Posts From Category: politics

Comcast continues whining about net neutrality »

Via Techdirt:

… we wouldn’t all be stuck on this idiotic hamster wheel if Comcast and other major ISPs would simply accept the will of the public and stop trying to undermine the health of the god-damned internet. While it’s at it, Comcast and its hired policy flacks could stop incessantly lying about how the relatively-basic rules were an apocalypse for industry investment.

FCC continues to completely disregard public opposition to net neutrality repeal

Karl Bode via Techdirt:

Let’s not mince words: the FCC’s plan to gut net neutrality protections in light of severe public opposition is likely one of the more bare-knuckled acts of cronyism in modern technological and political history. That’s because the rules have overwhelming, bipartisan support from the vast majority of consumers, most of whom realize the already imperfect rules are some of the only consumer protections standing between consumers and giant, uncompetitive companies like Comcast. Repealing the rules only serves one interest: that of one of the least liked, least-competitive industries in America.

Jacob Kastrenakes via The Verge:

Even after millions of comments arguing that internet protections are needed, it’s entirely possible that the commission will go ahead with its original, bare-bones plan to simply kill net neutrality and leave everything else up to internet providers to sort out.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has, for the entirety of the net neutrality comment period, shown a willful disregard for public comments and interests. The FCC appears determined to repeal the rules in a decision that would only benefit companies that already occupy abusive duopoly positions in the market. Even worse, those make the decision seem perfectly willing to accept comments supporting their position that are clearly fraudulent.

Jon Brodkin via Ars Technica:

Despite a study showing that 98.5 percent of individually written net neutrality comments support the US’s current net neutrality rules, AT&T is claiming that the vast majority of “legitimate” comments favor repealing the rules.

The Federal Communication Commission’s net neutrality docket is a real mess, with nearly 22 million comments, mostly from form letters and many from spam bots using identities stolen from data breaches.

Ajit Pai accused of conflict for helping former client »

Via Ars Technica:

A prisoners’ rights group has accused Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai of having a conflict of interest because he used to represent a prison phone company as a lawyer.

Under Pai’s direction, the FCC dropped its court defense of rules capping the intrastate phone rates charged to prisoners. The decision helped prison phone companies—including Pai’s former client, Securus Technologies—continue to charge high prices.

Nothing to see here.

EFF argues border agents need warrants to search digital devices »

“Our cell phones and laptops provide access to an unprecedented amount of detailed, private information, often going back many months or years, from emails to our coworkers to photos of our loved ones and lists of our closest contacts. This is light years beyond the minimal information generally contained in other kinds of personal items we might carry in our suitcases. It’s time for courts and the government to acknowledge that examining the contents of a digital device is highly intrusive, and Fourth Amendment protections should be strong, even at the border,” said EFF Staff Attorney Sophia Cope.

It’s ludicrous that a warrant is not currently required for these searches. If a search is truly necessary, the authorities in question should be able to obtain a warrant with ease.

FCC is ignoring public interest in net neutrality repeal »

Via Ars Technica:

Although ISPs have claimed that the net neutrality rules harm investment, the cable industry’s top lobbying group recently boasted that US Internet speeds are continuing to soar and that the cost of data per megabit has gone down. ISPs have also told their investors that the rules have not harmed network investment, an important factor because publicly traded companies are required to give investors accurate financial information, including a description of risk factors involved in investing in the company.

ISPs and the FCC have been pushing this misleading argument for the entirety of the current debate around net neutrality. You can’t argue to the FCC that net neutrality has harmed investment while making the opposite claim to investors. Proponents of repealing title II regulations are either lying or being deliberately disingenuous.

Without the rules against blocking and throttling websites and online services, ISPs “will be subject to economic and political pressures to choke off unpopular conversations or speed up viewpoints supported by the politically dominant,” Democrats wrote.

ISPs are already guilty of consumer-hostile behavior, even with the current rules in place. Their abuses would only get worse should those protections be rolled back.

While the Republican-controlled Congress recently eliminated privacy rules that protect consumers from ISPs, the Title II authority over common carriers that the FCC uses to enforce net neutrality rules still imposes some basic privacy protections.

