2022-01-01 06:02:19 ..
2022-05-24 10:39:01 UTC
2022-05-26 12:31:44 UTC --fnord666
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The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) set aside $42.5 billion to be spent by the states on expanding access to affordable broadband. But state by state, telecom lobbyists are working hard to ensure that this money only goes toward "unserved" locations, and can't be used to potentially create competition in markets they already serve.
Last month we noted how states like Illinois, at the direct demand of companies like AT&T, have been passing restrictions on who can or can't access these funds. That includes blocking some cooperatives or local governments from building broadband networks. Since that's expressly forbidden by the IIJA, these states are risking all broadband funding
In other instances it's a bit more subtle than that. Missouri, for example, just passed a bill (once again directly demanded by AT&T) stating that "no federal funds received by the state, political subdivision, city, town, or village shall be expended for the construction of retail broadband internet infrastructure unless the project to be constructed is located in an unserved area or underserved area."
On its face it doesn't seem controversial. But if you know how the U.S. telecom sector and policy actually works, its intention becomes more clear. The bill doesn't just block funding for areas that are already served, it blocks access to projects in areas incumbent ISPs claim they might serve someday:
the current version of the bill would allow incumbent ISPs to block federal funding to competitors if they vaguely indicate they have eventual interest in upgrading an area. Historically, state and federal regulators in fealty to regional monopolies aren't consistent about following up on fiber deployment promises, potentially perpetuating longstanding Internet access coverage gaps.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) on Thursday is introducing a bill to abolish Section 230 — the law the protects online platforms from liability — on the heels of Twitter accepting Elon Musk's offer to buy the company and take it private.
Greene's bill would eliminate the law making online platforms not liable for content posted by third parties and replace it with a provision to require "reasonable, non-discriminatory access to online communications platforms" through a "common carrier" framework that Greene compared to airlines or package delivery services.
Republicans have long claimed that social media platforms have an anti-conservative bias, pointing to tweets that have been taken down and the removal of entire feeds from networks.
[....] Titled the 21st Century FREE Speech Act, Greene's measure will serve as the House version of a Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.).
To combat the alleged bias against conservatives, it would prevent online communications platforms from exerting "undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person, class of persons, political or religious group or affiliation, or locality" and would provide consumers a mechanism to sue for violations.
Should any platform be liable for someone else's speech? Even if they engage in moderation?
For decades now, a favorite DC lobbying tactic has been to create bogus groups pretending to support something unpopular your company is doing. Like "environmentalists for big oil" or "Americans who really love telecom monopolies." These groups then help big companies create a sound-wall of illusory support for policies that generally aren't popular, or great for innovation or markets.
Case in point: this week both Politico and CNBC released stories showcasing how Amazon and Google had been funding a "small business alliance" that appears to be partially or entirely contrived. The group, the Connected Commerce Council, professes to represent small U.S. businesses, yet has been busy recently lobbying government to avoid antitrust reform (which would, generally, aid small businesses).
When Politico reached out to companies listed as members of the organization, most of them had mysteriously never heard of it, and were greatly annoyed their company names were being used for such a purpose:
The four-year-old group listed about 5,000 small businesses in its membership directory before it removed that document from its website late last month. When POLITICO contacted 70 of those businesses, 61 said they were not members of the group and many added that they were not familiar with the organization.
Google is not your friend!
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has opened an investigation into Amazon's labor practices during severe weather, according to a letter the members sent to Andy Jassy, Amazon's chief executive.
"We are concerned about recent reports that Amazon may be endangering the health and safety of its workers, including requiring them to work in hazardous conditions during tornadoes, hurricanes, and other extreme weather conditions," indicates the letter, signed by the chair of the committee. [...]
The investigation will focus on the December tornado who hit amazon's delivery station in Edwardsville, Illinois, killing six people. Most employees at the facility were not direct Amazon employees. They were contracted delivery drivers, a complication that hampered the response when authorities could not easily determine how many people were at the scene.
