AT&T Suffers Another Blow In Court Over Throttling of 'Unlimited' Data ( 39

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A federal judge has revived a lawsuit that angry customers filed against AT&T over the company's throttling of unlimited mobile data plans. The decision comes two years after the same judge decided that customers could only have their complaints heard individually in arbitration instead of in a class-action lawsuit. The 2016 ruling in AT&T's favor was affirmed by a federal appeals court. But the customers subsequently filed a motion to reconsider the arbitration decision, saying that an April 2017 decision by the California Supreme Court "constitutes a change in law occurring after the Courts arbitration order," Judge Edward Chen of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said in the new ruling issued last week. The state Supreme Court "held that an arbitration agreement that waives the right to seek the statutory remedy of public injunctive relief in any forum is contrary to California public policy and therefore unenforceable," Chen wrote.

AT&T argued that the court shouldn't consider the new argument, saying that plaintiffs raised it too late. The plaintiffs could have made the same argument before the April 2017 Supreme Court ruling, since the ruling was based on California laws that "were enacted decades ago," according to AT&T. Chen was not persuaded, noting that "there had been no favorable court rulings" the plaintiffs could have cited earlier in the case. "The Court also finds that Plaintiffs acted with reasonable diligence once there was a ruling favorable to them," Chen wrote. As a result, the plaintiffs can now proceed with their case in U.S. District Court against AT&T. However, AT&T will appeal Chen's latest decision, presumably in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.


Judge Rules AT&T Can't See Trump White House Communications About Time Warner Merger 84

The judge presiding over the Justice Department's attempt to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger has ruled that the White House's private communications on the merger will not be released. The Verge reports: When the department said in November that it would sue to block the mega-merger, thoughts immediately turned to the White House. President Trump has made no secret of his disdain for CNN, and some watchers questioned whether the White House's hand was present, guiding the Justice Department as a way to exact revenge on the Time Warner-owned property. The Justice Department has denied any wrongdoing, and said it is only looking to block the merger on the grounds that it is anti-competitive. But to prove the theory, AT&T and Time Warner requested communications between the Justice Department and White House that could have shown the department was engaging in "selective enforcement." In today's decision, the judge on the case said the companies had fallen "far short" of the legal bar required to receive the documents.

Huawei Got People To Write Fake Reviews For An Unreleased Phone ( 39

As spotted by 9to5Google, Huawei has apparently posted fake reviews on Best Buy for its new Mate 10 Pro, which is available for pre-order in the U.S. despite not having any deals with U.S. carriers. "The fake reviews, which are exclusively on the Best Buy website, are likely the result of a contest Huawei ran on Facebook," reports The Verge. From the report: On January 31st, the company posted to a Facebook group with over 60,000 members, asking for people to leave comments on the Best Buy pre-sale page in exchange for a chance to beta test a Mate 10 Pro. The original post has been deleted, but 9to5Google obtained a screenshot before it went down. "Tell us how to why (sic) you WANT to own the Mate 10 Pro in the review section of our pre-sale Best Buy retail page," the post states. On the Best Buy site, there are currently 108 reviews for the phone, 103 of which were written on or after January 31st, the day Huawei posted the contest. Many of the comments directly reference not having any actual hands-on experience with the product itself, but give the phone a five star rating. "I can't wait to get my hands on this phone and demonstrate how amazing it is to people," reads one. "This device looks exciting and beautiful and it would be amazing to have a chance to beta test it," another reads. It seems Huawei is betting that loads of high ratings early on will make people trust the product and lead to higher sales. That's all well and good except that these types of reviews are strictly against Best Buy policy, as 9to5Google points out. "Huawei's first priority is always the consumer and we encourage our customers to share their experiences with our devices in their own voice and through authentic conversation," a Huawei representative told The Verge in a statement. "While there are reviews from beta testers with extensive knowledge of the product, they were in no way given monetary benefits for providing their honest opinions of the product. However, we are working to remove posts by beta testers where it isn't disclosed they participated in the review program."

