major telecom news supercookies The F.C.C. Reaches a Settlement with Verizon over Hidden Tracking

 By M8trix Communications | March 11, 2016

Earlier this week, the Federal Communications Commission said it had come to a settlement with Verizon Wireless regarding its use of hidden tracking technology also known as “supercookies,” that were used to target advertising without the permission of its cellphone customers.

Verizon Wireless was fined $1.35 million as part of the settlement and informed that it must notify consumers of its data collection program, in addition to securing permission from future users before sharing their consumer data with third-party partners.

It was a relatively small financial penalty. However, the enforcement action garnered attention from across the telecom industry because it provides an insight into the F.C.C.’s growing ambitions for privacy regulation. It is expected that the agency will next turn its attention to first-time privacy rules for Internet service providers that may include mandates that wireless and fixed broadband providers secure permission from users before they are allowed to track their online behavior.

The F.C.C. chairman, Tom Wheeler, is expected to very soon circulate a proposal on privacy ahead of a vote at the end of the month.

“The Verizon supercookies issue has been one of the big poster children for why you need to worry about ISPs tracking their customers and why you need rules for ISPs,” said Harold Feld, a legal analyst at the nonprofit media advocacy group Public Knowledge.

The F.C.C. said that in its 15-month long investigation of Verizon Wireless, it had found that even among those customers who had attempted to delete regular cookies from their mobile browsers, the supercookies (or hidden code unique to each customer) were undeletable and data collection was continued. Between 2012 and late 2014, Verizon Wireless employed supercookies that allowed them to track the browsing history of a mobile subscriber, the F.C.C. said, and then use that data to target ads to cellphone customers.

The FCC settlement says consumers must now opt in to allowing Verizon to share data with a third party. However, for data-collection and sharing within Verizon, the company can automatically do it and provide consumers only with the option to stop it, a less rigorous requirement. The New York based company has already changed several practices that critics deemed to be most invasive. The company said that the FCC settlement recognizes that it had already made some adjustments to its ad programs that allow the consumer more choices.

The investigation reveals a greater interest by the F.C.C. to oversee consumer privacy. Last year, Jonathan Mayer, privacy scholar at Stanford Law School, disclosed on his blog that Turn, an advertising software company, was using Verizon’s supercookies to regenerate its own tracking tags following consumers deleting cookies. Mr. Mayer was hired by the F.C.C. in November.

major telecom news centurylinkCAF-II builds for CenturyLink may increase broadband speeds along the buildout path

By M8trix Communications | March 11, 2016

CenturyLink is presently working through the planning phase of its 2016 CAF-II build out to bring high-speed internet to many rural households and businesses. A potential newly realized side benefit of the build is that communities, which are passed by the fiber roll out may get higher speeds than they are currently able to access.

CenturyLink is accepting 33 CAF phase II statewide offers from the FCC to bring Internet service with speeds of a minimum of 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload to approximately 1.2 million locations in FCC-designated, high-cost census blocks. The company is accepting approximately $500 million a year for six years towards the build-out.

During the Raymond James & Associates 37th Annual Institutional Investors Conference, Stewart Ewing, CFO of CenturyLink, said that it could now possibly deliver speeds of 20 and 40 Mbps to current copper-based customers that live near the CAF-II builds.

“With CAF-II, which will serve less dense areas, there won’t be as much of a benefit to businesses,” Ewing said. “It will benefit other homes that we pass along the way where from a residential standpoint maybe they can get 10/1 Mbps today, but by getting network closer to them we can offer them a 20 or a 40 Mbps service.”

Nevertheless, extending broadband services to businesses will be more difficult in the CAF-II areas as they are more rural in nature. “We’ll try to pick up any businesses we can along the way, but because of the nature of the areas that we’ll be serving there is less dense and we’d have a lower business customer base there,” Ewing said.

While Ewing was not able to detail exactly what percentage of the markets it will first build out in 2016, Ewing did say that CenturyLink’s initial focus will be on building out service to areas that are more dense in nature.

“We’re hitting the more dense areas that are easier to construct and lower cost areas up front to try to try to get the revenue streams going, which would help us on the back end from a revenue standpoint,” Ewing said.

Beyond the CAF-II areas, the service provider is realizing that its continuing FTTH 1 Gbps roll out for residential customers in markets like Salt Lake City and Las Vegas is providing it with a strong foundation to extend fiber to more business customers.

