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Communications

Verizon and New Jersey Agree 4G Service Equivalent to Broadband Internet 55

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the buying-regulators-for-fun-and-profit dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news that Verizon and New Jersey regulators have reached a deal releasing Verizon from their obligation to have brought 45Mbps broadband to all NJ residents by 2010. Instead, 4G wireless service is considered sufficient. From the article: "2010 came and went and a number of rural parts of the state are still living with dial-up or subpar DSL. And even though the original deal was made in the days of modems and CompuServe, its crafters had the foresight to define broadband as 45Mbps, which is actually higher than many Verizon broadband customers receive today. ... In spite of that, and the thousands of legitimate complaints from actual New Jersey residents, the BPU voted unanimously yesterday to approve a deal with Verizon ... According to the Bergen Record, Verizon will no longer be obligated to provide broadband to residents if they have access to broadband service from cable TV providers or wireless 4G service. ... Residents who happen to live in areas not served by cable or wireless broadband can petition Verizon for service, but can only get broadband if at least 35 people in a single census tract each agree to sign contracts for a minimum of one year and pay $100 deposits."
Government

DC Revolving Door: Ex-FCC Commissioner Is Now Head CTIA Lobbyist 146

Posted by timothy
from the but-they're-so-well-versed-in-it dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "Up until three years ago, Meredith Attwell Baker was an Obama-appointed FCC commissioner. Now she's the newly minted CEO of the CTIA, the nation's largest lobbying group for the mobile phone industry. How can we expect regulators to keep a careful watch over industries when high-paying jobs in those industries await them after retirement? One of the most damning sentences in that article: 'More than 80 percent of FCC commissioners since 1980 have gone on to work for companies or groups in the industries they used to regulate.'"
DRM

How Much Data Plan Bandwidth Is Wasted By DRM? 195

Posted by Soulskill
from the phoning-home-adds-up dept.
Bennett Haselton writes: "If you watch a movie or TV show (legally) on your mobile device while away from your home network, it's usually by streaming it on a data plan. This consumes an enormous amount of a scarce resource (data bundled with your cell phone provider's data plan), most of it unnecessarily, since many of those users could have downloaded the movie in advance on their home broadband connection — if it weren't for pointless DRM restrictions." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.
Networking

WRT54G Successor Falls Flat On Promises 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the too-good-to-be-true dept.
New submitter JImbob0i0 writes: "Back in January, Linksys/Belkin made a big deal about their new router, the WRT1900AC, which they claimed was a successor to the venerable WRT54G, and how they were working with OpenWRT. They released it this week, but their promises have fallen far short. You need to apply patches (which don't apply cleanly) and compile yourself in order to get it to work... so long as you don't need wireless support. There has not been much response from Linksys on the mailing list to criticism of the improperly formatted patch dump and poor reviews as a result."
AT&T

AT&T's Gigabit Smokescreen 126

Posted by Soulskill
from the why-buy-the-cow-when-you-can-pretend-you-have-a-cow dept.
Yesterday AT&T announced it would examine 100 cities and municipalities in the U.S., including 21 metropolitan areas, for introduction of gigabit fiber. Taken on its face, the announcement is the company's response to Google Fiber. But many were quick to note AT&T has promised nothing. Karl Bode at DSLReports went so far as to call AT&T's announcement a giant bluff. "Ever since Google Fiber came on the scene, AT&T's response has been highly theatrical in nature. What AT&T would have the press and public believe is that they're engaged in a massive new deployment of fiber to the home service. What's actually happening is that AT&T is upgrading a few high-end developments where fiber was already in the ground (these users were previously capped at DSL speeds) and pretending it's a serious expansion of fixed-line broadband. It's not. At the same time AT&T is promising a massive expansion in fixed line broadband, they're telling investors they aren't spending much money on the initiative, because they aren't. AT&T's focus is on more profitable wireless. 'Gigapower' is a show pony designed to help the company pretend they're not being outmaneuvered in their core business by a search engine company."
Networking

Intentional Backdoor In Consumer Routers Found 234

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the insecurity-through-idiocy dept.
New submitter janoc (699997) writes about a backdoor that was fixed (only not). "Eloi Vanderbeken from Synacktiv has identified an intentional backdoor in a module by Sercomm used by major router manufacturers (Cisco, Linksys, Netgear, etc.). The backdoor was ostensibly fixed — by obfuscating it and making it harder to access. The original report (PDF). And yeah, there is an exploit available ..." Rather than actually closing the backdoor, they just altered it so that the service was not enabled until you knocked the portal with a specially crafted Ethernet packet. Quoting Ars Technica: "The nature of the change, which leverages the same code as was used in the old firmware to provide administrative access over the concealed port, suggests that the backdoor is an intentional feature of the firmware ... Because of the format of the packets—raw Ethernet packets, not Internet Protocol packets—they would need to be sent from within the local wireless LAN, or from the Internet service provider’s equipment. But they could be sent out from an ISP as a broadcast, essentially re-opening the backdoor on any customer’s router that had been patched."
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: Which Router Firmware For Bandwidth Management? 104

