The FCC literally doesn’t know how the internet works

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Erica Portnoy and Jeremy Gillula analyze a FCC’s recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that served as precursor to the order to kill net neutrality and explain how fantastically, totally wrong it gets the internet — not on a mere philosophical level, but on a nuts-and-bolts, bits-and-bytes technical level. Literally, the FCC doesn’t know what the internet is. (more…) Cory Doctorow #pch3lp #tech #TheNewz #technology #TechNews


Net Neutrality isn’t the only thing the current FCC is screwing up

Lost amid the furor over the Federal Communications Commission’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad decision to reverse net neutrality requirements is another, equally awful decision that has slipped through the cracks. In mid-November, the Commission decided to “re-think” it’s Lifeline program, which provides subsidies for broadband internet subscriptions to low-income Americans in cities and tribal regions around the country. The proposed reforms could significantly reduce the amount of aid that’s offered through the program, which provided a $9.25 monthly subsidy for broadband subscriptions ($25 for subscribers on tribal lands). As the Brookings Institute notes, the Lifeline program was the only initiative specifically aimed at making broadband and phone access more affordable. At a time when digital skills are an increasing necessity for success in education and the job market, cutting access for the Americans who are least likely to afford those services on their own seems like a singularly bad idea. The new FCC rules would stymie the $2.25 billion annual program in three ways. First, it could prevent re-sellers from offering subsidized subscription plans. Re-sellers are telecommunications companies who provide services but don’t own network infrastructure — they typically pick up the slack in areas where there’s little incentive for network providers to offer services. That decision, according to Brookings, has a special impact on people living on tribal lands who receive a $25 in extra subsidies through re-sellers. The proposals from the FCC would also consider instituting a national spending cap on the subsidy. Finally, the FCC is considering revoking national approvals for Lifeline service providers that have already been qualified. The rationale for Lifeline’s re-evaluation was the revelation of mismanagement at the program. Roughly $1.2 million of the program’s $2.5 billion in funding was being distributed to fake identities or to people who had died, according to an investigation by the General Accounting Office. Under the new rules the FCC would definitely get rid of much of the waste associated with the program — primarily by doing away with everything that makes the program effective. Originally launched by President Ronald Reagan as a way to provide phone services to low income households in the eighties, the program was expanded under the Obama Administration in 2016 to include broadband services as an acknowledgement of the centrality of the internet in modern American life (just as the phone was in the 80s). While the majority of the FCC supports the changes to the Lifeline program, the changes aren’t embraced unanimously. Two weeks ago Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn addressed the proposed changes to the program during a speech in South Carolina. “Connecting the unconnected is no easy task. Costs of just a couple dollars a month can be insurmountable for families that struggle to put food on the table each day. But what the FCC majority proposed to do earlier this month, is to take away no-cost service offerings, and eliminate the business model of 70% of providers in the current market without specifying where existing consumers will go,” the Commissioner said. “I would be hard-pressed to identify a recent FCC action with a more pointed attack on the economically disadvantaged, than this one.” Reducing the ability for low income households to access the internet is a terrible idea. It creates even more obstacles to a quality education for kids and limits the ability of adults to develop the skills they need to compete in the modern job market — or even apply for jobs in the modern era. Again, the perspective from the Brookings Institute is helpful. According to their report, even though 93% of Americans have access to broadband services, penetration rates are actually far lower. Indeed, given their estimates that roughly 37% of households in low income neighborhoods have poor subscription rates for broadband services. It may be that this problem of the subscription gap is even more acute, and more intractable than internet access. New technologies are increasingly making broadband access more available to remote locations. By contrast, service providers have little incentives to bring their services into communities that can’t afford to buy them. “In short, the Lifeline Program is in trouble,” Commissioner Clyburn said in her remarks last month, “making it incumbent on those who care about affordable access to work with providers, partner with state and local authorities and let the FCC know how their communities will be impacted if 70 percent of those who currently provide service to those most in need are forced out of the market.” Featured Image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Let’s block ads! (Why?) Jonathan Shieber #pch3lp #tech #TheNewz #technology #TechNews

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries to Feature Co-Op Play and Mod Support, New Trailer Revealed

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries to Feature Co-Op Play and Mod Support, New Trailer Revealed Comicbook.comMechWarrior 5: Mercenaries delivers co-op multiplayer and full mod support PolygonDespite weak AI, MechWarrior 5 is shaping up to be the mech game I’ve always wanted PC GamerFull coverage #pch3lp #tech #TheNewz #technology #TechNews

