Slashdot: News for nerds, stuff that matters (2024)

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(arstechnica.com) 53

Postedby BeauHD from the you-gotta-follow-the-rules dept.

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) yesterday rejected AT&T's request to end its landline phone obligations. The state agency also urged AT&T to upgrade copper facilities to fiber instead of trying to shut down the outdated portions of its network. AT&T asked the state to eliminate its Carrier of Last Resort (COLR) obligation, which requires it to provide landline telephone service to any potential customer in its service territory. A CPUC administrative law judge recommended rejection of the application last month, and the commission voted to dismiss AT&T's application with prejudice on Thursday.

"Our vote to dismiss AT&T's application made clear that we will protect customer access to basic telephone service... Our rules were designed to provide that assurance, and AT&T's application did not follow our rules," Commissioner John Reynolds said in a CPUC announcement. State rules require a replacement COLR in order to relieve AT&T of its duties, and AT&T argued that VoIP and mobile services could fill that gap. But residents "highlighted the unreliability of voice alternatives" at public hearings, the CPUC said. "Despite AT&T's contention that providers of voice alternatives to landline service -- such as VoIP or mobile wireless services -- can fill the gap, the CPUC found AT&T did not meet the requirements for COLR withdrawal," the agency said. "Specifically, AT&T failed to demonstrate the availability of replacement providers willing and able to serve as COLR, nor did AT&T prove that alternative providers met the COLR definition."

The administrative law judge's proposed decision said AT&T falsely claimed that commission rules require it "to retain outdated copper-based landline facilities that are expensive to maintain." The agency stressed that its rules do not prevent AT&T from upgrading to fiber. "COLR rules are technology-neutral and do not distinguish between voice services offered... and do not prevent AT&T from retiring copper facilities or from investing in fiber or other facilities/technologies to improve its network," the agency said yesterday.

AT&T California President Marc Blakeman said the company is lobbying to change the state law. "No customer will be left without voice and 911 services. We are focused on the legislation introduced in California, which includes important protections, safeguards, and outreach for consumers and does not impact our customers in rural locations. We are fully committed to keeping our customers connected while we work with state leaders on policies that create a thoughtful transition that brings modern communications to all Californians," Blakeman said.

According to SFGATE, the legislation pushed by AT&T "would create a way for AT&T to remain as COLR in rural regions, which the company estimates as being about 100,000 customers, while being released from COLR obligations everywhere else."

AST SpaceMobile Stock Surges 69% After Verizon Satellite Internet Deal (cnbc.com) 2

Postedby BeauHD from the space-based-connectivity dept.

Satellite-to-phones service provider AST SpaceMobile announced a deal with Verizon to provide remote coverage across the United States. "Verizon's deal effectively includes a $100 million raise for AST, as well, in the form of $65 million in commercial service prepayments and $35 million in debt via convertible notes," reports CNBC. "The companies said that $45 million of the prepayments 'are subject to certain conditions' such as needed regulatory approvals and signing of a definitive commercial agreement." Shares of AST jumped 69% in trading to close at $9.02 a share -- the largest single day rise for the company's stock since it went public in 2021. From the report: AST SpaceMobile is building satellites to provide broadband service to unmodified smartphones, in the nascent "direct-to-device" communications market. [...] The Verizon partnership follows a similar pattern to . Back in January, AT&T was a co-debt investor in the company alongside Google and Vodafone. The companies then established the commercial agreement earlier this month, which "lays out in much more detail how we will ultimately offer service together," AST's Chief Strategy Officer Scott Wisniewski said in a statement to CNBC. [...] AST expects to launch its first five commercial satellites later this year.

(pcmag.com) 14

Postedby BeauHD from the can-you-hear-me-now dept.

Michael Kan reports via PCMag: AT&T has struck a deal to bring satellite internet connectivity to phones through AST SpaceMobile, a potential rival to SpaceX's Starlink. AT&T says the commercial agreement will last until 2030. The goal is "to provide a space-based broadband network to everyday cell phones," a spokesperson tells PCMag, meaning customers can receive a cellular signal in remote areas where traditional cell towers are few and far between. All they'll need to do is ensure their phone has a clear view of the sky.

AT&T has been working with Texas-based AST SpaceMobile since 2018 on the technology, which involves using satellites in space as orbiting cell towers. In January, AT&T was one of several companies (including Google) to invest $110 million in AST. In addition, the carrier created a commercial starring actor Ben Stiller to showcase AST's technology. In today's announcement, AT&T notes that "previously, the companies were working together under a Memorandum of Understanding," which is usually nonbinding. Hence, the new commercial deal suggests AT&T is confident AST can deliver fast and reliable satellite internet service to consumer smartphones -- even though it hasn't launched a production satellite.

