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Those Annoying Robo Calls

 

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Thirty-Five state attorneys general issued a joint letter (PDF) urging the federal government to step up efforts to fight illegal robocalls. They called on the Federal Communications Commission to further strengthen rules to let telecommunications service providers block certain categories of robocalls, specifically spoofed calls.

“Spoofing” allows scammers to disguise their identities, making it difficult for law enforcement to bring them to justice. Just about everyone has received spoofed calls: You see an incoming call from an unknown phone number that carries your area code, and sometimes even the next three digits of your phone number, in an obvious ruse designed to trick you into answering. The FCC said it “is considering taking additional action to empower service providers to block illegal robocalls”.

Robocallers have stayed a step ahead of the law, especially with the advent of neighbor spoofing. These robocalls are the most difficult to block because they display a real phone number—often that of one of your neighbors—

Many phone carriers have begun to offer their own branded caller ID services, which notify customers if an incoming call could be a scam or a fraud. These services leave it up to the customer to decide whether or not to answer the phone. Other providers may offer more aggressive services from third-party providers, such as Nomorobo, which say they can block robocalls altogether.

Many companies, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon, have introduced services that alert you that an incoming robocall may be from a scammer or spammer.

 

Senate Overturns Ajit Pai’s Net Neutrality Repeal

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The US Senate today voted to reverse the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net neutrality rules, with all members of the Democratic caucus and three Republicans voting in favor of net neutrality.

The Senate approved a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would simply undo the FCC’s December 2017 vote to deregulate the broadband industry. If the CRA is approved by the House and signed by President Trump, Internet service providers would have to continue following rules that prohibit blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has scheduled his repeal to take effect on June 11. If Congress doesn’t act, the net neutrality rules and the FCC’s classification of ISPs as common carriers would be eliminated on that date.

The FCC Voted To Eliminate Net Neutrality

GettyImages: Chip Samodevilla

The Federal Communications Commission has voted to deregulate the broadband industry and eliminate net neutrality rules that prohibit Internet service providers from blocking and throttling Internet traffic.

The repeal of net neutrality rules came about a year ago when Donald Trump won the presidency and appointed Republican Ajit Pai to the FCC chairmanship. Pai and Republican Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr provided the three votes necessary to overturn the net neutrality rules and the related “Title II” classification of broadband providers as common carriers.

Democrats Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel provided bitter dissents in today’s 3-2 vote. Despite the partisan divide in government, polls show that majorities of both Democratic and Republican voters supported the rules, and net neutrality supporters protested outside the FCC headquarters before the vote.

Home Internet providers and mobile carriers will not be held by strict net neutrality rules. ISPs will be allowed to block or throttle Internet traffic, or offer priority to websites and online services in exchange for payment.  The Federal Trade Commission could punish ISPs if they make promises and then break them, but there’s no requirement that the ISPs make the promises in the first place.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn addresses protesters outside the Federal Communication Commission building to rally against the end of net neutrality rules on December 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. / FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn addresses protesters outside the Federal Communication Commission building to rally against the end of net neutrality rules on December 14, 2017 in Washington, DC.

 

Net Neutrality & The Complicated Fuss

 

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What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the concept that internet service providers (ISPs) treat everyone’s data equally – whether that’s an email from your family member, a bank transfer or a streamed movie. Meaning that ISPs, which control the delivery , don’t get to choose which data is sent more quickly, and which sites get blocked or throttled (for example, slowing the delivery of a TV show because it is streamed by a video company that competes with a subsidiary of the ISP) and who has to pay extra. For this reason, some have described net neutrality as the “first amendment of the internet”.

Why is net neutrality under threat?

In February 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to more strictly regulate ISPs and to enshrine in law the principles of net neutrality. The vote reclassified wireless and fixed-line broadband service providers as title II “common carriers”, a public utility-type designation that gives the FCC the ability to set rates, open up access to competitors and more closely regulate the industry. Two years later, Trump’s new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, has pushed to overturn the 2015 order arguing they overstep the FCC’s jurisdiction and hinder corporate innovation. On 18 May, the FCC voted to support a new proposal that would repeal the order and started a 90-day period in which members of the public could comment. A final vote is expected in December.

 

Trump To Nominate A Democrat For FCC

President Donald Trump plans to nominate Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel for another term on the Federal Communications Commission.

Rosenworcel had to leave the commission at the end of 2016 when the Republican-led US Senate refused to reconfirm her for a second five-year term. The departure of Rosenworcel and former Chairman Tom Wheeler left the FCC with just three out of the typical five members, with Republicans holding a 2-1 majority. Republican senators didn’t want Rosenworcel to stay on the FCC at the time because it would have resulted in a 2-2 deadlock. Commissioners are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. But no party can have more than a one-vote majority, so Trump has to nominate a Democrat and a Republican to fill the empty seats. When a president needs to nominate a commissioner from the opposing party, he takes suggestions from the opposing party’s leadership. Senate Democrats backed Rosenworcel for a return to the FCC, so Trump appears to be following longstanding tradition by nominating her.

Elimination Of Internet Privacy Rules

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The United States Senate is planning to start the process Today to eliminate rules that would prevent broadband internet providers from collecting sensitive data from subscribers. A vote is expected to take place on Thursday.

The expected vote was confirmed to International Business Times by a spokesperson for Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, who will speak in opposition of the measure on Wednesday, and open internet advocacy group Public Knowledge.

FCC’s Privacy Rules

Senators Ask FCC To Investigate High Cable Prices

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Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have asked the Federal Communications Commission to investigate big cable and broadband providers for pushing consumers to pay “ridiculous prices” for services.

Addressed to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, the senators wrote that due to a number of mega-mergers, only 37 percent of Americans “have more than one option for high-speed broadband providers.” The limited options means that companies are able “to charge ridiculous prices and add hidden fees. Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Al Franken, D-Minn., also joined Sanders and Warren in writing the letter.

The FCC is required to keep track of how much telecommunications firms charge consumers, the senators requested that Wheeler hand over the information regarding how much Americans pay on average for Internet and cable services, including averages based on state and company. The senators also want to know how much urban Americans pay compared to rural Americans. Sanders said that “Currently, America ranks 25th worldwide for broadband speed, and we pay more for poorer quality broadband than customers in Slovakia Estonia, South Korea, and the U.K.”

The letter comes at a time when the FCC is considering the merger between Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications, which the senators say would only exacerbate the problem. Recent increases in the price of Time Warner services indicates that the company is already insulated from normal market pressures, the senators say. They cited Time Warner’s modem rental charges increasing by 203 percent since they were introduced in 2012.

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