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The Internet

No Such Thing As 'Unlimited' Data ( 622

An anonymous reader writes: According to an article at Wired, the era of 'unlimited' data services is coming to an end. Carriers don't give them out anymore unless they're hobbled, and they're even increasing the prices of grandfathered plans. Comcast's data caps are spreading, and Time Warner has been testing them for years as well. It's not even just about internet access — Microsoft recently decided to eliminate its unlimited cloud storage plan. The big question now is: were these companies cynical, or just naive? We have no way of evaluating their claims that a small number of users who abused the system caused it to be unprofitable for them. (A recent leaked memo from Comcast suggests it's about extracting more money, rather than network congestion.) But it's certainly true that limited plans make costs and revenue much easier to predict. Another question: were we, as consumers, naive in expecting these plans to last? As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Unlimited data plans clearly won't work too well if everybody uses huge amounts. So did we let ourselves get suckered by clever marketing?

AT&T Says Malware Secretly Unlocked Hundreds of Thousands of Phones 123

alphadogg writes: AT&T said three of its employees secretly installed software on its network so a cellphone unlocking service could surreptitiously funnel hundreds of thousands of requests to its servers to remove software locks on phones. The locks prevent phones from being used on competing networks and have been an important tool used by cellular carriers to prevent customers from jumping ship.

AT&T Offers $250k Reward To Find the California Fiber-Optic Ripper 145

An anonymous reader writes: AT&T have offered a $250,000 reward to anyone providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of what appears to be a serial disruptor of fiber-optic connections in California. The latest incident has taken place in Livermore in the San Francisco Bay Area, where an individual thought by the FBI to possess expert knowledge and specialist tools severed a critical AT&T cable, gaining access to the enclosure via a manhole. The attack precedes 11 previous ones in California in the preceding twelve months.

AT&T Hotspots Now Injecting Ads 187

An anonymous reader writes: Computer scientist Jonathan Mayer did some investigating after seeing some unexpected ads while he browsed the web at an airport (Stanford hawking jewelry? The FCC selling shoes?). He found that AT&T's public Wi-Fi hotspot was messing with HTTP traffic, injecting advertisements using a service called RaGaPa. As an HTML pages loads over HTTP, the hotspot adds an advertising stylesheet, injects a simple advertisement image (as a backup), and then injects two scripts that control the loading and display of advertising content. Mayer writes, "AT&T has an (understandable) incentive to seek consumer-side income from its free Wi-Fi service, but this model of advertising injection is particularly unsavory. Among other drawbacks: It exposes much of the user's browsing activity to an undisclosed and untrusted business. It clutters the user's web browsing experience. It tarnishes carefully crafted online brands and content, especially because the ads are not clearly marked as part of the hotspot service.3 And it introduces security and breakage risks, since website developers generally don't plan for extra scripts and layout elements."

How an Obscure Acronym Helped Link AT&T To NSA Spying 54

netbuzz writes: Slashdot on Saturday highlighted a story by Pro Publica and the New York Times that used Snowden documents to reveal previously unknown details of the "highly collaborative" relationship between AT&T and the NSA that enabled the latter's controversial Internet surveillance program. An aspect of the story that received only passing mention was how the reporters connected an acronym for an obscure proprietary network configuration – SNRC — to AT&T and the NSA in part through a 1996 story in the now-defunct print version of Network World. In essence, that acronym proved to be a fingerprint confirming the connection — and its match was found thanks to Google Books.

The Network Is Hostile 124

An anonymous reader writes: Following this weekend's news that AT&T was as friendly with the NSA as we've suspected all along, cryptographer Matthew Green takes a step back to look at the broad lessons we've learned from the NSA leaks. He puts it simply: the network is hostile — and we really understand that now. "My take from the NSA revelations is that even though this point was 'obvious' and well-known, we've always felt it more intellectually than in our hearts. Even knowing the worst was possible, we still chose to believe that direct peering connections and leased lines from reputable providers like AT&T would make us safe. If nothing else, the NSA leaks have convincingly refuted this assumption." Green also points out that the limitations on law enforcement's data collection are technical in nature — their appetite for surveillance would be even larger if they had the means to manage it. "'s significant that someday a large portion of the world's traffic will flow through networks controlled by governments that are, at least to some extent, hostile to the core values of Western democracies."

