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An anonymous reader writes: The FCC's recent wireless spectrum auction closed on Thursday, and the agency has raked in far more money than anyone expected. Sales totaled $44.89 billion, demonstrating that demand for wireless spectrum is higher than ever. The winners have not yet been disclosed, but the FCC will soon make all bidding activity public. "The money will be used to fund FirstNet, the government agency tasked with creating the nation's first interoperable broadband network for first responders, to finance technological upgrades to our 911 emergency systems, and to contribute over $20 billion to deficit reduction. In addition, the auction brought 65 Megahertz of spectrum to market to fuel our nation's mobile broadband networks. The wireless industry estimates that for every 10 Megahertz of spectrum licensed for wireless broadband, 7,000 American jobs are created and U.S. gross domestic product increases by $1.7 billion."
88 comments | yesterday
New submitter rsanford, apropos of today's FCC announcement about what is officially consided "broadband" speed by that agency, asks In the early and middle 90's I recall spending countless hours on IRC 'Trout-slapping' people in #hottub and engaging in channel wars. The people from Europe were always complaining about how slow their internet was and there was no choice. This was odd to me, who at the time had 3 local ISPs to choose from, all offering the fastest modem connections at the time, while living in rural America 60 miles away from the nearest city with 1,000 or more people. Was that the reality back then? If so, what changed, and when?
470 comments | 2 days ago
halfEvilTech writes As part of its 2015 Broadband Progress Report, the Federal Communications Commission has voted to change the definition of broadband by raising the minimum download speeds needed from 4Mbps to 25Mbps, and the minimum upload speed from 1Mbps to 3Mbps, which effectively triples the number of U.S. households without broadband access. Currently, 6.3 percent of U.S. households don't have access to broadband under the previous 4Mpbs/1Mbps threshold, while another 13.1 percent don't have access to broadband under the new 25Mbps downstream threshold.
425 comments | 2 days ago
alphadogg writes: The FCC on Tuesday warned that it will no longer tolerate hotels, convention centers or others intentionally interfering with personal Wi-Fi hotspots. This issue grabbed headlines last fall when Marriott International was fined $600,000 for blocking customer Wi-Fi hotspots, presumably to encourage the guests to pay for pricey Internet access from the hotel.
128 comments | 3 days ago
WheezyJoe writes Verizon agreed to a $5 million settlement after admitting that it failed to investigate whether its rural customers were able to receive long distance and wireless phone calls. The settlement is related to the FCC's efforts to address what is known as the rural call completion problem. Over an eight-month period during 2013, low call answer rates in 39 rural areas should have triggered an investigation, the FCC said. The FCC asked Verizon what steps it took, and Verizon said in April 2014 that it investigated or fixed problems in 13 of the 39 areas, but did nothing in the other 26.
"Rural call completion problems have significant and immediate public interest ramifications," the FCC said in its order on the Verizon settlement today. "They cause rural businesses to lose customers, impede medical professionals from reaching patients in rural areas, cut families off from their relatives, and create the potential for dangerous delays in public safety communications." Verizon has been accused of letting its copper landline network decay while it shifts its focus to fiber and cellular service. The FCC is working a plan to protect customers as old copper networks are retired.
94 comments | 4 days ago
WheezyJoe writes: As the FCC considers the merger between Comcast/Universal and Time-Warner Cable, which would create the largest cable company in the U.S. and is entering the final stages of federal review, politicians are pressuring the FCC with pro-merger letters actually written by Comcast. According to documents obtained through public records requests, politicians are passing letters nearly word-for-word written by Comcast as their own. "Not only do records show that a Comcast official sent the councilman the exact wording of the letter he would submit to the FCC, but also that finishing touches were put on the letter by a former FCC official named Rosemary Harold, who is now a partner at one of the nation's foremost telecom law firms in Washington, DC. Comcast has enlisted Harold to help persuade her former agency to approve the proposed merger."
Ars Technica had already reported that politicians have closely mimicked Comcast talking points and re-used Comcast's own statements without attribution. The documents revealed today show just how deeply Comcast is involved with certain politicians, and how they were able to get them on board.
