Category Archives: FCC

Net Neutrality Fight ‘Not Over’: Groups Launch Internet-Wide Campaign Pushing Congress to Overrule FCC Vote

“The internet has given ordinary people more power than ever before. We’re going to fight tooth and nail to make sure no one takes that power away.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-14-2017

“Now every member of Congress will have to go on the record and decide whether to stand up for the free and open internet or face the political consequences of awakening its wrath in an election year,” said Fight for the Future in a statement. (Photo: Fight for the Future)

The Republican-controlled FCC voted along party lines on Thursday to repeal net neutrality, but open internet defenders are urging the public to not be swayed by the proliferation of “net neutrality is officially dead” headlines—the fight is “not over,” they say.

Just hours after the FCC’s vote, the coalition of activist groups behind Team Internet and BattlefortheNet.com announced the launch of “a massive internet-wide campaign” calling on members of Congress to overturn the FCC’s move by passing a Resolution of Disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which only requires a simple majority in the House and Senate. Continue reading

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Protests Planned Nationwide as Vote on FCC’s ‘Catastrophic’ Plan to Kill Net Neutrality Looms

Open internet supporters are demanding that lawmakers answer a simple question: “Do you stand for your constituents’ ability to communicate and connect, or do you stand for Verizon’s bottom line?”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-4-2017

“Ajit Pai may be owned by Verizon, but he has to answer to Congress, and lawmakers have to answer to us, their constituents,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future. (Photo: Battle for the Net)

With the FCC set to vote on chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to kill neutrality in just over a week, a diverse coalition—ranging from consumer protection organizations to progressive lawmakers to Harvard professors—is denouncing the FCC’s proposals and scheduling nationwide protests to combat the agency’s move to let massive telecom companies “cash in on the internet” at the expense of consumers.

This is the free speech fight of our generation and internet users are pissed off and paying attention,” Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement. “Ajit Pai may be owned by Verizon, but he has to answer to Congress, and lawmakers have to answer to us, their constituents.” Continue reading

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The StingRay Spy Device Is Exactly Why the 4th Amendment Was Written

At least 68 agencies in 23 different states own StingRays.

By Olivia Donaldson

Photo: The Desk

Imagine you are in the middle of your typical day-to-day activities. Maybe you are driving, spending time with family, or working. If you are like most people, your phone is at your side on a daily basis. Little do you know that, at any time, police and law enforcement could be looking at information stored on your phone. You haven’t done anything wrong. You haven’t been asked for permission. You aren’t suspected of any crime.

The StingRay

Police have the power to collect your location along with the numbers of your incoming and outgoing calls and intercept the content of call and text communication. They can do all of this without you ever knowing about it.

How? They use a shoebox-sized device called a StingRay. This device (also called an IMSI catcher) mimics cell phone towers, prompting all the phones in the area to connect to it even if the phones aren’t in use.

The police use StingRays to track down and implicate perpetrators of mainly domestic crimes. The devices can be mounted in vehicles, drones, helicopters, and airplanes, allowing police to gain highly specific information on the location of any particular phone, down to a particular apartment complex or hotel room.

Quietly, StingRay use is growing throughout local and federal law enforcement with little to no oversight. The ACLU has discovered that at least 68 agencies in 23 different states own StingRays, but says that this “dramatically underrepresents the actual use of StingRays by law enforcement agencies nationwide.”

The Violation

Information from potentially thousands of phones is being collected every time a StingRay is used. Signals are sent into the homes, bags, and pockets of innocent individuals. The Electronic Frontier Foundation likens this to the Pre-Revolutionary War practice of soldiers going door-to-door, searching without suspicion.

Richard Tynan, a technologist with Privacy International notes that, “there really isn’t any place for innocent people to hide from a device such as this.”

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution states that, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The StingRay clearly violates these standards. The drafters of the Constitution recognized that restricting the government from violating privacy is essential for a free society. That’s why the Fourth Amendment exists. The StingRay is creating a dangerous precedent that tells the government that it’s okay for them to violate our rights. Because of this, freedom is quietly slipping out the window.

