Ravioli for the Recount – This Week in Tech 692

– Apple’s new iPad Pro is not the future of Apple, but it does point to it.
– Alibaba sells $1 billion in the first 85 seconds of Singles Day.
– Tech doomsayer says that the vast majority of people will soon be “The Useless Class.”
– 22% of Americans still trust Facebook.
– Oprah’s favorite things list on Amazon does not include goat soap.
– Amazon must give police Echo data and recordings in murder case.
– DEA and ICE are installing secret surveillance cameras in street lights.
– China unveils the first AI news anchor.
– Tesla Bio weapon Defense Mode keeps owners in smoke-filled California safe.
– With Net Neutrality gone, Sprint starts throttling Skype.
– FCC has harsh words about robocalls.

The Prosecco Experience – This Week in Tech 691

Apple’s new Macs and iPads, CIA’s not-so-secret websites, Twitter voter suppression, and more.
— Apple announces new MacBook Air and Mac Mini, then blows them both away with its new iPad Pro.
— Apple will no longer tell us how many iPhones it sells.
— How to kill an iPhone with a balloon.
— Iran unmasks dozens of CIA agents with a Google search.
— Google employees stage walkout over sexual harassment
— Amazon exec mad at Washington Post for leaking new headquarters location.
— Facebook targets ads at “White Genocide Conspiracy Theorists.”
— Voter suppression on Twitter, and IRL in Georgia.
— Passcodes are officially protected by the fifth amendment (at least in Florida, and only in some cases).
— Senator proposes a bill that would jail tech CEOs for misusing consumer data.
— FCC says community broadband is an “ominous threat to the first amendment.”

Host: Leo Laporte Guests: Brian McCullough, Iain Thomson, Mike Elgan

Older Than the Mini Jack – This Week in Tech 686

Facebook breach, Elon’s costly tweet, Google turns 20, and more.

–How to tell if your Facebook account is one of the 50 million that were hacked this week
–Why the founder of Instagram left Facebook
–“Funding secured” tweet costs Elon Musk his chairmanship and $40 million
–Google turns 20 –More leaks from Google’s upcoming October 9th event
–Amazon gives $1 million to Wikimedia
–FCC fines robo-caller $37.5 million
–Did you register to vote on Snapchat?
–Web creator Tim Berners-Lee has a plan to fix the Internet

This Week in Tech 645: Not a Bright Guy

FCC cancels Net Neutrality and Ajit Pai mocks protesters. Apple’s new iMac Pro costs a minimum of $4999 and goes up from there. Disney buys 21st Century Fox, gaining X-Men, Fantastic Four, and A New Hope, along with a 60% share of Hulu. Google cancels Tango as ARCore picks up steam. As public sentiment against it grows, even Facebook admits that Facebook is bad for you. Uber spies on everybody. Tweet storms made easy. Mirai botnet that took down huge swathes of the internet was built by college kids to cheat at Minecraft. Patreon apologizes. Secret Pentagon UFO program revealed.

This Week in Tech 615: Biz Sized Hole

All the highlights from Google I/O. Tim Cook has a blood sugar tracking watch. Facebook’s guidelines for content moderation. Biz Stone is going back to Twitter. What happened with WannaCry. Minecraft devs don’t want you to poison your birds. The FCC is going ahead with their plan to end Net Neutrality whether you like it or not. The internet is broken, and one of the men responsible is trying to fix it.

Jeff Jarvis went to Google I/O, and all he got was this t-shirt.
Mark Millian secretly hates the way Leo pronounces “Bloomberg Business Week”
Nathan Olivarez-Giles has mad street cred.

Google warns FCC plan could help ISPs charge senders of Web traffic

Google is warning that the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality plan could have unintended consequences that help Internet service providers charge Web services for sending traffic.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan would reclassify broadband providers as common carriers on two fronts, in the service they provide home Internet customers and their relationships with “edge providers,” companies like Netflix that offer content to consumers over the Internet. Classifying the ISP-edge provider relationship is, in the FCC’s way of thinking, supposed to provide additional authority so the commission can intervene when an edge provider claims it is being treated unfairly.

“[T]his issue must be viewed in light of the efforts by some ISPs, particularly abroad, to claim that they provide a service to content providers for which they should be able to charge under a ‘sender pays’ model—while still charging their retail customers for the same traffic,” Google Communications Law Director Austin Schlick wrote in a filing with the FCC. “To the extent the Commission encourages the falsehood that ISPs offer two overlapping access services instead of just one, or the fiction that edge providers are customers of terminating ISPs when they deliver content to the Internet, it may encourage such attempts at double-recovery. That could do serious, long-term harm to the virtuous circle of Internet innovation, thus greatly undermining the benefit of adopting net neutrality rules.”

