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Communications

T-Mobile Kicks Off Industry Robocall War With Network-Level Blocking and ID Tools (venturebeat.com) 72

T-Mobile is among the first U.S. telecom companies to announce plans to thwart pesky robocallers. From a report on VentureBeat: The move represents part of an industry-wide Robocall Strike Force set up by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year to combat the 2 billion-plus automated calls U.S. consumers deal with each month. Other key members of the group include Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Verizon. T-Mobile's announcement comes 24 hours after the FCC voted to approve a new rule that would allow telecom companies to block robocallers who use fake caller ID numbers to conceal their true location and identity. From a report on WashingtonPost: The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday proposed new rules (PDF) that would allow phone companies to target and block robo-calls coming from what appear to be illegitimate or unassigned phone numbers. The rules could help cut down on the roughly 2.4 billion automated calls that go out each month -- many of them fraudulent, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "Robo-calls are the No. 1 consumer complaint to the FCC from members of the American public," he said, vowing to halt people who, in some cases, pretend to be tax officials demanding payments from consumers, or, in other cases, ask leading questions that prompt consumers to give up personal information as part of an identity theft scam.
Advertising

YouTube Loses Major Advertisers Over Offensive Videos (rollingstone.com) 238

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Rolling Stone: Verizon, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and other major companies have pulled advertisements from YouTube after learning they were paired with videos promoting extremism, terrorism and other offensive topics, The New York Times reports. Among the other companies involved are pharmaceutical giant GSK, HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland and L'Oreal, amounting to a potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Google-owned company. The boycott began last week after a Times of London investigation spurred many major European companies to pull their ads from YouTube. American companies swiftly followed, even after Google promised Tuesday to work harder to block ads on "hateful, offensive and derogatory" videos. Like AT&T, most companies are only pulling their ads from YouTube and will continue to place ads on Google's search platforms, which remain the biggest source of revenue for Google's parent company, Alphabet. Still, the tech giant offered up a slew of promises to assuage marketers and ensure them that they were fixing the problems on YouTube. Due to the massive number of videos on YouTube -- about 400 hours of video is posted each minute -- the site primarily uses an automated system to place ads. While there are some failsafes in place to keep advertisements from appearing alongside offensive content, Google's Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler wrote in a blog post that the company would hire "significant numbers" of employees to review YouTube videos and mark them as inappropriate for ads. He also said Google's latest advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning will help the company review and flag large swaths of videos.
The Courts

NYC Sues Verizon For Breaking Promise To Make FiOS Available To All Residents (washingtonpost.com) 73

New submitter erickessler writes: 1 million NYC homes can't get Verizon FiOS, so the city just sued Verizon. Verizon wants another four years to cover remaining 1 million households. Washington Post reports: "New York City has sued Verizon, saying the phone giant broke its 2008 promise (PDF) to make its Fios cable service available to all city residents. The city said in a lawsuit (PDF) Monday that Verizon missed a 2014 deadline to extend wire by every home or apartment building in the city -- in technical parlance, "passing" the home. The city also argues that Verizon hasn't installed service for thousands who requested it. Verizon disagrees with the city's definition of "passing" a home and says it has done its job. Spokesman Ray McConville said Monday that Verizon sees "passed" as meaning that it can reach every home, provided a landlord gives permission. Verizon wants to reach some buildings through other buildings. In a letter to the city Friday, Verizon says 2.2 million households have access to Fios, a phone, cable and high-speed internet network. Verizon said Monday that it is committed to expanding Fios availability to the city's remaining 1 million households."
Yahoo!

Yahoo's Marissa Mayer Could Get $23M Exit Payment, Ex-IAC Executive Will Become CEO (hollywoodreporter.com) 102

Yahoo has named a replacement for CEO Marissa Mayer once the merger with Verizon becomes official. The next leader of the Sunnyvale-based tech giant will be Thomas J. McInerney, a former chief financial officer of IAC. From a report: Yahoo said Monday that after it completes the sale of its core search business to Verizon and Marissa Mayer and co-founder David Filo step down as board members of Altaba (the new name for the remaining holdings), Mayer could get a $23 million "golden parachute" payment, and Thomas McInerney will run the remaining part of the business as CEO. Mayer's golden parachute, a large payment for top executives if they lose their position as a result of a deal, would include $19.97 million in equity and more than $3 million in cash, according to a regulatory filing. It would kick in if there is a change in control, as will be the case in the deal, and she is terminated "without cause" or "leaves for good reason" within a year.
Verizon