Little Regulation

Law Enforcement is using StingRays without a warrant in most cases. For example, the San Bernardino Police Department used their StingRay 300 times without a warrant in a little over a year.

In 2010, the Tallahassee Police Department used a StingRay in a warrantless search to track down the suspect of a crime. A testimony from an unsealed hearing transcript talks about how police went about finding their target. The ACLU sums it up well:

“Police drove through the area using the vehicle-based device until they found the apartment complex in which the target phone was located, and then they walked around with the handheld device and stood ‘at every door and every window in that complex’ until they figured out which apartment the phone was located in. In other words, police were lurking outside people’s windows and sending powerful electronic signals into their private homes in order to collect information from within.”

A handful of states have passed laws requiring police and federal agents to get a warrant before using a StingRay. They must show probable cause for one of the thousands of phones that they are actually searching. This is far from enough.

Additionally, there are many concerns that agents are withholding information from federal judges to monitor subjects without approval – bypassing the probable cause standard laid out in the Constitution. They even go as far as to let criminals go to avoid disclosing information about these devices to the courts.

If the public doesn’t become aware of this issue, the police will continue to use StingRays to infringe on our rights in secret and with impunity.

Olivia Donaldson

Olivia Donaldson

Olivia Donaldson is a recent high school graduate that is currently opting out of college and participating in an entrepreneurial program called Praxis.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Editorial note: If you’d like to read about the current use of StingRays by the Trump administration, we ran an article on the subject back in May.

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‘Death Sentence for Local Media’: Warnings as FCC Pushes Change to Benefit Right-Wing Media Giant

Free press advocates say rule changes are “massive handout” to broadcaster Sinclair that would have far-reaching and negative impacts in communities nationwide

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-26-2017

Federal Communications Chairmain Ajit Pai continues to push through rollbacks that critics warn will enable major media companies to have an outsize influence on public opinion and fail to serve local communities. (Photo: USDA/Flickr/cc)

In a series of moves this week that have alarmed free speech advocates and critics of media consolidation, the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) voted to abolish a rule requiring radio and television broadcasters to maintain studios near the communities they serve, and FCC chairman Ajit Pai announced further plans to end certain media ownership rules.

The policy shifts are expected to significantly benefit the right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group—whose reported close ties to Pai have raised concerns as the federal government reviews Sinclair’s proposed $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media, which would expand the broadcaster’s reach to 72 percent of the country. Continue reading

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‘Classic Propaganda’: Sinclair Broadcasting Pushes Aside Fox News to Become ‘Trump TV’

“It’s unheard of to have one company pushing one specific agenda reaching so many people and doing it in a way designed to evade local input”

By Common Dreams. Published 7-30-2017

The Sinclair Broadcasting cut a biased deal with Jared Kushner and the Trump campaign. Now the Trump FCC is paying back the favor. (screenshot)

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, the Sinclair Broadcasting group cut a deal with Jared Kushner for “good” coverage of the Trump Administration, which seems to have paid off.

Politico reported last December:

  Sinclair would broadcast their Trump interviews across the country without    commentary,  Kushner said. Kushner highlighted that Sinclair, in states like Ohio,  reaches a much wider audience — around 250,000 viewers[sic]— than networks like  CNN, which reach somewhere around 30,000. Continue reading

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‘You Can’t Make This Up’: Comcast Threatens Legal Action Against Net Neutrality Proponents

If FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s plan “is enacted, there would be nothing preventing Comcast from simply blocking sites like Comcastroturf.com that are critical of their corporate policies”

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-23-2017

“This is exactly why we need Title II net neutrality protections that ban blocking, throttling, and censorship,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future. (Photo: Alyson Hurt/cc/flickr)

Open Internet proponents who have been fighting the Trump administration’s rollback of net neutrality protections, which has been enacted at the bidding of the telecom industry, said Tuesday that Comcast is now threatening legal action saying the website Comcastroturf.com is infringing on its trademark.