AST has only launched one prototype satellite; in tests last year, it delivered download rates at 14Mbps and powered a 5G voice call. Following a supply chain-related delay, the company is now preparing to launch its first batch of "BlueBird" production satellites later this year, possibly in Q3. In Wednesday's announcement, AT&T adds: "This summer, AST SpaceMobile plans to deliver its first commercial satellites to Cape Canaveral for launch into low Earth orbit. These initial five satellites will help enable commercial service that was previously demonstrated with several key milestones." Still, AST needs to launch 45 to 60 BlueBird satellites before it can offer continuous coverage in the U.S., although in an earnings call, the company said it'll still be able to offer "non-continuous coverage" across 5,600 cells in the country.


Bike Brands Start To Adopt C-V2X To Warn Cyclists About Cars (arstechnica.com) 157

Postedby BeauHD from the accident-proofing dept.

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: There's a fundamental flaw in current car safety tech: It's limited to line of sight. Or, perhaps, line of "sensing" is more accurate, because the way cameras and lidar work is to inspect the perimeter of a vehicle and use predictive algorithms to understand the motion of an object in relation to the motion of the vehicle itself. Which is good, because as carmakers have added elements such as pedestrian and cyclist detection, they're trying to prevent drivers from hurting the most vulnerable road users. And unfortunately this is necessary, because even though 2023 saw a slight reduction in drivers striking cyclists and pedestrians, according to the most recent data from the Governor's Highway Safety Association, since 2019 pedestrian fatalities are still up 14 percent -- and cyclist deaths are up 50 percent since 2010. That doesn't mean lidar and cameras have "failed," but because they rely on what the sensors can pick up, they cannot necessarily ID hazards (and alert drivers) as quickly as we need them to, particularly if that's a cyclist in your lane 300 feet down the road, just over the next rise. Yes, current sensing works well now with figuring out the pace of a traffic jam, and automatic emergency braking can step in to stop your car if you fail to. But for non-automotive obstacles, they're still limited.

For that, we need better tech, which is emerging and is called Connected Vehicle to Everything (C-V2X). The idea isn't that complicated. Boiled down, it's a chipset that operates on a portion of the cellular bandwidth, and vehicles with this tech embedded (say in an e-bike or car) monitor anything with a C-V2X chip as well as broadcast their own location at a pulse of 10 times a second. This precision location system would then warn a driver of a cyclist on the road ahead, even beyond line of sight, and in an emergency -- possibly because a cyclist was right in a car's path -- could prevent a collision. [W]ith C-V2X, you don't need Verizon or ATT or anything like that," explains Audi's Kamal Kapadia. Because it isn't using the cellular network -- it's using a portion of cellular bandwidth to allow direct object, or vehicle-to-vehicle, communication. Audi has been working on C-V2X for nearly a decade, and it's part of a group in the US called the Coalition for Cyclist Safety, which also includes suppliers like Bosch, a tech startup in the space called Spoke Safety, and bike brands such as massive Trek, parts supplier Shimano, more niche bikemakers like Switzerland's Stromer, as well as mega telco suppliers and networks such as Qualcomm, Deutsche Telekom, and TELUS. [...]

Mio Suzuki is Trek Bicycle's director of embedded systems, "and we are exploring all sorts of safety," she says. For instance, Trek recently introduced its own radar tail light, which warns riders of a car approaching rapidly -- Garmin has had similar systems for several years. But Suzuki is intrigued by C-V2X because it offers more advanced warning than rear-facing radar. "And unlike cars, we have a very vulnerable road user so we need to augment our senses and the rider's awareness of the riding environment, because we don't have a big metal shield around us." What Suzuki envisions this direct communication might enable is an e-bike where the rider has a display that would warn a rider "of an imminent danger that's approaching; a car might be coming from the side, but the view of the car is obstructed by a building, so the rider can't see." Franz Reindl is CTO of Stromer, a high-end Swiss brand that only makes e-bikes with very top tech, including ABS brakes. Reindl says they're also studying C-V2X. "Safety is one of our biggest promises, and we need to do everything we can with products and technologies to make it more safe for customers."

Right now, only Audi and the VW Group have openly talked about using the tech. "Trek's Suzuki thinks that together, the Coalition and so many bike brands within it do have a strong voice," reports Ars. "She also envisions municipalities deploying the technology, especially around work crews and EMS, which should build broader momentum and pressure on automakers."

