Verizon wants you to pay $650 plus $85 a month for a 5G hotspot


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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A giant Verizon 5G logo in an expo hall.

Enlarge / A Verizon booth at Mobile World Congress Americas in Los Angeles in September 2018. (credit: Verizon)

Verizon’s 5G mobile service is available in just a handful of cities, but the carrier is charging premium prices to the few people who live in range of the network.

Verizon yesterday announced its first 5G hotspot, namely the Inseego MiFi M1000 that Verizon is selling for $650. On top of the device cost, the monthly fees for 5G service will be higher than 4G even though Verizon’s 5G network barely exists.

Verizon said hotspot-only plans “start at $85 a month (plus taxes and fees).” Verizon describes the $85-per-month hotspot plan as “unlimited” when you go through the online checkout process. But the fine print states that customers get 50GB of high-speed 5G data, and 5G speeds are reduced to 3Mbps after that. The plan treats 5G and 4G data

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Chrome 76 prevents NYT and other news sites from detecting Incognito Mode


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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A notice on the Boston Globe website that says,

Enlarge / The Boston Globe and some other news sites prevent non-subscribers from viewing articles in a browser’s private mode. (credit: Boston Globe)

Google Chrome 76 will close a loophole that websites use to detect when people use the browser’s Incognito Mode.

Over the past couple of years, you may have noticed some websites preventing you from reading articles while using a browser’s private mode. The Boston Globe began doing this in 2017, requiring people to log in to paid subscriber accounts in order to read in private mode. The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other newspapers impose identical restrictions.

Chrome 76—which is in beta now and is scheduled to hit the stable channel on July 30—prevents these websites from discovering that you’re in private mode. Google explained the change yesterday in a blog post titled, “Protecting private browsing in Chrome.”

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As Russian “FaceApp” gobbles up user photos, Schumer asks FBI to investigate


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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A listing for the FaceApp application on Apple's App Store, as shown on an iPhone.

Enlarge / The FaceApp application displayed on Apple’s App Store. (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called for a federal investigation into FaceApp, saying the Russian-operated mobile application “could pose national security and privacy risks for millions of US citizens.”

FaceApp for iOS and Android has been around since 2017 but just recently went viral as celebrities and many other people used it to alter photographs to make themselves look 20 years older. This has raised privacy concerns, as Americans are uploading photographs and device-related data to a service operated by a company based in Russia. The image alterations performed by FaceApp—which calls itself an “AI Face Editor”—are done on the company’s servers instead of on user devices.

The app now warns users that “Each photo you select for editing will be uploaded to our servers for image processing and

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OneWeb’s low-Earth satellites hit 400Mbps and 32ms latency in new test


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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Illustration of a OneWeb satellite in space.

OneWeb says a test of its low-Earth orbit satellites has delivered broadband speeds of more than 400Mbps with average latency of 32ms.

“The tests, which took place in Seoul, South Korea, represent the most significant demonstration of the OneWeb constellation to date, proving its ability to provide superior broadband connectivity anywhere on the planet,” OneWeb said in an announcement yesterday.

The company said it’s on track toward creating “a fully functioning global constellation in 2021 and delivering partial service beginning as early as 2020.” The test described yesterday involved six OneWeb satellites that were launched in February. OneWeb says its commercial network “will start with an initial 650 satellites and grow up to 1,980 satellites.”

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FCC gives ISPs another $563 million to build rural-broadband networks


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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A map of the United States with lines and dots to represent broadband networks.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Bonilla1879)

More than 220,000 unserved rural homes and businesses in 24 states will get broadband access because of funding authorized yesterday by the Federal Communications Commission, the agency said. In all, the FCC authorized more than $563 million for distribution to ISPs over the next decade. It’s the latest payout from the commission’s Connect America Fund, which was created in 2011.

Under program rules, ISPs that receive funding must build out to 40 percent of the required homes and businesses within three years and an additional 20 percent each year until completing the buildout at the end of the sixth year.

