Verizon

Verizon: No 4G-Level Data Caps For 5G Home Service (pcmag.com) 56

Verizon recently announced that its upcoming 5G home internet service will not have the kinds of data limits you expect from current wireless services. It will reportedly be able to handle the average data load of a FiOS customer, and it won't be throttled down to 4G gigabyte caps. PC Magazine reports: Verizon has been trying out its new 5G home internet service for months. In a tour of its New Jersey lab, we got a closer look at the 5G antenna setup we saw at Mobile World Congress in February. It's a silver device the size of a paperback book, which connects to a Wi-Fi router with a display. You're supposed to put in a window facing Verizon's 5G service tower. In the test lab, engineer David Binczewski (below) showed us how the company is still working through the challenges of high-frequency, short-distance, millimeter-wave 5G -- most notably, how to penetrate various materials. In a chamber designed to test new 5G devices, he held up a piece of wood between a 5G emitter and a receiver, and we watched the signal fuzz out a bit on a nearby equipment screen. During a roundtable, VP of network support Mike Haberman, some other Verizon folks, and the assembled journalists agreed that an average data cap in the vicinity of 180GB/month would satisfy the average consumer. That's far more than Verizon's current 4G traffic management limit, where folks who use more than 22GB get sent to the back of the line if a tower is congested.
Google

Google Returns As Default Search Engine In Firefox (techcrunch.com) 136

Mozilla today launched Firefox Quantum, which the company is calling "the biggest update since Firefox 1.0 in 2004." It brings massive performance improvements and a visual redesign. It also sets Google as the default search engine again if you live in the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong and Taiwan. TechCrunch reports: In 2014, Mozilla struck a deal with Yahoo to make it the default search engine provider for users in the U.S., with Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo and others as options. While it was a small change, it was part of a number of moves that turned users against Firefox because it didn't always feel as if Mozilla had the user's best interests in mind. Firefox Quantum (aka, Firefox 57), is the company's effort to correct its mistakes and it's good to see that Google is back in the default slot. When Mozilla announced the Yahoo deal in 2014, it said that this was a five-year deal. Those five years are obviously not up yet. We asked Mozilla for a bit more information about what happened here.

"We exercised our contractual right to terminate our agreement with Yahoo! based on a number of factors including doing what's best for our brand, our effort to provide quality web search, and the broader content experience for our users. We believe there are opportunities to work with Oath and Verizon outside of search," Mozilla Chief Business and Legal Officer Denelle Dixon said in a statement. "As part of our focus on user experience and performance in Firefox Quantum, Google will also become our new default search provider in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong and Taiwan. With over 60 search providers pre-installed as defaults or secondary options across more than 90 language versions, Firefox has more choice in search providers than any other browser."

AT&T

Verizon, AT&T Announce Plans To Build and Share Hundreds of New Cell Towers (fiercewireless.com) 34

An anonymous reader shares a report: Verizon and AT&T announced a joint venture with Tillman Infrastructure to build and share hundreds of cell towers in more in a move that is sure to be seen as a threat to more established tower companies. The companies said the new structures "will add to the overall communications infrastructure in the United States," filling gaps in current tower footprints, but will also enable the nation's two largest network operators to relocate equipment from towers they're currently using. Construction plans on the first towers will begin early next year and will come online "quickly" as they are completed.
Yahoo!

Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Apologizes For Data Breach, Blames Russians (reuters.com) 212

Former Yahoo chief executive officer Marissa Mayer apologized today for a pair of massive data breaches at Yahoo and blamed Russian agents on the growing number of incidents involving major U.S. companies. A reader shares a report: "As CEO, these thefts occurred during my tenure, and I want to sincerely apologize to each and every one of our users," she told the Senate Commerce Committee, testifying alongside the interim and former CEOs of Equifax and a senior Verizon Communications executive. "Unfortunately, while all our measures helped Yahoo successfully defend against the barrage of attacks by both private and state-sponsored hackers, Russian agents intruded on our systems and stole our users' data."
Iphone

Some iPhone X Buyers Are Having Problems Activating Their Phones (theverge.com) 82

Apple has started to ship the iPhone X across the United States, but some new iPhone X owners say they aren't able to start using their new phones due to carrier activation issues and congestion. From a report: A number of iPhone X owners on Twitter have reported having issues activating their new phones. The issue seems to be affecting some AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint users in the last few hours as they try to get service on Apple's $1,000 phone. When users try to activate the device, a message pops up saying, "The activation server is temporarily unavailable."
Television