Verizon Wireless Wades Right Back Into the Net Neutrality Debate With Fios Deal (theverge.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Verizon is taking a page out of AT&T's book by zero rating its Fios cable TV service for all Verizon Wireless customers. That means that if you purchase your mobile data plan from Verizon Wireless and your cable TV plan from Fios, you can now use the Fios Mobile app to stream live channels and on-demand shows and not have it count against your monthly data cap. (It should be noted that Verizon Wireless and Fios are separate subsidiaries, but both are owned by Verizon Communications.) This builds on Verizon's previous decision to zero rate its Go90 mobile app for customers of its own wireless service, which net neutrality advocates see as prioritizing its own products to the detriment of those from competitors and upstarts. One notable exception here is for customers with unlimited mobile data plans. Streaming Fios Mobile content will in fact count toward the unlimited plans' 22GB a month cap, after which Verizon will cap speeds. This caveat is not made clear in Verizon's marketing language, and instead is found only in the App Store release notes.
Yahoo!

Marissa Mayer Is Giving Yahoo Employees Her Annual Bonus To Make Up For Massive Hacks (theverge.com) 108

Following two separate security breaches revealed last year that compromised the personal information of more than 1.5 billion users, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced today via her Tumblr page that she will be redistributing her annual bonus and equity stock grant to Yahoo employees. The Verge reports: Relevant to Mayer's admission here, an independent committee Yahoo brought on to investigate the hacks found the company to be at fault for not sufficiently responding to the security incidents. "While significant additional security measures were implemented in response to those incidents, it appears certain senior executives did not properly comprehend or investigate, and therefore failed to act sufficiently upon, the full extent of knowledge known internally by the company's information security team," reads the committee's findings, which are contained in Yahoo's 10-K report for 2016. As a result of the hacks, Yahoo's top lawyer, Ron Bell, has been fired, Recode reported today. Mayer has accumulated about $162 million during the five years she's spent as the company's CEO in both salary and stock awards, according to CNN. She's also due about $55 million in severance if she decides to leave the company following its acquisition by Verizon. So it's safe to say her bonus would involve a hefty amount of money now going to Yahoo employees who have weathered the storm throughout Mayer's tumultuous tenure.
Security

Yahoo Says Forged Cookie Attack Accessed About 32 Million Accounts (cnet.com) 30

It looks like Yahoo has yet to reach its lowest point. The company revealed today via a regulatory filing that about 32 million user accounts were accessed by hackers in the past two years using forged cookies that allowed them to log into their accounts without passwords. According to Yahoo, the attack is likely connected to the "same state-sponsored actor believed to be responsible for the 2014 [breach]," which resulted in the theft of user information from 500 million user accounts. CNET reports: "Based on the investigation, we believe an unauthorized third party accessed the company's proprietary code to learn how to forge certain cookies," Yahoo said in its annual filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company went on to say that forged cookies have been invalidated to prevent further use on accounts. Yahoo revealed the attack in December but the news was largely overlooked because the company announced at the same time it had identified a separate security breach that took place in 2013 in which hackers stole information on 1 billion Yahoo accounts. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer also revealed today that she is giving yahoo employees her annual bonus to make up for the massive hacks.
Communications

Battle of the Carriers: T-Mobile's New Promotion Offers Three Unlimited Data Lines For $100 (theverge.com) 61

A battle is raging between telecommunications giants and the public is benefiting from it. In response to T-Mobile's "One" unlimited data plan announced in August, Verizon introduced unlimited data plans of their own a couple of weeks ago. This caused a ripple effect as Sprint and AT&T unveiled new unlimited data plans that same week, both of which have their own restrictions and pricing. The battle appears to show no signs of slowing as the carriers are continuing their efforts to win consumers over. Today, AT&T undercut Verizon and T-Mobile with newer unlimited data plans. The "Unlimited Choice" plan is the cheaper of the two new plans, featuring unlimited data at a maximum speed of 3 megabits per second, standard definition, and no mobile hotspot for $60 per month. While it's lower than T-Mobile's $70 plan and Verizon's $80 option, it may not be as generous as T-Mobile's latest promotion. The company just announced a new promotion after AT&T's announcement that offers three unlimited data lines for $100. The Verge reports: In its continuing efforts to attract more sign-ups, T-Mobile's latest promotion offers an additional line for free for accounts with two or more lines. The offer works whether you want to add an extra phone line or a line for wearables or tablets. The deal is available for current and new customers -- the amount of data available to the free line will match up with whatever your current plan is for the other lines. If your plan does not have the same amount of data between devices, the free line will get whatever's the lowest of the bunch. Just two weeks ago, the company updated its T-Mobile One plan to include unlimited data for $100 a month between two lines. CEO John Legere said the free line promotion also applies this new plan. If you are confused about the four carriers' recent announcements, you are not alone. We have included related links below to help you make sense of each carrier's plans.
AT&T

