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AT&T

Second Time In 9 Months: AT&T Raises Phone Activation Fee $5, Now Charges $25 (arstechnica.com) 16

For the second time in 9 months, ATT is raising its activation and upgrade fee. In April 2016, the fee for non-contract customers was raised from $15 to $20. Today, it has been raised another $5, from $20 to $25, according to PhoneScoop. Ars Technica reports: As the mobile carrier switched from contracts to device payment plans, ATT initially did not charge an activation and upgrade fee for customers who brought their own phone or bought one from ATT on an installment plan. But in July 2015, ATT started charging a $15 activation fee to customers who don't sign two-year contracts. (ATT also raised the activation/upgrade fee for contract customers from $40 to $45 in July 2015.) The $25 fee is charged for new activations or upgrades when customers purchase devices on installment agreements, ATT says. Customers who bring their own phone to the network are charged the $25 fee when they activate a new line of service, but not when they upgrade phones on an existing line. "We are making a minor adjustment to our activation and upgrade fees. The change is effective today," ATT told Ars. ATT also still charges the $45 activation and upgrade fee on two-year contracts, but those contracts are "available only on select devices."
AT&T

AT&T Shuts Down 2G Network, Ends Cellular Connectivity For Original iPhone (macrumors.com) 127

ATT yesterday announced that its 2G wireless network was officially shut down on January 1, 2017. Since the network is no longer active, it means that, as the Verge points out, the original first-generation iPhone (also known as the iPhone 2G) will no longer receive cellular service from ATT's network. If you still happen to use an iPhone 2G, it may be time to upgrade or list it on eBay. Mac Rumors reports: Few people appear to have been using the original iPhone as there were no complaints from iPhone owners two weeks ago when the network was shuttered, but going forward, customers who keep the device as part of a collection will only be able to use it on WiFi. Originally released in June of 2007 and discontinued in 2008, the first iPhone was made obsolete by Apple back in 2013, and it has not received software updates since the 2009 release of iPhone OS 3, later renamed iOS 3. According to ATT, shutting down its 2G network frees up valuable spectrum for future network technologies, including 5G. ATT says the spectrum will be repurposed for LTE.
Businesses

Verizon Looking To Buy Comcast or Charter, Says Report (nypost.com) 82

"Two well-placed sources" told The New York Post that Verizon is considering purchasing a big cable company to help it grow demand for its wireless data products. The source said the most likely targets would be "Charter or Comcast." New York Post reports: Verizon Chief Executive Lowell McAdam may be getting ready to answer rival ATT's moves to buy DirecTV and Time Warner. To be sure, Verizon is not in talks with any cable company and may not ever make such a move. Still, McAdam has been under pressure recently with Verizon's deal to acquire Yahoo still a question mark months after two major hacks of the internet portal were revealed. The wireless giants operate on 4G wireless networks but are preparing to become a real alternative to the cable company with phone, TV and data services. To do that more effectively, the phone companies are pouring money into 5G connections that can work with cable systems to provide more stable coverage for consumers. McAdam has already given Wall Street analysts and investors big hints that he's looking at a combination with, say, a Charter Communications. In a mid-December meeting with Wall Street analysts, McAdam said a get-together between the two "makes industrial sense." Three weeks later, at CES, his comments to friends make it clear that cable distribution is a path he is exploring, perhaps more seriously than first thought. "For regulatory reasons, Verizon can't dominate in FiOS and cable, so it appears to have to set its sights on cable," an industry source said. Charter could be a seller under the right conditions, the source added, emphasizing that Malone and Charter CEO Tom Rutledge are just getting going on their vision for Charter.
Communications

Ambulances In Sweden Will Be Able To Hijack Car Radios During Emergencies (digitaltrends.com) 161

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: The Swedish government wants to make it impossible to be caught off guard by a speeding ambulance. Sure, their sirens are loud -- but soon they'll be able to take over your car's radio. Swedish students at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have developed a way for emergency vehicles to transit radio signals to warn other vehicles of an approaching truck. It's called the EVAM System, according to Phys.org, and it's designed to send a signal over a specific FM radio band that'll interrupt music or radio and display a test message over the system's tuner display -- so long as the car is equipped with a Radio Data System (RDS). The number of crashes caused by muted sirens is on the rise, Florian Curinga, one of the students working on the project, said. That's because of improved sound insulation in cars. Emergency vehicles in Stockholm will begin testing the system this year. The EVAM System can also predict how far in advance the message needs to be broadcast, depending on traffic speed, according to Phys.org. It may also be helpful in warning drivers about upcoming accidents, the students added. EVAM will work on two-thirds of all vehicles on the road, Curinga said. All drivers need to do is have their radio systems turned on. If a message is broadcast then, they'll see it -- and hear it -- from the tuner.
Communications