[...] "Our goal remains to support our employees and partners, the families who have lost loved ones, the surrounding community, and everyone affected by the tornadoes," Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said Friday. "We will respond to this letter in due course."
What does YOUR workplace do in severe weather?
Only red-roofed houses interrupt the vast carpet of fields that surround the village of Gornje Nedeljice, in western Serbia. To resident Marijana Petković, this is the most beautiful place in the world. She's not against Europe's green transition, the plan to make the bloc's economy climate neutral by 2050. But she is among those who believe Serbia's fertile Jadar Valley—where locals grow raspberries and keep bees—is being asked to make huge sacrifices to enable other countries to build electric cars.
Around 300 meters away from Petković's house, according to the multinational mining giant Rio Tinto, there is enough lithium to create 1 million EV batteries, and the company wants to spend $2.4 billion to build Europe's biggest lithium mine here. But Petković and other locals oppose the project, arguing it will cause irreparable damage to the environment. When asked about that claim, a spokesperson for Rio Tinto told WIRED that throughout the project, the company has "recognized that Jadar will need to be developed to the highest environmental standards." Petković is not convinced. "I want the western countries to have the green transition and to live like people in Jadar," she says. "But that doesn't mean that we need to destroy our nature."
Officially, the Jadar mine is not happening. After months of protests against the project, the government conceded, and in January it was canceled. "As far as Project Jadar is concerned, this is an end," Serbian prime minister Ana Brnabić said on January 20, after Rio Tinto's lithium exploration licenses were revoked.
There is widespread suspicion, however, that the project was canceled to stop protests overshadowing the presidential and parliamentary elections on April 3, and could restart if the government is reelected. "This might have been a pre-election ploy," says Florian Bieber, a professor of southeast European history and politics at Austria's University of Graz. "I wouldn't be surprised if the government picks up this issue again once the elections are done, because they see the economic benefits." A Rio Tinto shareholder expressed a similar expectation to Reuters, adding they expect the mine to be renegotiated after the vote. Rio Tinto denies this is its intention and says it has not planned or implemented any activities contrary to the project's legal status.
Europe has big plans to phase out fossil-fuel cars. In July, the European Union proposed a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035. The bloc wants to replace those cars with electric vehicles, built with locally produced raw materials like lithium. The top lithium producers are currently Australia, Chile, and China. But Europe has ambitions to produce more of the materials it needs for electric cars at home. These materials "are extremely expensive to ship and are transported across the world several times over," says Emily Burlinghaus, a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Germany. "So it's much cheaper and much safer to have these operations close to battery manufacturing plants or auto manufacturing plants."
For Europeans it's also a security issue. "We cannot allow [the EU] to replace [its] current reliance on fossil fuels with dependency on critical raw materials," said Maroš Šefčovič, the commission vice president for inter-institutional relations, in 2020.
As the climate crisis intensifies, battle lines are beginning to form over water. In Arizona -- amid a decades-long megadrought -- some communities are facing the very real possibility of losing access to the precious water that remains.
Outside the city limits of Scottsdale, where the asphalt ends and the dirt road begins, is the Rio Verde Foothills community. Hundreds of homes here get water trucked in from Scottsdale, but those deliveries will end on January 1, 2023.
That's because last summer, for the first time ever, drought conditions forced the federal government to declare a tier 1 water shortage in the Colorado River, reducing how much Arizona can use.
[...] "We are what I call the 'sacrificial lamb' for the bigger areas," Irwin told CNN. "In my opinion, look somewhere else -- we need to be able to sustain ourselves."
The scarcity of water in the state is pitting small towns against fast-growing metropolitan communities.
[...] Arizona's population growth and extreme drought have increased demand for water in limited supply. Kathleen Ferris, a senior research fellow with the Kyl Center for Water Policy in Arizona, says water scarcity in the state has resulted in the "haves" and the "have nots," and likened the coming water battles to the days of the Wild West. "Once you have your water rights, you defend it," Ferris said. "That's the way it works."
