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Why the Courts Will Have to Save Net Neutrality

Here is what started net neutrality

Back in 2005, a small phone company based in North Carolina named Madison River began preventing its subscribers from making phone calls using the internet application Vonage. As Vonage was a competitor in the phone call market, Madison River’s action was obviously anticompetitive. Consumers complained, and the Federal Communications Commission, under Michael Powell, its Republican-appointed chairman, promptly fined the company and forced it to stop blocking Vonage.

But it may be tough?

On Tuesday, the F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, announced plans to eliminate even the most basic net neutrality protections — including the ban on blocking — replacing them with a “transparency” regime enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. “Transparency,” of course, is a euphemism for “doing nothing.” Companies like Madison River, it seems, will soon be able to block internet calls so long as they disclose the blocking (presumably in fine print). Indeed, a broadband carrier like AT&T, if it wanted, might even practice internet censorship akin to that of the Chinese state, blocking its critics and promoting its own agenda.

Allowing such censorship is anathema to the internet’s (and America’s) founding spirit. And by going this far, the F.C.C. may also have overplayed its legal hand. So drastic is the reversal of policy (if, as expected, the commission approves Mr. Pai’s proposal next month), and so weak is the evidence to support the change, that it seems destined to be struck down in court.

The problem for Mr. Pai is that government agencies are not free to abruptly reverse longstanding rules on which many have relied without a good reason, such as a change in factual circumstances. A mere change in F.C.C. ideology isn’t enough. As the Supreme Court has said, a federal agency must “examine the relevant data and articulate a satisfactory explanation for its action.” Given that net neutrality rules have been a huge success by most measures, the justification for killing them would have to be very strong.

It isn’t. In fact, it’s very weak. From what we know so far, Mr. Pai’s rationale for eliminating the rules is that cable and phone companies, despite years of healthy profit, need to earn even more money than they already do — that is, that the current rates of return do not yield adequate investment incentives. More specifically, Mr. Pai claims that industry investments have gone down since 2015, the year the Obama administration last strengthened the net neutrality rules.

Setting aside whether industry investments should be the dominant measure of success in internet policy (what about improved access for students? or the emergence of innovations like streaming TV?), Mr. Pai is not examining the facts: Security and Exchange Commission filings reveal an increase in internet investments since 2015, as the internet advocacy group Free Press has demonstrated.

Moreover, the F.C.C. is acting contrary to public sentiment, which may embolden the judiciary to oppose Mr. Pai. Telecommunications policy does not always attract public attention, but net neutrality does, and polls indicate that 76 percent of Americans support it. The F.C.C., in short, is on the wrong side of the democratic majority.

But Mr. Pai faces a more serious legal problem. Because he is killing net neutrality outright, not merely weakening it, he will have to explain to a court not just the shift from 2015 but also his reasoning for destroying the basic bans on blocking and throttling, which have been in effect since 2005 and have been relied on extensively by the entire internet ecosystem.

This will be a difficult task. What has changed since 2004 that now makes the blocking or throttling of competitors not a problem? The evidence points strongly in the opposite direction: There is a long history of anticompetitive throttling and blocking — often concealed — that the F.C.C. has had to stop to preserve the health of the internet economy. Examples include AT&T’s efforts to keep Skype off iPhones and the blocking of Google Wallet by Verizon. Services like Skype and Netflix would have met an early death without basic net neutrality protections. Mr. Pai needs to explain why we no longer have to worry about this sort of threat — and “You can trust your cable company” will not suffice.

Moreover, the F.C.C. is acting contrary to public sentiment, which may embolden the judiciary to oppose Mr. Pai. Telecommunications policy does not always attract public attention, but net neutrality does, and polls indicate that 76 percent of Americans support it. The F.C.C., in short, is on the wrong side of the democratic majority.

In our times, the judiciary has increasingly become a majoritarian force. It alone, it seems, can prevent narrow, self-interested factions from getting the government to serve unseemly and even shameful ends. And so it falls to the judiciary to stop this latest travesty.

Source: This article is by Tim Wu is a law professor at Columbia, the author of “The Attention Merchants: The Epic Struggle to Get Inside Our Heads” and a contributing opinion writer. Published in NYT today Here

If you want to see what America would be like if it ditched net neutrality, just look at Portugal

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.. with the Republican-majority FCC likely to vote on December 14 in favor of rolling back the order, what might the American internet look like without net neutrality? Just look at Portugal.

The country’s wireless carrier Meo offers a package that’s very different from those available in the US. Users pay for traditional “data” — and on top of that, they pay for additional packages based on the kind of data and apps they want to use.