180 comments | 5 days ago
WheezyJoe writes Responding to the FCC's proposal to raise the definition of broadband from 4Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream to 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up, the lobby group known as the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) wrote in an FCC filing Thursday that 25Mbps/3Mbps isn't necessary for ordinary people. The lobby alleges that hypothetical use cases offered for showing the need for 25Mbps/3Mbps "dramatically exaggerate the amount of bandwidth needed by the typical broadband user", referring to parties in favor of the increase like Netflix and Public Knowledge. Verizon, for its part, is also lobbying against a faster broadband definition. Much of its territory is still stuck on DSL which is far less capable of 25Mbps/3Mbps speeds than cable technology.
The FCC presently defines broadband as 4Mbps down and 1Mbps up, a definition that hasn't changed since 2010. By comparison, people in Sweden can pay about $40 a month for 100/100 mbps, choosing between more than a dozen competing providers. The FCC is under mandate to determine whether broadband is being deployed to Americans in a reasonable and timely way, and the commission must take action to accelerate deployment if the answer is negative. Raising the definition's speeds provides more impetus to take actions that promote competition and remove barriers to investment, such as a potential move to preempt state laws that restrict municipal broadband projects.
255 comments | 5 days ago
lightbox32 writes Dish Network has been found guilty of violating the Do Not Call list on 57 million separate occasions. They were also found liable for abandoning or causing telemarketers to abandon nearly 50 million outbound telephone calls, in violation of the abandoned-call provision of the Federal Trade Commission's Telemarketing Sales Rule. Penalties for infringing on the Do Not Call list can be up to a whopping $16,000 for each outbound call.
247 comments | about two weeks ago
SpzToid writes U.S. congressional Republicans on Friday proposed legislation that would set "net neutrality" rules for broadband providers, aiming to head off tougher regulations backed by the Obama administration. Republican lawmakers hope to counter the Federal Communications Commission's vote on Feb. 26 for rules that are expected to follow the legal path endorsed by President Barack Obama, which Internet service providers (ISPs) and Republicans say would unnecessarily burden the industry with regulation. Net neutrality activists, now with Obama's backing, have advocated for regulation of ISPs under a section of communications law known as Title II, which would treat them more like public utilities. The White House on Thursday said legislation was not necessary to settle so-called "net neutrality" rules because the Federal Communications Commission had the authority to write them.
182 comments | about two weeks ago
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.
217 comments | about two weeks ago
gurps_npc writes "Marriot Hotels had been illegally blocking Wifi hotspots in Nashville. They thought they owned the airwaves inside their hotel and wanted to charge guests for using them. They claimed to be 'surprised' they were breaking the law. Other hotels have complained to the FCC, asking for permission to do it legally. The FCC had fined Marriot $600,000 for their actions, among other things. They have stopped their illegal blockage, in part because of public backlash and in part because the government told them they were criminals.
179 comments | about two weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes: President Obama is rolling out a new plan to boost the speed of internet connections throughout the U.S. For one, he'll be asking the FCC for assistance in neutralizing state laws (PDF) that prevent cities from building municipal broadband services. "At speeds of 4 Mbps or less, 75 percent of consumers have a choice between two or more fixed providers, and 15 percent can select among three or more ISPs. However, in the market for Internet service that can deliver 25 Mbps downstream—the speed increasingly recognized as a baseline to get the full benefits of Internet access—three out of four Americans do not have a choice between providers." The state laws laws restrict competition and give the major ISPs no incentive to invest and innovate.
Obama will also be directing other federal agencies to increase the amount of money they grant and loan to ISP-related projects. "Any effort by the FCC to preempt anti-muni-broadband laws will likely focus on a controversial part of the FCC's congressional charter known as "Section 706." That part of the law recognizes the FCC's authority to stimulate broadband deployment, which supporters of preemption argue the tactic would promote. If Section 706 sounds familiar, that's because it's also the legal tool some say should be used to promote net neutrality, or the principle that broadband companies shouldn't speed up or slow down some Web sites over others."
