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DSLreports - front page

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Published: Wed, 22 Nov 2017 15:21:49 EDT

Last Build Date: Wed, 22 Nov 2017 15:21:49 EDT

Copyright: Copyright 2005-2010,

The FCC Hopes You're Too Busy With Thanksgiving to Read This -

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 15:21:49 EDT

The FCC today finally released the full details of its attack on net neutrality, in the hopes you're too busy preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday to actually read it. We'll save you a little time as you brine your turkey or drive to distant relatives: it's every bit as bad as everyone expected -- and in some ways, quite a bit worse. The full, Orwellian-named "Restoring Internet Freedom" fact sheet (pdf) makes it clear that the FCC is pushing for a full repeal of not only net neutrality rules and protections, but the Title II classification of ISPs as common carriers that underpins the FCC's authority over broadband providers. It is, by any measure, a grotesque example of crony capitalism run amok, and a blatant hand out to the nation's uncompetitive broadband duopolies. As we've long noted, net neutrality violations are just a symptom of a lack of competition in the broadband sector. In the wake of neither party in the federal government being willing to stand up to large ISPs and improve competition -- the net neutrality guidelines were the next-best thing: some basic rules of the road preventing abuse of that lack of competition. That abuse comes in many forms, including imposing arbitrary and unnecessary usage caps on uncompetitive networks, then exempting an incumbent ISPs own services from those restrictions while still penalizing competitors. In other instances, it has manifested in attempts to intentionally slow interconnection points, letting incumbent ISPs double dip and drive up costs for transit operators and streaming companies like Netflix. There have been countless examples of this anti-competitive behavior in the last decade, from AT&T blocking access to Facetime unless users upgraded to more expensive data plans, to AT&T and Verizon blocking competing mobile wallet services on their phones. It gets even worse if you look at broadband user privacy, where AT&T has tried to charge hundreds of extra dollars to opt out of snoopvertising, and Verizon was busted covertly modifying user packets to track users around the internet without telling them -- or providing working opt out tools. Again, the lack of competition prevents accountability because users often can't vote with their wallet and choose a better, cheaper, more ethical provider. Yet at the heart of the FCC's order is the repeated claim that these harms have all somehow been hallucinated by the public at large. "Because of the paucity of concrete evidence of harms to the openness of the Internet, the Title II Order and its proponents have heavily relied on purely speculative threats," claims the FCC. "We do not believe hypothetical harms, unsupported by empirical data, economic theory, or even recent anecdotes, provide a basis for public-utility regulation of ISPs." Ignored, of course, is the fact that the FCC hires economists to twist, distort, and otherwise bastardize hard data until it says whatever the industry would like it to. The order makes it very clear it has zero intention of taking any of the industry's very real, very obvious problems seriously. The FCC engages in this kind of willful blindness throughout the entire order. If you recall, Charter executives were recently busted by the New York Attorney General admitting that the company wanted to let peering points with transit operators congest in order to kill settlement-free peering and drive up costs for transit operators and streaming competitors like Netflix. Verizon was similarly accused by Netflix, Level3, Cogent and others of running a similar scheme. This was, by any measure, an attempt at "double dipping" (or, if you're being less generous, outright extortion). When the FCC passed net neutrality rules in 2015 taking aim at this kind of anti-competitive behavior, this behavior mysteriously and abruptly ceased. Yet the FCC's order states they're gutting this portion of net neutrality protections as well, because, they claim, there is no evidence that any of this actually happened. "We believe that applying Title II to Internet traffic exchange arrangements was u[...]

FCC Will Try to Ban States From Protecting Net Neutrality -

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 14:00:02 EDT

As part of the FCC's attack on popular net neutrality rules, it will attempt to try and ban states from protecting net neutrality in the wake of federal consumer antipathy. The FCC made it's intention clear on this front in a press briefing with reporters this week, though precisely how the FCC will accomplish hasn't yet been made clear. The decision is yet another gift to large broadband providers (pdf), which have been lobbying the FCC to ban states from protecting consumers in the wake of gutting net neutrality protections. "It isn't clear yet exactly how extensive the preemption will be," notes Ars Technica. "Preemption would clearly prevent states from imposing net neutrality laws similar to the ones being repealed by the FCC, but it could also prevent state laws related to the privacy of Internet users or other consumer protections." Lobbyists for Verizon and Comcast have also been lobbying the FCC to ban states from protecting consumer privacy, after they successfully convinced the Trump administration to gut consumer broadband privacy protections earlier this year. Those rules required that ISPs transparently disclose what personal user data they're collecting, who they're selling it to, as well as requiring working opt out tools. The quest to erode states rights is ironic from an industry that has often pretending to really care about state rights. As we've long noted, ISP lobbyists for years have convinced states to pass anti-competitive, protectionist laws that ban towns and cities from building their own broadband networks -- or even striking public/private partnerships with companies like Google Fiber or Ting. These laws hamstring states from exploring creative options for broadband, even in instances where private ISPs refuse to expand service. When folks have tried to stop states from passing these miserable, anti-consumer laws -- ISP policy folk have breathlessly tried to claim this was an "attack on states rights." Yet here you have states actually trying to do the right thing by consumers, and ISPs have absolutely no problem trampling those same rights. As noted yesterday, the FCC's order attempting to crush net neutrality protections is so filled with fraud and other procedural oddities and missteps (fake DDOS attacks, FCC website fraud), the inevitable lawsuits may prevent the FCC from even getting to the "stop states from actually protecting consumers" part of the program. The FCC will also have to prove in court that the broadband industry has changed dramatically in just two years to justify the violent reversal of consumer-friendly policies at the comment(s)[...]

Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend Open Thread! -

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 07:40:03 EDT

Everyone here at DSLReports wishes you a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Front page news will return Monday, November 27. Drop your holiday greetings and best black Friday deals into the comment section below.

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NY AG Investigating Fraudulent Net Neutrality Comments -

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 18:01:47 EDT

For much of the year we've noted how the FCC's proceeding to kill net neutrality rules has seen more than its fair share of dubious and fraudulent behavior. From the FCC's decision to apparently make up a DDOS attack to downplay public opposition to its plan, to a wave of fake, bot-crafted comments providing phony support for the attack, the odor eminating from the entire proceeding is substantial, and will likely play a starring role in the inevitable lawuits that will be filed against the FCC when it votes to kill the rules in December.

Even with dead people mysteriously supporting the agency's plan, the FCC has refused to lift a finger to crack down on the fraud. Nor has it been willing to help anybody trying to investigate which individual or organization is responsible.

Today, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that his office has been investigating the net neutrality comment fraud for the last six months. And in a letter sent to FCC boss Ajit Pai, he points out that the agency has ignored nine requests for data from the AG's office during that period.

"Such conduct likely violates state law -- yet the FCC has refused multiple requests for crucial evidence in its sole possession that is vital to permit that law enforcement investigation to proceed," notes Schneiderman. We reached out for assistance to multiple top FCC officials, including you, three successive acting FCC General Counsels, and the FCC s Inspector General. We offered to keep the requested records confidential, as we had done when my office and the FCC shared information and documents as part of past investigative work."

"Yet we have received no substantive response to our investigative requests," stated the AG. "None."

While the FCC likely wasn't dumb enough to engage in this comment fraud itself, it obviously benefits from turning a blind eye to it. By discrediting the validity of the one chance for public feedback, it's easier to downplay the massive, public opposition to the FCC's blatant hand out to the telecom industry. The likely culprit is any number of covertly ISP-funded proxy groups that have engaged in this kind of behavior in the past, and which the current FCC has a vested interest in protecting.

Regardless of the culprit, if looming lawsuits against the agency can prove the FCC cut procedural corners or turned a blind eye to fraud to aid the telecom industry and its sockpuppets, its "victory" in gutting these essential and popular consumer protections could prove short lived.
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Android Collected User Location Data Even When Asked Not To -

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 10:00:03 EDT

Google is under fire this week after reporters discovered that the company's Android mobile OS has been collecting the location data of users -- even if they've opted out of such location sharing. Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have collected the addresses of nearby cell towers even when location services are disabled by the end user, reporters at Quartz discovered. The report notes that data was then sent on to Google without users being notified.

A Google spokesperson told the news outlet that this information was never used for any purpose, and that Google will cease the practice by the end of this month.

"In January of this year, we began looking into using Cell ID codes as an additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery," a Google spokesperson tells the outlet. "However, we never incorporated Cell ID into our network sync system, so that data was immediately discarded, and we updated it to no longer request Cell ID."

Google's quick decision to disable the functionality is a tacit admission that collecting data from users who've expressly opted out from such collection isn't a good look. Especially given that the company just worked hand in hand with Comcast, Verizon and AT&T to scuttle a broadband privacy bill in California aimed at holding companies accountable for poor privacy practices.

"The practice is troubling for people who d prefer they weren t tracked, especially for those such as law-enforcement officials or victims of domestic abuse who turn off location services thinking they re fully concealing their whereabouts," the report notes. "Although the data sent to Google is encrypted, it could potentially be sent to a third party if the phone had been compromised with spyware or other methods of hacking. Each phone has a unique ID number, with which the location data can be associated."
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AT&T Vows Brutal Fight Against DOJ Merger Lawsuit -

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 08:30:02 EDT

AT&T is promising to fight tooth and nail against the DOJ's planned lawsuit, aimed at scuttling its $86 billion acquisition of Time Warner. The DOJ this week announced that it would be suing to stop the merger, after reports indicated AT&T rejected DOJ demands to sell either Turning Broadcasting (owner of CNN) or DirecTV (acquired by AT&T last year). Reports indicate that AT&T lawyers are investigating if Trump's disdain for CNN -- or Rupert Murdoch's demand the deal be quashed -- played a role in pressuring the DOJ.

