Businesses

Comcast Customer Satisfaction Drops 6% After TV Price Hikes, ACSI Says (arstechnica.com) 34

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comcast's customer satisfaction score for subscription TV service fell 6 percent in a new survey, putting the company near the bottom of rankings published by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Comcast's score fell from 62 to 58 on ACSI's 100-point scale, a drop of more than 6 percent between 2016 and 2017. The ACSI's 2017 report on telecommunications released this week attributed the decrease to "price hikes for Xfinity (Comcast) subscriptions." Satisfaction with pay-TV providers dropped industry-wide, tying the segment with Internet service (a product offered by the same companies) for last place in the ACSI's rankings. The ACSI summarized the trend as follows: "Customer satisfaction with subscription television service slips 1.5 percent to 64, tied with Internet service providers for last place among 43 industries tracked by the ACSI. Many of the same large companies offer service for Internet, television, and voice via bundling. The threat of competition from streaming services has done little to spur improvement for pay TV. Customer service remains poor, and cord-cutting continues to accelerate. More than half a million subscribers defected from cable and satellite TV providers during the first quarter of 2017 -- the largest loss in the history of the industry. Customers still prefer fiber optic and satellite to cable, putting FiOS (Verizon Communications) in first place with a 1 percent uptick to 71. AT&T takes the next two spots with its fiber optic and satellite services."
Government

Major US Tech Firms Press Congress For Internet Surveillance Reforms (reuters.com) 31

Dustin Volz, reporting for Reuters: Facebook, Amazon and more than two dozen other U.S. technology companies pressed Congress on Friday to make changes to a broad internet surveillance law, saying they were necessary to improve privacy protections and increase government transparency. The request marks the first significant public effort by Silicon Valley to wade into what is expected to be a contentious debate later the year over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, parts of which will expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress reauthorizes them. Of particular concern to the technology industry and privacy advocates is Section 702, which allows U.S. intelligence agencies to vacuum up vast amounts of communications from foreigners but also incidentally collects some data belonging to Americans that can be searched by analysts without a warrant.
The Almighty Buck

Messenger App Kik Debuts Its Own Digital Currency (bloomberg.com) 50

The messaging app Kik Interactive has decided to create its own digital currency. Kik's plans are for an "initial coin offering," a process by which it sells tokens that can be used to buy services on its platform. "The idea is that as more and more people use Kik, the value of those tokens, called 'Kin,' will rise in value," reports TechCrunch. From the report: Kik, which has raised about $120 million (in real money) from investors including Tencent Holdings Ltd., could serve to add a new layer of legitimacy to the process. "Kik will be the largest install base of cryptocurrency users in the world," Chief Executive Officer Ted Livingston said. "Kin, on day one will be the most-used cryptocurrency in the world." The move comes as Kik finally reveals how many people actually use its app regularly each month: 15 million. That's a far-cry from the 300 million total registered users number it was sharing around this time last year. Kik plans to gift a certain amount of Kin to each user. They'll be able use the new currency to buy games, live video streams and other digital products. The company's goal is to attract new merchants to sell on the platform, creating a snowball effect where Kin becomes more valuable and more sellers pile onto Kik, increasing its popularity.
Security

Wikimedia Is Clear To Sue the NSA Over Its Use of Warrantless Surveillance Tools (engadget.com) 60

The Wikimedia Foundation has the right to sue the National Security Agency over its use of warrantless surveillance tools, a federal appeals court ruled. "A district judge shot down Wikimedia's case in 2015, saying the group hadn't proved the NSA was actually illegally spying on its communications," reports Engadget. "In this case, proof was a tall order, considering information about the targeted surveillance system, Upstream, remains classified." From the report: The appeals court today ruled Wikimedia presented sufficient evidence that the NSA was in fact monitoring its communications, even if inadvertently. The Upstream system regularly tracks the physical backbone of the internet -- the cables and routers that actually transmit our emoji. With the help of telecom providers, the NSA then intercepts specific messages that contain "selectors," email addresses or other contact information for international targets under U.S. surveillance. "To put it simply, Wikimedia has plausibly alleged that its communications travel all of the roads that a communication can take, and that the NSA seizes all of the communications along at least one of those roads," the appeals court writes. "Thus, at least at this stage of the litigation, Wikimedia has standing to sue for a violation of the Fourth Amendment. And, because Wikimedia has self-censored its speech and sometimes forgone electronic communications in response to Upstream surveillance, it also has standing to sue for a violation of the First Amendment."
Cellphones

