by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 12th 2011 3:57pm
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jun 14th 2011 8:36am
from the say-what-now? dept
The proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile will be a giant stride toward providing ALL Texas children quality educational opportunities and experiences. Every Texas student, whether they attend school in inner-city Houston or in rural West Texas, should have access to modern technological advancements, including high-speed wireless Internet.He doesn't explain much further. He does explain the importance of wireless broadband, which is great, and we agree that there should be more of it, especially for schools. But what does allowing AT&T and T-Mobile to merge have to do with that at all? The real answer is nothing whatsoever. Nothing in the merger will make it any more or less likely that Texas schools will get mobile broadband. But, Rogers is sure of it:
The resources made available by the merger would make high-speed wireless available to many Texans, both rural and urban. This is vitally important for schools in rural Texas that will finally have the ability to access a high-speed wireless broadband network and all it brings.
I know of what I speak when I say that Texas--in particular our rural schools--will benefit substantially from this merger. To deny the educational opportunities this merger would provide to students living in rural areas would do our children a disservice. This merger will ensure that every young Texan will be learning and performing to the best of their abilities.I know of what I speak when I say the above is pure hogwash. Whether or not you think the merger makes sense, it has nothing whatsoever to do with broadband in schools. And it certainly would not "ensure" that "every young Texan will be learning and performing to the best of their abilities." It's incredibly disingenuous for someone supposedly heavily involved in children's education to suggest that some totally unrelated corporate merger will somehow "ensure" that kids are learning to the best of their abilities.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 29th 2011 2:25pm
from the don't-blame-us,-blame-them dept
AT&T noted it “plays no role” in what kind of information smartphone apps collect, while T-Mobile pointed out the ways in which that data can be used.This was in response to questions from Congressional Reps. Ed Markey and Joe Barton, leading all of the operators to also admit that they collect such data as well, but really, apps. Apps are a bigger issue. Just focus on the apps. Really. Apps.
Sprint lamented “consumers no longer can look to their trusted carrier with whom they have a trusted relationship to answer all of their questions,” particularly on privacy.
And Verizon Wireless called out smartphone app makers directly on the issue, stressing “location-based applications and services (whether provided by us or third parties such as Google) should give customers clear and transparent notice” and control.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Apr 27th 2011 2:20pm
from the which-is-more-evil? dept
At the same time, an equally broken process is the class action system. We've seen over and over again that class action lawsuits are used more as a way to enrich lawyers, rather than to help any particular class. The lawyers get the bulk of any settlement, and anyone in the class gets a couple dollars over an issue they didn't really care about in the first place. Or, in some cases, it's even more ridiculous where the "settlement" actually pushes people in the class to buy products from the company being sued.
So, I have to admit that I was somewhat conflicted about the Supreme Court case concerning the legality of arbitration clauses in California and their ability to block consumer class action lawsuits. In the end, the Supreme Court has ruled that the lower court rulings (in both the district and appeals courts), which upheld the right to a class action lawsuit against AT&T, were wrong. The lower courts found that the arbitration clause was an "unconscionable contract," but the Supreme Court felt otherwise, with a ruling that seemed to buy into all of the myths of arbitration, rather than what the data actually says.
The background story on the case is that a couple, Vincent and Liza Concepcion, sued AT&T in a class action lawsuit, saying that there were advertisements for free mobile phones, but sales tax was still applied on the full retail price meaning the phones weren't really free. Frankly, this seems like a somewhat silly class action claim to make and it fits with my feelings towards class action lawsuits. But, that shouldn't get in the way of the larger question, of whether or not such class actions (legitimate or not) can be blocked entirely by an arbitration clause. AT&T, of course, claimed that the arbitration clause in its contract blocked the class action lawsuit and meant it had to go through arbitration (and not as a class, but on an individual basis). And from there, we got the lower courts' decisions rejecting the clause and the Supreme Court now accepting it.
As much as I'm troubled by bogus class action lawsuits, this ruling bothers me much more. I do think that both the class action process and the arbitration process are regularly abused, but that the class action process is both more likely to be fixed and less likely to result in completely unfair results. If this involved a situation where two parties had a full and fair negotiation and then agreed to an arbitration clause, I wouldn't have much of a problem with it. But when it's a "click through" sort of agreement, where the consumer has no way to bargain or negotiate the contract -- and, in fact, isn't really expected to have read the contract -- I have serious problems with the idea that people can be forced to give up their basic rights to go to court over something that is designed for them not to read.
