Jan 282015

On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission issued an “Enforcement Advisory” stating that blocking W-Fi in hotels is unequivocally “prohibited.”

“Persons or businesses causing intentional interference to Wi-Fi hotspots are subject to enforcement action,” the FCC bluntly stated, referencing a dispute between Marriott and its customers who said the hotel chain had blocked their personal hotspots to force them to pay for Marriott’s Wi-Fi services.

“The Enforcement Bureau has seen a disturbing trend in which hotels and other commercial establishments block wireless consumers from using their own personal Wi-Fi hot spots on the commercial establishment’s premises,” the FCC wrote. “As a result, the Bureau is protecting consumers by aggressively investigating and acting against such unlawful intentional interference.”

via FCC: Blocking Wi-Fi in hotels is prohibited | Ars Technica.



Feb 052013


The Federal Communication Commission is proposing a “Super Wi-Fi” network that could potentially give everyone free access to fast wireless Internet. The plan already has support from tech giants Google and Microsoft, but faces stiff opposition from telecom companies such as AT&T and Verizon that fear a Super Wi-Fi network could destroy their existing business models and create interference with their cellular and TV networks.

As the The Washington Post notes, a free public Wi-Fi network that spans the entire nation would allow people to cut their cellular data plans, but more importantly, would grant universal Internet access to poorer folk. While Super Wi-Fi isn’t even based on traditional Wi-Fi tech and isn’t endorsed by the Wi-Fi Alliance, it is super, in that it could potentially deliver data speeds of up to 20 megabits per second over miles, passing right through thick walls and other solid objects that would normally reduce a Wi-Fi signal.

MORE: Free government-owned ‘Super Wi-Fi’ could kill your Internet bill 




Jan 082013


Google, in an expansion of its role as an Internet Service Provider, introduced Tuesday New York City’s biggest contiguous free public Wi-Fi network in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.

Google’s choice of location for the giant network is no surprise: Chelsea is home to Google’s New York headquarters, meaning employees out at lunch breaks or area meetings will be able to remain productive even while out of the office. The network runs between Gansevoort St. and 19 St. from 8th Ave to the West Side Highway and in area public spaces, including the Chelsea Triangle, 14th Street Park and Gansevoort Plaza.

The secured network will also be used by businesses, residents and students in the area, and it will cover the outdoor areas of the Fulton Houses, a housing project owned by the New York City Housing Authority.

MORE:  Google Rolls Out Biggest Free Wi-Fi Network in New York City.




Aug 292012

Last week’s feature explaining why passwords are under assault like never before touched a nerve with many Ars readers, and with good reason. After all, passwords are the keys that secure Web-based bank accounts, sensitive e-mail services, and virtually every other facet of our online life. Lose control of the wrong password and it may only be a matter of time until the rest of our digital assets fall, too.

Take, for example, the hundreds of millions of WiFi networks in use all over the world. If they’re like the ones within range of my office, most of them are protected by the WiFi Protected Access or WiFi Protected Access 2 security protocols. In theory, these protections prevent hackers and other unauthorized people from accessing wireless networks or even viewing traffic sent over them, but only when end users choose strong passwords. I was curious how easy it would be to crack these passcodes using the advanced hardware menus and techniques that have become readily available over the past five years. What I found wasn’t encouraging.

First, the good news. WPA and WPA2 use an extremely robust password-storage regimen that significantly slows the speed of automated cracking programs. By using the PBKDF2 key derivation function along with 4,096 iterations of SHA1 cryptographic hashing algorithm, attacks that took minutes to run against the recent LinkedIn and eHarmony password dumps of June would require days or even weeks or months to complete against the WiFi encryption scheme.

What’s more, WPA and WPA2 passwords require a minimum of eight characters, eliminating the possibility that users will pick shorter passphrases that could be brute forced in more manageable timeframes. WPA and WPA2 also use a network’s SSID as salt, ensuring that hackers can’t effectively use precomputed tables to crack the code.

That’s not to say wireless password cracks can’t be accomplished with ease, as I learned firsthand.

MORE:  How I cracked my neighbor’s WiFi password without breaking a sweat | Ars Technica.


Aug 132012

C Spire Wireless, a small, southern wireless provider formerly known as Cellular South, has an ambitious plan to build a fast, 4G LTE network to reach its 900,000 customers. To do it, C Spire bought $192 million worth of 700 MHz wireless spectrum, which is considered some of the most valuable wireless spectrum that’s still available because it can travel long distances and penetrate obstacles.

