Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category

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

July 16th, 2019
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 $18.5 million to serve 7,767 homes and businesses in New York, is the biggest home Internet provider on the list.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in Connect America Fund, FCC, Policy, rural broadband | Comments (0)

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

July 12th, 2019
A Charter Spectrum service van for installing and maintaining cable service.

Enlarge / A Charter Spectrum vehicle in West Lake Hills, Texas. (credit: Tony Webster)

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.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in Biz & IT, Policy | Comments (0)

Donald Trump blasts Facebook’s Libra, demands strict regulation

July 12th, 2019
Donald Trump speaks at the White House on July 11, 2019.

Enlarge / Donald Trump speaks at the White House on July 11, 2019. (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is not a fan of Libra, Facebook's proposed cryptocurrency, the president made clear in a series of tweets on Thursday evening.

"Facebook Libra’s 'virtual currency' will have little standing or dependability.," Trump tweeted. "If Facebook and other companies want to become a bank, they must seek a new Banking Charter and become subject to all Banking Regulations, just like other Banks."

Trump is the latest—and most high-profile—public official to raise doubts Facebook's cryptocurrency plans. On Wednesday, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell warned that "Libra raises many serious concerns regarding privacy, money laundering, consumer protection and financial stability."

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in cryptocurrency, Donald Trump, Facebook, Libra, Policy | Comments (0)

Facebook denies allegations that you make friends on Facebook

July 11th, 2019
The Facebook login screen on a Web browser.

Enlarge / The company does admit that it operates a website. (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

Facebook is vigorously defending itself against a lawsuit brought by the attorney general of the District of Columbia—so vigorously, in fact, that it's basically claiming not to be a social network at all.

DC attorney general Karl Racine filed a lawsuit against the company in December, saying its actions related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal were in violation of DC consumer protection law. Facebook spent the last six months trying to have the lawsuit dismissed, but a federal judge in June rejected those requests and said the case should move forward.

Facebook therefore submitted its response to the complaint (PDF) this week, in which it denies "each and every allegation" in the lawsuit.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, lawsuits, Policy, silly | Comments (0)

US puts rush order on long-range air-to-air missile

July 11th, 2019

The US is developing a new very-long-range air-to-air missile to counter Chinese and Russian weapons (transcript here). (video link)

It has been more than a decade since the US retired its last officially designated long-range air-to-air missile, the AIM-54 Phoenix—a Cold War-era weapon that could be used to take on multiple targets from more than 100 nautical miles (190km) at hypersonic speeds (above Mach 5). But the Phoenix was built for the F-14 Tomcat, and the longest-ranged weapon in the quiver of US Navy and Air Force fighter pilots since 2004 has been the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM)—also known as the "Slammer"—with a somewhat shorter reach (160km, or 86 nautical miles).

Air superiority doctrine for the past two decades has focused on taking the enemy's aircraft out of the fight before they take off (with cruise missiles and stealth aircraft attacks on airfields) and technological superiority over whatever can get off the ground. The F-22 and F-35 both have emphasized stealth (or at least low observability) over weapon capacity and reach to ensure they can shoot down enemies before they're even seen. But that's not an equation that is balancing very well anymore as the US faces increased great-power competition from China and Russia. That is why the Department of Defense is rushing forward with development of a new long-range missile, the AIM-260—also known as the Joint Advanced Tactical Missile.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in AIM-120, AIM-260, Biz & IT, Department of Defense, Lockheed Martin, Policy, US Air Force, US Navy, VLRAAM | Comments (0)

There’s a big problem with Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency

July 11th, 2019
There’s a big problem with Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency

Enlarge (credit: Getty / Aurich Lawson)

Mark Zuckerberg is known for his boundless ambition. He's had a longstanding fascination with Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor who (in Zuckerberg's words) "established 200 years of world peace." So having conquered social networking, Zuckerberg has his eyes on something bigger: reshaping the global financial system.

Payment services from rivals like Apple and Google essentially offer an improved user interface for conventional credit card networks. Facebook, in contrast, is aiming to use blockchain-like technology to build a new payment network from scratch, complete with its own currency.

Facebook has assembled an impressive roster of launch partners for its Libra project. Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal are backing the effort. So are Uber and Lyft, as well as several venture capital firms and non-profit organizations.

Read 51 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in bitcoin, Blockchain, cryptocurrency, Facebook, Features, Libra, Policy | Comments (0)

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

July 10th, 2019
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 itself told the FCC that its law doesn't apply to in-use wiring, and the law's text never uses the phrase "in-use." Instead, it applies to "any existing wiring," which the FCC says could be interpreted to include wiring that's actively being used by another ISP.

Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in ajit pai, Biz & IT, broadband competition, FCC, Policy, San Francisco | Comments (0)

Prenda Law porn-troll saga ends with prison for founder

July 10th, 2019
John L. Steele, photographed in Chicago in 2010.

Enlarge / John L. Steele, photographed in Chicago in 2010. (credit: Nancy Stone | Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)

Former attorney John Steele was sentenced this week to five years in prison for his role in the Prenda Law porn-trolling scheme, putting an end to a years-long legal drama wild and stupid enough to be prime-time TV.

Steele pleaded guilty in 2017 to federal charges of fraud and money laundering and then cooperated with authorities in the investigation into his former legal partner Paul Hansmeier. That cooperation weighed heavily in Steele's favor at his sentencing, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

US District Judge Joan Ericksen said federal guidelines recommended a sentence of 10 to 12-1/2 years for Steele's "vile scheme" but agreed that given Steele's extreme willingness to cooperate, his defense attorney's recommendation of five years was "eminently fair."

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in crime, Policy, Prenda Law | Comments (0)

Computer from NASA’s Apollo program reprogrammed to mine bitcoin

July 9th, 2019
DSKY unit of the Apollo Guidance Computer in the National Air and Space Museum. Shirriff used a different unit that belongs to a private collector.

Enlarge / DSKY unit of the Apollo Guidance Computer in the National Air and Space Museum. Shirriff used a different unit that belongs to a private collector. (credit: Tamorlan)

Among the many technological breakthroughs of NASA's Apollo project to land a man on the Moon was the Apollo Guidance Computer that flew onboard Apollo spacecraft. In an era when most computers were refrigerator-sized—if not room-sized—the AGC weighed only about 70 pounds. It was one of the first computers to use integrated circuits.

A team of computer historians got its hands on one of the original AGCs and got it working. A member of the team, Ken Shirriff, then decided to see if the computer could be used for bitcoin mining.

Mining is a key part of the process for maintaining bitcoin's shared transaction ledger, or blockchain. To win the right to add a block to the blockchain, you have to solve a difficult problem: finding a block whose SHA-256 hash starts with a minimum number of zeros. The only known way to accomplish this is by brute force: miners create a block with a random nonce and compute its hash value. If the hash value doesn't have enough leading zeros, the miner changes the nonce and tries again.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in Apollo program, bitcoin, cryptocurrency, Policy, science, space | Comments (0)

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

July 9th, 2019
A Star Wars Death Star battle station with AT&T's logo and the names of Time Warner properties.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

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.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in AT&T, Biz & IT, hbo max, Policy, time warner | Comments (0)