Facebook Just Published Its Sexual Harassment Policy. Here’s Why

Heidi Swartz, Facebook’s head of employment law, likes to use the example of a senior employee inviting a junior employee up to his hotel room — after he has told her that he will be providing feedback on her job performance. Perhaps he isn’t her direct manager. Perhaps he truly wants to show her the view. That’s the kind of scenario that employees might hear at a training. “Everybody relates to examples,” Swartz says. The power of example is also the reason that Facebook published the company’s policies on sexual harassment and bullying on Friday, along with information about how complaints are investigated when they arise. (And, at a company with 23,165 employees, they do arise, though Facebook isn’t sharing numbers.) “We don’t think our policy is necessarily the best one out there,” Swartz says. “We’re hoping to start a discussion.” Facebook is doing this partly to help smaller companies, which might not be able to afford a bevy of in-house employment lawyers and could use a model for setting up their own policies. In dissections of Silicon Valley’s problems with inclusion — especially regarding women — critics often point to the fact that startups will ignore unsexy things like writing up workplace policies until they’re “hiring an HR person to get out of trouble,” as one exec put it. Founders are strapped for cash, under pressure to grow fast, and end up playing catchup. Women in tech have repeatedly called out cultures that permit inappropriate and sexist behavior in the workplace. The story of former Uber employee Susan Fowler, who detailed how she was sexually propositioned and discriminated against at the company, is a high-profile example of widespread issues. In one informal survey, 60% of women who work in tech reported dealing with unwanted sexual advances. Of those, 65% said those advances had come from a superior. And nearly 40% said they did not report harassment because they feared it would have a negative impact on their careers. Swartz says that Facebook is also sharing this policy with hopes that “peers” will follow suit, so everyone can compare notes and do a better job of avoiding “the kinds of things we’re reading about.” Companies are often guarded about nitty-gritty workplace details, which is why it wasn’t that long ago that the biggest names in tech were fighting to keep the demographics of their workforce a secret. Executives might fear that sharing information will have unforeseen legal implications. Businesses might consider their policies proprietary, Swartz says, or be loathe to publish something that will inevitably require updating. California, for instance, recently approved new employment regulations regarding gender expression, requiring all the businesses in the state to take a fresh look at their guidelines. Facebook, in Silicon Valley fashion, is taking the position that more opportunities for feedback will lead to a better understanding of flaws in the system and, therefore, improvement. “We can all talk about how we can do better,” Swartz says. The same logic helped drive companies to follow Google’s lead after the company first publicly shared data about the diversity of its workforce in 2014. Just a few years later, its become an annual rite for that firm, as well as Facebook and Twitter and other players who have vowed to be more inclusive of women and people of color. In the wake of Fowler’s expose and other workplace problems, Uber also released its first report earlier this year, joining those who have sought edification through transparency. By trying to start a trend, Facebook is sending a message to those inside and outside the company that this issue is taken seriously in Menlo Park (and stands to have its reputation benefit from the optics of that seriousness, too). Swartz says that behavior need not be illegal to run afoul of the company guidelines: While “one or two comments” might not amount to sexual harassment in a courtroom, because laws often require that behavior is pervasive, it could lead to losing a job with them, she says. On Dec. 3, Sheryl Sandberg wrote a post on Facebook that, in hindsight, foreshadowed this release. She recalled times when she had been harassed in her career — including an incident when a man banged on her hotel door until she called security — and she emphasized that this cultural reckoning cannot end with people sharing their stories. “We need systemic, lasting changes that deter bad behavior and protect everyone,” Sandberg wrote. “Too many workplaces lack clear policies about how to handle accusations of sexual harassment.” It’s not a simple thing to do. There are fears of retaliation and fears of stigma. Situations can boil down to one person’s word against another. Swartz says processes must be clear and fair: No one should be considered guilty until proven innocent, nor innocent until proven guilty. There must be a regular process used to gather the facts by impartial people. Individuals must be able to be anonymous at times, yet always accountable. And while some infractions, like groping, clearly cross a line, it can be hard to know when more subtle behavior is worthy of filing a report. (For her part, Swartz says she rather have employees raise the issue, because at the very least someone is going to learn something.) “There’s no question that it is complicated and challenging to get this right. We are by no means perfect, and there will always be bad actors,” Sandberg and Lori Goler, head of HR at Facebook, wrote in a joint post about publishing the policies. “What we can do is be as transparent as possible, share best practices, and learn from one another — recognizing that policies will evolve as we gain experience.” Katy Steinmetz #pch3lp #tech #TheNewz #technology #TechNews

First black astronaut honored on 50th anniversary of death

First black astronaut honored on 50th anniversary of death ABC NewsFirst Black Astronaut Honored On 50th Death Anniversary Tech Times’The first, but not the last’: Lawrence remembered as pioneering black astronaut Florida TodayFull coverage #pch3lp #tech #TheNewz #technology #TechNews

Honor 7X review: A contender for budget king

Honor is back here at the end of 2017 with another budget phone that, for all intents and purposes, is a better bang for your buck than its predecessor, the 6X. The specs have seen a slight boost, but the biggest change is the addition of Huawei’s FullView display. Yes, that’s right: a budget phone with an 18:9 screen, something thus far uncommon. The 7X outright bests its predecessor and goes right up against the Moto G5S Plus, all while sitting at an extremely attractive $199 asking price. Read More Honor 7X review: A contender for budget king was written by the awesome team at Android Police. Jordan Palmer #pch3lp #tech #TheNewz #technology #TechNews