Slashdot Deals: Cyber Monday Sale! Courses ranging from coding to project management - all eLearning deals 25% off with coupon code "CYBERMONDAY25". ×

Why Free Services From Telecoms Can Be a Problem On the Internet 89 writes: T-Mobile said last week that it would let customers watch as many movies as they wanted on services like Netflix and HBO as well as all other kinds of video, without having it count against their monthly data plans. But the NYT editorializes that there are real concerns about whether such promotions could give telecommunications companies the ability to influence what services people use on the Internet, benefiting some businesses and hurting others. Earlier this year, the FCC adopted net neutrality rules to make sure that companies like T-Mobile, Verizon and Comcast did not seek to push users toward some types of Internet services or content — like video — and not others. The rules, which telecom companies are trying to overturn in court, forbid phone and cable companies to accept money from Internet businesses like Amazon to deliver their videos to customers ahead of data from other companies. The rules, however, do not explicitly prevent telecom companies from coming up with "zero rating" plans like the one T-Mobile announced that use them treat, or rate, some content as free.

"Everybody likes free stuff, but the problem with such plans is that they allow phone and cable companies to steer their users to certain types of content. As a result, customers are less likely to visit websites that are not part of the free package." T-Mobile has said that its zero-rating plan, called Binge On, is good for consumers and for Internet businesses because it does not charge companies to be part of its free service. "Binge On is certainly better than plans in which websites pay telecom companies to be included," concludes The Times. "But it is not yet clear whether these free plans will inappropriately distort how consumers use the Internet."
The Internet

No Such Thing As 'Unlimited' Data ( 622

An anonymous reader writes: According to an article at Wired, the era of 'unlimited' data services is coming to an end. Carriers don't give them out anymore unless they're hobbled, and they're even increasing the prices of grandfathered plans. Comcast's data caps are spreading, and Time Warner has been testing them for years as well. It's not even just about internet access — Microsoft recently decided to eliminate its unlimited cloud storage plan. The big question now is: were these companies cynical, or just naive? We have no way of evaluating their claims that a small number of users who abused the system caused it to be unprofitable for them. (A recent leaked memo from Comcast suggests it's about extracting more money, rather than network congestion.) But it's certainly true that limited plans make costs and revenue much easier to predict. Another question: were we, as consumers, naive in expecting these plans to last? As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Unlimited data plans clearly won't work too well if everybody uses huge amounts. So did we let ourselves get suckered by clever marketing?

Coming Set-top Box Mandate May Help Break Pay TV Firms' Hold Over Viewers ( 153

Joe_Dragon sends a report from the LA Times about proposed regulations that could disrupt the cable industry's hold on consumers by targeting set-top boxes. These boxes are required to view most pay-TV programming these days, and consumers often require multiples if they have more than one TV. The rental fees add up to almost $20 billion in revenue for the industry each year. Yet the technology within these boxes is nothing special, and alternatives could easily arise if there was incentive to create them. "The changes aren't coming fast enough for some lawmakers and consumer advocates as well as tech companies such as Google Inc., which are eager to jump into the set-top box market. They want the Federal Communications Commission to require that pay TV providers make their services more easily compatible with third-party set-top boxes or similar devices. ... Such a mandate could allow consumers to access their pay TV and streaming services through one device instead of having to switch between two or more. And it could lead to innovations such as an ability to search for programming across services to determine, for example, whether a movie is available on Netflix or on-demand via a pay TV provider."

Carriers Selling Your Data: a $24 Billion Business ( 125

An anonymous reader writes: It goes without saying that cellphone carriers have access to tons of data about their subscribers. They have data about who you call, what sites you visit, and even where you're located. Now: "Under the radar, Verizon, Sprint, and other carriers have partnered with firms including SAP to manage and sell data." The article describes some of the ways this data is used by marketers: "The service also combines data from telcos with other information, telling businesses whether shoppers are checking out competitor prices on their phones or just emailing friends. It can tell them the age ranges and genders of people who visited a store location between 10 a.m. and noon, and link location and demographic data with shoppers' web browsing history. Retailers might use the information to arrange store displays to appeal to certain customer segments at different times of the day, or to help determine where to open new locations." Analysts estimate this fledgling industry to be worth about $24 billion to the carriers, and they project huge growth over the next several years. The carriers are trying to keep it a tightly held secret after seeing the backlash from the public in response to government snooping, which involves much less private data.
The Internet

NY To Probe Broadband Providers Over Internet Speeds ( 56

An anonymous reader writes with a report from The Stack that New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman has begun a probe into the state's three dominant ISPs to assess whether they are actually delivering the service they advertise at the levels promised. From the article: According to leaked documents, sent to Verizon Communications, Cablevision Systems and Time Warner Cable, the New York attorney general asked each firm to hand over copies of the advertising and copy they have provided to consumers regarding internet speeds, along with any testing documents which studied the speed of their service. ... The probe plans to focus on the exchange of data through contractual partnerships between the ISPs and other networks. The AG office suspects that customers who are paying a premium fee for higher internet speeds could be experiencing a disruption to their service due to technical issues brought about by business disputes in these interconnection deals.

