How city governments can help make Net Neutrality a reality


Cable lobbyist-turned-FCC-Chairman Tom Wheeler can promise to override state laws prohibiting publicly owned ISPs, but it doesn't matter if all the big cities are locked into ten-year franchise agreements with cable and phone companies. As an Electronic Frontier Foundation editorial points out, US mayors can and should take steps to make municipal broadband a reality, putting competitive pressure on America's foot-dragging, worst-of-breed ISPs. Many cities are sitting on a gold-mine of "dark fiber" that can be lit up to provide blazing-fast connections, and even in places where state law prohibits municipal Internet service, there are loopholes, like the one that Chattanooga, TN used to light up a gigabit network that's 100 times faster than most Americans can get.

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Former FCC commissioner to Washington: "You should be ashamed of yourself"


Former FCC commissioner Michael Copps has publicly excoriated Congress and the FCC for the state of Internet access in America, which he called "insanity," saying that America's political class "should be ashamed of ourselves." Copps was speaking at a DC event examining the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which created the short-lived practice of requiring American telcoms operators to share their lines with new entrants, allowing many competing DSL providers to flourish. This practice ended in 2005, and led to today's situation in which most Americans have 0, 1 or 2 broadband options.

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FCC Chairman's competition promise means nothing


Cable lobbyist turned FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has tried to "balance" his attempt to nuke Net Neutrality by promising to override state laws that prohibit cities from setting up their own broadband networks. But it's a largely meaningless gesture: practically every big city in America is locked into a decade-long contractual "franchise" arrangement with a big cable company.

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T-Mobile: your dead dad's active phone will let you stay in touch

Robert, a Consumerist reader, called up T-Mobile to close his dead father's cellular account; the rep suggested that he should keep paying for it so he could listen to his dad's voice on the voicemail message whenever he wanted.

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Join the Fastlane: hypothetical ISP from the cable company fuckery dystopia


As the FCC sleazes its way towards a world of cable company fuckery, Bittorrent's Join the Fastlane provides a preview of a world where your ability to get reliable access to parts of the Internet you love is a function of those sites' willingness to bribe your ISP for "premium" carriage.

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Morse code instructional film - made possible by Boing Boing readers!

Carl Malamud sez, "This 1966 military film on good style in sending Morse Code is a real hoot. 38k views on YouTube and another 3.6k on the Internet Archive. This video was made possible by a crowd-sourcing appeal on Boing Boing in 2009 (and in the case of this particular DVD, a donation by Mary Neff ... thanks Mary!)"

INTERNATIONAL MORSE CODE, HAND SENDING

Turn on your data for one minute, AT&T sticks you with a $750 international roaming charge


Jeff writes, "I learned this week that it's possible to run up a $750 international data roaming bill in one minute on AT&T. I managed to convince AT&T to forgive the charges after two days and 40 minutes of phone calls but the best guess at how this happened is kind of alarming. It seems that AT&T's billing system sometimes bundles US traffic with international traffic." Jeff was driving in the Pacific northwest, near the Canadian border.

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Rightscorp: a business founded on threats of Internet disconnection

Rightscorp, a company that went public last year, has an idea: they'll issue millions of legal threats to alleged music file-sharers, threaten them with millions in fines, and demand nuisance sums ($20/track) too small to warrant consulting with an attorney -- and they'll arm-twist ISPs into disconnecting users who don't pay up. Rightscorp has a secret system for identifying "repeat offenders" who use Bittorrent, and they believe that this gives them to right to force ISPs to terminate whole families' Internet access on the basis of their magically perfect, unknowable evidence of wrongdoing. They call this "holding the moral high ground." More than 72,000 Americans have had "settlements" extorted from them to date, though Rightscorp still runs millions in the red.

Rightscorp's rhetoric is that the sums it demands are "deterrents" to prevent wrongdoing, and that it wouldn't really want to sue people into penury. But it is a publicly listed company with a fiduciary duty to extract as much money as it can from the marketplace. It's a good bet that its prospectus and quarterly investor filings announce that the company will hold its "fines" down to the smallest amount that provides the deterrent effect -- instead of, say, "all the market can bear."