Amazon Seeks FCC Permission To Run Wireless Tests In Washington State (csmonitor.com) 24

Amazon has filed an application with the U.S. federal government that details plans to experiment with wireless communications technology. The application asks the FCC for permission "to test undisclosed prototypes and their related software for five months in and around its Seattle headquarters," reports Christian Science Monitor. "The experiments will involve mobile devices and anchored stations alike, according to an FCC application made public last week and first reported by Business Insider's Eugene Kim, who noted the project could be part of Amazon's drone-delivery initiatives or something even more novel." From the report: In recent years, Google and Facebook have begun conducting wireless experiments of their own with FCC approval, pursuing a number of innovative projects, such as self-driving cars, as Mr. Kim reported. Amazon, meanwhile, has focused on its aspirations of drone delivery service for its online retail business -- a service the firm has pursued in Britain and several other countries as well. Given the company's wide-ranging interests, it is difficult to anticipate precisely what the tests entail. Last year alone, Amazon unveiled projects to change the way people grocery shop, offer drivers a voice-activated driving assistant, and ship cargo with its own branded planes, as the Monitor reported. Amazon's application to the FCC notes that the tests would begin indoors at the Seattle headquarters then later move outdoors to a customer service site more than 220 miles away, in Kennewick, Wash. The tests would last five months, beginning as early as Feb. 11, 2017, the documents state.
AT&T

New FCC Report Says AT&T and Verizon Zero-Rating Violates Net Neutrality (theverge.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Just a week and a half before he is set to leave office, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has issued a new report stating that the zero-rated video services offered by ATT and Verizon may violate the FCC's Open Internet Order. Assembled by the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, the report focuses on sponsored data programs, which allow companies to pay carriers to exempt exempt their data from customers' data caps. According to the report, many of those packages simply aren't playing fair. "While observing that ATT provided incomplete responses to staff inquires," Wheeler wrote to Senators, "the report states that the limited information available supports a conclusion that ATT offers Sponsored Data to third-party content providers at terms and conditions that are effectively less favorable than those it offers to its affiliate, DirecTV." In theory, sponsored data should be an even playing field, with providers bearing the costs and making the same charges regardless of who's footing the bill. But according to the report, ATT treats the DirectTV partnership very differently from an unaffiliated sponsored data system, giving the service a strong advantage over competitors. "ATT appears to view the network cost of Sponsored Data for DIRECTV Now as effectively de minimis," the report concludes. While ATT still bears some cost for all that free traffic, it's small enough that the carrier doesn't seem to care. The report raises similar concerns regarding Verizon's Go90 program, although it concludes Verizon's program may be less damaging. Notably, the letter does not raise the same concerns about T-Mobile's BingeOn video deal, since it "charges all edge providers the same zero rate for participating."
Transportation

JetBlue Giving All Passengers Free In-Flight 'Fly-Fi' High-Speed Wi-Fi (betanews.com) 71

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Today, JetBlue announced something miraculous for travelers. Every one of its passengers will have access to free in-flight high-speed Wi-Fi, which it calls "Fly-Fi." This is on every single aircraft in its fleet. In other words, if you are flying JetBlue, you get free high-speed internet "JetBlue's Fly-Fi, which clocks in at broadband speeds beating sluggish and pricey Wi-Fi offerings onboard other carriers, keeps customers connected with an Internet experience similar to what they have at home, including the ability to stream video and use multiple devices at once. The service enables JetBlue to deliver Amazon Video streaming entertainment to customers onboard to their personal devices, as well as web surfing and chatting on favorite messaging apps," says JetBlue. The vice president of JetBlue, Jamie Perry, explains, "It's 2017 and our customers expect to be connected everywhere, whether that be from the comfort of their sofa or 35,000 feet above it. That's why we're so proud that JetBlue is now the only airline to offer free, high-speed Wi-Fi, live TV and movies for all customers on every plane."
Wireless Networking

Wireless Headphone Sales Soared After Apple Dropped Headphone Jack (fortune.com) 252

Apple's decision to remove the headphone jack from new iPhones last year prompted lots of consumers to switch to wireless headphones, according to a new report on holiday shopping. From a report: Three-quarters of all headphones sold online in December were wireless models, up from 50% a year earlier, according to shopping tracker Slice Intelligence. Apple was the biggest beneficiary of the shift, as both its new AirPods earphones and models from its Beats subsidiary led the sales charts. The $159 AirPods, Apple's first wireless model sold under its own brand, didn't go on sale until Dec. 13, but the product quickly dominated the wireless headphone market, Slice found. In the year prior to the debut, the Beats brand topped online sales of wireless models with a 24% market share, trailed by Bose with an 11% share and Jaybird at 8%. But after AirPods went on sale, they grabbed 26% of online wireless sales, Slice found. Bose was second at 16% and Beats dropped to third with 15% of the market during the period considered.
Wireless Networking

