Issues

Internet of Things, Smart Cities, and Next Generation Networks (5G)

Whether we are ready or not, the fifth generation (5G) of mobile communication networks is on the horizon! 5G is going to provide billions of new devices wired and wireless connections, and enable positive economic impacts from the “Internet of Things” and “Smart City” initiatives.

5G is going to affect our lives more than any other wireless technology of the past.

However, in order to meet that high demand, telecom networks will need to expand in capacity and reach. Wireless providers will need to work collaboratively with state and local governments to encourage deployment of this technology.

Accenture recently released a report, “Smart Cities: How 5G Can Help Municipalities Become Vibrant Smart Cities” which details how 5G will grow the U.S. economy, create American jobs, and enable wireless-powered smart city solutions in communities across the country.

With the deployment of 5G, we are ushering in the future of machines talking to machines and wireless network speeds that are 10 times faster than today. This advancement to 5G will have a dramatic effect on our everyday lives, allowing for the next innovation in communications.

FREE DATA

Free Data Victory!

Early last month the Federal Communications Commission closed inquiries into sponsored data programs, effectively allowing consumers to take advantage of these offerings. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released the following statement:

“Today, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau is closing its investigation into wireless carriers’ free-data offerings. These free-data plans have proven to be popular among consumers, particularly low-income Americans, and have enhanced competition in the wireless marketplace. Going forward, the Federal Communications Commission will not focus on denying Americans free data. Instead, we will concentrate on expanding broadband deployment and encouraging innovative service offerings.”

#MobileLikeMe is encouraged by the Chairman’s commitment and focus on to ensure all Americans are afforded the opportunity to access broadband.

Free data plans are new and innovative services that give you “free” content as part of your existing wireless data plan. Free data means you can explore websites, download apps or stream movies and music without it counting against your data plan. Free data allows you to enjoy more of what you want, when you want it, without impacting your existing data plan. That’s free data. It’s simple: free data plans let you expand your online activities at no extra cost.

free dataLike most innovative offerings, there are lots of different options! You may be given free data by your provider when you access particular content or websites – meaning you don’t have to do anything to take advantage of the offering. You may see a symbol or other indicator when you access free data content, or you may be informed that all data consumed using a particular application is free. Free data offers you more data than you otherwise would get under normal data plans without incurring any additional cost, hassles or worries, and you are in charge of choosing whether or not to take advantage of these offers.

Some free data is offered by the mobile operator as a way to attract you to its service. Other free data plans allow companies to sponsor your data meaning that they pay for the data you use when accessing their sponsored content so it doesn’t come out of your data plan. This is no different than an 800 number that lets you make a call for free because the company you are calling pays for the call instead. Plenty of businesses provide free services to attract customers. Just look at Amazon with its free shipping or coffee shops with free Wi-Fi. Even conventional broadcast TV is free to watch because advertisers pay for the programming. Like free data, all of these examples involve someone other than you paying for a service that you enjoy.

We must act now to protect these free data plans from regulators and policymakers in Washington. It is up to us to encourage companies to do even more to provide us with even smarter ways to satisfy our growing mobile appetite. Our goal is to make sure these offerings are left to grow and evolve, just like the Internet we all love and rely upon every day.

So join us in letting Washington know how much free data plans matter to you!

PRE-PAID MOBILE PHONE ID

There is a thin line between security and surveillance, and that line will be crossed in the market for prepaid mobile phones if a new Congressional bill is passed.

keyholeCalifornia Congresswoman Jackie Speier recently introduced a bill that would require prepaid mobile consumers to provide an excessive amount of information before they can purchase a prepaid mobile phone. Per the bill, this info would include:

All other sales not made in person would require:

This is far more information than is needed for legitimate law enforcement purposes.

This legislation, while likely crafted in an attempt to curtail criminal activity that might be facilitated by a prepaid mobile phone, will do more harm than good to millions low-income Americans who rely on mobile phones to stay connected.

The benefit of prepaid mobile phones is that they are immensely helpful in cutting costs, allowing consumers living on tight budgets to better monitor and adjust how they use their mobile device from month to month. The ease of buying these phones has been essential to the poor, people of color and, especially, to low-income women. Unfortunately, Congresswoman Speier’s bill would change these dynamics and erect significant barriers to staying connected.

