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Charter will pay $174.2m for defrauding New Yorkers over data speeds, the largest settlement ever paid by a US ISP

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Charter-Spectrum has settled a lawsuit brought by the New York Attorney General that accused the company of defrauding New Yorkers through false advertising about the data-speeds they could expect from their plans (among other things, the AG accused Charter of supplying customers with modems that were too slow to attain the speeds they'd paid for).

The settlement, for $174.2 million, is the largest ever paid by a US ISP. $62.5m will be refunded to 700,000 customers in cash; and $110m will come in the form of free premium cable TV and streaming for 2.2 million customers.

Earlier this year, Charter was ordered to leave New York, selling off its cable holdings to someone less crooked; it has been begging for its life ever since. Presumably this settlement is an opportunity to buy some goodwill while avoiding the bad publicity that a trial would create.

Per the attorney general’s office, that money will be distributed largely to customers who rented a modem or router from Spectrum, as well as customers subscribing to a legacy Time Warner Cable plan (from before Charter purchased the company) of 100 Mbps or higher. Customers who fit those categories will get $75 back, with an additional $75 to the roughly 150,000 customers who rented an inadequate modem for 24 months or more.

As for the streaming and cable services, Charter will be giving all customers who subscribe to both cable and internet either three free months of HBO or six free months of Showtime. Internet-only customers will get a free month of Charter’s Spectrum TV Choice streaming service and a free month of Showtime.

If you’re eligible for any of the above, expect to hear from Charter sometime in the next 120 days for more information.

Charter-Spectrum reaches $174.2 million settlement in New York AG’s speed fraud lawsuit [Chaim Gartenberg/The Verge]

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ttroxell
1130 days ago
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hell yea
San Francisco
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Elizabeth Warren's new bill: let the US government manufacture generic versions of overpriced, unavailable drugs

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Senator Elizabeth Warren has introduced a bill called the Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act, which allows the US government to manufacture generic versions of drugs "in cases in which no company is manufacturing a drug, when only one or two companies manufacture a drug and its price has spiked, when the drug is in shortage, or when a medicine listed as essential by the World Health Organization faces limited competition and high prices."

Generic drugs once dominated Americans' filled prescriptions, but as the number of manufacturers for generics has dwindled, so has their availability -- meanwhile, prices have surged, and while stories about Martin Shrkeli and epipen profiteers have generated headlines, they're just the tip of the iceberg. The high prices aren't just a product of an uncompetitive market; according to state antitrust suits, a cartel of 16 generic drug manufacturers conspired to fix prices on more than 300 drugs.

Warren's bill requires the US government to pay a license fee the patents on drugs; then grant permission to manufacturers to use these licensed patents to make the generic versions at a "fair price."

The bill also bans former drug lobbyists, and executives from pharma companies that had been punished for wrongdoing from serving as director of the new, proposed Office of Drug Manufacturing.

One drug is listed specifically: Generic insulin treatments would have to be produced within the first year of the legislation’s passage. Prices for insulin have skyrocketed in recent years and shortages are common.

“In market after market, competition is dying as a handful of giant companies spend millions to rig the rules,” Warren said in a statement. “The solution here is not to replace markets, but to fix them.”

Except the means to fix those markets is a government-directed option that puts the Department of Health and Human Services into the pharmaceutical manufacturing business. That’s the primary action in the legislation that allows competition to take root and prices to fall. In this sense, competition policy can work hand-in-hand with targeted nationalizations or public options.

Elizabeth Warren: It’s time to let the government manufacture generic drugs [Elizabeth Warren/Washington Post]

Elizabeth Warren Plan Would Allow the Government to Manufacture Its Own Generic Drugs [David Dayen/The Intercept]

(Image: Jonathan Rolande, CC-BY)

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ttroxell
1130 days ago
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yessssss
San Francisco
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Obamacare study: 25% decline in home delinquencies among newly insured poor people

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Poor people were not the primary target of Obamacare; as a group, their care is more likely to be "non-compensated" (trips to the emergency room while classed as "indigent" and unable to pay), so insurance shouldn't make a big difference to them, right?

