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T-Mobile lied to the FCC about its 4G coverage, small carriers say

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T-Mobile lied to the Federal Communications Commission about the extent of its 4G LTE coverage, according to a trade group that represents rural wireless providers.

T-Mobile claimed—under penalty of perjury—to have coverage in areas where it hadn't yet installed 4G equipment, the Rural Wireless Association (RWA) said in an FCC filing Monday. The same group previously reported to the FCC that Verizon lied about its 4G coverage, leading to the FCC starting an investigation and announcing that at least one carrier exaggerated its 4G coverage.

Inaccurate coverage maps could make it difficult for rural carriers to get money from the Mobility Fund, a government fund intended to build networks in unserved areas. The FCC last year required Verizon and other carriers to file maps and data indicating their current 4G LTE coverage with speeds of at least 5Mbps. Carriers must provide "a certification, under penalty of perjury, by a qualified engineer that the propagation maps and model details reflect the filer's coverage as of the generation date of the map in accordance with all other parameters," the FCC order said.

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Manzabar
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Big Telecom Wants To Tax Netflix To Pay For Broadband Upgrades ISPs Refuse To Deploy Themselves

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Last year, FCC boss Ajit Pai repeatedly hyped the creation of a new "Broadband Deployment Advisory Council" (BDAC) purportedly tasked with coming up with creative solutions to the nation's broadband problem(s). Unfortunately, reports just as quickly began to circulate that this panel was little more than a who's who of entrenched telecom operators with a vested interest in protecting the status quo. The panel has yet to really offer up a meaningful proposal, but it has been rocked by several resignations due to cronyism, and at least one member who was arrested for fraud.

As the FCC looks to expand the council's charter for another few years, the panel itself has been pushing a plan that pretty clearly highlights the cronyism intentionally inherent in its design. More specifically, the panel has been pushing the FCC to adopt a new system that urges states to tax Netflix and Google to fund rural broadband deployment:

"A Federal Communications Commission advisory committee has proposed a new tax on Netflix, Google, Facebook, and many other businesses that require Internet access to operate. If adopted by states, the recommended tax would apply to subscription-based retail services that require Internet access, such as Netflix, and to advertising-supported services that use the Internet, such as Google and Facebook. The tax would also apply to any small- or medium-sized business that charges subscription fees for online services or uses online advertising."

To be clear, this is extremely unlikely to come to pass, even in the most myopic of states. Still, if you're playing along at home, this is just an extension of a multi-decade effort by ISPs to force somebody else to pay for network upgrades they refuse to fund, despite having received countless billions to accomplish this goal. In fact this push to have content companies pay for ISP network upgrades is really what began the net neutrality fight back in 2003 or so, when former AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre proclaimed that Google should pay him an additional troll toll just to access his network. You know, just because.

This mantra was long rooted in telecom envy of Silicon Valley online ad revenues, and a belief by telecom executives that they're somehow "owed" a cut of those revenues. Over time it evolved into endless claims by telecom sector allies, think tankers, and other cronies that companies like Google and Netflix were somehow getting a "free ride" on incumbent ISP networks, despite having invested billions into their own global transit and network operations. Over time it became a global telecom executive mantra of sorts, even if it never made coherent sense.

People forget, but it's this telecom industry attempt to "double dip" that truly launched the modern net neutrality debate just about fifteen years ago. That point has gotten lost as ISP efforts to extract unearned rents have gotten more elaborate over the years, but at its heart the fight has always been about monopoly ISPs trying to offload network construction and operation costs off to somebody else, while already earning fat revenues thanks to limited competition.

Of course AT&T, who generally drives most dubious DC telecom policy moves and would reap the lion's share of said tax, had originally tried to insist that the panel's recommendations (and the proposed tax) should apply to pretty much all traffic that touches the internet:

"An AT&T executive who is on the FCC advisory committee argued that the recommended tax should apply even more broadly, to any business that benefits financially from broadband access in any way. The committee ultimately adopted a slightly more narrow recommendation that would apply the tax to subscription services and advertising-supported services only."

The real problem here (or one of many) is that companies like AT&T and Verizon were already given billions upon billions in taxpayer dollars to fund these upgrades years ago. American history is filled with examples of these companies getting massive tax cuts or subsidies to deploy fiber, then using their lobbying prowess to wiggle out from under the obligations after the fact. Had the government ever conducted any real audit, you'd likely find American taxpayers have paid to upgrade the country with fiber several times over, yet still somehow often only have access to pricey, sluggish DSL.

That, nearly two decades later, AT&T's still running a lame variation of the same ploy is equal parts frightening and sad, but seems to be par for the course for a country that refuses to learn from history, and an FCC that has made it abundantly clear it's a glorified rubber stamp for lumbering natural monopolies and their very worst instincts.



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FCC Does Wireless Carriers Another Favor By Reclassifying Text Messages

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The FCC this week voted yes on a new proposal the agency says will help combat the scourge of robocalls, but critics and consumer groups say opens the door to wireless carriers being able to censor text message campaigns they don't like, or SMS services that may compete with their own offerings.

In a 3-1 party line vote, the FCC approved (pdf) redefining text messages as an "information service," therefore freeing such services from FCC oversight. In its announcement, the agency was quick to insist that this was done specifically to help carriers better fight robocalls and robotexts without worrying about running afoul of government rules:

"In today’s ruling, the FCC denies requests from mass-texting companies and other parties to classify text messaging services as “telecommunications services” subject to common carrier regulation under the Communications Act—a classification that would limit wireless providers’ efforts to combat spam and scam robotexts effectively. Instead, the FCC finds that two forms of wireless messaging services, SMS and Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), are "information services" under the Communications Act. With this decision, the FCC empowers wireless providers to continue taking action to protect American consumers from unwanted text messages.

