This Week In Techdirt History: January 9th – 15th

Five Years Ago

This week in 2017, ISPs were getting straight to work pushing for elimination of new FCC broadband privacy rules, an FCC report clearly said that AT&T and Verizon were violating net neutrality. At the same time, AT&T was planning to dodge a review of the Time Warner merger, and Verizon was claiming nobody wants unlimited data. We took a look at the effects of Oracle v. Google on copyright litigation, and Backpage officially killed its adult ads section under widespread pressure.

Also, and most notably, this was the week we announced that we had been sued for $15 million by Shiva Ayyadurai.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2012, the SOPA fight continued. There was some Reddit drama that led to Paul Ryan coming out strongly against the bill, concerned tech experts finally got a chance to talk to congress (but not the Judiciary Committee), the co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus said SOPA would interfere with online security, and a study showed that news networks owned by SOPA supporters were largely ignoring the subject. Wordpress became the latest big tech company to oppose the bill, then Reddit announced its plan to black out the site for a day — an idea that gained steam with the Cheezburger Network announcing its sites would do the same, and Jimmy Wales saying he favored Wikipedia joining too but wanted the community to decide. As the bill became toxic, Congress started talking about dropping the DNS blocking provisions, which led to some uninspiring promises to “delay” them, and then it started to look like the entire bill would be delayed.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2007, cable companies were twisting themselves in knots trying to explain how price increases were actually price decreases, the fight over the broadcast flag continued, and the PERFORM Act was back from the dead. A judge in Brazil freaked out about YouTube and ordered ISPs to block it until Google followed a previous order to shut it down, but that judge apparently learned a few things about the internet and rescinded that previous order the next day.

Also, this was the week that the rumor mill was replaced by reality and Steve Jobs officially announced the iPhone in his Macworld keynote address.

‘Wave’ of change for a Seattle-born brand: Astound comes back around in latest telco naming twist

The nation’s sixth-largest cable company said Wednesday that it will unify its regional brands under the name Astound Broadband. The company’s West Coast operations, which trace their their roots to founding of Wave Broadband in the Seattle area nearly two decades ago, will be known as “Astound Broadband powered by Wave.” The unit previously known as Wave Business will become “Astound Business Solutions.” The unified brand — which also will apply to RCN, Grande, enTouch and Digital West in other parts of the country — is part of a broader move by Astound to position itself for additional growth as… Read More

FCC Politely Tells ISPs To Stop Abusing Covid Broadband Relief Program To Rip Off Poor People

During the COVID crisis the FCC launched the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB program), which gives lower income Americans a $50 ($75 for those in tribal lands) discount off of their broadband bill. Under the program, the government gives money to ISPs (not exactly ideal given the industry’s history of fraud), which then dole out discounts to users if they qualify. But (surprise), many found that big ISPs erected cumbersome barriers to actually getting the service, or worse, actively exploited the sign up process to force struggling low-income applicants on to more expensive plans once the initial contract ended. Very on brand.

The program was recently renamed the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and made permanent via the infrastructure bill, albeit at a reduced discount rate of $30 a month (still $75 on tribal lands). And because the reboot requires new rules, the FCC has proposed tightening up the rules surrounding the program to ensure the large predatory ISPs don’t exploit it to make an extra buck. More specifically, the FCC says ISPs will be required to offer the discounts across all tiers, including legacy and “grandfathered” (older, possibly cheaper plans that they may not sell any more) plans:

“We also do not think that Congress intended to exclude consumers on existing legacy or grandfathered plans from participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program. We further clarify that the requirement that legacy or grandfathered plans be eligible for reimbursement does not require that providers offer such legacy or grandfathered plans to other customers, including ACP-eligible customers, that are not already on such plans.”

Basically, big ISPs were claiming that it was too technically cumbersome to provide a $30 discount to plans they no longer actively sold. Consumer groups argued this was bunk, and this was the industry’s way of tap dancing around the fact they were using a program designed to help the poor as an opportunity to upsell users (like that time Verizon Wireless tried to first throttle, then upsell, firefighters battling historic wildfires). This behavior is just who they are. It’s in their DNA after decades of being government-pampered regional monopolies that face little real accountability.

Note this is still just an FCC proposal, and will still require a vote of approval from an FCC that remains intentionally gridlocked at 2-2 commissioners. It also bears repeating that you wouldn’t need proposals like this if Congress and U.S. policymakers were willing to target the real cause of high broadband prices across the U.S.: regional monopolization, and the state and federal corruption that protects it. But we don’t, so we get these band-aid proposals big ISPs try to exploit that don’t cure the underlying disease.

That’s not to say this EBB/ACP program isn’t helping. Over 9 million homes are enrolled in the program (a total that would be higher if ISPs didn’t make the application process so cumbersome). And I’ve talked to several communities deploying their own gigabit fiber in the last month who say they’re first targeting low-income areas as part of their broader projects, where many struggling users will see bills close to $0 per month for gigabit broadband once the discount is applied. If you’re a struggling low-income American trying to survive during COVID, that’s a big deal.

15 years have passed since the first iPhone — and we’ve come a long way

This past Sunday was the 15th anniversary of when the original iPhone was announced. Let’s take a look back at how far one of Apple’s most important products has come.

On January 9, 2007, Steve Jobs walked up on stage at Moscone Center for the Macworld Conference with a keynote address, announcing the first iPhone. That’s right — it’s been 15 years since the original iPhone launched, and quite frankly, changed the world.

Let’s look back on what the original iPhone was like and what’s to come for the future of iPhone.

The iPhone was very basic, but unlike anything else at the time

Do you remember what the world of cell phones was like before the iPhone? It was a time when BlackBerry was king, Nokia was still popular (remember the Nokia N95?), and people even still used flip phones like the Motorola RAZR. I personally was using an unlocked Sony Ericsson K800i myself because, at the time, it was considered a “great” camera phone with a whopping 3.2-megapixel camera (LOL).

Jobs …

T-Mobile says Apple is to blame for iCloud Private Relay being turned off

What you need to know

T-Mobile says that it is not to blame for iCloud Private Relay not working on its network.
The company says that it has discovered a bug in iOS 15.2 that is causing the issue.
According to the company, it is affecting all carriers – not just T-Mobile.

T-Mobile turned this one around fast.

T-Mobile says the blame falls on Apple for users who have noticed that iCloud Private Relay stopped working on the carrier’s network.

Yesterday, it was reported that T-Mobile customers were finding that iCloud Private Relay did not work on T-Mobile’s cellular network. It wasn’t just T-Mobile either – customers from Verizon were also reporting the issue. At first, some thought that the carrier was disabling the feature at the network level.

In a statement to 9to5Mac, the company says that the issue actually lies with Apple. According to the company, a bug in iOS 15.2 turns the setting off by default for users – even if they had it turned on before the update.