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.

5G – as it’s being rolled out – won’t transform much of anything

A blog post by Neville Ray, CTO of T-Mobile USA

❝ 5G is at the height of the hype curve right now…and there’s also a lot of misinformation. I’m not going to add to either…And when it’s ready for our customers…in a way that allows us to bring the benefits of 5G to the whole country…We are going to get it right.

I wish I could say the same for the rest of the industry. But with the 5G path the other guys are on – what I’m calling the status quo – we will not see the transformational power this technology has to completely change EVERY industry. And that’s not good enough…

Verizon’s mmWave-only 5G plan is only for the few. And it will never reach rural America. Meanwhile, AT&T has rolled out a “5GE” icon to customers phones to dupe them into thinking their same-old 4G LTE service is something new and different (spoiler alert: it’s not)…

❝ Some of this is physics – millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum has great potential in terms of speed and capacity, but it doesn’t travel far from the cell site and doesn’t penetrate materials at all. It will never materially scale beyond small pockets of 5G hotspots in dense urban environments.

Yes, we’re all being hyped by the buzzwords. Something like “Make America Great Again” for cellphones. RTFA to get a grasp of the questions that haven’t been answered well enough to bring this faster technology to everyone.

And there’s more…

❝ 5G is the “fifth generation” of wireless networks. It will cover a wide range of devices, including both mobile and fixed network infrastructure, i.e. both mobile smartphones, wearables and settled machines will be wireless. So does that mean in future we will need no fiber cables running around?

❝ Beneath the surface of the world’s wireless infrastructure lies a big net interwoven by the fiber optic cables. And at present 90% of all internet traffic travels over wireline fiber, even if it finally terminates in a wireless device. 5G is targeted at a connection speed of 1-10 Gbps, which is ten to hundred times higher than 4G. The overwhelming traffic to data centers will demand a transport media that is capable of high bandwidth and long distance, and fiber is the best future-proof choice among all mediums…

We won’t receiving 5G anything under most circumstances if it wasn’t delivered by fibre-optic cables to be broadcast in the first place.

Personally, my best hope is that cable providers bringing most of us existing broadband access capable of 4K movies and the 5K and 8K to follow…will have the smarts to compete and offer matching speeds at affordable prices. Technically, they can already step up to that standard across a lot of the map. They simply aren’t being pressed by sufficient competition to care to do that. Capitalism 101, 2nd semester.

Verizon’s Supercookies are a profitable corporate threat to your privacy

For the last several months, cybersecurity experts have been warning Verizon Wireless that it was putting the privacy of its customers at risk. The computer codes the company uses to tag and follow its mobile subscribers around the web, they said, could make those consumers vulnerable to covert tracking and profiling.

It looks as if there was reason to worry.

This month Jonathan Mayer, a lawyer and computer science graduate student at Stanford University, reported on his blog that Turn, an advertising software company, was using Verizon’s unique customer codes to regenerate its own tracking tags after consumers had chosen to delete what is called a cookie — a little bit of code that can stick with your web browser after you have visited a site. In effect, Turn found a way to keep tracking visitors even after they tried to delete their digital footprints…

While Internet users can choose to delete their regular cookies, Verizon Wireless users cannot delete the company’s so-called supercookies…

Indeed, after a report on the practice by ProPublica, Turn announced it would suspend its use of Verizon’s ID codes to regenerate tracking cookies and reconsider its use of the technique…

Verizon is now at the forefront of telecommunications companies selling intelligence about their customers to advertisers…

The ad-targeting experiments by Verizon and AT&T are striking examples of the data-mining opportunities open to phone carriers now that they have become the nexus of the information universe, providing a connection to the Internet for people anywhere they go, at any time…

Some leading data-privacy and security experts contend that Verizon’s use of unique and persistent customer ID tags makes its subscribers vulnerable to covert online tracking by third parties.

Harold Feld, a senior vice president at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit group that focuses on information policy, said..“Stuff like this is worse than what Google or Facebook or anyone else does,” Mr. Feld said.

“I can avoid Google and Facebook, in theory at least. But if the network operator is going to spy on me, there is nothing I can do about it.”

Cripes. One more category of snoop we get to feed with information for free – so they can profit.

Verizon says, “Gee, all the kids do it” — Not a legit defense for data throttling

During a news conference on Friday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler responded to Verizon’s claims that its planned data throttling program is a “widely accepted” practice, saying that an “all the kids do it” argument is not justifiable.

…Wheeler chided Verizon for its defense of an upcoming “network optimization” change, which consisted of pointing fingers at other U.S. cellular providers, calling it an attempt to “reframe the issue.”

“‘All the kids do it’ was never something that worked with me when I was growing up and didn’t work with my kids,” Wheeler said.

In July, Verizon announced plans to slow down data speeds for a select group of high-use subscribers when its 4G LTE network bogs down. The shift is scheduled to take effect in October, when users with grandfathered-in unlimited data plans may see slower than normal data speeds when performing high bandwidth operations like streaming high-definition video.