This goes without saying, but losing even more privacy protections only benefits ISPs. Invasive tracking and advertising is bad enough without granting large companies the freedom to take it further.

The net neutrality rule that forbids ISPs from charging websites for faster access to consumers is important for small businesses that won’t be able to afford paid prioritization, the Democrats wrote.

This is, perhaps, one of the most compelling arguments for leaving net neutrality protections in place. ISPs should not be able to hamper new potential competitors that depend on network access simply due to their market position. If ISPs want to compete against, say, Netflix they should make a service that actually appeals to consumers.

You can add your comment opposing net neutrality repeal at the FCC’s site.

We Should All Care About Encryption

Andy Yen, via TED.com:

If we squander privacy by allowing back doors or building illicit vulnerabilities into encryption tools, there is nothing to protect us from prying corporations, spying governments or even criminals bent on abusing our data. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a back door that only lets the good guys in.

Data must always be encrypted, end-to-end, period — before it leaves your computer. Privacy is a fundamental right. Let’s not squander it in the name of security.

Lawsuit seeks records of FCC net neutrality discussions

Via Ars Technica:

“The FCC has made it clear that they’re ignoring feedback from the general public, so we’re going to court to find out who they’re actually listening to about net neutrality,” American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers said in the group’s announcement of its lawsuit.

They’re listening to ISPs and their lobbyists — they could care less about the public.

Lawmakers blast FCC net neutrality rollback

Via Motherboard:

“To date, most of the FCC’s actions have ignored the needs of consumers,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, the New Jersey Democrat. “Too often, when given the choice, this FCC has sided with large corporations to the detriment of hardworking Americans.”

“Chairman Pai, in the time you have been the head of this agency, we have seen an agenda that is anti-consumer, anti-small business, anti-competition, anti-innovation, and anti-opportunity,” said Rep. Mike Doyle, the Pennsylvania Democrat. “I am deeply concerned that the FCC is on the wrong a path, a path that will hurt small businesses, regular people, and some of the most innovative sectors of our economy.”

The current incarnation of the FCC is entirely pro-industry and anti-consumer in its approach to regulating the market it oversees.

Chairman Pai’s argument is misleading at best, particularly given the admission of ISPs that the current net neutrality rules have not harmed investment. Should the current rules be repealed, ISPs likely won’t materially increase their infrastructure investments. Instead they’ll use the lack of oversight and regulations to line their pockets at the expense of competitors that require access to their networks and consumers that have no other choice but to pay for their service when selecting an internet service provider.

Via Ars Technica:

“Although you stated the [September 7] hearing was an inquiry into the ‘Internet ecosystem,’ you once again failed to recognize how important the Internet is for consumers, small businesses, entrepreneurs, political organizers, public interest groups, and people looking for work,” Doyle and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) said

Verizon argues throttling isn't throttling

Via The Verge:

“Video optimization is a non-discriminatory network management practice designed to ensure a high quality customer experience for all customers accessing the shared resources of our wireless network,” a spokesperson said.

Throttling is throttling. The justification on Verizon’s part doesn’t matter — they should be passing through traffic without filtering it.

Senator attacks ISP and FCC argument for net neutrality repeal

Senator Edward Markey, via Ars Technica:

ISPs are quick to tell the FCC and the public that Title II is harming network investment, but they have presented a much rosier view when talking to investors.

ISPs are already investing in infrastructure with existing regulations in place. They want net neutrality restrictions repealed so that they can more freely continue their existing abusing and anti-competitive behavior1.

A better fix for this problem would be to encourage more competition in the market, rather than shred regulations covering existing companies with near-monopoly positions and an extensive track record of anti-competitive and customer-hostile behavior.

  1. If ISPs are threatened by Netflix, they should try competing by creating a service that doesn’t suck. 

Misleading Arguments Against Net Neutrality Abound

Via Techdirt:

… anybody that actually cares about net neutrality should support the simplest and easiest way to protect consumers, startups and small businesses moving forward: keep the existing rules intact.

Comcast’s argument that gutting existing net neutrality rules will help members of protected classes is totally disingenuous. The best way to protect consumers and the open internet across the board is to leave the existing rules intact. Comcast has only its best interests in mind, not those of their customers or any other consumers.

