Jon Brodkin

Robocall-killing database should be created by industry, senators say

Sens John Thune (R-SD) and Ed Markey (D-MA) are urging the mobile phone industry to fight robocalls and texts by creating a database of phone numbers that have been reassigned from one customer to another. Reassigned numbers are one of the major contributors to unwanted calls and texts, and carriers haven't done enough to fight the problem, said Sens Thune and Markey. The lawmakers wrote a letter to CEO Meredith Attwell Baker of CTIA–The Wireless Association, a lobby group that represents AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile USA, Sprint, and other mobile carriers. Sens Thune and Markey "believe wireless carriers may have an opportunity to provide consumers and businesses more needed relief by establishing a reassigned numbers database, containing a list of cell phone numbers that have changed ownership," they wrote. "Periodically, consumers receive unwanted robocalls and robotexts because the previous holder of the phone number provided consent. Not only are robocalls and robotexts to reassigned numbers a nuisance to consumers, but they also create liabilities for calling parties."

Sens Thune and Markey asked the CTIA to provide information on how wireless companies could compile reassigned numbers in a database and how they could provide access to the database so that callers (often telemarketers) can determine whether a number is still assigned to the original owner. The senators also asked whether the cost of the database can be covered by charging a fee to callers.

Comcast tells government that its data caps aren’t actually “data caps”

“Comcast does not have ‘data caps’ today,” the company wrote in a filing with the New York Public Service Commission on its proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

“Comcast announced almost two years ago that it was suspending enforcement of its prior 250GB excessive usage cap and that it would instead be trialing different pricing and packaging options to evaluate options for subscribers -- options that reflect evolving Internet usage and that are based on the desire to provide flexible consumption plans, including a plan that enables customers who want to use more data the option to pay more to do so as well as a plan for those who use less data the option to save some money… Some of these trials include a data usage plan that allows customers who use very little Internet each month to receive a discount on their service fee, and variations on a plan that provide customers with the ability to buy additional increments of usage if they exceed a base amount (starting at 300GB) that is included with their service.”

Comcast argued that the federal government is the appropriate entity to investigate data caps, and that, as a consequence, New York regulators shouldn’t bother examining them in their review of the Comcast/TWC merger -- even though Comcast could impose data caps on TWC customers who don't face them today.

Comcast donations help company secure support of Time Warner Cable merger

Comcast has support for its acquisition of Time Warner Cable, much of it from politicians and organizations that benefit from its political and charitable donations.

A number of elected officials and charities have urged the Federal Communications Commission to think favorably of Comcast during its merger review.

Comcast fans also come from political organizations. Comcast is a prolific donor, giving money even to politicians and organizations who criticize the company.

NFL astroturfing convinces 10,000 fans to support TV blackouts

The National Football League’s campaign to preserve Federal Communications Commission rules that allow local TV blackouts when games aren’t sold out has descended into astroturfing, with thousands of form letters signed by “football fans” arguing on behalf of keeping rules that can prevent fans from watching home games on TV.

Former NFL player Lynn Swann submitted 3,300 letters to the FCC urging the commission to maintain its sports blackout rule. In all, “more than 10,500 fans” have petitioned the commission to keep the rule, he wrote.

How Verizon lets its copper network decay to force phone customers onto fiber

The shift from copper landlines to fiber-based voice networks is continuing apace, and no one wants it to happen faster than Verizon.

Public interest groups and consumers have accused Verizon of letting copper networks deteriorate and using their degraded status to push fiber upgrades.

Verizon cut investment in its wireline business -- it had 80,600 wireline employees as of June 30, 2014, down from 84,700 in 2013, 88,600 in 2012, and 93,200 in 2011. Verizon also reduced capital expenditures from $2.95 billion in the six months ending June 30, 2013 to $2.73 billion in the six months ending June 30, 2014.

FCC asked six more ISPs, content providers to reveal paid peering deals

The Federal Communications Commission investigation of how network interconnection problems affect the quality of Internet service began when the FCC obtained the paid peering deals Netflix signed with Comcast and Verizon. The FCC has asked another six Internet service providers and content providers for copies of similar agreements, a commission official said.

The FCC will likely announce more details of its probe in the fall, but the public probably won't see any specific details of the contracts.

The FCC official would not say which companies other than Netflix, Comcast, and Verizon got the requests, although Wheeler said in June that he would try to get information from the Google-owned YouTube. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and other companies have direct connections with ISPs, the financial details of which have not been disclosed.

Startup claims it will build fiber network in LA and wireless throughout US

A Dutch company called Angie Communications told Los Angeles city officials that it wants to build a citywide fiber-to-the-home broadband network and that it also hopes to build nationwide Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

The proposal sounds unlikely to succeed, but it's certainly ambitious. It comes in response to a Los Angeles city government request for information (RFI) regarding a plan to build a fiber and Wi-Fi network.

FCC bid to boost broadband competition faces attack over “constitutionality”

The Federal Communications Commission will face a lawsuit if it tries to invalidate state laws that restrict the ability of cities and towns to offer Internet service, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) wrote to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Such a move would infringe on states' rights protected by the Constitution, the group claimed.

Chairman Wheeler has said he intends to "preempt state laws that ban competition from community broadband," relying on authority detailed in a court decision that overturned the FCC's network neutrality rules. These state laws make it difficult or impossible for municipalities to create their own broadband networks that compete against private Internet service providers like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.

Deaf advocacy groups to Verizon: Don’t kill net neutrality on our behalf

The absence of network neutrality rules isn't just good for Verizon -- it's also good for the blind, deaf, and disabled, Verizon claims. Now, advocacy groups for deaf people have filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission saying they don't agree with Verizon's position.

"While we strongly believe that Internet-based services and applications must be made accessible, we also believe that doing so is possible on an open network and without the need for broadband providers to specifically identify traffic from accessibility applications and separate it out for special treatment,” the filing said.

The comments were filed by Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing; the National Association of the Deaf; the Hearing Loss Association of America; Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network; and Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Telecommunications Access.

AT&T supports a “fast lane” ban as long as it contains a giant loophole

The common wisdom is that the Federal Communications Commission can't issue stronger open Internet rules unless it re-classifies broadband as a telecommunications service, which would open ISPs up to utility-style, common carrier regulations under Title II of the Communications Act.

AT&T has vehemently argued against Internet service being treated like a utility. And now, despite that court ruling, AT&T claims that the FCC can ban fast lanes or "paid prioritization" without reclassifying broadband. However, AT&T's argument includes a big loophole that would actually allow extensive paid prioritization.

AT&T claims the FCC could implement a fast lane ban and still comply with the court ruling "by concluding that paid prioritization is a per se commercially unreasonable practice under the theory that it threatens the open Internet."