Another Million Subscribers Cut the Pay TV Cord Last Quarter (dslreports.com) 105

A report from FierceCable says that a million more U.S. pay TV subscribers cut the TV cord last quarter. "Only five of the seven biggest pay TV providers have released their third quarter subscriber data, but collectively these companies saw a net loss of 632,000 pay TV subscribers during the period (385,000 for AT&T and DirecTV, 125,000 for Comcast, 104,000 for Charter, 18.000 for Verizon FiOS TV)," reports DSLReports. "Dish has yet to report its own cord cutting tallies, but the company is again expected to be among the hardest hit due to a high level of retransmission fee feuds and a lack of broadband bundles."
Cellphones

Razer Unveils Gaming Smartphone With 120Hz UltraMotion Display, 8GB RAM and No Headphone Jack (cnet.com) 168

Computer hardware company Razer has unveiled its first smartphone. While the design doesn't appear to be up to par with the competition, it does pack some impressive specifications under the hood. The Razer Phone features a 5.7-inch, 2,560x1,440-resolution display, Snapdragon 835 chipset with 8GB of RAM, 12-megapixel dual camera with a wide-angle lens and 2x optical zoom, 4,000mAh battery, dual front-facing stereo speakers, and Android 7.1.1 Nougat running out of the box. While there is a microSD card slot for expandable storage, there is no headphone jack, no waterproofing, and no wireless charging. The device also won't support CDMA carriers like Verizon or Sprint. CNET reports: [W]here most new flagship phones are shiny rounded rectangles with curved screens, the Razer Phone is unabashedly a big black brick. It flaunts sharp 90-degree corners instead of curved edges. You can even stand the phone on end. The 5.7-inch, 2,560x1,440-resolution screen is flat as a pancake, and you'll find giant bezels above and below that screen, too -- just when we thought bezels were going out of style. When the Razer Phone ships Nov. 17 for $699 or £699 -- no plans for Australia at launch -- the company says it'll be the first phone with a display that refreshes 120 times per second, like a high-end PC gaming monitor or Apple's iPad Pro. And combined with a dynamic refresh technique Razer's calling Ultramotion (think Nvidia G-Sync), it can mean beautiful, butter-smooth scrolling down websites and apps, and glossy mobile gameplay.
Privacy

Verizon Wants To Ban States From Protecting Your Privacy (dslreports.com) 183

DSLReports that Verizon sent a letter and white paper last week to the FCC, insisting that "the FCC has ample authority to pre-empt state efforts to protect consumer privacy, and should act to prevent states from doing so." Verizon's letter reads in part: "Allowing every State and locality to chart its own course for regulating broadband is a recipe for disaster. It would impose localized and likely inconsistent burdens on an inherently interstate service, would drive up costs, and would frustrate federal efforts to encourage investment and deployment by restoring the free market that long characterized Internet access service." From the report: But there's several things Verizon is ignoring here. One being that the only reason states are trying to pass privacy laws is because Verizon lobbyists convinced former Verizon lawyer and FCC boss Ajit Pai that it was a good idea to kill the FCC's relatively modest rules. It's also worth noting that ISPs like Verizon (and the lawmakers paid to love them) have cried about protecting "states rights" when states try to pass protectionist laws hamstringing competitors, but in this case appears eager to trample those same state rights should states actually try and protect consumers. Verizon makes it abundantly clear it's also worried that when the FCC votes to kill net neutrality rules later this year, states will similarly try to pass their own rules protecting consumers, something Verizon clearly doesn't want. "States and localities have given strong indications that they are prepared to take a similar approach to net neutrality laws if they are dissatisfied with the result of the Restoring Internet Freedom proceeding," complains Verizon, again ignoring that its lawsuits are the reason that's happening.
Verizon

Verizon Will Stop Throttling Video On Unlimited Plans If You Pay An Extra $10 Per Month (theverge.com) 110

