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They’re pushing back hard and seeking Hill help to reinstate Title II protections

WASHINGTON — Net neutrality activist groups were lining up their protest efforts Monday (June 11) as the FCC’s rules against online blocking, throttling and paid prioritization sunset in favor of a deregulatory regime centered on Federal Trade Commission oversight/enforcement.

But they were also playing down any immediate changes, likely an effort to take some of the shine off deregulation fans’ argument that the internet will look no different Monday than it did the day before.

“Users will see no changes to the internet,” read an email from a company promoting the various efforts to protest the rule rollback. “Big cable and ISPs will take their time to block, throttle, and prevent users from freely accessing the internet.”

But activists weren’t taking their time in pushing back hard and seeking Hill help.

The Voices for Internet Freedom coalition, for example, was hosting an “emergency meeting” Monday night to “learn how the Trump FCC’s repeal of Net Neutrality will impact communities of color and why the fight to protect the open internet is a critical racial justice issue.”

Coalition members include 18 Million Rising, the Center for Media Justice, Free Press Action Fund, Color Of Change and the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

And while various groups and websites were adding protest banners and widgets Monday as an online “action day,” Public Knowledge, Common Cause, Center for American Progress, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Consumers Union, Center for Media Justice and others were planning a second action day June 26 on the Hill in advance of the July 4 break.

While ISPs and Republicans have been pushing for bipartisan network neutrality legislation, the Hill advocacy day will be targeted toward getting House members to sign on to the Congressional Reform Act resolution to restore the network neutrality rules by nullifying their rollback.

That CRA passed narrowly in the Senate, but according to the groups, there are currently 174 House members supporting it, which is not even all the Dems and far short of the 218 they would need to force a vote in the House.

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A Congressional effort to revive the rules has passed in the Senate, but has yet to be taken up by the House

WASHINGTON — June 11 marked the end of the road for Title II regulations, more commonly known as “net neutrality,” as the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of the rules has now taken effect.

The FCC released a statement standing by its repeal and emphasizing that the “internet wasn’t broken” in 2015 when the rules were passed, framing the repeal as a return to the “light-touch approach” that was in place as the Internet first formed and grew, with some enhanced rules on disclosure requirements for service providers, according to rcrwireless.com . As just one example: If customers’ terms of service do change, it must be disclosed to them.

An effort in Congress to revive the rules — under which internet service providers were required to provide equal access to all content without throttling, blocking or offering paid priority based on the service or content — has passed in the Senate, but has yet to be taken up by the House. There are still state attorneys general fighting the repeal in the courts, and some states are attempting to put their own net neutrality rules in place.

As one example, on May 30, the California State Senate overwhelmingly passed strong net neutrality legislation despite “fierce opposition from big ISPs, including AT&T and Comcast,” according to lightreading.com . The California bill (SB 822) would amend state law by adding several online practices to the state’s Consumers’ Legal Remedies Act’s definition of “certain unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices” in the provision of goods and services in the state. “Under the bill, those unfair methods would now include blocking, throttling and paid prioritization of web content, as well as paid zero-rating plans.”

The FCC order eliminating the federal net neutrality rules pre-empts states from trying to impose the rules within their boundaries. “So a classic states’ rights court battle is brewing in Sacramento, especially if other states either follow California’s legislative lead or require providers to adhere to net neutrality rules when they sign government broadband deals,” according to the same article in Light Reading. 

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The government said key use cases include smart cities, healthcare, education, connected and autonomous vehicles, entertainment and media and the Internet of Things

OTTAWA — Canadian carriers have been testing 5G technology in order to get ready for the future commercial launch of this technology. 

For example, in the spring, Shaw Communications completed its first 5G technical trials in Calgary, in partnership with Nokia. The 5G trial used 28 GHz millimeter wave spectrum and 3.5 GHz spectrum, and was conducted using pre-commercial equipment at Shaw’s Barlow Campus Technology Center in Calgary, according to rcrwireless.com . Shaw conducted comparative testing between 28 GHz and 3.5 GHz spectrum to better understand the interoperability between two of the bands, using Rohde & Schwarz gear to measure 5G and LTE signals simultaneously.