If the ultimate goal is to promote public safety and reduce crime, there are better ways to do that than to make it difficult or impossible for millions of to get the access they need and can afford. This bill needs to be retracted before it does damage to our country’s most vulnerable Americans.

Please join us in asking Congresswoman Speier and her colleagues in Congress to withdraw her bill!

LIFELINE

Lifeline – an aptly named federal program that provides the poorest in our communities with vital support necessary to remain connected either through a traditional landline or increasingly via wireless. Specifically, the Lifeline program has provided lower-income households with a subsidy to help pay for their traditional phone service.

finger pointing at phoneLifeline has been around for a while; over three decades and counting of helping millions of us in need and doing so without the political controversy that is all too common in Washington.

Recently, the FCC with vision and compassion upgraded Lifeline to make it more relevant for the digital world. Today, the modernized Lifeline program can be used to help pay, not only for phone service, but also for Internet access. For the poorest in our African Americans and Latinos neighborhoods, this is very welcomed news because we depend on our smartphones and the Internet to serve as a daily “Lifeline” to staying connected, engaged and hopeful.

By helping to close the digital divide, the Lifeline program is critical to ensuring all communities have access to the opportunities that flow from accessing the Internet. Unfortunately, some in Congress want to shrink the Lifeline program’s budget just when issues like rising income inequality make it more important than ever to make sure everyone has Internet access. Currently, a bill is pending in Congress – H.R. 4884, the “CURB Lifeline Act” – that would scale back funding for Lifeline by imposing short-sided, painful and unnecessary caps on future funding on this critical program. Capping funding for this program means closing the door on millions of low income Americans that won’t be able to afford Internet access without the Lifeline subsidy.

Just imagine trying to do homework or finding a job these days without Internet access. Not only is it not easy, it is practically impossible. Yet, that is what some lawmakers are intending to do under the guise of reducing federal spending. To be clear, Lifeline represents a miniscule portion of the federal budget yet serves tens of millions of our friends and neighbors.

Help us stop the cap! Join us and let your voice be heard loud and clear. Say yes to Lifeline and no to the special interests pushing Congress to cap our Lifeline to a better tomorrow.

STINGRAY

Sting-Ray Updates

On February 15, 2017, members of Congress introduced bi-partisan legislation requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before tracking consumers via their mobile devices. S. 395/H.R. 1062, the “Geolocational Privacy and Surveillance Act” or the “GPS Act”, would “specify the circumstances in which a person may acquire geolocation information.” Senator Ron Wyden , D-Oregon, and Congressman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and John Conyers, D-Michigan introduced the bills.

Relatedly, H.R. 1061, the “Cell Location Privacy Act of 2017”, would “regulate the use of cell-site simulators.” Also, known as sting-rays, these devices captures data by mimicking a cell phone tower. This bill would protect citizen’s privacy’s and requires law enforcement and other government agencies to obtain a warrant before using these devices.

Read the update by USA Today on these actions.

Every time you use your cellphone, the police might just be spying on you. They might be tracking your location, recording your calls, monitoring your online activities or reading your texts. And if you’re Black or Hispanic, the chances of this happening are even greater – simply because you are more likely to rely on smartphones as the primary means of going online.

How is this possible? By using a device called a Stingray.

Whenever you use your phone, it transmits a lot of information – where you are, who you’re communicating with – that is relayed by cell towers. A Stingray is used to mimic a cell tower. In other words, it tricks your phone into thinking it is sending information to a normal wireless tower, when in fact it is a police-owned device that is increasingly being used to spy on you.

This might seem like a useful tool when tracking obvious criminals, but the problem is that police departments across the country are using Stingrays more and more to track people they think might be criminals. There have even been instances where the police have used them for mass surveillance, like during lawful protests. And what’s worse is that the police use Stingrays in many cases without even obtaining a search warrant.

Lawmakers across the country have tried to reign in the use of Stingrays, but law enforcement has been resistant. In most instances, the police refuse to make public when and how they use these devices. The information they collect essentially goes into a black box that not even courts are willing or able to disclose. In short, the police have a blank check to spy on us.

We understand that protecting the public requires a range of tools, especially when criminals are more and more adept at using new technologies to evade arrest. But the costs of using the Stingray, when measured in terms of its threats to our privacy and its slow erosion of public trust in law enforcement, far outweigh any benefits it might deliver. That’s why more clarity and transparency in the use of Stingrays is needed.