Those who use massive amounts of data will simply have to pay more. That is in essence what Comcast told its customers on Thursday. The nation’s largest Internet service provider (ISP) and cable giant also responded to the Federal Communications Communication’s (FCC) net neutrality proposal – and the two events could be closely tied together.
Comcast is currently seeking the FCC’s approval for its $45-billion buyout of Time Warner Cable, a move that would make the Philadelphia-based company the most dominant provider in the United States with more than 30 million cable TV, and high-speed Internet customers across the country – including top markets such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
“Comcast remains committed to a free and open Internet and [is] working with the FCC on appropriate rules for all players across the industry,” Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen wrote Thursday in a blog post.
The other take away on this is that Comcast’s Cohen, speaking at the Moffett Nathanson Media & Communications Summit on Wednesday in New York, suggested that within five years all Comcast customers could once again have monthly bandwidth caps imposed on home broadband usage.
Cohen, however, suggested that most users would not use up the allotment and have to pay more.
“I would also predict that the vast majority of our customers would never be caught in the buying the additional buckets of usage, that we will always want to say the basic level of usage at a sufficiently high level that the vast majority of our customers are not implicated by the usage-based billing plan,” Cohen said in a statement as reported by Digital Trends. “And that number may be 350 — that may be 350 gig a month today, it might be 500 gig a month in five years, but it will never — I don’t think we will want to be in a model where it is fully variablized and 80% of our customers are implicated by usage-based billing and are all buying different packets of usage.”
According to reports, Comcast is currently running several pilot projects in select markets in the United States to test its bandwidth caps. These include options that allow users to combine download speeds with bandwidth caps, and the higher the speed the higher the bandwidth cap.
In another test case, one that Comcast executives prefer, all users would have 300GB per month of data – and the company would charge $10 for every extra 50GB used after that. These test cases are not actually new, as PC World reports the cap pilot projects have been ongoing since 2012.
Comcast didn’t provide an option for ultra high-usage customers, and instead those who went over limits received warnings. Too many warnings and users face seeing their account suspended for a year. The Internet and cable provider also experimented with bandwidth throttling for heavy users in 2009, PC World reported.
This move could be most worrisome to those so-called “cord cutters” – users who opt to ditch cable TV for streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.
Forbes contributor Amadou Diallo, a self-proclaimed cord cutter, did note that the vast majority of cable customers fall far below a 300GB threshold, and that an FCC study conducted in 2012 found that a typical consumption rate is around 40GB per month..
However, for those cutting the cord, they may be faced with paying more to watch video content via streaming services. Diallo noted, “The upcoming onslaught of 4K streaming options will only increase data usage.”
According to a new Sandvine study, cord cutters are in fact using more Internet data than other users. The study found that in North America those subscribers who exhibit cord cutting, are dominating network usage – consuming on average 212GB a month, more than seven times the 29GB of data a typical subscriber uses. That is equal to 100 hours of video each month.
The Sandvine study also found that streaming video content now accounts for the majority (54 percent) of total monthly network traffic.
Everyone should know just how much the government lied to defend the NSA
If you blinked this week, you might have missed the news: two Senators accused the Justice Department of lying about NSA warrantless surveillance to the US supreme court last year, and those falsehoods all but ensured that mass spying on Americans would continue. But hardly anyone seems to care – least of all those who lied and who should have already come forward with the truth.
Here’s what happened: just before Edward Snowden became a household name, the ACLU argued before the supreme court that the Fisa Amendments Act – one of the two main laws used by the NSA to conduct mass surveillance – was unconstitutional.
In a sharply divided opinion, the supreme court ruled, 5-4, that the case should be dismissed because the plaintiffs didn’t have “standing” – in other words, that the ACLU couldn’t prove with near-certainty that their clients, which included journalists and human rights advocates, were targets of surveillance, so they couldn’t challenge the law. As the New York Times noted this week, the court relied on two claims by the Justice Department to support their ruling: 1) that the NSA would only get the content of Americans’ communications without a warrant when they are targeting a foreigner abroad for surveillance, and 2) that the Justice Department would notify criminal defendants who have been spied on under the Fisa Amendments Act, so there exists some way to challenge the law in court.
It turns out that neither of those statements were true – but it took Snowden’s historic whistleblowing to prove it.
One of the most explosive Snowden revelations exposed a then-secret technique known as “about” surveillance. As the New York Times first reported, the NSA “is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans’ e-mail and text communications into and out of the country, hunting for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance.” In other words, the NSA doesn’t just target a contact overseas – it sweeps up everyone’s international communications into a dragnet and searches them for keywords.
The Snowden leaks also pushed the Justice Department to admit – contrary to what it told the court – that the government hadn’t been notifying any defendants they were being charged based on NSA surveillance, making it actually impossible for anyone to prove they had standing to challenge the Fisa Amendments Act as unconstitutional.