Man Sues T-Mobile For Allegedly Failing To Stop Hackers From Stealing His Cryptocurrency ( 133

Over the weekend, a lawsuit was filed against T-Mobile claiming that the company's lack of security allowed hackers to enter his wireless account last fall and steal cryptocoins worth thousands of dollars. "Carlos Tapang of Washington state accuses T-Mobile of having 'improperly allowed wrongdoers to access' his wireless account on November 7th last year," reports The Verge. "The hackers then cancelled his number and transferred it to an AT&T account under their control. 'T-Mobile was unable to contain this security breach until the next day,' when it finally got the number back from AT&T, Tapang alleges in the suit, first spotted by Law360." From the report: After gaining control of his phone number, the hackers were able to change the password on one of Tapang's cryptocurrency accounts and steal 1,000 OmiseGo (OMG) tokens and 19.6 BitConnect coins, Tapang claims. The hackers then exchanged the coins for 2.875 Bitcoin and transferred it out of his account, the suit states. On November 7th, the price of Bitcoin was $7,118.80, so had the hackers cashed out then, they would have netted a profit of $20,466.55. Tapang goes on to say, "After the incident, BTC price reached more than $17,000.00 per coin," but given the volatility of bitcoin prices, the hackers may not have benefited from the soar.

The suit alleges T-Mobile is at fault partly because the carrier said it would add a PIN code to Tapang's account prior to the incident, but didn't actually implement it. Tapang also states that hackers are able to call T-Mobile's customer support multiple times to gain access to customer accounts, until they're able to get an agent on the line that would grant them access without requiring further identity verification. The complaint also lists several anonymous internet users who have posted about similar security breaches to their own T-Mobile accounts.


Verizon Drops Plans To Sell Huawei Phones Due To US Government Pressure ( 69

Bloomberg reports that Verizon has dropped all plans to sell phones by Chinese manufacturer Huawei due to pressure from the U.S. government. The decision comes after AT&T walked away from a deal earlier this month to sell Huawei smartphones in the U.S. Bloomberg: Huawei devices still work on both companies' networks, but direct sales would've allowed them to reach more consumers than they can through third parties. The government's renewed concern about Chinese spying is creating a potential roadblock in the race between Verizon and AT&T to offer 5G, the next generation of super-fast mobile service. Huawei is pushing to be among the first to offer 5G-capable phone, but the device may be considered off-limits to U.S. carriers who are beginning to offer the next-generation service this year in a few cities. U.S. security agencies and some lawmakers fear that 5G phones made by companies that may have close ties to the Chinese government could pose a security risk.

AT&T Calls For Net Neutrality Laws After Fighting To End FCC Rules ( 126

Few people would call AT&T a champion of net neutrality, but that isn't stopping it from trying to claim the title. From a report: CEO Randall Stephenson has posted an open letter calling on Congress to write an "Internet Bill of Rights" that enforces "neutrality, transparency, openness, non-discrimination and privacy protection" for American internet users. They would not only defend consumer rights, Stephenson argues, but establish "consistent rules of the road" that give internet companies and telecoms an idea of what they can expect. The company chief also insisted that AT&T honored an open internet and doesn't block, throttle or otherwise hinder access to content.

The problem, as you might suspect, is what the company isn't saying. The US already had protections for net neutrality that do what it's asking for, but AT&T and other telecoms have spent years fighting net neutrality regulation whenever it comes up. The carrier spent over $16 million in lobbying just in 2017, and it maintained its anti-regulatory stance throughout the FCC's repeal process.


US Lawmakers Urge AT&T To Cut Commercial Ties With Huawei and Oppose China Mobile Citing National Security Concerns ( 60

U.S. lawmakers are urging AT&T, the No. 2 wireless carrier, to cut commercial ties to Chinese phone maker Huawei Technologies and oppose plans by telecom operator China Mobile to enter the U.S. market because of national security concerns, two congressional aides told Reuters. From the report: The warning comes after the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump took a harder line on policies initiated by his predecessor Barack Obama on issues ranging from Beijing's role in restraining North Korea to Chinese efforts to acquire U.S. strategic industries. Earlier this month, AT&T was forced to scrap a plan to offer its customers Huawei handsets after some members of Congress lobbied against the idea with federal regulators, sources told Reuters. The U.S. government has also blocked a string of Chinese acquisitions over national security concerns, including Ant Financial's proposed purchase of U.S. money transfer company MoneyGram International.

AT&T and Comcast Finalize Court Victory Over Nashville and Google Fiber ( 122

"AT&T and Comcast have solidified a court victory over the metro government in Nashville, Tennessee, nullifying a rule that was meant to help Google Fiber compete against the incumbent broadband providers," reports Ars Technica. From the report: The case involved Nashville's "One Touch Make Ready" ordinance that was supposed to give Google Fiber and other new ISPs faster access to utility poles. The ordinance let a single company make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles itself instead of having to wait for incumbent providers like AT&T and Comcast to send work crews to move their own wires. But AT&T and Comcast sued the metro government to eliminate the rule and won a preliminary victory in November when a U.S. District Court judge in Tennessee nullified the rule as it applies to poles owned by AT&T and other private parties.

