Who “owns” your cellphone service?

❝ If you are somehow under the impression that you — the customer — are in control over the security, privacy and integrity of your mobile phone service, think again…

No, a series of recent court cases and unfortunate developments highlight the sad reality that the wireless industry today has all but ceded control over this vital national resource to cybercriminals, scammers, corrupt employees and plain old corporate greed.

Just one example

❝ On Tuesday, Google announced that an unceasing deluge of automated robocalls had doomed a feature of its Google Voice service that sends transcripts of voicemails via text message.

Google said “certain carriers” are blocking the delivery of these messages because all too often the transcripts resulted from unsolicited robocalls, and that as a result the feature would be discontinued by Aug. 9. This is especially rich given that one big reason people use Google Voice in the first place is to screen unwanted communications from robocalls, mainly because the major wireless carriers have shown themselves incapable or else unwilling to do much to stem the tide of robocalls targeting their customers.

I shan’t say there are no corporations dedicated to greed over anything else. Certainly, there is nothing like the number who would claim to be such. Telcos, in particular – from the earliest operator-based services to solid state whizbangs promising the world from the imitation 5G systems we’ll be limited to in the GOUSA – would have invented corruption if the Old Testament hadn’t beaten them to it.

Cellular companies fight to throttle firefighters phones if they use them too much during an emergency

Justin Sullivan/Getty

❝ The US mobile industry’s top lobbying group is opposing a proposed California state law that would prohibit throttling of fire departments and other public safety agencies during emergencies…

The group’s letter also suggested that the industry would sue the state if the bill is passed in its current form, saying the bill would result in “serious unintended consequences, including needless litigation.”

❝ CTIA represents Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and other carriers.

❝ State Assemblymember Marc Levine proposed the bill in response to Verizon throttling an “unlimited” data plan used by Santa Clara County firefighters last year during the state’s largest-ever wildfire.

Profits still come before people in the minds of the most backwards segments of American capitalism. And you ain’t going to find much more backwards than American Telcos.

Senate defeats Republican effort to crush Net Neutrality

New U.S. Internet traffic rules cleared a hurdle on Thursday, surviving an attempt by the Senate to block them from taking effect later in the month. President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats in the Senate blocked a Republican-backed resolution to disapprove of the Federal Communications Commission’s rules on “net neutrality.” The vote was 52-46 against the resolution.

Adopted by a divided FCC last December, the rules forbid broadband providers from blocking legal content while leaving flexibility for providers to manage their networks.

The rules still face a court challenge. Lawsuits by Verizon Communications Inc and others have been consolidated before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The Senate resolution was championed by Kay Bailey Hutchinson, the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, and had 42 co-sponsors, all Republican. A similar measure passed the Republican-led House of Representatives in April…

The FCC’s rules allow consumers and entrepreneurs to utilize the Internet “without having to ask permission from their broadband provider,” Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said on Wednesday.

Backers of net neutrality say big providers could otherwise use their gatekeeper role to discriminate against competitors.

Republicans continue to frame their crap attempts to restrict public access to the Web. Requiring communications to be ruled by backwards corporations like Verizon and AT&T, offering the same old ideology, lies that try to credit freedom, jobs and the American Way of Life as dependent on corporate control.

They wish it were so. And there is only a small margin of conscience keeping them at bay.

India arrests company executive in mobile graft scandal

Shahid Balwa arrives at a court for his hearing in New Delhi
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Indian police have made the first arrest of a company executive in a multi-billion dollar telecoms corruption scandal that has rocked the Congress party-led government and undermined Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The scandal, one of several during the Congress party’s second term, has not yet threatened the survival of the coalition because it holds enough seats in parliament, and Singh is still seen as one of the few politicians skilled enough to hold the government together.

But it has already led to the arrest of the former telecoms minister and the opposition, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, is going after the prime minister, accusing him of allowing graft to go unchallenged…

Authorities arrested Shahid Balwa, vice chairman of a joint venture with Abu Dhabi’s Etisalat, overnight on allegations two Indian telecoms firms got favorable treatment when licenses were awarded in 2007-2008 in the world’s fastest growing mobile market…

Police suspect government officials colluded with the private sector in selling them lucrative 2G mobile licenses below market value and are now probing whether anyone received kickbacks…

India’s mobile market is huge with around 730 million subscribers, roughly equivalent to Europe’s population. The number of subscribers is growing at some 17-18 million a month…

The executive arrested in Mumbai was managing director of DB Realty and vice chairman of Etisalat DB, an Indian telecoms joint venture with DB Group, which controls DB Realty.

