Verizon

Verizon: No 4G-Level Data Caps For 5G Home Service (pcmag.com) 38

Verizon recently announced that its upcoming 5G home internet service will not have the kinds of data limits you expect from current wireless services. It will reportedly be able to handle the average data load of a FiOS customer, and it won't be throttled down to 4G gigabyte caps. PC Magazine reports: Verizon has been trying out its new 5G home internet service for months. In a tour of its New Jersey lab, we got a closer look at the 5G antenna setup we saw at Mobile World Congress in February. It's a silver device the size of a paperback book, which connects to a Wi-Fi router with a display. You're supposed to put in a window facing Verizon's 5G service tower. In the test lab, engineer David Binczewski (below) showed us how the company is still working through the challenges of high-frequency, short-distance, millimeter-wave 5G -- most notably, how to penetrate various materials. In a chamber designed to test new 5G devices, he held up a piece of wood between a 5G emitter and a receiver, and we watched the signal fuzz out a bit on a nearby equipment screen. During a roundtable, VP of network support Mike Haberman, some other Verizon folks, and the assembled journalists agreed that an average data cap in the vicinity of 180GB/month would satisfy the average consumer. That's far more than Verizon's current 4G traffic management limit, where folks who use more than 22GB get sent to the back of the line if a tower is congested.
Television

FCC Approves Next-Gen ATSC 3.0 TV Standard (reuters.com) 123

New submitter mikeebbbd writes: "U.S. regulators on Thursday approved the use of new technology that will improve picture quality on mobile phones, tablets and television, but also raises significant privacy concerns by giving advertisers dramatically more data about viewing habits," reports Reuters. ATSC3.0 will apparently make personal data collection and targeted ads possible. New TVs will be necessary, and broadcasters will need to transmit both ATSC 2.0 (the current standard) for 3 to 5 years before turning off the older system. For now, the conversion is voluntary. There appears to be no requirement (as there was when ATSC 2.0 came out) for low-cost adapter boxes to make older TVs work; once a channel goes ATSC 3.0-only, your old TV will not display it any more.
The Internet

Detroit's Marginalized Communities Are Building Their Own Internet (vice.com) 117

An anonymous reader writes: Motherboard has a report that discusses how some of Detroit's communities are building their own internet to help close the gap between the roughly 60 percent of Detroiters who have internet and 40 percent who don't. From the report: "[Diana Nucera, director of the Detroit Community Technology Project] is part of a growing cohort of Detroiters who have started a grassroots movement to close that gap, by building the internet themselves. It's a coalition of community members and multiple Detroit nonprofits. They're starting with three underserved neighborhoods, installing high speed internet that beams shared gigabit connections from an antenna on top of the tallest building on the street, and into the homes of people who have long gone without. They call it the Equitable Internet Initiative. The issue isn't only cost, though it is prohibitive for many Detroiters, but also infrastructure. Because of Detroit's economic woes, many Big Telecom companies haven't thought it worthwhile to invest in expanding their network to these communities. The city is filled with dark fiber optic cable that's not connected to any homes or businesses -- relics from more optimistic days.

Residents who can't afford internet, are on some kind of federal or city subsidy like food stamps, and students are prioritized for the Initiative, Nucera told me. The whole effort started last summer with enlisting digital stewards, locals from each neighborhood who were interested in working for the nonprofit coalition, doing everything from spreading the word, to teaching digital literacy, to installing routers and pulling fiber. Many of these stewards started out with little or no tech expertise, but after a 20-week-long training period, they've become experts able to install, troubleshoot, and maintain a network from end to end. They're also aiming to spread digital literacy, so people can truly own the network themselves."

