Washington Post

How Congress could actually wind up saving Aereo

[Commentary] A sliver of light may have just appeared at the end of Aereo's long legal tunnel. A Senate proposal is aiming to rewrite the economics of TV. If the idea moves forward, Aereo might be spared its demise -- and the company might even be able to keep the business model that got it into trouble with the Supreme Court.

The Senate proposal, known as "Local Choice," would ease the pressure on cable companies who currently pay rising fees to broadcasters to get their content. This idea could work in Aereo's favor; if the courts accept its new argument that Aereo is a cable company, Aereo might find itself lumped in with the other firms that would be affected by Local Choice, too.

Local Choice would benefit Aereo by letting it avoid paying those expensive content fees itself, landing it back where it began before it was laid low by litigation. Voila -- Aereo emerges more or less intact, though the details are a little more complicated.

FBI, DEA and Secret Service argue that next ‘number portability’ administrator must be ready to handle investigations

Lawmakers, including the chairman and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, who have pressed the Federal Communications Commission to keep national security in mind when choosing a new management of the National Portability Administration Center, have now gotten support from the law enforcement community.

The FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Secret Service have weighed in, telling the FCC that they believe that the agency should take into consideration how well any vendor might "satisfy the important law enforcement, public safety, and national security equities" of local and federal authorities.

The FBI, DEA and Secret Service maintain that they take no position on Telcordia's potential selection as the next contractor in particular. But they highlight some of the sensitivities of using the system in the course of their work.

Feds to study illegal use of spy gear

The Federal Communications Commission has established a task force to study reported misuse of surveillance technology that can intercept cellular signals to locate people, monitor their calls and send malicious software to their phones.

The powerful technology -- called an IMSI catcher, though also referred to by the trade name “Stingray” -- is produced by several major surveillance companies and widely used by police and intelligence services around the world.

The FCC, in response to questions from Rep Alan Grayson (D-FL), plans to study the extent to which criminal gangs and foreign intelligence services are using the devices against Americans.

Why surveillance companies hate the iPhone

Android phones, some Blackberries and phones running older Microsoft operating systems all are vulnerable to Gamma’s spyware, called FinSpy, which can turn your smart phone into a potent surveillance device.

For FinSpy to hack into an iPhone, its owner must have already stripped away much of its built-in security through a process called “jailbreaking.” No jailbreak, no FinSpy on your iPhone, at least according to a leaked Gamma document dated April 2014.

This is good news for people with iPhones, and perhaps for Apple as well. But at a time of rising concern about government surveillance powers, it’s ironic that a different mobile operating system – Google’s Android – has emerged as the global standard, with a dominant share of the world market.

The result is what might be called a growing “Surveillance Gap.” The consequences can be serious if a government anywhere in the world decides to target you with FinSpy, or if a police officer or border patrol agent attempts to browse through your smartphone -- or worse still, copy its entire contents for later examination.

Why one of cybersecurity’s thought leaders uses a pager instead of a smart phone

A Q&A with Dan Geer, a long-time researcher who is thought of as one of the computer and network security industry's thought leaders.

Geer is currently the Chief Information Security Officer at In-Q-Tel -- a non-profit venture capital firm that invests in technology to support the Central Intelligence Agency.

Geer spoke about his distrust of increasing data collection and how he tries to stay off the digital grid in his own life. “I don't carry a cellphone. Honestly, it's a nuisance -- it would be very helpful because as you know things aren't about planning these days, they're about coordination,” he said.

What if you could pick and choose which broadcast TV channels you get?

Two of the most powerful senators in Washington have an idea that could change the economics of TV for good.

The plan, proposed by Sens Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and John Thune (R-SD), would let TV viewers individually decide which broadcast channels they want to receive in their cable subscriptions. You could, for example, opt to receive ABC and NBC but not CBS. Consumers would then be billed directly for those individual channels, essentially establishing an a la carte system for broadcast TV.

First, ending the cable companies' role as a middleman between viewer and broadcaster would eliminate the contracting disputes behind programming blackouts like the CBS-Time Warner Cable outage in 2013. Second, by paying for broadcast content themselves, consumers would have a better idea of how much that programming is actually worth. Third, consumers could more easily compare broadcast fees against the cost of cable programming.

Neustar, Telcordia battle over FCC contract to play traffic cop for phone calls, texts

Influential lawmakers are urging the Federal Communications Commission not to ignore national security as it prepares to choose a company to play the critical role of traffic cop for virtually every phone call and text message in North America. At issue is the security of the most significant cog in the telecommunications network that most Americans have never heard of.

The Number Portability Administration Center, or NPAC, handles the routing of all calls and texts for more than 650 million US and Canadian phone numbers for more than 2,000 carriers. If numbers are scrambled or erased, havoc could ensue.

In a letter sent to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, Rep Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Rep CA Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Chairman and ranking Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee, urged the FCC to consult the FBI and other security agencies before picking a firm.

FCC to Verizon: ‘All the kids do it’ is no excuse for throttling unlimited data

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler doesn't much like Verizon's latest attempt to justify slowing down 4G LTE for a select group of its customers.

Just because Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T all slow down mobile data for users who go over their monthly limit -- or who account for a disproportionate share of consumption -- doesn't make it okay for Verizon to do the same, he said.

"'All the kids do it' is something that never worked with me when I was growing up, and it didn't work for my kids," said Chairman Wheeler. "We have to be careful about attempts to reframe the issue."

Some cellphone calls to 911 are notoriously hard to trace. But now we’re one step closer to a fix.

Today, federal standards help 911 call centers find victims within minutes if they're calling from outdoors or from a landline. In most cases, help arrives on the scene with no complications at all. But for people calling 911 on a cellphone indoors, it's often a different story.

Being inside thwarts GPS signals used by cellphones and dispatchers to locate people in an emergency. For this reason, the Federal Communications Commission has announced a breakthrough in developing a plan that everyone can get behind.

Consisting of four guidelines, the roadmap puts the country "on track" to improving location accuracy for wireless 911 calls, which account for 70 percent of all calls to 911, according to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. Key to the guidelines is a requirement that wireless carriers provide 911 dispatchers with the exact floor and room of a caller.

The man who can see the Internet

Doug Madory is the senior analyst of Renesys, a small New Hampshire-based firm specializing in what it calls "Internet intelligence." Madory writes much of the company's coverage of news events.

Madory and his colleagues have the rare ability to see in real time where a nation is situated in the global digital fabric.

The insights found into which dictator has kicked his country off the Internet for how long is a byproduct of Renesys's core work of selling information on the flow of Internet traffic to Internet service providers. But by monitoring the Internet's vital signs, the company can see how the ever-evolving global network of networks fits into global events.