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Kansas cable lobbyist writes bill outlawing Google Fiber and municipal broadband, gets it introduced in Kansas legislature

When Kansas lawmakers introduced a bill outlawing municipal broadband network, there was no sponsor's name on it: rumor has it that's because it was written by a lobbyist called John Federico, who is president of Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association. The bill masquerades as a pro-competition measure (pro-competition initiatives from the cable industry! Pull the other one), but it effective prohibits measures like the wildly successful Google Fiber project in Kansas City. Given that the big carriers and cable companies have shown no interest in providing fiber or even reasonably priced, reasonably provisioned broadband in most markets, this means that most people in Kansas can kiss any hope of a read broadband life goodbye.

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Tim Wu on FCC's net neutrality disaster

Tim Wu is the law professor and activist who coined the term "net neutrality" -- the principle that ISPs should get you the data you request, as efficiently as they know how, without deliberately slowing down some sites unless they've paid bribes for "preferred carriage." The FCC had made a halfhearted and legally doomed rule to protect American net neutrality, refusing to use its full regulatory power for fear of offending the powerful telcoms corporations it is meant to regulate.

A recent court decision struck down the FCC's rule, confirming critics' fears about the weakness of the FCC's legal position. Now, in a Washington Post interview, Wu explains what a blunder the FCC made (he calls it "a FEMA-level fail") and sets out the next steps the Commission should take if it is to ameliorate the consequences of its timidity and deference to the telcos:

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NSA harvests 200M of SMSes every day with untargeted, global "Dishfire" program

The latest Snowden leak details DISHFIRE, a joint NSA/GCHQ program to slurp up hundreds of millions of SMS messages from global mobile phone users. Included in the program are text messages to and from Americans, though these are apparently subsequently purged. The UK spy agency GCHQ also makes extensive use of the database. Text messages are stored for long terms, so that spies can do historic lookups on people they target. The DISHFIRE database allows for full-text search.

Vodaphone expressed shock and outrage at the news that its customers' private messages were being harvested without a warrant or due process, characterising the program as outside the law.

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Chief cable lobbyist: data caps were never about network congestion, always about profit

Michael Powell used to be the head of the FCC. Now he's the cable operators' chief lobbyist. In a recent speech, he admitted that the cable operators' long-running push for caps on data-usage had nothing to do with congestion, which isn't really a problem for them. Instead, they pursued data-caps as a way of making more money from their customers.

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AT&T to transparency-seeking shareholders: shut up and take what you're given

Alan writes, "In a formal response to a motion by shareholders to get a vote requiring AT&T to publish a transparency report the telecom giant has said, essentially, it's none of your business."

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UK spies were terrified that the willing cooperation of telcos would get out; understood they were breaking the law

Newly published Snowden leaks show that the UK spy agency GCHQ took extraordinary measures to hide the eager cooperativeness of the country's phone companies, who were apparently delighted to help it spy on the nation and its allies; further, the leak details the GCHQ's internal conviction that their spying violated European law, and thus had to be kept a secret.

The agency fought domestic attempts to make wiretapping materials admissible as evidence lest the public discover the extent of its illegal spying programme, and it sought out sympathetic public figures to discredit opponents and celebrate its spying, including the LibDem peer Lord Carlile. Carlile has been slamming the Guardian for its coverage of the Snowden leaks -- apparently acting as a de facto PR agent for the nation's criminal spy-class.

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Cartoon about net neutrality and Verizon


Alan sez, "Using a simple (if wordy) graphic, Common Cause has teamed up with Symbolia to produce a Creative Commons-licensed description of how Verizon's lawsuits and lobbying threaten net neutrality."

Big Deal Big Money (Thanks, Alan)

Pole-climbing class for telephone electricians, 1914


This is a photo of telephone electricians learning to climb poles in 1914. There's a WWI pole/Pole joke to be made here, but I leave that as an exercise to the reader. In any event, these dudes are living the dream.

Pole-climbing class for telephone electricians

Prison Profiteers: extracting billions by exploiting prisoners and their families

America imprisons more people than any other nation in the history of the Earth, and those prisoners' only lifeline to the outside world is the prison phone-system, from which they must make collect-calls. Those calls are billed by Global Tel Link and companies like it, companies that offers kickbacks to the prisons that use its services, which bill prisoners' families more than a dollar a minute, hundreds of times more than free-market carriers. GTL is making over $500M by exploiting the vulnerable families of the most emiserated people in America, and its competitors are making hundreds of millions more. 2.7M American children have to ration their calls to their incarcerated parents, undermining the cohesion of prisoners' families and their ability to support prisoners on release.

