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The Internet

'Dig Once' Bill Could Bring Fiber Internet To Much of the US (arstechnica.com) 146

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: If the U.S. adopts a "dig once" policy, construction workers would install conduits just about any time they build new roads and sidewalks or upgrade existing ones. These conduits are plastic pipes that can house fiber cables. The conduits might be empty when installed, but their presence makes it a lot cheaper and easier to install fiber later, after the road construction is finished. The idea is an old one. U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) has been proposing dig once legislation since 2009, and it has widespread support from broadband-focused consumer advocacy groups. It has never made it all the way through Congress, but it has bipartisan backing from lawmakers who often disagree on the most controversial broadband policy questions, such as net neutrality and municipal broadband. It even got a boost from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who has frequently clashed with Democrats and consumer advocacy groups over broadband -- her "Internet Freedom Act" would wipe out the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules, and she supports state laws that restrict growth of municipal broadband. Blackburn, chair of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, put Eshoo's dig once legislation on the agenda for a hearing she held yesterday on broadband deployment and infrastructure. Blackburn's opening statement (PDF) said that dig once is among the policies she's considering to "facilitate the deployment of communications infrastructure." But her statement did not specifically endorse Eshoo's dig once proposal, which was presented only as a discussion draft with no vote scheduled. The subcommittee also considered a discussion draft that would "creat[e] an inventory of federal assets that can be used to attach or install broadband infrastructure." Dig once legislation received specific support from Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who said that he is "glad to see Ms. Eshoo's 'Dig Once' bill has made a return this Congress. I think that this is smart policy and will help spur broadband deployment across the country."
AT&T

17,000 AT&T Workers Go On Strike In California and Nevada (fortune.com) 134

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: Approximately 17,000 workers in AT&T's traditional wired telephone business in California and Nevada walked out on strike on Wednesday, marking the most serious labor action against the carrier in years. The walkout -- formally known as a grievance strike -- occurred after AT&T changed the work assignments of some of the technicians and call center employees in the group, the Communications Workers of America union said. The union would not say how long the strike might last. A contract covering the group expired last year and there has been little progress in negotiations over sticking points like the outsourcing of call center jobs overseas, stagnant pay, and rising health care costs. The union said it planned to file an unfair labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board over the work assignment changes. "A walkout is not in anybody's best interest and it's unfortunate that the union chose to do that," an AT&T spokesman told Fortune. "We're engaged in discussion with the union to get these employees back to work as soon as possible."
Social Networks

Reddit To Transform Into a Social Network With New Profile Pages (digitaljournal.com) 130

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Journal: Reddit has announced it has begun trialling a radical new profile page design that's reminiscent of Facebook and Twitter. It will evolve the discussion board site towards being a social network by enabling users to post directly to their new profile page. At present, posts on Reddit have to be directed into a specific sub-Reddit community. You can't simply write a post and have it appear across the network which can make it difficult to get your voice heard. Unless you've got some reputation in a relevant sub-Reddit, your posts may end up going unnoticed. That could soon change. Last night, Reddit announced it's working on a drastic revision of its user profile page experience. The site has commenced testing of an early version of the design. According to a report from Reuters, just three "high-profile" users currently have access to the feature. When the new pages are eventually opened up to all, they'll showcase the user's profile picture and description. Below the header, posts from the user will be publicly displayed. The user will be able to add new posts to their page, without submitting to a sub-Reddit. Users will be able to follow each other to stay informed of new posts, effectively creating a social network atmosphere above the discussion boards.
Medicine

Satellite Navigation 'Switches Off' Parts of Brain Used For Navigation, Study Finds (scientificamerican.com) 155