In a statement, AT&T tried to claim that such vertical integration somehow aids consumers.

"Today's DOJ lawsuit is a radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent," AT&T said. "Vertical mergers like this one are routinely approved because they benefit consumers without removing any competitor from the market. We see no legitimate reason for our merger to be treated differently."

Consumer advocates disagree. They point out that AT&T already has a long, proud history of anti-competitive behavior -- behavior that will only get worse with the greater leverage provided by the deal. That could include making it harder for streaming providers to gain access to the licensing contracts they need to compete with AT&T's own DirecTV Now streaming service.

Consumer advocates say Trump may be blocking the deal for the wrong reasons (aid to Murdoch or to quash criticism from CNN), a blocked deal would still likely be a good thing for consumers.

"The Justice Department must demonstrate that Trump s saber-rattling has nothing to do with this suit," noted Free Press in a statement. "It could start by giving the same level of scrutiny to other mega-deals like Sinclair s proposed merger with Tribune. But the bottom line is that the public would be best served if this merger is scrapped."

That said, many are doubtful that this is a fight the government can win, especially if AT&T lawyers and researchers are able to find and publicize any evidence showing that the Trump administration is more interested in quashing CNN or aiding Murdoch than protecting consumers or competition (as it claims in the full DOJ complaint (pdf)).
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Forum Topic: Tracking Comcast's Latest Speed Upgrades -

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 12:00:03 EDT

Users in our Comcast Xfinity forum continue to track the cable giant's latest round of "free" (assuming you ignore usage caps, overage fees, and other hidden surcharges) speed upgrades.

3 Million Dish Customers Lose CBS Channels Ahead of Thanksgiving -

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 14:00:02 EDT

3 million Dish customers this morning lost access to 28 CBS-owned local stations in 18 markets because Dish Network and CBS executives couldn't agree on a new licensing contract like responsible adults. Such retransmission fee disputes have only increased as broadcasters increasingly demand higher and higher rates for the same content -- oblivious or immune to growing consumer concern about soaring cable bills, or that this frustration is increasingly driving them to piracy or alternative streaming options.

This latest standoff comes just days before CBS will air the latest Thanksgiving NFL game, this year between the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Chargers.

As such, the blackout is calculated to put as much pressure on Dish as humanly possible to pony up more money to CBS. CBS issued a statement that's almost gleeful at the fact that annoyed customers will be calling their cable TV provider when they try to tune in to the big game.

"Dish subscribers are in jeopardy of being without CBS over the Thanksgiving holiday, which would mean they would miss CBS Sports NFL and SEC football coverage beginning Thursday," CBS said in a statement.

Dish, in turn, issued a statement indicating it would be handing out free over the air antennas to impacted subscribers so they wouldn't miss the big game. Dish also says it's offering the option for customers to ditch all local broadcast channels entirely and save $10 per month off of their monthly bill. Dish was also quick to point out that CBS hopes to boost the money it charges for its channels from $250 million in 2012 to a forecasted $2.5 billion by 2020.

CBS is attempting to tax DISH customers on programming that s losing viewers, tax DISH customers on programming available for free over the air, and tax DISH customers for content available directly from CBS, said Warren Schlichting, DISH executive vice president of Marketing, Programming and Media Sales. Our customers are clear: they don t want to pay a CBS tax. It s regrettable and unnecessary that CBS is bringing its greed into the homes of millions of families this Thanksgiving.

There's a full breakdown of the blacked out CBS channels here.
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It's Official: FCC Reveals Plan to Kill Net Neutrality -

