FCC Proposes ‘New Powers’ for Mobile Carriers in Effort to Combat Robocalls

Ajit Pai, Chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission, wants to allow mobile phone companies to block robocalls by default, in the ongoing fight against call spam (via Reuters). Pai will present his proposal today, where all of the FCC commissioners are set to testify before a U.S. House panel regarding the widespread problem of robocalls.


According to Pai, carriers have avoided deploying default call-blocking tools because they have been unsure if such tools would be legal under the FCC's current rules. So, launching an initiative backed by the FCC that would encourage these companies to block robocalls by default could be a big help in preventing unwanted phone calls.
“By making it clear that such call blocking is allowed, the FCC will give voice service providers the legal certainty they need to block unwanted calls from the outset so that consumers never have to get them,” Pai said.
Last year, Pai asked companies to adopt a "call authentication system" that was aimed at ending the use of illegitimate spoofed numbers, which many robocalls use to trick people into picking up the phone. This week, the chairman said that he expects major phone providers to implement such standards this year and the FCC will host a summit on July 11, 2019 to review the industry's progress.

Robocalls are a problem for users across devices created by Apple, Google, and others. While there are ways to block a number that's already called you on iOS, robocalls can repeatedly contact you using different numbers and methods, making them all the more difficult to stop.

Over the years, carriers like AT&T and Verizon have also launched their own spam protection apps that aim to warn users when a call is coming in that is likely a robocall. Still, these apps can only do so much and robocall-tracking company YouMail recently estimated that there were 48 billion unwanted calls in the U.S. in 2018, up 60 percent from 2017.

Tag: FCC

This article, "FCC Proposes 'New Powers' for Mobile Carriers in Effort to Combat Robocalls" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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FCC Questions U.S. Carriers on Phone Location Data Sales Practices

The United States Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday sent out letters to Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint questioning the carriers about their data selling practices, reports Motherboard.

The carriers have been found selling real-time location information from customer devices to data aggregators, leading the location data to end up in the hands of private investigators, bounty hunters, law enforcement, credit companies, and more.


Companies like LocationSmart and Zumigo obtained location information from U.S.-based cellular carriers and passed that data on to dozens of other companies, putting real-time customer location information in the hands of those who should not have it.

After coming under scrutiny for their location sharing practices, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile, pledged to stop doing so, but many had not actually stopped entirely as of January.

The FCC is now demanding answers from the four carriers. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel asked the heads of each company to provide details on whether the data aggregators were allowed to save phone location data and what steps carriers are going to take to make sure shared data has been deleted. From the letter to AT&T:
Real-time location information is sensitive data deserving the highest level of privacy protection. But it is evident from press reports that this data may have been sold without the explicit consent of consumers and without appropriate safeguards in place.

Accordingly, I appreciate your decision to end these location aggregation services by March of this year. To that end, I kindly request that you provide an update on your efforts and confirm by what date AT&T ended its arrangements to sell the location data of its customers. Please also confirm whether and by what date the company ended arrangements to sell assisted or augmented GPS data.

Finally, the public still has very little detail about how much geolocation data is being saved and stored-including in ways that may be far too accessible to others. Even de-anonymized location data may be combined with other information in ways that could make it personally identifiable again. Accordingly, please explain whether AT&T's agreements permitted aggregators or others to save and store location data they received from your company. If so, please confirm what steps your company is taking to ensure that these companies delete or destroy previously shared data and any derivative data. Alternatively, please explain what steps AT&T is taking to safeguard such data from use or onward sale that is inconsistent with consumers' original content.
Similar letters were also sent to Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile, and all four carriers have been asked to provide responses to the FCC by May 15, 2019.


This article, "FCC Questions U.S. Carriers on Phone Location Data Sales Practices" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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Apple Receives FCC Approval For What Appears to Be a New Beddit 3.5 Sleep Monitor

Apple today received FCC approval for a nondescript "sleep monitor" in the United States. While much of the application is hidden due to a standard confidentiality agreement, one document reveals that the sleep monitor is "designed by Beddit in California" and has an all-new model number 3.5.


Simply put, this could end up being an all-new Beddit 3.5 sleep monitor that Apple will eventually release, but no further details are available. It could also be a modified version of the existing Beddit 3 sleep monitor.

Apple acquired Beddit, a company that develops health-related hardware, in May 2017 and continues to sell the Beddit 3 sleep monitor for $149.95 on its online store. The thin, flexible sensor is placed under the sheet on top of the mattress and automatically begins tracking sleep-related data when you lie down.


The data collected and analyzed includes sleep time and efficiency, heart rate, respiration, temperature, movement, snoring, room temperature, and room humidity. The data can be viewed in the Beddit app on iPhone and iPad.