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Two months ago, Verizon implemented a change to all of its unlimited data plans that placed limits on the quality at which users could stream video. The company split its unlimited plan into two tiers, with the cheaper option restricting video streaming to 480p resolution; a higher-priced $85 "Beyond Unlimited" plan tops out at 720p video on smartphones (and 1080p on tablets). The new restrictions immediately applied to all plans and Verizon customers had no way of opting out if they wanted to watch 1080p video on their phone or even higher resolutions on capable devices using mobile data. But now Verizon will give subscribers a way to completely remove the video quality handcuffs -- for an extra $10 every month. If you're willing to pay that $10 charge, you can stream video at the maximum quality supported by any device you've got connected to Verizon, whether it's 1080p, 1440p, or even 4K. But keep in mind that the extra fee is applied per line for anyone on a family plan who wants to lift the limits. Even on a single-line plan, it adds up. Tacking $10 onto Verizon's Beyond Unlimited ratchets up the monthly price to $95. The $10 add-on will be available beginning November 3rd.
Verizon

Verizon Loses 18,000 Pay TV Subscribers, Signals Delay For Live TV Streaming Service (hollywoodreporter.com) 42

Verizon announced on Thursday that its FiOS video service lost 18,000 net pay TV subscribers in the third quarter, compared with the addition of 36,000 subscribers in the year-ago period and 15,000 subscriber drop in the second quarter. Hollywood Reporter reports: The company said the drop in the latest quarter was "reflecting the ongoing shift from traditional linear video to over-the-top offerings." Verizon, led by chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam, ended the third quarter with a total of 4.6 million subscribers to its FiOS video service, which competes with cable and satellite TV companies. Asked about a planned over-the-top (OTT) TV service from Verizon, Ellis said that the company continues to feel that "there's an opportunity for us to play," but signaling a delay, he emphasized that the company "doesn't want to launch a me-too product." He didn't provide any guidance on when the OTT service would launch, saying that was still "TBD" (to be determined), or what content it could offer beyond saying it was likely to be built "around live programming." Verizon also reported Thursday that it added 66,000 net new FiOS broadband connections in the third quarter to end it with 5.8 million.
Android

Android Oreo Helps Google's Pixel 2 Smartphones Outperform Other Android Flagships (hothardware.com) 91

MojoKid highlights Hot Hardware's review of Google's new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones: Google officially launched it's Pixel 2 phones today, taking the wraps off third-party reviews. Designed by Google but manufactured by HTC (Pixel 2) and LG (Pixel 2 XL), the two new handsets also boast Google's latest Android 8.0 operating system, aka Oreo, an exclusive to Google Pixel and certain Nexus devices currently. And in some ways, this is also a big advantage. Though they are based on the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor as many other Android devices, Google's new Pixel 2s manage to outpace similarly configured smartphones in certain benchmarks by significant margins (Basemark, PCMark and 3DMark). They also boot dramatically faster than any other Android handset on the market, in as little as 10 seconds. Camera performance is also excellent, with both the 5-inch Pixel 2 and 6-inch Pixel 2 XL sporting identical electronics, save for their displays and chassis sizes. Another notable feature built into Android Oreo is Google Now Playing, an always-listening, Shazam-like service (if you enable it) that displays song titles on the lock screen if it picks up on music playing in the room you're in. Processing is done right on the Pixel 2 and it doesn't need network connectivity. Another Pixel 2 Oreo-based trick is Google Lens, a machine vision system that Google notes "can recognize places like landmarks and buildings, artwork that you'd find in a museum, media covers such as books, movies, music albums, and video games..." The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are available now on Verizon or unlocked via the Google Store starting at $649 and $849 respectively for 64GB storage versions, with a $100 up-charge for 128GB variants.
AT&T

Mobile Phone Companies Appear To Be Selling Your Location To Almost Anyone (techcrunch.com) 149

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: You may remember that last year, Verizon (which owns Oath, which owns TechCrunch) was punished by the FCC for injecting information into its subscribers' traffic that allowed them to be tracked without their consent. That practice appears to be alive and well despite being disallowed in a ruling last March: companies appear to be able to request your number, location, and other details from your mobile provider quite easily. The possibility was discovered by Philip Neustrom, co-founder of Shotwell Labs, who documented it in a blog post earlier this week. He found a pair of websites which, if visited from a mobile data connection, report back in no time with numerous details: full name, billing zip code, current location (as inferred from cell tower data), and more. (Others found the same thing with slightly different results depending on carrier, but the demo sites were taken down before I could try it myself.)
Businesses

FCC's Claim That One ISP Counts As 'Competition' Faces Scrutiny In Court (arstechnica.com) 200

Jon Brodkin reports via Ars Technica: A Federal Communications Commission decision to eliminate price caps imposed on some business broadband providers should be struck down, advocacy groups told federal judges last week. The FCC failed to justify its claim that a market can be competitive even when there is only one Internet provider, the groups said. Led by Chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC's Republican majority voted in April of this year to eliminate price caps in a county if 50 percent of potential customers "are within a half mile of a location served by a competitive provider." That means business customers with just one choice are often considered to be located in a competitive market and thus no longer benefit from price controls. The decision affects Business Data Services (BDS), a dedicated, point-to-point broadband link that is delivered over copper-based TDM networks by incumbent phone companies like AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink.