Rogers Communications recently announced a multi-year plan by which it aims to deploy 5G technology in partnership with Ericsson. Rogers’ network plan includes the continued rollout of its gigabit LTE network with technology and equipment based on the latest global 3GPP standards, including 4×4 multiple-input-multiple-output, four-carrier aggregation and 256 QAM. 

The company also plans to build up its network with both small cells and more traditional radio sites across the country, according to the same article. Through the partnership with Ericsson, Rogers will trial 5G technology in Toronto and Ottawa, in addition to select cities over the next year.

Earlier this year Telus , in partnership with Huawei, launched a 5G wireless-to-the-home (WttH) trial service using specially-designed 5G customer premise equipment, at Telus’ downtown Vancouver “5G Living Lab.”

The Canadian government said that key use cases for the next-generation network technology include smart cities, healthcare, education, connected and autonomous vehicles, entertainment and media and the Internet of Things, and it confirmed plans to auction key wireless spectrum for the provision of 5G services in 2020, again according to the same article. 

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SAN FRANCISCO — For a growing number of Americans, there’s no place like smart home .

New research by Parks Associates shows that 32% of broadband households in the U.S. already own at least one connected device, while 50% intend to buy a smart-home gadget within the next year.

While security has been a major concern for connected-home shoppers , and rightly so, Parks found that platform interoperability is an important consideration for 75% of U.S. broadband households planning to purchase a smart-home product.

“Consumers want robust user experiences; they are not going out to buy platforms but products,” noted Parks research analyst Dina Abdelrazik, and “interoperability is a key factor in enabling a working ecosystem of devices.”

Not surprisingly, Amazon Alexa is top of mind with smart-home shoppers, with 28 percent of U.S. broadband households professing to be “very familiar” with the pervasive personal assistant. Indeed, Alexa leads all surveyed smart-home platforms, Parks said, with Google Home close on its heels.

In fact, about 40% of consumers looking to buy a smart-home device consider interoperability with Amazon Echo or Google Home important, and one in seven broadband households own some manner of smart speaker, Echo, Google or otherwise.

On average, about half of personal assistant device and app users are “highly satisfied,” suggesting plenty of room for improvement.

Parks released its findings in advance of its 22nd annual Connections connected-home conference , May 22-24.  

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Its servers were hacked by unknown cryptocurrency miners during a fundraising drive


PORTLAND — An Oregon community radio station is still battling the after-effects of an April 28 cryptocurrency attack, according to Katie Shepherd of Willamette Week .

KBOO(FM) Community Radio’s servers were hacked by unknown cryptocurrency miners during the last week of the noncom’s fundraising drive. Because of its website’s 80% slowdown, KBOO reps said the station saw a decrease in online fundraising efforts during this crucial fundraising period.

However, the station did not have any of its files breached — a somewhat dim silver lining, all things considered.

[Read about The Wandering Engineer’s fears of the coming It Apocalypse.]

As of May 11, the station’s website is still down — more than two weeks later — as part of efforts to scrub the system of the malicious code. According to the Willamette Week, the station aims to be back online in the next day or so.

KBOO was far from the only victim of the attack, known as “Drupalgeddon2.” Other affected organizations include Lenovo, the University of California at Los Angeles and the U.S. National Labor Relations Board. The hackers exploited websites that had not updated a patch that fixed a problem in the Drupal content management system.

This is another unfortunate reminder that stations need to pay close attention to cybersecurity protocols at all levels in order to reduce vulnerability, as cybercriminals become increasingly determined and inventive.

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Verizon’s fixed 5G service is intended to compete with wired internet services and cable MSOs by “blasting” a 5G connection from a nearby cell site to receivers

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Samsung recently acknowledged the FCC certified both the company’s indoor and outdoor 5G home routers. The company said the new routers are meant to work with Verizon’s 28 GHz fixed wireless deployment, according to fiercewireless.com .

Samsung described the router as “a small consumer device that receives and transmits the 5G signal to provide ultra-high speed broadband wireless service…[that] can enable broadband service up to 18x greater than the current average U.S. broadband.”

Verizon’s fixed 5G service is intended to compete with wired internet services and cable MSOs by “blasting” a 5G connection from a nearby cell site to receivers either outside or inside users’ homes or offices. Mobile 5G, on the other hand, is designed for portable devices like smartphones and tablets. Verizon announced late last year that it would turn on fixed 5G services in up to five cities, including Sacramento , in the second half of 2018.