Beddit technology is based upon a scientific principle known as ballistocardiography or BCG, described as an unobtrusive, non-invasive technique for measuring the mechanical activity of the heart, lungs, and other body functions:
Each time the heart beats, the acceleration of blood through the circulatory system generates a mechanical impulse that can be measured and analyzed. Throughout the night, Beddit tracks each individual heart beat and respiration cycle. Beddit's advanced analysis and machine learning algorithms adapt differently to each body type and provide detailed sleep data.
There has been hope that Apple's acquisition of Beddit could lay the foundation for first-party sleep monitoring on the Apple Watch, but this FCC application does not appear to be related to the Apple Watch.

Tags: FCC, Beddit

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iPhone XR Receives FCC Approval Ahead of October 19 Pre-Orders

Apple received approval from the FCC today to sell the iPhone XR in the United States, ahead of pre-orders next month.


Apple can now remove the following fine print from the iPhone XR product page on its website, although it has yet to do so:
iPhone XR has not been authorized as required by the rules of the Federal Communications Commission. iPhone XR is not, and may not be, offered for sale or lease, or sold or leased, until authorization is obtained.
iPhone XR pre-orders begin Friday, October 19, with the first deliveries to customers and in-store availability starting a week later, on Friday, October 26. The colorful device starts at $749 in the United States.

With a $250 lower price point, the iPhone XR doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of the iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max. Some of the trade-offs include an LCD rather than OLED display, an aluminum instead of stainless steel frame, and a single rather than dual rear camera. Read our full comparison.

Nevertheless, the iPhone XR has the same A12 Bionic chip as the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, and its advertised battery life is longer than both of those devices. It also has a nearly edge-to-edge display with a notch, Face ID, a glass back, wireless charging, Portrait Mode with Depth Control, and Smart HDR.

Given its many similarities to the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, priced from $999 and $1,099 respectively, many tech reviewers have suggested waiting for the less-expensive iPhone XR. Orders begin in three weeks.

As far as FCC approval is concerned, it is a routine step before the launch of any new iPhone, as Apple waits until the last minute to receive approval from the necessary regulatory agencies, presumably to avoid leaks.

Related Roundup: iPhone XR
Tag: FCC
Buyer's Guide: iPhone XR (Caution)

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New York Attorney General Leads Filing of Multi-State Lawsuit to Block Rollback of Net Neutrality

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman this afternoon announced that he and 22 other Attorneys General have teamed up to file a lawsuit aiming to stop the Federal Communications Commission's planned rollback of net neutrality.

The multi-state lawsuit [PDF] asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to review the FCC's repeal order, calling it arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion that violates federal law.


"An open internet - and the free exchange of ideas it allows - is critical to our democratic process," Schneiderman said in a statement on his website. "The repeal of net neutrality would turn internet service providers into gatekeepers - allowing them to put profits over consumers while controlling what we see, what we do, and what we say online. This would be a disaster for New York consumers and businesses, and for everyone who cares about a free and open internet."

The FCC has not filed its new rules with the Federal Register, so the repeal is not yet final, but the lawsuit has been filed out of "an abundance of caution" and to "preserve the right to be included in the judicial lottery procedure." It's essentially the states' way of establishing the first step towards a full challenge of the FCC's decision.


The lawsuit is backed by Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

In related net neutrality news, 50 senators have now endorsed a legislative measure to override the FCC's net neutrality repeal, reports The Washington Post. With one additional Republican vote, a Senate resolution of disapproval will be able to be passed, but it will still need to make it to the House and be signed by President Trump.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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FCC Has Voted to Repeal Net Neutrality Rules

The Federal Communications Commission today voted to repeal Net Neutrality rules put in place by the United States government back in 2015 under the Obama administration (via Recode). Instead of classifying internet service providers as "common carriers" under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, the FCC has voted 3-2 in favor of rolling back to reclassifying ISPs as "information service" providers, as they were between February 1996 and February 2015.


Now, companies like AT&T, Charter, Comcast, and Verizon will be allowed to block or slow down a user's access to certain websites, as well as potentially charge access to sites and services. The vote passed in favor under FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, along with the two other Republican commissioners Michael O'Rielly and Brendan Carr. Outvoted were Democrat commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel.

The order now adopted by the FCC today will eliminate a "utility-style regulation" of ISPs, and also removes any requirement for these companies to refrain from blocking or throttling web traffic. One requirement remaining is that telecom companies will be forced to tell customers if and when they prioritize their content over competitors, and if they don't they could face penalties from the Federal Trade Commission.