Google is making an argument similar to one put forth by the advocacy group Free Press, which said that classifying the ISP-edge provider connection as a common carrier service is a legally dicey strategy. The FCC’s goal is to be able to intervene in interconnection disputes that harm Internet service quality. But both Free Press and Google argue that the FCC can oversee interconnection simply by reclassifying consumer broadband as a common carrier service.

It is not “necessary to imagine a non-existent service in order to reach ISPs’ interconnection practices,” Google told the FCC. “Should the Commission classify end-user broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service subject to Title II [of the Communications Act], that classification alone would enable the Commission to ensure that ISPs’ interconnection practices are just and reasonable. As noted, for instance, Section 201(b) requires just and reasonable practices ‘for and in connection with such communication service.’ If an ISP’s intentional port congestion or other interconnection practices denied end-user customers the full benefit of the two-way service they have purchased, then the Commission could take enforcement action.”

Interconnection is when two network providers, or an edge provider and an ISP, exchange traffic directly without a middleman. These transfers can happen with or without payment. This type of paid traffic transfer is different from “paid prioritization” deals prohibited by the net neutrality proposal, because interconnection doesn’t speed traffic up after it enters the ISP’s network. But interconnection can greatly improve performance because it provides a dedicated path into the ISP’s network.

Interconnection became part of the net neutrality debate only after a dispute between Netflix and ISPs caused consumers to have poor Netflix service for months, until Netflix relented and paid for direct network connections. The FCC is not proposing a ban on interconnection payments outright, but it wants to set up a complaint process in which edge providers could argue that they are being overcharged or that ISPs aren’t upgrading capacity quickly enough.

Google, which is both a content provider and an ISP, has argued that companies like Netflix should not have to pay for interconnection. But the FCC’s approach to interconnection is flawed, Google argued.

“Informal, settlement-free peering is the norm because it minimizes transaction costs and reflects the mutual benefit both parties receive from interconnection,” Google wrote. “Google has entered into peering arrangements with some of the largest US broadband providers insofar as we are unable to use transit to reach users on those networks with reasonable quality. These arrangements are individually negotiated, however, so they could not support classification of a common carriage service provided to Google or any other edge provider.”

Read More: Google warns FCC plan could help ISPs charge senders of Web traffic | Ars Technica.

Tons of AT&T and Verizon customers may no longer have “broadband” tomorrow

The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a change to the definition of “broadband” and in so doing could leave about a fifth of the country without access to service that meets the new minimum standard.

At today’s broadband definition of 4Mbps downstream and 1Mbps up, only 6.3 percent of US households have no access to wired broadband. That doesn’t mean the other 93.7 percent are using broadband, but they could buy it from at least one wired Internet provider in their city or town:

Under the proposed definition of 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up (which is opposed by Internet providers), 19.4 percent of US households would be in areas without any wired broadband providers. 55.3 percent would have just one provider of “broadband,” with the rest being able to choose from two or more. Rural areas are far less likely to have fast Internet service than urban ones.

Further Reading

Only 25Mbps and up will qualify as broadband under new FCC definition

Broadband not being deployed “in a reasonable and timely fashion,” Wheeler says.

Further Reading

Most of the US has no broadband competition at 25Mbps, FCC chair says

But will the FCC block Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger? Wheeler doesn’t say.

In FCC parlance, broadband is “advanced telecommunications capability” that “enables users to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications using any technology.” The FCC determines a minimum speed.

Among the major wired Internet providers, a change in definition would disproportionately affect DSL service. Cable generally has no problem delivering 25Mbps; Comcast’s standard lineup does include an entry-level tier that goes up only to 6Mbps downstream, but its higher-priced tiers are advertised at 150Mbps down and 20Mbps up. Fiber networks also meet the proposed broadband definition with ease, with some offering a gigabit in both directions. (As always, speeds are “up to” the advertised numbers and don’t always hit them.)

It’s a different story for DSL, which is delivered over copper telephone lines. Bitrates decline over distance, so customers receive fewer bits per second if they’re far away from distribution points, but even under ideal circumstances DSL generally won’t provide 25Mbps service.

This means a big portion of AT&T and Verizon subscribers will no longer have “broadband” if the FCC changes the definition. The nation’s two largest traditional telephone companies have each deployed a lot of fiber, but still have plenty of DSL customers.

Read more: Tons of AT&T and Verizon customers may no longer have “broadband” tomorrow | Ars Technica.

Sprint/T-Mobile plan to buy spectrum together may be blocked by FCC

A proposal from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler would block an attempt by Sprint and T-Mobile US to buy spectrum together in the incentive auction that will transfer airwaves from broadcast TV stations to cellular carriers next year.

Further Reading

FCC chairman regrets that AT&T and Verizon control the best spectrum

Incentive auction will help smaller carriers, free up unlicensed airwaves.

