The Internet

FCC Plans December Vote To Kill Net Neutrality Rules (bloomberg.com) 113

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: The U.S. Federal Communications Commission under its Republican chairman plans to vote in December to kill the net neutrality rules passed during the Obama era, said two people briefed on the plans. Chairman Ajit Pai in April proposed gutting the rules that he blamed for depressing investment in broadband, and said he intended to "finish the job" this year. The chairman has decided to put his proposal to a vote at the FCC next month, said the people. The agency's monthly meeting is to be held Dec. 14. The people asked not to be identified because the plan hasn't been made public. It's not clear what language Pai will offer to replace the rules that passed with only Democratic votes at the FCC in 2015. He has proposed that the FCC end the designation of broadband companies such as AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. as common carriers. That would remove the legal authority that underpins the net neutrality rules. One of the people said Pai may call for vacating the rules except for portions that mandate internet service providers inform customers about their practices. The current regulations forbid broadband providers from blocking or slowing web traffic, or from charging higher fees in return for quicker passage over their networks.
Power

Republican Tax Plan Kills Electric Vehicle Credit (arstechnica.com) 481

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The nascent market for electric cars will suffer a big setback if the Republican tax plan released on Thursday enters into law. Among the changes to the current tax code would be an end to the Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit. That's the tax incentive that currently means up to $7,500 back from the IRS when you purchase a new battery or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Since the start of 2010, the EV tax credit has been $2,500 for a plug-in vehicle with at least 5kWh battery capacity. Every extra kWh nets another $417 up to a maximum of $7,500, although you would need at least that amount in income tax liability -- the IRS won't cut you a check to make up the full amount. It was never meant to be permanent; once an automaker sells 200,000 qualifying vehicles (starting from January 1, 2010) its eligibility is phased out over a matter of months. But in the almost seven years since, no one has reached that limit yet. Tesla will almost certainly be first, with General Motors not far behind; between them, they've sold a lot of Model Ses and Chevrolet Volts. If this tax plan is enacted, it will surely mean pain for both companies, as well as anyone else hoping to sell a lot of EVs here in the U.S. The data is pretty clear -- tax incentives sell electric cars, and the market for EVs can dry up very fast when they're abolished, as Georgia's recent experience shows.
Businesses

FCC's Claim That One ISP Counts As 'Competition' Faces Scrutiny In Court (arstechnica.com) 200

Jon Brodkin reports via Ars Technica: A Federal Communications Commission decision to eliminate price caps imposed on some business broadband providers should be struck down, advocacy groups told federal judges last week. The FCC failed to justify its claim that a market can be competitive even when there is only one Internet provider, the groups said. Led by Chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC's Republican majority voted in April of this year to eliminate price caps in a county if 50 percent of potential customers "are within a half mile of a location served by a competitive provider." That means business customers with just one choice are often considered to be located in a competitive market and thus no longer benefit from price controls. The decision affects Business Data Services (BDS), a dedicated, point-to-point broadband link that is delivered over copper-based TDM networks by incumbent phone companies like AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink.

But the FCC's claim that "potential competition" can rein in prices even in the absence of competition doesn't stand up to legal scrutiny, critics of the order say. "In 2016, after more than 10 years of examining the highly concentrated Business Data Services market, the FCC was poised to rein in anti-competitive pricing in the BDS market to provide enterprise customers, government agencies, schools, libraries, and hospitals with much-needed relief from monopoly rates," Phillip Berenbroick, senior policy counsel at consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge said. But after Republicans gained the FCC majority in 2017, "the commission illegally reversed course without proper notice and further deregulated the BDS market, leaving consumers at risk of paying up to $20 billion a year in excess charges from monopolistic pricing," Berenbroick said.