“My concern in this instance is that it is moving from technology and engineering issues into business issues,” Wheeler said. “Such as choosing between different subscribers based on your economic relationship with them…”

When smartphones first hit market, cellular providers like Verizon and AT&T offered unlimited data plans to help spur on sales. A boom in popularity, largely driven by Apple’s iPhone, left the telcos with an infrastructure poorly equipped to deal with the glut of data-hungry subscribers, which in turn prompted the halt of unlimited plans.

At the time, both Verizon and AT&T let subscribers keep their all-you-can-eat data allotments as long as they continued to pay the same top-tier monthly fee in perpetuity. With faster wireless technology and ever-increasing demands for more data, however, companies have started to throttle speeds for power users…

The creeps who run the American telecom monopoly are stuck in the same business model that’s been around since Ma Bell owned the whole national network. They will give us as little advancing technology as possible while charging every possible penny they can squeeze from mediocre service. Perish the thought they share with little guy start-ups or even medium-size competitors. This applies to Comcast fibre as completely as it does with Verizon’s cell towers.

Which is why Americans get telecom service that barely ranks in the Top 20 in the world. Elsewhere, either nationalized services provide the best that technology has available – because the people deserve it. As in South Korea. Or hardware, copper or fibre, must be leased to others so there will be actual competition. And that’s worked out equally well. As in the UK.

Listening to corporate barons whine about fairness is enough to make Adam Smith rollover in his grave.

Thanks, Mike

Apologists say NSA spying won’t harm US business — Germany cancels Verizon!

Germany favors Deutsche Telekom AG to replace Verizon Communications as a network provider after deciding to end the American company’s contract in the wake of reports about spy surveillance by the U.S…

Germany is using an option in the current Verizon contract to end the arrangement next year, Tobias Plate said, declining to confirm whether the government had any evidence that the provider handed information from the network to the U.S. National Security Agency.

The move is the clearest sign yet that concerns in Europe about spying by the U.S. may harm the business of American companies in the region. The decision doesn’t bode well for communications providers such as Verizon and Dallas-based AT&T which have sunk billions of dollars into winning large clients outside the U.S., said Roger Entner…at Recon Analytics…

“Verizon is the victim here — they tend to be faster, more flexible and cheaper than local providers,” Entner said. “But now security is the trump card in the deck and that’s why Deutsche Telekom wins…”

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government plans to combine three separate networks under one service provider, Plate said. A proposal to award the contracts to Deutsche Telekom has already been discussed in the parliament’s budget committee, though no contract has been signed yet, he said…

German prosecutors and lawmakers have begun investigating allegations that U.S. intelligence agents tapped Merkel’s phone, underscoring the effect on U.S.-German relations of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Merkel and President Barack Obama failed to end the dispute during talks at the White House in May, with Merkel saying “differences of opinion” persist and require further discussion.

It has pained me to see the degree to which the Snowden disclosures have created strains in the relationship” with Germany, Obama said…

It pains me to see how frequently our elected officials lie to the whole world, lie to our allies, lie to us. Yes, I know that’s nothing new; but, part of how Barack Obama was elected derived from his promises of change. Foreign policy and deceit worthy of a John Foster Dulles is not change. Protecting scum ranging from Countrywide Mortgage lenders to CIA torture specialists worthy of a Joe McCarthy is not change.

RTFA for a more expansive treatment. The fact remains that our liberal president is whining about the truth coming out, our corrupt practices exposed. That’s not progressive leadership. That’s business as usual in the White House.

American coppers demanded 1.3 million cell records last year

Police are monitoring Americans’ cellphone use at a staggering rate, according to new information released in a congressional inquiry.

In letters released by Rep. Edward J. Markey cellphone companies described seeing a huge uptick in requests from law enforcement agencies, with 1.3 million federal, state and local requests for phone records in 2011 alone…

The data obtained by law enforcement in some requests included location information, text messages and “cell tower dumps” that include any calls made through a tower for a certain period of time. The carriers say the information is given away in response to warrants or emergencies where someone is in “imminent” danger.

“There is no comprehensive reporting of these information requests anywhere,” Markey’s office said in a statement. “This is the first ever accounting of this…”

The growth of cellphone use, private computing and social-media use in recent years has greatly expanded the wealth of information available to law enforcement agencies in investigations, a development in which police investigative abilities have expanded faster than the public has been able to keep track of the extent to which it’s being watched…

“The numbers don’t lie: location tracking is out of control,” Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the ACLU, noted in an analysis of the new data.

Anyone going to ask the coppers for a solid reason that can be tracked back in case some ordinary citizen wishes to complain about surveillance? Come on. Let’s hear it from the all-American patriotic Constitution-defending voices of corporate telecommunications.

How about the prosecutors and district attorneys who are always telling us of their devotion to the Bill of Rights, eh? Or is it up the the very few members of Congress with a conscience and commitment to something more than papier-mache liberty?