The next step for AT&T and Comcast was overturning the rule as it applies to poles owned by the municipal Nashville Electric Service (NES), which owns around 80 percent of the Nashville poles. AT&T and Comcast achieved that on Friday with a new ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger. Nashville's One Touch Make Ready ordinance "is ultra vires and void or voidable as to utility poles owned by Nashville Electric Service because adoption of the Ordinance exceeded Metro Nashville's authority and violated the Metro Charter," the ruling said. Nashville is "permanently enjoined from applying the Ordinance to utility poles owned by Nashville Electric Service." The Nashville government isn't planning to appeal the decision, a spokesperson for Nashville Mayor Megan Barry told Ars today.


AT&T Pulls Out of Deal To Sell China's Huawei Phones In the US ( 63

According to the Wall Street Journal, AT&T has walked away from a deal to sell China's Huawei smartphones in the U.S. Neither AT&T nor Huawei have commented on the matter, but the news is certainly going to disappoint those of you who were looking forward to picking up Huawei's flagship Mate 10. Prior to this report, Huawei was expected to announce that its flagship Mate 10 will launch on AT&T in 2018. PhoneDog reports: Huawei has a major presence internationally, with recent reports saying that it's the No. 3 smartphone brand in the world behind Apple and Samsung. The company hasn't made much of a dent in the U.S., though, despite the fact that it's been selling its phones unlocked in the U.S. for awhile now. This AT&T deal would've been big for Huawei, helping it to get its phones inside carrier stores and in front of U.S. consumers, the majority of which still buy their phones from their carriers. Now we'll have to wait and see if Huawei can strike a deal with another carrier or if it'll have to continue on in the unlocked market. A Huawei spokesperson only said "Huawei has proven itself by delivering premium devices with integrity globally and in the U.S. market."

Some Smartphone Salesmen Aren't Sold on the iPhone X ( 230

A CNET reporter visited four carrier stores to ask their salesmen if they'd recommend an iPhone X. But after visiting stores for Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon, "I couldn't even find a salesperson to tell me it was the best iPhone I could buy." So he finally tried asking three salesmen at Apple Stores -- and still got equivocal answers. An anonymous reader quotes CNET's report: "Well, it depends on what you like," the salesman said, somewhat coyly. "The biggest problem I have with it is using Face ID for Apple Pay. You really have to put the phone at a certain angle or it doesn't work." He started with a problem. I was already suspicious. I was in something of a hurry, but I asked him: "So are you selling a lot more of these than other phones?"

He turned into a high-ranking member of a political party. "All our phones sell well," he said. Which sounded not entirely reassuring. Indeed, it sounded like a "no."

Chatting next with an Apple store "Genius" (who was testing his iPhone 6), CNET's reporter was told that "The X and the 8 are the same phone... Inside, I mean. With the X, you're just paying the extra money for the design." Unfortunately, that salesman's $999 iPhone X was wrapped in an ugly pink case, because after four weeks he'd already cracked it. And a third Apple salesman -- who touted the glories of an OLED screen -- also kept his iPhone X in a case at all times "It's glass," he explained. "You'll definitely need a case."

"But what about not being able to see the lovely phone?"

"Get a see-through case," he replied with a smile.

AT&T Sheds Thousands of Employees After Touting GOP Tax Plan, Giving Out Bonuses ( 105

Prior to Christmas, AT&T and DirecTV gave layoff notices to a large number of landline, legacy service, and home installers spanning the country. "It is not clear if the firings relate to the pending AT&T and Time Warner acquisition, or how it specifically relates to the announcement that the company was giving $1,000 bonuses to 200,000 employees in commemoration of the tax overhaul signed just before Christmas," reports Apple Insider. Slashdot reader deadwill69 writes: Just more doublespeak after they announced their bonus program to justify the tax cuts. Seems they really didn't mean it after all. "Technology improvements are driving higher efficiencies, and there are some areas where demand for our legacy services continues to decline, and we're adjusting our workforce in some of those areas as we continue to align our workforce with the changing needs of the business," AT&T said in a statement to the Chicago Tribune. "Many of the affected employees have a job offer guarantee that ensures they'll be offered another job with the company, and we'll work to find other jobs for as many of them as possible." Let's hope they keep that promise. On a bright note: their service really couldn't get much worse?

