Back in April, wireless carriers and the government announced
that they'd be collaborating on building a new nationwide database to track stolen phones (specifically the IMEI number, not just the SIM card ID). The goal is to reduce the time that stolen phones remain useful, thereby drying up the market for stolen phones and reducing the ability of criminals to use the devices to dodge surveillance.
The move came after AT&T was sued for doing little to track or stop theft
, the lawsuit alleging it was more profitable to do nothing and cash in on stolen phone re-activations. The lawsuit (and government prodding) spurred AT&T to develop new anti-theft tools
, and carriers in general have been working hard to try and prove they care about cell phone theft.
Still, law enforcement has complained the database has proven ineffective because many phones wind up overseas. New York and San Francisco lawmakers have been eyeing the idea of a "kill switch" that would automatically render a phone useless once its owner has reported it stolen. However, according to the New York Times
, city DAs say carriers are fighting the proposals because they'll lose money on stolen device re-activations:
Mr. Gascón said he is evaluating what action to take regarding the carriers’ refusal to allow Samsung to pre-load a kill switch on its phones. "We have repeatedly requested that the carriers take steps to protect their customers. We are now evaluating what course of action will be necessary to force them to prioritize the safety of their customers over additional money in their pockets," he said.
Carriers are justifying their opposition to a kill switch by claiming they're concerned that hackers could abuse the function to disable devices used by consumers or law enforcement.
Senator Chuck Schumer has come rushing to the defense of AT&T and Verizon in a letter to new FCC boss Tom Wheeler, urging the agency not to impose restrictions that could cap the amount of spectrum the nation's dominant carriers can obtain at auction. There has been a growing push (in part by T-Mobile and Sprint) to impose new ownership limits on the largest carriers ahead of next year's auction in order to prevent the carriers from spectrum squatting and thereby limiting the number of competitors that can come to market.
According to Schumer's letter
, capping the amount of spectrum AT&T and Verizon can own moving forward would "lower the potential return and disincentivize broadcasters from offering their spectrum for auction."
Back in April, the Department of Justice warned the FCC
that they should potentially cap the amount of spectrum AT&T and Verizon can acquire moving forward to prevent the two companies from hoarding spectrum anti-competitively.
"Today, the two leading carriers have the vast majority of low-frequency spectrum, whereas the two other nationwide carriers have virtually none," wrote the DOJ. "This results in the two smaller nationwide carriers having a somewhat diminished ability to compete, particularly in rural areas where the cost to build out coverage is higher with high-frequency spectrum."
AT&T executives have railed against that recommendation publicly ever since, claiming in an April letter to the FCC
(pdf) that such restrictions would be "unlawful."
I've talked a lot about how AT&T and Verizon are going state
gutting regulations that cover copper networks so they can back away from unwanted POTS and DSL customers they refuse to upgrade. Both companies have framed this largely cost-savings decision as an "evolutionary step toward the IP age," even if the real-world impact for many may involve losing DSL as a competitive option
, losing reliable POTS lines, and higher prices and less competition for everyone.
On the heels of companies like Google
rushing to encrypt server to server links after the ever-blooming NSA scandal, Techdirt
directs our attention to a new report card over at the EFF
that grades the Internet's largest companies on their use of encryption.
Just four companies: Dropbox, Google, SpiderOak and Sonic.net get a perfect score on all criteria measured, including encrypting server to server links, https support, https strict support, forward secrecy support, and STARTTLS support.
You'll of course note the dismal ranking of AT&T, Verizon and Comcast who handle traffic for all of these companies -- and then some.
Apparently not satisfied with the more formal PRISM data collection arrangement
the NSA had with many websites and service providers, new Snowden leaks reveal that the NSA has been secretly tapping into the data centers of companies like Yahoo and Google to collect yet more information on subscriber activity. A Washington Post
report offers detail on the NSA effort, code-named "MUSCULAR," which includes collection of metadata -- and everything else.
by whamel 04:23PM Tuesday Oct 15 2013 story continues..
For those looking for faster internet speeds with AT&T's latest U-Verse product offering
, I'm afraid that there are a lot of current subscribers unable to get or upgrade to the new speed tier. The new speed tier requires VDSL2
Pair Bonding, a technology used to increase the available bandwidth to a customer’s premise.
AT&T has repeatedly suggested they're seriously considering an expansion into the European wireless market, the company rumored to have explored acquiring the wireless portions of Vodafone, European carrier EE, as well as part of Spain's Telefonica SA. "I continue to be fascinated and impressed by how slow mobile broadband is moving in Europe," AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told attendees
of a industry conference in Europe this week. "So I think of this as a huge opportunity for somebody." Opportunities, Stephen insists, AT&T is only interested in taking advantage of if Europe is willing to "overhaul its regulatory policies," which have been traditionally tougher and more pro-consumer
than he's used to in the States.