Businesses

FCC Repeals Decades-Old Rules Blocking Broadcast Media Mergers (variety.com) 139

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): Federal regulators rolled back decades-old rules on Thursday, making it far easier for media outlets to be bought and sold -- potentially leading to more newspapers, radio stations and television broadcasters being owned by a handful of companies. The regulations, eliminated in a 3-to-2 vote by the Federal Communications Commission, were first put in place in the 1970s to ensure that a diversity of voices and opinions could be heard on the air or in print. But now those rules represent a threat to small outlets that are struggling to survive in a vastly different media world, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. One long-standing rule repealed Thursday prevented one company in a given media market from owning both a daily newspaper and a TV station. Another rule blocked TV stations in the same market from merging with each other if the combination would leave fewer than eight independently owned stations. The agency also took aim at rules restricting the number of TV and radio stations that any media company could simultaneously own in a single market. A major beneficiary of the deregulatory moves, analysts say, is Sinclair, a conservative broadcasting company that is seeking to buy up Tribune Media for $3.9 billion.
Communications

Phone Companies Get New Tools To Block Spam Calls (cnbc.com) 127

An anonymous reader shares a report: Phone companies will have greater authority to block questionable calls from reaching customers as regulators adopted new rules to combat automated messages known as robocalls. Rules adopted Thursday by the Federal Communications Commission represent the latest tools against "robocalls," which pester consumers, sometimes multiple times each day, and often push scams. Phone companies can already block some calls that trick consumers by showing up on Caller ID with fake numbers. The new rules make clear that they can block additional calls that are likely scams, such as numbers that start with a 911 area code, or one that isn't currently assigned to anyone.
Twitter

Twitter Bans, Removes Verified Status of White Supremacists (thedailybeast.com) 697

After updating the rules of its verification program on Wednesday, Twitter has begun banning and removing verified check marks from white supremacist accounts. For example, white supremacists Richard Spencer and Charlottesville "Unite The Right" protest creator Jason Kessler had their verified statuses revoked today. The Daily Beast reports: The verified check mark was meant to denote "that an account of public interest is authentic," the company said in a series of tweets on Wednesday, but that "verification has long been perceived as an endorsement." "This perception became worse when we opened up verification for public submissions and verified people who we in no way endorse," a company spokesperson tweeted. Users can now lose their blue checkmarks for "inciting or engaging in harassment of others," "promoting hate and/or violence against, or directly attacking or threatening other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease," supporting people who promote those ideas, and a slew of other reasons.
The Internet

FCC Plans December Vote To Kill Net Neutrality Rules (bloomberg.com) 113

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: The U.S. Federal Communications Commission under its Republican chairman plans to vote in December to kill the net neutrality rules passed during the Obama era, said two people briefed on the plans. Chairman Ajit Pai in April proposed gutting the rules that he blamed for depressing investment in broadband, and said he intended to "finish the job" this year. The chairman has decided to put his proposal to a vote at the FCC next month, said the people. The agency's monthly meeting is to be held Dec. 14. The people asked not to be identified because the plan hasn't been made public. It's not clear what language Pai will offer to replace the rules that passed with only Democratic votes at the FCC in 2015. He has proposed that the FCC end the designation of broadband companies such as AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. as common carriers. That would remove the legal authority that underpins the net neutrality rules. One of the people said Pai may call for vacating the rules except for portions that mandate internet service providers inform customers about their practices. The current regulations forbid broadband providers from blocking or slowing web traffic, or from charging higher fees in return for quicker passage over their networks.
Transportation

Boeing 757 Testing Shows Airplanes Vulnerable To Hacking, DHS Says (aviationtoday.com) 140

