Archive for the ‘FCC’ Category

FCC has to pay journalist $43,000 after hiding net neutrality records

March 22nd, 2019
Shredded documents with a magnifying glass and the words,

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Nicholas Rigg)

The Federal Communications Commission has settled a case over its refusal to comply with a public records request, agreeing to pay $43,000 to a journalist who sued the commission.

Freelance writer Jason Prechtel filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FCC in mid-2017, asking for data that would identify who made bulk comment uploads in the proceeding that led to the repeal of net neutrality rules. Prechtel was trying to research comments that were falsely attributed to people without their knowledge.

The FCC didn't comply with the request and allegedly didn't even approve or deny the FOIA request within the legally allotted timeframe, so Prechtel sued the commission in September 2017. One year later, a US District Court judge presiding over the case ordered the FCC to stop withholding certain records sought by Prechtel, although the ruling didn't give Prechtel everything he asked for.

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Posted in ajit pai, FCC, FOIA, Net Neutrality, Policy | Comments (0)

Ajit Pai’s plan for phone location data never mentions the word “privacy”

March 14th, 2019
A person's hand holding a smartphone that is displaying a map.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | skaman306)

Smartphone 911 location data is getting more precise, but the Federal Communications Commission isn't updating its privacy rules despite carriers' history of selling their customers' location data.

AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint were recently found to be selling detailed location data to third parties, despite rules banning such sales, and requiring that data to be used only for 911 purposes. The data ended up in the hands of bounty hunters, bail bondsmen, bail agents, and others, Motherboard reported in one of a series of articles detailing such privacy violations.

On Friday this week, the FCC is scheduled to vote on a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) requiring collection of more precise location data. The data, referred to as "Z-axis" data, would identify a person's floor in a multi-story building when someone calls 911. Carriers could gather this data by using the barometric pressure sensors in a customer's phone to determine a person's distance above the ground to within three meters.

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John Oliver fights robocalls… by robocalling Ajit Pai and the FCC

March 11th, 2019
Screenshot from John Oliver's show on robocalls, with Oliver gesturing toward a picture of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Enlarge / John Oliver talking about FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. (credit: HBO)

Comedian John Oliver is taking aim at the Federal Communications Commission again, this time demanding action on robocalls while unleashing his own wave of robocalls against FCC commissioners.

In a 17-minute segment yesterday on HBO's Last Week Tonight, Oliver described the scourge of robocalls and blamed Pai for not doing more to stop them. Oliver ended the segment by announcing that he and his staff are sending robocalls every 90 minutes to all five FCC commissioners.

"Hi FCC, this is John from customer service," Oliver's recorded voice says on the call. "Congratulations, you've just won a chance to lower robocalls in America today... robocalls are incredibly annoying, and the person who can stop them is you! Talk to you again in 90 minutes—here's some bagpipe music."

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Posted in ajit pai, Biz & IT, FCC, john oliver, Policy, robocalls | Comments (0)

Ajit Pai’s rosy broadband deployment claim may be based on gigantic error

March 7th, 2019
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)

Ajit Pai's latest claim that his deregulatory policies have increased broadband deployment may be based in part on a gigantic error.

Pai's claim was questionable from the beginning, as we detailed last month. The Federal Communications Commission data cited by Chairman Pai merely showed that deployment continued at about the same rate seen during the Obama administration. Despite that, Pai claimed that new broadband deployed in 2017 was made possible by the FCC "removing barriers to infrastructure investment."

But even the modest gains cited by Pai rely partly on the implausible claims of one ISP that apparently submitted false broadband coverage data to the FCC, advocacy group Free Press told the FCC in a filing this week.

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Ajit Pai says broadband access is soaring—and that he’s the one to thank

February 20th, 2019
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai seen from the side as he listens during a Senate committee hearing.

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai listens during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, DC, on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Ajit Pai says the Federal Communications Commission's annual broadband assessment will show that his deregulatory policies have substantially improved access in the United States. The annual report will also conclude that broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely basis.

The FCC hasn't released the full Broadband Deployment Report yet and won't do so until the commission votes on whether to approve the draft version sometime in the next few weeks. For now, the FCC has only issued a one-page press release with a few data points and some quotes from Chairman Pai in which he claims that his policy changes caused the improvements.