It’s unclear how much Solicitor General Donald Verrilli knew when he told the government’s lies – twice – to the justices of the supreme court. Reports suggest that he was livid when he found out that his national security staff at the Justice Department misled him about whether they were notifying defendants in criminal trials of surveillance. And we don’t know if he knew about the “about” surveillance that might well have given the ACLU standing in the case. But we do know other Justice Department officials knew about both things, and they have let both lies stand without correcting the record.
Lawyers before the supreme court are under an ethical obligation to correct the record if they make false statements to the Court – even if they are unintentional – yet the Justice Department has so far refused. As ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer explained, the Justice Department has corrected the record in other cases where it was much less clear-cut whether it had misled the court.
The government’s response, instead, has been to explain why it doesn’t think these statements are lies. In a letter to Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall that only surfaced this week, the government made the incredible argument that the “about” surveillance was classified at the time of the case, so it was under no obligation to tell the supreme court about it. And the Justice Department completely sidestepped the question of whether it lied about notifying defendants, basically by saying that it started to do so after the case, and so this was somehow no longer an issue.
But there’s another reason the government wanted any challenge to the Fisa Amendments Act dismissed without being forced to argue that it doesn’t violate the Fourth Amendment: it has an extremely controversial view about your (lack of) privacy rights, and probably doesn’t want anyone to know. As Jaffer wrote here at the Guardian earlier this week, the government has since been forced to defend the Fisa Amendments Act, and it’s pretty shocking how they’ve done it. Here’s what the government said in a recent legal brief:
The privacy rights of US persons in international communications are significantly diminished, if not completely eliminated, when those communications have been transmitted to or obtained from non-US persons located outside the United States.
This is an incredibly radical view of the right to privacy. We already know the government does not think you have any right to privacy when it comes who you talk to, or when, or for how long, or where you are while you’re talking. Now the government has said, in court, that you don’t have any right to the content of private conversations with anyone who is located outside the United States – or to any domestic communication remaining private if it is, at some point, transmitted overseas, which happens often. Jaffer explained the consequences of this view:
If the government is right, nothing in the Constitution bars the NSA from monitoring a phone call between a journalist in New York City and his source in London. For that matter, nothing bars the NSA from monitoring every call and email between Americans in the United States and their non-American friends, relatives, and colleagues overseas.
Intelligence director James Clapper’s infamous lie to Congress – in which he claimed just months before Snowden’s leaks that the NSA was not collecting data on millions of Americans – will certainly follow him for the rest of his career even if it never leads to his prosecution. But while Clapper almost certainly broke the law, the senate committee members in front of whom he spoke knew the truth regardless.
The Justice Department, on the other hand, convinced the supreme court to dismiss a case that could have dramatically curtailed the NSA’s most egregious abuses of power based on false statements. And now all of us are forced to live with the consequences of that
High School Senior Told He’s ‘Not Welcome’ At School After Raising Gadsden Flag
Greg Stoneburner, a senior who just graduated from Central High School in Grand Junction, Colo., said he was told in no uncertain terms that he was no longer welcome at the school after raising a Gadsden flag on the school’s flagpole. Moreover, he told Examiner.com in an exclusive interview Friday, the principal withheld his flag and his diploma until after his graduation walk.
Greg Stoneburner, used with permission
The incident, he said on Facebook, took place on May 9. That’s when he replaced the school’s flag with the yellow “Don’t Tread On Me” banner often associated with the Tea Party as a senior prank. He also posted a paper to the pole that told the history of the flag.
The prank didn’t sit too well with Jodie Diers, the principal of Central High School, who was livid over the prank. Other students, Stoneburner told Examiner, claimed she was angrily yelling to have the flag pulled down when she first saw it. According to Stoneburner, she pulled him out of a scholarship breakfast and told him and his parents the flag was a “slap in the face” to the school. She then said he was “not welcome” at Central High.
“She also confiscated my flag,” he wrote, even though she admitted he had not violated any law or school policy. Her reasoning, Stoneburner said, was that anything on the pole was school property.
“So my property was confiscated without due process,” he added. “I was denied access to a public institution because the principal didn’t like what I did.”
In his view, Diers’ actions amounted to theft, and she had no legal basis for banishing him from the school as he did not present a health, safety, or welfare risk. His parents, he said, were entertained by the prank and thought the school went too far.
Stoneburner admitted on Facebook that he “pushed the envelope to the line,” but, he added, he “didn’t cross it, and the principal wrongfully and without base, used her power for personal revenge.” He also said he believes his pro-Constitution libertarian views may have played a role in her actions.
He finally got his diploma and his flag, but hasn’t decided what further action to take, if any. He said, however, he is willing to let it go, as he has been accepted to Western State Colorado University where he plans to get a degree in geology.
Diers did not respond to our request for comments, and no one answered the school’s main office phone.
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