Big Three Carriers Pay $10 Million To Settle Claims of False 'Unlimited' Advertising (arstechnica.com) 33

Postedby BeauHD from the false-advertising dept.

Jon Brodkin reports via Ars Technica: T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T will pay a combined $10.2 million in a settlement with US states that alleged the carriers falsely advertised wireless plans as "unlimited" and phones as "free." The deal was announced yesterday by New York Attorney General Letitia James. "A multistate investigation found that the companies made false claims in advertisem*nts in New York and across the nation, including misrepresentations about 'unlimited' data plans that were in fact limited and had reduced quality and speed after a certain limit was reached by the user," the announcement said.

T-Mobile and Verizon agreed to pay $4.1 million each while AT&T agreed to pay a little over $2 million. The settlement includes AT&T subsidiary Cricket Wireless and Verizon subsidiary TracFone. The settlement involves 49 of the 50 US states (Florida did not participate) and the District of Columbia. The states' investigation found that the three major carriers "made several misleading claims in their advertising, including misrepresenting 'unlimited' data plans that were actually limited, offering 'free' phones that came at a cost, and making false promises about switching to different wireless carrier plans."

"AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile lied to millions of consumers, making false promises of free phones and 'unlimited' data plans that were simply untrue," James said. "Big companies are not excused from following the law and cannot trick consumers into paying for services they will never receive." The carriers denied any illegal conduct despite agreeing to the settlement. In addition to payments to each state, the carriers agreed to changes in their advertising practices. It's unclear whether consumers will get any refunds out of the settlement, however.

These are the following changes the three carriers agreed upon, as highlighted by the NY attorney general's office:

- "Unlimited" mobile data plans can only be marketed if there are no limits on the quantity of data allowed during a billing cycle.
- Offers to pay for consumers to switch to a different wireless carrier must clearly disclose how much a consumer will be paid, how consumers will be paid, when consumers can expect payment, and any additional requirements consumers have to meet to get paid.
- Offers of "free" wireless devices or services must clearly state everything a consumer must do to receive the "free" devices or services.
- Offers to lease wireless devices must clearly state that the consumer will be entering into a lease agreement.
- All "savings" claims must have a reasonable basis. If a wireless carrier claims that consumers will save using its services compared to another wireless carrier, the claim must be based on similar goods or services or differences must be clearly explained to the consumer.

The advertising restrictions are to be in place for five years.

(cnn.com) 21

Postedby EditorDavid from the connecting-changes-everything dept.

Personal data from 73 million AT&T customers has leaked onto the dark web, reports CNN — both current and former customers.

AT&T has launched an investigation into the source of the data leak... In a news release Saturday morning, the telecommunications giant said the data was "released on the dark web approximately two weeks ago," and contains information such as account holders' Social Security numbers. ["The information varied by customer and account," AT&T said in a statement, " but may have included full name, email address, mailing address, phone number, social security number, date of birth, AT&T account number and passcode."]

"It is not yet known whether the data ... originated from AT&T or one of its vendors," the company added. "Currently, AT&T does not have evidence of unauthorized access to its systems resulting in exfiltration of the data set."

The data seems to have been from 2019 or earlier. The leak does not appear to contain financial information or specifics about call history, according to AT&T. The company said the leak shows approximately 7.6 million current account holders and 65.4 million former account holders were affected.


CNN says the first reports of the leak came two weeks ago from a social media account claiming "the largest collection of malware source code, samples, and papers. Reached for a comment by CNN, AT&T had said at the time that "We have no indications of a compromise of our systems."

AT&T's web site now includes a special page with an FAQ — and the tagline that announces "We take cybersecurity very seriously..."

"It has come to our attention that a number of AT&T passcodes have been compromised..."

The page points out that AT&T has already reset the passcodes of "all 7.6 million impacted customers." It's only further down in the FAQ that they acknowledge that the breach "appears to be from 2019 or earlier, impacting approximately 7.6 million current AT&T account holders and 65.4 million former account holders."Our internal teams are working with external cybersecurity experts to analyze the situation... We encourage customers to remain vigilant by monitoring account activity and credit reports. You can set up free fraud alerts from nationwide credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can also request and review your free credit report at any time via Freecreditreport.com...

We will reach out by mail or email to individuals with compromised sensitive personal information and offering complimentary identity theft and credit monitoring services... If your information was impacted, you will be receiving an email or letter from us explaining the incident, what information was compromised, and what we are doing for you in response.

(bleepingcomputer.com) 25

Postedby BeauHD from the security-experts-say-otherwise dept.