LG Threatens To Put Wi-Fi in Every Appliance it Introduces in 2017 (arstechnica.com) 376

An anonymous reader shares a report: During the company's CES press conference today, LG marketing VP David VanderWaal says that "starting this year" all of LG's home appliances will feature "advanced Wi-Fi connectivity." One of the flagship appliances that will make good on this promise is the Smart Instaview Refrigerator, a webOS-powered Internet-connected fridge that among other things supports integration with Amazon's Alexa service.
United States

US Government Offers $25,000 Prize For Inventing A Way To Secure IoT Devices (ftc.gov) 196

An anonymous reader writes: America's Federal Trade Commission has announced a $25,000 prize for whoever creates the best tool for securing consumers' IoT devices. The so-called "IoT Home Inspector Challenge" asks participants to create something that will work on current, already-on-the-market IoT devices, with extra points also awarded for scalability ad easy of use.

"Contestants have the option of adding features, such as those that would address hard-coded, factory default, or easy-to-guess passwords," according to the official site, but "The tool would, at a minimum, help protect consumers from security vulnerabilities caused by out-of-date software." The winning submission can't be just a policy (or legal) solution, and will be judged by a panel which includes two computer science professors and a vulnerability researcher from Carnegie Mellon University's CERT Coordination Center.

Computerworld points out that "This isn't the first time the FTC has offered cash for software tools. In 2015, it awarded $10,500 to developers of an app that could block robocalls."
Intel

Intel's Compute Card Is a PC That Can Fit In Your Wallet (arstechnica.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Intel mostly missed the boat on smartphones, but the company is trying to establish a firm foothold in the ever-broadening marketplace for connected appliances and other smart things. Intel's latest effort in this arena is its new "Compute Card," a small 94.5mm by 55mm by 5mm slab that includes a CPU and GPU, RAM, storage, and wireless connectivity. Intel hasn't given us specific information about the specs and speeds of its first Compute Cards, but you can expect the fastest ones to approach the performance of high-end fanless laptops like Apple's MacBooks. Intel told us that processors with a TDP of up to 6W could fit inside the Compute Cards, which covers both low-power Atom chips like those that powered early versions of Intel's Compute Stick to full Core M and Y-series Core i5 and i7 CPUs like the ones you find in laptops. Intel says that the card uses a variant of the USB-C port called "USB-C plus extension" to connect with the systems it's plugged into. That connector gives devices direct access to the USB and PCIe buses as well as HDMI and DisplayPort video outputs. The company considers the Compute Card to be a replacement of sorts for the Compute Stick, which Intel says will probably disappear from its roadmap in 2018 or so. The issue with the Compute Stick from Intel's perspective is that its input and output ports were unnecessarily limiting -- it could only connect to HDMI ports and could only accept a limited number of USB inputs. The Compute Card can be slid into a wider variety of enclosures that can use all kinds of ports and display interfaces, and Intel says the Card will also offer a large array of performance and storage options, unlike current Compute Sticks.
Network

FTC Takes D-Link To Court Citing Lax Product Security, Privacy Perils (networkworld.com) 72

Reader coondoggie writes: The Federal Trade Commission has filed a complaint against network equipment vendor D-Link saying inadequate security in the company's wireless routers and Internet cameras left consumers open to hackers and privacy violations. The FTC, in a complaint filed in the Northern District of California charged that "D-Link failed to take reasonable steps to secure its routers and Internet Protocol (IP) cameras, potentially compromising sensitive consumer information, including live video and audio feeds from D-Link IP cameras." For its part, D-Link Systems said it "is aware of the complaint filed by the FTC." According to the FTC's complaint, D-Link promoted the security of its routers on the company's website, which included materials headlined "Easy to secure" and "Advance network security." But despite the claims made by D-Link, the FTC alleged, the company failed to take steps to address well-known and easily preventable security flaws such as "hard-coded" login credentials integrated into D-Link camera software -- such as the username âoeguestâ and the password âoeguestâ -- that could allow unauthorized access to the cameras' live feed, etc.
AT&T