Apple and many other large technology companies previously urged the FCC to reconsider its proposal. Those in favor of keeping ISPs classified under Title II argued that the FCC rolling back the internet's classification as a public utility will hurt net neutrality, as it could eventually divide internet users into so-called "fast lanes" and "slow lanes." Throughout his remarks given today, Pai said that this will not be the case.
And Pai, before the vote was final, sought to swat away his critics. “Following today’s vote,” he began, “Americans will still be able to access the websites they want to visit. They will still be able to enjoy the services they want to enjoy. There will still be cops on the beat guarding a free and open Internet.”
Apple's comment on the topic earlier this year stated that this ruling could "fundamentally alter the internet as we know it," and if it passed it would be put in place to the detriment of consumers, competition, and innovation. Around the same time, the FCC received a record-breaking 22 million comments from the public who voiced their opinions on the controversial issue in the months leading up to today's vote.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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FCC Expected to Repeal Net Neutrality Rules in Vote Next Month

FCC chairman Ajit Pai today announced that his controversial Restoring Internet Freedom order is headed to vote on December 14.


The order, proposed in May, would roll back the Barack Obama administration's classification of internet service providers as "common carriers" under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

As common carriers, internet providers are required to act as neutral gateways to the internet. In other words, companies like Comcast are not allowed to speed up or slow down content passing through their networks.

If the order passes, ISPs will be reclassified as "information service" providers, as they were between February 1996 and February 2015.
For almost twenty years, the Internet thrived under the light-touch regulatory approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress. This bipartisan framework led the private sector to invest $1.5 trillion building communications networks throughout the United States. And it gave us an Internet economy that became the envy of the world.
Apple and dozens of other large technology companies urged the FCC to reconsider its proposal. The FCC also received a record-breaking 22 million comments from the public during a feedback period that ended in August.

Those against the order believe that the FCC rolling back the internet's classification as a public utility will hurt net neutrality, as it could eventually divide internet users into so-called "fast lanes" and "slow lanes."

In a letter submitted to the FCC in August, Apple warned that paid fast lanes could result in an "internet with distorted competition."
Broadband providers should not create paid fast lanes on the internet. Lifting the current ban on paid prioritization arrangements could allow broadband providers to favor the transmission of one provider's content or services (or the broadband provider’s own online content or services) over other online content, fundamentally altering the internet as we know it today—to the detriment of consumers, competition, and innovation.
Pai, who was designated as FCC chairman by Donald Trump, insists the Obama-era internet regulations are a "mistake." Under the new rules, he said the FCC will "stop micromanaging the internet" to foster innovation.
Today, I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would abandon this failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades. Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that's best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.
Despite the significant backlash from tech companies and the public, it is widely expected that the FCC will vote in favor of the order next month.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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FCC Urges Apple to Protect Safety of Americans by Activating FM Radio Chip in iPhones

Amidst renewed pressure from the National Association of Broadcasters, FCC chairman Ajit Pai has now issued a statement urging Apple to activate the FM radio capabilities built into the wireless modem of every iPhone.


Pai said he hopes Apple will "reconsider its position" following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which have devastated parts of the United States, including Florida and Texas, and Caribbean islands like Barbuda, Dominica, and Puerto Rico.

Powerful storms can leave thousands or millions of people without power or cellular service for weeks or even months, and over-the-air FM radio can provide vital access to weather alerts and other life-saving information.

Pai added that "it is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first."

His full statement:
In recent years, I have repeatedly called on the wireless industry to activate the FM chips that are already installed in almost all smartphones sold in the United States. And I've specifically pointed out the public safety benefits of doing so. In fact, in my first public speech after I became Chairman, I observed that ‘[y]ou could make a case for activating chips on public safety groundsalone.’ When wireless networks go down during a natural disaster, smartphones with activated FM chips can allow Americans to get vital access to life-saving information. I applaud those companies that have done the right thing by activating the FM chips in their phones.

Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted doing so. But I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. That's why I am asking Apple to activate the FM chips that are in its iPhones. It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first. As the Sun Sentinel of South Florida put it, 'Do the right thing, Mr. Cook. Flip the switch. Lives depend on it.'"
Pai has advocated for the activation of the FM tuner in all smartphones before, but this is the first time he has called out Apple by name.

A study by the National Association of Broadcasters last year found only 44 percent of the top-selling smartphones in the United States had FM radio capabilities enabled. 94 percent of the unactivated devices were iPhones.

Both the Qualcomm and Intel chips that enable Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity in every iPhone have a built-in FM tuner that would allow people to listen to FM radio over the air. Apple has not enabled the functionality, forcing users to use an app to stream FM radio over Wi-Fi or cellular data.

Apple hasn't revealed why it keeps the FM radio functionality disabled. Some critics suggest it could be to avoid losing Apple Music subscriptions, but the real reason is probably deeper than that.

We'll update this article if Apple responds.

Tag: FCC

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