This point is made in a long and sad article on prison profiteering by Liliana Segura in The Nation. Worse than phone profiteering is the cruelty of the prison medical contractors, who ration vital treatments to prisoners, leaving them in agony and worse. For example, Correctional Medical Services "discourages treatment for hepatitis," leaving prisoners with hep. C to slide into permanent, profound disability.

These problems are much worse in private prisons, who are guaranteed occupancy by the states and counties that contract with them -- effectively, the government promises to lock up a minimum number of its citizens as a condition of doing business with private prisons. These prisons are not subject to freedom of information requests, are not inspected in the same way as public prisons, and have profit-taking built into their billion-dollar business, meaning that every dollar they spend on care and rehabilitation for prisoners is a dollar they don't return to their shareholders.

The ACLU is campaigning against prison profiteers and they deserve your support.

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Verizon wants to slow down your favorite websites unless they pay bribes

Robbo sez, "Alternet reports on Verizon's stated plan to overturn the Federal Communications Commission's Open Internet Order and charge selective tolls for access to internet content."

At its core Verizon's attack on the FCC is an attack on the idea that regulators have any role to ensure affordable access to an open Internet. Now more than ever we need policies to protect consumers and users of all communications. And as all media converges on digital networks that means policies that protect Net Neutrality.

While Verizon and other ISPs are already raking in immense profits from connecting users to the Internet, they see even higher margins in being able to tell us where to go once we're online. By charging a premium so wealthy businesses can jump to the front of the line, they're playing a game with data delivery that would shove all other sites to the back.

"I think the people who talk about dismantling -- threatening -- Net Neutrality don't appreciate how important it has been for us to have an independent market for productivity and for applications on the Internet," World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee has said.

Verizon's Outrageous Plot to Crack Up the Internet (Thanks, Robbo!)

AT&T threatens to disconnect users accused of copyright infringement

AT&T has started sending letters to some of its customers, threatening to disconnect them because they've been accused (without trial or a chance to rebut the evidence) of copyright infringement. AT&T is doing this voluntarily. There is no law or regulation requiring them to do this. It's part of the controversial Copyright Alert System, whose overseeing body had its company status revoked last May.

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The Internet Must Go: Colbertesque mockumentary about the quest to kill Net Neutrality

In John Wooley's hilarious 30-minute mockumentary The Internet Must Go, he plays a marketing shill hired by the big cable operators and phone companies to convince Americans to accept corrupt, non-neutral Internet connections where your ability to reach sites and services online is based on whether your ISP has a deal with the company offering it.

Wooley's playing a Colbert-esque useful idiot, and he never breaks character as he interviews Susan Crawford, Al Franken, John Hodgman, Tim Wu, Larry Lessig, and many others, giving them the chance to play out the arguments for a neutral, fair Internet. The climax is a visit to North Carolina, where the big telcos have successfully gotten legislation passed banning municipalities from offering high-speed Internet, even in towns where the cable and phone companies have no plans to offer high-speed connections.

The trailer is above, the whole movie is below, but do visit the movie's site for action links and more interviews.

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Timeline of Net Neutrality


Michael from Public Knowledge sez, "Today the DC Circuit Court is hearing Verizon's challenge to the FCC's net neutrality rules. It has been a while since net neutrality was in the news, so we created this interactive timeline to remind people of all of the twists and turns of net neutrality so far."

A Timeline of Net Neutrality (Thanks, Michael!)

Comcast says its attempt to shut down TorrentFreak by claiming copyright on court filing was "error"


This morning, I posted about a series of legal threats sent to TorrentFreak by Comcast's (creepy) enforcers Cyveillance. At the time I posted, TorrentFreak had less than 24 hours to resolve the issue before being booted off its webhost, and was unable to get anyone at Cyveillance or Comcast to answer its repeated emails.

Now, Comcast has changed its mind. Here's an email I just received:

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UK phone companies turned a profit by shoveling customer data into GCHQ's maw

A fresh set of Snowden leaks show that the UK spy agency GCHQ turned spying into a profit centre for Britain's telcos, who received huge cash payouts in exchange for turning over their customers' private communications and developing spyware to infect customers' computers in order to extract more data.

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