AT&T Plans 5G Network Trial for DirecTV Customers (fortune.com) 58

AT&T said it plans to test its high-speed wireless 5G network, which reached speeds of 14 gigabits per second in lab trials, for customers of its online streaming television service, DirecTV Now, in Austin, Texas. From a report on Fortune: The U.S. wireless carrier, which plans to conduct the trial in the first half of 2017, has also teamed up with Qualcomm and Ericsson for mobile and broadband trials of the 5G network in the second half of the year. New 5G networks are expected to provide speeds at least 10 times and maybe 100 times faster than today's 4G networks, giving the potential to connect at least 100 billion devices with download speeds that can reach 10 gigabits per second.
Communications

Linksys Latest Company To Unveil a Wi-Fi Mesh System (engadget.com) 88

From an Engadget report: Mesh networking has become trendy for folks looking to fill every nook and cranny of their homes with Wi-Fi. So it should be no surprise that the makers of the most iconic router ever is unveiling its own system. The Linksys tri-band Velop setup is a modular system that the company says is made to expand as your needs do. Each Velop Tri-Band 2x2 802.11ac Wave 2 MU-MIMO node pulls quadruple duty as a router, range extender, access point and bridge. According to Linksys, each Velop is capable of a combined speed of 2,200 Mbps. It's like having a bunch of little routers in your home all working together to make sure you can stream The OA regardless of which room you're in.Linksys' Velop will set you back by at least $200 for an individual modular, with the pack of two and three priced at $350 and $500, respectively. This makes it costlier than Google's Wi-Fi router, which starts at $129.
AT&T

Verizon and AT&T Prepare to Bring 5G To (Select) Markets In 2017 (ieee.org) 53

An anonymous reader quotes IEEE Spectrum: This year, Verizon and AT&T plan to deliver broadband internet to select homes or businesses using fixed wireless networks built with early 5G technologies. These 5G pilot programs will give the public its first glimpse into a wireless future that isn't due to fully arrive until the early 2020s. With 5G, carriers hope to deliver data to smartphone users at speeds 10 times as fast as on today's 4G networks, and with only 1 millisecond of delay... Over the past year, companies have completed a flurry of lab tests and trials to figure out what types of radios, antennas, and signal processing techniques will work best to deliver 5G in hopes of bringing those technologies and their capabilities to market as soon as possible.
The article notes that standards groups are halfway through their eight-year process of finalizing technical specifications (set to finish in 2020), but "With so much cash on the line, and facing pressure from data-hungry customers, carriers are moving fast." In Japan, NTT Docomo has even tested dozens of programmable antennas simultaneously transmitting signals, resulting in transmissions at 20 gigabits per second. "At that speed, a complete 2-hour, 1080p, high-definition movie can be transmitted in a second and a half."
Patents

Apple Patent Hints At Magnetic Ear Hooks To Keep Future AirPods In Your Ears (digitaltrends.com) 73

Patently Apple has recently uncovered a new Apple patent that may help AirPods stay in your ears. The patent details a magnetic mechanism that wraps around the user's ear. Digital Trends reports: The magnets attract each other through the ear tissue, keeping the AirPods in place and ensuring that they don't get lost. Of course, it's not certain if Apple filed this patent with AirPods in mind -- one of the images clearly shows a wired pair of headphones, and the patent was filed in June. The concept, however, would help keep both wired and wireless earbuds in place. The issue of keeping AirPods in the ear has been arguably the biggest issue related to the AirPods, and for good reason -- they're pretty expensive little devices, so losing them is definitely not something you want to do. It's possible that Apple decided against using the ear hooks for aesthetic reasons -- Apple is known for its excellent design and the ear hooks in the patent don't exactly look great. Not only that but the design of the charging case would have to change with the ear hooks. Some reports indicate that the patent could be implemented with future versions and given the hullaballoo surrounding keeping AirPods in, we wouldn't be totally surprised. It's also possible, however, that Apple patented the design but ultimately ended up nixing it.
Government

Florida Senator: No Permit Needed For Driverless Cars In Florida (politifact.com) 131