Critics, however, charge that this was another example of the FCC's motives not being made entirely clear to the public at large.

As we've noted previously, this particular debate over text message classification began some time back, after Verizon decided to ban a pro-choice group named NARAL Pro-Choice America from sending text messages to Verizon Wireless customers that had opted in to receiving them. Ever since then, consumer groups, worried that cellular carriers would use their power as gatekeepers to stifle certain voices, have been urging the FCC to declare text messages a “telecommunications service," making it illegal for carriers to ban such select SMS services.

This being the Ajit Pai FCC, the agency went the complete opposite direction in a move that largely benefits wireless carriers. The fight somewhat mirrors the net neutrality battle involving whether to classify ISPs themselves as "information services" under the telecom act (freeing them from significant oversight), or "telecommunications services"--keeping them locked into oversight by the FCC. Consumer groups like Public Knowledge were quick to issue statements pointing out this had everything to do with ensuring telecom giants are less accountable, and little to nothing to do with actually combating robocalls and robotexts:

"No one should mistake today’s action as an effort to help consumers limit spam and robotexts. There is a reason why carriers are applauding while more than 20 consumer protection advocates -- along with 10 Senators -- have cried foul. This decision does nothing to curb spam, and is not needed to curb spam. It is simply the latest example of Chairman Pai’s radical agenda that puts companies ahead of consumers. We urge members of Congress to overturn this decision and ensure that wireless carriers cannot block or censor personal text messages."

Those concerns were mirrored by FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in her lone dissent:

Like net neutrality, gutting oversight of companies with decades of anti-competitive behavior under their belts (not to mention flimsy and dwindling organic free market pressure to behave) generally doesn't work out very well for end users or those looking to compete with these entrenched network operators. It's worth noting the ruling doesn't apply to the next-generation texting standard, RCS, though carriers like Verizon have already called for that to occur in future orders; something Ajit Pai is likely to approve as well.



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Europe's right-to-repair movement is surging -- and winning

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Earlier this month, European right-to-repair activists sounded the alarm, warning that the model right-to-repair legislation that had been proceeding through the EU legislative process had been hijacked by lobbyists who had gutted its core protections and were poised to make repairs even harder in the EU.

But Europeans rallied, and now they seem to have the upper hand. Pressure groups like Germany's Schraube locker!? (Screwloose!?) have organised mass write-in campaigns and other ways of lobbying EU officials, to good effect. This week, they scored a victory over refrigerator design, securing an amendment to the EU's pending Eco Design and Energy Label Directives (where the right-to-repair rules are enshrined) that will require refrigerator manufacturers to design their appliances to be repairable with everyday tools, and to supply their customers with spare parts and manuals so they can keep their property in good working order.

It could be a model for many kinds of devices, a return to the Maker Manifesto's call for "screws not glue" and "user-replaceable parts."

At the vanguard of the movement are people from ex-Soviet states, where deprivation was the mother of innovation, so that thrifty, ingenious home repairs were the key to human thriving. This ethic is also key today, if we are to reduce our material consumption, carbon footprint, and complicity in the human rights abuses committed in the name of securing the conflict minerals in our devices.

It was a good year for it because the EU had planned to vote on changes to its Eco Design and Energy Label Directives. “This is a political issue,” she said. Then they started their petition, gathered signatures and submitted it to Germany’s Environmental Ministry. The Ministry rejected it. Undeterred, Schraube locker!? tracked the head of the Ministry down at a conference, scheduled a meeting, and got her tacit support of the petition.

Next, Schraube locker!? enlisted 500 supporters to tweet at Germany’s Economic Ministry demanding it take a position on the right-to-repair. “The Ministry answered one day afterwards,” Shyre said. Berlin’s Economic Ministry told Schraube locker!? it was pro-repair, but only when it made sense. When there were better, more environmentally friendly products available, consumers should purchase those. The politicians, again, encouraged recycling over repair and reuse.

Despite the pushback, Monday’s vote was still a win. Going forward, refrigerator manufacturers selling the appliances in Europe will have to make them easier to disassemble. Before, the products were often welded shut or glued together, making it hard to replace parts without destroying the appliance. It’s an important first step towards enshrining the right-to-repair in European law, and the first such legislation that will affect the entire EU.

Protesters Are Slowly Winning Electronics Right-to-Repair Battles in Europe [Matthew Gault/Motherboard]

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Gorgeous fan-made retro Star Wars propaganda posters

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Russel Walks' astounding and vast collection of unofficial, retro-styled Star Wars propaganda posters are also available in postcard form.

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A Monochromatic Shade of Winter

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With the solstice just a couple of weeks away, the evening sky gives way to the night just before 5:00pm. Nozomi's not too keen on walking in the park after dark in the winter because it's just too cold for her, so we tend to head out just before the sun dips below the horizon. The air is still quite chilly and the ground is sure to be the same on Nozomi's bare paws. That said, she's yet to turn down a jaunt outside so long as the sun is partially visible and there's no rain.

Shade of Winter

Now if I could just learn how to take decent low-light photos with the DSLR, I can leave the phone at home and capture some better-quality images of our surroundings.

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