AT&T wants $139 a month, or your privacy, for superfast Internet

[Note:  This item comes from friend Ed DeWath.  DLH]

Date: March 31, 2015 at 10:57:19 EDT
From: Edward DeWath <dewath@prodigy.net>
To: Hendricks Dewayne <wa8dzp@gmail.com>
Subject: AT&T wants $139 a month, or your privacy, for superfast Internet

AT&T wants $139 a month, or your privacy, for superfast Internet
By Benny Evangelista
Mar 30 2015
<http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/AT-T-wants-139-a-month-or-your-privacy-for-6168986.php>

AT&T believes Bay Area customers are ready to pay for faster Internet service — whether it’s with their wallet or their privacy.

On Monday, Cupertino became the first West Coast city to offer AT&T’s GigaPower, which promises Internet speeds so fast customers can download 25 songs in less than a second.

But that speed comes at a price: $139 a month, or $110 for those who allow AT&T to monitor their browsing habits.

With its Internet Preferences program, AT&T hopes to turn customer data into extra revenue. The company plans to compile the information about online activity — what users are Googling, which sites they favor, and what products they click on — to sell higher-priced personalized advertisements.

The pricing strategy is an interesting new twist on advertising that pits AT&T against free Internet services like Google and Facebook, which also serve customized ads based on users online activities.

But AT&T’s model has alarmed privacy-rights advocates because the Internet Preferences program monitors all online activity — not just activity on a search engine or social network.

“The idea that your Internet service provider is going to be spying on the contents of your traffic, even in an automated way, is very disconcerting,” said Jeremy Gillula, staff technologist with the San Francisco digital-rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“What if data about your browsing history gets out?” he said. “What if there’s a data breach?”

GigaPower relies on fiber-optic cables, thin strands of glass that carry data at faster speeds than older copper-wire networks. AT&T is adding this higher level of service to its selection of U-verse Internet, TV and voice services (all three cost $180 a month for those willing to part with their data, and $209 a month for those gun-shy about their browser history).

AT&T hopes to court customers who have a need for speed such as online gamers and those who use video-chat services such as Skype.

AT&T is also racing against fiber-optic competitors such as Google to roll out GigaPower, which is now in six markets in Texas, Missouri and North Carolina, with plans to expand to 10 other markets in the coming months.

The company last week touted that it has invested more than $2.2 billion in the last three years on its network in just the Bay Area.

At a news conference, Cupertino Mayor Rod Sinks said he is proud his city became the first community west of Kansas City to have GigaPower, putting it on par with other high-speed cities like Seoul and Stockholm.

“If you think about remote learning, if you think about tele-medicine, if you think about entertainment, a faster Internet is essential to being competitive in the future,” Sinks said.

Cupertino streamlined its permit process to hasten installation of GigaPower equipment. AT&T installed equipment that could reach thousands of homes in the city, but only began taking orders for the service Monday morning and had yet to sign up any local customers. AT&T executives would not say which area cities are next in line.

With GigaPower, AT&T can monitor traffic to determine what type of specific ads to serve individual customers, and then charge advertisers to reach those customers.

For example, if a customer browses a car dealership site, AT&T would know to pop an auto manufacturer’s ad onto their screens — an arrangement that could prove lucrative for AT&T.

Terry Stenzel, AT&T’s Northern California vice president and general manager, said the company can use those ads to help keep down the price of its service. He also said that all browsing data are kept in-house and that AT&T will not sell customers’ information, including credit card information, to any third-party company.

“I love the fact that if I’m going to go online and use different sites that AT&T knows what I’m doing and can save me money by sending me coupons and making recommendations based on what I have done in the past,” he said.

Dan Marcec, spokesman for online advertising research firm eMarketer, said customers might not have a problem trading their privacy for discounts and coupons.

[snip]

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HBO, Showtime reportedly want exemptions from Internet data caps

HBO, Showtime reportedly want exemptions from Internet data caps
Special treatment for streaming video risky because of net neutrality rules.
By Jon Brodkin
Mar 19 2015
<http://arstechnica.com/business/2015/03/hbo-showtime-reportedly-want-exemptions-from-internet-data-caps/>

HBO, Showtime, and Sony reportedly want special treatment from Internet service providers to avoid congestion and data caps for their online streaming services.