Posted by timothy
from the but-the-neighbors-will-object dept.
First time accepted submitter DeathByLlama (2813725) writes "Years ago I made the switch from DD-WRT to Tomato firmware for my Linksys router. I lost a couple features, but gained one of the best QoS and bandwidth management systems I have seen on a router to date. Admins can see graphs of current and historical bandwidth usage by IP, set minimum and maximum bandwidth limits by IP range, setup QoS rules, and see and filter graphs and lists of current connections by usage, class or source/destination — all from an elegantly designed GUI. This has allowed me to easily and intelligently allocate and adjust my network's bandwidth; when there is a problem, I can see where it's coming from and create rules around it. I'm currently using the Toastman's VPN Tomato firmware, which has about everything that I would want, except for one key thing: support for ARM-based routers (only Broadcom is supported). I have seen other firmware projects being actively developed in the last few years, so in picking a new 802.11ac router, I need to decide whether Tomato support is a deal-breaker. With solid bandwidth management as a priority, what firmware would you recommend? Stock Asuswrt? Asuswrt-Merlin? OpenWRT? DD-WRT? Tomato? _____?"
Cellphones

The Case For a Safer Smartphone 184

Posted by Soulskill
from the everyone's-dangerous-behind-the-wheel-except-me dept.
itwbennett writes: "According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, people who text and drive increase their chances of 'safety-critical events' by a multiple of 23.2. And new research is constantly rolling out, showing the same thing: 'We can't handle the visual, manual, and cognitive commitment of using a phone while driving,' writes blogger Kevin Purdy. What's needed, Purdy suggests, isn't more laws that will go ignored, but phones that know enough to stop giving us the distractions we ask them for: 'I think the next good phone, the next phone that makes some variant of the claim that it "Fits the way you live," needs to know that we don't know what is good for us when it comes to driving. We want to be entertained and shown new things while doing the often mundane or stressful task of driving. More specifically, those phones should know when we are driving, quiet or otherwise obscure updates from most apps, and be able to offer their most basic functions without needing to turn on a screen or type a single letter.'"
Networking

New MU-MIMO Standard Could Allow For Gigabit WiFi Throughput 32

Posted by timothy
from the it-slices-it-dices-it-emits-radiation dept.
MojoKid (1002251) writes "Today, Qualcomm is announcing full support for a new wireless transmission method that could significantly boost performance on crowded networks. The new standard, MU-MIMO (Multiple User — Multiple Input and Multiple Output) has a clunky name — but could make a significant difference to home network speeds and make gigabit WiFi a practical reality. MU-MIMO is part of the 802.11ac Release 2 standard, so this isn't just a custom, Qualcomm-only feature. In SU-MIMO mode, a wireless router creates time slices for every device it detects on the network. Every active device on the network slows down the total system bandwidth — the router has to pay attention to every device, and it can only pay attention to one phone, tablet, or laptop at a time. The difference between single-user and multi-user configurations is that where SU can only serve one client at a time and can therefore only allocate a fraction of total bandwidth to any given device, MU can create groups of devices and communicate with all three simultaneously."
The Internet

FCC Boosts Spectrum Available To Wi-Fi 73

Posted by samzenpus
from the greased-lightning dept.
bbsguru (586178) writes "Wi-Fi networks will soon be improving thanks to a vote by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today. The FCC voted unanimously to open 100 MHz of wireless spectrum in an unlicensed 5GHz block . The move will increase the number of frequencies available to unlicensed wireless networks (such as those set up through Wi-Fi routers) by nearly 15 percent, and in turn, allow them to handle a greater level of traffic at higher speeds. 'Today's action represents the largest amount of spectrum suitable for mobile broadband that the Commission has made available for auction since the 700MHz band was auctioned in 2008,' the FCC wrote in a statement. 'Access to these bands will help wireless companies meet growing consumer demand for mobile data by enabling faster wireless speeds and more capacity.' The increased spectrum should mean that Wi-Fi networks will be less congested, and next-gen routers will be able to take better advantage of gigabit broadband speeds that are cropping up all over the country."
Communications