Finland must brace for Russian interference and hybrid attacks as it weighs whether to join the NATO military alliance, the security services warned on Tuesday.
The Nordic nation shares a 1,340-kilometre (830-mile) border with Russia and has remained militarily non-aligned since the end of World War II to avoid provoking its eastern neighbour.
[...] "The whole of Finnish society must be vigilant towards Russian attempts to influence Finnish decision-making regarding the NATO question," Antti Pelttari, head of the Finnish security services Supo, said.
Releasing its updated terrorism threat report, Supo on Tuesday highlighted the danger of "widespread Russian interference and illegal surveillance," but kept the national terror threat at level two, or "elevated", on a scale of four.
[...] Finland has previously been subject to so-called hybrid tactics from Moscow, such as repeated airspace incursions, or the release in 2016 of 1,700 migrants across the Finnish border.
Earlier this month the transport authority Traficom said it had received "numerous" reports from aircraft of GPS interference in eastern Finland, but was unable to identify the source of the interference.
The U.S. Justice Department fired another legal salvo against Russia on Thursday, announcing indictments against four Russian government employees for an alleged hacking campaign targeting the energy sector that lasted for years and targeted computers in 135 countries.
An indictment in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia charges that Evgeny Viktorovich Gladkikh, who worked at a Russian Ministry of Defense research institute, conspired with others to damage critical infrastructure outside the United States, causing emergency shutdowns at one foreign facility. Thosecharged in the indictment, under seal since June 2021, also allegedly tried to hack the computers of a U.S. firm that managed similar facilities in the United States.
A separate indictment filed in Kansas alleges that a hacking campaign launched by Russian's federal security service, or FSB, targeted computers at hundreds of energy-related entities around the world. That indictment was also filed under seal last summer.
The hacking activity took place between 2012 and 2018, U.S. officials said. The decision to reveal the indictments underscores the concern U.S. and European officials have about Russia unleashing a wave of cyberattacks on the West in response to a new wave of sanctions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said there is an "urgent ongoing need for American businesses to harden their defenses and remain vigilant." She said Russian state-sponsored hackers "pose a serious and persistent threat to critical infrastructure both in the United States and around the world."
Russia is considering accepting Bitcoin as payment for its oil and gas exports, according to a high-ranking lawmaker.> Pavel Zavalny says "friendly" countries could be allowed to pay in the crypto-currency or in their local currencies.
Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he wanted "unfriendly" countries to buy its gas with roubles.
The move is understood to be aimed at boosting the Russian currency, which has lost over 20% in value this year.
[...] However, Russia is still the world's biggest exporter of natural gas and the second largest supplier of oil.
Mr Zavalny, who heads Russia's State Duma committee on energy, said on Thursday that the country has been exploring alternative ways to receive payment for energy exports.
He said China and Turkey were among "friendly" countries which were "not involved in the sanctions pressure".
[...] Mr Putin's comments on making "unfriendly" countries pay in roubles drove the currency to a three-week high.
However, many existing gas contracts are agreed upon in euros and it is unclear if Russia can change them. The EU relies on Russia for 40% of its gas.
Minnesota state lawmakers are trying to prohibit social media platforms from using algorithms to recommend content to anyone under age 18. The bill was approved Tuesday by the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee in a 15-1 vote. The potential state law goes next to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee, which has put it on the docket for a hearing on March 22.
The algorithm ban applies to platforms with at least 1 million account holders and says those companies would be "prohibited from using a social media algorithm to target user-created content at an account holder under the age of 18." There are exemptions for content created by federal, state, or local governments and by public or private schools.
"This bill prohibits a social media platform like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp, TikTok, and others, from using algorithms to target children with specific types of content," the bill summary says. "The bill would require anyone operating a social media platform with more than one million users to require that algorithm functions be turned off for accounts owned by anyone under the age of 18." Social media companies would be "liable for damages and a civil penalty of $1,000 for each violation."
Tech-industry lobbyists say the bill would violate the First Amendment, prevent companies from recommending useful content, and require them to collect more data on the ages and locations of users.