AT&T Helped the NSA Spy On Internet Traffic 82

An anonymous reader writes: Newly disclosed NSA documents show that the agency gained access to billions of emails through a "highly collaborative" relationship with AT&T. The company provided access from 2003 to 2013, including technical assistance to carry out court orders permitting wiretapping. "The company installed surveillance equipment in at least 17 of its Internet hubs on American soil, far more than its similarly sized competitor, Verizon. And its engineers were the first to try out new surveillance technologies invented by the eavesdropping agency. One document reminds NSA officials to be polite when visiting AT&T facilities, noting, 'This is a partnership, not a contractual relationship.'" The new files don't indicate whether the partnership currently exists, but the government has been doing its best to keep corporate partnerships hidden. The article also notes that "In 2011, AT&T began handing over 1.1 billion domestic cellphone calling records a day to the N.S.A. after 'a push to get this flow operational prior to the 10th anniversary of 9/11,' according to an internal agency newsletter."
The Internet

Study: Major ISPs Slowing Traffic Across the US 181

An anonymous reader writes: A study based on test results from 300,000 internet users "found significant degradations on the networks of the five largest internet service providers" in the United States. This group includes Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and AT&T. "The study, supported by the technologists at Open Technology Institute's M-Lab, examines the comparative speeds of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), which shoulder some of the data load for popular websites. ... In Atlanta, for example, Comcast provided hourly median download speeds over a CDN called GTT of 21.4 megabits per second at 7pm throughout the month of May. AT&T provided speeds over the same network of of a megabit per second." These findings arrive shortly after the FCC's new net neutrality rules took effect across the U.S.
Wireless Networking

Sprint Begins Punishing Customers For FCC's Net Neutrality Rules 272

ourlovecanlastforeve writes: A few days ago Sprint announced their intent to stop throttling certain customers' bandwidth in the wake of the FCC fining ATT $100,000,000 for doing the same. Sprint has now begun circulating an internal memo to their front-line reps that the 12-month warranty on non-branded accessories, a featured selling point, will be eliminated. Additional rumors are emerging that Sprint may increase prices on unlimited data plans and stop offering wireline long distance service.

FCC To Fine AT&T $100M For Throttling Unlimited Data Customers 205

New submitter Wargames writes: According to the article in the New York Times, AT&T is getting fined $100,000,000 for its doublespeak redefinition of the word "Unlimited". The FCC says AT&T failed to adequately notify its customers that they could receive speeds slower than the normal network speeds AT&T advertised and that these actions violated the FCC's 2010 Open Internet Order. “Unlimited means unlimited,” Travis LeBlanc, the F.C.C.’s chief of the enforcement bureau, said in a statement on Wednesday. “As today’s action demonstrates, the commission is committed to holding accountable those broadband providers who fail to be fully transparent about data limits.”

Verizon, Sprint Agree To Pay Combined $158 Million Over Cramming Charges 66

mpicpp sends news that Verizon has agreed to pay $90 million (PDF), and Sprint another $68 million (PDF), to settle claims that they placed unauthorized charges on their customers's bills. The process, known as "cramming," has already cost T-Mobile and AT&T settlements in the tens of millions as well. Most of the settlement money will go towards setting up refund programs, but Verizon and Sprint will be able to keep 30% and 35% of the fees they collected, respectively. In response to the news, both companies issued vague statements about "putting customers first." They are now banned from charging for premium text message services and must set up systems to ensure informed consent for third-party charges.
The Internet

FCC Tosses Petition Challenging Its New Internet Regulations 133

A petition submitted to the FCC by several of the players (including AT&T, CenturyLink, and USTelecom) who would be most affected by the agency's recently asserted Internet regulatory powers has been rejected by the agency's leadership. The Internet providers, along with the CTIA trade association, asserted that the FCC's Open Internet order is aganst the public interest. Per The Verge, the Commission last Friday "denied the petition, issuing an order that states its classification of broadband internet as a telecommunications service "falls well within the Commission's statutory authority, is consistent with Supreme Court precedent, and fully complies with the Administrative Procedure Act."

AT&T Bills Elderly Customer $24,298.93 For Landline Dial-Up Service 234

McGruber writes: 83-year-old Woodland Hills, California resident Ron Dorff usually pays $51 a month to AT&T for a landline, which he uses to access the Internet via an old-school, low-speed AOL dial-up subscription.... but then, in March, AT&T sent him a bill for $8,596.57. He called AT&T and their service rep couldn't make heads or tails of the bill, so she said she'd send a technician to his house. None came, so Dorff figured that everything was ok.

Dorff's next monthly bill was for $15,687.64, bringing his total outstanding debt to AT&T, including late fees, to $24,298.93. If he didn't pay by May 8, AT&T warned, his bill would rise to at least $24,786.16. Droff then called David Lazarus, business columnist for the LA Times, who got in touch with AT&T, who wasted little time in deciding it would waive the more than $24,000 in charges.

AT&T spokeshole Georgia Taylor claims Dorff's modem somehow had started dialing a long-distance number when it accessed AOL, and the per-minute charges went into orbit as he stayed connected for hours.

AT&T declined to answer the LA Times questions about why AT&T didn't spot the problem itself and proactively take steps to fix things? AT&T also declined to elaborate on whether AT&T's billing system is capable of spotting unusual charges and, if so, why it doesn't routinely do so.