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: AT&T says a massive trove of data impacting 71 million people did not originate from its systems after a hacker leaked it on a cybercrime forum and claimed it was stolen in a 2021 breach of the company. While BleepingComputer has not been able to confirm the legitimacy of all the data in the database, we have confirmed some of the entries are accurate, including those whose data is not publicly accessible for scraping. The data is from an alleged 2021 AT&T data breach that a threat actor known as ShinyHunters attempted to sell on the RaidForums data theft forum for a starting price of $200,000 and incremental offers of $30,000. The hacker stated they would sell it immediately for $1 million.

AT&T told BleepingComputer then that the data did not originate from them and that its systems were not breached. "Based on our investigation today, the information that appeared in an internet chat room does not appear to have come from our systems," AT&T told BleepingComputer in 2021. When we told ShinyHunters that AT&T said the data did not originate from them, they replied, "I don't care if they don't admit. I'm just selling." AT&T continues to tell BleepingComputer today that they still see no evidence of a breach in their systems and still believe that this data did not originate from them.

Today, another threat actor known as MajorNelson leaked data from this alleged 2021 data breach for free on a hacking forum, claiming it was the data ShinyHunters attempted to sell in 2021. This data includes names, addresses, mobile phone numbers, encrypted date of birth, encrypted social security numbers, and other internal information. However, the threat actors have decrypted the birth dates and social security numbers and added them to another file in the leak, making those also accessible. BleepingComputer has reviewed the data, and while we cannot confirm that all 73 million lines are accurate, we verified some of the data contains correct information, including social security numbers, addresses, dates of birth, and phone numbers. Furthermore, other cybersecurity researchers, such as Dark Web Informer, who first told BleepingComputer about the leaked data, and VX-Underground have also confirmed some of the data to be accurate.

Despite AT&T's statement, BleepingComputer says if you were an AT&T customer before and through 2021, it's "[safe] to assume that your data was exposed and can be used in targeted attacks."

Have I Been Pwned's Troy Hunt writes: "I have proven, with sufficient confidence, that the data is real and the impact is significant."

(cnn.com) 45

Postedby EditorDavid from the half-a-movie-ticket dept.

CNN reports:AT&T is reimbursing customers for the nearly 12-hour network outage on Thursday, the company announced in a news release. The mobile network will issue a $5 credit to "potentially impacted" AT&T Wireless customers, which it says is the "average cost of a full day of service."
The credit will be applied automatically "within 2 bill cycles," according to an announcement at the URL att.com/makeitright. "We recognize the frustration this outage has caused and know we let many of our customers down."

In a much smaller font, they note that the credit "does not apply to AT&T Business, AT&T Prepaid or Cricket.

More from CNN:AT&T had encountered sporadic service interruptions in the days leading up to the outage, including a temporary 911 outage in some parts of the southeast. While regional disruptions to wireless service happen occasionally, prolonged nationwide outages are rare. The Federal Communications Commission confirmed Thursday it was investigating the incident...

Several hours after service was restored, AT&T released an update stating the outage seemed to be the result of an internal issue, not a cybersecurity threat. "Based on our initial review, we believe that today's outage was caused by the application and execution of an incorrect process used as we were expanding our network," the company said.

On Saturday, AT&T reiterated it was taking steps "to prevent this from happening again in the future," but did not elaborate.

(cnn.com) 55

Postedby BeauHD from the can-you-hear-me-now dept.

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN Business: AT&T's network went down for many of its customers across the United States Thursday morning, leaving customers unable to place calls, text or access the internet. By a little after 3 pm ET, roughly 11 hours after reports of the outage first emerged, the company said that it had restored service to all impacted customers. "We have restored wireless service to all our affected customers. We sincerely apologize to them," AT&T said in a statement. The company added that it is "taking steps to ensure our customers do not experience this again in the future."

The Federal Communications Commission confirmed Thursday afternoon that it is investigating the outage. The White House says federal agencies are in touch with AT&T about network outages but that it doesn't have all the answers yet on what exactly led to the interruptions. Although Verizon and T-Mobile customers reported some network outages, too, they appeared far less widespread. T-Mobile and Verizon said their networks were unaffected by AT&T's service outage and customers reporting outages may have been unable to reach customers who use AT&T.

Thursday morning, more than 74,000 AT&T customers reported outages on digital-service tracking site DownDetector, with service disruptions beginning around 4 am ET. That's not a comprehensive number: It tracks only self-reported outages. Reports had been rising steadily throughout the morning but leveled off in the 9 am ET hour. By 12:30 pm ET, the DownDetector data showed some 25,000 AT&T customers still reporting outages. By 2 pm ET, fewer than 5,000 customers were still reporting issues. Earlier Thursday, AT&T acknowledged that it had a widespread outage but did not provide a reason for the system failure. By late morning, AT&T said most of its network was back online, and it confirmed Thursday afternoon that service was fully restored.