A new study published today in the journal Nature Communications reveals some of the drawbacks of using satellite navigation (SatNav) technology. After scanning the brains of 24 volunteers as they explored a simulation through the streets of London's Soho district, researchers from the University of London found that listening to a satellite navigation's instructions "switches off" activity in parts of the brain used for navigation. Scientific American reports: The researchers found that a brain structure called the hippocampus, which is involved in both memory and spatial navigation, appears to encode two different maps of the environment: One tracks the distance to the final destination as the crow flies and is encoded by the frontal region of the hippocampus, the other tracks the "true path" to the goal and is encoded by its rear region. During the navigation tasks, the hippocampus acts like a flexible guidance system, flipping between these two maps according to changing demands. Activity in the hippocampal rear region acts like a homing signal, increasing as the goal gets closer. Analysis of the brain-scanning data revealed activity in the rear right of the hippocampus increased whenever the participants entered a new street while navigating. It also varied with the number of new path options available. The more alternatives there were, the greater the brain activity. The researchers also found that activity in the front of the hippocampus was associated with a property called centrality, defined by the proximity of each new street to the center of the network. Further, they observed activity in the participants' prefrontal cortices when they were forced to make a detour and had to replan their route -- and this, too, increased in relation to the number of options available. Intriguingly, when participants followed SatNav instructions, however, brain activity in these regions "switched off." Together, the new findings suggest the rear portion of the hippocampus reactivates spatial memories of possible navigation paths, with more available paths evoking more activity, and that the prefrontal cortex may contribute to path-planning by searching though different route options and selecting the best one.
Google

After Years Waiting For Google Fiber, KC Residents Get Cancellation Emails (arstechnica.com) 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Some Kansas City residents who have been waiting years for Google Fiber to install service at their homes recently received e-mails canceling their installations, with no word on whether they'll ever get Internet service from the company. KSHB 41 Action News in Kansas City, Missouri, "spoke to several people, living in different parts of the metro, all who have recently received cancellation e-mails," the station reported last week. "The e-mails do not provide a specific reason for the cancellations. Instead they say the company was 'unable to build our network to connect your home or business at this time.'" While Google Fiber refuses to say how many installations have been canceled, KSHB said, "there is speculation the number of cancellations in the metro is as high as 2,700." "The company says it has slowed down in some areas to experiment with new techniques," such as wireless technology, the report also said. Google Fiber is still hooking up fiber for some new customers in parts of the Kansas City area. One resident who had his installation canceled is Larry Meurer, who was seeing multiple Google Fiber trucks in his neighborhood nearly two years ago, in the spring of 2015. "I'm left wondering what's going on," he told KSHB after getting the cancellation e-mail. Meurer lives in Olathe, Kansas, one of the largest cities in the Kansas City metro area. Residents only five houses away and around the corner have Google Fiber service, the report said. But Meurer said he and several neighbors who never got service were "terminated."
Communications

Hundreds of Cisco Switches Vulnerable To Flaw Found in WikiLeaks Files (zdnet.com) 76

Zack Whittaker, writing for ZDNet: Cisco is warning that the software used in hundreds of its products are vulnerable to a "critical"-rated security flaw, which can be easily and remotely exploited with a simple command. The vulnerability can allow an attacker to remotely gain access and take over an affected device. More than 300 switches are affected by the vulnerability, Cisco said in an advisory. According to the advisory, the bug is found in the cluster management protocol code in Cisco's IOS and IOS XE software, which the company installs on the routers and switches it sells. An attacker can exploit the vulnerability by sending a malformed protocol-specific Telnet command while establishing a connection to the affected device, because of a flaw in how the protocol fails to properly process some commands. Cisco said that there are "no workarounds" to address the vulnerability, but it said that disabling Telnet would "eliminate" some risks.
Businesses

Qualcomm's New Processor Brings 4G To Feature Phones As Company Eyes Growth in Developing Markets (fortune.com) 24

With smartphone growth tapped out in many developed countries, the biggest opportunities remaining are in markets where consumers have considerably less disposable income. Qualcomm moved Monday to address this next wave with a renewed chipset for lower-end smartphones and feature phones ("candy phones"). From a report on Fortune: Dubbed the 205 Mobile Platform, the chips will allow less expensive smartphones and even feature phones to connect to 4G LTE networks, which are just spreading in places like Brazil and India. Unlike Qualcomm's top-end chips, which can reach speeds of over 1 gigabit per second on 4G networks, the 205 chips top out at 150 megabits per second. The platform will also include other lower-end capabilities like support for 3-megapixel cameras. "India and the Southeast Asia regions present growth opportunities in the telecom space with 4G adoption rising and continued adoption of feature phones," Jim Cathey, president of Qualcomm Asia Pacific and India, said in a statement.
Government

CBS Reports 'Suspicious' Cell Phone Tower Activity In Washington DC (cbsnews.com) 186