ATT, DirecTV Mega-Merger May Go Through 82

An anonymous reader writes: Hot on the heels of Comcast's failed attempt to swallow up Time Warner Cable, AT&T's pursuit of satellite provider DirecTV is plowing forward. What would be the result of a wireline and cellular mega-monopoly buying one of only two subscription satellite TV providers? Has to be worse than a Comcast/TWC marriage ... at least there, the territories and services offered didn't overlap at all, but AT&T offers voice, data, and television in many markets already. Adding satellite would stifle competition for television services (and to a lesser extent, because satellite is only best suited for rural installations, data).

Court Refuses To Dismiss AT&T Throttling Case 105

Taco Cowboy sends news that a federal judge has shot down AT&T's attempt to dismiss a lawsuit alleging the company deceived customers by throttling their mobile data speeds. The suit was filed by the Federal Trade Commission after it found AT&T was charging customers for "unlimited" data plans, but then throttling their bandwidth once certain thresholds were reached. AT&T tried to have the suit thrown out by saying the FTC was exceeding its authority. Judge Edward Chen disagrees (PDF), saying jurisdiction for their conduct had not yet passed to the Federal Communications Commission when it occurred. The throttling affected "at least 3.5 million customers."

House Republicans Roll Out Legislation To Overturn New Net Neutrality Rules 550

An anonymous reader writes: U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and 31 Republican co-sponsors have submitted the Internet Freedom Act (PDF) for consideration in the House. The bill would roll back the recent net neutrality rules made by the FCC. The bill says the rules "shall have no force or effect, and the Commission may not reissue such rule in substantially the same form, or issue a new rule that is substantially the same as such rule, unless the reissued or new rule is specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of the enactment of this Act." Blackburn claims the FCC's rules will "stifle innovation" and "restrict freedom." The article points out that Blackburn's campaign and leadership PAC has received substantial donations. from Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.

Google Teams Up With 3 Wireless Carriers To Combat Apple Pay 186 writes AP reports that in an effort to undercut Apple's hit service Apple Pay, Google is teaming up with three wireless carriers by building its payment service into Android smartphones sold by AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA. Besides trying to make it more convenient to use Wallet, Google also is hoping to improve the nearly 4-year-old service. Toward that end, Google is buying some mobile payment technology and patents from Softcard, a 5-year-old venture owned by the wireless carriers. Financial terms weren't disclosed but Apple Pay's popularity probably helped forge the unlikely alliance between Google and the wireless carriers. Google traditionally has had a prickly relationship with the carriers, largely because it doesn't believe enough has been done to upgrade wireless networks and make them cheaper so more people can spend more time online.

The biggest challenge however is one that both Apple and Google face: Only a small fraction of the 10 million or so retail outlets in the U.S.–220,000 at last count–have checkout readers that can accept payments from either system. Both wallets use a radio technology called Near Field Communication to send payment, and it's expected to take years for most stores to be upgraded. What's at play? The big tech companies and carriers seem convinced that our phones will eventually replace our wallets. For carriers, that could make mobile wallet technology table stakes over the next few years as they compete for consumers.

Ten Lies T-Mobile Told Me About My Data Plan 237

reifman (786887) writes "Last June, my post "Yes, You Can Spend $750 in International Data Roaming in One Minute on AT&T" was slashdotted and this led to T-Mobile CEO John Legere tweeting 'how crappy @ATT is' and welcoming me to the fold. Unfortunately, now it's TMobile that's having trouble tracking data; it seems to be related to the rollout of their new DataStash promotion. Just like AT&T, they're blaming the customer. Here are the ten lies T-Mobile told me about my data usage today."

AT&T Patents System To "Fast-Lane" File-Sharing Traffic 112

An anonymous reader writes Telecom giant AT&T has been awarded a patent for speeding up BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer traffic, and reducing the impact that these transactions have on the speed of its network. Unauthorized file-sharing generates thousands of petabytes of downloads every month, sparking considerable concern among the ISP community due to its detrimental effect on network speeds. AT&T and its Intellectual Property team has targeted the issue in a positive manner, and has appealed for the new patent to create a 'fast lane' for BitTorrent and other file-sharing traffic. As well as developing systems around the caching of local files, the ISP has proposed analyzing BitTorrent traffic to connect high-impact clients to peers who use fewer resources.

AT&T To Match Google Fiber In Kansas City, Charge More If You Want Privacy 227

An anonymous reader writes: When Google Fiber started bringing gigabit internet to cities around the U.S., we wondered how the incumbent ISPs would respond. Now we know: AT&T has announced they will match Google Fiber's gigabit offerings in Kansas City. Of course, there are some caveats. First, AT&T's rollout may stop as it fights the Obama administration over net neutrality. Not that it would be a nationwide rollout anyway: "AT&T does not plan to offer the ultra-fast Internet lines to every home in the market. Rather, he said the company would calculate where demand is strongest and the investment in stringing new cables promised a decent return."

There are also some interesting pricing concerns. The company plans to charge $70/month for gigabit service, but that's a subsidized price. Subsidized by what, you ask? Your privacy. AT&T says if you want to opt out of letting them track your browsing history, you'll have to pay $29 more per month. They say your information is used to serve targeted advertising, and includes any links you follow and search terms you enter.