While every nation has unique roots forming any culture of corruption, there is no way to complete a successful move into regional or global leadership without some level of confrontation of that corruption. Those nations that best meet – and defeat – that culture will grow into the fullest appreciation of their capacities.

FCC to propose changes to rural phone subsidy program that could result in access to broadband

Republican version of broadband

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday will propose the first steps toward converting the $8 billion fund that subsidizes rural telephone service into one for helping pay to provide broadband Internet service to underserved areas, according to commission officials…

Most of the money under discussion involves a longstanding subsidy known as the Universal Service Fund, which is paid for through fees tacked onto most consumers’ phone bills and distributed among telephone companies to subsidize the high costs of providing service to rural areas.

Mr. Genachowski will propose phasing out the payments between phone companies, which he says create “inefficiencies and perverse incentives” that result in waste in the fund. The F.C.C. will also propose consolidating existing methods of paying for rural phone service into a new pool to be called the Connect America Fund, to be used for helping pay for making broadband available to underserved areas.

The current Universal Service Fund and its spending methods are “unsustainable,” according to a draft of Mr. Genachowski’s remarks prepared for Monday. “It was designed for a world with separate local and long-distance telephone companies, a world of traditional landline telephones before cellphones or Skype, a world without the Internet — a world that no longer exists.”

At the end of this transition, we would no longer subsidize telephone networks; instead we would support broadband,” which then could be used for phone service, Mr. Genachowski plans to say…

So far, the F.C.C. has outlined efforts to expand broadband availability only though wired connections. But commission officials say that they will almost certainly look at whether it makes sense to try to use the growth of wireless Internet service as a spur to expand high-speed Internet access for underserved areas.

Whatever the mechanism, folks like me – living just a couple miles outside city limits into rural New Mexico – will support such a change. The operative word, once again, being choice.

I can have erratic and throttled, overpriced service from Comcast – or barely minimal DSL from Qwest. That’s my range of providers. Satellite service is even more expensive and has its own set of tech problems. Folks living another few miles further away from any sizable city or town – have no options. They get nothing, nada, broadband.

FCC pushes forward with broadband agenda

The Federal Communications Commission is moving forward with its National Broadband Plan despite an appeals court decision earlier this week that called into question the agency’s authority over regulating the Internet.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski issued a statement that said the court’s decision “does not change our broadband policy goals, or the ultimate authority of the FCC to act to achieve those goals.The court did not question the FCC’s goals; it merely invalidated one technical, legal mechanism for broadband policy chosen by prior commissions…”

Ayuh. Did anyone out there think that the last couple decades of FCC appointees did anything other than ask corporate approval for how high to jump? When so ordered?

In its 2010 Broadband Action Agenda the FCC said it plans to address more than 60 rules in the making and other proposals by the end of the year. The FCC said it was important to move forward with these items to reach its goals of helping 100 million U.S. homes get affordable access to broadband with download speeds of 100 Mbps over the next decade; promoting innovation, investment and competition and consumer interest in broadband; and providing a platform to improve energy consumption and monitoring, education, and health care…

Consumer advocates would like to see the FCC reclassify broadband Internet traffic so that it is treated like the traditional telephone network. This will give the agency the legal authority to regulate the Net.

All we need to do is get Congress in gear, the Democrats up on their hind legs – and lose more members of the Party of NO.

FCC is sneaking up on endorsing Net Neutrality – UPDATED

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski will unveil in a speech on Monday new proposals that would force Internet providers to treat the flow of content equally, say sources familiar with the speech.

The concept, referred to as net neutrality, pits open Internet companies like Google against broadband service providers like AT&T, Verizon Communications, and Comcast, which oppose new rules governing network management.

Advocates of net neutrality say Internet service providers must be barred from blocking or slowing traffic based on content.

Providers say the increasing volume of bandwidth-hogging services like video sharing requires active management of their networks and some argue that net neutrality could stifle innovation.

