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Government launches low-cost and free internet plans

The initiative is part of a $1 trillion infrastructure package

More than 20 internet service providers (ISP) are partnering with the U.S. government to reduce or eliminate the cost of high-speed internet service for millions of Americans.

The White House has announced that the ISPs -- including AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon -- cover more than 80% of U.S. households. Eligible households will pay no more than $30 a month for service. After a refund, millions of households will get free service.

Under the Affordable Connectivity Program (A...

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    Free news sites step up pleas for consumers to disable adblocking software

    One tech expert says consumers might want to ignore those requests

    If your web browser has recently updated, or you’ve loaded some new browser extensions, you may be seeing a message when you visit certain free content sites.

    “Please support journalism by allowing ads,” one of the pop-up messages reads. 

    In the message, there is a large link that will disable the adblocker extension in your browser. There is a smaller link that will allow you to proceed to the site while continuing to block ads.

    Dominic Chorafakis, with the cybersecurity consulting firm Akouto, says adblocking extensions aren’t exactly new, but it’s possible browsers have strengthened them in recent updates.

    “Sites that rely on ad revenue, of course, don’t like this at all, and there is quite a bit of effort being put in from their side to detect when a visitor has adblocking in place and either ask them politely to disable adblocking or outright prevent them from viewing their content unless they disable it,” Chorafakis told ConsumerAffairs.

    Not all ads are harmless

    Should consumers oblige and disable their adblocker? It’s one thing to support certain websites, but it is quite another to open devices to ads that might be more than simply annoying.

    “Malicious ads are a very real thing, and the companies that are making massive profits from internet ads are not doing enough to stop hackers from posting them,” Chorafakis said. “As a result, many legitimate sites end up serving malicious ads to unsuspecting visitors.”

    Chorafakis said he makes it a point to keep adblocking enabled on his devices until he sees publishers do more to control the kinds of ads they display.

    “I would rather not see a site’s content than take the risk of being served up a malicious ad if that’s how they want to behave,” he said. “If there is something that I absolutely must see but am being prevented by blocker detection, then I will temporarily use a different browser without adblocking that I have specifically for those very rare instances.”

    Two business models

    The issue highlights a growing dichotomy of the internet. There are companies that earn their revenue from services and subscriptions and those that earn money by showing ads and collecting data. 

    Many news sites have erected a paywall that prevents consumers from reading their content unless they subscribe. Most TV stations and TV networks continue to allow viewing for free but show ads to produce revenue.

    This split in the internet burst into the open last week when Apple changed its privacy policy and Facebook angrily responded with full-page ads in newspapers denouncing the move.  

    Apple’s newly announced  iOS14 privacy changes will require app developers like Facebook to “provide information about some of your app’s data collection practices on your product page.” The change will also require Facebook to “ask users for their permission to track them across apps and websites owned by other companies.”

    In the ad, Facebook maintained that Apple’s changes will be “devastating to small businesses” that rely on its ad network to leverage clicks and sales. 

    It also highlights the internet’s divide between consumers who value privacy and are willing and able to pay for the content they view and consumers who are willing to accept some limits on privacy in exchange for free content.

    If your web browser has recently updated, or you’ve loaded some new browser extensions, you may be seeing a message when you visit certain free content sit...
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    FCC announces $9 billion 5G federal subsidy plan

    The plan is part of the agency’s effort to shrink the digital divide

    On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it plans to scrap its previous plan for a $4.5 billion program to provide federal support for 4G LTE support in underserved areas. Instead, the agency says it will launch a $9 billion fund to bring 5G to rural areas of the U.S. 

    FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the new fund will help carriers pay for 5G deployments in areas with “unique wireless connectivity needs,” such as farms, ranches, and other areas that tend to face difficulties in obtaining access to wireless services or the internet.

    “5G has the potential to bring many benefits to American consumers and businesses, including wireless networks that are more responsive, more secure, and up to 100 times faster than today’s 4G LTE networks,” Pai said in a statement. “We want to make sure that rural Americans enjoy these benefits, just as residents of large urban areas will.” 

    “We must ensure that 5G narrows rather than widens the digital divide and that rural Americans receive the benefits that come from wireless innovation,” Pai said. 

    The proposal also involves allocating at least $1 billion to help bolster efforts to deploy precision agriculture tools that require 5G connectivity. 

    The FCC said it plans to formally propose the new 5G fund early next year. The funding will come from its Universal Service Fund, which uses money from surcharges on telephone service and provides subsidies to schools and libraries.

    On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it plans to scrap its previous plan for a $4.5 billion program to provide federal...
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