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The Internet

Study: Major ISPs Slowing Traffic Across the US 181 181

An anonymous reader writes: A study based on test results from 300,000 internet users "found significant degradations on the networks of the five largest internet service providers" in the United States. This group includes Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and AT&T. "The study, supported by the technologists at Open Technology Institute's M-Lab, examines the comparative speeds of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), which shoulder some of the data load for popular websites. ... In Atlanta, for example, Comcast provided hourly median download speeds over a CDN called GTT of 21.4 megabits per second at 7pm throughout the month of May. AT&T provided speeds over the same network of of a megabit per second." These findings arrive shortly after the FCC's new net neutrality rules took effect across the U.S.
Wireless Networking

Sprint Begins Punishing Customers For FCC's Net Neutrality Rules 272 272

ourlovecanlastforeve writes: A few days ago Sprint announced their intent to stop throttling certain customers' bandwidth in the wake of the FCC fining ATT $100,000,000 for doing the same. Sprint has now begun circulating an internal memo to their front-line reps that the 12-month warranty on non-branded accessories, a featured selling point, will be eliminated. Additional rumors are emerging that Sprint may increase prices on unlimited data plans and stop offering wireline long distance service.
Businesses

FCC To Fine AT&T $100M For Throttling Unlimited Data Customers 205 205

New submitter Wargames writes: According to the article in the New York Times, AT&T is getting fined $100,000,000 for its doublespeak redefinition of the word "Unlimited". The FCC says AT&T failed to adequately notify its customers that they could receive speeds slower than the normal network speeds AT&T advertised and that these actions violated the FCC's 2010 Open Internet Order. “Unlimited means unlimited,” Travis LeBlanc, the F.C.C.’s chief of the enforcement bureau, said in a statement on Wednesday. “As today’s action demonstrates, the commission is committed to holding accountable those broadband providers who fail to be fully transparent about data limits.”
Verizon

Verizon, Sprint Agree To Pay Combined $158 Million Over Cramming Charges 66 66

mpicpp sends news that Verizon has agreed to pay $90 million (PDF), and Sprint another $68 million (PDF), to settle claims that they placed unauthorized charges on their customers's bills. The process, known as "cramming," has already cost T-Mobile and AT&T settlements in the tens of millions as well. Most of the settlement money will go towards setting up refund programs, but Verizon and Sprint will be able to keep 30% and 35% of the fees they collected, respectively. In response to the news, both companies issued vague statements about "putting customers first." They are now banned from charging for premium text message services and must set up systems to ensure informed consent for third-party charges.
The Internet

FCC Tosses Petition Challenging Its New Internet Regulations 133 133

A petition submitted to the FCC by several of the players (including AT&T, CenturyLink, and USTelecom) who would be most affected by the agency's recently asserted Internet regulatory powers has been rejected by the agency's leadership. The Internet providers, along with the CTIA trade association, asserted that the FCC's Open Internet order is aganst the public interest. Per The Verge, the Commission last Friday "denied the petition, issuing an order that states its classification of broadband internet as a telecommunications service "falls well within the Commission's statutory authority, is consistent with Supreme Court precedent, and fully complies with the Administrative Procedure Act."
AT&T

AT&T Bills Elderly Customer $24,298.93 For Landline Dial-Up Service 234 234

McGruber writes: 83-year-old Woodland Hills, California resident Ron Dorff usually pays $51 a month to AT&T for a landline, which he uses to access the Internet via an old-school, low-speed AOL dial-up subscription.... but then, in March, AT&T sent him a bill for $8,596.57. He called AT&T and their service rep couldn't make heads or tails of the bill, so she said she'd send a technician to his house. None came, so Dorff figured that everything was ok.

Dorff's next monthly bill was for $15,687.64, bringing his total outstanding debt to AT&T, including late fees, to $24,298.93. If he didn't pay by May 8, AT&T warned, his bill would rise to at least $24,786.16. Droff then called David Lazarus, business columnist for the LA Times, who got in touch with AT&T, who wasted little time in deciding it would waive the more than $24,000 in charges.