While the improved audio fidelity benefits of voice over LTE (VoLTE) aren't expected to be seen in any real volume until well into 2014, AT&T says they hope to launch their first VoLTE-supported phone before the end of the year. "I do believe there might be a VoLTE-compliant device for the holidays this year," AT&T Labs President Krish Prabhu said today
at an industry conference.
Whether you'll be able to actually use VoLTE is another question entirely, since interoperability issues will plague the technology for some time, and while VoLTE handsets may be available this fall, the VoLTE infrastructure won't yet be fully baked. Prabhu also reiterated AT&T's intent to cover 270 million POPs (potential customers) with LTE by year-end, up from 240 million now.
AT&T today announced that the telco is now offering U-Verse TV subscribers the ability to stream live television programming to smartphones and tablets. According to the AT&T statement
, users who subscribe to a U-family or higher U-verse TV package can now stream more than 100 channels inside the home. AT&T notes around 20 channels can be watched live outside of the home, reflecting the slow loosening of broadcaster content licensing restrictions. U-Verse users can find a full line up of available live streaming content here
AT&T has announced that the company will expand their Digital Life
home automation and security services in six new markets starting September 27: Charlotte, Hartford, Jacksonville, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City and Tulsa. According to an AT&T statement
, these launches bring the total Digital Life market availability to forty five markets.
AT&T has joined a number of ISPs that now offer slightly faster than advertised speeds after FCC speed rankings showed ISPs failing to deliver promised throughput during peak times. Previously, U-Verse customers stated they were luck to receive their advertised speeds; now many users say that has changed. story continues..
AT&T is the latest wireless carrier exploring the option of using creative accounting to sell their wireless towers to other companies, then lease those towers back for a significant reduction in taxes. According to a report by Bloomberg
, AT&T is exploring the option of selling around 10,000 of the company's towers for an estimated $5 billion. Sprint did something similar in 2008 to pay down debt
, as did T-Mobile in 2012
. AT&T's 10,000 towers generate around $326 million in annual revenue from leases to other carriers.
As Verizon eyes expanding into the Canadian wireless market, AT&T has their eyes set on expanding into Europe. Bloomberg
notes that AT&T has explored possibly acquiring portions of Vodafone, European carrier EE, as well as part of Spain's Telefonica SA. Rumors that Verizon would be buying out Vodafone's 45% ownership stake in Verizon Wireless re-emerged this week
; AT&T's interested in buying some of what's left of Vodafone, but wireless only -- not any of the company's fixed line ambitions. AT&T could pay about 80 billion pounds ($124 billion) for what's left of Vodafone, according to Wall Street analysts.
As a follow up to my post this morning
, AT&T has officially announced that they're now offering the company's faster 45 Mbps down, 6 Mbps up U-Verse tier in forty additional markets. An AT&T press release
breaks down all the freshly-available markets, which include Atlanta, Orlando, Chicago, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville, and many more. The tier is currently being offered at around $76 per month, or as low as $50 with bundles and promotions. AT&T again repeated that they plan to offer U-Verse speeds up to 100 Mbps "in the future."
The Wall Street Journal
is the latest to join the NSA scandal fun with a bombshell report that once again shows the NSA has been lying to the press, public and Congress. According to the Journal, the NSA's surveillance apparatus has the ability to reach roughly 75% of all US Internet traffic, with inadequate safeguards leading to frequent over collection.
AT&T today announced
that the company will expanding their Mobile Share options for wireless customers with new 300MB and 2GB Mobile Share plans. According to AT&T, both of the new plans include unlimited talk and text and will be available to consumers July 26. The 300 MB plan costs $20 a month, though you'll of course pay additional costs per each device added. The new 2 GB option doesn't get a price point in AT&T's press release, but will likely fall in between the company's existing 1 GB ($40 per month) and 4 GB ($70 per month) plans.
Helping the government snoop on citizens can often help net ISPs large government contracts, the kind which former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio insisted his company was prevented from getting
when Qwest refused to participate in the government's warrantless wiretap program. But as noted previously in leaks
, many wireless and fixed line ISPs make a pretty penny on surveillance requests, something the AP is again noting in a new article this week
With AT&T recently winning a slew of awards naming their LTE network the fastest in the nation
, we've officially come a long way from 2009 when the company's network was the butt of jokes everywhere
, having crumbled under the weight of the company's then exclusive iPhone offering. With LTE speed awards freshly in tow, CNN/Money
crows that AT&T "isn't nearly as bad as you think," and that the network improvements the company has made over the last five years are "nothing short of remarkable."
The piece does note that things may change as people actually use the fledgling network:
"AT&T has to be just tickled pink about all these studies, but this could be a short-term phenomenon," said Ken Rehbehn, a telecommunications analyst at Yankee Group.
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