Announced on Friday, Wheeler’s proposal seeks to help the smallest wireless companies develop business partnerships with larger ones. But it would not allow partnerships between the biggest carriers, since more than 95 percent of US customers are served by either AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless.

“Our goal is to promote the participation of as many parties as possible in the auction,” FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Chief Roger Sherman wrote Friday. “If two of the largest companies are able to bid as one combined entity in the auction, their combined resources may have the effect of suppressing meaningful competition. Therefore, the item tentatively concludes that joint bidding arrangements between nationwide providers should not be allowed.”

That’s bad news for Sprint and T-Mobile. “The two rivals are working with separate teams and outside counsels to form a joint-bidding venture to participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s airwave auction next year,” Bloomberg reported last month. “The bidding alliance is part of a push by Masayoshi Son, whose SoftBank Corp. controls Sprint, to sway skeptical regulators as it tries to take over T-Mobile. By pooling their resources in the auction, the companies would be able to pay more to the federal government to acquire wireless spectrum—demonstrating that a full merger would help the companies make bigger investments in their networks, benefiting consumers.”

A Sprint/T-Mobile merger would result in the US having three major nationwide carriers instead of the current four. The companies haven’t finalized an agreement yet, but, if they do, it will face scrutiny from antitrust officials who previously blocked an AT&T/T-Mobile merger.

French company Iliad is also bidding on T-Mobile, but T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom has reportedly turned down Iliad’s offer.

Wheeler’s proposal would encourage smaller companies to participate in the broadcast TV auction and other spectrum auctions by letting them “leverage business partnerships with larger companies through more flexible leasing arrangements to gain access to capital and cash flow, not to mention operational experience,” Sherman wrote.

“Of course, this policy will have to be policed,” he continued. “Some may try to take advantage of this flexibility to gain a discount for large incumbents, which we will not allow. We will be on the lookout for such abuse and enforce our rules vigorously. Protection will come from the proposal’s focus on who is ‘calling the shots.’ The small business entrepreneur must exercise independent decision-making authority. If the small business is a stalking horse for another party, then the bidding credit will be lost.”

via Sprint/T-Mobile plan to buy spectrum together may be blocked by FCC | Ars Technica.

FCC looking into complaints that broadband ISPs are dragging their heels

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is looking into complaints from Netflix and some Internet backbone providers that several large broadband providers have been refusing for years to upgrade their backbone connections as a way to slow video traffic that competes with their own services.

Following a public spat this week between Netflix and Verizon Communications, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency is collecting information about the so-called peering and transit arrangements that allow Web traffic to flow between networks and content providers.

Wheeler stopped short of calling the FCC review a formal investigation, but he said there is growing public concern about problems with peering arrangements. In recent months, Netflix, along with backbone providers Level 3 and Cogent, have accused large U.S. broadband providers, particularly ones that offer cable-like video services, of refusing to make inexpensive upgrades to their networks in order to accommodate growing video traffic from Web-based competitors.

Comcast, Verizon examined

The FCC staff is collecting information about peering arrangements and about recent traffic management agreements Netflix has signed with Comcast and Verizon, Wheeler said. Netflix officials have complained about those agreements, saying they shouldn’t have to sign side deals with broadband providers to deliver videos broadband customers ask for.

“Consumers must get what they pay for,” Wheeler said in a statement. “As the consumer’s representative we need to know what is going on. I have therefore directed the commission staff to obtain the information we need to understand precisely what is happening in order to understand whether consumers are being harmed.”

So far, the FCC is collecting information and “not regulating,” Wheeler added. “We are looking under the hood. Consumers want transparency. They want answers. And so do I.”

The bandwidth-intensive Netflix has caused some of its own problems by using low-cost backbone providers, Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs, suggested during a net neutrality debate this week. Netflix is trying to get broadband providers to deliver its traffic at “zero cost,” he said.

Full Story FCC looking into complaints that broadband ISPs are dragging their heels | PCWorld.

Net neutrality: Reclassifying broadband would be a long road

Advocates of strong net neutrality rules are calling for the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to reclassify broadband as a regulated utility, but such a move would trigger a lengthy court fight between the agency and broadband providers, some telecom law experts say.

With net neutrality back on the FCC’s agenda in recent weeks, many net neutrality advocates—including digital rights groups Free Press and Public Knowledge—have resurrected their long-time push for the FCC to reregulate broadband as a traditional telecom service as an alternative to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposed set of regulations, released in late April, that they view as too weak.

Despite a large public outcry—the FCC has received more than 45,000 public comments in the past month, with many calling for reregulation—some telecom law experts question whether the agency will take that step.

fcc campout wheeler Fight for the Future
Tom Wheeler (left), chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, meets with net neutrality advocates Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers. 

“People at the FCC refer to broadband reclassification as the nuclear option,” said Jonathan Jacob Nadler, a telecom regulation lawyer with the Squire Sanders law firm in Washington, D.C. “It’s just not going to happen.”

