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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.”

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NASA’s InSight Lander Will Keep Hunting For Marsqakes As It Runs Out Of Power

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InSight’s seismometer is being prioritized because that is the lander’s primary instrument for studying marsquakes. Like Earth, Mars is periodically shaken by quakes, but unlike Earth, these aren’t caused by tectonic plates. There are competing theories about whether these quakes are caused by fractures in the crust caused by the planet cooling or by volcanic activity beneath the surface (via phys.org). InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes in its mission to date since it landed in 2018. Its primary mission was to study the marsquakes for two years, and this was extended so the lander could keep collecting data as long as possible.

By studying marsquakes, researchers can learn about the interior structure of Mars. They can see how the quakes pass through the interior of the planet, and from this they can deduce how solid or liquid the different layers are. Thanks to InSight, we know that Mars has a core 1,137 miles in radius, which is molten (unlike the core of Earth, which is solid) and surrounded by a mantle stretching 969 miles below the surface, as well as a crust that is surprisingly thin and may have two or three sublayers (via JPL).

This information isn’t only teaching us about Mars, but it also gives us an idea of what other rocky exoplanets might be like. “InSight has transformed our understanding of the interiors of rocky planets and set the stage for future missions,” said Lori Glaze, the director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA. “We can apply what we’ve learned about Mars’ inner structure to Earth, the Moon, Venus, and even rocky planets in other solar systems.”

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The New 2023 BMW 3 Series Avoids A Huge Grille Mistake

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The base 2023 BMW 330i and 330e PHEV get a moonroof, power front seats, open-pore wood oak interior trim, a sport steering wheel, interior ambient lighting, and sport seats. Also standard is BMW’s curved display comprising a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 14.9-inch center touchscreen powered by the latest-gen iDrive 8 OS. The system includes cloud-based BMW Maps with connected parking, a BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant (that replies to touch and speech commands), 5G connectivity, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto with Sirius XM.

Meanwhile, the M340i has M sport brakes with blue calipers, variable sport steering, an M sport differential, M sport suspension, and an aero body kit with a rear spoiler. Optional features include the Driving Assistance Package (lane departure warning, active blind-spot detection, park distance control, and more), the Dynamic Handling Package, and the Premium Package (heated steering wheel, lumbar support, heated seats, etcetera). BMW will announce pricing for its 2023 3 Series nearer its official July 2022 launch date, but we expect base prices to start at $42,000 for the 330i and about $55,000 for the M340i. The first deliveries will arrive later this year.

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FDA Authorizes Pfizer Booster For Children 5 And Older

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In order to test the efficacy of the single Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster dose for children between 5 and 11 years of age, the agency monitored 400 children who received it anywhere between five to nine months after the primary series of dosages that involved two jabs. Coming to the side effects part of the booster shot, the U.S. FDA lists fatigue, headache, chills, fever, muscle or joint pain, pain, swelling, and redness at the injection site.

Talking about the decision, FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf noted more kids have fallen ill and been hospitalized in the Omicron wave, complete with the risk of long-term effects on body systems even after a mild illness. With an official nod for the administration of a single booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 5 years of age, the agency aims to provide a stronger line of defense against COVID-19.

Pfizer, on the other hand, estimates that more than 8 million children in the age group of 5 to 11 years have completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccination and are eligible for a booster shot. Citing data from a clinical trial, the company claims that the booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine can produce antibodies that are capable of neutralizing both the Omicron variant as well as the wild-type COVID-19 virus.

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