schwit1 shares a report from Aviation Today: A team of government, industry and academic officials successfully demonstrated that a commercial aircraft could be remotely hacked in a non-laboratory setting last year, a DHS official said Wednesday at the 2017 CyberSat Summit in Tysons Corner, Virginia. "We got the airplane on Sept. 19, 2016. Two days later, I was successful in accomplishing a remote, non-cooperative, penetration. [Which] means I didn't have anybody touching the airplane, I didn't have an insider threat. I stood off using typical stuff that could get through security and we were able to establish a presence on the systems of the aircraft." Hickey said the details of the hack and the work his team are doing are classified, but said they accessed the aircraft's systems through radio frequency communications, adding that, based on the RF configuration of most aircraft, "you can come to grips pretty quickly where we went" on the aircraft. Patching avionics subsystem on every aircraft when a vulnerability is discovered is cost prohibitive, Hickey said. The cost to change one line of code on a piece of avionics equipment is $1 million, and it takes a year to implement. For Southwest Airlines, whose fleet is based on Boeing's 737, it would "bankrupt" them. Hickey said newer models of 737s and other aircraft, like Boeing's 787 and the Airbus Group A350, have been designed with security in mind, but that legacy aircraft, which make up more than 90% of the commercial planes in the sky, don't have these protections.
Government

Pentagon To Make a Big Push Toward Open-Source Software Next Year (theverge.com) 98

"Open-source software" is computer software with its source code made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. According to The Verge, the Pentagon is going to make a big push for open-source software in 2018. "Thanks to an amendment introduced by Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and co-sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the [National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018] could institute a big change: should the bill pass in its present form, the Pentagon will be going open source." From the report: We don't typically think of the Pentagon as a software-intensive workplace, but we absolutely should. The Department of Defense is the world's largest single employer, and while some of that work is people marching around with rifles and boots, a lot of the work is reports, briefings, data management, and just managing the massive enterprise. Loading slides in PowerPoint is as much a part of daily military life as loading rounds into a magazine. Besides cost, there are two other compelling explanations for why the military might want to go open source. One is that technology outside the Pentagon simply advances faster than technology within it, and by availing itself to open-source tools, the Pentagon can adopt those advances almost as soon as the new code hits the web, without going through the extra steps of a procurement process. Open-source software is also more secure than closed-source software, by its very nature: the code is perpetually scrutinized by countless users across the planet, and any weaknesses are shared immediately.
Communications

Investigation Finds Security Flaws In 'Connected' Toys (theguardian.com) 32

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A consumer group is urging major retailers to withdraw a number of "connected" or "intelligent" toys likely to be popular at Christmas, after finding security failures that it warns could put children's safety at risk. Tests carried out by Which? with the German consumer group Stiftung Warentest, and other security research experts, found flaws in Bluetooth and wifi-enabled toys that could enable a stranger to talk to a child. The investigation found that four out of seven of the tested toys could be used to communicate with the children playing with them. Security failures were discovered in the Furby Connect, i-Que Intelligent Robot, Toy-Fi Teddy and CloudPets. With each of these toys, the Bluetooth connection had not been secured, meaning the researcher did not need a password, pin or any other authentication to gain access. Little technical knowhow was needed to hack into the toys to start sharing messages with a child.
The Internet

Ads May Soon Stalk You on TV Like They Do on Your Facebook Feed (bloomberg.com) 203

Targeted ads that seem to follow us everywhere online may soon be doing the same on our TV. From a report: The Federal Communications Commission is poised to approve a new broadcast standard that will let broadcasters do something cable TV companies already do: harvest data about what you watch so advertisers can customize pitches. The prospect alarms privacy advocates, who say there are no rules setting boundaries for how broadcasters handle personal information. The FCC doesn't mention privacy in the 109-page proposed rule that is scheduled for a vote by commissioners Thursday. "If the new standard allows broadcasters to collect data in a way they haven't before, I think consumers should know about that," Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, said in an interview. "What privacy protections will apply to that data, and what security protections?" For broadcasters, Next Gen TV represents an advance into the digital world that for decades has been siphoning viewers away to the likes of Facebook, Netflix, Google's YouTube and Amazon's Prime video service.
AT&T

Verizon, AT&T Announce Plans To Build and Share Hundreds of New Cell Towers (fiercewireless.com) 34