Government

US Senate Panel Approves Self-Driving Car Legislation (reuters.com) 123

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill to speed self-driving cars to market without human controls and bar states from imposing regulatory road blocks. The bill still must be approved by the full Senate. The U.S. House passed a similar version last month unanimously. General Motors Co, Alphabet Inc, Ford Motor Co and others have lobbied for the landmark legislation. Despite some complaints from Republicans, the Senate bill does not speed approval of self-driving technology for large commercial trucks after labor unions raised safety and employment concerns. The measure, the first significant federal legislation aimed at speeding self-driving cars to market, would allow automakers to win exemptions from current safety rules that prohibit vehicles without human controls. States could still set rules on registration, licensing, liability, insurance and safety inspections, but not performance standards.
Communications

Ex-Verizon Lawyer Ajit Pai Confirmed To Second Term As FCC Chair (fastcompany.com) 101

Congress late Monday approved Ajit Pai for a second term as chair of the Federal Communications Commission, Fast Company reports. "The Senate voted 52-41 (with almost all 'yea' votes coming from Republicans) to give Pai a new five-year term retroactive to July 1, 2017. Without the confirmation, Pai would have had to give up the chair at the end of 2017."

"I am deeply grateful to the U.S. Senate for confirming my nomination to serve a second term at the FCC and to President Trump for submitting that nomination to the Senate," Pai said in a statement. Pai served as Associate General Counsel at Verizon Communications Inc. in February 2001, where he handled competition matters, regulatory issues, and counseling of business units on broadband initiatives.
United States

Wisconsin Lawmakers Vote To Pay Foxconn $3 Billion To Get New Factory (arstechnica.com) 245

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Wisconsin Assembly voted 59-30 on Thursday to approve a bill to give incentives worth $3 billion to Taiwan-based Foxconn so that the company would open its first U.S. plant in the state. Foxconn, best known for supplying parts of Apple's iPhones, will open the $10 billion liquid-crystal display plant in 2020, according to Reuters. The bill still has to be approved by a joint finance committee and the state Senate. Both houses of Wisconsin's legislature are controlled by Republicans, and the deal is supported by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican who negotiated the deal. The vote was largely, but not entirely, along party lines. Three Democrats joined 56 Republicans in supporting the deal. Two Republicans and 28 Democrats voted against it. Opponents said the deal wasn't a good use of taxpayer funds. The $3 billion incentives package includes about $2.85 billion in cash payments from taxpayers and tax breaks valued at about $150 million. The state is also waiving certain environmental rules.
Republicans

Silicon Valley Says Trump Plan To Reduce Immigration Will Hurt Economy (cbslocal.com) 273

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS Local: President Donald Trump's push to cut legal immigration to the United States in half is being met by opposition from Silicon Valley leaders, economists, and even some Republicans senators, who all say legal immigration is key to economic prosperity. The Trump administration Wednesday endorsed the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act or RAISE Act, a Senate bill introduced by two Republican senators earlier this year, that aims to cut all U.S. immigration in half. Business leaders, especially those in California's tech industry, say the bill will stymie their ability to fill jobs and grow the U.S. economy. California's economy is the sixth largest in the world and many attribute that success, in part, to immigration. The Information Technology Industry Council, which represents companies including Amazon, Apple, Adobe, Dell, Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, Google, Visa, Nokia, and Microsoft railed against the bill.

Dean Garfield, President and CEO of the council said, "This is not the right proposal to fix our immigration system because it does not address the challenges tech companies face, injects more bureaucratic dysfunction, and removes employers as the best judge of the employee merits they need to succeed and grow the U.S. economy." Garfield argues that the tech industry cannot find enough STEM-skilled Americans to fill open positions and that U.S. immigration policy "stops us from keeping the best and brightest innovators here in the U.S. and instead we lose out to our overseas competitors."

Communications

The FCC Is Full Again, With Three Republicans and Two Democrats (arstechnica.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The U.S. Senate today confirmed the nominations of Republican Brendan Carr and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel to fill the two empty seats on the Federal Communications Commission. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai congratulated the commissioners in a statement. "As I know from working with each of them for years, they have distinguished records of public service and will be valuable assets to the FCC in the years to come," Pai said. "Their experience at the FCC makes them particularly well-suited to hit the ground running. I'm pleased that the FCC will once again be at full strength and look forward to collaborating to close the digital divide, promote innovation, protect consumers, and improve the agency's operations."