“He is going to announce rulemaking,” said one source familiar with his speech about broadband, to be delivered at the Brookings Institution, a public policy think tank. “The commission will have to codify into new regulations the principle of nondiscrimination.”

The most hypocritical aspect of the Telco/Cableco position is their whining over the amount of fibre utilized by consumers, small vendors, independent producers of video content – anyone but the fibre-owners and their backdoor buddies in the MPAA.

Then, the sky’s the limit on how much bandwidth is used to provide direct unregulated profit.

UPDATE: Here’s the speech.

Congressman proposes law on personal data privacy on the Web

Privacy? Har, har, har…
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

An internet privacy law is coming, Congressman Rick Boucher promised, as he steered his committee into the marshes of online behavioral advertising, deep packet inspection and location-tracking services.

Boucher, a Virginia Democrat and longtime ally of digital rights groups, now heads the House subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet. He said wants the committee to write a broad online privacy law this year.

For instance, Boucher made it clear he’s concerned about ISPs using so-called deep packet inspection technology, or DPI, to examine the data packets it delivers to and from its customers. “The thought that a network operator could track a user’s every move on the Internet, record the details of every search and read every email or attached document is alarming.”

But the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Leslie Harris warned the committee not to get too wrapped up with any particular technology, since the privacy threats change quickly — pointing out that current privacy laws are good in some areas — video rental records, for one — and non-existent in others…

It’s not clear how broad a law Boucher has in mind, though it’s likely to be some codification of generally accepted data-privacy practices. Those include telling people when you collect data and why, letting them choose to join in or not, using the data only for the reason you collected it, letting people see and correct the information and destroying it when its not longer needed…

The Free Press’s Ben Scott summed up what he and many consumer advocates would like to see in an overarching privacy bill.

“It needs to cover intentionality, behavior, and outcome,” Scott said. “Why do you want my information? What are you going to do with it? And what does that mean for me?”

I’ll second that.

U.S. lobbyists horn in on European debate over Internet access

As European lawmakers debate how to keep access to the Internet free and equal – so-called network neutrality – they are being bombarded, not unsurprisingly, by lobbyists.

But the corporate envoys roaming the halls of Brussels, trying to make their case, more often than not do not represent the Continent’s myriad telecommunications and Internet companies, but rather those from the United States.

As the reputation of Europe grows as the world’s technology regulator, representatives in a conflict that pits the AT&Ts and Verizons against the Googles and Yahoos are attempting to shape European law in the hopes that U.S. regulators will follow suit.

The U.S. companies see the outcome of the fight in Europe as key,” said Jeremie Zimmermann,a lobbyist for La Quadrature du Net,an Internet advocacy group based in Paris. “Each side is hoping to score points on the issue here so they can take it back to the States to influence the outcome there.”

RTFA. In depth analysis – and understanding as much affected by the ignorance and opportunism of American politicians as anything else.

Useful detail tracking a confrontation which IMHO still lacks a conclusive direction.

U.S. businesses invent roadblocks to using cellphone as credit card

Consumers in the United States will not be able to pay for purchases by waving their mobile phones in front of a reader anytime soon because of a dispute over how to split the revenue.

The Japanese have been using the technology for five years to pay for train tickets, groceries, even candy in vending machines. And in small trials around the world, nearly everyone has liked using this form of payment.

“In Japan it was easier,” said Gerhard Romen, director for corporate business development at Nokia. “It was just the major guys saying, ‘This is how it will be.”‘ A single carrier, NTT DoCoMo, accounted for more than half the Japanese market at the time the system was rolled out and thus had significant leverage with financial institutions and phone manufacturers…

This is not the case in the United States. For such payments to work there, cellphone manufacturers, carriers, financial institutions and retailers must all play roles. There must also be a trusted intermediary to activate the virtual credit cards inside the phone…

“At the end of the day, the question is, ‘Who pays whom and how much?”‘ Romen said. “The carriers and the banks need to get their act together on payment.” He called the back-and-forth a necessary step in the creation of a complex system…

It is completely possible nothing will happen in mobile payments in the next five years”…because each greedy bastard is afraid someone else will make a penny more than they do.