But the FCC's claim that "potential competition" can rein in prices even in the absence of competition doesn't stand up to legal scrutiny, critics of the order say. "In 2016, after more than 10 years of examining the highly concentrated Business Data Services market, the FCC was poised to rein in anti-competitive pricing in the BDS market to provide enterprise customers, government agencies, schools, libraries, and hospitals with much-needed relief from monopoly rates," Phillip Berenbroick, senior policy counsel at consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge said. But after Republicans gained the FCC majority in 2017, "the commission illegally reversed course without proper notice and further deregulated the BDS market, leaving consumers at risk of paying up to $20 billion a year in excess charges from monopolistic pricing," Berenbroick said.

America Online

RIP AIM: AOL Instant Messenger Dies in December (usatoday.com) 117

It's the end of an era: as of December 15, AOL's Instant Messenger will no longer exist. From a report: In a statement from Oath, the new entity formed under Verizon combining AOL with the recently-acquired Yahoo, the service will be discontinued. "AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed," said Michael Albers, VP of Communications Product at Oath. AIM was a staple of personal computers since first launching in 1997, serving as a precursor to popular apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. However, AIM couldn't make the seamless transition to mobile, where most users rely on instant messaging services. Users will be able to manually download any images or files on AIM before the service shuts down. However, users won't be able to export or save their Buddy List, the group of contacts available on AIM.
Yahoo!

Yahoo Triples Estimate of Breached Accounts To 3 Billion (engadget.com) 41

An anonymous reader shares a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): A massive data breach at Yahoo in 2013 was far more extensive than previously disclosed, affecting all of its 3 billion user accounts, new parent company Verizon Communications Inc. said on Tuesday. The figure, which Verizon said was based on new information, is three times the 1 billion accounts Yahoo said were affected when it first disclosed the breach in December 2016. The new disclosure, four months after Verizon completed its acquisition of Yahoo, shows that executives are still coming to grips with the extent of the security problem in what was already the largest hacking incident in history by number of users.

A spokesman for Oath, the new name of Verizon's Yahoo unit, said the company determined last week that the break-in was much worse than thought, after it received new information from outside the company. He declined to elaborate on the source of that information. Compromised customer information included usernames, passwords, and in some cases telephone numbers and dates of birth, the spokesman said.

Communications

Ex-Verizon Lawyer Ajit Pai Confirmed To Second Term As FCC Chair (fastcompany.com) 101

Congress late Monday approved Ajit Pai for a second term as chair of the Federal Communications Commission, Fast Company reports. "The Senate voted 52-41 (with almost all 'yea' votes coming from Republicans) to give Pai a new five-year term retroactive to July 1, 2017. Without the confirmation, Pai would have had to give up the chair at the end of 2017."

"I am deeply grateful to the U.S. Senate for confirming my nomination to serve a second term at the FCC and to President Trump for submitting that nomination to the Senate," Pai said in a statement. Pai served as Associate General Counsel at Verizon Communications Inc. in February 2001, where he handled competition matters, regulatory issues, and counseling of business units on broadband initiatives.
Advertising

T-Mobile Won't Stop Claiming Its Network Is Faster Than Verizon's (theverge.com) 106

T-Mobile says it will continue to claim it has the country's fastest LTE network even after the National Advertising Division, a telecom industry watchdog group, "recommended" that it stop doing so in print, TV, and web advertisements. In a statement given to Ars Technica, "NAD previously recognized third-party crowdsourced data as a way to look at network performance, so we looked at the latest results, and verified what we already knew. T-Mobile is still the fastest LTE network and we'll continue to let consumers know that." The Verge reports: The dispute arose earlier this year as part of a T-Mobile ad campaign that insinuated that Verizon's network was older and slower, and that its service did not feature unlimited plans. Verizon then filed a complaint with the NAD, which is a self-regulatory body of the telecom industry designed to settle disputes, avoid litigation, and protect against unwanted government regulation. Verizon said at the time that because T-Mobile was relying on crowdsourced data from third-party speed test providers Ookla and OpenSignal, the data was skewed in favor of T-Mobile. The data was pulled from a one-month period after Verizon first reintroduced its unlimited plans. Verizon's logic wasn't super bulletproof: the company claimed that because it had never before offered unlimited plans, T-Mobile customers -- who were familiar with the concept of throttling after a certain data threshold -- were more likely to be sampled in the crowdsourced data set provided to the NAD. Still, T-Mobile discontinued the disputed commercial, and the NAD felt the need to offer guidelines last week, advising the company not to claim its network was faster or newer. In addition, the NAD also told T-Mobile to modify its claim that it covered 99.7 percent of Verizon customers to make clear that the coverage is by population and not geographic area.
Businesses