AT&T Undercuts Verizon, T-Mobile With New Unlimited Plan (cnet.com) 71

Roger Cheng, writing for CNET: AT&T just fired the latest salvo in the unlimited data wars. The Dallas telecommunications giant unveiled two new unlimited data plans. The first is Unlimited Choice, a stripped-down plan that comes with unlimited data at a maximum speed of 3 megabits per second, standard definition, and no mobile hotspot. At $60, it's lower than T-Mobile's $70 plan and Verizon's $80 option. Both plans, however, offer you full high-definition video and 10 gigabytes of mobile hotspot access. Sprint still offers the cheapest option at $50 a month, although prices rise by $10 after a year. AT&T continues to push its video aspirations with higher end option called Unlimited Plus that includes HD video and 10GB of mobile hotspot access. The plan costs $90 a month, but gives you the option to add DirecTV Now streaming video service for $10 and DirecTV home satellite TV service for $25 a month.
Communications

T-Mobile Promises Big LTE Boost From 5GHz Wi-Fi Frequencies (arstechnica.com) 64

"T-Mobile USA is ready to deploy a new LTE technology over the same 5GHz frequencies used by Wi-Fi following U.S. government approval of the first 'LTE-U' devices," reports Ars Technica. "The Federal Communications Commission today authorized the first LTE-U (LTE for unlicensed spectrum) devices after a controversial process designed to ensure that cellular network use of the 5GHz band won't interfere with Wi-Fi networks." From the report: LTE-U will help T-Mobile achieve its goal of offering gigabit LTE speeds, the carrier said. Verizon Wireless is also planning to use LTE-U. The company said in September that it is "eager to deploy" the technology and developed an equipment testing plan, but it's not clear when a Verizon deployment will happen. Cellular carriers in the US generally hold exclusive licenses to spectrum, while Wi-Fi operates in unlicensed frequencies. Anyone can operate in unlicensed spectrum without an FCC license as long as they use certified radio equipment and comply with power limits and other technical requirements. The plan to bring LTE to unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum set off an industry fight. LTE-U deployment plans drew opposition in 2015 from cable companies and the Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group that certifies equipment to make sure it doesn't interfere with other Wi-Fi equipment. Industry groups worked together to develop a "Coexistence Test Plan" to prevent interference, and the Wi-Fi Alliance said it's satisfied with the result even though the new testing is voluntary rather than required by the FCC.
Verizon

Verizon To Begin 5G User Trials in 11 Markets by Middle of Year (bloomberg.com) 35

Verizon will test faster fifth-generation (5G) mobile broadband service in 11 markets in the first half of this year as the nation's largest wireless carrier tries to take the lead in the 5G race. From a report on Bloomberg: Working with equipment partners including Ericsson and Samsung, Verizon will beam 5G signals to a test group of homes and businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Atlanta; Bernardsville, New Jersey; Brockton, Massachusetts; Dallas; Denver; Houston; Miami; Sacramento, California; Seattle; and Washington, D.C., according to a statement released as part of Mobile World Congress, which starts this week in Barcelona. While 5G service isn't expected to be commercially available until 2020, Verizon and its closest rival, AT&T, are bringing the technology out of the lab and into the hands of actual users to spur development.
Verizon

Verizon Revises Its Deal With Yahoo, Reduces Price Of Acquisition By $350M (techcrunch.com) 49

Ingrid Lunden, writing for TechCrunch: After the disclosure of two massive data breaches last year, today Yahoo and Verizon finally confirmed new terms for the sale of Yahoo to Verizon: Verizon will pay $350 million less than originally planned, working out to a price of $4.48 billion to acquire Yahoo. The two have also agreed to share legal and regulatory liabilities after the massive data breach at Yahoo, which affected some 1.5 billion users across two hacks, one revealed in September 2016, and another in December 2016.
Businesses

SoftBank Is Willing To Cede Control of Sprint To Get T-Mobile Merger Done, Says Report (phonedog.com) 28

