Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

Both Amazon and Google are thinking about turning their respective home speakers — Echo and Google Home — into home telephones. Knowledgeable sources say the tech giants could introduce the feature this year, with the goal of gaining yet more control over consumers’ home lives. But the companies are also finding that it’s not so simple, facing issues related to privacy, telecom regulations and emergency services — as well as the potential that consumers will be wary that their conversations are being recorded. Continue reading Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

EU to Propose Stricter Regulations Impacting Digital Services

The European Union has unveiled proposed regulations designed to help protect its consumers. The goal is to create a single market out of Europe’s many regions, enabling its 500 million consumers to access the same services. But the EU proposals also create stricter demands for privacy and against copyright infringement, including reforms that would hold streaming services responsible for instituting better anti-piracy methods. From the perspective of Silicon Valley and much of Hollywood, the EU’s efforts are a form of protectionism. Continue reading EU to Propose Stricter Regulations Impacting Digital Services

EU Proposes Regulations for Online Communication Services

The European Union’s executive arm is poised to propose that online communication services such as Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp be regulated similarly to telecoms, a move that telecom executives have long advocated as creating a level playing field. Telecoms would actually prefer that the EU repeal regulations on user privacy among other specifics but, in lieu of that, are content to see their industry-specific regulations extended to online communication services, most of which are currently free. Continue reading EU Proposes Regulations for Online Communication Services

EU Rules to Create Parity Between Internet Apps and Carriers

Deutsche Telekom and Spain’s Telefónica have long lobbied the European Union to either repeal some of the onerous regulations governing carriers or to extend them to Internet-based text-message and voice-call services, including Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp. Now, carriers might get their wish as the EU’s executive body is on the verge of suggesting more rules for Skype, WhatsApp and their ilk: tighter privacy and security, and an easier way for consumers to move information when switching services. Continue reading EU Rules to Create Parity Between Internet Apps and Carriers

EU Telcos Join Forces for 5G Networks, Weaker Net Neutrality

BT, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Hutchison, Nokia, Orange, Telefonica, Telenor and Vodafone are part of a group of 20 telcos that released a “5G Manifesto,” detailing what governments need to do to ensure 5G coverage across Europe. The companies say they will begin conducting large-scale tests of 5G by 2018, with a 2020 commercial launch in at least one city in each EU country. But the telcos also warn that net neutrality stands in the way of innovation and ask governments to lessen strictures enforcing it. Continue reading EU Telcos Join Forces for 5G Networks, Weaker Net Neutrality

Messaging Service WhatsApp Temporarily Shut Down in Brazil

As the result of a court order, Facebook-owned WhatsApp was shut down in Brazil yesterday. In an effort to obtain user data for a criminal investigation involving drug trafficking, Judge Marcel Maia Montalvão ordered telecoms to suspend the popular messaging service for 72 hours throughout Brazil. In March, Judge Montalvão ordered the arrest of Facebook exec Diego Dzodan, who was briefly taken into custody for refusing to turn over WhatsApp data (a higher court ordered the release of Dzodan after one night). WhatsApp says it has cooperated to the “full extent of [its] ability with local courts.” Continue reading Messaging Service WhatsApp Temporarily Shut Down in Brazil

AT&T Winning Race to Gigabit Internet, Passing Google Fiber

Google’s super-fast broadband service, Google Fiber, has only debuted in four cities serving fewer than 100,000 people. But its very existence spurred Comcast and AT&T to up their game, offering the same 1-gigabit Internet speed. Now, the leader, AT&T, offers its GigaPower service in 20 urban areas, and Comcast, which tested cable-based gigabit in Atlanta, has plans to roll it out in Nashville, Chicago, Detroit and Miami later this year. That probably suits Google just fine, since its end game is to sell ads requiring that speed. Continue reading AT&T Winning Race to Gigabit Internet, Passing Google Fiber

Telecoms and Silicon Valley Engage at Mobile World Congress

European telecoms and Silicon Valley giants are jousting again, at the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The major carriers, including Deutsche Telekom AG and Spain’s Telefónica SA are pushing for the European Union to either lift some of the regulations imposed on them or apply similar rules to Internet-based text and voice services, such as Facebook’s WhatsApp or Google Hangouts. At the same time, several telecoms have signed on to Facebook’s TIP project, an open source initiative to design cellular towers. Continue reading Telecoms and Silicon Valley Engage at Mobile World Congress

New Ericsson, Cisco Alliance to Impact Internet of Things, 5G

Ericsson and Cisco Systems, leaders in mobile and Internet equipment respectively, are forming an alliance to beat back the competition, enjoy synergies in the mobile market and target the growing fields of Internet of Things and 5G. The alliance isn’t a merger, but in many ways acts like one: Ericsson and Cisco plan to integrate their existing equipment, combine some sales and consulting areas and perhaps develop new hardware and services. Competitors include Chinese company Huawei and Nokia, which just bought Alcatel-Lucent. Continue reading New Ericsson, Cisco Alliance to Impact Internet of Things, 5G

Apple, BMW Continue Conversations About Connected E-Car

When Apple chief executive Tim Cook and other senior executives visited BMW headquarters last year, to learn how the German car manufacturer makes its i3 electric car, rumors were rife that a partnership deal was in the works. When no announcement followed, many concluded that Apple was pursuing its own branded electric car. Now, industry insiders have come out with another twist in the story: Apple and BMW are still talking about their mutual interest in an intelligent electric car. Continue reading Apple, BMW Continue Conversations About Connected E-Car

FCC Calls for Safeguards as Telecoms Upgrade Copper to Fiber

U.S. regulators have proposed a new rule that would require major carriers such as Verizon and AT&T to maintain their current levels of service while they update aging copper networks with new fiber. The FCC’s proposal would require that the big carriers offer “reasonably comparable” services and conditions for their new technologies as well, in an effort to prevent an immediate impact on smaller carriers. The commissioners are scheduled to vote on the proposed rule next month. Continue reading FCC Calls for Safeguards as Telecoms Upgrade Copper to Fiber

CBS All Access Targets Cord-Cutters and Cord-Nevers Demo

Just one day after HBO announced its plans to launch a standalone Internet streaming service in 2015, CBS followed with news of its own subscription streaming service that will provide consumers with access to live programming in addition to thousands of current and past programs on demand. The announcements could be good news for cord-cutters who are increasingly turning to the Internet for content. The news may also have an eventual impact on how TV is offered by cable, satellite and telecoms. Continue reading CBS All Access Targets Cord-Cutters and Cord-Nevers Demo

Justice Department Memo Tells Which Telecoms Store Data the Longest

  • “People who are upset that Facebook is storing all their information should be really concerned that their cell phone is tracking them everywhere they’ve been… The government has this information because it wants to engage in surveillance,” an ACLU staff attorney said.
  • A newly released Justice Department internal memo reveals the retention policies of Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint.
  • Verizon seems the most privacy-friendly, but is the only company that retains text message content. Messages are stored for 5 days; other companies don’t retain message content at all.
  • The retention of “cell-site data” (information of a phone’s movement history based on phone tower usage) varied the most among the four providers.
  • “Verizon keeps that data on a one-year rolling basis; T-Mobile for ‘a year or more;’ Sprint up to two years, and AT&T indefinitely, from July 2008,” reports Gizmodo.
  • Senator Patrick Leahy proposed to alter the Electronic Privacy Communications Act to “protect Americans from warrantless intrusions.”
  • To see your provider’s retention policy, check out the graphic featured in the Gizmodo post.