The legal theory under which Rightscorp is operating is pretty dubious: a belief that ISPs have a duty to terminate the Internet connections of "repeat offenders" based on a clause in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. This theory has been sparsely litigated, but the one major case in which it has been tested went against Rightscorp's business-model. But as Joe Mullin points out in his Ars Technica profile of the company, they may be able to get past this hurdle just by suborning the increasingly corrupt, noncompetitive, inbred and rent-seeking ISP industry by giving them a piece of the action.

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It's not Net Neutrality that's at stake, it's Cable Company Fuckery

John Oliver was incandescent on the subject of Net Neutrality, Time Warner and Comcast on Saturday, and he has a new, less-boring term for Net Neutrality: "Cable Company Fuckery." This is not only brilliant, it's hilarious. John Oliver is a perfect blend of Jon Stewart and Charlie Brooker. A reminder: you can reach out and touch the FCC on the subject of Cable Company Fuckery, and EFF can explain how to do it.

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De-obfuscating Big Cable's numbers: investment flat since 2000


The cable lobby group NCTA claims the industry has been investing record amounts in network upgrades, which will dry up if they are forced to endure Net Neutrality. Techdirt points out that Big Cable's numbers are cumulative, and re-runs them year on year. Turns out investment has been flat since about 2000.

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FCC brings down the gavel on Net Neutrality

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler just brought down the gavel on the latest moment in the Net Neutrality saga. Commissioners voted 3-2 to allow his "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" to go ahead, meaning we have 120 days to submit comments on his terrible proposal to allow for "Internet fast-lanes" that will be available to the online services that offer ISPs the biggest bribes. The outcome that I -- and Net Neutrality advocates -- had been hoping for was that for the Commission to reject his proposal outright and tell him to come up with a better one for comment. A reminder: Wheeler is a former cable lobbyist, and the cable companies stand to make billions, forever, from his proposal.

Activist camp on FCC's doorstep for Net Neutrality: Occupy the FCC!

Evan from Fight for the Future writes, "Since Wednesday May 7th, net neutrality activists have been camped out on the FCC's doorstep in Washington, DC with tents, sleeping bags, signs, and a giant banner that says 'Don't break the Internet.'

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240 Writers Guild of America members sign pro-Net Neutrality letter to the FCC

Robbo sez, "The WGA (Writers Guild of America West) has stepped into the fray over the FCC's proposed non-Net Neutrality rules with over 240 members (show runners, creators & writers alike) signing a letter urging FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to protect a free and open internet and not let it become like cable television. While the larger tech companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Mozilla and others have also publicly expressed their concerns over FCC proposals to create a two-tiered approach to Internet access there has been little if any outcry from any major players in the Hollywood industry - until now."

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Cable lobbyists strong-arm Congresscritters into signing anti-Net Neutrality petition

Robbo sez, "Cable lobbyists are trying to get Congress Critters to sign off on a letter from the industry exhorting FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to NOT reclassify broadband Internet as a Title II common carrier service. It is, of course, complete horseshit and now (even after all the public outcry over Wheeler's patronizing positioning over his own proposed rules) the weasels of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association are looking to get their Congressional lackeys to block any reasonable response to the public will.

"It's a shame members of Congress don't read more than their bank balance - if they'd read anything from Susan Crawford they'd know the rational recourse would be for the FCC to declare the net a common carrier. But with Wheeler at the helm and with the NCTA dicks priming the pump from the shadows we're likely to see further douche maneuvering on the Hill."

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Turning spam-calls from a hassle into a profit-centre


Lee Beaumont of Leeds, England got sick of unsolicited calls to his home number, so he spent £10 registering a "premium rate" number that costs 7p/m to call, and started listing that as his home number in all of his commercial dealings. Once he'd set things up so that spammers made him money, he started to spread his number around, tweeting it in the clear and telling customer service reps to call him on it. The number paid for itself in two months, and, when the story drew press-attention last summer, the lengthy press-calls he received made him hundreds of pounds. If you want to give Mr Beaumont 7p (or more), you can call him at

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