Uber & Lyft Drivers Will Need Business Permits in San Francisco

When it comes to “ridesharing” apps like Uber and Lyft, the law has been slow to catch up on the latest app-driven taxi scheme. Debating if they are consultants or employees, cities have been torn apart as Taxi drivers argue that they use loopholes to avoid extra charges that Taxis have to pay. This may change thanks to San Francisco now requiring Uber and Lyft drivers to own a business permit if they want to keep working within the city.

City Treasurer Jose Cisneros has apparently sent out 37,018 letters to drivers within the city to let them know about the new requirement, ultimately forcing Uber and Lyft to either recognise their drivers as staff or get business permits and act as contractors. With each permit costing only $91 a year (if you make less than $100,00 a year) then the funding coming in from the new requirement comes to around $3.37 million a year!

Uber responded in a statement to SFGate saying that as its drivers were independent contracts they were “responsible for following appropriate local requirements” while Lyfts spokesperson Chelsea Wilson was less than candid in saying that their company opposed thew new plans, saying that the company has “serious concerns with the city’s plan to collect and display Lyft drivers’ personal information in a publicly available database”.

Obama Would Veto ‘Anti-Net Neutrality Bill”

The power to veto something is a strong one, and many governments have the power in place for specific reasons. Though rarely used it can often be what makes or breaks a law or new piece of legislation. In this case, the White House has stated that it would veto the ‘No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act’ on the grounds that it is very anti-net neutrality.

H.R. 2666 would appear at first glance to support the concept of net neutrality, with its author Adam Kinzinger, the republican representative for Illinois, saying that regulating broadband rates would create “significant uncertainty for ISPs” while also discouraging “investment and unique pricing structures or service plans”.

The sly part of the new bill, which the Electronic frontier foundation spotted, was that the FCC would have to stop summoning companies to explain a new trend of data exception schemes. These schemes like the T-mobile binge service, see companies making deals with certain providers and then not counting their content towards your data usage. Unlimited videos from certain sites? Sure, but videos on every site will be throttled.

In the White Houses letter, they state that the bill “would restrict the FCC’s ability to take enforcement actions to protect consumers on issues where the FCC has received numerous consumer complaints.” The White House then continues to say that the bill would also cause issues in the future as it ” could limit the Commission’s ability to address new practices and adapt its rules for a dynamic, fast-changing online marketplace”.

The letter finishes by saying that “if the President were presented with H.R. 2666, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”.

Near Miss at Los Angeles Airport Calls for Future Drone Regulation

Drones are on everybody’s wish list this year. If you want them to just enjoy being in charge of your very own Enterprise or just because you are curious about the new technology, you should remember to use them safely. Sadly that seems to be a lesson that was missed by a drone pilot who caused a near miss at Los Angeles International Airport.

The incident involved a drone flying around 200 feet from a plane of a Lufthansa aircraft, a move which has sparked debate for greater control over drones and the authorities abilities to manage, control and restrict drones freedom when it comes to regulated space.

This is not the first time a drone has come close to the plane, with the same thing happening at Heathrow and other airports around the world. The problem with drones is their ability to operate remotely makes tracking down a drone’s operator difficult, an act which the authorities want to become easier.

Some of the proposals include the geofencing of drones sold domestically, meaning that drones would be unable to fly above their legal altitude or the use of collision-avoidance software. With the requirement for drones to now be registered, it is expected that drone capturing equipment such as the SkyWall could offer authorities a way of tracking down and tackling dangerous drone users.

US Wont Regulate Hacking Software – For Now

We all know about hackers. They’ve been in the news a lot in the last few years, from the Xbox and Sony Christmas Day hacks to the large databases of customer details being hacked on a nearly monthly basis. One hack was actually targeted on a hacking group, the Hacking Team and ended up with 400GB of their data being taken. This included everything from their hacking tools and the information required to use them to target companies and everyday users. After this, a small piece of legislation was developed and marketed to the US government, a piece of legislation which is now possibly going to be scrapped following concerns from pretty much everybody in the IT security industry.

The Department of Commerce first put the legislation forward and stated that the development and testing of exploits, zero-day and intrusion type software should not only be limited and controlled but also made illegal in some aspects. Say hello to the outcry from professionals who not only deal with writing but also stopping software like this from being used for malicious means, who even stated that not only would it limit and criminalise the research into nasty software, but also mean that all those nasty bugs and exploits that you don’t want people using, would be pushed onto the black market.

While the department of commerce stated that “a second iteration of this regulation will be promulgated”, it’s clear that while they may not be able to get away with vague descriptions and tight control on security software, they will still attempt to get some form of control pushed regarding what they call “weaponised software”.

Thank you Reuters for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of the Art of Add.