According to an anonymous industry source, the issue for the outage appears to be related to how cellular services hand off calls from one network to the next, a process known as peering. They said there's no indication that it was the result of a cyberattack or other malicious activity.

The FCC confirmed that it is investigating the incident. "We are aware of the reported wireless outages, and our Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is actively investigating," the FCC said in a statement posted on X. "We are in touch with AT&T and public safety authorities, including FirstNet, as well as other providers."

The US Government Makes a $42 Million Bet On Open Cell Networks (theverge.com) 26

Postedby BeauHD from the united-front-against-Huawei dept.

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The US government has committed $42 million to further the development of the 5G Open RAN (O-RAN) standard that would allow wireless providers to mix and match cellular hardware and software, opening up a bigger market for third-party equipment that's cheaper and interoperable. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) grant would establish a Dallas O-RAN testing center to prove the standard's viability as a way to head off Huawei's steady cruise toward a global cellular network hardware monopoly.

Verizon global network and technology president Joe Russo promoted the funding as a way to achieve "faster innovation in an open environment." To achieve the standard's goals, AT&T vice president of RAN technology Robert Soni says that AT&T and Verizon have formed the Acceleration of Compatibility and Commercialization for Open RAN Deployments Consortium (ACCoRD), which includes a grab bag of wireless technology companies like Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, Dell, Intel, Broadcom, and Rakuten. Japanese wireless carrier Rakuten formed as the first O-RAN network in 2020. The company's then CEO, Tareq Amin, told The Verge's Nilay Patel in 2022 that Open RAN would enable low-cost network build-outs using smaller equipment rather than massive towers -- which has long been part of the promise of 5G.

But O-RAN is about more than that; establishing interoperability means companies like Verizon and AT&T wouldn't be forced to buy all of their hardware from a single company to create a functional network. For the rest of us, that means faster build-outs and "more agile networks," according to Rakuten. In the US, Dish has been working on its own O-RAN network, under the name Project Genesis. The 5G network was creaky and unreliable when former Verge staffer Mitchell Clarke tried it out in Las Vegas in 2022, but the company said in June last year that it had made its goal of covering 70 percent of the US population. Dish has struggled to become the next big cell provider in the US, though -- leading satellite communications company EchoStar, which spun off from Dish in 2008, to purchase the company in January.

The Washington Post writes that O-RAN "is Washington's anointed champion to try to unseat the Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies" as the world's biggest supplier of cellular infrastructure gear.

According to the Post, Biden has emphasized the importance of O-RAN in conversations with international leaders over the past few years. Additionally, it notes that Congress along with the NTIA have dedicated approximately $2 billion to support the development of this standard.

(cbsnews.com) 115

Postedby BeauHD from the end-of-an-era dept.

AT&T is applying to end its obligation to service landlines in certain areas of California. "The application is pending under the California Public Utilities Commission, but the end of a landline means the end of communication for some people," reports CBS News. From the report: The company said in a statement to CBS13: "Our application seeks approval from the CPUC to remove outdated regulations in California and to help the limited remaining landline consumers transition to modern, alternative services to replace their current outdated ones. All AT&T California customers will continue to receive their traditional landline services until an alternative service becomes available by AT&T or another provider." The CPUC will be holding four public hearings on the matter through March.

(fiercewireless.com) 18

Postedby BeauHD from the future-of-wireless dept.

AT&T, Google and Vodafone are investing a total of $206.5 million in AST SpaceMobile, a satellite manufacturer that plans to be the first space-based network to connect standard mobile phones at broadband speeds. Fierce Wireless reports: AST SpaceMobile claims it invented the space-based direct-to-device market, with a patented design facilitating broadband connectivity directly to standard, unmodified cellular devices. In a press release, AST SpaceMobile said the investment from the likes of AT&T, Google and Vodafone underscores confidence in the company's technology and leadership position in the emerging space-based cellular D2D market. There's the potential to offer connectivity to 5.5 billion cellular devices when they're out of coverage.

Bolstering the case for AST SpaceMobile, Vodafone and AT&T placed purchase orders -- for an undisclosed amount -- for network equipment to support their planned commercial services. In addition, Google and AST SpaceMobile agreed to collaborate on product development, testing and implementation plans for SpaceMobile network connectivity on Android and related devices. AST SpaceMobile boasts agreements and understandings with more than 40 mobile network operators globally. However, it's far from alone in the D2D space. Apple/Globalstar, T-Mobile/SpaceX, Bullitt and Lynk Global are among the others.


