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If there's one thing I've probably griped about more than any other in the now thirteen-plus years I've written here, it's probably buried below the line fees. For years ISPs have buried the ordinary cost of doing business below the line in itemized fees. It's a way to covertly jack up prices without changing the advertised rate. It's also a way to bump prices on those customers under contract or price guarantees you "promised" would have a fixed rate.
Usually the fees make no coherent sense, either. Like the "regulatory recovery" fee, purportedly included to counter the cost of regulation -- for an industry that has consistently and significantly been deregulated. Or the most recent broadcast TV fee
cable companies have now been tacking on, which passes on the cost of retrans hikes in a fee despite the fact programming is simply the cost of doing business -- and overall cable rates are already being hiked sometimes twice a year.
Despite this pretty clearly being a form of false advertising and immensely misleading, regulators have remained asleep at the wheel on the issue for more than a decade.
Last fall the FAA lifted restrictions on in-flight electronics use during take offs and landing, and last January the FCC began rulemaking to lift the restrictions on in-flight phone calls. Wheeler and the FCC took a lot of heat for that move
(and is still fielding mostly negative comments
on the idea).
In April of last year, 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.
We recently noted how the UK's effort to force ISPs to filter porn by default wasn't working very well, with simple chrome proxy extensions
allowing porn hunters to easily bypass the filters. Worse perhaps is the fact that the filters aren't even really working, not only failing to filter a significant number of major porn sites, but accidentally filtering sexual education and rape support websites
Blogger Peter Hansteen has since put the filters through their paces, and found they're filtering a number of technology and civil liberty websites as well
...checking a semi-random collection of mainly fairly mainstream and some rather obscure tech URLs shows that far from focusing on its stated main objective, keeping innocent children away from online porn, the UK Internet filter shuts the UK's children out of a number of valuable IT resources, was well as several important civil liberties resources...if this is the true face of Parental Controls, I for one would take using controls like these as a sufficient indicator that the parents in question are in fact not qualified to do their parenting without proper supervision.
The filtered websites aren't exactly obscure, either, including Slashdot, Ars Technica, and the EFF. The broken filters come at the cost of higher rates for UK broadband users, as ISPs pass on the filter costs to users. The UK government continues to be rather tone deaf to the entire pile of dysfunction, suggesting they'd like to take things further by censoring websites that promote "extremist" views.
As noted last week
, the leaked draft of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement not only tries to foist wonky US copyright law upon the globe, it's pushing for numerous entertainment-industry initiatives like content filters, greater ISP liability, the disconnection of pirates from the Internet, and even language that could kill off Aereo.
It's all continually illustrative of how TPP negotiations have utterly excluded not only consumers, but all intelligent but discordant voices -- unless you're one of the 600 lobbyists invited to negotiations.
Wikileaks this week released a copy
of the latest version of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) that has been under construction behind closed doors for years. As we've long noted
, the TPP attempts to take some of the worst aspects of U.S.
Speaking before a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy yesterday
, Robert Litt, general counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, insisted the NSA has absolutely no idea how often it collects data on American Citizens. What's more, Litt proclaimed it would violate citizen privacy to try and do so.
The entertainment industry's "Copyright Alert System" (aka "six strikes) was launched back in February
with the cooperation of major ISPs including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable. While the program integrates "educational" material and a variety of short-lived punishments ranging from throttling to click through warnings, early indications are the program hasn't had much if any impact on BitTorrent piracy traffic
for a variety of reasons (users hiding behind VPNs or proxies, no punishment after the sixth "strike").
You might have noticed that AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and company were very, very quiet during this latest NSA-surveillance related scuff up. That's in part because unlike a few of the more modern tech companies (like Yahoo
, who fought secretive rubber-stamped FISA court requests), the telcos yelled "how high?" when asked to repeatedly trample privacy and wiretap laws.
A group of Conservatives, led by Libertarian-leaning Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), are pushing to have NSA surveillance funding pulled
unless the agency reins in some of its aggressive wholesale spying on Americans.
As Edward Snowden's leaks continue to create international ripples
and his options for sanctuary tighten
, the whistleblower this week issued a statement posted to Wikileaks
accusing the Obama administration of "using citizenship as a weapon." "Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person," states Snowden. "Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right." He later argues the U.S. government is not afraid of whistleblowers like Snowden, but "of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised."
Here in the States, any attempt to impose meaningful net neutrality rules for consumers effectively died back in 2010
in a puff of partisan bickering and disinformation. Even the feeble rules the FCC did muster the stomach to pass are facing obliteration by lawsuit courtesy of Verizon
Barring veto by Austin Governor Rick Perry, Texas is poised to pass one of the toughest e-mail privacy protection laws in the nation. HB2268
would update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), requiring that state law enforcement agencies to get a warrant for all e-mails regardless of the age of the e-mail. That protection however wouldn't extend to federal investigations
. After passing both houses of the Texas legislature earlier this year without a single "nay" vote, the bill now sits on the desk of Governor Perry, who has until June 16 to veto it, or it passes automatically this fall.
As I've been discussing a lot lately
(because it's the most important issue facing the broadband sector right now), both AT&T and Verizon are in the process of gutting regulations that require they continue offering copper landlines -- and by proxy DSL -- to tens of millions of Americans. Both companies insist that they're simply interested in "modernizing regulations" and ushering us into an "all IP age." In reality, both companies simply want to exit the fixed-line market in areas they're unwilling to upgrade.
CISPA last week passed the House by a vote of 288 to 187
courtesy of oodles of lobbying cash from the likes of Cisco, Verizon, AT&T, and Intel, who all desire the protections the bill gives them for privacy violations. However, Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the chairman of the U.S.
Last week CISPA passed the house
courtesy of oodles of lobbying cash from companies like AT&T, Verizon, Google, Intel and Cisco. Those companies are thrilled that the bill protects them from privacy violations, as are security firms eager to net billions in government contracts to fight an endless parade of phantom "cybersecurity" menaces.
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