WSJ: Prepare To Hang Up the Phone — Forever 449

Posted by Soulskill
from the rotary-phones-won't-breed-in-captivity dept.
retroworks writes: "Telecom giants AT&T and Verizon Communications are lobbying states, one by one, to hang up the plain, old telephone system, what the industry now calls POTS — the copper-wired landline phone system whose reliability and reach made the U.S. a communications powerhouse for more than 100 years. Is landline obsolete, and should be immune from grandparents-era social protection? The article continues, 'Last week, Michigan joined more than 30 other states that have passed or are considering laws that restrict state-government oversight and eliminate "carrier of last resort" mandates, effectively ending the universal-service guarantee that gives every U.S. resident access to local-exchange wireline telephone service, the POTS. (There are no federal regulations guaranteeing Internet access.) ... In Mantoloking, N.J., Verizon wants to replace the landline system, which Hurricane Sandy wiped out, with its wireless Voice Link. That would make it the first entire town to go landline-less, a move that isn't sitting well with all residents."
Security

Security for the 'Internet of Things' (Video) 106

Posted by Roblimo
from the my-kitchen-sink-has-been-hacked-and-is-spewing-hot-water-all-over-the-place dept.
What happens when your oven is on the Internet? A malicious hacker might be able to set it to broil while you're on vacation, and get it so hot that it could start a fire. Or a prankster might set your alarm to wake you up at 3 a.m. - and what if someone gets access to the wireless security camera over your front door and uses it to gain access to the rest of your home network, and from there to your bank account? Not good. With the 'Internet of Things' you will have many devices to secure, not just a couple of computers and handheld devices. Timothy Lord met Mark Stanislav of Duo Security at BSides Austin 2014, which is where this interview took place.(Here's an alternate link to the video.)
Cellphones

Ubuntu Phone Isn't Important Enough To Demand an Open Source Baseband 137

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the pick-your-battles dept.
colinneagle (2544914) writes "Canonical is producing a version of the Ubuntu Linux distribution specifically for smartphones, but Richard Tynan, writing for PrivacyInternational.org, recently pointed out that the baseband in Ubuntu-powered phones will remain proprietary. ... Some have criticized Canonical for missing an opportunity to push for a fully Open Source smartphone, but in order to fix this problem (and open up the code for this super-critical bit of software), we need companies that have a large amount of clout, in the smartphone market, to make it a priority. Canonical (with Ubuntu) just doesn't have that clout yet. They're just now dipping their toes into the smartphone waters. But you know who does have that clout? Google.

Google has made a point of touting Open Source (at least sometimes), and they are the undisputed king of the smartphone operating system world. And yet I hear no big moves by Google to encourage phone manufacturers to utilize Open Source baseband firmware, such as OsmocomBB. So has Canonical missed an opportunity? No. Not yet. If (some may say 'when') Ubuntu gains a critical amount of market share in the phone world, that will be their chance to pressure manufacturers to produce a truly Open Source phone. Until then, Canonical needs to continue to work within the world we have today."
Cellphones

Oppo's New Phone Hits 538 PPI 217

Posted by timothy
from the how's-your-vision? dept.
itwbennett (1594911) writes "Oppo Electronics has taken off the wraps on its first LTE phone, and it packs more technology than most if not all laptops. The Find 7 is a 5.5" phone and is the first to support 2560 x 1440 resolution [538 PPI] (by comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S5 has 441 PPI). 'Another striking and unique feature of the phone is its 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor,' writes blogger Andy Patrizio. 'This is Qualcomm's first chip to feature its Gobi True 4G LTE World Mode, supporting LTE FDD, LTE TDD, WCDMA, CDMA1x, EV-DO, TD-SCDMA and GSM4. Translation: this phone will work on LTE all over the world.'"
Wireless Networking

WPA2 Wireless Security Crackable WIth "Relative Ease" 150

Posted by timothy
from the relatively-absolute dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Achilleas Tsitroulis of Brunel University, UK, Dimitris Lampoudis of the University of Macedonia, Greece and Emmanuel Tsekleves of Lancaster University, UK, have investigated the vulnerabilities in WPA2 and present its weakness. They say that this wireless security system might now be breached with relative ease [original, paywalled paper] by a malicious attack on a network. They suggest that it is now a matter of urgency that security experts and programmers work together to remove the vulnerabilities in WPA2 in order to bolster its security or to develop alternative protocols to keep our wireless networks safe from hackers and malware."
Wireless Networking