The Race To 5G is Over - Now It's Time To Pay the Bill (theverge.com) 84

Postedby msmash from the times,-they-are-a-changin' dept.

Networks spent years telling us that 5G would change everything. But the flashiest use cases are nowhere to be found -- and the race to deploy the tech was costly in more ways than one. From a report: At CES in 2021, 5G was just about everywhere you looked. It was the future of mobile communications that would propel autonomous vehicles, remote surgery, and AR into reality. The low latency! The capacity! It'll change everything, we were told. Verizon and AT&T wrote massive checks for new spectrum licenses, and T-Mobile swallowed another network whole because it was very important to make the 5G future happen as quickly as possible and win the race.

CES 2024 is just around the corner, and while telecom executives were eager to shout about 5G to the rafters just a few years ago, you'll probably be lucky to hear so much as a whisper about it this time around. While it's true that 5G has actually arrived, the fantastic use cases we heard about years ago haven't materialized. Instead, we have happy Swifties streaming concert footage and a new way to get internet to your home router. These aren't bad things! But deploying 5G at the breakneck speeds required to win an imaginary race resulted in one fewer major wireless carrier to choose from and lots of debt to repay. Now, network operators are looking high and low for every bit of profit they can drum up -- including our wallets.

If there's a poster child for the whole 5G situation in the US, it's Verizon: the loudest and biggest spender in the room. The company committed $45.5 billion to new spectrum in 2021's FCC license auction -- almost twice as much as AT&T. And we don't have to guess whether investors are asking questions about when they'll see a return -- they asked point blank in the company's most recent earnings call. CEO Hans Vestberg fielded the question, balancing the phrases "having the right offers for our customers" and "generating the bottom line for ourselves," while nodding to "price adjustments" that also "included new value" for customers. It was a show of verbal gymnastics that meant precisely nothing.


Wireless Carriers Are Messing With Your Autopay Discount (theverge.com) 60

Postedby BeauHD from the always-read-the-fine-print dept.

According to a new report by The Wall Street Journal, mobile carriers including Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are all requiring customers to switch to a debit card or bank account withdrawal in order to receive an autopay discount on their plan. Verizon has included this requirement for years, but in the past few months the other two carriers have quietly added it too. The Verge reports: The new rule goes into effect for AT&T customers on October 2nd, and as a gesture of goodwill, the company will only reduce your discount if you continue to pay with a credit card. Those who register for autopay with a bank or debit card will receive $10 off; a credit card will only get you $5. T-Mobile's change went into effect in July, also eliminating Apple Pay and Google Pay as methods eligible for the $5 discount. Oh, and technically, you can qualify for Verizon's autopay discount with a credit card -- it just has to be a Verizon Visa card.

AT&T and T-Mobile aren't just making this a requirement for new customers -- the change is being applied to all postpaid accounts. Even if you've been receiving the discount for years with a credit card, you'll have to make the switch in order to keep your discount. And it adds up -- the discounts are applied for each line on your plan, so if your whole family is on the same plan, it's a significant amount of money.


(arstechnica.com) 103

Postedby BeauHD from the this-could-get-messy dept.

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T's legacy telephone network may have nearly 200,000 miles of lead-covered cables, according to an estimate by AT&T submitted in a court filing. "Based on its records, AT&T estimates that lead-clad cables represent less than 10 percent of its copper footprint of roughly two million sheath miles of cable, the overwhelming majority of which remains in active service," AT&T wrote in a court filing yesterday in US District Court for the Eastern District of California. "More than two thirds of its lead-clad cabling is either buried or in conduit, followed by aerial cable, and with a very small portion running underwater. There are varying costs of installation, maintenance, and removal by cable type (aerial, buried, buried in conduit, underwater)."

Reacting to the court filing, financial analyst firm Raymond James & Associates wrote in a research note, "AT&T is telling us that the total exposure is 200,000 route miles or less." With about two-thirds of the lead cables either buried or installed inside conduit, "We believe the implication for AT&T's data is that the route miles that should be addressed most immediately is about 3.3 percent (or less)," the analyst firm wrote. AT&T's new court filing came in a case filed against AT&T subsidiary Pacific Bell by the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) in January 2021. The sportfishing group sued AT&T over cables that are allegedly "damaged and discharging lead into Lake Tahoe."

