | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

Wireless Bills are Rising: Prices Up More than 50% Since 2007 and Will Head Even Higher When 5G Arrives | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Without dramatic changes in wireless pricing and more careful usage, owning a smartphone will cost an average of $119 a month per phone by the year 2019.

Ever since the largest players in the wireless industry decided to monetize wireless data usage by ending unlimited use data plans, the average monthly phone bills of smartphone users have been on the increase. In 2013, the average cell phone bill was $76 a month, according to Bureau of Labor statistics. That’s up 50% from the $51 a month customers paid in 2007, the first year the iconic Apple iPhone was offered for sale.

Although wireless companies claim their current 4G (largely LTE) networks are robust enough to sustain the growing demand for wireless data until more spectrum becomes available, the transition to next generation 5G technology will dramatically increase the efficiency of wireless data transmission, delivering up to 40 times the speed of existing 4G networks. But if providers are not willing to slash prices on 5G data plans, average usage and customers’ phone bills are likely to soar to new all-time highs, costing a family of four smartphone owners an average of $476 a month.


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USA Freedom Act Passes: What We Celebrate, What We Mourn, and Where We Go From Here | Cindy Cox & Mark Jaycox | EFF.org

USA Freedom Act Passes: What We Celebrate, What We Mourn, and Where We Go From Here | Cindy Cox & Mark Jaycox | EFF.org | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Senate passed the USA Freedom Act today by 67-32, marking the first time in over thirty years that both houses of Congress have approved a bill placing real restrictions and oversight on the National Security Agency’s surveillance powers. The weakening amendments to the legislation proposed by NSA defender Senate Majority Mitch McConnell were defeated, and we have every reason to believe that President Obama will sign USA Freedom into law. Technology users everywhere should celebrate, knowing that the NSA will be a little more hampered in its surveillance overreach, and both the NSA and the FISA court will be more transparent and accountable than it was before the USA Freedom Act.

It’s no secret that we wanted more. In the wake of the damning evidence of surveillance abuses disclosed by Edward Snowden, Congress had an opportunity to champion comprehensive surveillance reform and undertake a thorough investigation, like it did with the Church Committee. Congress could have tried to completely end mass surveillance and taken numerous other steps to rein in the NSA and FBI. This bill was the result of compromise and strong leadership by Sens. Patrick Leahy and Mike Lee and Reps. Robert Goodlatte, Jim Sensenbrenner, and John Conyers. It’s not the bill EFF would have written, and in light of the Second Circuit's thoughtful opinion, we withdrew our support from the bill in an effort to spur Congress to strengthen some of its privacy protections and out of concern about language added to the bill at the behest of the intelligence community.

Even so, we’re celebrating. We’re celebrating because, however small, this bill marks a day that some said could never happen—a day when the NSA saw its surveillance power reduced by Congress. And we’re hoping that this could be a turning point in the fight to rein in the NSA.


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John Malone: Charter-Time Warner Cable Deal Won't Face "Material" Regulatory Issues | Georg Szalai | The Hollywood Reporter

John Malone: Charter-Time Warner Cable Deal Won't Face "Material" Regulatory Issues | Georg Szalai | The Hollywood Reporter | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Liberty Media chairman John Malone said Tuesday that he sees no "material" regulatory issues for the Charter Communications-Time Warner Cable deal.

"The deal will not have major regulatory" issues, he reiterated later during the annual shareholder meeting of Liberty Broadband, which holds Liberty's stake in Charter. "If i thought we were [facing major hurdles], we wouldn’t have done this deal," Malone said.

Malone said the company has "carefully" looked at all the complaints against the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal. He emphasized that "in each case Charter is an entirely different situation" than the Comcast-TW Cable deal. He said the Charter transaction will create a company with smaller size and market power than Comcast would have had. He said there are not the same vertical and horizontal consolidation concerns that the Comcast deal included. The vertical integration concerns revolved around Comcast's ownership of entertainment giant NBCUniversal.

Malone said "it's true I have a few investments on the content side," such as Discovery Communications. "But I don't control either side."

He said that if Time Warner Cable had acquired the smaller Charter, there would "clearly not" be any regulatory concern at all.


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