Comcast continues to whine about net neutrality

Via Ars Technica:

Comcast’s claims about network investment clash with what ISPs have told their own investors; even Comcast’s chief financial officer downplayed Title II’s effect on investment in December 2016.

This is, of course, nonsense as the article goes on to explain. Comcast and so many of the other players in the net neutrality argument appear to either miss or intentionally bury the point: in the absence of competition, consumers and the open internet need net neutrality protections. Failing that, customers need dramatically more choice in selecting an ISP.

Comcast would love to gut those protections, double dip by charging competitors for access to its network before then passing those costs on to its reluctant customers. If Comcast is frustrated at losing revenue to new competitors it should make products people actually want to use and that compete rather than focusing on strong arming regulatory bodies intended to protect consumers from exactly this kind of behavior.

Senate push for encryption legislation falters

Via Reuters:

Draft legislation that Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Intelligence Committee, had circulated weeks ago likely will not be introduced this year and, even if it were, would stand no chance of advancing, the sources said.

Fantastic news. This bill (and the push behind it) was ill-conceived at best and would have caused untold damage were it to pass.

GOP advances plan for ring-free voicemail spam »

Recode:

The GOP’s leading campaign and fundraising arm, the Republican National Committee, has quietly thrown its support behind a proposal at the Federal Communications Commission that would pave the way for marketers to auto-dial consumers’ cellphones and leave them prerecorded voicemail messages — all without ever causing their devices to ring.

It’s like a U2 album release — but for annoying political crap.

FCC and ISPs begin campaign to gut net neutrality while pretending to protect it

Techcrunch:

… don’t pretend that a bill from Congress pretending to “save” net neutrality will actually do so, when it’s quite obvious that the bills being offered will undermine our internet, help big broadband screw over users, and diminish competition.

Ars Technica:

Nine Republican US senators yesterday submitted legislation that would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from ever again using the regulatory authority that allowed the commission to impose net neutrality rules. The “Restoring Internet Freedom Act” would prohibit the FCC from classifying ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act and “from imposing certain regulations on providers of such service.”

All this amounts to is ISPs attempting to irreperably harm the internet in an effort to prop up businesses that would otherwise not be competetive. Strong net neutrality protections are absolutely vital to the ongoing health of the internet and companies that depend on it.

Protecting your privacy

Via Unroll.me:

I can’t stress enough the importance of your privacy. We never, ever release personal data about you. All data is completely anonymous and related to purchases only.

Nonsense. If you’re not paying for the service your data is being monetized in a way that benefits the interests of the company providing the service, not you.

DHS Boss Calls For More Fear, Less Encryption »

Techdirt:

This is wonderful stuff if you’re a fan of authoritarianism. Shut up and show your support. It’s a message that’s been sent several times by the new president. Now, it’s being echoed by his top officials.

Yet another ill-considered power grab in the name of safety.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Don't like systematic privacy violations? Stop using the internet

Via Ars Technica:

That’s when Sensenbrenner said, “Nobody’s got to use the Internet.” He praised ISPs for “invest[ing] an awful lot of money in having almost universal service now.” He then said, “I don’t think it’s my job to tell you that you cannot get advertising for your information being sold. My job, I think, is to tell you that you have the opportunity to do it, and then you take it upon yourself to make the choice.”

We desperately need to stop electing officials that have no understanding of the impact of the legislation they help pass.

Lawmakers want to require border agents to obtain a warrant for smartphone searches

Via Recode:

“By requiring a warrant to search Americans’ devices and prohibiting unreasonable delay, this bill makes sure that border agents are focused on criminals and terrorists instead of wasting their time thumbing through innocent Americans’ personal photos and other data,” [Sen. Ron] Wyden said in a statement.

I’d love to see this implemented, but I just can’t see it happening.

Internet privacy rules repealed

Bob Quinn (an SVP at AT&T):

“If the government believes that location data is sensitive and requires more explicit consumer disclosures and permissions,” he continued, “then those protections should apply to all players that have access to location data, whether an ISP or edge player or search engine.”