But Pai offered no proof of any connection between his policy decisions and the increased deployment. Moreover, broadband deployment improved at similar rates during the Obama administration, despite Pai's claims that the FCC's net neutrality rules harmed deployment during that period.

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Selling 911 location data is illegal—US carriers reportedly did it anyway

February 13th, 2019
A person's hand holding a smartphone that is displaying a map.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | skaman306)

Three of the four major wireless carriers have been accused of breaking US law by selling 911 location data to third parties.

"Telecom giants broke the law by selling detailed location data" that was "meant for use only by emergency services," consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge said last week in a blog post that urged the Federal Communications Commission to punish the carriers.

Public Knowledge's statement came in response to a Motherboard article last week that provided new details about how carriers collect location data from customers and sell it to third parties.

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Posted in 911 location data, AT&T, FCC, Policy, Sprint, t-mobile | Comments (0)

SpaceX seeks FCC OK for 1 million satellite broadband Earth stations

February 11th, 2019
An illustration of the Earth, with lines circling the globe to represent a telecommunications network.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Olena_T)

SpaceX is seeking US approval to deploy up to 1 million Earth stations to receive transmissions from its planned satellite broadband constellation.

The Federal Communications Commission last year gave SpaceX permission to deploy 11,943 low-Earth orbit satellites for the planned Starlink system. A new application from SpaceX Services, a sister company, asks the FCC for "a blanket license authorizing operation of up to 1,000,000 Earth stations that end-user customers will utilize to communicate with SpaceX's NGSO [non-geostationary orbit] constellation."

The application was published by FCC.report, a third-party site that tracks FCC filings. GeekWire reported the news on Friday. An FCC spokesperson confirmed to Ars today that SpaceX filed the application on February 1, 2019.

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Posted in Biz & IT, FCC, satellite broadband, spacex, starlink | Comments (0)

House Democrats tell Ajit Pai: Stop screwing over the public

February 5th, 2019
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking during a Senate hearing.

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaks during an FCC oversight hearing held by the Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday, August 16, 2018. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Democratic lawmakers have put Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on notice that he can expect a lot more scrutiny now that Democrats control the US House of Representatives.

The House Commerce Committee is "reassuming its traditional role of oversight to ensure the agency is acting in the best interest of the public and consistent with its legislative authority," Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-Penn.) said in an announcement yesterday.

Pallone, Jr. and Doyle wrote a letter to Pai, saying that he has made the FCC too secretive and has repeatedly advanced the interests of corporations over consumers.

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Ajit Pai loses in court—judges overturn gutting of Tribal broadband program

February 4th, 2019
A US map with lines representing broadband networks.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | jangeltun)

A federal appeals court has overturned Ajit Pai's attempt to take broadband subsidies away from Tribal residents.

The Pai-led Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 in November 2017 to make it much harder for Tribal residents to obtain a $25-per-month Lifeline subsidy that reduces the cost of Internet or phone service.

The change didn't take effect because in August 2018, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stayed the FCC decision pending appeal. The same court followed that up on Friday last week with a ruling that reversed the FCC decision and remanded the matter back to the commission for a new rule-making proceeding.

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FCC struggles to convince judge that broadband isn’t “telecommunications”

February 1st, 2019
A protestor holds a sign with a picture of a bullhorn and the words,

Enlarge / A protester holds a sign outside FCC headquarters on Dec. 14, 2017 before the vote to repeal net neutrality rules. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

A Federal Communications Commission lawyer faced a skeptical panel of judges today as the FCC defended its repeal of net neutrality rules and deregulation of the broadband industry.

FCC General Counsel Thomas Johnson struggled to explain why broadband shouldn't be considered a telecommunications service, and struggled to explain the FCC's failure to protect public safety agencies from Internet providers blocking or slowing down content.

Oral arguments were held today in the case, which is being decided by a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. (Audio of the four-hour-plus oral arguments is available here.) Throttling of firefighters' data plans played a major role in today's oral arguments.

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Posted in FCC, Net Neutrality, Policy | Comments (0)