The money is being distributed primarily to smaller ISPs in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia. Verizon, which is getting $18.

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Ajit Pai’s new gift to cable companies would kill local fees and rules


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking at a press conference on October 1, 2018, in Washington DC. (credit: Getty Images | Mark Wilson )

Ajit Pai is continuing his multi-year battle against local broadband regulation with a plan that would stop cities and towns from using their authority over cable TV networks to regulate Internet access.

Chairman Pai’s proposal, scheduled for a vote at the Federal Communications Commission’s August 1 meeting, would also limit the fees that municipalities can charge cable companies. Cable industry lobbyists have urged the FCC to stop cities and towns from assessing fees on the revenue cable companies make from broadband.

If approved, Pai’s proposal would “Prohibit LFAs [local franchising authorities] from using their video franchising authority to regulate most non-cable services, including broadband Internet service, offered over cable systems by incumbent cable operators.” Pai’s proposal complains that “some states and localities

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Facebook’s FTC fine will be $5 billion—or one month’s worth of revenue


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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A Facebook logo and

The Federal Trade Commission and Facebook have reportedly agreed on a $5 billion fine that would settle the FTC’s privacy investigation into the social network.

With Facebook having reported $15 billion in revenue last quarter, the $5 billion fine would amount to one month’s worth of revenue.

The FTC voted 3-2 to approve the settlement this week, with three yes votes from Republican commissioners and two no votes from Democrats, The Wall Street Journal reported today, citing anonymous sources. Democrats on the commission were “pushing for tougher oversight,” the Journal wrote.

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Charter gets final approval to stay in NY despite breaking merger promise


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A Charter Spectrum service van for installing and maintaining cable service.

Charter Communications has received final approval to stay in New York State despite violating merger commitments related to its 2016 purchase of Time Warner Cable.

The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) had revoked its approval of the merger and ordered Charter to sell the former Time Warner Cable system in July 2018. Charter repeatedly failed to meet deadlines for broadband expansions that were required in exchange for merger approval, state officials said.

But Charter and state officials struck a deal in April, and yesterday the PSC approved the settlement.

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Google workers listen to your “OK Google” queries—one of them leaked recordings


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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Three different Google Home smart speakers sitting next to each other on a table.

Google today defended its practice of having workers listen to users’ Google Assistant queries, following the leak of 1,000 voice recordings to a media outlet. Google also said it will try to prevent future leaks of its users’ voice recordings.

VRT NWS, a news organization run by a public broadcaster in the Flemish region of Belgium, said it “was able to listen to more than a thousand [Google Assistant] recordings” that it received from a Google subcontractor.

Google Assistant is used on Google Home smart speakers, Android devices, and Chromebooks.

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AT&T’s robocall-blocking expansion won’t block spam calls unless you pay extra


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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Two Android phones running AT&T's Call Protect and Mobile Security apps.

AT&T yesterday said it will add “automatic fraud blocking and suspected spam-call alerts” to mobile phone lines for no added cost, but the carrier still imposes limits on blocking of spam calls unless customers pay extra.

“New AT&T Mobility consumer lines will come with the anti-robocall service. Millions of existing AT&T customers also will have it automatically added to their accounts over the coming months,” AT&T’s announcement said.

Despite the change, customers will still have to manually add undesired phone numbers to block lists or pay $4 a month to send all suspected spam calls to voicemail. That’s because this is little more than an expansion of AT&T’s Call Protect service, which has a basic free tier and a paid tier with automatic blocking of spam calls.

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“This is crazy”: FCC kills part of San Francisco’s broadband-competition law


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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Lombard Street in San Francisco, with laser beams photoshopped onto the street.