No, customers should be able to expect that their data remain private and, the fact of the matter is, customers typically have a choice who they provide their data to (whether that be Facebook, Google — you name it). Where most people in the U.S. live, there’s often only one ISP for customers to get a connection from — they shouldn’t be forced to have sensitive data exposed to that company purely for the benefit of that company.

If ISPs are upset about perceived competitors having access to different data sets than they do, they should come up with a competitive service that people actually want to use that can actually compete. Or maybe they’ll keep buying failed tech companies and mashing them together in a hilarious rebranding effort.

Senate chooses ISPs over customer privacy

Via The EFF

ISPs act as gatekeepers to the Internet, giving them incredible access to records of what you do online. They shouldn’t be able to profit off of the information about what you search for, read about, purchase, and more without your consent.

I truly wish I could be shocked or surprised by a move like this coming out of the senate but, lately, congress appears to be dedicated to making decisions that actively harm their constituencies in order to benefit entrenched business interests.

This action needs to fail in the house. ISPs occupy a privileged position that gives them detailed access to customer data and they should not be able to freely exploit that data for financial gain.

CBO analysis confirms GOP health bill is little more than class warfare

Via Vox:

The AHCA would reverse one of the greatest actions against inequality ever taken by the federal government, and then increase inequality yet further. It is an act of class warfare against low-income Americans, waged for the benefit of the handful of rich taxpayers affected by Obamacare’s surtaxes.

This bill amounts to tax cuts for the rich by stripping healthcare subsidies away from individuals that desperately need them. It should not be allowed to pass.

Italian Band Soviet Soviet Denied Entry To The U.S., Jailed And Then Deported »

NPR:

In its statement, Soviet Soviet says that the agents’ refusal to permit the band’s entry seems to have stemmed from the fact that the agents believed that the group needed work visas to enter the U.S., because two of the venues at which Soviet Soviet was slated to perform were going to charge audiences entry fees — even though the band says that its musicians were not going to earn any money while in the U.S.

This is absolutely appalling.

Update: More bands have been denied entry in a fashion similar to what Soviet Soviet encountered.

Additionally, it appears as though Soviet Soviet were denied entry on largely economic grounds.

The Internet belongs to the people, not powerful corporate interests »

Chuck Schumer, via Ars Technica:

The Internet is an invaluable platform on which we depend to spur innovation and job creation. Our economy works best when innovators, entrepreneurs, and businesses of all sizes compete on a level playing field. Ensuring that the playing field would be level was the basis for the FCC’s decision to protect net neutrality by properly classifying broadband as a telecommunications service.

FCC chair offers poor excuses as he seeks to strip consumer protections

TechDirt:

Eliminate functional regulatory oversight and refuse to address limited competition? The end result is… Comcast Corporation and its record-shatteringly-bad customer service, high prices, and usage caps.

The Verge:

… net neutrality opponents are sticking with the same arguments they used two years ago: the rules rely on law that’s too old, they’ll hurt investment, and they’ll leave internet providers uncertain of their fate.

The Verge:

[Ajit] Pai has been chairman of the commission for just over a month now, and in that time, he’s already begun chipping away at net neutrality in a few different ways: approving zero rating, scaling back transparency rules, proposing to halt major new privacy requirements. After this speech today, it’s evident that Pai is just getting started.

Net neutrality was nice while it lasted, but it looks like it’ll be gone soon. More and more this issue seems like something congress should settle definitively but, given the current political makeup of both houses, any decision made likely would not be at all consumer friendly.

The EFF:

Republicans in Congress are planning a much bigger assault on the Internet, by making it illegal for the FCC to protect consumer privacy online.

Internet Privacy Rules in Part Face a Halt at the FCC

Via NPR:

Consumer advocacy groups have argued that the ISPs have a broader capacity to collect data on people than websites and digital services, given that ISPs connect users to all those websites and services in the first place. ISPs might use the collected data for their own promotions or sell it to data brokers for marketing or other uses.

Rolling back privacy protections for consumers is only good for ISPs. This move reflects the current FCC chair’s willingness to work for the interests of the businesses his agency should be regulating over those of consumers.

