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Russia, the Internet and a new way to wage war?

CNN)According to a report in The New York Times this week, the presence of Russian spy ships near important trans-Atlantic data cables is causing consternation among American military and intelligence officials. What, if anything, are the Russians planning to do? Are they trying to see how easily they could cut the cables if war broke out?

All anybody knows for sure is that the game theory that we used to plot out provocations and responses during the Cold War is obsolete in a digital age.

On the one hand, concerns about acts of digital sabotage in wartime are silly. If war broke out between the United States and Russia, we'd have much bigger problems on our hands than spotty connectivity over the Internet. Sure, it would put a serious dent in Internet-based communications, international banking and a host of other rather essential digital traffic. But unless an enemy shot our satellites out of the sky, the military could maintain basic command and control without the Internet. More...

10-29-2015 04:09

Here’s How Brazil Is Giving Every Citizen Free Mobile Data

Once considered the next great growth engine for the smartphone industry, Brazil is on the decline. With its economy shrinking and unemployment on the rise, many Brazilians are making do with dumb phones. They find the cost of an Internet-connected device prohibitive, particularly when they factor in mobile data fees.

One possible solution borrows from a technical breakthrough made by AT&T half a century ago. The Brazilian government is working with local companies and Qualcomm, the world’s largest mobile phone chipmaker, on a modern version of toll-free calling. A new 1-800 system for mobile data allows Brazilians to access their bank accounts for free on smartphones without incurring data costs. The government of São Paulo plans to extend free data services to some official websites by the end of the year.

Banco Bradesco, one of the country’s biggest banks, began exploring a free data program after observing that many customers had stopped using the company’s app and were switching back to such traditional banking services as phone calls and visits to the teller. A survey of those customers found that they couldn’t afford data plans and didn’t have access to Wi-Fi during work hours, when banks are open. Bradesco teamed up with technology giant Qualcomm, and together they spent a year negotiating with Brazil’s four main phone-service providers. The bank purchased data packages wholesale and started rolling out the program in 2014. Bradesco customers can check account balances, transfer money, and pay bills without buying a data plan. “The response was excellent,” says Mauricio Minas, a vice president at the bank. More...

08-18-2015 16:28

Net neutrality is here. What it means for you

A federal judge on Thursday rejected cable and phone companies' attempts to stop net neutrality in its tracks. That means the FCC's plan for new Internet rules go into effect as planned.

What changed Friday? The FCC will be able to assert extra authority over the Internet to establish net neutrality.

What is net neutrality? It's like equal opportunity for Internet speeds and access to websites: no unfair fast or slow lanes, and no blocking of anything that's legal on your phone, computer or tablet.

Isn't that what exists today? For the most part. In reality, the world won't look much different on Friday. Netflix won't suddenly stream any faster for you. AT&T and Comcast won't abruptly stop laying down high-speed fiber cables and investing in their networks as retaliation.

But the net neutrality rules mean Verizon can't block Google Wallet on your smartphone, like it did in 2011. Your phone carrier can't block tethering apps, which turn your phone into an Internet hotspot for your laptop or tablet. AT&T can't block video chatting apps like FaceTime or Google Hangouts. And Comcast can't slow down file-sharing websites, like it did to BitTorrent a few years ago. More...

06-16-2015 05:59

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