AT&T gave $62K to lawmakers months before vote to limit muni broadband | Ars Technica


Missouri bill would make it difficult for cities to offer Internet service.

Source: AT&T gave $62K to lawmakers months before vote to limit muni broadband | Ars Technica

New homeowner selling house because he can’t get Comcast Internet

One unlucky man who bought a house that can’t get wired Internet service is reportedly selling the home just months after moving in.

Seth, a software engineer who works at home, bought a house in Kitsap County, Washington, after being told by multiple Comcast employees that he could buy the Internet service he needs to do his job, according to a detailed Consumerist article yesterday. Seth also wrote a lengthy account on his blog titled, “It’s Comcastic, or: I Accidentally Bought a House Without Cable.” (The man’s last name was not given.)

“Before we even made an offer [on the house], I placed two separate phone calls; one to Comcast Business, and one to Xfinity,” Seth wrote. “Both sales agents told me that service was available at the address. The Comcast Business agent even told me that a previous resident had already had service. So I believed them.”

That turned out to be untrue. After multiple visits from Comcast technicians, he says the company told him extending its network to his house would cost $60,000, of which he would have to pay an unspecified amount. But then Comcast allegedly pulled the offer.

“After about seven weeks of pointless install appointments, deleted orders, dead ends, and vague sky-high estimates, Comcast told him that it had decided to simply not do the extension,” according to the Consumerist story. “The company wouldn’t even listen to Seth’s offers to pay for a good chunk of the cost.”

We contacted Comcast to get more details last night but haven’t heard back.

After getting nowhere with Comcast, Seth tried getting DSL Internet from CenturyLink, which told him it could provide service of up to 10Mbps.

“After that very first Comcast tech told Seth there was no cable infrastructure to his house, he contacted CenturyLink. The company promised to get him hooked up right away,” Consumerist wrote. “But then the next day he got a call informing him that his area was in ‘Permanent Exhaust’ and that CenturyLink wouldn’t be adding new customers. Of course, that didn’t stop CenturyLink from billing Seth more than $100 for service he never received and will never be able to receive. Seth then had to convince someone with CenturyLink’s billing department to zero out the account that should have never been opened.”

Besides Comcast and CenturyLink, the Kitsap Public Utility District operates a gigabit fiber network that passes near Seth’s house, Consumerist wrote. “So why can’t he just get his service from the county? Because Washington is one of the half-dozen states that forbids municipal broadband providers from selling service directly to consumers,” the article said.

Nationwide, about 20 states impose limits on municipal broadband in order to protect private Internet providers from competition. The Federal Communications Commission voted to preempt such laws in Tennessee and North Carolina after receiving petitions from municipal providers in those states but is facing a lawsuit over the decision.

Link (Ars Technica)

AT&T’s Cozy NSA Ties Brought Up In Attempt To Scuttle DirecTV Merger

Before there was Edward Snowden, there was of course the notably less celebrated Mark Klein. As most of you probably recall, Klein, a 22-year AT&T employee, became a whistleblower after hehighlighted how AT&T was effectively using fiber splits to give the NSA duplicate access to every shred of data that touched AT&T’s network. Of course, once it was discovered that AT&T was breaking the law, the government decided to just change the law, ignore Klein’s testimony, and give all phone companies retroactive immunity. It really wasn’t until Snowden that the majority of the tech press took Klein’s warnings seriously.

AT&T’s been loyally “patriotic” ever since, often giving the government advice on how to skirt the lawor at times even acting as intelligence analysts. Business repercussions for AT&T have been minimal at best; in fact, you’ll recall that Qwest (now CenturyLink) claimed repeatedly that government cooperation was rewarded with lucrative contracts, while refusal to participate in government programs was punished. In fact, the only snag AT&T’s seen in the years since was to have its European expansion plans thwarted, purportedly by regulators uncomfortable with the carrier’s cozy NSA ties (AT&T instead simply expanded into Mexico).

Fast forward a few years and The Hill is now claiming that AT&T’s relationship with the NSA could harm the company’s $48 billion attempt to acquire DirecTV. This claim is apparently based on the fact that a coalition of AT&T business partners, called the Minority Cellular Partners Coalition, is warning the FCC in a letter that AT&T’s enthusiastic voluntary cooperation with the NSA shows the company’s total disregard for consumer privacy.

“(Despite immunity) the Commission is still obliged to execute and enforce the provisions of § 229 of the Act, see 47 U.S.C. § 151, and it is still empowered to conduct an investigation to insure that AT&T complies with the requirements of CALEA. See id. § 229(c). And the Commission is obliged to determine whether AT&T is qualified to obtain DIRECTV’s licenses in light of its egregious violations of CALEA. This is particularly true given AT&T’s continued and ongoing pattern of misconduct. Accordingly, the Commission should investigate AT&T’s complicity in the PSP to determine whether AT&T engaged in unlawful conduct that abridged the privacy interests of telecommunications consumers on a vast scale and, if so, whether AT&T is qualified to obtain DIRECTV’s licenses.”