(internet net neutrality portugal English translation via Google Translate)

 

Really into messaging? Then pay €4.99 ($5.86 or £4.43) a month and get more data for apps like WhatsApp, Skype, and FaceTime. Prefer social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger, and so on? That’ll be another €4.99 a month.

Video apps like Netflix and YouTube are available as another add-on, while music (Spotify, SoundCloud, Google Play Music, etc.) is another, as is email and cloud (Gmail, Yahoo Mail, iCloud, etc.).

Net-neutrality advocates argue that this kind of model is dangerous because it risks creating a two-tier system that harms competition — people will just use the big-name apps included in the bundles they pay for, while upstart challengers will be left out in the cold.

For example: If you love watching videos, and Netflix is included in the video bundle but Hulu isn’t, you’re likely to try to save money by using only Netflix, making it harder for its competitors.

And without net neutrality, big-name apps could theoretically even pay telecoms firms for preferential access, offering them money — and smaller companies just couldn’t compete with that. (It’s not clear whether any of the companies named above have paid for preferential access.) An ISP could even refuse to grant access to an app at all unless they paid up.

Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California originally shared the Meo example on Twitter in October.

“In Portugal, with no net neutrality, internet providers are starting to split the net into packages,” he wrote. “A huge advantage for entrenched companies, but it totally ices out startups trying to get in front of people which stifles innovation. This is what’s at stake, and that’s why we have to save net neutrality.”

Technically, Portugal is bound by the European Union’s net-neutrality rules, but loopholes allow certain kinds of pricing schemes like the one outlined above.

Yonatan Zunger, a former Google employee, recently retweeted Khanna’s tweet, adding: “This isn’t even the worst part of ending net neutrality. The worst part happens when ISPs say ‘we don’t like this site’s politics,’ or ‘this site competes with us,’ and block or throttle it.”

Getting Bad Things Done – On Trump, FCC, Net Neutrality, ….

Simply put, Team Trump didn’t want the average American to have good information about what is fast becoming the defining feature of our 45th presidency: It doesn’t want the public to have good information. …The cloud of chaos emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue these days makes it easy to lose the big picture. ..

But behind the smoke and mirrors, Trump World is getting stuff done — bad stuff, like the gutting of many major regulations that once protected our environment, or the toxic police-state culture created by “taking the gloves off” ICE enforcement agents or your local cops, or installing regressive judges across the land. But the defining feature of Donald Trump’s presidency is its all-encompassing war on the truth. The tactic is the stream of lies that the president spews — sometimes dozens in a week. But the broader strategy is equally alarming: Trump hopes to extend and expand his reign of dishonesty by remaking the media landscape with fewer. diminished sources of valid facts, elevating the handful of outlets that worship our Dear Leader (Sinclair, Fox) while seeking to destroy the credibility and reputation of everyone else.

Trump’s big, bad idea is so universal it can embrace ideas that seem to be contradictions — until you look a little closer. How else to explain the fact that the FCC — controlled by a majority of pro-Trump commissioners — is, with its all-but-a-done-deal rollback of net neutrality, giving the gift of a lifetime to monster communication companies like Philadelphia-based Comcast, Verizon and AT&T. Yet at the same time Trump’s Justice Department seems to be taking an anti-big-business stance in opposing the planned merger of AT&T and Time-Warner without the spin-off of key assets like Time-Warner’s CNN, the bete noir of Trump’s rabid fan base.

But a thousand Alabamas and a thousand Roy Moores will blossom across America’s political landscape in an era when the flow of information is even more tightly controlled by a handful of powerful corporations who can and will be bullied and intimidated by the White House. It’s critical for the future of American free speech and democracy that the net neutrality rollback be stopped, but with the rubber-stamp FCC preparing to vote on Dec. 14, there are few good options and virtually no time to stop this dictator move. The war on factual information and the truth is repulsive, but it’s not the most outrageous thing about the Trump presidency. The most outrageous thing is that Trump is winning.

But there’s been widespread (and seemingly informed) speculation that the government’s merger move has little to do with its usually pro-business ideology and everything to do with old-fashioned revenge against the news outlet that Trump has called “the Fake News Network” and accused of treating him so unfairly (despite considerable evidence of the exact opposite). There’s no smoking gun, but pro-Trump news outlets like the Daily Caller and the New York Post have quoted sources that Trump would love to oust CNN chief Jeff Zucker, and other journalists have labored to find a reason for trying to block the merger other than presidential spite. So basically Team Trump wants fewer outlets controlling the news — and it wants those that survive to, in the immortal words of Omarosa Manigault, “bow down to President Trump.”