Republicans Want To Leave You Voicemail -- Without Ever Ringing Your Cellphone (recode.net) 436

bricko quotes a report from Recode: The GOP's leading campaign and fundraising arm, the Republican National Committee, has quietly thrown its support behind a proposal at the Federal Communications Commission that would pave the way for marketers to auto-dial consumers' cellphones and leave them prerecorded voicemail messages -- all without ever causing their devices to ring. Under current federal law, telemarketers and others, like political groups, aren't allowed to launch robocall campaigns targeting cellphones unless they first obtain a consumer's written consent. But businesses stress that it's a different story when it comes to "ringless voicemail" -- because it technically doesn't qualify as a phone call in the first place. In their eyes, that means they shouldn't need a customer or voter's permission if they want to auto-dial mobile voicemail inboxes in bulk pre-made messages about a political candidate, product or cause. And they want the FCC to rule, once and for all, that they're in the clear. Their argument, however, has drawn immense opposition from consumer advocates.
Bitcoin

Ethereum Could Be Worth More Than Bitcoin Very Soon (inc.com) 84

Ethereum is an open software platform based on blockchain technology that enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications, according to Blockgeeks. It is currently the second most valuable cryptocurrency on the planet, but it could overthrow Bitcoin and become the most valuable cryptocurrency in the near future. Inc.com reports: If you aren't familiar, what Bitcoin does for payments, Ethereum does for anything involving programming and computing. While it utilizes its own version of a blockchain, it is functionally different from Bitcoin. For example, on the Ethereum platform you could host a crowdfunding campaign or any type of "smart contract." Ethereum's goal is to make a decentralized internet. And it has a very good shot at becoming "the new internet," literally. It could one day replace a lot of technology and ways that we host and execute code online. As of the time of writing, Ethereum has a market cap of over $17 billion. Bitcoin's market cap is $34 billion. This makes Ether (the name of Ethereum's token) the second most valuable cryptocurrency in the world. And that number jumped up over $3 billion just yesterday. It's making a major climb and has no end in sight, according to many. The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance is what initially spiked major interest (and shot up the price). Just the other day, 86 new companies joined the alliance.
China

Did China Hack The CIA In A Massive Intelligence Breach From 2010 To 2012? (ibtimes.com) 112

schwit1 quotes the International Business Times: Both the CIA and the FBI declined to comment on reports saying the Chinese government killed or imprisoned 18 to 20 CIA sources from 2010 to 2012 and dismantled the agency's spying operations in the country. It is described as one of the worst intelligence breaches in decades, current and former American officials told the New York Times.

Investigators were uncertain whether the breach was a result of a double agent within the CIA who had betrayed the U.S. or whether the Chinese had hacked the communications system used by the agency to be in contact with foreign sources. The Times reported Saturday citing former American officials from the final weeks of 2010 till the end of 2012, the Chinese killed up to 20 CIA sources.

Communications

FCC Won't Release DDoS Logs, And Will Probably Honor Fake Comments (zdnet.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet on the alleged denial of service attack which blocked comments supporting net neutrality. In a ZDNet interview, FCC chief information officer David Bray said that the agency would not release the logs, in part because the logs contain private information, such as IP addresses. In unprinted remarks, he said that the logs amounted to about 1 gigabyte per hour during the alleged attack... The log files showed that non-human [and cloud-based] bots submitted a flood of comments using the FCC's API. The bot that submitted these comments sparked the massive uptick in internet traffic on the FCC by using the public API as a vehicle...

Bray's comments further corroborate a ZDNet report (and others) that showed unknown anti-net neutrality spammers were behind the posting of hundreds of thousands of the same messages to the FCC's website using people's names and addresses without their consent -- a so-called "astroturfing" technique -- in an apparent attempt to influence the results of a public solicitation for feedback on net neutrality. Speaking to reporters last week, FCC chairman Ajit Pai hinted that the agency would likely honor those astroturfed comments, nonetheless.

