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There’s a Multibillion-Dollar Market for Your Phone’s Location Data
USA Created: 3 Oct 2021
A huge but little-known industry has cropped up around monetizing people’s movements.

Companies that you likely have never heard of are hawking access to the location history on your mobile phone. An estimated $12 billion market, the location data industry has many players: collectors, aggregators, marketplaces, and location intelligence firms, all of which boast about the scale and precision of the data that they’ve amassed.

Location firm Near describes itself as “The World’s Largest Dataset of People’s Behavior in the Real-World,” with data representing “1.6B people across 44 countries.” Mobilewalla boasts “40+ Countries, 1.9B+ Devices, 50B Mobile Signals Daily, 5+ Years of Data.” X-Mode’s website claims its data covers “25%+ of the Adult U.S. population monthly.”

In an effort to shed light on this little-monitored industry, The Markup has identified 47 companies that harvest, sell, or trade in mobile phone location data. While hardly comprehensive, the list begins to paint a picture of the interconnected players that do everything from providing code to app developers to monetize user data to offering analytics from “1.9 billion devices” and access to datasets on hundreds of millions of people. Six companies claimed more than a billion devices in their data, and at least four claimed their data was the “most accurate” in the industry.

The Location Data Industry: Collectors, Buyers, Sellers, and Aggregators

The Markup identified 47 players in the location data industry

“There isn’t a lot of transparency and there is a really, really complex shadowy web of interactions between these companies that’s hard to untangle,” Justin Sherman, a cyber policy fellow at the Duke Tech Policy Lab, said. “They operate on the fact that the general public and people in Washington and other regulatory centers aren’t paying attention to what they’re doing.”

Occasionally, stories illuminate just how invasive this industry can be. In 2020, Motherboard reported that X-Mode, a company that collects location data through apps, was collecting data from Muslim prayer apps and selling it to military contractors. The Wall Street Journal also reported in 2020 that Venntel, a location data provider, was selling location data to federal agencies for immigration enforcement.

A Catholic news outlet also used location data from a data vendor to out a priest who had frequented gay bars, though it’s still unknown what company sold that information.

Many firms promise that privacy is at the center of their businesses and that they’re careful to never sell information that can be traced back to a person. But researchers studying anonymized location data have shown just how misleading that claim can be.

The truth is, it’s hard to know all the ways in which your movements are being tracked and traded. Companies often reveal little about what apps serve as the sources of data they collect, what exactly that data consists of, and how far it travels. To piece together a picture of the ecosystem, The Markup reviewed the websites and marketing language of each of the 47 companies we identified as operating in the location data industry, as well as any information they revealed about how the data got to them. (See our methodology here.)
How the Data Leaves Your Phone

Most times, the location data pipeline starts off in your hands, when an app sends a notification asking for permission to access your location data.

Apps have all kinds of reasons for using your location. Map apps need to know where you are in order to give you directions to where you’re going. A weather, waves, or wind app checks your location to give you relevant meteorological information. A video streaming app checks where you are to ensure you’re in a country where it’s licensed to stream certain shows.

But unbeknownst to most users, some of those apps sell or share location data about their users with companies that analyze the data and sell their insights, like Advan Research. Other companies, like Adsquare, buy or obtain location data from apps for the purpose of aggregating it with other data sources. Companies like real estate firms, hedge funds and retail businesses might then turn and use the data for their own advertising, analytics, investment strategy, or marketing purposes.

Serge Egelman, a researcher at UC Berkeley’s ​​International Computer Science Institute and CTO of AppCensus, who has researched sensitive data permissions on mobile apps, said it’s hard to tell which apps on your phone simply use the data for their own functional purposes and which ones release your data into the economic ether.

“When the app asks for location, in the moment, because maybe you click the button to find stuff near you and you get a permission dialog, you might reasonably infer that ‘Oh, that’s to service that request to provide that functionality,’ but there’s no guarantee of that,” Egelman said. “And there’s certainly usually never a disclosure that says that the data is going to be limited to that purpose.”

Companies that trade in this data are reluctant to share which apps they get data from.

The Markup asked spokespeople from all the companies on our list where they get the location data they obtain.

Companies like Adsquare and Cuebiq told The Markup that they don’t publicly disclose what apps they get location data from to keep a competitive advantage but maintained that their process of obtaining location data was transparent and with clear consent from app users.

“It is all extremely transparent,” said Bill Daddi, a spokesperson for Cuebiq.