“As we have built more and more fiber into the network, we have picked up as part of these residential builds a number of businesses,” Ewing said. “We pass about 500,000 businesses today with fiber and a lot of that is associated with getting fiber out to the neighborhoods.”

major telecom news telepacific dsciTelePacific Expands Nationwide as it Acquires DSCI

By M8trix Communications | March 11, 2016

Telepacific Communications announced last week that it is acquiring DSCI, the Massachusetts-based managed services provider, to increase its capabilities and extend its reach to a nationwide audience. It will take at the minimum three months for the deal to close, pending regulatory approvals. Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

TelePacific currently focuses on the three western states, California, Nevada and Texas as it delivers managed services and business communications to 75,000 locations for customers going from small businesses to enterprises with hundreds of different locations. DSCI is situated on the Northeast where it provides services to over 1,500 businesses. As a result of the acquisition of DSCI, almost half of TelePacific’s business will be in managed services and contain a complete set of products, including managed IT services and over-the-top UC.

Ken Bisnoff, TelePacific’s senior vice president of strategic opportunities, told Channel Partners that his company had repeatedly heard from its agents that “we are their partner of choice and that one of their main regrets was that they were only able to work with us for clients based in California, Nevada and Texas. This changes that equation,” Bisnoff said. “Once we complete our acquisition of DSCI, we’ll have national reach – and ambitions. … This lets [our partners] deliver even more powerful, complete solutions for customers.”

According to TelePacific, while the services and products of the two combined companies will be united, DSCI will nevertheless operate as a TelePacific company under its own name and under the leadership of its existing senior management team.

“Since the first time we met with TelePacific, it’s been clear that there is a very strong cultural alignment between our companies,” said Sean Dandley, DSCI’s president and CEO. “We both believe that the most critical component of our success is an unwavering focus on the customer. TelePacific is impressed with the level of excellence across all of DSCI, and they’re committed to helping us grow and thrive even more.”

TelePacific derives over 45 percent of its revenue from the nearly 100 contracted partners it works with, Bisnoff said. Numerous of its regional and national master agents have extended networks of subagents that also represent TelePacific services. “One of the reasons that made this such a compelling move for TelePacific to make was the shared DNA of customer service and channel focus that both companies have,” Bisnoff said. “As of today, over 150 channel partners have joined DSCI’s Channel Partner Program, including several master agents. They have been asking for national coverage from DSCI for many years, and the merging of DSCI and TelePacific will meet that demand. DSCI’s channel partners will gain access to all of TelePacific’s rich portfolio, expanded markets and our channel support in addition to the great relationships they already have with DSCI.”

major telecom news google project fiGoogle Opens Project Fi MVNO to all U.S. users

By M8trix Communications | March 11, 2016

This week, Google said it was opening its Project Fi hybrid cellular/Wi-Fi MVNO program to all U.S. users and will lose the invitation-only policy it initiated only 10 months ago when the offering first launched.

Project Fi allows users to switch between WiFi or Sprint and T-Mobile’s LTE networks depending on coverage to obtain the best wireless network available at the time. The MVNO also supports calling from more than 1 million free and open Wi-Fi hotspots, unlimited text messages and the opportunity for users to access cell networks in over 120 countries.

For $20/month, Google offers a “Fi Basics” plan; additional data is available for $10 per GB. The “Fi Basics” plan is currently available only on the Nexus 6P and 5X phones.

On the company’s blog, Google Product Manager, Simon Arscott wrote, “We launched Project Fi as an invitation-only Early Access program to make sure we could deliver the best quality of service to our first customers.” Arscott added, “Today, we’re excited to be exiting our invitation-only mode and opening up Project Fi so that people across the U.S. can now sign up for service without having to wait in-line for an invite…. While Project Fi is still in its early stages, we’re excited to welcome our next wave of customers and look forward to growing and improving together.”

Additionally, the company launched a month-long promotion for the Nexus 5X, reducing the price to $199 through April to encourage new users. It also offers the Huawei-made Nexus-brand 6P, which starts at $499 without a contract. Project Fi only works with Nexus phones.

Google reported that Project Fi users typically consumed 1.6 GB of data per month. In December, the company launched support for data-only devices through the program, allowing customers to purchase a data-only SIM card and pay a flat rate of $10 per GB.

Google’s Android is the primary mobile operating system internationally, however, Project Fi currently only plays a minor role in the world of service providers. However, its presence could expand rapidly if Google decides to pursue the initiative more assertively.

Google is surely uncertain about kindling the wrath of its MVNO carrier partners, so it’s unlikely to push the initiative too quickly. However, its recent move of making Project Fi available to all users may be a hint that the company is getting more serious about becoming a service provider itself.

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