Internet Activists Urge Congress to Fire Trump's FCC Chief Ajit Pai (vice.com) 104

Open internet advocates and Democratic lawmakers are mounting a last-ditch effort to remove Federal Communications Commission chief Ajit Pai over his anti-net neutrality stance, just days before Pai is set to be approved by the Senate for a new term. From a report: Since being elevated by President Trump to lead the FCC in January, Pai has become the bete noire of open internet advocates for a variety of anti-consumer actions, but none more so than his crusade to kill federal rules protecting net neutrality, the principle that all internet content should be equally accessible to consumers. [...] During a blistering floor speech on Thursday, Sen. Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat, portrayed Pai, a Republican former Verizon lawyer, as an industry stooge who has worked relentlessly to deliver gift after gift to the nation's largest broadband companies. "Mr. Pai has a long track record of putting big cable before consumers, big corporations above small businesses, and pay-to-play over the free and open internet," Wyden wrote in a blog post accompanying his speech. Free Press, a DC-based public interest group, has also launched a campaign to pressure the Senate to "fire Pai," citing his proposal to kill the FCC's net neutrality policy and other anti-consumer actions. But if reconfirmed, Pai is expected to try to ram through his plan to torpedo the FCC's net neutrality rules before the end of the year. "Rehiring Pai to head the agency that oversees US communications policies would be a boon for the phone and cable companies he eagerly serves," Tim Karr, Free Press Senior Director of Strategy, wrote in a blog post.
AT&T

AT&T Seeks Supreme Court Review On Net Neutrality Rule (bloomberg.com) 143

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: AT&T and other broadband providers asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Obama-era "net neutrality" rule barring internet service providers from slowing or blocking rivals' content. The appeals, filed Thursday, will put new pressure on a rule enacted in 2015 when the Federal Communications Commission was under Democratic control. Filing a separate appeal from AT&T were the United States Telecom Association, a trade group, and broadband service provider CenturyLink. The embattled net neutrality rules bar internet service providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast from blocking or slowing some web traffic in favor of other content -- their own or a paying customer's. "The practical stakes are immense," AT&T said in its appeal of a ruling that backed the FCC. The company pointed to a dissenting opinion that said the regulation "fundamentally transforms the internet" and will have a "staggering" impact on infrastructure investment.
Communications

Verizon Backtracks Slightly In Plan To Kick Customers Off Network (arstechnica.com) 52

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Verizon Wireless is giving a reprieve to some rural customers who are scheduled to be booted off their service plans, but only in cases when customers have no other options for cellular service. Verizon recently notified 8,500 customers in 13 states that they will be disconnected on October 17 because they used roaming data on another network. But these customers weren't doing anything wrong -- they are being served by rural networks that were set up for the purpose of extending Verizon's reach into rural areas. Today, Verizon said it is extending the deadline to switch providers to December 1. The company is also letting some customers stay on the network -- although they must switch to a new service plan. "If there is no alternative provider in your area, you can switch to the S (2GB), M (4GB), 5GB single-line, or L (8GB) Verizon plan, but you must do so by December 1," Verizon said in a statement released today. These plans range from $35 to $70 a month, plus $20 "line fees" for each line. The 8,500 customers who received disconnection letters have a total of 19,000 lines. Verizon sells unlimited plans in most of the country but said only those limited options would be available to these customers. Verizon also reiterated its promise that first responders will be able to keep their Verizon service even though some public safety officials received disconnection notices. "We have become aware of a very small number of affected customers who may be using their personal phones in their roles as first responders and another small group who may not have another option for wireless service," Verizon said. "After listening to these folks, we are committed to resolving these issues in the best interest of the customers and their communities. We're committed to ensuring first responders in these areas keep their Verizon service."

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