As the organization Fight for the Future quipped on Twitter, “You can’t make this stuff up.”

The website in question is currently providing a tool for the public to see if their names are among those stolen and used by anti-net neutrality bots to post comments in support of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plan to undo Title II protections that classify the internet as a public utility. Continue reading

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The future of US net neutrality under Trump

Administrative decisions related to the country’s telecommunications policy often go unnoticed by the majority of the US citizenry. But now, net neutrality in its purest form is in peril.

By Michael J. Oghia. Published 3-17-2017 by openDemocracy

Welcome and Opening Remarks from Commissioner Ajit Pai, May 2014.Wikicommons/Federal Communications Commission.Public domain.

As this openDemocracy series has poignantly highlighted, digital rights should never be taken for granted. For all those keeping a close eye on US politics, this reality could not resonate more ominously. With the new Republican administration of Donald J. Trump, there is plenty of kindle to fuel a fire of discussion and, often enough, outrage.

Yet, behind all of the grandstanding, tweeting, and obscene showmanship, there lies a political machine forged in the corridors of Capitol Hill, skyscraping towers of corporate America, and musty legal libraries ready to take up the bureaucratic responsibility of running the United States. You see, outside of the more widely covered political issues such as immigration and healthcare, administrative decisions related to the country’s telecommunications policy often go unnoticed by the majority of the US citizenry. Continue reading

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‘Dangerous’ and ‘Dumb’: Trump Signs Executive Order Torching Regulations

“It will fundamentally change our government’s role from one of protecting the public to protecting corporate profits”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-30-2017

A demonstrator in Washington, D.C. holds a sign on Jan. 27, 2017. (Photo: Lorie Shaull/flickr/cc)

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday that aims to slash regulations—an action, advocacy groups say, that puts lives at risk.

The order—the latest of a flurry since he took office—states that “for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination,” fulfilling a campaign promise he made.

“For fiscal year 2017, which is in progress, the heads of all agencies are directed that the total incremental cost of all new regulations, including repealed regulations, to be finalized this year shall be no greater than zero,” it adds. Continue reading

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FCC Passes Sweeping Internet Privacy Rules in ‘Big Win for Civil Rights’

New rules require internet service providers to get customers’ explicit consent before sharing data with third parties

By Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-27-2016

The rules require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to get customers' explicit consent before using or sharing behavioral data like browsing history, location, and other sensitive information. (Photo: Blogtrepreneur/flickr/cc)

The rules require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to get customers’ explicit consent before using or sharing behavioral data like browsing history, location, and other sensitive information. (Photo: Blogtrepreneur/flickr/cc)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday passed sweeping new privacy rules designed to keep broadband providers from giving customers’ private data to third parties.

The rules, approved by a vote of 3-2, require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to get customers’ explicit consent before using or sharing behavioral data like browsing history, location, and other sensitive information with marketing firms or other companies, the Washington Post reports.

“It’s the consumers’ information,” FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said. “How it is used should be the consumers’ choice. Not the choice of some corporate algorithm.” Continue reading

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FCC Finally Drags Political Ad Transparency Into 21st Century

While there’s more to do, unanimous vote will help expose “vital information about who’s seeking to influence our elections.”

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-28-2016

The 2016 election will see an expected $4.4 billion in political ad spending on TV this year. (Image: @SunFoundation/Twitter)

The 2016 election will see an expected $4.4 billion in political ad spending on TV this year. (Image: @SunFoundation/Twitter)

Amid what is predicted to be the most expensive campaign cycle ever, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday voted to make more information about purchases of political advertising available online.

Campaign finance reform advocates applauded the development, but said there was much further to go.

“These political files contain valuable information about the ads, such as how much they cost and when they ran,” the Sunlight Foundation said following the vote. “Having the political ad files online is important: In some cases they provide the only public information available on groups that are thinly disguised as nonprofit ‘social welfare’ organizations but are, in fact, major campaign players.” Continue reading

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