The two underwater cables run along the bottom of the western side of Lake Tahoe for a total of eight miles. AT&T "contends that it stopped using the Cables in or around the 1980s or earlier, that the Easem*nts therefore have terminated, and that Defendant no longer owns the Cables," according to a November 2021 settlement. AT&T agreed in that settlement to remove the cables but now says it is at an "impasse" with the CSPA regarding removal. "In this matter, AT&T has always maintained that its lead-clad telecommunications cables pose no danger to those who work and play in the waters of Lake Tahoe, but in 2021, AT&T agreed to remove them simply to avoid the expense of litigation," an AT&T lawyer at the firm Paul Hastings wrote yesterday in a letter to the plaintiff that was attached to the court filing. [...]

AT&T's stance that it won't remove the Lake Tahoe cables any time soon is apparently a surprise to the plaintiff. The CSPA said in a court filing last week that in a Zoom meeting on July 10, "AT&T confirmed that it is prepared to commence the removal process on September 6, 2023, as long as the new permit request that AT&T submitted to State Parks in May is approved by State Park." AT&T's filing said the company never "confirmed" that it is prepared to start the cable removal process on September 6. The CSPA argues that the lead-covered cables "have leached, are leaching, and will continue to leach lead into the waters of Lake Tahoe, and that such leaching may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health or the environment."

Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an investigative report that found evidence of more than 2,000 lead-covered telephone cables installed across the U.S. Teleco stock prices plummeted as a result, since the remediation could cost the telecom industry $60 billion.

While members of Congress are putting pressure on telecom companies to act, AT&T does appear to be taking new actions as a result of the investigation. "AT&T is working with union partners to add a voluntary testing program for any employee who works with or has worked with lead-clad cables," which "expands on AT&T's previous practice of providing blood-lead testing for technicians involved in lead-clad cable removal," the company said in its letter to the plaintiff yesterday. AT&T said it is also conducting new testing and site visits at certain locations.

AT&T's stock slid to a 30-year low following the news.

Ancient Lead-Covered Telephone Cables Have US Lawmakers Demanding Action (arstechnica.com) 65

Postedby BeauHD from the corporate-irresponsibility dept.

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Newly raised concerns about lead-covered telephone cables installed across the US many decades ago are putting pressure on companies like AT&T and Verizon to identify the locations of all the cables and account for any health problems potentially caused by the toxic metal. US Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) wrote a letter to the USTelecom industry trade group this week after a Wall Street Journal investigative report titled, "America Is Wrapped in Miles of Toxic Lead Cables." The WSJ said it found evidence of more than 2,000 lead-covered cables and that there "are likely far more throughout the country."

WSJ reporters had researchers collect samples as part of their investigation. They "found that where lead contamination was present, the amount measured in the soil was highest directly under or next to the cables, and dropped within a few feet -- a sign the lead was coming from the cable," the article said. Markey wrote to USTelecom, "According to the Wall Street Journal's investigation, 'AT&T, Verizon and other telecom giants have left behind a sprawling network of cables covered in toxic lead that stretches across the US, under the water, in the soil and on poles overhead... As the lead degrades, it is ending up in places where Americans live, work and play.'"

Markey wants answers to a series of questions by July 25: "Do the companies know the locations and mileage of lead-sheathed cables that they own or for which they are responsible -- whether aerial, underwater, or underground? Are there maps of the locations and installations? If not, what plans do the companies have to identify the cables? Why have the companies that knew about the cables -- and the potential exposure risks they pose -- failed to monitor them or act?" Markey also asked what plans telcos have to address environmental and public health problems that could arise from lead cables. He asked the companies to commit to "testing for soil, water, and other contamination caused by the cables," to remediate any contamination, and warn communities of the potential hazards. Markey also asked USTelecom if the phone companies will guarantee "medical treatment and compensation to anyone harmed by lead poisoning caused by the cables."

"There is no safe level of lead exposure -- none -- which is why I'm so disturbed by these reports of lead cable lines throughout the country," added US Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ). "It is imperative that these cables be properly scrutinized and addressed."

Another Congressman, Rep. Patrick Ryan (D-NY), said he is considering legislation on remediating contamination from the cables and that telecom companies should "do the right thing and clean up their mess." The Wall Street Journal said its testing in a playground in Ryan's district "registered high levels of lead underneath an aerial cable running along the perimeter of the park."

11

Postedby BeauHD from the that's-a-first dept.

According to AST SpaceMobile, the company managed to successfully transmit a 4G LTE signal from space that was picked up by "everyday, off-the-shelf smartphones." Next, AST will try and transmit a 5G connection via its BlueWalker 3 (BW3) satellite. The Verge reports: Testing was conducted in Hawaii on AT&T's spectrum using Nokia RAN technology, and the signal, which was beamed from AST's satellite in low Earth orbit, reached speeds of up to 10.3Mbps. That's fast enough for some video streaming, general internet use, and more ordinary cell phone usage. AST's testing followed a recent April test by the same company, where it was able to route an audio call between a Samsung Galaxy S22 in Texas to an iPhone in Japan via satellite.