The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, reported today that the companies want their online TV offerings to be treated as “managed” services.

“[I]instead of putting their Web traffic on the public Internet’s main thoroughfare, they want to be in a separate lane that would ensure their content gets special treatment,” the Journal wrote. “In effect, that would move them away from the congestion of the Internet, which they fear will only get worse as more people opt to stream movies and TV shows on the Web. The other benefit: a separate lane would be exempt from monthly data-usage thresholds operators enforce for public Internet traffic, saving customers from the surcharges that can kick in if they binge on too many episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Homeland.'”

The Journal suggested that broadband providers could package online TV services with broadband plans and receive a cut of the online video providers’ subscription revenue.

There are at least two problems: Internet service providers may not want to give this kind of special treatment to online streaming services that could compete against their cable TV offerings. (Comcast has been slow to authenticate HBO Go on certain streaming devices.) Secondly, such special treatment could be prevented by the Federal Communications Commission under its new net neutrality rules, which prevent prioritization in exchange for payment.

The FCC did not issue a specific rule banning data caps or exemptions to data caps, but claims the authority to intervene if data caps are used in a way that harms competitors. Internet service providers who hand out exemptions to some services but not others could be accused of favoring partners in exchange for payment instead of acting as a neutral conduit.

The “separate lane” the providers reportedly want would face a different question under net neutrality. Internet service providers aren’t supposed to favor specific online services in exchange for payment but there is an exception for so-called “Non-Broadband Internet Access Service Data Services,” also known as “specialized” or managed services.

These include services that do not travel over the public Internet, like the Internet providers’ own voice and IP video offerings, or heart monitoring services and energy consumption sensors. The FCC doesn’t specifically endorse or reject what HBO, Showtime, and Sony apparently want, but the commission could be skeptical of the proposed “separate lane.”

“The Commission expressly reserves the authority to take action if a service is, in fact, providing the functional equivalent of broadband Internet access service or is being used to evade the open Internet rules,” the FCC’s order says. “The Commission will vigilantly watch for such abuse, and its actions will be aided by the existing transparency requirement that non-broadband Internet access service data services be disclosed.”

Specialized services that harm over-the-top (i.e. over-the-Internet) services could receive special scrutiny. “[I]f the Commission determines that these types of service offerings are undermining investment, innovation, competition, and end-user benefits, we will similarly take appropriate action,” the FCC wrote. “We are especially concerned that over-the-top services offered over the Internet are not impeded in their ability to compete with other data services.”

[snip]

New tactic in war on net neutrality: Strip FCC of enforcement funding

New tactic in war on net neutrality: Strip FCC of enforcement funding
FCC Republican asks Congress to slash his agency’s budget request.
By Jon Brodkin
Mar 24 2015
<http://arstechnica.com/business/2015/03/new-tactic-in-war-on-net-neutrality-strip-fcc-of-enforcement-funding/>

After losing the battle against net neutrality rules at the Federal Communications Commission, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai has taken his fight to Congress. Today, Pai asked the House of Representatives to strip the FCC of funding it needs to enforce net neutrality rules.

“Congress should forbid the Commission from using any appropriated funds to implement or enforce the plan the FCC just adopted to regulate the Internet,” Pai said in prepared statements for an FCC budget hearing. “Not only is this plan bad policy; absent outside intervention, the Commission will expend substantial resources implementing and enforcing regulations that are wasteful, unnecessary, and affirmatively detrimental to the American public.”

Pai is one of two Republicans on the FCC. The three-member Democratic majority voted in favor of the net neutrality order. The decision reclassified broadband as a common carrier service and imposed net neutrality rules that prevent Internet service providers from blocking or throttling content or prioritizing content in exchange for payment.