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 12:04:09 EDT

The FCC today made it official: it's ignoring the will of the public and will vote to kill popular net neutrality rules on December 14. FCC Boss Ajit Pai is circulating his plan among fellow commissioners, and is expected to make the rules public either Wednesday or Friday in a shallow ploy to minimize press and public criticism of the plan. Insiders say the plan is a full repeal of Title II classification and the consumer protections, and while it does retain some conditions of transparency, insiders who've already seen the plan tell me the restrictions are intentionally so watered down as to be useless. We should have more detail in a day or two. The 2015 rules, which are extremely popular among consumers, protect consumers from large ISPs looking to abuse the lack of competition via additional tolls, throttling, zero rating, and other "creative" efforts. And while the US' rules are modest and notably less extensive than similar rules in Japan, India, Canada and elsewhere, the industry has spent years demonizing the rules as "heavy handed regulation" (patently false), while insisting they devastated sector investment (also repeatedly proven to be untrue). "Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet," FCC boss Ajit Pai said in a statement today. "Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate." Pai is likely intentionally making himself among the least popular people on the internet as part of an intentional two-step plan to demolish the rules. Step one is to play bad cop as an unelected bureaucrat. Step two will be the introduction of a new net neutrality law, literally written by the industry itself, so full of loopholes as to be useless. Such a law would, however, prohibit the FCC from revisiting the subject down the road once Trump and Pai leave office. Expect all manner of lobbying support for said law to heat up in the new year, with plenty of ISP allies falsely claiming it provides a "solution" to the longstanding debate. The problem is it's election season, and few lawmakers will be eager to side with some of the least-liked companies in America. the FCC is about to deliver a cornucopia full of rotten fruit, stale grains, and wilted flowers topped off with a plate full of burnt turkey. -Mignon ClyburnNeedless to say, groups and individuals that actually care about consumers, small businesses, and a healthy competitive internet remain thoroughly unimpressed with Pai's myopic plan. "In just two days, many of us will join friends and family in celebrating the spirit of Thanksgiving," said Pai's fellow FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. "But as we learned today, the FCC is about to deliver a cornucopia full of rotten fruit, stale grains, and wilted flowers topped off with a plate full of burnt turkey. Their destroying internet freedom order would dismantle net neutrality as we know it by giving the green light to our nation's largest broadband providers to engage in anti-consumer practices, including blocking, slowing down traffic, and paid prioritization of online applications and services." "Today, for the first time, Chairman Pai proposes to leave internet subscribers completely unprotected by the FCC," added consumer group Public Knowledge. "Chairman Pai s radical Carriers First, Consumers Last approach puts broadband subscribers at the mercy of local cable companies whose innovations have more to do with gouging consumers and crushing competition than with providing new services." Once the FCC votes to repeal the rules on December 15, it will be subject to numerous lawsuits from consumer advocate[...]

Report: DOJ to Sue to Block AT&T, Time Warner Merger -

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:03:47 EDT

Reuters reports that the Department of Justice will soon file a lawsuit in an attempt to block AT&T's $86 billion acquisition of Time Warner. Reports had already suggested that the DOJ was considering such an action, and that it had given AT&T an ultimatum: either sell off DirecTV or CNN-owner Time Warner as part of the deal, or face a lawsuit. AT&T publicly stated it would do neither, bringing us to this point. The lawsuit could be announced as early as this week, though the DOJ may wait until after the Thanksgiving holiday to unveil it. Some appear to believe that a Trump administration that has been gutting consumer protections and media consolidations hand over fist suddenly gives a damn about antitrust and vertical integration issues. Others believe that Trump's disdain for CNN's critical coverage of his Presidency -- and Rupert Murdoch's fear of a bigger competitor to his News Corporation empire -- are much more likely explanations for the decision. Additional reports indicate that AT&T lawyers are already planning a legal fight, and are exploring whether or not Murdoch played a role in getting the Trump administration to scuttle the deal. Murdoch had been urging the Trump administration to block the deal since at least January, while other outlets indicated that AT&T rebuffed at least two efforts by Murdoch to buy CNN from AT&T over the last six months. Trump's disdain for CNN's coverage of his Presidency may also be playing a role in the DOJ's decision making. Trump DOJ antitrust boss Makan Delrahim was previously on record stating he saw no problems with the deal, a position that only changed recently. Trump has made no secret of his animosity toward the news network, and administration officials told the New York Times in July that it wanted to use the deal as "leverage" over the network. Cutting off funding from a deep-pocketed parent company like AT&T, or forcing AT&T to divest CNN to Murdoch who'd subsequently work to undermine the Fox News competitor, would both service those goals. Most consumer advocates have criticized the deal, arguing that AT&T will undermine streaming video competitors by making it harder for them to license the content needed to compete with AT&T's own DirecTV Now streaming service. Given the Trump administration's frontal assault on net neutrality, privacy guidelines, media consolidation rules and every other consumer protection under the sun, it's a hard sell that consumer welfare is motivating the DOJ's assault on the deal. Regardless of the motivation, AT&T has made it very clear it expects to fight the lawsuit in court. Update: AT&T issued this statement shortly after the news broke:quote:"Today's DOJ lawsuit is a radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent. Vertical mergers like this one are routinely approved because they benefit consumers without removing any competitor from the market. We see no legitimate reason for our merger to be treated differently. "Our merger combines Time Warner's content and talent with AT&T's TV, wireless and broadband distribution platforms. The result will help make television more affordable, innovative, interactive and mobile. Fortunately, the Department of Justice doesn't have the final say in this matter. Rather, it bears the burden of proving to the U.S. District Court that the transaction violates the law. We are confident that the Court will reject the Government's claims and permit this merger under longstanding legal precedent."read comment(s)[...]