The BW3 is a massive commercial communication array at 693 square feet -- about the size of a two- or three-car garage -- and the largest ever deployed in low Earth orbit, says AST's release. It operates using the same 3GPP standard found in ground-based cell networks. The achievement is "an important step toward AST SpaceMobile's goal of bringing broadband services to parts of the world where cellular coverage is either unreliable or simply does not exist today," according to AST's chairman and CEO, Abel Avellan, who said this would allow users to text and call, browse the internet, download files, and even stream video using a signal beamed from space.

ISPs Say US Should Force Big Tech Firms To Pay For Broadband Construction (arstechnica.com) 144

Postedby BeauHD from the shared-obligation dept.

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Internet service providers in both the US and Europe are clamoring for new payments from Big Tech firms. European broadband providers are much closer to realizing the long-held goal of payments from tech companies, as the European Union government is holding an official consultation on the proposal. As the EU process unfolds, the telco lobby group USTelecom is hoping to push the US down a similar but not quite identical path. In a blog post on Friday, USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter argued that the biggest technology companies should contribute toward a fund that subsidizes the building of broadband networks. Spalter wrote that Amazon and similar Internet companies should fill what he called a "conspicuously empty seat at the collective table of global high-speed connectivity."

Given that "six companies account for half of all Internet traffic worldwide... Does it still make sense that the government and broadband providers alone fund this critical infrastructure? Is there no shared obligation from the primary financial beneficiaries of these networks -- the world's most powerful Internet companies?" Spalter wrote. "We need a modern reset that more equitably shares these financial obligations among those who benefit the most from these connections," he argued. USTelecom members include AT&T, Verizon, Lumen (formerly CenturyLink), Windstream, and other telcos. It's one of the biggest trade groups that lobbies for US-based Internet service providers.

[...] USTelecom pointed to the Biden administration's comments in its pitch to make Big Tech firms pay into a central fund like the existing Universal Service Fund (USF) managed by the Federal Communications Commission. "We concur with the US government's position that rather than the payments to broadband providers proposed in the EU, such 'publicly accountable funding mechanisms can better ensure that resources are devoted to key policy objectives, such as improving access and strengthening network security, while avoiding discriminatory measures that distort competition,'" Spalter wrote. The Biden administration's comments didn't call for tech companies to pay into a government-run fund, though. The document noted that the US "approach to financing improvements to broadband infrastructure involves private investments, a national Universal Service Fund, and significant public funding made from general appropriations," but didn't argue for any changes to who pays into the fund.


(engadget.com) 34

Postedby BeauHD from the can-you-hear-me-now? dept.

Satellite manufacturer AST SpaceMobile partnered with AT&T to make the first two-way audio call using satellites with a standard smartphone. "The initial call was placed using AT&T's networks in Midland, Texas, to mobile carrier Ratuken in Japan on an unmodified Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone using AST SpaceMobile's BlueWalker 3 satellite," reports Engadget. AST SpaceMobile claims to be building "the first and only space-based cellular broadband network." From the report: AT&T aims to use satellites to provide global cellular broadband from 2G to 5G. "Achieving what many once considered impossible, we have reached the most significant milestone to date in our quest to deliver global cellular broadband from space," Abel Avellan, CEO and chairman of AST SpaceMobile, said in a release. "While we take a moment to celebrate this tremendous accomplishment, we remain focused on the path ahead and pivotal next steps that get us closer to our goal of transforming the way the world connects."

It's unclear whether satellite access would come at an extra cost. In AT&T's original AST SpaceMobile partnership announcement, the company couldn't say whether existing plans would include satellite coverage. [...] While satellite offerings aren't available for consumers yet, this successful test brings widespread access one step closer to becoming a reality.


Nearly 40% of Software Engineers Will Only Work Remotely (techtarget.com) 163

Postedby BeauHD from the competitive-hiring-differentiators dept.

dcblogs writes: Despite the demand of employers like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and others, nearly 40% of software engineers preferred only remote roles, and if their employers mandated a return to the office, 21% indicated they would quit immediately, while another 49% said they would start looking for another job, according to Hired's 2023 State of Software Engineers. This report gathered its data from 68,500 software engineering candidates and a survey of more than 1,300 software engineers and 120 talent professionals. Employers open to remote workers "are able to get better-quality talent that's a better fit for the organization," said Josh Brenner, CEO of Hired, a job-matching platform for technology jobs.

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