An anonymous reader shares a report: Verizon and AT&T announced a joint venture with Tillman Infrastructure to build and share hundreds of cell towers in more in a move that is sure to be seen as a threat to more established tower companies. The companies said the new structures "will add to the overall communications infrastructure in the United States," filling gaps in current tower footprints, but will also enable the nation's two largest network operators to relocate equipment from towers they're currently using. Construction plans on the first towers will begin early next year and will come online "quickly" as they are completed.
Businesses

Payphones Still Make Millions of Dollars (vice.com) 142

From a report on Motherboard: Disruption-y tech companies like Uber and Twitter are a big part of "the discourse" and our daily lives, but neither of them make any profit. You know what once-groundbreaking technology doesn't have any problems making bank year after year? That's right, it's payphones. Most people now have a cell phone, so you may have wondered who still uses those rusted, quarter-eating boxes. As it turns out, a lot of people do. According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's 2017 monitoring report, payphones in Canada made $22 million CAD in 2016 (this figure may not account for the cost of upkeep, but the CRTC has stated in the past that payphones are "financially viable at current rates.") That's spread out among nearly 60,000 payphones in the country, which made roughly $300 per phone over the course of the year. That's at least a few calls per day, each. The US numbers are similar: The FCC reports that in 2015 payphones made $286 million, which is comparable for a population ten times the size of Canada's.
Google

Alphabet's Project Loon Delivers Internet To 100,000 People In Puerto Rico (engadget.com) 34

Google announced that its Project Loon internet balloons have delivered internet service to over 100,000 Puerto Ricans who were knocked offline by Hurricane Maria. Engadget reports: It's not a total success, which isn't to be expected after Puerto Ricans' communications infrastructure suffered so much damage. But the team was able to work with AT&T and T-Mobile to get "communication and internet activities like sending text messages and accessing information online for some people with LTE enabled phones," head of Project Loon Alastair Westgarth wrote in a blog post. The team launched their balloons from Nevada and used machine learning algorithms to direct them over Puerto Rico, where they've been relaying internet from working ground networks over to users in unconnected areas. In the post, Westgarth noted that Project Loon has never fired up internet from scratch this rapidly, and will improve their ability to keep balloons in place (and deliver sustained connectivity) as they become familiar with the air currents.
Youtube

YouTube Says It Will Crack Down On Bizarre Videos Targeting Children (theverge.com) 109

"Earlier this week, a report in The New York Times and a blog post on Medium drew a lot of attention to a world of strange and sometimes disturbing YouTube videos aimed at young children," reports The Verge. "The genre [...] makes use of popular characters from family-friendly entertainment, but it's often created with little care, and can quickly stray from innocent themes to scenes of violence or sexuality." YouTube is cracking down and will now age restrict videos that violate its policy. From the report: The first line of defense for YouTube Kids are algorithmic filters. After that, there is a team of humans that review videos which have been flagged. If a video with recognizable children's characters gets flagged in YouTube's main app, which is much larger than the Kids app, it will be sent to the policy review team. YouTube says it has thousands of people working around the clock in different time zones to review flagged content. If the review finds the video is in violation of the new policy, it will be age restricted, automatically blocking it from traveling to the Kids app. YouTube says it typically takes at least a few days for content to make its way from YouTube proper to YouTube Kids, and the hope is that within that window, users will flag anything potentially disturbing to children. YouTube also has a team of volunteer moderators, which it calls Contributors, looking for inappropriate content. YouTube says it will start training its review team on the new policy and it should be live within a few weeks. Along with filtering content out of the Kids app, the new policy will also tweak who can see these videos on YouTube's main service. Flagged content will be age restricted, and users won't be able to see those videos if they're not logged in on accounts registered to users 18 years or older. All age-gated content is also automatically exempt from advertising. That means this new policy could put a squeeze on the booming business of crafting strange kid's content.
Yahoo!

Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Apologizes For Data Breach, Blames Russians (reuters.com) 212

Former Yahoo chief executive officer Marissa Mayer apologized today for a pair of massive data breaches at Yahoo and blamed Russian agents on the growing number of incidents involving major U.S. companies. A reader shares a report: "As CEO, these thefts occurred during my tenure, and I want to sincerely apologize to each and every one of our users," she told the Senate Commerce Committee, testifying alongside the interim and former CEOs of Equifax and a senior Verizon Communications executive. "Unfortunately, while all our measures helped Yahoo successfully defend against the barrage of attacks by both private and state-sponsored hackers, Russian agents intruded on our systems and stole our users' data."
Twitter

Twitter Officially Expands Its Character Count To 280 Starting Today (techcrunch.com) 98

Twitter is rolling out an update around the world to allow users to post 280-character tweets. The company first announced the controversial plan to move beyond its traditional 140 characters back in September, noting at the time how a longer character count allowed users to express more of their thoughts without running out of room to tweet. TechCrunch reports: At the time of its original announcement, the company cited data backing up its decision that referenced how the character constraints impacted users differently, depending on their language. Twitter said that those who tweeted in languages like Japanese, Korean and Chinese were able to express around double the amount of information in a single character, compared with users who spoke English, Spanish, Portuguese or French, for example. In today's blog post about the public launch of 280 characters, Twitter aims to assuage people's fears that their timelines will fill with expanded tweets. The company said that during the trial period, people continued to tweet below 140 characters most of the time -- after the novelty of being able to use more characters wore off. Specifically, Twitter found that only 5 percent of tweets were sent out with more than 140 characters and of those, only 2 percent were over 190 characters.
Communications

Sleep Deprivation Disrupts Brain-Cell Communication, Study Finds (npr.org) 87

A new study published in the journal Nature Medicine found that sleep deprivation causes the bursts of electrical activity that brain cells use to communicate to become slower and weaker. "The finding could help explain why a lack of sleep impairs a range of mental functions, says Dr. Itzhak Fried, an author of the study and a professor of neurosurgery at the University of California, Los Angeles," reports NPR. From the report: The finding comes from an unusual study of patients being evaluated for surgery to correct severe epilepsy. As part of the evaluation, doctors place wires in the brain to find out where a patient's seizures are starting. That allows Fried and a team of scientists to monitor hundreds of individual brain cells, often for days. And because patients with epilepsy are frequently kept awake in order to provoke a seizure, the scientists had an ideal way to study the effects of sleep deprivation. In the study, all the patients agreed to categorize images of faces, places and animals. Each image caused cells in areas of the brain involved in perception to produce distinctive patterns of electrical activity. Then, four of the patients stayed up all night before looking at more images. And in these patients, "the neurons are responding slower," Fried says. "The responses are diminished, and they are smeared over longer periods of time." These changes impair the cells' ability to communicate, Fried says. And that leads to mental lapses that can affect not only perception but memory.
Twitter

Twitter Exploit Let Two Pranksters Post 30,000-Character Tweet (engadget.com) 65

sqorbit writes: Two German twitter users were able to post a 30,000-character tweet, blowing way past the 280-character limit it is testing for select users. The accounts were banned for a brief period of time but are now back online after they apologized. The original 30,396-character tweet has been archived and can be viewed here. The two pranksters exploited "a rule Twitter made in 2016 that links would no longer count in the 140-character limit," reports The Daily Dot. "Yes, this is just one big web address with a URL code hidden deep in the large block of text."
The Internet

Comcast's Xfinity Internet Service Is Down Across the US [Update] (theverge.com) 104

Readers share a report: Comcast's internet service, Xfinity, appears to be suffering an outage across the country. DownDetector.com shows it being down around the United States, including in large cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston. So far, online reports don't suggest that TV service or home phones are affected. On Twitter, Comcast confirmed the outage. Adding, "Some customers are having issues with their XFINITY Internet service. We apologize & appreciate your patience while we work to fix." The company tweeted moments ago, "Our teams continue to monitor an external network issue. We apologize for the inconvenience -- will provide updates as we learn more." In another tweet, Comcast said the issue is nationwide.

Update: At 20:39 GMT on Monday, Comcast said it had resolved the issue.

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