What’s Hot List 4.1.16
Venture capitalists back a startup that is looking to supply their other companies with talent.
The big spectrum sale is underway
Say good-bye to some local TV channels, and hello to more space on clogged-up cell phone networks. This is what’s supposed to happen if an ambitious auction by the FCC goes according to plan.
The auction, which kicked off Tuesday, could yield tens of billions of dollars for TV broadcasters as companies like AT&T and Comcast bid to get their hands on the “beachfront realty” of airwaves. The outcome could shape the strategies of internet and telecom companies for years to come.
Here’s an overview of what’s happening, who’s involved, and how it could affect big companies—and you.
FCC faces pressure on Internet subsidy plan (The Hill 3/26)
An unlikely union of industry lobbyists and consumer groups is warning the Federal Communications Commission against changes to a phone subsidy program.
Critics say that if the overhaul goes through as planned, many poor Americans who receive free phone service through the program will drop out. Even the White House is expressing concern.
The late lobbying scrabble has caught the agency’s attention ahead of a vote scheduled next week.
In recent days, the FCC has given strong hints it is open to changes, and officials have asked for recommendations in private meetings.
There could be a “drastic reduction in Lifeline participation because many eligible subscribers simply won’t have the ability or means to make monthly payments,” former Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, now a lobbyist, told FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in a phone call earlier this week.
Google Also Has Been Ordered to Help Unlock Phones, Records Show (Wall Street Journal 3/30)
WASHINGTON—Google has been repeatedly ordered to help federal agents open cellphones, according to court records in seven states that show Apple Inc. isn’t the only company facing government demands at the center of a fierce debate over privacy and security.
The American Civil Liberties Union found 63 instances where the government sought a court order under a 1789 law called the All Writs Act to compel Apple and Google to help them access data on locked phones.
Netflix, the notoriously fair-weather crusader for the Open Internet or “net neutrality,” has once again been caught red-handed.
Late last week, the Wall Street Journal confirmed a researcher’s findings that the video giant had been secretly throttling traffic for its customers on Verizon and AT&T’s mobile networks, and has been doing so for the last five years. The practice does not extend to Sprint or T-Mobile , who Netflix feels are more “consumer friendly.”
Obama extends Cyber Sanctions Power (The Hill 3/29)
President Barack Obama on Tuesday expanded upon his statement that the rising number of cyberattacks on the U.S. constitutes a national emergency.
“These significant malicious cyber-enabled activities continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States,” Obama wrote in a notice.
The president initially made the declaration on April 1, 2015, as part of an executive order that empowered the Treasury Department to levy sanctions on individuals or entities behind cyberattacks and cyber espionage.
Questions Mount over Apple-FBI Case (The Hill 3/29)
The Justice Department’s hacking of an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists without Apple’s help is raising more questions about the bitter fight between the government and tech giant.
The DOJ on Tuesday said it had accessed the phone and dropped a case against Apple that sought to force the company to help unlock the device. But the fight over encrypted communications is far from over.
Here are five lingering questions:
FCC’s Pai Offers ‘Fiscally Responsible’ Lifeline Option (Multichannel 3/29)
As the FCC prepares to vote on Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to reform the Lifeline advanced telecom subsidy,principally by migrating it to broadband, Senior Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai has gone public with what he bills as a fiscally responsible compromise proposal.
The Lifeline program is the Universal Service Fund subsidy for advanced telecommunications service to low-income Americans. The subsidy to eligible carriers is $9.25 per month. The FCC is planning to vote Friday on a plan to migrate that away from stand-alone voice to broadband or bundled voice and broadband and to increase the subsidy.
Netflix’s acknowledgment that it throttles its video over mobile networks is “deeply disturbing,” a Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said Tuesday.
The company’s failure to inform consumers of that throttling, which reduces video quality, could warrant investigations from Congress or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said.
Would you explain briefly the report’s conclusion that Internet service providers (ISPs) have neither comprehensive nor unique access to user data?
The Working Paper focuses on how technical developments have limited ISP access to data, which makes that access less than comprehensive. The Paper also discusses how other companies often have access to more information and a wider range of user information than ISPs, which makes the data ISPs can access less than unique as well.
The recent shift to prevalent encryption is the biggest reason that ISPs today have less than comprehensive visibility into user Internet activity. According to public data about Internet backbone activity, the encrypted version of the standard Internet protocol (HTTPS) was only 13 percent in April 2014, rising to 49 percent in February 2016, with an expected 70 percent by the end of 2016. Today, all of the top ten Internet sites encrypt by default or when a user logs in, as well as 42 of the top 50 sites. For HTTPS, ISPs are blocked (even if they try) from seeing the content that a user accesses, as well as the detailed URLs that give commercially important clues into user activity. ISPs can see the host names that a user visits, such as www.example.com, but no deeper. (They also can see other information not historically used for advertising purposes, such as length of session and number of bits transferred.)
Does the FCC Fear Evidence of Competition in Special Access? (Morning Consult- Commentary by Bruce Mehlman 3/30)
In the long-running saga of the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) special access proceeding – which started before the iPhone existed and even before Peyton Manning won his first Super Bowl – some now suggest that it’s time to shine the light of transparency on the question of whether or not competition exists in the market for business data services and, thus, whether the nation needs continued “special access” regulation.
A bit of background: As part of its special access proceeding, the FCC required service providers to submit highly confidential route maps of their fiber optic networks. This data collection effort was deemed necessary to determine whether, and where, competition exists in the business data market.
Consumer Action Slams Netflix Over Slowing Speeds (Multichannel 3/30)
Consumer Action is taking Netflix to the woodshed over the video site’s slowing of traffic for some wireless ISPs but not others and without informing either the companies or their subs.
That could run afoul of new Open Internet rules if ISPs were the ones slowing the traffic, but edge providers like Netflix are not covered by the rules.
Consumer Action has recently come out in favor of FCC proposals on unlocking set-tops and new rules for broadband CPNI (customer proprietary network information), both of which are opposed by ISPs.
Netflix’s Fraud On Wireless Consumers (Forbes- Commentary by Hal Singer 3/28)
Last week, the poster child for net neutrality admitted to throttling its own videos for AT&T and Verizon’s mobile customers, but not doing the same for videos watched by Sprint’s and T-Mobile ’s customers. According to Netflix mea culpa, the company has been selectively throttling its videos on disfavored networks for over five years.
Self-styled consumer advocates instinctively defended the company, arguing that the throttling was not a violation of net neutrality because the rules do not apply to edge providers such as Netflix.