Verizon’s mobile 5G service will launch around six months after the carrier turns on its fixed 5G service, according to Verizon’s CEO Lowell McAdam. “Those comments are notable because Verizon hasn’t offered too much detail about how it might roll out mobile 5G — although Verizon’s CFO said last year the carrier wouldn’t launch mobile 5G services in 2018,” according to the same article.

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New England grass roots effort may offer new hope for the movement

CONCORD, Mass. — It seems like technology companies have become immensely powerful and seemingly accountable to no one. 

In Radio Magazine Today, we’ve used a lot of space reviewing recent federal rollbacks of net neutrality. Is there anything to be done by the average citizen? According to an opinion piece in the Washington Post , there is — through internet service provided by local governments, which are directly accountable to citizens.

Mark Howell is the chief information officer for the town of Concord, Massachusetts, and he writes: “I’ve overseen the creation of a successful municipal broadband system by treating Internet service like what it really is — a public utility, like water and electricity. We’re providing residents with broadband Internet service that is inexpensive and reliable and respects net neutrality and privacy principles.”

So just how was this accomplished? Concord has had a municipal electric utility since the early 1900s. 

“At our town meeting in 2009, citizens approved a plan for the utility to build a fiber-optic network because it needed upgrades to support such “smart grid” functions as advanced meter reading and load-management programs.” In 2013 the town meeting approved a plan to use that network to provide Internet service.

“Although we spent money to invest in this new infrastructure, once we started working on the system, we found that we could save money. We used our fiber-optic system to interconnect the schools, library, other town buildings and water system sites, saving tens of thousands of dollars a year on expensive and increasingly unreliable telephone lines. Once we started providing our own Internet service, the town saved even more.”

The city offers simple, flat-rate pricing without any of the “confusing packages” that customers of private telecoms have to deal with, and twice in four years Internet speeds have increased with no price hike.

“Our Internet service operates under rules set not by a for-profit company but by locally elected leaders and residents who volunteer to serve on the service’s board,” writes Howell. “We strictly abide by the principles of free speech and net neutrality, which means that all Internet traffic is treated equally. We also protect privacy by not sharing customer information with anyone.”

The city issued bonds to get started, and they will eventually be repaid by revenue from customers. Broadband revenue is covering the operating costs. The debt is financing the cost of adding about 300 customers per year, and according to Howell, “we project that by 2020, revenue will be covering these expansion costs as well. On top of that, there are the benefits that come with being a place that offers high-quality, high-speed Internet to homes and businesses.” 

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If approved by regulators, the new company would be henceforth known as T-Mobile

BELLEVUE, Wash., and OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — T-Mobile US and Sprint Corporation on Sunday announced they have entered into a definitive agreement to merge. The combined company will be called T-Mobile.

The combined company will have “lower costs, greater economies of scale, and the resources to provide U.S. consumers and businesses with lower prices, better quality, unmatched value, and greater competition,” according to this press release about the merger. “The New T-Mobile will employ more people than both companies separately and create thousands of new American jobs.” The same document goes on to say that from the first day Sprint and T-Mobile combine and every year thereafter, the new company will employ more people in the U.S. than both companies would separately; more than 200,000 people will work on behalf of the combined company in the US at the start.

[Read about Sprint and T-Mobile’s on again , off again merger history.]

The question is, how and why will that happen? According to the same release, “the New T-Mobile plans to invest up to $40 billion in its new network and business in the first three years alone, a massive capital outlay that will fuel job growth at the new company and across related sectors. This is 46% more than T-Mobile and Sprint spent combined in the past three years.”

“This combination will also force AT&T, Charter, Comcast, Verizon, and others to make investments of their own to compete, driving billions more in accelerated investment.”

You really need to take what is said in press releases like this with a grain of salt but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt right now.

“Neither company standing alone can create a nationwide 5G network with the breadth and depth required to fuel the next wave of mobile Internet innovation in the U.S. and answer competitive challenges from abroad. Only the combined company will have the network capacity required to quickly create a broad and deep 5G nationwide network in the critical first years of the 5G innovation cycle – the years that will determine if American firms lead or follow in the 5G digital economy.” 