Wireless Carriers In Huge Washington Lobby Fight Over Spectrum Auction 51

Posted by timothy
from the rent-seeking-on-display dept.
First time accepted submitter techpolicy (3586897) writes "The big four wireless carriers are spending millions of dollars to hire professors, fund Washington think tanks and to meet with the Federal Communications Commission to try to convince the agency to write rules for an upcoming auction of spectrum that favor them, according to an article posted by the Center for Public Integrity in Washington. The frequencies are needed to bolster or build out their nationwide networks — and this kind of low-band spectrum won't be up for sale for a very long time. The biggest fight is over a rule that would limit how much AT&T and Verizon can get of these valuable frequencies. How it plays out will determine who has control over your smartphone."
Wireless Networking

Harsh Wireless Conditions? Send In the Drone Hot Spot 20

Posted by samzenpus
from the stay-connected dept.
coondoggie writes "The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has moved along a project it says would use hot-spot enabled drones to bring wireless communications to even the most distant and harsh environments. The project known as Fixed Wireless at a Distance is designed specifically to overcome the challenge inherent with cell communication in remote areas and this week the agency awarded L-3 $16.4 million to support the next iteration of the system."
The Almighty Buck

You Can't Kid a Kidder: Comcast's Cohen May Have Met His Match In FCC's Wheeler 56

Posted by Soulskill
from the until-comcast-hires-wheeler-away dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Comcast's top lobbyist, David Cohen, is known to be a savvy political operator, having pushed through the No. 1 U.S. cable operator's landmark acquisition of media giant NBC Universal in 2011. But Alina Selyukh And Liana B. Baker write at Reuters that although Comcast ranks among the top-ten corporate influencers in Washington, having spent $18.8 million on lobbying last year, Cohen may have met his match in Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler. Wheeler headed the cable trade group from 1979 to 1984 and ran the wireless industry association from 1992 to 2004. Since taking over the FCC last November, however, Wheeler has not shied away from stances that have roiled past allies. Wheeler publicly expressed skepticism about a potential merger between wireless carriers Sprint and T-Mobile in one of his most attention-grabbing moves last February.

'You can't kid a kidder. Having been a lobbyist, he knows all their tricks,' says Blair Levin. Comcast will formally request an FCC review of the $45.2 billion Time Warner Cable deal later in March. Opponents say the combined company will have too much power over what Americans can watch on television and do online. As FCC chairman, Wheeler has publicly and repeatedly stated his 'unabashed' support for competition. Wheeler has also hired a heavyweight consumer advocate, Gigi Sohn, as a senior adviser. Colleagues of Wheeler, a published historian, also highlight his subject expertise. 'He knows these issues like the back of his hand,' says one FCC official who works with Wheeler. 'He knows how the business runs. He knows these people, he knows what they think and what policies they want.'"
Communications

Goodbye, Google Voice 166

Posted by timothy
from the your-mileage-may-vary dept.
itwbennett writes "The trouble with Google Voice is that the way we use phones has changed — and it hasn't kept up with the times: 'Fewer people have a mobile phone and a business line and a home line that might make One Number For All so. Text message costs (which are actually close to nothing) are almost always bundled into contract costs. Automatic voice transcription, while still a mean feat, is no longer such a magic trick,' writes Kevin Purdy in a blog post explaining why he's breaking up with Google Voice. The main problem is that, despite some very cool features, Google Voice doesn't play well with others — even apps in its own family. And it doesn't look as though that's going to get better anytime soon." I've been very happy with Google Voice for a few years now, and one reason is the transcribed voice messages, which may get hilariously garbled sometimes, but are almost always correct enough to be useful.
Communications

WSJ: Americans' Phone Bills Are Going Up 273

Posted by timothy
from the at-what-margin-do-you-pivot? dept.
There's been some positive news in the last year (and the last few) for American cellphone customers: certainly there's more visible competition for their business among the largest players in the market. Nonetheless, the Wall Street Journal reports that while more competition may translate into some more attractive service bundles, flexibility in phone options, or smoother customer service, it doesn't actually mean that the customers are on average reaping one of the benefits that competition might be expected to provide: lower price. Instead, the bills for customers on the major wireless providers have actually gone up, if not dramatically, in recent months — which means U.S. cell service remains much more expensive than it is in many other countries. The article could stand a sidebar on MVNOs and other low-cost options, though -- I switched to one of these from AT&T, and now pay just under $40 for one version of the new normal of unlimited talk and text, plus quite limited (1GB) data, but still using AT&T towers. Has your own cost to talk gone up or down?

If money can't buy happiness, I guess you'll just have to rent it.

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