Archives for FCC

California reinstates net neutrality

According to CNBC, on September 30th, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that would restore open internet protections or “net neutrality” in his state. These laws were repealed federally in December 2017.

By doing this, California is clashing with the decision of the Federal Communications Commission. Before the bill was passed, FCC chairman Ajit Pai made a speech calling the legislation “a radical, anti-consumer internet regulation bill that would impose restrictions even more burdensome than those adopted by the FCC in 2015.”

On the other hand, Gigi Sohn a former senior aide to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, told CNBC the California law “is now the model for all future state and federal legislation … this is what internet users across the political spectrum have said they want by overwhelming majorities.”

Needless to say, opinions are torn over whether California made the right choice.

Without net neutrality, says CNBC, ISPs have “sweeping new powers to recast how Americans use the internet, as long as they disclose changes.” However, since the new rules came into federal effect in June, providers have not made changes in access.

Source: cnbc.com – California governor signs state law to reinstate ‘net neutrality’
Published: September 30, 2018

Seattle writes its own broadband privacy rules, ignores FCC regulations

internetThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently repealed broadband privacy regulation, a decision that upset many across the country, and allowed internet service providers (ISPs) to collect and sell user browsing data. According to TechCrunch, the city of Seattle, Washington decided to rewrite the rules and protect citizens living in its territory.

The FCC repealed a law that would have increased requirements for transparency and security practices, as well as protected browsing history, meaning that ISPs would have had to get permission from their consumers to track and sell it. However, this law never reached fruition.

Seattle’s CTO, Michael Mattmiller, said that when the rule was repealed, “the mayor directed us to look for authority the city had to restore – or perhaps not restore, but make a rule like it.”

They found the authority they needed in municipal code, which governs cable franchises. This is mostly directed towards TV services, but Mattmiller said that setting “privacy standards for subscribers of cable service and other services provided over the cable system” fit the bill.

Seattle’s ruling was passed on May 3rd, requiring cable internet providers to garner opt-in consent before using browsing history or any other kind of internet usage data for its own purposes. In addition, ISPs are required to provide their privacy statement to city authorities, which will then undergo yearly inspection.  ISPs have to comply with the rule by May 24th. Seattle residents might expect to receive an update from their ISP asking you to opt in to a data collection practice.

5G Standards Are on the Way

FCCIf you’re addicted to your phone’s data, but it just isn’t fast enough, you’ll be interested to know a faster network could be coming your way. Soon, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be sharing its thoughts on the future of data, 5G.

Right now most of us are using 4G and have been since 2010. This enabled revolutionary connection speeds, and HD streaming of video and music. 5G will take this to a new level by attempting to match our society’s increasing mobile needs. More towers are expected to be built, creating a broader frequency spectrum. The biggest change is that 5G will use millimeter wave bands for the first time; these are high frequency, short range bands that will allegedly increase connection speeds tenfold.

According to the FCC, 5G won’t roll out in full force until 2020, but companies like Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T have already begun testing. Verizon boasts limited release of 5G starting next year. Even so, the FCC and Congress still have to vote on and formalize the regulation and allocation of high-spectrum bandwidth.

*Source: Popular Mechanics

FCC, FTC to Investigate Mobile Security Updates

smartphoneThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are launching parallel probes into the mobile industry’s security update practices. The agencies want to determine how manufacturers issue security updates for mobile devices, and how carriers review and release the patches.

“As consumers and businesses turn to mobile broadband to conduct ever more of their daily activities, the safety of their communications and other personal information is directly related to the security of the devices they use,” stated an FCC press release.

“There have recently been a growing number of vulnerabilities associated with mobile operating systems that threaten the security and integrity of a user’s device, including ‘Stagefright’ in the Android operating system, which may affect almost 1 billion Android devices globally.”

In all, the FTC has contacted eight companies – Apple, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, Motorola and Samsung – to gain insight into how manufacturers determine if a vulnerability needs to be patched. It has also asked for a list of all devices offered for sale since 2013, with information on any bugs that have impacted them and any fixes that were issued.

The main concern is that delays in developing patches may be leaving devices unprotected. Older devices may never receive the necessary protection.

FCC to Examine Business Data Services

FCCThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it will be taking a hard look at the business data services market to reform and modernize its rules surrounding the industry.

According to a press release, the FCC plans to call for public comment to ensure market conditions do not hinder innovation and competition, and to make transitions into new technology easier for businesses.

“Business data services are critical in the day-to-day life of consumers, business and industry, and are integral to the competitiveness of the U.S. economy as a whole in the information age,” stated the FCC release.

“Users include banks and retailers connecting ATM machines and credit card readers, government and corporate users connecting branch offices and data centers, and mobile phone providers offloading calls and data from wireless networks – a need that will grow exponentially with the deployment of advanced 5G wireless service.”

Additionally, the FCC has ordered AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink and Frontier to file new special access tarrifs, stating their existing filing was “unjust and unreasonable, and had the effect of decreasing facilities-based competition and inhibiting the transition to new technologies.”

FCC Hands Down $51M Fine in Lifeline Scam

FCCThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is handing down a massive fine to a telecom company that defrauded the government of nearly $10 million. The FCC announced the $51 million fine against Total Call Mobile in a press release last week, alleging the company signed up tens of thousands of duplicate and ineligible consumers to the Lifeline program.