AT&T spokeshole Georgia Taylor claims Dorff's modem somehow had started dialing a long-distance number when it accessed AOL, and the per-minute charges went into orbit as he stayed connected for hours.

AT&T declined to answer the LA Times questions about why AT&T didn't spot the problem itself and proactively take steps to fix things? AT&T also declined to elaborate on whether AT&T's billing system is capable of spotting unusual charges and, if so, why it doesn't routinely do so.
Businesses

ATT, DirecTV Mega-Merger May Go Through 82 82

An anonymous reader writes: Hot on the heels of Comcast's failed attempt to swallow up Time Warner Cable, AT&T's pursuit of satellite provider DirecTV is plowing forward. What would be the result of a wireline and cellular mega-monopoly buying one of only two subscription satellite TV providers? Has to be worse than a Comcast/TWC marriage ... at least there, the territories and services offered didn't overlap at all, but AT&T offers voice, data, and television in many markets already. Adding satellite would stifle competition for television services (and to a lesser extent, because satellite is only best suited for rural installations, data).
AT&T

Court Refuses To Dismiss AT&T Throttling Case 105 105

Taco Cowboy sends news that a federal judge has shot down AT&T's attempt to dismiss a lawsuit alleging the company deceived customers by throttling their mobile data speeds. The suit was filed by the Federal Trade Commission after it found AT&T was charging customers for "unlimited" data plans, but then throttling their bandwidth once certain thresholds were reached. AT&T tried to have the suit thrown out by saying the FTC was exceeding its authority. Judge Edward Chen disagrees (PDF), saying jurisdiction for their conduct had not yet passed to the Federal Communications Commission when it occurred. The throttling affected "at least 3.5 million customers."
Republicans

House Republicans Roll Out Legislation To Overturn New Net Neutrality Rules 550 550

An anonymous reader writes: U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and 31 Republican co-sponsors have submitted the Internet Freedom Act (PDF) for consideration in the House. The bill would roll back the recent net neutrality rules made by the FCC. The bill says the rules "shall have no force or effect, and the Commission may not reissue such rule in substantially the same form, or issue a new rule that is substantially the same as such rule, unless the reissued or new rule is specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of the enactment of this Act." Blackburn claims the FCC's rules will "stifle innovation" and "restrict freedom." The article points out that Blackburn's campaign and leadership PAC has received substantial donations. from Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.
Google

Google Teams Up With 3 Wireless Carriers To Combat Apple Pay 186 186

HughPickens.com writes AP reports that in an effort to undercut Apple's hit service Apple Pay, Google is teaming up with three wireless carriers by building its payment service into Android smartphones sold by AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA. Besides trying to make it more convenient to use Wallet, Google also is hoping to improve the nearly 4-year-old service. Toward that end, Google is buying some mobile payment technology and patents from Softcard, a 5-year-old venture owned by the wireless carriers. Financial terms weren't disclosed but Apple Pay's popularity probably helped forge the unlikely alliance between Google and the wireless carriers. Google traditionally has had a prickly relationship with the carriers, largely because it doesn't believe enough has been done to upgrade wireless networks and make them cheaper so more people can spend more time online.

The biggest challenge however is one that both Apple and Google face: Only a small fraction of the 10 million or so retail outlets in the U.S.–220,000 at last count–have checkout readers that can accept payments from either system. Both wallets use a radio technology called Near Field Communication to send payment, and it's expected to take years for most stores to be upgraded. What's at play? The big tech companies and carriers seem convinced that our phones will eventually replace our wallets. For carriers, that could make mobile wallet technology table stakes over the next few years as they compete for consumers.
AT&T