“This is a costly endeavor for the agency, one that will end the permissionless innovation that has spurred the Internet’s explosive growth up until today,” Pai said, going on to call it a “lose-lose proposition for companies and consumers.”

Wheeler, who also testified at the hearing, defended the rules. Responding to claims that net neutrality rules don’t address any actual behavior by ISPs, Wheeler pointed out that Comcast was caught interfering with BitTorrent traffic in 2007 and that Verizon last year planned to throttle its users who have unlimited 4G data plans until Wheeler objected.

The FCC’s budget request is appropriate, Wheeler also said.

“Since 1994, our financial return to the government has equaled 13 times our combined operational costs,” he said. “For every dollar generated by the FCC, our agency uses only eight cents for its operations.”

Wheeler described how the latest spectrum auction raised $41 billion, including $20 billion to reduce the country’s deficit and billions to fund a nationwide public safety communications network.

“To build on this progress, and fulfill our statutory responsibilities, the Commission is requesting $388 million in general spending authority derived from Section 9 regulatory fees for our overall non-auction costs, up from $339.8 million in FY 2015,” Wheeler said. “In addition, we are requesting an auctions cap of $117 million, an $11 million increase from last year, as well as the transfer of $25 million from the Universal Service Fund (USF) to cover our costs for that program. These are well-considered requests that reflect necessary operational demands and the unique circumstances of this budget cycle.”

The fate of the budget request is still up in the air, but Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) last week said it “raises eyebrows, particularly when American households continue to do more with less in this stagnant economy.”

Hard problems: What can we do with Bitcoin?

Hard problems: What can we do with Bitcoin?
By Pat M. Tomaino
Mar 29 2015
<https://medium.com/@RadioOpenSource/hard-problems-what-can-we-do-with-bitcoin-f9e45f58baee>

On October 31, 2008 — one month after Lehman Brothers went bankrupt — a shadowy avatar called Satoshi Nakamoto uploaded a white paper that read as a response to the financial crisis unfolding around the world. The paper described Bitcoin, the world’s first peer-to-peer digital currency.

For a piece of technical writing, it had a rather lofty vision: You, the user, mint digital money with your computer, then use it to trade and store wealth like a collection of mp3’s. In doing so, help build an alternative to the Federal Reserve, the banking system, and maybe the idea of financial trust itself — in other words, an alternative to the edifice that had just collapsed.

As Barack Obama figured out where to inject the second half of TARP bailout funds in early 2009, Nakamoto released some software and taught the worldhow to mine Bitcoin, deputizing millions of un-central bankers.

If this video’s cartoony cheer served only to taunt your lack of understanding, you’re not alone. Digital currencies can be complicated!

Bitcoin may only seem so complicated, though, because we don’t think much about the way Janet Yellen makes money. The system we have, with centralized currencies zooming around a system of fractional-reserve lending, is another complex affair. It’s also the beast that brought you the Depression, the dot-com crash, the credit crunch, and most of The Way Things Are.

It seems Satoshi Nakamoto was responding to that history and to his or her troubled times. Look at the Genesis Block of code that the founder mined to get the moneyball rolling, and you’ll get an idea of the scope of his or her ambition. Buried in the hexadecimal below is January 3, 2009’s Times of London headline: “Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.”

Clearly, Bitcoin is aiming at some big frustrations and problems in our financial system. My question, though, is: what problems could Bitcoin actually solve?

At its most basic level, Bitcoin is made of problem-solving. Hearty souls armed with server stacks mine the stuff by doing one particularly hard sum billions of times per second.

This week on the radio, we chased the bigger economic and social problems in Nakamoto’s newspaper. Could Bitcoin make life in a global economy easier, fairer, more humane? Or would it be just another financial innovation pushing us farther from the good life and deeper into a culture of money?

[snip]

Access denied: Reporters say federal officials, data increasingly off limits

Access denied: Reporters say federal officials, data increasingly off limits
By Paul Farhi
Mar 30 2015
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/access-denied-reporters-say-federal-officials-data-increasingly-off-limits/2015/03/30/935b4962-c04b-11e4-ad5c-3b8ce89f1b89_story.html>

Stacey Singer, a health reporter for the Palm Beach Post in Florida, was perusing a medical journal in 2012 when she came across something startling: a federal epidemiologist’s report about a tuberculosis outbreak in the Jacksonville area. Singer promptly began pursuing the story.