Carr served as Pai's Wireless, Public Safety and International Legal Advisor for three years. After President Trump elevated Pai to the chairmanship in January, Pai appointed Carr to become the FCC's general counsel. Rosenworcel had to leave the commission at the end of last year when the Republican-led US Senate refused to re-confirm her for a second five-year term. But Democrats pushed Trump to re-nominate Rosenworcel to fill the empty Democratic spot and he obliged. FCC commissioners are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. esides Pai, Carr, and Rosenworcel, the five-member commission includes Republican Michael O'Rielly and Democrat Mignon Clyburn.

Government

US Senators To Introduce Bill To Secure 'Internet of Things' (reuters.com) 138

Dustin Volz, reporting for Reuters: A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Tuesday plans to introduce legislation seeking to address vulnerabilities in computing devices embedded in everyday objects -- known in the tech industry as the "internet of things" -- which experts have long warned poses a threat to global cyber security. The new bill would require vendors that provide internet-connected equipment to the U.S. government to ensure their products are patchable and conform to industry security standards. It would also prohibit vendors from supplying devices that have unchangeable passwords or possess known security vulnerabilities. Republicans Cory Gardner and Steve Daines and Democrats Mark Warner and Ron Wyden are sponsoring the legislation, which was drafted with input from technology experts at the Atlantic Council and Harvard University. A Senate aide who helped write the bill said that companion legislation in the House was expected soon.
Government

The US Congress Is Investigating Government Use Of Kaspersky Software (reuters.com) 47

An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: A U.S. congressional panel this week asked 22 government agencies to share documents on Moscow-based cyber firm Kaspersky Lab, saying its products could be used to carry out "nefarious activities against the United States," according to letters seen by Reuters. The requests made on Thursday by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology are the latest blow to the antivirus company, which has been countering accusations by U.S. officials that it may be vulnerable to Russian government influence... The committee "is concerned that Kaspersky Lab is susceptible to manipulation by the Russian government, and that its products could be used as a tool for espionage, sabotage, or other nefarious activities against the United States," wrote the panel's Republican chairman, Lamar Smith, in the letters... A committee aide told Reuters the survey was a "first step" designed to canvas the U.S. government and that more action may follow depending on the results.
Agencies contacted include both the Deparatment of Homeland Security and NASA. The committee wants to see internal risk assessments, plus a list of all systems using Kaspersky products and the names of government contractors using the software.
Businesses

Bad News If You Make $150,000 to $300,000: Higher Taxes for Many (wsj.com) 483

From a WSJ report: If President Donald Trump sticks to what he has said, Americans earning between $149,400 and $307,900 are most likely to see an increase in their taxes as a result of tax reform (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled). Those figures come from a recent study by the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan group in Washington, and are based on Mr. Trump's statements and proposals. The study concludes that nearly one-third of about 19 million households in that income range could see tax increases averaging from $3,000 to $4,000 a year. By contrast, less than 10% of households earning the least or the most -- below $25,000 or above $733,000 -- would owe more after a tax overhaul. Over all, the study found that about 20% of taxpayers would owe more after tax reform than before it. The issue of tax reform's winners and losers has resurfaced after top congressional Republicans and the Trump administration released a set of broad principles for tax policy on Thursday containing few details.
Government

US House Panel Approves Broad Proposal On Self-Driving Cars (reuters.com) 191

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A U.S. House panel on Wednesday approved a sweeping proposal by voice vote to allow automakers to deploy up to 100,000 self-driving vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards and bar states from imposing driverless car rules. Representative Robert Latta, a Republican who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee overseeing consumer protection, said he would continue to consider changes before the full committee votes on the measure, expected next week. The full U.S. House of Representatives will not take up the bill until it reconvenes in September after the summer recess. The measure, which would be the first significant federal legislation aimed at speeding self-driving cars to market, would require automakers to submit safety assessment reports to U.S. regulators, but would not require pre-market approval of advanced vehicle technologies. Automakers would have to show self-driving cars "function as intended and contain fail safe features" to get exemptions from safety standards but the Transportation Department could not "condition deployment or testing of highly automated vehicles on review of safety assessment certifications," the draft measure unveiled late Monday said.
Transportation