In response to the California Department of Motor Vehicles ordering Uber's autonomous vehicles off the roads in San Francisco due to a lack of a permit, Florida state Sen. Jeff Brandes said he welcomes the company with open arms. Brandes tweeted: "Hey @Uber, unlike California we in Florida welcome driverless cars -- no permit required. #OpenForBusiness #FlaPol." PolitiFact reports: Several car companies are developing fully autonomous or self-driving cars operated by computers and testing them in some states. But it could be several years before they are broadly publicly available due to the cost, questions about liability and the technology and as state government officials grapple with oversight. While California's law requires a permit, that's not the case in Florida. "Florida has the least restrictive active state laws for the operation of autonomous vehicles," said John Terwilleger, an attorney at Gunster, Yoakley -- Stewart in West Palm Beach. Terwilleger represents a company that is involved in developing and using autonomous vehicles in Florida. In 2012, the Florida Legislature passed a law co-sponsored by Brandes that allowed a person with a valid driver's license to operate an autonomous vehicle. Before companies could test autonomous cars, they had to submit proof that they had $5 million in insurance. But in 2016, the Florida Legislature passed new rules that eliminated some of the previous requirements, including the $5 million in insurance. The new law also got rid of the requirement that a human operator be present in the vehicle, as long as an operator can be alerted in case of technology failure and stop the vehicle. Since there is no permit for autonomous vehicles, the state has no information regarding how many Floridians own one, said Beth Frady, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Florida law treats an autonomous vehicle in the same manner as any other motor vehicle operating on our roads, said Chris Spencer, a spokesman for Brandes. "There are no requirements for additional permitting, licensing, or approval from any state or local government body to operate an autonomous vehicle on our roads," he said. That's still the case, even though Florida was the location of the first fatality involving a self-driving car. In May, Joshua Brown, was killed when his Tesla while on autopilot crashed into a tractor-trailer in Williston.
Businesses

Apple CEO Tim Cook Calls AirPods 'a Runaway Success' (cnbc.com) 214

It turns out the $159 AirPods Bluetooth earphones are selling well, or so CEO Tim Cook would have us believed. Cook dropped by the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday while on vacation, and talked about the AirPods sales. From a report on CNBC: In comments to CNBC, Cook declined to talk specifically on Apple's outlook, but he said it has been a "great holiday." He added that the company's new wireless earbuds, AirPods, are "a runaway success." When asked if more would come into stock, he said Apple's "making them just as fast as we can." AirPods debuted at September's splashy event, but saw shipping delays through most of the fall and finally hit shelves just days before the crucial Christmas shopping rush. The limited shipments were sold quickly -- ship dates are now six weeks out on Apple's website.
Crime

Police Request Amazon Echo Recordings For Homicide Investigation (cnet.com) 168

Tulsa_Time quotes a report from CNET: Amazon's Echo and Echo Dot are in millions of homes now, with holiday sales more than quadrupling from 2015. Always listening for its wake word, the breakthrough smart speakers boast seven microphones waiting to take and record your commands. Now, Arkansas police are hoping an Echo found at a murder scene in Bentonville can aid their investigation. [First reported by The Information, investigators filed search warrants to Amazon, requesting any recordings between November 21 and November 22, 2015, from James A. Bates, who was charged with murder after a man was strangled in a hot tub. While investigating, police noticed the Echo in the kitchen and pointed out that the music playing in the home could have been voice activated through the device. While the Echo records only after hearing the wake word, police are hoping that ambient noise or background chatter could have accidentally triggered the device, leading to some more clues. Amazon has not sent any recordings to the officers but did provide Bates' account information to authorities, according to court documents. The retailer giant said it doesn't release customer information without a "valid and binding legal demand." "Amazon objects to over-broad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course," the company said in a statement. Even without Amazon's help, police may be able to crack into the Echo, according to the warrant. Officers believe they can tap into the hardware on the smart speakers, which could "potentially include time stamps, audio files or other data."] Police also found a Nest thermostat, a Honeywell alarm system, wireless weather monitoring in the backyard and WeMo devices for lighting at the smart home crime scene. Officers have also seized an iPhone 6S, a Macbook Pro, a PlayStation 4 and three tablets in the investigation.
Communications

The Farmer Who Built Her Own Broadband (bbc.com) 157

An anonymous reader writes from a BBC article: "I'm just a farmer's wife," says Christine Conder, modestly. But for 2,300 members of the rural communities of Lancashire she is also a revolutionary internet pioneer. Her DIY solution to a neighbour's internet connectivity problems in 2009 has evolved into B4RN, an internet service provider offering fast one gigabit per second broadband speeds to the parishes which nestle in the picturesque Lune Valley. That is 35 times faster than the 28.9 Mbps average UK speed internet connection according to Ofcom. It all began when the trees which separated Chris's neighbouring farm from its nearest wireless mast -- their only connection to the internet, provided by Lancaster University -- grew too tall. Something more robust was required, and no alternatives were available in the area, so Chris decided to take matters into her own hands. She purchased a kilometre of fibre-optic cable and commandeered her farm tractor to dig a trench. After lighting the cable, the two farms were connected, with hers feeding the one behind the trees. "We dug it ourselves and we lit [the cable] ourselves and we proved that ordinary people could do it," she says. "It wasn't rocket science. It was three days of hard work."

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