According to Reuters, SoftBank is willing to cede control of Sprint to make a T-Mobile-Sprint merger happen. The company controls 83 percent of Sprint, but it'd reportedly be willing to surrender control of Sprint and retain a minority stake in a merger with T-Mobile. PhoneDog reports: It's said that SoftBank is growing frustrated with Sprint's lack of major growth in the U.S. market, and so it wants to merge with T-Mobile in order to better compete with Verizon and ATT. No talks between SoftBank and Deutsche Telekom are currently happening because of the FCC's 600MHz spectrum auction that prevents collusion between competing companies. Once the auction ends in April, though, it's expected that SoftBank will approached Deutsche Telekom about a deal.
AT&T

AT&T Is the Latest Carrier To Offer Unlimited Data For All Its Customers (phonedog.com) 62

Earlier this week, Verizon announced it is bringing back unlimited data plans after years of selling capped data packages. Now, ATT will be doing the same. ATT will let any current or potential customer buy an unlimited data plan. Until now, only DirecTV customers were able to purchase unlimited data from the carrier. PhoneDog reports: ATT says that starting tomorrow, February 17, its Unlimited Plan will be available to all customers. The plan will include unlimited data, talk, and text, and customers with the plan will also be able to travel to Canada or Mexico and use their plan just as they would at home, with zero roaming charges. ATT's Unlimited Plan also includes Stream Saver, which will optimize video streams to 480p. However, Stream Saver can be disabled if you'd like. One feature that's missing from ATT's Unlimited Plan is mobile hotspot usage, which is notable because the unlimited plans from the other three major U.S. carriers do include some mobile hotspot. Finally, it's worth noting that after 22GB of usage, ATT Unlimited Plan customers may have their speeds slowed during times of network congestion. This policy is also in place at the other three major U.S. carriers, with Verizon's threshold being 22GB, Sprint's 23GB, and T-Mobile's 26GB. A single line on the ATT Unlimited Plan will cost $100 per month. Each additional line will cost $40, but ATT will offer the fourth line free, making the cost for a family of four $180 per month.
Verizon

Sprint's New Unlimited Plan Adds HD Streaming, Four Lines For $90 (zdnet.com) 84

Take that, Verizon! Sprint's unlimited data plan now has HD video too. From a report: On February 16, Sprint upped its unlimited plan, launching the "best unlimited HD plan ever", according to its press release. The new plan matches Verizon Wireless' new unlimited plan by offering unlimited calls, text, data, HD video streaming, and 10 GB of mobile hotspot for $22.50 per line, for four lines. That equates to $90 per month for four lines, or half of what Verizon Wireless is charging. Sprint's plan requires the account owner to enable AutoPay, ensuring the bill is paid on time each month. For those who don't need four lines, the first line will set you back $50 per month, two lines of service will bump it $90 per month.
Security

Yahoo Notifying Users of Malicious Account Activity as Verizon Deal Progresses (techcrunch.com) 18

Kate Conger, writing for TechCrunch: Yahoo is continuing to issue warnings to users about several security incidents as it moves toward an acquisition by Verizon. Users are receiving notifications today about unauthorized access to their accounts in 2015 and 2016, which occurred due to previously disclosed cookie forging. "As we have previously disclosed, our outside forensic experts have been investigating the creation of forged cookies that could have enabled an intruder to access our users' accounts without a password. The investigation has identified user accounts for which we believe forged cookies were taken or used. Yahoo is in the process of notifying all potentially affected account holders. Yahoo has invalidated the forged cookies so they cannot be used again," a Yahoo spokesperson told TechCrunch.
Network

T-Mobile Responds To Verizon By Improving Its Own Unlimited Data Plan (theverge.com) 48