ISPs Won't Promise To Treat All Traffic Equally After Net Neutrality ( 232

An anonymous reader writes: The FCC voted to put an end to net neutrality, giving internet providers free rein to deliver service at their own discretion. There's really only one condition here: internet providers will have to disclose their policies regarding "network management practices, performance, and commercial terms." So if ISPs want to block websites, throttle your connection, or charge certain websites more, they'll have to admit it. We're still too far out to know exactly what disclosures all the big ISPs are going to make -- the rules (or lack thereof) don't actually go into effect for another few months -- but many internet providers have been making statements throughout the year about their stance on net neutrality, which ought to give some idea of where they'll land. We reached out to 10 big or notable ISPs to see what their stances are on three core tenets of net neutrality: no blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization. Not all of them answered, and the answers we did get are complicated. [The Verge reached out to Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Charter (Spectrum), Cox, Altice USA (Optimum and SuddenLink), and Google Fi and Google Fiber.]

Many ISPs say they support some or all of these core rules, but there's a big caveat there: for six of the past seven years, there have been net neutrality rules in place at the FCC. That means all of the companies we checked with have had to abide by the no blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization rules. It means that they can say, and be mostly correct in saying, that they've long followed those rules. But it is, on some level, because they've had to. What actually matters is which policies ISPs say they'll keep in the future, and few are making commitments about that. In fact, all of the companies we contacted (with the exception of Google) have supported the FCC's plan to remove the current net neutrality rules. None of the ISPs we contacted will make a commitment -- or even a comment -- on paid fast lanes and prioritization. And this is really where we expect to see problems: ISPs likely won't go out and block large swaths of the web, but they may start to give subtle advantages to their own content and the content of their partners, slowly shaping who wins and loses online.
Comcast: Comcast says it currently doesn't block, throttle content, or offer paid fast lanes, but hasn't committed to not doing so in the future.
AT&T: AT&T has committed to not blocking or throttling websites in the future. However, its stance around fast lanes is unclear.
Verizon: Verizon indicates that, at least in the immediate future, it will not block legal content. As for throttling and fast lanes, the company has no stance, and even seems to be excited to use the absence of rules to its advantage.
T-Mobile: T-Mobile makes no commitments to not throttle content or offer paid fast lanes and is unclear on its commitment to not blocking sites and services. It's already involved in programs that advantage some services over others.
Sprint: Sprint makes no commitments on net neutrality, but suggests it doesn't have plans to offer a service that would block sites.
Charter (Spectrum): Charter doesn't make any guarantees, but the company indicates that it's currently committed to not blocking or throttling customers.
Cox: Cox says it won't block or throttle content, even without net neutrality. It won't make commitments on zero-rating or paid fast lanes.
Altice USA (Optimum and SuddenLink): Altice doesn't currently block or throttle and suggests it will keep those policies, though without an explicit commitment. The company doesn't comment on prioritizing one service over another.
Google Fi and Google Fiber: Google doesn't make any promises regarding throttling and paid prioritization. However, it is the only company to state that it believes paid prioritization would be harmful.

AT&T Begins Testing High-Speed Internet Over Power Lines ( 119

AT&T has started trials to deliver high-speed internet over power lines. The company announced the news on Wednesday and said that trials have started in Georgia state and a non-U.S. location. Reuters reports: AT&T aims to eventually deliver speeds faster than the 1 gigabit per second consumers can currently get through fiber internet service using high-frequency airwaves that travel along power lines. While the Georgia trial is in a rural area, the service could potentially be deployed in suburbs and cities, the company said in a statement. AT&T said it had no timeline for commercial deployment and that it would look to expand trials as it develops the technology.

"We think this product is eventually one that could actually serve anywhere near a power line," said Marachel Knight, AT&T's senior vice president of wireless network architecture and design, in an interview. She added that AT&T chose an international trial location in part because the market opportunity extends beyond the United States.

The Courts

AT&T, Comcast Lawsuit Has Nullified a City's Broadband Competition Law ( 74

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T and Comcast have convinced a federal judge to nullify an ordinance that was designed to bring more broadband competition to Nashville, Tennessee. The Nashville Metro Council last year passed a "One Touch Make Ready" rule that gives Google Fiber or other new ISPs faster access to utility poles. The ordinance lets a single company make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles itself, instead of having to wait for incumbent providers like AT&T and Comcast to send work crews to move their own wires. AT&T and Comcast sued the metro government in U.S. District Court in Nashville, claiming that federal and local laws preempt the One Touch Make Ready rule. Judge Victoria Roberts agreed with AT&T and Comcast in a ruling issued Tuesday. Google Fiber is offering service in Nashville despite saying last year that it was waiting for access to thousands of utility poles. "We're reviewing [the] court ruling to understand its potential impact on our build in Nashville," a Google spokesperson said this week, according to The Tennessean. "We have made significant progress with new innovative deployment techniques in some areas of the city, but access to poles remains an important issue where underground deployment is not a possibility."