Sprint Will Start Throttling Customers Who Exceed 23GB Monthly ( 153

CNET reports (and CTO John Saw explains on the company's blog) that Sprint has decided to taper access to a slice of its "unlimited" wireless data customers, by throttling access (not curtailing it, at least) to those who slurp down more than 23 gigabytes per month -- the same cap that T-Mobile has imposed. If you think "throttled" and "unlimited" don't quite jibe to describe the same service, you're not the only one to quibble: CNET notes that regulators have "begun scrutinizing the carriers' practice [of slowing access past a cap]. In June, the Federal Communications Commission threatened to fine AT&T $100 million for deceiving its customers by mislabeling its service as unlimited. The FCC also challenged Verizon when the company planned to expand its data throttling policy to its 4G customers. The company retracted that policy last fall. In June, Verizon also stopped slowing unlimited-data traffic for 3G customers."

Verizon Boosts Price of Grandfathered Unlimited Data Plans By $20 ( 176

nicholasjay writes: In November, Verizon Wireless is going to start charging its customers with the grandfathered "unlimited data" plans an extra $20 for the data. This is obviously an attempt to get people off of the old unlimited data plans. Even though a Verizon spokesperson confirmed the change, I'm hoping they won't go through with this plan — but right now I'm weighing all my options.

Verizon Is Merging Its Cellphone Tracking Supercookie with AOL's Ad Tracking Network 100

schwit1 writes: ProPublica reports that Verizon is giving a new mission to its controversial hidden identifier that tracks users of mobile devices. Verizon said in a little-noticed announcement that it will soon begin sharing the profiles with AOL's ad network, which in turn monitors users across a large swath of the Internet. That means AOL's ad network will be able to match millions of Internet users to their real-world details gathered by Verizon, including — "your gender, age range and interests." AOL's network is on 40 percent of websites, including on ProPublica.

Sprint To Begin Layoffs, Cut $2.5 Billion In Expenses 55

An anonymous reader writes: Sprint's struggles to remain a major carrier continue. Just a few days after announcing that it is dropping out of a major low-band spectrum auction, the company now says it must cut between $2 billion and $2.5 billion in costs over the next six months. The cuts will need to be aggressive — according to the Wall Street Journal (paywalled), Sprint "had $7.5 billion in operating expenses during the three months ended June 30," even as it cut $1.5 billion over the past year. The only good news for Sprint is that its subscriber base is still slowly growing, though not quickly enough to keep pace with T-Mobile, let alone Verizon or AT&T.

Ask Slashdot: Best Data Provider When Traveling In the US? 142

An anonymous reader writes: I am visiting USA 3-4 times a year and I need a data service. I also need to keep my cell phone number, so swapping the SIM card in my phone is not an option. I have bought those 19.95$ phones in Best-Buy to get a local number, but those were voice only. So I have been thinking about getting a MiFi hotspot.

I have been looking at pre-paid plans from Verizon(only 700 LTE band for their pre-paid hotspot), AT&T, T-Mobile etc. perhaps to put in a MiFi hotspot or buy a hotspot from a provider, but have no idea which one to use, their reputation, real life coverage etc. It is clear that all data plans in the USA are really expensive, I get 100GB monthly traffic with my Scandinavian provider for the same price as 6-8 GB monthly in the US, which I guess could be a problem with our Apple phones as they do not recognize a metered WiFi hotspot. But that is another issue. I travel all over but most of the time outside the big cities -- and my experience from roaming with my own phone and the cheap local phone so far tells me that coverage fluctuates wildly depending on the operator.

Verizon Retrofits Vintage Legacy Vehicles With Smart Features 87

An anonymous reader writes: Verizon have released an after-market system called Hum that can bring 'smart' features to 150 million existing cars of various vintages going as far back as 1999. The system consists of an on-board diagnostic (OBD) reader plugged into the vehicle's OBD port and a Bluetooth-enabled device clipped to the visor. It's the presence of the ODB port that limits the maximum age of the car to 1996. Hum comes with an app, and enables features such as automatic accident reporting, roadside assistance services and the tracking of stolen cars. The service will cost $14.99 per month via subscription.

Sprint Drops Two-Year Contracts 112

An anonymous reader writes: Following the recent news that Verizon has ended smartphone subsidies, now Sprint has announced it is ending two-year contracts as well. This leaves AT&T as the last of the major carriers to offer such a plan. Most consumers will now have to get used to paying full price for their phones, though Sprint is also running a phone-leasing plan that lets people pay an additional $22/month for an 16GB iPhone, with yearly upgrades.