Enlarge / Lombard Street in San Francisco. (credit: Getty Images | Michael Lee)

The Federal Communications Commission today voted to preempt part of a San Francisco ordinance that promotes broadband competition in apartment buildings and other multi-tenant structures. But it’s not clear exactly what effect the preemption will have, because San Francisco says the FCC’s Republican majority has misinterpreted what the law does.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan partially overturns San Francisco’s Article 52, which lets Internet service providers use the existing wiring inside multi-unit buildings even if another ISP already serves the building. The FCC said it’s preempting the law “to the extent it requires the sharing of in-use wiring.” But Pai’s proposal admits the FCC doesn’t know whether the San Francisco law actually requires sharing of in-use wiring, which makes it difficult to understand whether the FCC preemption will change anything in practice.

San Francisco

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AT&T takes some Time Warner shows off Netflix, makes them exclusive to HBO Max


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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A Star Wars Death Star battle station with AT&T's logo and the names of Time Warner properties.

AT&T will start restricting some Time Warner shows to its own streaming service, despite previously telling the government that it would distribute Time Warner content as widely as possible.

WarnerMedia, the division AT&T created when it bought Time Warner, today announced a new online streaming service called “HBO Max.” HBO Max will debut in the spring of 2020 and include exclusives that will no longer be available on other streaming platforms.

HBO Max will have exclusive streaming rights to all episodes of Friends, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Pretty Little Liars. Friends and Pretty Little Liars are currently available on Netflix, so they’ll both leave that service by the time HBO Max launches.

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T-Mobile says it can’t be sued by users because of forced-arbitration clause


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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Signs outside a T-Mobile store in New York City describe the company as

Enlarge / A T-Mobile store in New York City. (credit: Getty Images | helen89)

T-Mobile US is trying to force customers into arbitration in order to avoid a class-action lawsuit that accuses the phone carrier of violating federal law by selling its customers’ real-time location data to third parties.

T-Mobile yesterday filed a motion to compel arbitration in US District Court in Maryland, saying that customers agreed to terms and conditions that require disputes to be handled in arbitration instead of courts. The two plaintiffs named in the lawsuit did not opt out of the arbitration agreement, T-Mobile wrote.

“As T-Mobile customers, each Plaintiff accepted T-Mobile’s Terms and Conditions (‘T&Cs’),” T-Mobile wrote in a memorandum of law. “In so doing, they agreed to arbitrate on an individual basis any dispute related to T-Mobile’s services and to waive their right to participate in a class action unless they timely opted out

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Amazon follows SpaceX into satellite broadband, asks FCC to OK launch plan


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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An illustration of the Earth, with lines circling the globe to represent a telecommunications network.

Amazon is seeking government permission to launch 3,236 broadband satellites that would cover nearly all of the United States and much of the rest of the world.

Amazon subsidiary Kuiper Systems filed its application with the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday last week, saying it intends to cover all of the US except most of Alaska.

“The Kuiper System covers the area between 56°N and 56°S latitudes,” the Amazon subsidiary told the FCC. “Accordingly, customers throughout [the] continental US, Hawaii, and all US territories will have access to Kuiper System services. So too will customers in many other countries within the coverage area. The Kuiper System will not provide FSS [fixed-satellite service] in the majority of Alaska, however, because the state’s high latitude is outside of the coverage area.”

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T-Mobile enemy Dish could help save the T-Mobile/Sprint merger


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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A technician in a hard hat stands next to a Dish Network service vehicle.

Enlarge / A field service specialist for Dish Network prepares to install a satellite TV system at a residence in Denver, Colorado, on Aug. 6, 2013. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

T-Mobile US and Sprint are reportedly near a deal to sell spectrum, wholesale network access, and Sprint’s Boost Mobile subsidiary to Dish as part of an attempt to gain government approval of their merger. But US antitrust officials reportedly want bigger concessions before they’ll approve the T-Mobile/Sprint combination.