Ten Lies T-Mobile Told Me About My Data Plan 237 237

reifman (786887) writes "Last June, my post "Yes, You Can Spend $750 in International Data Roaming in One Minute on AT&T" was slashdotted and this led to T-Mobile CEO John Legere tweeting 'how crappy @ATT is' and welcoming me to the fold. Unfortunately, now it's TMobile that's having trouble tracking data; it seems to be related to the rollout of their new DataStash promotion. Just like AT&T, they're blaming the customer. Here are the ten lies T-Mobile told me about my data usage today."
AT&T

AT&T Patents System To "Fast-Lane" File-Sharing Traffic 112 112

An anonymous reader writes Telecom giant AT&T has been awarded a patent for speeding up BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer traffic, and reducing the impact that these transactions have on the speed of its network. Unauthorized file-sharing generates thousands of petabytes of downloads every month, sparking considerable concern among the ISP community due to its detrimental effect on network speeds. AT&T and its Intellectual Property team has targeted the issue in a positive manner, and has appealed for the new patent to create a 'fast lane' for BitTorrent and other file-sharing traffic. As well as developing systems around the caching of local files, the ISP has proposed analyzing BitTorrent traffic to connect high-impact clients to peers who use fewer resources.
AT&T

AT&T To Match Google Fiber In Kansas City, Charge More If You Want Privacy 227 227

An anonymous reader writes: When Google Fiber started bringing gigabit internet to cities around the U.S., we wondered how the incumbent ISPs would respond. Now we know: AT&T has announced they will match Google Fiber's gigabit offerings in Kansas City. Of course, there are some caveats. First, AT&T's rollout may stop as it fights the Obama administration over net neutrality. Not that it would be a nationwide rollout anyway: "AT&T does not plan to offer the ultra-fast Internet lines to every home in the market. Rather, he said the company would calculate where demand is strongest and the investment in stringing new cables promised a decent return."

There are also some interesting pricing concerns. The company plans to charge $70/month for gigabit service, but that's a subsidized price. Subsidized by what, you ask? Your privacy. AT&T says if you want to opt out of letting them track your browsing history, you'll have to pay $29 more per month. They say your information is used to serve targeted advertising, and includes any links you follow and search terms you enter.
Cellphones

Starting This Week, Wireless Carriers Must Unlock Your Phone 100 100

HughPickens.com writes Andrew Moore-Crispin reports that beginning today, as result of an agreement major wireless carriers made with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in late 2013, wireless carriers in the US must unlock your phone as soon as a contract term is fulfilled if asked to do so unless a phone is connected in some way to an account that owes the carrier money. Carriers must also post unlocking policies on their websites (here are links for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile), provide notice to customers when their devices are eligible for unlocking, respond to unlock requests within two business days, and unlock devices for deployed military personnel. So why unlock your phone? Unlocking a phone allows it to be used on any compatible network, regardless of carrier which could result in significant savings. Or you could go with an MVNO, stay on the same network, and pay much less for the same cellular service.
Communications

FCC May Permit Robocalls To Cell Phones -- If They Are Calling a Wrong Number 217 217

An anonymous reader writes There have been plenty of false rumors about cell phones being opened up to telemarketers, but now the FCC is actually considering it. From the article: "Consumers have long had the support of government to try to control these calls, chiefly through the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which actually allows consumers to file lawsuits and collect penalties from companies that pepper them with robocalls or text messages they didn't agree to receive. But now the Federal Communications Commission is considering relaxing a key rule and allowing businesses to call or text your cellphones without authorization if they say they called a wrong number. The banking industry and collections industry are pushing for the change." In one case recently, AT&T called one person 53 times after he told them they had a wrong number...and ended up paying $45 million to settle the case. Around 40 million phone numbers are "recycled" each year in the U.S. Twice, I've had to dump a number and get a new one because I was getting so many debt collection calls looking for someone else. Apparently the FCC commissioners may not be aware of the magnitude of the "wrong number" debt collection calls and aren't aware that lots of people still have per-minute phone plans. Anyone can file comments on this proposal with the FCC.
Verizon