Hatred for, and the stifling of, a free press and free flow of information is the glue that holds the Trump presidency — and the 36 percent who support him — together. Consider these droplets:

In addition to its net neutrality push, the FCC has also adopted a series of rules that will dramatically expand the reach of Sinclair Broadcasting into a coast-to-coast behemoth (including, at least for now, Philadelphia’s Channel 17) and allow it to reshape your local TV news away from community journalism and toward its relentlessly pro-Trump political agenda, with one-size-fits-all Trumpian commentary and inane “terrorism alert desk.”
Trump’s Justice Department seems to be sending a chilling message to rank-and-file journalists — and especially alternative journalists on the left more likely to be critical of the president — by its shocking decision to pursue felony “rioting” charges that could lead to a 10-year prison sentence for a Texas photojournalist named Alexei Wood. Wood covered a destructive melee on Trump’s inauguration day and his apparent “crime” was going “wooo” as he filmed an act of vandalism, not very smart but not anywhere near the ballpark of criminality.
These official acts come against a constant drumbeat from Trump seeking to delegitimatize journalism and the First Amendment at least in the eyes of his own supporters, calling hard-working reporters “the enemy of the American people,” threatening to relax libel laws amid the dream of forcing more outlets to go out of business like Gawker, and disrupting the news cycle with increasingly off-his-meds 6 a.m. tweets.

But the end of net neutrality would mean Trump and his allies are going nuclear in their war on information. Without the controls adopted by past incarnations of the FCC, your internet carrier would be free to charge you more for certain content; imagine if Comcast or Verizon started charging you for packages of accelerated and accessible websites — a “news” package with CNN.com and Philly.com or a “sports” package with league websites or Deadspin. (That’s how they do it now in countries like Portugal that don’t have net neutrality.)

There’s more. An internet provider would have the power to slow down the delivery of sites (presumably ones that don’t pay or offer other perks in return for high speed) and it could block some altogether — like, for example, that sites that are dedicated to complaints from customers of Comcast or other telecoms. To civil liberties groups like the ALCU, ending net neutrality isn’t just a way for billion-dollar companies to squeeze a few extra bucks from consumers, but “also one of the foremost free speech issues of our time.” In explaining its opposition, the ACLU writes: “After all, freedom of expression isn’t worth much if the forums where people actually make use of it are not themselves free.”

Vice Motherboard’s Sam Gustin recently reported on why net neutrality is shaping up as the free speech issue of the Trump era, quoting Steven Renderos, an organizer for the Center for Media Justice: “Net neutrality is not simply about technology. It’s about the everyday people who use it and whether they will have the right to be heard online.”

The stifling of good information creates a world in which citizens decide which version of “the truth” they want to believe, often with disastrous consequences — the fantasy world that Trump and his true believers covet. If you want to go to Ground Zero for the war on information, go to Alabama, where as much as half or more of the electorate won’t believe Senate candidate Roy Moore is a sexual predator because the allegations were reported in the Washington Post, one of the news outlets that our Oval Office authoritarian has decreed as “fake.”

But a thousand Alabamas and a thousand Roy Moores will blossom across America’s political landscape in an era when the flow of information is even more tightly controlled by a handful of powerful corporations who can and will be bullied and intimidated by the White House. It’s critical for the future of American free speech and democracy that the net neutrality rollback be stopped, but with the rubber-stamp FCC preparing to vote on Dec. 14, there are few good options and virtually no time to stop this dictator move. The war on factual information and the truth is repulsive, but it’s not the most outrageous thing about the Trump presidency. The most outrageous thing is that Trump is winning.

FCC stonewalled investigation of net neutrality comment fraud, NY AG says

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Net neutrality fraudsters likely impersonated “hundreds of thousands” of people.

New York’s attorney general has been trying to investigate fraud in public comments on the Federal Communications Commission’s anti-net neutrality plan but alleges that the FCC has refused to cooperate with the investigation.

NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says that “hundreds of thousands of Americans” were likely impersonated in fake comments on the net neutrality docket. But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s office would not provide information needed for New York’s investigation, Schneiderman wrote yesterday in an open letter to Pai:

[T]he process the FCC has employed to consider potentially sweeping alterations to current net neutrality rules has been corrupted by the fraudulent use of Americans’ identities — and the FCC has been unwilling to assist my office in our efforts to investigate this unlawful activity.