US Sues To Block AT&T Purchase of Time Warner ( 64

The U.S. Department of Justice is suing AT&T to block its $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner. "The legal challenge was expected after AT&T rejected a demand by the Justice Department earlier this month to divest its DirecTV unit or Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting -- which contains news network CNN -- in order to win antitrust approval," reports Reuters. From the report: AT&T's chief executive said then that he would defend the deal in court to win approval, and the company criticized the Justice Department's case on Monday. The lawsuit is "a radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent," said AT&T lawyer David McAtee, arguing that so-called vertical mergers, between companies that are not direct competitors, are routinely approved. "We see no legitimate reason for our merger to be treated differently," he said, adding that AT&T is confident a judge will reject the Justice Department's case.

Verizon, AT&T Announce Plans To Build and Share Hundreds of New Cell Towers ( 34

An anonymous reader shares a report: Verizon and AT&T announced a joint venture with Tillman Infrastructure to build and share hundreds of cell towers in more in a move that is sure to be seen as a threat to more established tower companies. The companies said the new structures "will add to the overall communications infrastructure in the United States," filling gaps in current tower footprints, but will also enable the nation's two largest network operators to relocate equipment from towers they're currently using. Construction plans on the first towers will begin early next year and will come online "quickly" as they are completed.

Alphabet's Project Loon Delivers Internet To 100,000 People In Puerto Rico ( 34

Google announced that its Project Loon internet balloons have delivered internet service to over 100,000 Puerto Ricans who were knocked offline by Hurricane Maria. Engadget reports: It's not a total success, which isn't to be expected after Puerto Ricans' communications infrastructure suffered so much damage. But the team was able to work with AT&T and T-Mobile to get "communication and internet activities like sending text messages and accessing information online for some people with LTE enabled phones," head of Project Loon Alastair Westgarth wrote in a blog post. The team launched their balloons from Nevada and used machine learning algorithms to direct them over Puerto Rico, where they've been relaying internet from working ground networks over to users in unconnected areas. In the post, Westgarth noted that Project Loon has never fired up internet from scratch this rapidly, and will improve their ability to keep balloons in place (and deliver sustained connectivity) as they become familiar with the air currents.

Justice Department Tells Time Warner It Must Sell CNN Or DirecTV To Approve Its AT&T Merger ( 118

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): The Justice Department has called on AT&T and Time Warner to sell Turner Broadcasting, the group of cable channels that includes CNN, as a potential requirement for approving the companies' pending $85.4 billion deal, people briefed on the matter said on Wednesday. The other potential way the merger could win approval would be for AT&T to sell its DirecTV division, two of these people added. As originally envisioned, combining AT&T and Time Warner would yield a giant company offering wireless and broadband internet service, DirecTV, the Warner Brothers movie studio and cable channels like HBO and CNN. If the Justice Department formally makes either demand a requisite for approval, AT&T and Time Warner would almost certainly take the matter to court to challenge the government's legal basis for blocking their deal.

Some iPhone X Buyers Are Having Problems Activating Their Phones ( 82

Apple has started to ship the iPhone X across the United States, but some new iPhone X owners say they aren't able to start using their new phones due to carrier activation issues and congestion. From a report: A number of iPhone X owners on Twitter have reported having issues activating their new phones. The issue seems to be affecting some AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint users in the last few hours as they try to get service on Apple's $1,000 phone. When users try to activate the device, a message pops up saying, "The activation server is temporarily unavailable."

Another Million Subscribers Cut the Pay TV Cord Last Quarter ( 105

A report from FierceCable says that a million more U.S. pay TV subscribers cut the TV cord last quarter. "Only five of the seven biggest pay TV providers have released their third quarter subscriber data, but collectively these companies saw a net loss of 632,000 pay TV subscribers during the period (385,000 for AT&T and DirecTV, 125,000 for Comcast, 104,000 for Charter, 18.000 for Verizon FiOS TV)," reports DSLReports. "Dish has yet to report its own cord cutting tallies, but the company is again expected to be among the hardest hit due to a high level of retransmission fee feuds and a lack of broadband bundles."

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