This will be accomplished using Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum and T-Mobile’s nationwide 600 MHz spectrum, and other combined assets. “Compared to T-Mobile’s network today, the combined company’s network is expected to deliver 15x faster speeds on average nationwide by 2024, with many customers experiencing up to 100x faster speeds than early 4G.”

Time will tell if that comes true of course. First the merger has to really happen. Following the closing, the new company will be headquartered in Bellevue with a second headquarters in Overland Park.

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No business is unaffected by cybertheft, State Department’s Strayer warns

WASHINGTON — Cyber-attacks on “critical infrastructure” and theft or espionage involving commercial intellectual property remain the top concerns of the global cybersecurity community, Robert L. Strayer, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cyber and International Communications and Information Policy at the U.S. Department of State said April 19.

In remarks at the Media Institute’s monthly luncheon in Washington, Strayer emphasized, “No business is unaffected by cybertheft” and warned that “we will continue to see threats to the digital ecosystem.”

Strayer declined, when asked by MCN, to specify media or telecom operators, including cable TV, as part of the “critical infrastructure.” But he acknowledged that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies are constantly examining ways to foil “bad actors” who could disrupt or hack into the operations of American companies.

He said U.S. and global partners “have to think of all the misuses” of cyber systems. He emphasized the growing role of the digital economy and noted that international groups such as the G7 and G20 nations “are increasingly looking at technology issues” such as blockchain, that are affecting traditional global systems.

“As we look around the world, we want to assure an open flow of data,” Strayer said, but at the same time “it is absolutely critical to preserve a decentralized model.” He emphasized that many countries want to regulate the internet, but that U.S. policy will continue to “push back against that.”

Strayer acknowledged that in the US and most democracies, the digital infrastructure is in the hands of the private sector.

“We should not expect companies to operate in cyberspace any differently” than they do in conventional environments, Strayer said, but he warned that the task – including public/private collaboration – may be very challenging.

New cybersecurity standards will be “voluntary,” he said, adding that “industry is driving the solution.” He cited the need “to achieve maximum economic value” as companies battle cyberattacks.

Strayer cited Europe’s “General Data Protection Regulation” that goes into effect on May 25, restricting many ecommerce and digital media practices in an effort to assure consumer privacy. He did not offer an opinion about whether such restraints may eventually emerge in the U.S., especially amid the current furor over activities at Facebook, Google and other companies that collect personal data.

He focused, instead, on ways that federal enforcement agencies are developing systems “to improve our defenses” and create a “cyber-posture” to fight cybercrimes. He said that systems are now “so interconnected that these threats can race around the world” almost instantly.

To battle such scourges, Strayer explained that the State Department and other U.S. agencies have about 150 “digital economy officers” at embassies and other locations worldwide to identify potential cybercrimes and to development enforcement tactics, often in collaboration with host countries.

Strayer also cited forecasts that estimate about 200,000 people will be needed to handle America’s cybersecurity requirements in the coming years — a significant job creation stimulant.

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The legislation would have disqualified ISPs from receiving state Universal Service Fund high-cost support money for deploying broadband unless they agreed not to block, throttle or prioritize for pay

DENVER — A Colorado bill has died in committee that would have disqualified ISPs, including Colorado municipal broadband providers, from receiving state Universal Service Fund high-cost support money for deploying broadband unless they agreed not to block, throttle or prioritize for pay.

HB18-1312 would also have required refunding money if an ISP engaged in such practices, and would have given a government contracting preference for ISPs that do not engage in those practices.

According to the Colorado legislature’s website, action on the bill was indefinitely postponed by the Senate Committee on State, Veterans & Military Affairs, in this case the issue being a “state” affair.

ISPs lobbied against the bill as yet another in a patchwork of proposed or adopted state regs when what is needed is national legislation.

States are attempting to recreate the FCC’s net neutrality rules rolled back in a Dec. 14, 2017 decision, though that decision also preempts such state efforts. That means a court fight looms where legislation has succeeded in being passed or the governor has signed an executive order requiring net neutrality in government broadband contracts.

“This issue is about what is best for Colorado’s consumers and taxpayers,” said Rep. Chris Hansen, who has been a driving force behind the bill. “[D]o they want to pay more for an unequal internet, or do they want the internet to remain free and open to all? It is important for states to lead in the absence of action by Congress, and we will continue to do so here in Denver. “

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