Wrong.

A recently updated study, The Effect of Health Insurance on Home Payment Delinquency: Evidence from ACA Marketplace Subsidies, from finance and business researchers affiliated with both academic business schools and several federal reserve banks, compares the rate of home payment delinquencies (mostly rent payments) among the poorest Americans who received Obamacare through Medicaid expansion with their counterparts in Red States that rejected the expansion and denied coverage to their poor citizens.

The headline finding is that poor people with health-care are 25% less likely to miss rent payments than their uninsured counterparts. That finding is stable year-over-year, too.

The authors argue that the cost of the Medicaid expansion can be offset with savings from evictions, which impose costs in excess of the costs of providing health care.

But of course, those savings are a pittance compared to the national savings we'd realize by eliminating for-profit, private healthcare altogether and replacing it with a national universal healthcare system.

Instead, low-income households may be the most sensitive to healthcare shocks. Her results counter the conventional wisdom that poor people put off healthcare spending; often, they can’t. The study points to an example from Matthew Desmond’s Evicted, which recounts the circumstances of poor renters across Milwaukee. “They had fallen behind [on rent] two months ago, when a neck X-ray and brain scan set Teddy back $507. Teddy’s health problems began a year earlier, when he woke up in the hospital after tumbling down some steps,” his account reads. Shocks were more pronounced for households that reported a history of health problems on the survey.

“Instead of having roughly a one-in-three chance of being delinquent if you are uninsured and have an income near the poverty line, your chances look more like one in five,” Gallagher says, on the difference that subsidized health insurance makes.

For the Poor, Obamacare Can Reduce Late Rent Payments [Kriston Capps/Citylab]

(via Kottke)

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ttroxell
1142 days ago
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San Francisco
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Poland rejects the EU's copyright censorship plans, calls it #ACTA2

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In 2011, Europeans rose up over ACTA, the misleadingly named "Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement," which created broad surveillance and censorship regimes for the internet. They were successful in large part thanks to the Polish activists who thronged the streets to reject the plan, which had been hatched and exported by the US Trade Representative.

Now, Europe is in on the verge of an ever farther-reaching scheme to censor and surveil the internet: the new Copyright Directive, which limits who can link to (and criticise) the news and sets up crowdsourced databases of blacklisted content that anyone can add anything to, and which cannot thereafter be published online.

The Poles aren't having any of it: a broad coalition of Poles from the left and the right have come together to oppose the new Directive, dubbing it "ACTA2," which should give you an idea of how they feel about the matter.

There are now enough national governments opposed to the Directive to constitute a "blocking minority" that could stop it dead. Alas, the opposition is divided on whether to reform the offending parts of the Directive, or eliminate them outright (this division is why the Directive squeaked through the last vote, in September), and unless they can work together, the Directive still may proceed.

A massive coalition of 15,000 Polish creators whose videos, photos and text are enjoyed by over 20,000,000 Poles have signed an open letter supporting the idea of a strong, creator-focused copyright and rejecting the new Copyright Directive as a direct path to censoring filters that will deprive them of their livelihoods.

The coalition points out that online media is critical to the lives of everyday Poles for purposes that have nothing to do with the entertainment industry: education, the continuation of Polish culture, and connections to the global Polish diaspora.

Polish civil society and its ruling political party are united in opposing ACTA2; Polish President Andrzej Duda vowed to oppose it.

Early next month, the Polish Internet Governance Forum will host a roundtable on the question; they have invited proponents of the Directive to attend and publicly debate the issue.

Poland saved Europe from ACTA: can they save us from ACTA2? [Cory Doctorow/EFF Deeplinks]

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ttroxell
1142 days ago
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bravo poland
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AT&T disconnects whole families from the internet because someone in their house is accused of copyright infringement

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It's been five years since America's super-concentrated telcoms sector announced their "voluntary Copyright Alert system" (AKA Six Strikes), a system that said that if your someone in your household was accused of six acts of copyright infringement, everyone in your house would get the internet death penalty, having your net connection terminated.