"An unusually high amount of suspicious cell phone activity in the nation's capital has caught the attention of the Department of Homeland Security, raising concerns that U.S. officials are being monitored by a foreign entity," reports CBS News: The issue was first reported in the Washington Free Beacon, but a source at telecom security firm ESD America confirmed the spike in suspicious activity to CBS News. ESD America, hired preemptively for a DHS pilot program this January called ESD Overwatch, first noticed suspicious activity around cell phone towers in certain parts of the capital, including near the White House. This kind of activity can indicate that someone is monitoring specific individuals or their devices... According to the ESD America source, the first such spike of activity was in D.C. but there have been others in other parts of the country. Based on the type of technology used, the source continued, it is likely that the suspicious activity was being conducted by a foreign nation.
The news coincides with a letter sent to the DHS by two congressmen "deeply concerned" about vulnerabilities in the SS7 protocol underlying U.S. cellular networks, according to an article shared by Slashdot reader Trailrunner7. Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Ted Lieu are asking if the agency has enough resources to address the threat. "Although there have been a few news stories about this topic, we suspect that most Americans simply have no idea how easy it is for a relatively sophisticated adversary to track their movements, tap their calls, and hack their smartphones."
Communications

Could We Eliminate Spam With DMARC? (zdnet.com) 124

An anonymous reader writes: "The spam problem would not only be significantly reduced, it'd probably almost go away," argues Paul Edmunds, the head of technology from the cybercrimes division of the U.K.'s National Crime Agency -- suggesting that more businesses should be using DMARC, an email validation system that uses both the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM). "Edmunds argued, if DMARC was rolled out everywhere in order to verify if messages come from legitimate domains, it would be a major blow to spam distributors and take a big step towards protecting organizations from this type of crime..." reports ZDNet. "However, according to a recent survey by the Global Cyber Alliance, DMARC isn't widely used and only 15% of cybersecurity vendors themselves are using DMARC to prevent email spoofing.
Earlier this month America's FTC also reported that 86% of major online businesses used SPF to help ISPs authenticate their emails -- but fewer than 10% have implemented DMARC.
Communications

Southwest Airlines Is Doing Away With Pneumatic Tubes, Paper Tickets (consumerist.com) 92

As part of Southwest's biggest tech upgrade in its 45 years of existence, the company will doing away with several of its antiquated practices, including paper tickets and the use of pneumatic tubes to send messages at airports. Consumerist reports: The airline says the goal of these upgrades is to keep planes moving in and out of airports as quickly as possible. "We're looking for minutes," Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven told Bloomberg. "How do I save a minute here, a minute there? In 2017, we are more deliberate in our continuous improvement efforts." The new reservation system will allow Southwest to accept foreign money -- something its rivals can already do -- bounce back faster from storms, and have more control over price changes and schedules. Ramp workers will be getting tablets with real-time information to speed up airplanes' "turn time" -- how quickly they can deboard and reboard passengers and take off again. Tarmac staffers also won't be using pneumatic tubes anymore to send notes via canister about lost luggage and other communications to the cargo workers in charge of calculating jet weight and balance. Digital transmissions will replace that system, as well as printouts for workers who transport bags to and fro. Customers will be seeing changes as well, as the new reservation system means Southwest can ditch paper tickets altogether and stick with electronic tickets only.
Google

Google's Allo App Can Reveal To Your Friends What You've Searched (recode.net) 61

Google's new messaging app Allo can reveal your search history and other personal information when you include the Google Assistant bot in chats, according to a report. From the article: My friend directed Assistant to identify itself. Instead of offering a name or a pithy retort, it responded with a link from Harry Potter fan website Pottermore. The link led to an extract from "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. But the response was not merely a nonsequitur. It was a result related to previous searches my friend said he had done a few days earlier. [...] When I asked "What is my job?" in my conversation with my friend, Assistant responded by sharing a Google Maps image showing the address at which I used to work -- the address of a co-working space, not the publicly listed address of my previous employer. Google had the address on file because I had included it in my personal Google Maps settings. It did not ask my permission to share that.
AT&T

DirecTV Admits Screwing Up Regional Sports Fees, Starts Issuing Credits (arstechnica.com) 15