“We reserve the strongest sanctions for those who defraud or abuse federal programs,” said Enforcement Bureau chief Travis LeBlanc, in the press release. “Any waste, fraud, or abuse in the Lifeline program diverts scarce funds from the consumers they are meant to serve and undermines the public’s trust in the program and its stewardship.”

The Lifeline program offers phone service to low-income consumers at a reduced rate, allowing them to connect with jobs, family and emergency services. Eligible phone service providers receive $9.25 per month for each consumer receiving the service, with the intent of passing on the reimbursement to the customer. The Total Call Mobile fine is the largest ever handed down for Lifeline infractions.

“The Commission alleges that since 2014, Total Call has requested and received an estimated $9.7 million dollars in improper payments from the Universal Service Fund for duplicate or ineligible consumers despite repeated and explicit warnings from its own employees, in some cases compliance specialists, that company sales agents were engaged in widespread enrollment fraud,” states the release.

Total Call Mobile offered the service in at least 19 states. An Enforcement Bureau investigation found the company was aware of issues surrounding duplicate enrollments up to a year before authorities raised the issue with Total Call. In late 2014, there is evidence as many as 99.8 percent of the company’s enrollments were made by overriding the third-party verification system designed to catch duplicates.

One sales agent was arrested and charged with identity theft after they allegedly used ID from a stolen wallet to register 10 Lifeline cell phones. When the agent was taken into custody they had 12 additional Lifeline cell phones and the stolen wallet in their possession.

In addition to the fine, the FCC says it may take action to strip Total Call’s authorizations to operate as a common carrier and Lifeline provider.

No Plans for FCC to Regulate Netflix

netflix logoThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) won’t be looking to claims that Netflix is throttling its own video streams, said FCC Chair Tom Wheeler.

According to the FCC, Netflix and similar services are considered “edge providers” meaning that the rules of Open Internet do not apply to them.

“We do not regulate edge providers,” Wheeler was quoted as saying. “It’s outside of our jurisdiction… It is not an Open Internet issue what they’re doing. I’m going to leave it at that.”

Netflix has admitted to reducing video speeds for AT&T and Verizon customers for over five years now, but it maintains it wanted to “protect customers from exceeding mobile data caps.” The company also says it limits its streams at only 600-kilobits-per-second, which is slower than modern wireless networks operate.

While news of video throttling is enraging both advocacy groups and broadband providers alike, the FCC says there is nothing it can do. Ironically, Netflix recently supported both the FCC ruling on net neutrality and its ban on throttling.

*Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal

FCC Can’t Stop Facebook from Tracking Users

FCCThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says it cannot force companies like Google, Facebook, or generic ad providers from tracking users online.

The privacy advocacy group Consumer Watchdog has been petitioning the commission to make the “Do Not Track” setting in browsers illegal to ignore. It sends a signal when visiting websites that supposedly limits the amount of data that can be collected. However, this reduced collection must be voluntary and the “Do Not Track” setting is simply a preference.

The FCC said in a written order that enforcing the “Do Not Track” setting actually falls out of its jurisdiction.

“The Commission has been unequivocal in declaring that it has no intent to regulate edge providers,” read the statement. “We therefore find that the Consumer Watchdog Petition plainly does not warrant consideration by the Commission.”

Edge providers like Microsoft and Twitter provide services on the Internet without actually selling Internet connections.

Consumer Watchdogs is understandably unhappy with the decision, but will not give up its pursuit.

“We believe that the FCC has the authority to enforce Internet privacy protections far more broadly than they have opted to do,” said John Simpson, the director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project, in a statement. “Requiring that Do Not Track requests be honored is a simple way to give people necessary control of their information and is in no way an attempt to regulate the content of the Internet.”

*Source: NBC News

FCC Creates Robocall Shame List

FCCAmericans will soon have more power to put an end to annoying robocalls. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is posting data from consumer complaints online in an effort to promote feedback and prevent robocalls.

The FCC says these automated messages that interrupt people at all hours of the day are the most frequent complaints submitted by consumers.

Aaron Foss, founder of call blocker NomoRobo, said he’s traditionally had to submit a Freedom of Information Act Request in order to get the information the FCC is now publicly releasing.

“For the past two years I have been advocating for all of the government organizations to report this data,” Foss told 7 News. “And the push-back that we always get is that there’s personally identifiable information, what about the consumer, how do we protect the consumer, and what I’ve been saying is, ‘Listen we don’t need to know any consumer information. All we need to know is what is the robocaller’s phone number.’ If we get that, that really helps us.”

The data the FCC is releasing will be limited to the phone numbers of robocallers. As of today, there are more than 16,000 numbers posted online and it will be updated every week. The FCC hopes this list will encourage more blocking tools, like NomoRobo, which is free for Internet-based phone numbers.

AT&T Ad Claims Draw FCC Heat

att logoDATA FINE: The Federal Communications Commission wants to bring the hammer down on AT&T, saying it will fine the telecommunications giant $100 million (the largest proposed fine in FCC history) for allegedly deceiving customers about unlimited wireless data plans, The Wall Street Journal reports.

It was the advertising for the plans that got the company in trouble. The FCC says AT&T marketed plans as “unlimited” before capping data speeds after customers used 5 gigabytes of data. The capped speeds were then considerably slower, the FCC says.

AT&T claims the FCC had said the practice was legitimate and that it had been clear about the practices on its website. But the FCC isn’t having it. “Unlimited means unlimited,” Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said.