But when she started seeking official comment about the little-reported outbreak, the doors began closing. County health officials referred her to the state health department. State officials referred her to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even though the CDC’s own expert had written the investigative report, the agency’s press office declined to let Singer speak with him. A spokesman told her it was a local matter and sent her back to the state office in Tallahassee.

Through public records requests, Singer eventually was able to piece together the story of a contagion that had caused 13 deaths and 99 illnesses — the worst the CDC had found in 20 years.

“It’s really expensive to fight this hard” for public information, said Singer, now an editorial writer at the newspaper. She suspects that officials were slow to respond because news of the TB outbreak might have harmed Florida’s tourism industry. “They know that to delay is to deny. . . . They know we have to move on to other stories.”

The stories aren’t always as consequential or as dramatic as a TB outbreak, but Singer’s experience is shared by virtually every journalist on the government beat, from the White House on down. They can recite tales with similar outlines: An agency spokesman — frequently a political appointee — rejects the reporter’s request for interviews, offers partial or nonresponsive replies, or delays responding at all until after the journalist’s deadline has passed.

Interview requests that are granted are closely monitored, reporters say, with a press “minder” sitting in. Some agencies require reporters to pose their questions by e-mail, a tactic that enables officials to carefully craft and vet their replies. 

Tensions between reporters and public information officers — “hacks and flacks” in the vernacular — aren’t new, of course. Reporters have always wanted more information than government officials have been willing or able to give.

But journalists say the lid has grown tighter under the Obama administration, whose chief executive promised in 2009 to bring “an unprecedented level of openness” to the federal government.

The frustrations boiled over last summer in a letter to President Obama signed by 38 organizations representing journalists and press-freedom advocates. The letter decried “politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies” by spokesmen. “We consider these restrictions a form of censorship — an attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear,” the groups wrote.

They asked for “a clear directive” from Obama “telling federal employees they’re not only free to answer questions from reporters and the public, but actually encouraged to do so.”

Obama hasn’t acted on the suggestion. But his press secretary, Josh Earnest, defended the president’s record, noting in a letter to the groups that, among other things, the administration has processed a record number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, established more protection for whistleblowers and posted White House visitor logs for the first time.

“While there is more work to do, the White House and federal agencies are far more accessible and accountable than ever before,” Earnest wrote.

In fact, most federal agencies get subpar grades on one measure of openness: their responsiveness to FOIA requests, which enable reporters and ordinary citizens to collect government records. Eight of the 15 agencies that get the most FOIA requests received a D grade for their compliance, according to a review this month by the nonprofit Center for Effective Government.

[snip]

Re: Robert Reich: In Our Horrifying Future, Very Few People Will Have Work or Make Money

[Note:  This comment comes from a reader of Dave Farber’s IP List.  DLH]

From: John Gilmore <gnu@toad.com>
Date: Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Subject: Re Robert Reich: In Our Horrifying Future, Very Few People Will Have Work or Make Money
To: dave@farber.net

Reich had to explicitly tell us it’s “Horrifying”, because the
headline “In Our Future, Very Few People Will Have Work or Make Money”
is not actually scary.  It describes a post-scarcity world that
humankind has climbed toward for thousands of years.

Reich’s gloomy science fiction isn’t as much fun to read as Cory
Doctorow’s.  Cory has covered the same topics in multiple novels,
including Makers, where the main characters are rural nerds at the
heart of a new economy of 3d-printable designs, and in Down and Out in
the Magic Kingdom, in which work is extinct, a reputation system
informs social relationships, and clans of hobbyists take
responsibility for major attractions like Disneyland to keep them
running and improving despite nobody getting paid.

Cory is no economist, but economists write a lot of fiction too.