Specifically, for six months my office has been investigating who perpetrated a massive scheme to corrupt the FCC’s notice and comment process through the misuse of enormous numbers of real New Yorkers’ and other Americans’ identities. Such conduct likely violates state law—yet the FCC has refused multiple requests for crucial evidence in its sole possession that is vital to permit that law enforcement investigation to proceed.

The FCC received 22 million comments on its plan to repeal net neutrality rules and deregulate broadband providers, but many were fraudulent. In May, some of the people who were impersonated by anti-net neutrality spammers asked the Federal Communications Commission to notify other victims of the impersonation and remove fraudulent comments from the net neutrality docket.

But the FCC has seemingly taken no action to remove fraudulent comments or to prevent them from being filed.

On Twitter, Schneiderman described “a massive scheme that fraudulently used real Americans’ identities” in order to “drown out the views of real people and businesses.”

Here is New York State Attorney General’s Letter Eric Schneiderman’s Letter

F.C.C. Plans Net Neutrality Repeal in a Victory for Telecoms

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The Federal Communications Commission released a plan on Tuesday to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, clearing the way for internet service companies to charge users more to see certain content and to curb access to some websites.

The proposal, made by the F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, is a sweeping repeal of rules put in place by the Obama administration. The rules prohibit high-speed internet service providers, or I.S.P.s, from stopping or slowing down the delivery of websites. They also prevent the companies from charging customers extra fees for high-quality streaming and other services.

The announcement set off a fight over free speech and the control of the internet, pitting telecom titans like AT&T and Verizon against internet giants like Google and Amazon. The internet companies warned that rolling back the rules could make the telecom companies powerful gatekeepers to information and entertainment. The telecom companies say that the existing rules prevent them from offering customers a wider selection of services at higher and lower price points.

Nothing to see here folks, just normal government for big business, by big business, and all for the best democracy that money can buy.

As The FCC Guts Net Neutrality, Comcast Again Falsely Claims You Have Nothing To Worry About

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With the FCC formally confirming its plan to kill existing net neutrality protections December 15, Comcast is back again insisting that you have absolutely nothing to worry about. In a new blog post, top Comcast lobbyist “Chief Diversity Officer” David Cohen once again claims that net neutrality harmed industry investment (independent analysis and executive statements have repeatedly shown this to be a lie), that Comcast will be able to self-regulate in the absence of real oversight, and that gutting the Title II foundation underpinning the agency’s rules just isn’t that big of a deal:

“As we have said previously, this proposal is not the end of net neutrality rules. With the FCC transparency requirement and the restoration of the FTC‘s role in overseeing information services, the agencies together will have the authority to take action against any ISP which does not make its open Internet practices clearly known to consumers, and if needed enforce against any anti-competitive or deceptive practices. Comcast has already made net neutrality promises to our customers, and we will continue to follow those standards, regardless of the regulations in place.”

Monoplists

She flipped off President Trump — and got fired from her government contracting job

She should of been given a hero’s welcome, but instead she got the boot from here job at Akima.

In about Akima

Akima ensures non-discrimination in all programs and activities in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

More Bullshit. This company which is now essentially another I.T. Beltway Bandit is a disgrace. They stood up for money over common sense, money over fair employee treatment and justice, and money over decency. Too bad my tax dollars funds their ilk.

And hypocrisy and favoritism do not escape them either.

She identifies herself as an Akima employee on her LinkedIn account but makes no mention of the middle-finger photo there.

Wait. It gets even more obscene.

Because Briskman was in charge of the firm’s social-media presence during her six-month tenure there, she recently flagged something that did link her company to some pretty ugly stuff.

As she was monitoring Facebook this summer, she found a public comment by a senior director at the company in an otherwise civil discussion by one of his employees about the Black Lives Matter movement.

“You’re a f—— Libtard a——,” the director injected, using his profile that clearly and repeatedly identifies himself as an employee of the firm.

In fact, the person he aimed that comment at was so offended by the intrusion into the conversation and the coarse nature of it that he challenged the director on representing Akima that way.

So Briskman flagged the exchange to senior management.

Did the man, a middle-aged executive who had been with the company for seven years, get the old “Section 4.3” boot?

Nope. He cleaned up the comment, spit-shined his public profile and kept on trucking at work.

But the single mother of two teens who made an impulsive gesture while on her bike on her day off?

Adios, amiga.

Source: WP Article

According to their code of conduct

While using social media sites and other social networking tools we must keep the best interests of the Company in mind. Employees are prohibited from posting illegal or prohibited materials on Company social media sites, including but not limited to materials that are harassing or discriminatory. Confidential information must be protected and never disclosed in an unauthorized manner, including posted to any unauthorized site.

