47 Democrats cave on net neutrality after GOP calls bill “dead on arrival”


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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Rep. Josh Gottheimer seated in front of a microphone at a Congressional committee meeting.

Enlarge / Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., participates in the House Financial Services Committee meeting on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. (credit: Getty Images | Bill Clark)

Forty-seven Democratic members of Congress are calling for a net neutrality compromise with Republicans, who have refused to support a full restoration of the net neutrality rules repealed by the Ajit Pai-led Federal Communications Commission.

The Democratic-majority US House of Representatives voted in April to pass the Save the Internet Act, which would restore the Obama-era FCC’s net neutrality rules. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared the bill “dead on arrival” in the Republican-majority Senate.

Republican lawmakers say they’ll only accept a net neutrality law that isn’t as strict—even though large majorities of both Democratic and Republican voters support the FCC’s old net neutrality rules. On Wednesday, dozens of Democrats asked their party leadership to compromise with the GOP leadership.

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Comcast does so much lobbying that it says disclosing it all is too hard


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A Comcast sign at the Comcast offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Enlarge / A Comcast sign at the Comcast offices in Philadelphia, Penn. (credit: Getty Images | Cindy Ord )

Comcast may be harming its reputation by failing to reveal all of its lobbying activities, including its involvement in trade associations and lobbying at the state level, a group of shareholders says in a proposal that asks for more lobbying disclosures.

Comcast’s disclosures for its lobbying of state governments “are often cursory or non-existent,” and Comcast’s failure to disclose its involvement in trade associations means that “investors have neither an accurate picture of the company’s total lobbying expenditures nor an understanding of its priorities, interests, or potential risks from memberships,” the proposal said. “Comcast’s lack of transparency around its lobbying poses risks to its already troubled reputation, which is concerning in a highly regulated industry, especially given the rise of public Internet alternatives.”

The proposal is on the ballot for

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Amazon made video games for its workers to reduce tedium of warehouse jobs


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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Workers and packages inside an Amazon warehouse.

Enlarge / Workers and packages inside an Amazon warehouse. (credit: Getty Images | Macduff Everton)

Amazon has created video games that its warehouse workers can “play” while they fill customer orders in an effort to speed up fulfillment and relieve the tedium of packing products into boxes.

The Washington Post described the warehouse games in a report yesterday:

Developed by Amazon, the games are displayed on small screens at employees’ workstations. As robots wheel giant shelves up to each workstation, lights or screens indicate which item the worker needs to pluck to put into a bin. The games simultaneously register the completion of the task, which is tracked by scanning devices, and can pit individuals, teams or entire floors against one another to be fastest, simply by picking or stowing real Lego sets, cellphone cases or dish soap. Game-playing employees are rewarded with points, virtual badges and other goodies

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T-Mobile/Sprint merger faces big trouble at DOJ despite FCC approval


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T-Mobile CEO John Legere and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure speak during an interview.

Enlarge / T-Mobile CEO John Legere (left) and then-Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure during an interview on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on April 30, 2018. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

The Department of Justice’s antitrust staff has recommended blocking T-Mobile’s attempted purchase of Sprint, Reuters reported today, citing an anonymous source.

DOJ staff “fear that after the deal T-Mobile will no longer aggressively seek to cut prices and improve service to woo customers away from market leaders Verizon and AT&T,” Reuters wrote. A final decision is expected to come in about a month.

To block the merger, the DOJ would have to sue in federal court and convince a judge that the merger violates antitrust law. DOJ staff recommendations can influence agency decisions on whether to file antitrust lawsuits, but they aren’t automatically followed. The DOJ’s decision will be made by antitrust chief Makan Delrahim,

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Cable TV customer satisfaction falls even further behind streaming video


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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A person's hand holding a TV remote control with a button for Netflix.

Netflix and other online video services have expanded their customer-satisfaction lead over cable and satellite TV, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) found in its annual telecommunications report released today.

Streaming-video services averaged a score of 76 on the ACSI’s 100-point scale, up from 75 last year. Meanwhile, the traditional subscription-TV industry’s score remained unchanged at 62.

“For the past six years, customer satisfaction with subscription TV has languished in the mid-to-low 60s, not recovering enough to effectively compete with streaming services,” the ACSI report said. “In 2018, subscription sales declined 3 percent to $103.4 billion. Customer service remains poor, and cord cutting is accelerating. As video-streaming services gain traction, a growing number of households may never subscribe to pay TV in the first place.”

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AT&T outclassed Verizon in hurricane response, and it wasn’t close, union says


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A Florida man sets up a sign that says,

Enlarge / PANAMA CITY, Fla. – OCTOBER 19: Mark Mauldin hangs a sign near the front of his property expressing his dissatisfaction with his Verizon cell phone service following Hurricane Michael, which slammed into the Florida Panhandle on October 10. (credit: Getty Images | Scott Olson )

After Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc on Florida last year, AT&T restored wireless service more quickly than Verizon because it relied on well-trained employees while Verizon instead used contractors that “did not have the proper credentials,” according to a union that represents workers from both telecoms.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) made the allegations yesterday in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission, which recently found that carriers’ mistakes prolonged outages caused by the hurricane. Many customers had to go without cellular service for more than a week.