Verizon to start charging $2 “inconvenience fee” – UPDATED

In the latest example of a corporation trying to nickel and dime its customers, the telecom giant has announced a new “$2 payment convenience fee” for people who, well, want to pay their bill.

Basically if you are the kind of person who can’t commit to auto-paying your phone bill and like to pay online or on your phone, well, your bill is going to be going up two bucks a month starting on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, January 15.

Yeah, there are ways to go month-to-month without incurring the fee—electronic check, a Verizon gift card, paper check in the mail, or paying in person at a Verizon store — but if you want to pay your bill online or on your phone, well, be ready to part with two hundred pennies.

So, why is Verizon doing this? According to Big Red, “The fee will help allow us to continue to support these single bill payment options in these channels [the still free options] and is designed to address costs incurred by us for only those customers who choose to make single bill payments in alternate payment channels (online, mobile, telephone).”

So…basically Verizon (which is not exactly in the poor house) found a place where they could wring out a few extra pennies and is doing just that. What comes after this? Fees for accessing more than 100 cell towers in a month?

Methinks they’re trying to sneak in the backdoor on transaction fees like those charged merchants by credit card companies. However it turns out, this is just one more example of special privileges afforded telcos. If your state or city tried to impose a tax like this every so-called taxpayer organization would rise up in arms [especially those already carrying guns].

UPDATE: Verizon caved. Ain’t the internet something?

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.

Which corporate telecom giant stores your data the longest?

The nation’s major mobile-phone providers are keeping a treasure trove of sensitive data on their customers, according to newly-released Justice Department internal memo that for the first time reveals the data retention policies of America’s largest telecoms.

The single-page Department of Justice document…is a guide for law enforcement agencies looking to get information — like customer IP addresses, call logs, text messages and web surfing habits – out of U.S. telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

The document, marked “Law Enforcement Use Only” and dated August 2010, illustrates there are some significant differences in how long carriers retain your data.

Verizon, for example, keeps a list of everyone you’ve exchanged text messages with for the past year, according to the document. But T-Mobile stores the same data up to five years. It’s 18 months for Sprint, and seven years for AT&T…

The document was unearthed by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina via a Freedom of Information Act claim. (After the group gave a copy to Wired.com, we also discovered it in two other places on the internet by searching its title.)

“People who are upset that Facebook is storing all their information should be really concerned that their cell phone is tracking them everywhere they’ve been,” said Catherine Crump, an ACLU staff attorney. “The government has this information because it wants to engage in surveillance…”

“I don’t think there there is anything on this list the government would concede requires a warrant,” said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “This brings cellular retention practices out of the shadows, so we can have a rational discussion about how the law needs to be changed when it comes to the privacy of our records.”

Vermont’s Patrick Leahy has introduced legislation to alter the Electronic Privacy Communications Act to protect Americans from intrusions on our privacy. How much chance do you think it has of being passed into law?

Do you think Obama would sign it – if it passed Congress? That’s a tough question for many of us who don’t care to vote for the proto-fascist populists who seem to be the Republican alternative.

Education consultant stole millions

A cuckolded computer consultant hired to link the city’s 1,400 schools to the Internet has been charged with downloading $3.6 million into his crooked pockets.

Willard (Ross) Lanham, aided by corporate giants IBM and Verizon, masterminded the massive fraud to enjoy a life of luxury from 2002 to 2008, according to a scathing report from the special schools investigator. “Lanham effectively stole from schoolchildren so he could buy fancy cars and valuable real estate,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

Prosecutors described Lanham’s greed as staggering. He was charged with looting the Department of Education while earning a $200,000 annual salary and living with his family in a sprawling, two-story Long Island home.

As he earned an illegal fortune off phony companies, inflated fees and a pair of no-show jobs, officials said, he built three luxury homes on a piece of abandoned Long Island farmland.

Once finished, Lanham even named the private street after his estranged wife, Laura Lanham.

The couple have since endured a long, angry and ongoing three-year divorce, with the wife dumping her 57-year-old husband to pursue younger men while blogging about her “cougar” lifestyle…

The probe, aided by the city Department of Investigation, found Lanham was hired to work on three major DOE projects – including the highly touted “Project Connect.”

The scam was simple: He hired contractors at low hourly rates, persuaded subcontractors to bill the city at a much higher rate and pocketed the difference, officials said.

In all, his Lanham Enterprises allegedly was paid $5.3 million for consulting work that cost his company only $1.7 million.

The accused swindler even ripped off his own brother, hiring him for a $40-an-hour consulting job while charging the city $225 an hour, a criminal complaint charged.

IBM and Verizon kept their corporate mouths shut over anything they may have noticed in the course of the fraud. I’m never surprised when systems run by elected officials are inefficient – though they needn’t be. Corporate governance should be a bit more consistent.

Verizon has said they will return any inappropriate profits. Nice of them.