Oregon Passes First Statewide Bicycle Tax In Nation (washingtontimes.com) 708

turkeydance writes: In Oregon, a state known for its avid bicycling culture, the state legislature's approval of the first bike tax in the nation has fallen flat with riders. Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign the sweeping $5.3 billion transportation package, which includes a $15 excise tax on the sale of bicycles costing more than $200 with a wheel diameter of at least 26 inches. Even though the funding has been earmarked for improvements that will benefit cyclists, the tax has managed to irk both anti-tax Republicans and environmentally conscious bikers. The bike tax is aimed at raising $1.2 million per year in order to improve and expand paths and trails for bicyclists and pedestrians. Supporters point out that Oregon has no sales tax, which means buyers won't be dinged twice for their new wheels.
Education

In America, Most Republicans Think Colleges Are Bad for the Country (chronicle.com) 996

An anonymous reader quotes the Chronicle of Higher Education: A majority of Republicans and right-leaning independents think higher education has a negative effect on the country, according to a new study released by the Pew Research Center on Monday. The same study has found a consistent increase in distrust of colleges and universities since 2010, when negative perceptions among Republicans was measured at 32 percent. That number now stands at 58 percent. By comparison, 72 percent of Democrats or left-leaning Independents in the study said colleges and universities have a positive impact on the United States... In the Pew Research Center's study, distrust of colleges was strongest in the highest income bracket and the oldest age group, with approval levels of just 31 percent among respondents whose family income exceeds $75,000 a year and 27 percent among those older than 65.
AT&T

Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T Want Congress To Make a Net Neutrality Law Because They Will Write It (theverge.com) 170

From a report on The Verge: Companies and organizations that rely on an open internet rallied on Wednesday for a "day of action" on net neutrality, and America's biggest internet service providers have responded with arrogance and contempt for their customers. Comcast's David Cohen called arguments in favor of FCC regulation "scare tactics" and "hysteria." Beyond the dismissive rhetoric, ISPs are coincidentally united today in calling for Congress to act -- and that's because they've paid handsomely to control what Congress does. There's one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on, and that's taking money from ISPs. The telecommunications industry was the most powerful lobbying force of the 20th century, and that power endures. It's no secret that lobbyists in Washington write many of the laws, and the telecom industry spends a lot of money to make sure lawmakers use them. We've already seen net neutrality legislation written by the ISPs, and it's filled with loopholes. It's not just in Congress -- companies like AT&T have deep influence over local and state broadband laws, and write those policies, too. Some pro-net neutrality advocates are also arguing today that Congress should act, and there are some good reasons for that. Laws can be stickier than the judgements of regulatory agencies, and if you want to make net neutrality the law of the land that's a job for Congress. But there's a reason the ISPs are all saying the same thing, and it's because they're very confident they will defeat the interests of consumers and constituents. They've already done it this year under the Republican-controlled government. Further reading: 10M+ web users saw yesterday's net neutrality protest -- but rules are still getting scrapped.
Youtube

YouTube Stars Defend Net Neutrality In Open Letter To the FCC (theverge.com) 48

More than 100 YouTube creators from the Internet Creators Guild have signed an open letter to the FCC calling on the agency to keep strong net neutrality protections. "Our rapidly growing industry employs hundreds of thousands of people and yet it barely existed more than a decade ago," reads the letter. "As creators in this fast-moving industry, changes to the existing Net Neutrality rules would have an outsized impact on our field and jeopardize our livelihood." The Verge reports: The letter has been signed by major names in the YouTube community, such as the Fine Brothers. In total, the guild says, the letter represents video creators with an audience of more than 150 million people. The YouTube creators directly address FCC chairman Ajit Pai in the letter. The letter argues that the removal of protections would lead to "the inevitable creation of fast lanes that would privilege the large media companies that can afford to pay for such service," putting smaller media creators in danger. "We strongly urge you to oppose anything that would threaten this level playing field," the letter from video makers concludes. "The stakes are simply too high for our democracy, culture, and economy."
Republicans