The FCC, in a public notice of proposed rules released earlier this month, asked for comment on Wheeler’s proposal, which would allow broadband carriers to engage in “commercially reasonable” traffic management, and also on whether the FCC should reclassify broadband as a common-carrier telecom service subject to utility-type regulations under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

Is a legal backlash worth it?

But Nadler and some other telecom regulation experts expect a huge legal backlash if the FCC moves toward Title II regulation. “If the FCC were to reclassify broadband as a telecom service, lawyers for the major telcos and cable systems would immediately start lining up in front of the court of appeals and would file petitions for review within minutes after the order was published,” Nadler said.

Broadband providers would argue that reclassification is a “trillion-dollar bait-and-switch,” said Scott Cleland, chairman of the NetCompetition advocacy group supported by broadband providers. Providers would argue that a change in classification would be arbitrary and capricious, the classic language of a challenge to agency regulations.

“Promising an industry light regulation to encourage $1.2 trillion in private risk capital investment, and then after it’s built, breaking that promise, would be the [ultimate] arbitrary and capricious FCC action,” Cleland added. “Expect a tsunami of legal challenges against any FCC reclassification decision in multiple courts pursuing multiple different legal challenges and theories in order to stay and overturn the FCC decision.”

Harold Feld, senior vice president at Public Knowledge, downplayed potential arguments by broadband providers. In a handful of recent Supreme Court cases, justices have suggested the FCC has the authority to change its mind, he noted.

Asked if reclassification would trigger a backlash in Congress, Feld said it might, particularly if Republicans gain majority control of the Senate in elections later this year. But Congress would have a difficult time overturning the rules, he said.

Politics, as usual

“President Obama would still be able to veto any such resolution,” Feld said. “While one does not like to rely on a presidential veto, it is equally foolish to assume that a future Congress will automatically overrule any FCC classification. The tide on this is clearly shifting.”

A Republican Congress would likely attempt to overturn any net neutrality rules, Feld noted. Whether the FCC relies on reclassification or takes another route, it “makes no difference if the Senate flips, so you might as well do what you think is right,” he said.

Net neutrality advocate Marvin Ammori of the Ammori Group law firm also discounted the broadband providers’ chances of overturning reclassification.

“They’ll argue the FCC didn’t provide a reasoned basis for the policy tweak,” he said. “They’re very likely to lose that. Courts would defer to the FCC, and the FCC would win.”

Wheeler has defended his proposal, which uses Section 706 of the Telecom Act, a section giving the agency responsibility for robust broadband deployment, as a quicker way to restore net neutrality rules after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down an old version of the FCC’s net neutrality rules in January.

The appeals court pointed to Section 706 as a way the agency could find authority for net neutrality rules, and Wheeler has argued that it makes sense to follow the court’s lead after judges there twice struck down the agency’s attempts to enforce net neutrality rules.

The case for reclassification: not a trivial one

Alternatively, reclassification would “not be as straightforward or easy as many assume,” said Berin Szoka, president of free-market think tank TechFreedom. Reclassifying broadband as a utility “would take, best guess, five to 10 years of back and forth between the FCC and courts,” he added.

The agency, to reclassify, would have to find a justification for changing its mind on its decade-old classification of broadband as a lightly regulated information service, Szoka said.

Reclassification would be additionally complex because the agency would also have to draw a line between broadband and other Internet services, Szoka said. The FCC would “have to explain why it should only reclassify broadband and not some edge services, too,” he added.

Like Nadler, Szoka questioned whether the FCC will reclassify broadband. The complexity and likely legal challenges are “all why I don’t think the FCC is serious about Title II,” he said. “I think they’re going through the motions of including it … so they can tell the angry mob outside their gates that they considered this option.”

Some opponents of reclassification have questioned whether the FCC has the authority to reverse a series of decisions in the early 2000s to classify cable broadband, then telecom broadband as an information service. But many telecom law experts say the agency does have that authority, as long as it justifies its reasons for the switch in policy.

Ironically, clear authority for the FCC to change its mind comes from the 2005 Supreme Court case that ruled the FCC had the authority to deregulate broadband and classify it as an information service. In the Brand X case, the Supreme Court ruled that the agency had reasonably interpreted the Telecom Act when classifying cable broadband as a lightly regulated service.

The Brand X case “makes clear that the courts must defer to any reasonable interpretation” of the Telecom Act that the FCC makes, Nadler said. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority in the Brand X case, also notes that government agencies can change their policies if they have a good reason.

Thomas quoted a 1984 Supreme Court decision in Chevron USA v. Natural Resources Defense Council, a major case in administrative agency authority: “An initial agency interpretation is not instantly carved in stone,” the 1984 decision said. “On the contrary, the agency … must consider varying interpretations and the wisdom of its policy on a continuing basis.”