But there’s a problem. C Spire claims it hasn’t been able to use this spectrum and hasn’t been able to deploy its 4G network. It says the bigger carriers, especially AT&T, have used their market power to ensure chip designers and device makers make equipment compatible with their flavor of the technology, leaving smaller carriers in the cold. And without devices and network gear, C Spire says it’s been sitting on a costly resource it can’t use — and thus can’t deliver to you, the consumer.

“We will deploy our 4G LTE network,” said Eric Graham, C Spire Wireless’ senior vice president for strategic relations. “But the fact that AT&T is using a different band plan [that is, a set of technical standards for equipment] in the 700 MHz spectrum has slowed things down. At least initially we’ll be using other spectrum other than the 700 MHz spectrum we bought for 4G. But eventually, we are going to need that spectrum to add more capacity to our network.”

In the wireless industry, it seems, you can never have too much spectrum. Even AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which together control about 70 percent of the wireless market, say they need more of it. But even if you have enough spectrum, as C Spire argues, the big guys can use their leverage with suppliers to make it darn difficult for you to use it.

Can you imagine what would happen if the industry giants further solidified their hold on the market by hoarding even more spectrum? Bad things, those underdogs would assure you, starting with higher costs for consumers and fewer innovations. And that, they say, is why regulators and judges need to intercede.

“We are at a critical time in the evolution of the wireless industry,” said Kathleen Ham, vice president of federal regulatory affairs for T-Mobile, in an interview with CNET. “And as we transition to 4G LTE, spectrum is a key part of the strategy and survival of every carrier. And it’s the duty of the regulators to ensure that we don’t end up with a market of spectrum haves and have-nots.”

MORE:  The coming wireless spectrum apocalypse and how it hits you | Mobile – CNET News.


Jul 022012

Enter TruConnect, a company that offers no-contract service and pay-as-you-go rates.

The hardware normally costs $99, but here’s a Cheapskate exclusive: the TruConnect MiFi for $74 when you use coupon code CNET2012 at checkout. Shipping adds around $6.

Like similar products that bear the MiFi name (this one is fairly popular and made by Novatel Wireless), TruConnect’s pocket-size gizmo lets you connect up to five devices to its secure, self-contained Wi-Fi network. Service is provided via Sprint’s 3G network, here promising download speeds of up to 1.4Mbps.

TruConnect doesn’t require any kind of contract, though it does charge $4.99 per month to keep your account active. From there you pay 3.9 cents per megabyte of data used — meaning this is not the service for you if you’re looking to stream Netflix. But for everyday stuff like e-mail and Web browsing, you should be able to operate for a lot less than what you’d pay, say, Verizon (which charges a minimum of $50 per month).

According to a TruConnect rep, its users consume an average of 300MB per month, which works out to just under $12.

MORE: Get a TruConnect MiFi hot spot for $74 | Marketplace Blog – CNET Reviews.


May 182012

Chinese retailers have started selling a miniature Linux computer that is housed in a 3.5-inch plastic case slightly larger than a USB thumb drive. Individual units are available online for $74.

The small computer has an AllWinner A10 single-core 1.5GHz ARM CPU, a Mali 400 GPU, and 512MB of RAM. An HDMI port on the exterior allows users to plug the computer into a television. It outputs at 1080p and is said to be capable of playing high-definition video.

The device also has a full-sized USB port with host support for input devices, a conventional micro-USB port, a microSD slot, and an internal 802.11 b/g WiFi antenna. The computer can boot from a microSD card and is capable of running Android 4.0 and other ARM-compatible Linux platforms.

SOURCE  New $74 Android mini computer is slightly larger than a thumb drive | Ars Technica.


Apr 042012

For frequent and infrequent travelers alike, nothing beats the convenience of a mobile hotspot.

Folks who travel a lot will probably want something with unlimited data and 4G service, but occasional users may want to consider a more affordable solution.

Here’s one: DataJack has the MiFi 2200 mobile hotspot for $49.99, plus around $10 for shipping, when you use coupon code DEALNEWS1.

That purchase also entitles you to a free month of service, albeit with DataJack’s low-end, 200MB data plan. Thankfully, there’s no contract here, so you can let your service expire if you want, then reactivate it as needed.


via Get a DataJack MiFi Hotspot for $49.99 | Marketplace Blog – CNET Reviews.