A Few Shorts for Friday

TGIFI’ve accumulated a few topics that don’t merit a full blog, but which I thought were worth a mention:

NSA a Source of Malware. News came out last week as part of the Edward Snowden documents that the NSA creates malware and also hijacks existing malware for their own uses. I find it a bit scary that the government is creating malware. I have to assume they are creating really good malware, and once released onto the web it can end up anywhere. I am not going to feel any better if I find out that the malware on my computer came from Uncle Sam and not some malicious hacker.

The NSA is also using malware networks to launch their own attacks. The Snowden documents show that they are using operation DEFIANTWARRIOR to place their own malware next to existing malware on computers so that the NSA can launch attacks on sites without it being traced back to them. Attacks look like they came from whoever put out the original malware. This means the next time they attack North Korea they might be doing it from your PC.

US Helps Jamaican Broadband. On January 21 the U.S. Government signed an agreement with Jamaica to help them provide internet access everywhere. The plan is to use white space spectrum which is not in use in the country. This will result in an island-wide wireless Internet network. The U.S. will provide both technical support and some funding.

I have no problem with us doing this. I spent the last ten years living in the Caribbean and the region is largely poor and is falling behind the rest of the world in basic infrastructure and Internet connectivity. It’s going to take initiatives like this all over the world to get everybody connected to the Internet.

My problem is that we aren’t doing the same thing in our own country. The FCC is overseeing a program called CAF II that is going to upgrade a lot of rural U.S. areas to maybe 10 Mbps. By the FCC’s own definition passed last week, this isn’t even considered as broadband. Meanwhile we will help to bring whitespace radio broadband to a third world country that will probably deliver between 20 Mbps and 30 Mbps. The CAF II program is badly flawed in that it gives a priority to the giant telcos to make inadequate upgrades instead of offering that money first to providers who would use it to bring real broadband to rural areas.

FCC Penalties for Advanced Tel. Last week the FCC levied a fine of over $1.5 million on Advance Tel of Simi Valley California. The fine was for failure to make required payments to the Universal Service Fund, the Telecommunications Relay Service, the Local Number Portability administration and other federal regulatory fees. The FCC gave the carrier an opportunity to resolve what it owed, and ultimately levied the fines when no agreement could be reached.

This is a reminder to all of my clients that we are all still regulated. I talk to clients all of the time who look for ways around these regulations and fees, and this is a stark reminder that you should pay your taxes. Most of the fees that Advanced Tel didn’t pay are normally added to customer bills by most companies, and so their customers should have supplied the funds necessary to make the payments. These taxes seem like a hassle, but they are not a competitive disadvantage since every one of your competitors collects them too.

New Wireless 911 Rules. The FCC adopted new rules last week that require more accuracy from the wireless providers in pinpointing the location of a wireless caller to 911. The current data gathering for this process is done by triangulation from neighboring cell sites along with looking at GPS. But these methods work very poorly or not at all for calls originating indoors, particular calls made from large multi-tenant buildings and other large buildings. The FCC has given a deadline to the wireless carriers to propose and implement solutions that will provide greater accuracy and an indoor solution.

Verizon Halts FiOS Again. Verizon announced that it is done expanding FiOS, something it just picked back again a year ago. FiOS has been very successful and the company keeps adding customers where it has fiber. But Verizon has mostly built FiOS in suburbs and a few rich neighborhoods in cities. They have largely ignored the major cities and rural areas, including sizeable towns in rural areas. It will be interesting to see if Google or anybody else tries to step into those large market niches.

It’s also been rumored that Verizon is going to auction off up to $14 B of its assets including more landline customers as a way to raise the money to pay for the spectrum it purchased in the recent auction. At the rate they are ditching copper they will eventually be reduced to only owning the FiOS networks.

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