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T this week acknowledged that DirecTV has been charging the wrong regional sports fees to some customers and is now issuing bill credits to those who paid more because of the mistake. "We have identified a small percentage of customers who are receiving some inaccurate bills for regional sports network fees," an AT&T spokesperson told Ars yesterday. "We are working as quickly as possible to notify those customers and issue credits. We apologize for the error." AT&T bought DirecTV, the nation's largest satellite TV provider with about 21 million customers, in 2015. The mistake affects bills going back to late January. Customers will not have to do anything to get the credit, as it will be issued automatically. The billing problem came to light last week when Consumerist published a report detailing how the regional sports network fees vary by ZIP code in ways that simply didn't make sense. It wouldn't be surprising to see different fees in different metro areas and states, since different local sports networks and teams are broadcast in different areas. But there were numerous cases in which people in adjacent ZIP codes were charged very different amounts to watch the same exact networks and teams. Some customers were charged no sports fee, while others were charged amounts of $2.47, $5.83, or $7.29 a month.
Businesses

GitLab Acquires Software Chat Startup Gitter, Will Open-Source the Code (venturebeat.com) 28

According to VentureBeat, "GitLab, a startup that provides open source and premium source code repository software that people use to collaborate on software, is announcing today that it has acquired Gitter, a startup that provides chat rooms that are attached to repositories of code so that collaborators can exchange messages." From the report: GitLab won't bundle it in its community edition or its enterprise edition yet, but it will open-source the Gitter code for others to build on, GitLab cofounder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij told VentureBeat in an interview. What's happening now, though, is that as part of GitLab, Gitter is launching a new feature called Topics, where people will be able to ask and answer questions -- sort of like Stack Overflow. "Although Gitter is best in class with indexing things, it's still sometimes hard to find things," Sijbrandij said. "In this Q&A product, it's a lot easier to structure the Q&A. You're not dealing so much with a chronological timeline where people have different conversations that cross each other. There's a location for every piece of knowledge, and it can grow over time." That technology is already available in beta in Gitter rooms on GitHub, and it will become available on GitLab's Gitter pages over time, Sijbrandij said.
Software

Uber Is Using In-App Podcasts To Dissuade Seattle Drivers From Unionizing (theverge.com) 102

Uber doesn't like unionization, like many corporations. In January, the company sued the city of Seattle to challenge the city's authority to implement a law that would allow ride-share drivers to unionize. The Verge is reporting today that the company has been using in-app podcasts to dissuade their Seattle drivers from unionizing by explaining, in their view, how the city's unionization law would negatively affect drivers. From the report: Uber spokesperson Nathan Hambley pushed back on a story from The Wall Street Journal over the weekend that suggested Uber drivers in Seattle were forced to choose whether or not to listen to the company-produced podcasts every day before they can begin picking up riders. The podcasts, which are produced in a number of geographic markets for Uber drivers, appear as notifications at the bottom of the app that can be dismissed or ignored -- or acted upon to start the latest podcast episode, which usually run under 10 minutes. Drivers are not required to listen to the podcast, said Hambley in an interview. "They are not required to look down at the notification at all. The most prominent button is to go on or offline to accept rides." The notification first appears as the limited message on the left, and, if the driver swipes up, the full message appears. The notification remains at the bottom of the driver screen regardless of whether it is ignored, or if the podcast is listened to or not.
Communications

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Allegedly Used Email Alias As Exxon CEO (arstechnica.com) 171

According to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Rex Tillerson used an email alias of "Wayne Tracker" to communicate with other Exxon executives about climate change while serving as CEO of Exxon Mobil. "New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been leading an investigation of Exxon Mobil centered on whether the company misled investors by publicly arguing against the reality of climate change even though its executives knew the science was accurate," reports Ars Technica. "The investigation was triggered by news reports describing climate research the company undertook in the 1970s and 1980s, which affirmed the work of other climate scientists and showed that greenhouse gas emissions were causing climate change. Exxon buried that work and spent the next couple decades claiming that the science was unclear, although it has recently publicly acknowledged reality." From the report: The e-mails that were provided allowed the attorney general to figure out that Tillerson used the account between 2008 and 2015 at least, but it didn't appear on Exxon's list of accounts for which records were preserved. The letter also mentions 34 other e-mail accounts "specifically assigned to top executives, board members, or assistants" that the attorney general thinks should have been included. In a statement, an Exxon spokesperson explained, "The e-mail address, Wayne.Tracker@exxonmobil.com, is part of the company's e-mail system and was put in place for secure and expedited communications between select senior company officials and the former chairman for a broad range of business-related topics." The Office of the Attorney General's letter claims that "Exxon has continuously delayed and obstructed the production of documents from its top executives and board members, which are crucial to OAG's investigation into Exxon's touted risk-management practices regarding climate change."
Government

Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft Are Helping Google Fight an Order To Hand Over Foreign Emails (businessinsider.com) 67

Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Cisco have filed an amicus brief in support of Google, after a Pennsylvania court ruled that the company had to hand over emails stored overseas in response to an FBI warrant. From a report: An amicus brief is filed by people or companies who have an interest in the case, but aren't directly involved. In this case, it's in Silicon Valley's interest to keep US law enforcement from accessing customer data stored outside the US. It isn't clear what data Google might have to hand over and, last month, the company said it would fight to the order. In the brief, the companies argue: "When a warrant seeks email content from a foreign data center, that invasion of privacy occurs outside the United States -- in the place where the customers' private communications are stored, and where they are accessed, and copied for the benefit of law enforcement, without the customer's consent."
Communications

Ask Slashdot: How Would You Solve the Instant Messaging Problem? 456

Artem Tashkinov writes: The XKCD comics has posted a wonderful and exceptionally relevant post in regard to the today's situation with various instant messaging solutions. E-mail has served us well in the past, however, it's not suitable for any real-time communications involving video and audio. XMPP was a nice idea, however, it has largely failed except for a low number of geeks who stick to it. Nowadays, some people install up to seven instant messengers to be able to keep up with various circles of people. How do you see this situation being resolved?

People desperately need a universal solution which is secure, decentralized, fault tolerant, not attached to your phone number, protects your privacy, supports video and audio chats and sending of files, works behind NATs and other firewalls and has the ability to send offline messages. I believe we need a modern version of SMTP. [How would you solve the instant messaging problem?]
United States

IEEE-USA Criticizes Failure To Reform The H-!B Program (ieee.org) 239

Slashdot reader Tekla Perry writes: IEEE USA says H-1B visas are a tool used to avoid paying U.S. wages. "For every visa used by Google to hire a talented non-American for $126,000, ten Americans are replaced by outsourcing companies paying their H-1B workers $65,000," says the current IEEE USA president, writing with the past president and president-elect. The outsourcing companies, Infosys, Cognizant, Wipro, and Tata Consultancy in 2014 "used 21,695 visas, or more than 25 percent of all private-sector H-1B visas used that year. Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Uber, for comparison, used only 1,763 visas, or 2 percent," they say.
On Friday, IEEE-USA also issued a new criticism about the lack of progress in reforming the H-1B program, saying "At least 50,000 Americans will lose their jobs this year because the president has yet to fulfill the promise he made to millions who voted for him."
Verizon

Verizon Wireless Wades Right Back Into the Net Neutrality Debate With Fios Deal (theverge.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Verizon is taking a page out of AT&T's book by zero rating its Fios cable TV service for all Verizon Wireless customers. That means that if you purchase your mobile data plan from Verizon Wireless and your cable TV plan from Fios, you can now use the Fios Mobile app to stream live channels and on-demand shows and not have it count against your monthly data cap. (It should be noted that Verizon Wireless and Fios are separate subsidiaries, but both are owned by Verizon Communications.) This builds on Verizon's previous decision to zero rate its Go90 mobile app for customers of its own wireless service, which net neutrality advocates see as prioritizing its own products to the detriment of those from competitors and upstarts. One notable exception here is for customers with unlimited mobile data plans. Streaming Fios Mobile content will in fact count toward the unlimited plans' 22GB a month cap, after which Verizon will cap speeds. This caveat is not made clear in Verizon's marketing language, and instead is found only in the App Store release notes.
Network

T-Mobile Raises Deprioritization Threshold To 30GB (tmonews.com) 60

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TmoNews: T-Mobile's new deprioritization threshold is 30GB of usage in a single billing cycle. While T-Mo didn't make an official announcement about the change, you can see in this cached page that the network management policy says 28GB: "Based on network statistics for the most recent quarter, customers who use more than 28GB of data during a billing cycle will have their data usage prioritized below other customers' data usage for the remainder of the billing cycle in times and at locations where there are competing customer demands for network resources." Navigating to the webpage today now says 30GB. What this change means is that if you use more than 30GB of data in one billing cycle, your data usage will be prioritized below others for the remainder of that billing cycle. The only time that you're likely to see the effects of that, though, is when you're at a location on the network that is congested, during which time you may see slower speeds. Once you move to a different location or the congestion goes down, your speeds will likely go back up. And once the new billing cycle rolls around, your usage will be reset.

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