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CenturyLink sues the FCC over net neutrality rules

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April 20, 2015

It's reported today that CenturyLink has become the 7th organization to sue the Federal Communications Commission to scrap its radical new net neutrality rules once and for all.

To be sure, the broadband provider filed a lawsuit against the U.S. federal agency in the Washington DC Court of Appeals, and used almost exactly the same vernacular as the first lawsuit to land last week from industry group U.S. Telecom.

The new rules governing Americans' internet access are "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and a violation of U.S. federal laws," according to CenturyLink.

In its filing, it now joins a long list of lawsuits including those filed by Alamo Broadband, AT&T, ACA, CTIA, NCTA and U.S. Telecom, the last 4 being industry groups.

The lawsuits all appear to share the same basic arguments, although those from AT&T and the CTIA also challenge the FCC’s ultimate decision to include wireless internet access under the new regulation.

Why CenturyLink decided to file on its own rather than through a trade group is not exactly clear at this point, but it told us-- "CenturyLink invests hundreds of millions of dollars a year to build, maintain and update an open Internet network and does not block or degrade lawful content."

"But the FCC has chosen to subjugate the Internet to government-controlled public utility regulations from the 1930s. These regulations not only have no place in the 21st century economy, but will chill innovation and investment. We are challenging the FCC's misguided net neutrality order for these reasons and because we believe it could lead to higher prices and fewer choices for consumers," it added.

The FCC also stated at the time that it passed the rules in March that it was confident they could withstand a legal challenge.

In the meantime, Republicans in Congress continue to threaten legislation that would override the rules.

However, the proposed "resolution of disapproval" is going nowhere since it would require President Barack Obama to sign it, and he was a vocal proponent for the new rules.

His refusal to approve the resolution would require a 67 percent minimum vote in both houses of Congress to override it, which Democrats will probably never allow.

In other mobile news

In its annual mobile breach investigations report, Verizon suggests that the threat of mobile malware for smartphones and tablets is a lot less than the providers of mobile security products would have us believe.

Contrary to several claims from companies like Lookout and a few others that provide mobile security solutions and who have for years warned us about the rapid and massive growth of mobile malware, Verizon found virtually no iOS malware for iPhones or iPads in the data it examined from Verizon mobile customers in 2014, and virtually no Android malware either.

But Verizon's report did make a few eyebrows go up in surprise, nevertheless.

“We’re seeing that some of the exploits just aren’t happening,” said Bryan Sartin, head of Verizon’s risk team in a phone call today discussing the company’s annual Breach Investigations Report.

As you might guess, Verizon’s annual report card is rarely optimistic, and this year was mostly no different-- one major finding of the report suggests that the time it takes for hackers to get into a system and siphon data is just a few minutes.

But this mobile malware finding serves as an unexpected bright spot. In a section of the report titled, “I’ve got 99 problems and mobile isn’t even 1 percent of them,” Verizon says that, although it found hundreds of thousands of malware infections for mobile devices, most of them were simply annoying adware programs. The really big mobile threats didn’t materialize.

“The reality was that, when we talk about really truly malicious code, it was really 0.03 percent of Android devices per week,” Sartin said during the press call.

“That’s almost nothing.” And the Android malware they did find far outnumbered any that targeted iOS devices.

And although Verizon’s dataset was rather limited, it involved just six months worth of data from Verizon Wireless customers and the tens of millions of devices they use to connect to the Verizon network.

The authors of the report note that their findings are nevertheless consistent with the analysis of other forensic companies like FireEye who also say that mobile devices just don’t show up in their forensic investigations.

“This report is filled with thousands of stories of data loss, as it has been for several years already, and rarely do those stories include a smartphone,” the Verizon authors allege.

Despite the fact that serious security vulnerabilities have been found in mobile devices over the years, Verizon found little evidence that attackers were actually releasing exploits to attack them.

But this also means that companies have an opportunity to stay ahead of mobile attackers if they act now to secure and monitor their devices before the mobile attacks begin happen.

However, and this is important, mobile security firm Lookout says that Verizon and other forensic security firms likely don’t have the infrastructure or sophisticated controls needed to properly detect mobile malware in the first place.

“It’s just very unsurprising that enterprises haven’t been more concerned, because targeted threats actually have the mobile security controls in place that would detect these,” said Lookout CEO John Hering.

The Federal Communications Commission has fined Verizon Wireless $3.4 million for its failure to provide subscribers with emergency phone service in 2014.

The FCC said that it had agreed to the fine with Verizon after an April 2014 service outage that left about eleven million people without phone coverage, including the 911 emergency phone service.

A detailed investigation revealed that the phone company also failed to report the service outage as quickly as it should have under FCC rules. The agency said that Verizon's service outage left 750,000 people represented by thirteen emergency call centers in nine Northern California counties, as well as six other Western U.S. states without phone access.

The six-hour outage which took place during the night of April 9, 2014, resulted in 4,300 emergency calls failing in the Western U.S. due to a failure at a Colorado call-routing center.

No deaths or serious injuries were reported during the outage, however. The fine will hardly make a dent in the returns for a company that reported $7.8 billion in profit last quarter.

Nevertheless, the FCC still believes that the fine will give operators a strong incentive to make sure phone lines are always working.

"We take seriously our obligation to ensure the nation’s 911 systems function reliably," said FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.

"We will continue to work with wireless service providers to ensure that advances in 911 technologies lead to improved communications between citizens and first responders," added Wheeler.

As part of the agreement, Verizon will also agree to put measures in place to cover future outages and better respond to future disruptions that could threaten the availability of emergency service.

Those measures include taking less time in identifying specific causes of service outages, detecting disruptions and designing measures to reduce service outages.

According to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, Apple is reportedly exploring new ways to enter the augmented reality (AR) technology segment.

In an investor's note released today, Munster cited conversations with industry contacts who claim that Apple has a small team exploring AR, which he believes "has the potential to be as profound a technology platform as the smartphone today."

The mobile industry analyst also said that he thinks Apple has the ability to create products that consumers would truly crave as opposed to the prototype devices available today.

So what exactly is augmented reality? And how is it different from virtual reality? Augmented reality (AR) overlays digital information onto the real world. Perhaps the best example to date is a product like Google Glass, which lets you see the world around you as it is, but also projects information onto a lens in front of your eyes.

In stark contrast, virtual reality places you into a total digital environment with no awareness of the world around you: for example, think of headsets like the Oculus Rift or Sony's Morpheus.

Augmented-reality devices are already popping up. Beyond Google Glass, other products due out this year include Sony's Smart Eyeglass Developer Edition and Microsoft's HoloLens.

However, overall consumer adoption and general acceptance of such mobile devices can be problematic, especially since users are forced to wear clunky and obtrusive glasses.

Google pulled the plug on its Glass device in January, saying the $1,500 device was years away from becoming a mass-market product.

Google also added that it has plans for a follow-on product sometime in the future, but didn't provide further details.

So just how Apple might succeed where Google has so far failed? Just as Apple designed its new Apple Watch to emphasize style over technology, the company could do the same with a wearable AR device, Munster added.

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Source: CenturyLink.

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