Communications

Soon You'll Be Able To Build Your Own 4G Network Over Wi-Fi Frequencies (hpe.com) 52

Long-time Slashdot reader Esther Schindler writes: An industry consortium called MulteFire wants to help you build your own LTE-like network that uses the Wi-Fi spectrum, with no need for carriers or providers, writes Andy Patrizio. Just don't expect to get started today. "In its basic specification, MulteFire Release 1.0 defines an LTE-like network that can run entirely on unlicensed spectrum frequencies. The alliance didn't try to do too much with the 1.0 spec; it simply wanted to get it out the door so partners and manufacturers could begin adoption. For 1.0, the alliance focused on the 5-GHz band. More functionality and more spectrums will be supported in future specs." Why would you want it? As Patrzio explains, MulteFire's target audience is fairly obvious: anyone who needs speed, scalability, and security beyond what Wi-Fi offers. "MulteFire is enabling cellular technologies to run in unassigned spectrum, where they are free to use it so long as they follow the rules of the spectrum band," says Mazen Chmaytelli, president of the MulteFire Alliance." Is this something you think would make a difference?
The alliance includes Qualcomm and Cisco Systems, and the article points out some advantages. LTE cell towers "can be miles apart versus Wi-Fi's range of just a few feet. Plus, LTE's security has never been breached, as far as we know."
Power

Possible Radioactive Leak Investigated At Washington Nuclear Site (upi.com) 94

Authorities are investigating radioactive material found on a worker's clothing one week after a tunnel collapse at the waste nuclear waste site in the state of Washington. Around 7 p.m. Thursday, Washington River Protection Solutions, a government contractor contractor in charge of all 177 underground storage tanks at the nuclear site. detected high radiation readings on a robotic device that seven workers were pulling out of a tank. Then, contamination was also discovered on the clothing of one worker -- on one shoe, on his shirt and on his pants in the knee area.

"Radiological monitoring showed contamination on the unit that was three times the planned limit. Workers immediately stopped working and exited the area according to procedure," said Rob Roxburgh, deputy manager of WRPS Communications & Public Relations said to KING-TV. Using leak-detection instruments, WRPS said it did not find liquid escaping the tank. "Everybody was freaked, shocked, surprised," said a veteran worker, who was in direct contact with crew members. "[The contamination] was not expected. They're not supposed to find contamination in the annulus [safety perimeter] of the double shell tanks."

Washington's attorney general, urging a federal clean-up of the site, insists "This isn't the first potential leak and it won't be the last."
Blackberry

BlackBerry Working With Automakers On Antivirus Tool For Your Car (reuters.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: BlackBerry is working with at least two automakers to develop a security service that would remotely scan vehicles for computer viruses and tell drivers to pull over if they were in critical danger, according to a financial analyst. The service, which would also be able to install security patches to an idle car, is being tested by luxury automakers Aston Martin and Range Rover. The service could be launched as early as next year, generating about $10 a month per vehicle for BlackBerry, according to Papageorgiou, who has followed BlackBerry for more than 15 years. Vehicles increasingly rely on dozens of computers that connect to each other as well as the internet, mobile networks and Bluetooth communications systems that make them vulnerable to remote hacks.
AT&T

About 37,000 AT&T Workers Go On Three-Day Strike (reuters.com) 23

Roughly 37,000 AT&T workers -- less than 14 percent of the company's total workforce -- began a three-day strike on Friday after failing to reach an agreement with the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier over new contracts. Reuters reports: This is the first time that AT&T wireless workers are on strike, which could result in closed retail stores during the weekend, according to the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union. The workers on strike are members of the CWA. The workers are demanding wage increases that cover rising healthcare costs, job security against outsourcing, affordable healthcare and a fair scheduling policy. Slightly over half of the workers on strike are part of the wireless segment and the rest wireline workers, including a small number of DirecTV technicians, AT&T spokesman Marty Richter told Reuters. The CWA had said on Wednesday that wireless workers across 36 states and Washington, D.C. would walk-off their jobs if an agreement was not reached by Friday 3 p.m. ET.
Security

Hacker Steals 17 Million Zomato Users' Data, Briefly Puts It On Dark Web (hackread.com) 32