AT&T Helped the NSA Spy On Internet Traffic 82

An anonymous reader writes: Newly disclosed NSA documents show that the agency gained access to billions of emails through a "highly collaborative" relationship with AT&T. The company provided access from 2003 to 2013, including technical assistance to carry out court orders permitting wiretapping. "The company installed surveillance equipment in at least 17 of its Internet hubs on American soil, far more than its similarly sized competitor, Verizon. And its engineers were the first to try out new surveillance technologies invented by the eavesdropping agency. One document reminds NSA officials to be polite when visiting AT&T facilities, noting, 'This is a partnership, not a contractual relationship.'" The new files don't indicate whether the partnership currently exists, but the government has been doing its best to keep corporate partnerships hidden. The article also notes that "In 2011, AT&T began handing over 1.1 billion domestic cellphone calling records a day to the N.S.A. after 'a push to get this flow operational prior to the 10th anniversary of 9/11,' according to an internal agency newsletter."

Ubuntu Phones Now Available Worldwide (On Some Networks) 45

An anonymous reader writes: When Canonical's phone-centric adaptation of Ubuntu first made it onto devices last year, it received a mostly "wait-and-see" reception. For anyone outside Europe, they didn't have much choice, since it was unavailable elsewhere. Now, BQ has opened sales of the Ubuntu phones worldwide. That said, the devices still have technological restrictions. "Both of these devices support GSM bands 850, 900, 1,800 and 1,900, as well as UMTS 900 and 2,100 — so you're not going to get any joy if you're on a CDMA network like Verizon."

Verizon Ends Smartphone Subsidies 155

JoeyRox writes: Verizon has discontinued service plans that include subsidies for upgrading a smartphone. The new plans require customers to pay full price for their smartphones, either up front with a single one-time purchase, or by monthly payments. Unlike their previous subsidized plans, Verizon's new plans don't require a long-term commitment. Under the new plan, Verizon will charge flat fees for connected devices: $20 for smartphones and $10 for tablets. Subscribers will be able to pick from four data monthly packages to go with their devices: 1GB for $30, 3GB for $45, 6GB for $60, and 12GB for $80. The changes go into effect on August 13th. Existing subscribers will get to keep their current plans
Wireless Networking

Cell Service At US Airports Varies From 1st Class To Middle-seat Coach 40

alphadogg writes with this NetworkWorld story about the wide disparity in wireless coverage available at airports across the U.S.. Atlanta scores very high while Los Angeles International is less than mediocre. According to the story: You can download an episode of your favorite show in less than a minute and a half on Verizon Wireless at Atlanta's airport—or spend 13 hours doing the same over T-Mobile USA at Los Angeles International. The comparison of 45-minute HD video downloads illustrates the wide variation in cellular service at U.S. airports, which RootMetrics laid out in a report for the first half of 2015 that's being issued Thursday. Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson is the best place to go mobile and Verizon covers airports best overall, but just like security lines and de-icing delays, it all depends.

How Verizon Is Hindering NYC's Internet Service 123

Cuillere writes: Verizon promised to make FiOS available to all New York City residents. The deadline passed a year ago, and many residents still don't have FiOS as an option, but Verizon claims to have done its part. "The agreement required Verizon to 'pass' homes with fiber (not actually connect them), but no one wrote down in the agreement what they thought 'pass' meant. (Verizon’s interpretation, predictably, is that it doesn’t have to get very close.)" The situation is a mess, and the city isn't having much luck fighting it in the courts. Susan Crawford offers a solution: set up wholesale fiber access for third party ISPs and absolve Verizon of customer service responsibility.
The Internet

Study: Major ISPs Slowing Traffic Across the US 181

An anonymous reader writes: A study based on test results from 300,000 internet users "found significant degradations on the networks of the five largest internet service providers" in the United States. This group includes Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and AT&T. "The study, supported by the technologists at Open Technology Institute's M-Lab, examines the comparative speeds of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), which shoulder some of the data load for popular websites. ... In Atlanta, for example, Comcast provided hourly median download speeds over a CDN called GTT of 21.4 megabits per second at 7pm throughout the month of May. AT&T provided speeds over the same network of of a megabit per second." These findings arrive shortly after the FCC's new net neutrality rules took effect across the U.S.

Ask Slashdot: How Effective Is Your ISP's Spam Filter? 269

An anonymous reader writes with the question in the title: does your ISP do a decent job culling spam? The reason I'm asking is that my ISP is Verizon and the Verizon spam filter is next to useless. It only blocks 15% of spam while also blocking 5% of legitimate emails. I've tried calling Verizon support a couple of times and the experience is about as pleasant and productive as banging my head on a wall. At this point I think my best move is to change ISP, but before I go around changing my email address at probably dozens of web sites I'd like to be sure that a new ISP would actually be better.