A New Digital Currency In Development

Digital currencies have been gaining popularity in recent years due to the notion of a stateless payment method which is not influenced by any bank or country. This is perhaps why the big sharks are now starting to circulate around this notion of an online payment, as it’s been announced that Citibank has built its own digital currency based on Bitcoin and the blockchain.

According to Kenneth Moore, who is the head of Citigroup Innovations Lab, has stated that “we have up and running three separate systems within Citi now that actually deploy blockchain distributed ledger technologies. They are all within the labs just now so there is no real money passing through these systems yet, they are at a pre-production level.”

On paper this seems like a fantastic idea for funding and expertise to enter the Bitcoin field, the problem is however that if Citibank develop and release a currency, they will own it, and if they own it then the government will notice it, and if they notice it then this will fall under regulations which govern banks. If this happens, the currency will not be so free and more influenced. Only time will tell as to what will be the makeup of digital currencies in the next ten years or so. Just on a side note, it makes me wonder if the whole notion of “Online” is a dream for institutions seeking control. After all, people moved from real money to online money as a preference, if online money is influenced, where will people move to?

Thank You to IBT for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Miles Worker

Comcast and Verizon Lowered Speed to Cogent below 0.5Mbps

New detailed measurements have been released displaying exactly how much throttling of traffic was done by major US ISP’s Comcast and Verizon through to Cogent – a backbone operator of Netflix traffic. As almost everyone in the United States discovered over the span of the last year, traffic through to Netflix got bad – really flipping bad. A new study released by M-Lab data has a detailed analysis of just how terrible the throttling from both Verizon, Time Warner and Comcast made it for traffic passing through to Cogent. The study reveals a detailed insight into traffic through the ISP’s over the span of a 5 year period, of which between late May through to February of this year – traffic trickled down to a ludicrously slow 0.5mbps speed. It’s no wonder Netflix was failing to stream for most US citizens.

“Using Measurement Lab (M-Lab) data, and constraining our research to the United States, we observed sustained performance degradation experienced by customers of Access ISPs AT&T, Comcast, CenturyLink, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon when their traffic passed over interconnections with Transit ISPs Cogent Communications (Cogent), Level 3 Communications (Level 3), and XO Communications (XO),” researchers wrote. “In a large number of cases we observed similar patterns of performance degradation whenever and wherever specific pairs of Access/Transit ISPs interconnected. From this we conclude that ISP interconnection has a substantial impact on consumer internet performance—sometimes a severely negative impact—and that business relationships between ISPs, and not major technical problems, are at the root of the problems we observed.”

“The three degraded Access ISPs [Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon] failed to achieve median download throughputs above 4Mbps when connecting over Cogent in New York City for most of the period between Spring 2013 and March 2014,” M-Lab wrote. “While daily median download throughput overall hovered around 4Mbps, performance degradation was much worse during peak use hours. For much of the time between Spring 2013 and March 2014, download speeds during peak use hours remained well below 4Mbps. By January 2014, the download throughput rate during peak use hours for Comcast and Verizon traffic over Cogent’s network was less than 0.5Mbps, the minimum rate necessary for web browsing and email according to the FCC. Note that only between 2:00 AM and 1:00 PM were the three affected Access ISPs able to attain speeds above 4 Mbps across the Transit ISP Cogent.”

The full dataset of information from M-Lab has been published online, and is available for viewing here. One thing is for certain after going through the findings – the internet is in for a bumpy ride if strong net neutrality laws and regulation checks aren’t brought into place. The wild west could start to get a lot wilder.

Thanks to M-Lab for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Slate.

Bitcoin Supporters Hope to See EU Provide Regulatory Guidance of Cryptocurrencies

European Union countries need to make adjustments to outline regulatory guidance on bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies, according to bitcoin supporters.

The European Commission recently noted that it plans to create virtual cryptocurrency rules as quickly as possible – there is a higher level of regulatory scrutiny of bitcoins, while governments are still unsure what to make of bitcoins.

Here is what Jeremy Allaire, head bitcoin consumer finance company Circle, recently said in an interview with Reuters:

“One of the challenges is that without clear guidance from the EU, from the UK, it will limit industry development.  Unless they have a clear view of where does this (bitcoin) fit, how do we know what the rules are?”

The United States, EU, and select Asian countries have struggled to try to deal with the rise of bitcoins, especially considering potential fraud problems.  If regulators become involved and create overly restrictive laws, however, it could curb bitcoin growth across the world, supporters worry.

Bitcoin value currently hovers around $630 (£367), though remains rather volatile as more consumers and businesses dabble with cryptocurrencies.  However, the European Banking Authority (EBA) could scare customers away by devising rules to clamp down on money laundering and criminal abuse.

Thank you to Reuters for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Huffington Post