Waqas reports via Hack Read: Recently, HackRead found out a vendor going by the online handle of âoenclayâ is claiming to have hacked Zomato and selling the data of its 17 million registered users on a popular Dark Web marketplace. The database includes emails and password hashes of registered Zomato users while the price set for the whole package is USD 1,001.43 (BTC 0.5587). The vendor also shared a trove of sample data to prove that the data is legit. Here's a screenshot of the sample data publicly shared by "nclay." Upon testing the sample data on Zomato.com's login page, it was discovered that each and every account mentioned in the list exists on Zomato. Although Zomato didn't reply to our email but in their latest blog post the company has acknowledged the breach. Here's a full preview of the blog post published by Zomato 7hours ago: "Over 120 million users visit Zomato every month. What binds all of these varied individuals is the desire to enjoy the best a city has to offer, in terms of food. When Zomato users trust us with their personal information, they naturally expect the information to be safeguarded. And that's something we do diligently, without fail. We take cyber security very seriously -- if you've been a regular at Zomato for years, you'd agree."
Communications

More Than 35,000 AT&T Workers Threaten Weekend Strike (fortune.com) 57

More than 35,000 AT&T workers plan to go on strike on Friday if they don't reach an agreement with the company for new contracts. From a report: The Communications Workers of America union said about 17,000 workers in AT&T's traditional wireline telephone and Internet business in Nevada and California who have been working without a contract for over a year would walk off the job on Friday afternoon for a three day strike if no deal is reached. On Tuesday, the union made a similar threat for 21,000 workers in AT&T's wireless business spread across 36 states and Washington, D.C. Workers are fed up with delays in the negotiations, Dennis Trainor, vice president of CWA District 1, said. "Now, AT&T is facing the possibility of closed stores for the first time ever," Trainor said. "Our demands are clear and have been for months: fair contract or strike. It's now in AT&T's hands to stand with workers or at 3pm Eastern Time on Friday workers will be off the job and onto picket lines across the country."
Communications

Net Neutrality Goes Down in Flames as FCC Votes To Kill Title II Rules (arstechnica.com) 422

As we feared yesterday, the rollback of net neutrality rules officially began today. The FCC voted along party lines today to formally consider Chairman Ajit Pai's plan to scrap the legal foundation for the rules and to ask the public for comments on the future of prohibitions on blocking, throttling and paid prioritization. ArsTechnica adds: The Federal Communications Commission voted 2-1 today to start the process of eliminating net neutrality rules and the classification of home and mobile Internet service providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposes eliminating the Title II classification and seeks comment on what, if anything, should replace the current net neutrality rules. But Chairman Ajit Pai is making no promises about reinstating the two-year-old net neutrality rules that forbid ISPs from blocking or throttling lawful Internet content, or prioritizing content in exchange for payment. Pai's proposal argues that throttling websites and applications might somehow help Internet users.
Republicans

The Republican Push To Repeal Net Neutrality Will Get Underway This Week (washingtonpost.com) 141

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Post: Federal regulators will move to roll back one of the Obama administration's signature Internet policies this week, launching a process to repeal the government's net neutrality rules that currently regulate how Internet providers may treat websites and their own customers. The vote on Thursday, led by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, will kick off consideration of a proposal to relax regulations on companies such as Comcast and AT&T. If approved by the 2-1 Republican-majority commission, it will be a significant step for the broadband industry as it seeks more leeway under government rules to develop new business models. For consumer advocates and tech companies, it will be a setback; those groups argue that looser regulations won't prevent those business models from harming Internet users and website owners. The current rules force Internet providers to behave much like their cousins in the legacy telephone business. Under the FCC's net neutrality policy, providers cannot block or slow down consumers' Internet traffic, or charge websites a fee in order to be displayed on consumers' screens. The net neutrality rules also empower the FCC to investigate ISP practices that risk harming competition. Internet providers have chafed at the stricter rules governing phone service, which they say were written for a bygone era. Pai's effort to roll back the rules has led to a highly politicized debate. Underlying it is a complex policy decision with major implications for the future of the Web.
Communications

