After a blockbuster report in Motherboard revealed that bounty hunters were able to buy realtime location data that originated with three of the four major cellular carriers (the exception is Verizon), the carriers scrambled to spin the news, insisting that the bounty hunter access represented a recent, small-scale aberration, but a new set of leaks reported on in Motherboard reveals that the practice has gone on for years, at industrial scale, and that the resellers who supplied bail bondsmen and other unsavory types in secret have changed names, but are still in business.
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China’s Huawei is the subject of a U.S. criminal investigation in which federal prosecutors say the Chinese tech company stole trade secrets from U.S. business partners including technology behind a robotic device T-Mobile used to test smartphones, called “Tappy.” Read the rest
There have been several attempts to force the US telcoms industry to respect our privacy: to stop our ISPs from spying on us and selling our usage data to marketers, to stop the mobile carriers from spying on our location and selling the data to marketers (and, it turns out, stalkers and bounty hunters), and every attempt has fizzled, as telcoms lobbyists and telcoms-funded lawmakers have sold us out, saying that the privacy rules are unnecessary because the carriers wouldn't do anything too sketchy lest they suffer reputational damage.
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Last week, the New York Times revealed that an obscure company called Securus was providing realtime location tracking to law enforcement, without checking the supposed "warrants" provided by cops, and that their system had been abused by a crooked sheriff to track his targets, including a judge (days later, a hacker showed that Securus's security was terrible, and their service would be trivial to hack and abuse).
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T-Mobile didn't want its rural users to know how shitty its service was, so when the company couldn't connect a call, it would play fake "ring tones" to the caller that made it sounds like the person on the other end wasn't picking up. It did this "hundreds of millions of times" per year.
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One of the factors that makes the Net Neutrality fight so urgent is how little competition there is in the telcoms sector; it -- like the whole modern economy is dominated by a few giant, top-heavy firms that are gobbling one another at speed.
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T-Mobile's "Binge On" service advertises itself as a "video optimization" service that publishers and customers opt into, but it's really just throttling for all video, something T-Mobile CEO John Legere vehemently denied, then admitted to. Read the rest
T-Mobile claims that its Binge On service (video that doesn't count against subscribers' data-caps) is a bit of pre-processing magic that makes the videos you watch load with less jitter and buffering, but that's not what's going on under the hood. Read the rest
When bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon on Monday, my Facebook feed was immediately filled with urgent messages. I watched as my friends and family implored their friends and family in Boston to check in, and lamented the fact that nobody could seem to get a solid cell phone connection. Calls were made, but they got dropped. More often, they were never connected to begin with. There was even a rumor circulating that all cell phone service to the city had been switched off at the request of law enforcement.
That rumor turns out to not be true. But it is a fact that, whenever disaster strikes, it becomes difficult to reach the people you care about. Right at the moment when you really need to hear a familiar voice, you often can't. So what gives?
To find out why it's frequently so difficult to successfully place a call during emergencies, I spoke with Brough Turner, an entrepreneur, engineer, and writer who has been been working with phone systems (both wired and wireless) for 25 years. Turner helped me understand how the behind-the-scenes infrastructure of cell phones works, and why that infrastructure gets bogged down when lots of people are suddenly trying to make calls all at once from a single place. He says there are some things that can be done to fix this issue, but, ultimately, it's more complicated than just asking what the technology can and cannot do. In some ways, service failures like this are a price we pay for having a choice and not being subject to a total monopoly. Read the rest
An AT&T legal staffer inadvertently (and briefly) posted a damning internal document to the FCC's docket for the pending AT&T/T-Mobile merger. The document makes it clear that "AT&T is giving Deutsche Telekom $39 billion primarily to reduce market competition" and that the company's claims of bigger network buildouts and increased employment are utterly fictional.
Again, the reality appears to be that AT&T is giving Deutsche Telekom $39 billion primarily to reduce market competition. That price tag eliminates T-Mobile entirely -- and makes Sprint (and by proxy new LTE partner LightSquared and current partner Clearwire) more susceptible to failure in the face of 80% AT&T/Verizon market domination. How much do you think wireless broadband market dominance is worth to AT&T over the next decade? After all, AT&T will be first to tell you there's a wireless data "tsunami" coming, with AT&T and Verizon on the shore eagerly billing users up to $10 per gigabyte.
Regardless of the motivation behind rejecting 97% LTE deployment, the letter proves AT&T's claim they need T-Mobile to improve LTE coverage from 80-97% simply isn't true. That's a huge problem for AT&T, since nearly every politician and non-profit that has voiced support for the merger did so based largely on this buildout promise. It's also a problem when it comes to the DOJ review, since proof that AT&T could complete their LTE build for far less than the cost of this deal means the deal doesn't meet the DOJ's standard for merger-specific benefits.
Leaked AT&T Letter Demolishes Case For T-Mobile Merger
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