Oh, and Cory’s walking his talk.  He’s making a good living by writing
novels and giving them away for free over the Internet.  Why?
“Because my problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.”  Here’s Makers:

<http://craphound.com/makers/download/>

and here’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom:

<http://craphound.com/down/download/>

You’ll get a brief rant and a CC-licensed, DRM-free, thought-
provoking, AND entertaining ebook in your favorite format.

John Gilmore

PS: I’m not just speaking from fictional experience.  Years ago I
thought about how to make a living in a post-scarcity economy, then
debugged my ideas in real life.  In 1989 I cofounded a company that
wrote free software, gave the software away for free copying under the
GNU General Public License, and sold live human support for it, to the
small fraction of users who wanted support.  What others called
piracy, we called distribution!  We also quipped that we made free
software affordable.  Every big company we cold-called to sell support
to WAS ALREADY USING OUR SOFTWARE.  Many of them depended deeply on it
and were happy to hire us to make it do exactly what they wanted it
to.  We saved Sony a year in developing the PlayStation, for example.
We kept Cisco products coming out ahead of competitors by making sure
they didn’t get slowed down by toolchain bugs.  We were profitable
immediately and stayed that way, since we had no money to lose: we
started it with $15,000 and grew for 6 years before taking outside
investment.  After 10 years, Red Hat bought our company for a billion
dollars’ worth of stock, adopted our business model, and ran with it.
They now have more than $1B in annual sales, net income of $180M, and
a $14B market capitalization.  To make a good living when copying
inventions is cheap and easy, create inventions — not copies.  Or as
Chuck D said, “Anybody can make a copy of my last album.  Only I can
make a copy of my NEXT album.”

Robert Reich: In Our Horrifying Future, Very Few People Will Have Work or Make Money
Think you’re safe because you’re a professional? Think again. 
By Robert Reich
Mar 17 2015
<http://www.alternet.org/robert-reich-our-horrifying-future-very-few-people-will-have-work-or-make-money>

Macquarie pays $15m to settle SEC charges

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Rosenthal.  David’s comment:’Commit fraud, get wrist slapped’.  DLH]

Macquarie pays $15m to settle SEC charges
By Ben McLannahan in New York and Gina Chon in Washington
Mar 27 2015
<http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/7ae959fa-d496-11e4-9bfe-00144feab7de.html>

The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Macquarie Capital with backing a US share-sale by a Chinese coalminer, even after obtaining a report showing that the miner was an empty shell without any income-producing assets.

The SEC on Friday said that the US arm of the Australian investment bank had agreed to settle the charges by paying $15m, and separately covering the cost of setting up a fund to compensate investors who lost out as shares in Puda Coal plummeted from more than $12 in 2010 to less than one cent.

The collapse came after it emerged that Puda’s chairman, Ming Zhao, had transferred ownership to himself of the company’s only asset, a Shanxi-based coal mine, and then sold it on. As a result, Puda no longer had any sources of revenue.

The SEC found that the transfer had been uncovered by Kroll, a security firm that Macquarie hired to do due diligence on Puda before a secondary offering of shares in 2010. Yet Macquarie went ahead with the offer anyway, endorsing audited statements that claimed Puda had net assets of $84m at the end of 2009.

The underwriter failed in its role as a “critical gatekeeper . . . relied upon by the investing public to ferret out the essential facts and address potential inaccuracies before marketing a public stock offering,” said Andrew Calamari, director of the SEC’s regional office in New York.

Puda Coal was one of many Chinese companies that went public in the US but was forced to delist after accounting irregularities were discovered. Since a wave of such cases began in 2010, the SEC has paid closer attention to due diligence problems in China that could affect investors in US securities.

In February, the Chinese units of the Big Four global auditing firms agreed to pay $2m for failing to produce documents for companies being investigated for accounting fraud, sparing the auditors from a six-month work ban imposed by a US judge.

In a statement on Friday’s settlement with the SEC, Macquarie said that it “takes its compliance and regulatory obligations seriously and has worked with the SEC to provide relevant information”. It noted that it had not admitted nor denied the SEC’s allegations.

[snip]