The years of inaction after the policy was enacted, lulled a lot of us into thinking that the telcos and cable companies had thought better of playing judge, jury and executioner for people's internet access, but as the years ticked by, the sector has become even more concentrated, and what was once unthinkable is now reality.

This year, AT&T was allowed to buy Time-Warner, creating a second Big Telco/Big Media chimera (the other being Comcast/Universal), whose priorities are now split between providing access and taking it away (compare with what happened when Sony bought Columbia and went from being a company that provided new ways to listen to music to a company whose mission was to restrict how you listened to music).

AT&T has now begun to disconnect customers accused of infringement -- that is, accused of watching TV or listening to music in ways that are suboptimal for media companies' shareholders.

The customers who are being disconnected have never been able to face their accusers or have a day in court. The people they live with are not accused of any wrongdoing. The internet they are losing is likely the only option they have for broadband -- or one of two options, with the other one likely being a cable company like Comcast who may now join AT&T in a race to the bottom.

The internet is not a video-on-demand service, it's the nervous system of the 21st century. Terminating someone from the internet terminates their access to family, education, employment, civic and political engagement, health care information, and virtually everything else we use to measure whether a society is functioning well for its citizens.

Telcoms concentration is a disaster for an information society: from price-gouging to slow fiber rollouts to censorship to Net Neutrality violations and now disconnection, the creation of a concentrated, monopolized market in the most foundational part of our lives in the 21st century is a terrible, awful idea.

When we turn the tide, we need to not just regulate the telcos, we need to break them up. Cut them into pieces so small they can no longer lobby to ban municipal broadband, so small they can't spy on whole populations, so small that they can't afford to disconnect their customers on behalf of unaccountable, unnamed rightsholders who face no penalty for false accusations or sloppy bookkeeping.

In a statement to Axios, AT&T says content owners — which could be TV networks, music rights groups, or another group involved in production — notified AT&T when they believed they had evidence that an internet connection controlled by the telecom company was sharing copyrighted material unlawfully.

"Based on the notices we received, we identified the customer on the account and shared with them the information we received. We also reached out to the customer to educate them about copyright infringement and offer assistance to help prevent the activity from continuing," said an AT&T spokesperson.

"A small number of customers who continue to receive additional copyright infringement notifications from content owners despite our efforts to educate them, will have their service discontinued.”

Scoop: AT&T to cut off some customers' service in piracy crackdown [Sara Fischer and David McCabe/Axios]

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ttroxell
1173 days ago
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fuck you at&t
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Voting systems in Wisconsin and Kentucky are running FTP. Seriously.

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FTP -- the "file transfer protocol" -- is a long-supplanted Unix tool for transferring files between computers, once standard but now considered to be too insecure to use; so it's alarming that it's running on the voting information systems that will be used in elections in Wisconsin and Kentucky tomorrow.

The FBI has warned that "criminal actors" use FTP in targeting US voting systems. The Wisconsin Elections Commission and DHS have reported hacker attacks on Wisconsin voting machines in the 2016 elections.

Propublica portscanned the voting information systems in Kentucky and Wisconsin, which are connected to the fucking internet, and found FTP services being advertised by servers on the machines.

Kentucky's voting information systems did not require a password to access their FTP servers.

As of late Wednesday, Kentucky’s voter-registration server still allowed users to browse a list of files without a password. Even the names of the files contained clues that could conceivably help an intruder. For example, they indicated that Kentucky may use driver’s licenses on file in its motor vehicle software to verify voters’ identities.

Bradford Queen, a spokesman for Kentucky’s secretary of state, declined to say if running an FTP server was problematic. “We are constantly guarding against foreign and domestic bad actors and have confidence in the security measures deployed to protect our infrastructure,” he said.

“ProPublica’s claims regarding Kentucky’s website lack a complete understanding of the commonwealth’s full approach to security, which is multi-layered. Defenses exist within each layer to determine and block offending traffic.”

File-Sharing Software on State Election Servers Could Expose Them to Intruders [Jack Gillum and Jeff Kao/Propublica] Read the rest

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ttroxell
1174 days ago
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loooooooooooooooooooooool
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