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Telecom giants battle bill which bans Internet service throttling for firefighters in emergencies

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AT&T trials fixed-wireless 5G in Indiana
AT&T has announced a trial of fixed-wireless 5G in South Bend, Indiana, utilising its full-fibre broadband network and millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum. Read more: https://zd.net/2Kgipsl

Internet service providers (ISPs) and telecom firms are fighting a bill which would force them to provide unfettered broadband services and prevent them from throttling data use in emergency situations.

The proposed legislation is due to voted upon by California’s Communications and Conveyance Committee next week.

As reported by StateScoop, the bill — introduced in February — aims to prevent a repeat of what happened in summer 2018 during the Mendocino Complex Fire, one of the largest wildfires recorded in California’s history.

During the blaze, which erupted in July, two combined fires burned a combined 459,123 acres, destroyed 280 structures, and resulted in the death of one firefighter, as reported by the Sacramento Bee.

As firefighters from the Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District fought to contain the fires, they found their Internet service drastically reduced, having been throttled in what Verizon Wireless later called a “customer support mistake.”

Such connectivity can be crucial in emergency situations to coordinate rescue and firefighting efforts. The fire department had an “unlimited” plan with Verizon, but Ars Technica reports this service was throttled to speeds of either 200kbps or 600kbps once 25GB — the monthly cap — was surpassed.

Verizon said at the time that the company has an internal policy to remove “data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations,” but this did not happen during the wildfires.

CNET: Microsoft: FCC’s broadband coverage maps are way off

To lift the throttling, instead, Verizon told the department to upgrade to a more expensive plan.

The new bill, AB 1699, would prevent Verizon and other ISPs from throttling public service plans in the same way as a consumer package in the future during emergency situations. However, vendors are opposing the legislation.

In a letter sent to California’s Communications and Conveyance Committee by industry lobby group CITA, the bill is described as having “vague mandates and problematic emergency trigger requirements.”

See also: AT&T Q1 mixed, but the company adds wireless smartphone subscribers

Furthermore, the lobbyists argue that AB 1699’s requirement for broadband service providers to not “impair or degrade” services is “ambiguous” and could cause “serious unintended consequences” such as future litigation. 

“Data prioritization for first responders is already provided by major mobile wireless providers and wireless carriers need the flexibility to manage their network traffic for optimum performance, especially during disasters,” the letter reads.

The group also demonstrates concern over what can be considered an emergency, and how long an ISP would have to respond and change its usual subscription practices. The “emergency trigger,” too, should be limited to a state of emergency declared by either the US President or a governor, the letter says.

TechRepublic: How AI could save the environment

According to a committee analysis of the bill, registered supporters are the California Central Valley Flood Control Association, the County of Santa Clara, the California Fire Chiefs Association and California Professional Firefighters, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Fire Districts Association of California, and the Public Advocates Office.

The only registered opposition to the legislation is CITA.

“An essential component of emergency communication in the modern fire service is transmission and receipt of data,” says the California Professional Firefighters group. “Throttling data service can be disastrous to the public’s safety. Indeed, an [ISP’s] manipulation, or ‘throttling,’ of the data rates can render a fire department’s needed communication resources virtually useless during an emergency.”

Previous and related coverage


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How To Earn Microsoft Reward Points While Playing Your Xbox Series X|S

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If you have an Xbox Series X or S, that means you already have a Microsoft account, and, presumably, you’ve linked the account to your console. If you haven’t, you’ll need to sign into the Microsoft account you want to use for earning rewards, so that when you play games and make purchases, the points go toward that particular email address. You can check out the points you’ve already earned, as well as various ways to earn more points, by heading over to the Microsoft Rewards user portal on the Bing website. You can also use the Microsoft Rewards app on Xbox.

If you want to grow your points by playing Xbox games, you’ll need to sign up for the Xbox Game Pass subscription, which provides customers with a large library of games they can play, as well as some other perks. Points are earned by completing quests in games that are available in the Game Pass library. Microsoft says you can view these quests in the Rewards app under the Xbox Games Pass section. If you haven’t yet downloaded the app, you can get a snapshot look at how the rewards process works on the Xbox Games Pass Quests web page.

According to Microsoft, it adds new quests to this section of the Rewards app on a daily basis. Keep in mind that you’ll need to manually head over to that part of the app when you finish a quest in order to redeem the points. Once those points have been applied to your account, however, you’ll be able to redeem them for rewards within the same app.

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The 1993 Aston Martin Concept Car Perfect For Any James Bond Villain

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Cream leather, chrome, white dials, and a thin-rimmed steering wheel tell the story of an Art Deco cabin modernized for the mid-1990s. The dashboard, pedals, and wheel featured extensive nickel plating, says David Dowsey, while the dashboard was made from a single piece of laminated beech wood.

According to a Discovery documentary about Lagonda — and in what must have felt thoroughly futuristic at the time — the concept featured an integrated satellite navigation system and built-in laptop computers for rear passengers (or Bond villains) to work on. A final flourish saw the car’s steering wheel move out of the way when the driver’s door was opened.

Although it would surely have been toned down for a production version, the concept’s retro interior details are reminiscent of the Jaguar S-Type that arrived in 1999. At the time, both Jaguar and Aston Martin (as well as Land Rover, Lincoln, and Volvo) were part of the Ford-owned Premier Automotive Group.

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Netflix And GM Have Teamed-Up For A New Super Bowl 2023 Ad Featuring Will Ferrell

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According to a press release from General Motors, the auto giant teamed up with Netflix during past championship games to show off its then-brand-new Ultium EV platform. This year, the ads feature former “Saturday Night Live” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” star Will Ferrell driving around a new GMC Sierra EV in the Netflix original “Army of the Dead.” An ad also features Will Ferrell in the back of a Chevy Blazer EV in the “Squid Game” universe.

Netflix says that it’s already committed to putting as many EVs in its original programming as it can. As such, a Chevy Bolt will be present in an upcoming season of “Love is Blind,” a Bolt EUV will appear in “The Brothers Sun,” a GMC Hummer will star in “Queer Eye,” and Rob Lowe will drive around a Cadillac Lyriq in “Unstable.” 

Blatant product placement can be hit or miss, especially when it comes to a huge financial decision like a car. However, stuffing shows full of EVs with the help of GM is certainly one way to get people talking about electric cars.

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