Ad Company Using Verizon Tracking Header To Recreate Deleted Cookies 70 70

itwbennett writes The story began a few months ago when it was reported that both Verizon and AT&T were injecting unique identifiers in the Web requests of their mobile customers. AT&T has since stopped using the system, but Verizon continues. Now, Stanford computer scientist Jonathan Mayer has found that one advertising company called Turn, which tracks users across the Web when they visit major sites including Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, BlueKai, AppNexus, Walmart and WebMD, uses the Verizon UIDH to respawn its own tracking cookies.
Cellphones

T-Mobile To Pay $90M For Unauthorized Charges On Customers' Bills 51 51

itwbennett writes T-Mobile US will pay at least $90 million to settle a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suit that alleged it looked the other way while third parties charged T-Mobile subscribers for services they didn't want. The settlement is the second largest ever for so-called 'cramming,' following one that the FCC reached with AT&T in October. It came just two days after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Sprint for the same practice.
Google

Job Postings Offer Clues to Future of Google Fiber 38 38

New submitter Admiral Jimbob McGif writes Even as a massive firestorm burns uncontrollably threatening to scorch the very foundations of the internet with AT&T indefinitely halting future GigaPower FTTH rollouts due to uncertainty over the future of net neutrality and the Obama administration proposing to regulate the internet under Title 2, highly suggestive jobs were recently added to Google Careers.

These Google Fiber related positions include: "City Manager", "Community Impact Manager" and "Plant Manager" in all potential Google Fiber cities. Perplexing inconsistences abound, such as Portland, Phoenix, San Jose and Atlanta positions being listed as local. Whereas San Antonio, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Nashville are listed as telecommute positions.

One is inclined to speculate as to what these job postings mean despite Google's disclaimer: "Not all cities where we're exploring hiring a team will necessarily become Google Fiber cities." Would Google post jobs as an act of posturing much like AT&T's supposed "Gigabit smoke screen" bluff? Or, should we expect to see these so called Fiber Huts springing up like so many mushrooms after a heavy rain in an additional 9 metro areas?

At the rate Google is going, is it too soon to speculate over Fiber Dojos popping up in Japan?
AT&T

'Revolving Door' Spins Between AT&T, Government 61 61

An anonymous reader sends this quote from the Center for Public Integrity: That AT&T just won an eight-figure contract to provide the federal government's General Services Administration with new mobile devices isn't itself particularly notable. What is: Casey Coleman, an AT&T executive responsible for "delivering IT and professional services to federal government customers," oversaw the GSA's information technology division and its $600 million IT budget as recently as January. ... While there’s no evidence anything illegal took place, the public still should be aware of, and potentially worried about, Coleman’s spin through the revolving door between government and companies that profit from government, said Michael Smallberg, an investigator at the nonpartisan watchdog group Project on Government Oversight. ... Federal government employees leaving public service for lucrative private sector jobs is commonplace. The Project on Government Oversight has called on the federal government to — among other actions — ban political appointees and some senior-level staffers from seeking employment with contractors that “significantly benefited” from policies they helped formulate during their tenure in government.
AT&T

Some Early Nexus 6 Units Returned Over Startup Bug 39 39

The Register reports that Motorola has issued a recall for an early batch of its hotly anticipated new Nexus 6 smartphones that were sold through U.S. mobile carrier AT&T, owing to a software glitch that can reportedly causes the devices to boot to a black screen. ... AT&T retail stores have reportedly been told to return their existing inventory of the Nexus 6 and wait for new units to arrive from Motorola, which has already corrected the problem on its assembly line. Any customer who brings a defective unit into an AT&T store will receive a replacement. Motorola's memo to stores says that only initial shipments were affected, and that the problem has been identified. However, as the article mentions, there's thus far less luck for those like me who've found that at least some original Nexus 7 tablets do not play nicely with Lollipop. (The effects look nice, but it's never a good sign to see "System UI isn't responding. Do you want to close it?" on a tablet's screen.)