T-Mobile’s purchase of Sprint would leave the US with three instead of the current four major wireless carriers. The Department of Justice, which could sue to block the deal, has apparently pushed T-Mobile to make divestitures that would set up a fourth major carrier to replace Sprint. That has left T-Mobile negotiating with Dish, which opposed the T-Mobile/Sprint merger. The companies’ feud is a two-way street, with T-Mobile repeatedly criticizing Dish

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Frontier customer bought his own router—but has to pay $10 rental fee anyway


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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A wireless router with an Ethernet cable hooked into it.

Buying your own router instead of renting one from an ISP is one of the few reliable ways to save money on a broadband bill.

But what if you buy and use your own router and the broadband provider still charges you a $10-per-month rental fee? That’s the bitter reality for Frontier Communications customers such as Rich Son of Texas.

Son has been a Frontier customer since April 2016 when Frontier purchased Verizon’s wireline networks in Texas, California, and Florida. Prior to that, he was a Verizon FiOS customer and purchased Verizon’s FiOS Quantum Gateway router for $200 in order to avoid monthly rental fees.

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Google Stadia exec isn’t worried about data caps—but he probably should be


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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A Google Stadia controller and a Google Chromecast Ultra.

The Google executive in charge of the company’s new Stadia game-streaming service says he thinks data caps won’t be a problem—but his prediction largely depends on the generosity of ISPs.

In an interview Friday with GameSpot, Google VP Phil Harrison said his confidence stems from US broadband providers’ history of treating their customers well.

As he told GameSpot:

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Apple moves Mac Pro production from Texas to China


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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A Mac Pro with its cover off, showing the internal components.

Enlarge / An inside view of the new Mac Pro. (credit: Apple)

Apple is manufacturing the new Mac Pro in China, marking a change from the previous Mac Pro that was made in the US.

Apple made the previous Mac Pro in Austin, Texas beginning in 2013. But with the new Mac Pro unveiled this month being made in China, Apple is “shifting abroad production of what had been its only major device assembled in the US as trade tensions escalate between the Trump administration and Beijing,” The Wall Street Journal reported today.

“The tech giant has tapped contractor Quanta Computer Inc. to manufacture the $6,000 desktop computer and is ramping up production at a factory near Shanghai,” according to the Journal’s sources. “Quanta’s facility is close to other Apple suppliers across Asia, making it possible for Apple to achieve lower shipping costs than if it shipped components to the

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House votes to block Ajit Pai’s plan to kill San Francisco broadband law


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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Illustration of red, blue, yellow, and black lines on a grid, representing broadband speeds.

Enlarge (credit: Steve Johnson / Flickr)

The US House of Representatives has voted to block Ajit Pai’s attempt to kill a San Francisco ordinance designed to promote broadband competition in apartment buildings.

As we reported last week, the Federal Communications Commission chair has scheduled a July 10 vote on a measure that would preempt the San Francisco city ordinance, which lets Internet service providers use the existing wiring inside multiunit residential and commercial properties even if the wiring is already used by another ISP that serves the building. The ordinance applies only when the inside wiring belongs to the property owner, but it makes it easier for ISPs to compete in many multiunit buildings already served by another provider.

Pai claimed that the city’s rule “deters broadband deployment” and infringes on the FCC’s regulation of cable wiring. But US Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) proposed a budget amendment

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FCC lets Verizon lock cell phones to network for 60 days after activation


This post is by Jon Brodkin from Ars Technica


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A combination lock sitting on top of a smartphone.

Verizon yesterday received the government’s permission to lock handsets to its network for 60 days after each device’s activation, despite open-access rules that apply to one of Verizon’s key spectrum licenses.

The Federal Communications Commission waiver approval said 60-day locks will “allow Verizon to better combat identity theft and other forms of handset-related fraud.”

Verizon generally sells its phones unlocked, meaning they can be used on any carrier’s network as long as the device and network are compatible with each other. This is largely because of rules the FCC applied to 700MHz spectrum that Verizon bought at auction in 2008. The 700MHz spectrum rules say that a license holder may not “disable features on handsets it provides to customers… nor configure handsets it provides to prohibit use of such handsets on other providers’ networks.”

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