Google's Balloons Connect Flood-hit Peru (bbc.com) 16

An anonymous reader writes: "Tens of thousands" of Peruvians have been getting online using Project Loon, the ambitious connectivity project from Google's parent company, Alphabet. Project Loon uses tennis court-sized balloons carrying a small box of equipment to beam internet access to a wide area below. The team told the BBC they had been testing the system in Peru when serious floods hit in January, and so the technology was opened up to people living in three badly-hit cities. Until now, only small-scale tests of the technology had taken place. Project Loon is in competition with other attempts to provide internet from the skies, including Facebook's Aquila project which is being worked on in the UK. Project Loon recently announced it had figured out how to use artificial intelligence (AI) to "steer" the balloons by raising or lowering them to piggy-back weather streams. It was this discovery that enabled the company to use just a "handful" of balloons to connect people in Lima, Chimbote, and Piura. The balloons were launched from the US territory of Puerto Rico before being guided south.
Communications

Region-Locked Content Drives UK Users To Try a VPN (itproportal.com) 57

An anonymous reader writes: A new report has revealed that VPN usage in the UK has increased with almost one in six people now using a VPN alongside their internet connection. According to YouGov's 'Incognito Individual' report, 16 percent of British adults have used either a VPN or proxy server. This up-tick in users trying a VPN was often the direct result of trying access region-locked content or websites. Of those surveyed, 48 percent of respondents admitted to using a VPN or a proxy to access content they would otherwise be unable to view. VPNs are often used by security conscious individuals who are concerned with their privacy and not having their browsing data logged. YouGov's report found that 44 percent of VPN users utilised such a service for better security and that 37 percent did so for improved privacy.
Biotech

Scientists 3D-Print Ovaries To Allow Infertile Mice To Mate and Give Birth (theguardian.com) 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Infertile mice have given birth to healthy pups after having their fertility restored with ovary implants made with a 3D printer. Researchers created the synthetic ovaries by printing porous scaffolds from a gelatin ink and filling them with follicles, the tiny, fluid-holding sacs that contain immature egg cells. In tests on mice that had one ovary surgically removed, scientists found that the implants hooked up to the blood supply within a week and went on to release eggs naturally through the pores built into the gelatin structures. The work marks a step towards making artificial ovaries for young women whose reproductive systems have been damaged by cancer treatments, leaving them infertile or with hormone imbalances that require them to take regular hormone-boosting drugs. Of seven mice that mated after receiving the artificial ovaries, three gave birth to pups that had developed from eggs released by the implants. The mice fed normally on their mother's milk and went on to have healthy litters of their own later in life. Writing in the journal Nature Communications, the scientists describe how they printed layered lattices of gelatin strips to make the ovary implants. The sizes and positions of the holes in the structures were carefully controlled to hold dozens of follicles and allow blood vessels to connect to the implants. Mature eggs were then released from the implants as happens in normal ovulation.
United States

The Tech Sector Is Leaving the Rest of the US Economy In Its Dust (theverge.com) 155

Yesterday afternoon, the S&P 500 closed at a record high, and is up over $1.5 trillion since the start of 2017. "And the companies doing the most to drive that rally are all tech firms," reports The Verge. "Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft make up a whopping 37 percent of the total gains." From the report: All of these companies saw their share prices touch record highs in recent months. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the U.S. economy, which grew at a rate of less than 1 percent during the first three months of this year. That divide is the culmination of a long-term trend, according to a recent report featured in The Wall Street Journal: "In digital industries -- technology, communications, media, software, finance and professional services -- productivity grew 2.7% annually over the past 15 years...The slowdown is concentrated in physical industries -- health care, transportation, education, manufacturing, retail -- where productivity grew a mere 0.7% annually over the same period." There is no industry where these players aren't competing. Music, movies, shipping, delivery, transportation, energy -- the list goes on and on. As these companies continue to scale, the network effects bolstering their business are strengthening. Facebook and Google accounted for over three-quarters of the growth in the digital advertising industry in 2016, leaving the rest to be divided among small fry like Twitter, Snapchat, and the entire American media industry. Meanwhile Apple and Alphabet have achieved a virtual duopoly on mobile operating systems, with only a tiny sliver of consumers choosing an alternative for their smartphones and tablets.

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