It’s not surprising for a union to argue that union workers are preferable to

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Ajit Pai oks T-Mobile/Sprint merger, “requires” 5G rollout that’ll happen anyway


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai drinking from a giant coffee mug in front of an FCC seal.

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai with his oversized coffee mug in November 2017. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

T-Mobile and Sprint are one big step closer to getting the US government’s approval to merge, as Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai today announced his support for the deal combining two of the four largest US mobile carriers.

Pai’s announcement virtually guarantees that the FCC will approve the deal; FCC approval would be finalized after the Republican-controlled commission votes. But T-Mobile and Sprint still need to convince the Department of Justice, which hasn’t yet said whether it will sue to block the merger on antitrust grounds.

Pai’s statement on the merger said he’s approving it in large part because T-Mobile and Sprint “committed to deploying a 5G network that would cover 97 percent of our nation’s population within three years of the closing of the merger and 99 percent

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Man who threatened to kill Ajit Pai’s children gets 20 months in prison


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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Closeup shot of handcuffs hanging from a metal bar in a prison.

A man who threatened to kill the family of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai was today sentenced to 20 months in prison.

Markara Man, a 33-year-old from California, pleaded guilty on August 31, 2018 after making threats to Pai because he disagreed with the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality rules. In one email to Pai, Man wrote, “I will find your children and kill them.”

“Threatening to actually kill a federal official’s family because of a disagreement over policy is not only inexcusable, it is criminal,” US Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia said in a Justice Department announcement of the sentencing today. The case was heard at the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

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AT&T denies that selling phone location data was illegal as FCC investigates


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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A smartphone mounted on a car dashboard and displaying a GPS map.

AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have all told the Federal Communications Commission that they recently stopped selling their customers’ phone location information to other companies. Sprint said it is phasing out the sales and will shut them down by the end of this month.

The details came in letters to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who had demanded an update on the carriers’ sale of customers’ real-time geolocation data. Rosenworcel released the carriers’ responses yesterday.

Rosenworcel, a Democrat, criticized the Republican-controlled FCC for not taking action against the carriers over the privacy invasions.

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Trump tries to shut Huawei out of US market with executive order


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Customers purchase mobile phones at a Huawei store in China.

Enlarge / Customers purchase mobile phones at the Huawei Experience Center on May 16, 2019 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China. (credit: Getty Images | VCG/Long Wei)

The Trump administration yesterday took two actions that could effectively prevent Huawei from buying US technology and prevent it from selling products to US companies.

An executive order issued by President Trump and a separate action taken by the US Commerce Department could “cut the Chinese telecommunications giant off from American suppliers and ban it from doing business in the US,” The Wall Street Journal wrote.

The order doesn’t mention Huawei or China by name, but it was widely seen as targeting Huawei and other Chinese companies such as ZTE. Huawei is the second-biggest smartphone vendor in the world, according to IDC, and it sells a large amount of network equipment to telecom providers and other companies.

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Ajit Pai’s robocall plan lets carriers charge for new call-blocking tools


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Ajit Pai’s robocall plan lets carriers charge for new call-blocking tools

Enlarge (credit: ullstein bild | Getty Images)

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is calling on carriers to block robocalls by default without waiting for consumers to opt in to call-blocking services. But he hasn’t proposed making this a requirement and is leaving it up to carriers to decide whether to charge for such services.

To encourage carriers, Pai is proposing rule changes making it clear that carriers are allowed to block calls by default. Call blocking by default isn’t explicitly outlawed by the FCC, but Pai’s announcement today said that “many voice providers have held off developing and deploying call-blocking tools by default because of uncertainty about whether these tools are legal under the FCC’s rules.”

In a call with reporters this morning, Pai said the uncertainty stems from a 2015 FCC order in which “the FCC suggested that its rules and regulations would not prohibit call-blocking services

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5G likely to mess with weather forecasts, but FCC auctions spectrum anyway


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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A weather satellite orbiting the Earth.

Enlarge / A weather satellite in orbit. (credit: Getty Images | Erik Simonsen)

A US Navy memo warns that 5G mobile networks are likely to interfere with weather satellites, and senators are urging the Federal Communications Commission to avoid issuing new spectrum licenses to wireless carriers until changes are made to prevent harms to weather forecasting.

The FCC has already begun an auction of 24GHz spectrum that would be used in 5G networks. But Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) today wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, asking him to avoid issuing licenses to winning bidders “until the FCC approves the passive band protection limits that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) determine are necessary to protect critical satellite‐based measurements of atmospheric water vapor needed to forecast the weather.”

Wyden and Cantwell said that