On top of that, this certainly opens the door to companies putting arbitration clauses everywhere to keep them out of court on all sorts of potential misdeeds. The unintended consequences of this sort of thing are certainly troubling. The proper response, at this point, would be for Congress to fix the law and to make it clear that you can't give up the right to go to court through such a non-negotiated contract... but the chances of that actually happening seem slim at best.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 15th 2011 2:51pm
from the ah,-the-latinos dept
"You go down the Latino people, the deaf people, the farmers, and choose them.... You say, 'I can't use this one--I already used them last time...' We had their letterhead. We'd just write the letter. We'd fax it to them and tell them, 'You're in favor of this.'"It looks like AT&T's lobbyists went through the list and they're back around to the top with the "Latino people." Suddenly, and for no clear reason, The Hispanic Institute and the Latino Coaltion have decided that supporting the merger of AT&T with T-Mobile is of utmost importance to them. They've put out statements with such nonsensical claims like:
The proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile holds great promise for all Americans, and especially those of Hispanic heritage.What's in it for these groups? Money, mainly:
One DC insider informs us that rumblings on K Street suggest AT&T had called every civil rights group in the United States for support within fifteen minutes of the deal being announced. Fearful of losing AT&T donations -- most of these groups quickly got to parroting prepared AT&T statements, unconcerned about the actual impact of a T-Mobile deal. Getting funding for a new events center apparently dulls any ethical pangs felt using your organization as a hired stage prop.It's really difficult not to be cynical when you see this kind of thing playing out. What's really depressing is that no matter how many times this rather obvious practice is exposed, it just keeps on happening.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 1st 2011 3:26pm
from the please dept
So how are these mobile operators guilty of antitrust violations? According to Davis:
Defendants purposely conspired via collusion to install themselves as the new primary gate keepers and sole beneficiaries of multimedia content sharing through their new MMS technologies.Except, of course, that's ridiculous. These companies did agree to set up MMS systems, but that's because they're the mobile operators who run the mobile networks. That's not collusion. And it's not antitrust. The filing gets more ridiculous as it goes on. He claims that these operators do not qualify as DMCA service providers, contrary to the pretty clear language of the law and plenty of case law. The whole thing seems frivolous, and it seems likely that this lawsuit will reach a similar conclusion to the previous one.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 28th 2011 3:52pm
from the scams-pay? dept
Broadband Reports highlights the saga of JAWA, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based company that's at the center of allegations of cramming. The company and a bunch of shells allegedly send text messages to people that say:
"Text back STOP if you don't want to subscribe."Most people, of course, don't text back because they think it's a scam. What they don't realize is that even if it's a scam, it's the not replying that lets the telcos start adding fees to your bill. The big question here: why does any mobile operator allow charges to be put on your phone bill for inaction?
The blog AZDisruptors (normally about Arizona startups) has been calling attention to the company, including putting together this video explaining how the cramming works, how JAWA's CEO Jason Hope is apparently building the largest house in the US (complete with a 3-story night club), and how AT&T pretends (falsely) that it can't do anything about it:
The thing is, JAWA has been doing its thing for quite some time. After Texas regulators began investigating, Verizon Wireless finally realized it needed to do something and sued. Amusingly, JAWA's defense to the lawsuit appears to be that it employs lots of people and is good for Scottsdale. However, it also points out that it's made Verizon Wireless tons of money, and even complains that Verizon Wireless seems to be withholding money owed.
While it's nice that Verizon Wireless has filed suit, it appears this only happened after Texas regulators began investigating, and after they made money from JAWA for a period of nearly four years. AT&T now claims that it's investigating too, but only after AZDisruptors demonstrated company representatives blatantly lying to him about whether or not they make any money from this and whether or not they can stop it.
The big question in all of this really should be why the mobile operators allowed this to happen at all. Why would they ever allow charges to be added to an account as a result of inaction, rather than through direct acceptance?
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Mar 25th 2011 4:01am
Totally Pointless Lawsuit Accusing Mobile Carriers Of Being P2P File Sharers Dismissed; Plaintiffs Say They're Happy
from the um,-guys,-you-lost-big-time dept
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jul 23rd 2010 8:58am
from the say-what-now dept
Defendants, and each of them, enabled the transfer/transmission and publication of this copyright protected content via mobile devices by building and implementing a peer to peer file sharing network with the dedicated purpose of enabling end users to share multimedia files via this MMS network. Defendants, and each of them, profited from these activities by charging the transmitter and receivers of this content a fee or flat rate for the transfer/transmission that resulted in the publication of said content. Despite charging the transmitter and receiver a fee for the delivery of this copyrighted content, Defendants, and each of them, failed to compensate the holder of the copyrights for this content that was necessary in generating the MMS data revenue. Furthermore, Defendants, and each of them failed or refused to provide a system where an adequate accounting of the transfer/transmission and publication of this copyrighted content could be made.Basically, this company, Luvdarts, made MMS content, and it got distributed via MMS. Since recipients of MMS can forward the MMS data they receive, such content got forwarded around. Since the mobile operators receive revenue for MMS data, Luvdarts is effectively claiming that they are profiting off the infringement of Luvdarts content. This makes no sense. It's like saying that any email provider is infringing on the copyrights of email writers by letting recipients forward emails. You know those chain emails that get passed around? Imagine if one of the authors of those then sued all the big email providers. It would get laughed out of court. Hopefully, this lawsuit gets laughed out of court too.
The one oddity is that the lawsuit claims that the mobile operators do not qualify for DMCA safe harbor protections, because they're "not service providers" as defined in the DMCA. Specifically:
The transmission of this MMS data is not covered by the exemption for Internet Service Providers as set forth in 17 U.S.C. §512 because the wireless carriers are not Internet Service Providers as defined by §512 while providing a dedicated MMS network for multimedia file sharing.Really? If you haven't read your §512 lately, why not go take a look and explain how a mobile operator offering MMS is not covered. It certainly seems covered by the definition:
Definitions.--Help me out. Where are mobile operators offering MMS features excluded? Looks like yet another frivolous lawsuit. But, of course, Luvdarts is demanding the statutory maximum of $150,000 per infringement, and claims "9,999 to 100,000 counts of infringement" (broad enough range there?). Good luck, Max.
(1) Service provider--
(A) As used in subsection (a), the term "service provider" means an entity offering the transmission, routing, or providing of connections for digital online communications, between or among points specified by a user, of material of the user's choosing, without modification to the content of the material as sent or received.
(B) As used in this section, other than subsection (a), the term "service provider" means a provider of online services or network access, or the operator of facilities therefor, and includes an entity described in subparagraph (A).
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 12th 2010 4:52am