It didn't take long for T-Mobile to respond to Verizon's recently announced unlimited data plans. T-Mobile's CEO John Legere announced two improvements to the carrier's T-Mobile One unlimited plan that both take effect this Friday, reports The Verge. "Beginning February 17th, the plan will include HD video, an upgrade to the 480p/DVD-quality 'optimizations' that are currently in place." From the report: The other change Legere announced is related to the hotspot feature of T-Mobile One, which lets you share your smartphone's data connection with other devices. As of Friday, the plan will let customers use up to 10GB of high-speed data each month for tethering. That matches Verizon's plan, which also allows for 10GB of LTE tethering. But again, prior to today, T-Mobile One only allowed 3G hotspot speeds unless you paid extra for the T-Mobile One Plus plan. Lastly, Legere announced a promotion that will offer two lines of T-Mobile One for $100. A two-line family plan usually costs $120 per month. Unlike other carriers, T-Mobile includes taxes and fees in its advertised price -- so that should be all you pay month to month. Verizon charges $140 (plus taxes and fees) for a two-line unlimited plan. Assuming there's no sneaky fine print or trickery here, T-Mobile has at least for now regained its feature-for-feature price advantage compared against Verizon Unlimited. The company also has a higher threshold (28GB versus Verizon's 22GB) before its users might experience reduced speeds when the network is congested. In a long series of tweets, John Legere announced the new improvements/promo and took several jabs at Big Red. In one tweet, Legere wrote: "... And we all know no one was falling for [Verizon's] 'you don't need unlimited' bullshit. Hey @verizon - your ads are still up..."
Cellphones

Shamed In Super Bowl Ads, Verizon Introduces Unlimited Data Plans (theverge.com) 172

A surprise announcement Sunday revealed that tomorrow Verizon will begin offering introductory plans with unlimited data.*

* Customers "will get full LTE speeds until they reach 22GB of usage," reports The Verge, "after which they'll be subject to reduced data speeds and de-prioritization."

An anonymous reader writes: Other carriers have similar limits. "For Sprint it's 23GB. T-Mobile has a slightly higher threshold of 26GB... AT&T matches Verizon at 22GB," reports The Verge. Verizon says their cap is "to ensure a quality experience for all customers... While we don't expect to do that very often, network management is a crucial tool that benefits all Verizon customers." The $80-a-month plan also includes hotspot tethering -- up to 10 gigabytes -- and "includes 'HD' video as opposed to the 480p/DVD-quality video that T-Mobile One customers get by default."

In a Sunday YouTube video, the head of Verizon's wireless effort says customer interviews found "Some of the heavier users of data -- the power users -- had data anxiety." But it's still a surprising move. Engadget reports that in the past Verizon "frequently tried its hardest to discourage unlimited data users," but today is "facing stiff competition from T-Mobile, which engineered a dramatic comeback in recent years and upped the ante by making unlimited data standard through the One plan."

Verizon's pricing was also targeted heavily last week in a barrage of Super Bowl ads by both Sprint and T-Mobile just last Sunday. T-Mobile showed a masochistic woman calling Verizon just to enjoying hearing about the overages, taxes and fees she incurred by exceeding her data limit, while Sprint showed a man who was trying to escape his Verizon contract by faking his own death.
Networking

College Network Attacked With Its Own Insecure IoT Devices (zdnet.com) 53

An anonymous reader writes:An attacker compromised over 5,000 IoT devices on a campus network -- including vending machines and light sensors -- and then used them to attack that same network. "In this instance, all of the DNS requests were attempting to look up seafood restaurants," reports ZDNet, though the attack was eventually blocked by cybersecurity professionals. Verizon's managing principal of investigative response blames the problem on devices configured using default credentials -- and says it's only gong to get worse. "There's going to be so many of these things used by people with very limited understanding of what they are... There's going to be endless amounts of technology out there that people are going to easily be able to get access to."
The article suggests "ensuring that IoT devices are on a completely different network to the rest of the IT estate." But it ends by warning that "until IoT manufacturers bother to properly secure their devices -- and the organizations which deploy them learn to properly manage them -- DDoS attacks by IoT botnets are going to remain a huge threat."
Network

Verizon and T-Mobile Are In a Virtual Tie For the Best Network In the US (androidcentral.com) 105

Verizon has tied T-Mobile for the fastest carrier in the United States and both carriers are virtually tied for the "best" in overall LTE download speeds, according to Open Signal's State of Mobile Networks: USA report. Android Central reports: Using data collected from 169,683 users, 4,599,231,167 data points were used to measure network speeds on both 4G and 3G, network availability and latency. The data is collected by users installing the Open Signal app from Google Play or the App Store and going about their daily routine. In their analysis of the collected data, they say that Verizon has improved their 4G network speeds to pull even with T-Mobile who has traditionally done well in this category. They also mention that the average overall network speeds in the U.S. have risen slightly, and over 81% of U.S. residents have access to LTE networks. Availability of high-speed data services shows that all four carriers have improved, but T-Mobile (86.6%) is now within two percentage points of Verizon (88.2%) when it comes to finding an LTE signal. The company with the most improvement here is Sprint, who jumped from covering 69.9% in August to 76.8% in February 2017.

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