Trump Picks Republican To Fill Empty Commissioner Seat At FCC (arstechnica.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission's empty slots are about to be filled. President Donald Trump will nominate Republican Brendan Carr to the FCC's fifth and final commissioner position, the White House announced last night. Carr served as FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai's Wireless, Public Safety, and International Legal Advisor for three years. After Trump elevated Pai to the chairmanship in January, Pai appointed Carr to become the FCC's general counsel. "Brendan has a distinguished record of public service, having worked at the agency for over five years, including most recently as the FCC's General Counsel," Pai said after the White House announcement. "In particular, Brendan's expertise on wireless policy and public safety will be a tremendous asset to the Commission."
Earth

Mayors of 7,400 Cities Vow To Meet Obama's Climate Commitments (theguardian.com) 298

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Mayors of more than 7,400 cities across the world have vowed that Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris accord will spur greater local efforts to combat climate change. At the first meeting of a "global covenant of mayors," city leaders from across the US, Europe and elsewhere pledged to work together to keep to the commitments made by Barack Obama two years ago. Cities will devise a standard measurement of emission reductions to help them monitor their progress. They will also share ideas for delivering carbon-free transport and housing. Kassim Reed, the mayor of Atlanta, told reporters he had travelled to Europe to "send a signal" that US states and cities would execute the policies Obama committed to, whether the current White House occupants agreed or not. Reed, whose administration has promised that the city of Atlanta will use 100% renewable energy by 2035, said 75% of the US population and GDP lay in urban areas, where local leaders were committed to fighting climate change. "We have the ability to still achieve between 35% and 45% CO2 emission reductions without the involvement of the national government and it is why I chose to be here at this time to send a signal to 7,400 cities around the world that now should be a time of optimism, passion and action," he said.
Twitter

New Study Explains Why Trump's 'Sad' Tweets Are So Effective (theverge.com) 272

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: During his campaign and presidency, Donald Trump has used Twitter to circumvent traditional media broadcasters and speak directly to the masses. He is particularly known for one specific tweet construction: he sets up a situation that he feels should inspire anger or outrage, then punctuates it with "Sad!" New research from New York University suggests a reason why this style is so effective: a tweet containing moral and emotional language spreads farther among people with similar political persuasion. The study offered up "duty" as an example of a purely moral word, "fear" as a purely emotional one, and "hate" as word that combined the two categories. The research found that the use of purely moral or purely emotional language had a limited impact on the spread of a tweet, but the "presence of moral-emotional words in messages increased their diffusion by a factor of 20% for each additional word." The impact of this language cut both ways. Tweets with moral-emotional words spread further among those with a similar political outlook, and they spread less with those who held opposing views, according to the research published in the journal PNAS. The study looked at 563,312 tweets on the topics of gun control, same-sex marriage, and climate change, and rated their impact by the number of retweets each one received.
Government

198 Million Americans Hit By 'Largest Ever' Voter Records Leak (zdnet.com) 119

Political data gathered on more than 198 million US citizens was exposed this month after a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee stored internal documents on a publicly accessible Amazon server, reports say. From a ZDNet article: It's believed to be the largest ever known exposure of voter information to date. The various databases containing 198 million records on American voters from all political parties were found stored on an open Amazon S3 storage server owned by a Republican data analytics firm, Deep Root Analytics. UpGuard cyber risk analyst Chris Vickery, who found the exposed server, verified the data. Through his responsible disclosure, the server was secured late last week, and prior to publication. This leak shines a spotlight on the Republicans' multi-million dollar effort to better target potential voters by utilizing big data. The move largely a response to the successes of the Barack Obama campaign in 2008, thought to have been the first data-driven campaign. Further reading: Republican Data-Mining Firm Exposed Personal Information for Virtually Every American Voter - The Intercept; The RNC Files: Inside the Largest US Voter Data Leak - Upguard; Data on 198M voters exposed by GOP contractor Data On 198M Voters Exposed By GOP Contractor - The Hill.

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