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Edward Wyatt
The New York Times|nytimes.com

San Antonio is the seventh-largest city in the United States, a progressive and economically vibrant metropolis of 1.4 million people sprawled across south-central Texas. But the speed of its Internet service is no match for the Latvian capital, Riga, a city of 700,000 on the Baltic Sea.

Riga’s average Internet speed is at least two and a half times that of San Antonio’s, according to Ookla, a research firm that measures broadband speeds around the globe. In other words, downloading a two-hour high-definition movie takes, on average, 35 minutes in San Antonio and 13 in Riga.

And the cost of Riga’s service is about one-fourth that of San Antonio. read more »


WASHINGTON — The federal Department of Transportation (DOT) will consider banning the use of cellphones for voice calls onboard airplanes, a reaction to widespread public outrage over a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to loosen the rules.

Together, the two developments mean that consumers soon will probably be able to text and connect to the Internet on their cellphones at 10,000 feet, but not to make voice calls.

The two agencies said they had heard and wanted to respect public outcry at the prospect of being stuck for hours in close quarters next to a person gabbing into a cellphone. read more »


Eight prominent technology companies, bruised by revelations of government spying on their customers’ data and scrambling to repair the damage to their reputations, are mounting a public campaign to urge President Obama and Congress to set new limits on government surveillance.

The companies, led by Google and Microsoft, presented a plan to regulate online spying and urged the United States to lead a worldwide effort to restrict it. They accompanied it with an open letter, in the form of full-page ads published Dec. 9 in national newspapers, including The New York Times, and a website detailing their concerns.

It is the broadest and strongest effort by the companies, often archrivals, to speak with one voice to pressure the government. read more »


WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released its first smartphone app, a free program that allows consumers to measure the broadband speed they are getting on their mobile devices and to determine whether it is as fast as wireless companies say.

So far, the app works only on smartphones that run the Android operating system, but the commission is working on an iPhone version, which it expects to be ready by the end of January. The app provides information on upload and download speeds and on how efficiently data is transmitted, a measure known as packet loss.

The app, FCC Speed Test, will allow the commission to aggregate data about broadband speeds from consumers across the country. It will use the data to create an interactive map, giving consumers a tool to use in comparison shopping rather than relying on wireless companies’ promises. read more »


WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission voted to begin an inquiry into “patent assertion entities,” businesses whose only purpose is to stockpile patent portfolios and use them to sue companies like software designers and smartphone makers, the agency announced Sept. 27.

The action is the first step in what is likely to be a lengthy and broad investigation, which could result in antitrust lawsuits against the companies.

Edith Ramirez, the FTC chairwoman, said in June that she believed there was little real evidence about the costs and benefits of a rising tide of patent litigation.

By a 4-0 vote, the commission agreed to seek public comments on an investigation of “approximately 25 companies that are in the business of buying and asserting patents read more »


WASHINGTON — Significant risks to the nation’s financial system and to taxpayers are the potential consequences of continuing to allow the country’s largest financial institutions to own commodities units that store and ship vast quantities of metals, oil and the other basic building blocks of the economy, several witnesses warned a Senate panel.

The ability of those bank subsidiaries to gather nonpublic information on commodities stores and shipping also could give the banks an unfair advantage in the markets and cost consumers billions of dollars, the witnesses said.

The Senate Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection subcommittee convened the hearing July 23 to explore whether financial companies — the banking goliaths such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley — should control power plants, warehouses and oil refineries. read more »


WASHINGTON — Companies wishing to market their products as “eco-friendly” or good for the environment had better have data to back up the claims, the Federal Trade Commission has warned, laying out guidelines for so-called green marketing.

The commission said it was updating its environmental marketing guidelines for the first time since 1998 because the number of companies employing them had grown substantially, while the claims themselves had become more ambiguous.

The guidelines are included in the F.T.C.’s Green Guides, which were first issued in 1992 and revised in 1996 and 1998. The commission proposed further revisions in 2010, and those are now final in the 314-page publication released Oct. 1. read more »


WASHINGTON — Pharmaceutical companies, military contractors, banks and other corporations are on track to pay as much as $8 billion this year to resolve charges of defrauding the government, analysts say — a record sum and more than twice the amount assessed last year by the Justice Department.

The surge in penalties is because of a number of factors, including the resolution of longstanding actions against drugmakers and military contractors, as well as lawsuits brought against mortgage lenders after the financial crisis.

But it also reflects a renewed emphasis on corporate fraud, as the Justice Department devotes more resources to the issue and demands higher penalties from companies. read more »

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