Of course, that’s simply not happening. While the NSA cooperation can be used as a broader example of AT&T’s character (like the repeatedly nonsensical claims the company makes when it wants a merger approved, or how AT&T tries to charge its broadband customers extra for no deep packet inspection), it’s incredibly unlikely that the same government that granted AT&T’s immunity will turn around and sign off on using AT&T’s behavior to squash a merger. If the merger is blocked, it will be due to more practical considerations — like the fact that DirecTV is a direct competitor to AT&T and eliminating them would lessen competition in the pay TV space. When it comes to AT&T’s relationship with the NSA, it’s pretty clear by now that these particular chickens may never come home to roost.

Link (Techdirt)

Rightscorp Hemorrhages Cash, Profit from Piracy Remains Elusive

In copyright enforcement circles the terms ‘piracy’ and ‘profit’ are often cited in close proximity. Entertainment companies bemoan the alleged profits made by ‘pirate’ sites at the expense of creators, while the same entities claim that piracy is killing their business, even while making billions.

Somewhere in the middle ground lie the groups that seek to turn piracy into profit by punishing the infringements of others. Traditional ‘trolls’ seek thousands from alleged Internet pirates via the courts, but companies such as Rightscorp Inc chase individuals for relatively tiny sums – $20 per shot – for unauthorized content downloads.

It’s a strategy the company insists will eventually pay off but if the latest set of results filed by the Los Angeles-based outfit are anything to go by, investors should be wary of holding their collective breaths.

In a call with investors yesterday things appeared to start reasonably well. Rightscorp President, COO, CTO, and CFO Robert Steele began by reporting how well the company had performed in the final quarter of 2014. Total revenues were almost $242,000, up 56% from the $155,300 achieved in the same period of 2013.

For the full year, things looked even better. From January 1 to December 31, 2014, Rightscorp pulled in close to $931,000 in revenues, that’s 187% up on 2013 when the company generated just $324,000. Steele said the growth in the company’s revenues can be attributed to two key areas.

Firstly, the growing number of copyrights for which the company has contracts to extract settlements from customers. On December 31, 2013, Rightscorp were detecting infringement on approximately 30,000 titles but by the same date in 2014 that had skyrocketed to around 230,000.

Secondly the company says it is getting more and more ISPs on board. It now claims to deal with 233 and has received settlements from customers of five of the top 10 US ISPs including Comcast, Charter, CenturyLink, Mediacom and Suddenlink. The idea is that more ISPs participating should mean more notices being forwarded and a more healthy bottom line for the company. But that’s only the theory.

The problem for Rightscorp is that when compared to the revenue being generated from infringements, its costs are astronomical. It pays out around half of its revenues to its rightsholder clients, which in 2014 amounted to $465,364. But when one looks at the bigger picture that’s much, much less than half of the company’s problems.

In 2014 the company spent around $139,000 on sales and marketing. Its wages bill increased from $637,000 in 2013 to almost $1.15 million in 2014. And last year its lawyers earned more too.

In 2014 the company’s legal bills neared $481,000, that’s up from $355,500 in 2013. The increase is attributed to legal action being taken against the company, including harassment cases currently in the pipeline.

All told, Rightscorp incurred operating expenses of $4,329,602 during the twelve months ended December 31, 2014, versus $2,134,843 for the twelve months ended December 31, 2013.

So, with revenues of approximately $931,000, that’s a loss of around $3.4 million for 2014. The company lost ‘just’ $1.81 million in 2013. Nevertheless, Rightscorp still see their situation as positive.

“We recorded our strongest year yet with an astounding 187% year-over-year growth,” Steele said. “We are confident that by focusing on these growth metrics, we will be able to capture significant growth ahead.”

The company’s latest 10-K filing paints a more gloomy picture, however.

“The Company has not yet established an ongoing source of revenues sufficient to cover its operating costs and to allow it to continue as a going concern,” the filing reads.

“The ability of the Company to continue as a going concern is dependent on the Company obtaining adequate capital to fund operating losses until it establishes a revenue stream and becomes profitable. If the Company is unable to obtain adequate capital it could be forced to cease operations. Accordingly, these factors raise substantial doubt as to the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

While the company’s accounts give cause for concern, the precarious situation is only amplified when one examines Rightscorp’s over-exposure to a limited number of copyright-holder clients. In 2014 a total of 76% of Rightscorp sales came from one client, BMG Rights Management. The company’s contract with Warner Bros. accounted for a further 13% of sales.

If the former pulled the plug (and after a one year contract BMG only needs to give 30 days notice to do so) it could be game over for Rightscorp.

Link (TorrentFreak)