417 comments | about two weeks ago
dkatana writes: Yesterday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said net neutrality is high on the agency's agenda, and a set of rules will be proposed beginning of next month. He also talked about reclassification of internet providers such as Google Fiber as Title II Telecom Companies. If Google and other fiber providers are given pole access, it could be the beginning of a race to deploy fiber-to-the-home to many cities and towns, where the cost of digging trenches has deterred many initiatives and protected the monopolies of the entrenched telecom providers. Advocates for net neutrality believe that Title II classification would allow the FCC to protect Internet services by regulating against paid prioritization. A related article suggests one side effect of the internet becoming a public utility will be higher costs for internet access.
255 comments | about three weeks ago
Bruce Perens writes Chris Testa KB2BMH taught a class on gate-array programming the SmartFusion chip, a Linux system and programmable gate-array on a single chip, using MyHDL, the Python Hardware Design Language to implement a software-defined radio transceiver. Watch all 4 sessions: 1, 2, 3, 4. And get the slides and code. Chris's Whitebox hardware design implementing an FCC-legal 50-1000 MHz software-defined transceiver in Open Hardware and Open Source, will be available in a few months. Here's an Overview of Whitebox and HT of the Future. Slashdot readers funded this video and videos of the entire TAPR conference. Thanks!"
51 comments | about three weeks ago
blottsie writes The FCC has heard your complaints, and it's finally going to make it easier to file more complaints. The Federal Communications Commission on Monday announced the launch of its Consumer Help Center, which according to a press release will feature a "streamlined, user-friendly complaint filing system," the "ability for consumers to monitor complaints, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," and "faster delivery of complaints to service providers, enabling them to respond to consumers sooner."
41 comments | about a month ago
schwit1 sends this report from the Washington Post: Federal regulators looking to place restrictions on Internet providers will introduce and vote on new proposed net neutrality rules in February, Federal Communications Commission officials said Friday. President Obama's top telecom regulator, Tom Wheeler, told fellow FCC commissioners before the Christmas holiday that he intends to circulate a draft proposal internally next month with an eye toward approving the measure weeks later, said one official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the agency's deliberations are ongoing. The rules are meant to keep broadband providers such as Verizon and Comcast from speeding up or slowing down some Web sites compared to others.
81 comments | about a month ago
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from BGR: What's every incumbent ISP's worst nightmare? If we had to guess, it looks something like the filing that Google just made with the Federal Communications Commission. As The Wall Street Journal reports, Google this week told the FCC that reclassifying broadband providers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act would have a big side benefit for Google Fiber because it would give Google Fiber the same access to utility poles and other key infrastructure currently enjoyed by Comcast, AT&T and other big-name ISPs.
221 comments | about a month ago
An anonymous reader writes "Per an op-ed in today's New York Times, Google, Apple, and others would be effectively exempt from "Do not track": "[T]he rules would allow the largest Internet giants to continue scooping up data about users on their own sites and on other sites that include their plug-ins, such as Facebook's 'Like' button or an embedded YouTube video. This giant loophole would make 'Do Not Track' meaningless."
145 comments | about a month ago
Presto Vivace writes with news that the FCC has had trouble dealing with the sheer volume of comments submitted about net neutrality. There were millions of them, and they caused problems with the agency's 18-year-old Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS). When the FCC attempted to dump the comments into XML format to make download and analysis easier, problems with Apache Solr meant roughly 680,000 didn't make the transfer. The agency promised to release a new set of fixed XML files in January that include all of the dropped comments. Despite many reports that the comments were "lost," they're all available using the ECFS.
32 comments | about a month ago
An anonymous reader writes: When the U.S. Federal Communications Commission began reviewing the merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, it imposed a 180-day deadline on the review process. The agency has now pushed that deadline back a few weeks after learning that TWC withheld over 7,000 documents they shouldn't have. TWC originally claimed the documents fall under attorney-client privilege, but that appears not to be the case.
Perhaps more disturbing, the article says another 31,000 documents "went missing" because of a vendor error. (Perhaps even more disturbing is that this is a drop in the bucket compared to the sum total of information TWC dumped on the FCC — apparently over 5 million pages. How they can be expected to properly review that much material is beyond me.)
The FCC is also ready to close the public comment period for the merger, during which over 600,000 comments were filed. Critics are making their final arguments and Comcast is tallying up all the nice things people (and paid public relations agencies) had to say.
88 comments | about a month ago