Well she was not at work and not using company’ assets. She was on her day off. She was exercising her 1st amendment rights. Or does one surrender their 1st amendment rights to work for Akima?

Another malware outbreak in Google’s Play Store

Regular readers (are their any?) will note that I often rail against Google not policing their Good Play Store. Users think that since it has Google’s name on it, it is safe. Not in the least bit. In addition to the fact that the majority of apps have built in spyware, there are even more serious malware laden apps as the following article delineates.

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50 apps get pulled as ExpensiveWall malware runs riot in the store

Google has had to pull 50 malware-laden apps from its Play Store after researchers found that virus writers had once again managed to fool the Chocolate Factory’s code checking system.

The malware was dubbed ExpensiveWall by Check Point security researchers because it was found in the Lovely Wallpaper app. It carries a payload that registers victims for paid online services and sends premium SMS messages from a user’s phone and leaves them to pick up the bill. It was found in 50 apps on the Play Store and downloaded by between 1 million and 4.2 million users.

Once downloaded, the malware asks for permission to access the internet and send and receive SMS messages. It then pings its command and control server with information on the infected handset, including its location and unique identifiers, such as MAC and IP addresses, IMSI, and IMEI numbers.

The servers then send the malware a URL, which it opens in an embedded WebView window. It then downloads the attack JavaScript code and begins to clock up bills for the victim. The researchers think the malware came from a software development kit called GTK.

“Check Point notified Google about ExpensiveWall on August 7, 2017, and Google promptly removed the reported samples from its store,” the researchers note. “However, even after the affected Apps were removed, within days another sample infiltrated Google Play, infecting more than 5,000 devices before it was removed four days later.”

It appears that Google missed warnings about the malware infection. The user comments section of at least one of the infected apps was filled with outraged users noting that it was carrying a malicious payload and it appears that the apps were being promoted on Instagram.

Cases of malware infecting Google’s Play Store are becoming depressingly common. Just last month it was banking malware and a botnet controller, in July commercial spyware made it in, advertising spamming code popped up in May (preceded by similar cases in March and April), and there was a ransomware outbreak in January.

By contrast, Apple’s App Store appears to do a much better job at checking code, and malware is a rarity in Cupertino’s app bazaar. While some developers complain that it can take a long time to get code cleared by Apple, at least the firm is protecting its customers by doing a thorough job, although Apple’s small market share also means malware writers tend not to use iOS for their apps.

By contrast, Google’s Bouncer automated code-checking software appears to be very easily fooled. Google advised users to only download apps from its Store, since many third-party marketplaces are riddled with dodgy apps, but that advice is getting increasingly untenable.

It’s clear something’s going to have to change down at the Chocolate Factory to rectify this. A big outbreak of seriously damaging malware could wreak havoc, given Android’s current market share, and permanently link the reputation of the operating system with malware, in the same way as Windows in the 90s and noughties. ®

HOTSPOT VPN == Spyware

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Hotspot Shield VPN throws your privacy in the fire, injects ads, JS into browsers – claim
CDT tries to set fed trade watchdog on internet biz
By Thomas Claburn in San Francisco 7 Aug 2017 at 20:20

The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), a digital rights advocacy group, on Monday urged US federal trade authorities to investigate VPN provider AnchorFree for deceptive and unfair trade practices.

AnchorFree claims its Hotspot Shield VPN app protects netizens from online tracking, but, according to a complaint filed with the FTC, the company’s software gathers data and its privacy policy allows it to share the information.

Worryingly, it is claimed the service forces ads and JavaScript code into people’s browsers when connected through Hotspot Shield: “The VPN has been found to be actively injecting JavaScript codes using iframes for advertising and tracking purposes.”

“Hotspot Shield tells customers that their privacy and security are ‘guaranteed’ but their actual practices starkly contradict this,” said Michelle De Mooy, Director of CDT’s Privacy & Data Project, in a statement. “They are sharing sensitive information with third party advertisers and exposing users’ data to leaks or outside attacks.”

….
IP address and unique device identifiers are generally considered to be private personal information, but AnchorFree’s Privacy Policy explicitly exempts this data from its definition of Personal Information.

“Contrary to Hotspot Shield’s claims, the VPN has been found to be actively injecting JavaScript codes using iFrames for advertising and tracking purposes,” the complaint says, adding that the VPN uses more than five different third-party tracking libraries.

What’s the alternative? Rool your own, set up a VPS or Algo or both