All this amounts to is a violation of customer privacy in order to allow ISPs to better market subpar products that exist only due to their existing, near-monopoly positions in the marketplace.

The sooner ISPs become dumb pipes, the better.

Securing your personal devices and accounts »

Jonathan Zdziarski has a detailed write up on personal, technical security that you should read and consider implementing (particularly given recent events).

With the current US administration pondering the possibility of forcing foreign travelers to give up their social media passwords at the border, a lot of recent and justifiable concern has been raised about data privacy. The first mistake you could make is presuming that such a policy won’t affect US citizens.

Senators warn against net neutrality repeal

TechDirt:

In light of a Congress that long ago made it clear that it prioritizes telecom cash contributions over consumers, the best “solution” for net neutrality at this juncture would be leaving the existing rules – and the FCC’s authority over broadband providers – intact.

The unfortunate reality of the situation is that the current administration will always prefer the vested interest of corporate telecoms and lobbyists over those of the consumers they serve. Reversing net neutrality will be harmful to consumers and to any number of businesses — here’s hoping that net neutrality is, somehow, able to survive.

Trump FCC chair begins dismantling consumer protections and subsidies

Via Ars Technica

“The Federal Communications Commission’s new Republican leadership has rescinded a determination that AT&T and Verizon Wireless violated net neutrality rules with paid data cap exemptions. The FCC also rescinded several other Wheeler-era reports and actions.”

We’re barely two weeks into the new presidential administration and it looks like net neutrality will be yet another casualty of this administration’s drive to strip away consumer-friendly regulations.

If a ruling or judgement is good for telecoms or ISPs it is very likely bad for customers. This is one of those cases.

The FCC also took steps to scale back benefits provided by the Lifeline program to low income consumers:

“Regulators are telling nine companies they won’t be allowed to participate in a federal program meant to help them provide affordable Internet access to low-income consumers — weeks after those companies had been given the green light.”

Donate to the EFF.

DOJ takes war on encryption to WhatsApp

Via The EFF:

The government’s theory, that the All Writs Act gives it the power to compel American companies to write code and design products to ensure law enforcement access to encrypted content, is virtually without limits. No devices, and indeed no encrypted messaging services, would be safe from such backdoor orders. If the government wins in San Bernardino, it could even force companies to give it access to software update systems, and send their users government surveillance software disguised as security patches.

The government is taking its war on encryption to WhatsApp’s front door. This is, perhaps, even more terrifying than their effort to force Apple to hamstring its device security. It’s one thing if the government can force its way in to devices but, oftentimes, services used on secured devices have their own, additional layers of security. This is the government attempting to compromise security further by making inroads in to security provided by messaging (and other) service providers.

Chilling.

Dutch government on encryption

Via Ars Technica:

…forcing companies to add backdoors to their products and services would have “undesirable consequences for the security of communicated and stored information,” since “digital systems can become vulnerable to criminals, terrorists and foreign intelligence services.”

Exactly.

Backdoor password in Juniper's firewall code

Via Ars Technica:

On December 17, Juniper Networks issued an urgent security advisory about “unauthorized code” found within the operating system used by some of the company’s NetScreen firewalls and Secure Service Gateway (SSG) appliances. The vulnerability, which may have been in place in some firewalls as far back as 2012 and which shipped with systems to customers until late 2013, allows an attacker to gain remote administrative access to systems with telnet or ssh access enabled.

This is exactly why creating back doors in to encryption is a really bad thing. We don’t need a ‘Manhattan-like project’ to create more security holes like this one — if you create backdoors, even for legitimate purposes, you’ll simply be increasing the likelihood that incidents like this will continue to happen.

ISPs secretly furious at Verizon

Via Ars Technica:

“Verizon seemingly won a huge victory in January when a federal appeals court struck down network neutrality restrictions on blocking and discriminating against Internet content over fixed broadband connections. But Verizon’s lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission could backfire, with the commission now considering even stronger rules on both fixed and wireless networks.”

That’s good news if I’ve ever heard it (though I suppose I shouldn’t be overly optimistic). Anything that upsets ISPs and, ultimately, leads to stronger net neutrality rules is a win for consumers.