He added that consumers must know what the apps are doing with their data because so few consent to share it. “The opt-in rates clearly confirm that the users are fully aware of what is happening because the opt-in rates can be as low as less than 20%, depending on the app,” Daddi said in an email.

Yiannis Tsiounis, the CEO of the location analytics firm Advan Research, said his company buys from location data aggregators, who collect the data from thousands of apps—but would not say which ones. Tsiounis said the apps he works with do explicitly say that they share location data with third parties somewhere in the privacy policies, though he acknowledged that most people don’t read privacy policies.

“There’s only so much you can squeeze into the notification message. You get one line, right? So you can’t say all of that in the notification message,” Tsiounis said. “You only get to explain to the user, ‘I need your location data for X, Y, and Z.’ What you have to do is, there has to be a link to the privacy policy.”

Only one company spokesperson, Foursquare’s Ashley Dawkins, actually named any specific apps—Foursquare’s own products, like Swarm, CityGuide, and Rewards—as sources for its location data trove.

But Foursquare also produces a free software development kit (SDK)—a set of prebuilt tools developers can use in their own apps—that can potentially track location through any app that uses it. Foursquare’s Pilgrim SDK is used in apps like GasBuddy, a service that compares prices at nearby gas stations, Flipp, a shopping app for coupons, and Checkout 51, another location-based discount app.

GasBuddy, Flipp, and Checkout 51 didn’t respond to requests for comment.

A search on Mighty Signal, a site that analyzes and tracks SDKs in apps, found Foursquare’s Pilgrim SDK in 26 Android apps.

While not every app with Foursquare’s SDK sends location data back to the company, the privacy policies for Flipp, Checkout 51, and GasBuddy all disclose that they share location data with the company.

Foursquare’s method of obtaining location data through an embedded SDK is a common practice. Of the 47 companies that The Markup identified, 12 of them advertised SDKs to app developers that could send them location data in exchange for money or services.

Placer.ai says in its marketing that it does foot traffic analysis and that its SDK is installed in more than 500 apps and has insights on more than 20 million devices.

“We partner with mobile apps providing location services and receive anonymized aggregated data. Very critically, all data is anonymized and stripped of personal identifiers before it reaches us,” Ethan Chernofsky, Placer.ai’s vice president of marketing, said in an email.
Into the Location Data Marketplace

Once a person’s location data has been collected from an app and it has entered the location data marketplace, it can be sold over and over again, from the data providers to an aggregator that resells data from multiple sources. It could end up in the hands of a “location intelligence” firm that uses the raw data to analyze foot traffic for retail shopping areas and the demographics associated with its visitors. Or with a hedge fund that wants insights on how many people are going to a certain store.

“There are the data aggregators that collect the data from multiple applications and sell in bulk. And then there are analytics companies which buy data either from aggregators or from applications and perform the analytics,” said Tsiounis of Advan Research. “And everybody sells to everybody else.”

Some data marketplaces are part of well-known companies, like Amazon’s AWS Data Exchange, or Oracle’s Data Marketplace, which sell all types of data, not just location data. Oracle boasts its listing as the “world’s largest third-party data marketplace” for targeted advertising, while Amazon claims to “make it easy to find, subscribe to, and use third-party data in the cloud.” Both marketplaces feature listings for several of the location data companies that we examined.

Amazon spokesperson Claude Shy said that data providers have to explain how they gain consent for data and how they monitor people using the data they purchase.

“Only qualified data providers will have access to the AWS Data Exchange. Potential data providers are put through a rigorous application process,” Shy said.

Oracle declined to comment.

Other companies, like Narrative, say they are simply connecting data buyers and sellers by providing a platform. Narrative’s website, for instance, lists location data providers like SafeGraph and Complementics among its 17 providers with more than two billion mobile advertising IDs to buy from.

But Narrative CEO Nick Jordan said the company doesn’t even look at the data itself.

“There’s a number of companies that are using our platform to acquire and/or monetize geolocation data, but we actually don’t have any rights to the data,” he said. “We’re not buying it, we’re not selling it.”

To give a sense of how massive the industry is, Amass Insights has 320 location data providers listed on its directory, Jordan Hauer, the company’s CEO, said. While the company doesn’t directly collect or sell any of the data, hedge funds will pay it to guide them through the myriad of location data companies, he said.

“The most inefficient part of the whole process is actually not delivering the data,” Hauer said. “It’s actually finding what you’re looking for and making sure that it’s compliant, making sure that it has value and that it is exactly what the provider says it is.”
Oh, the Places Your Data Will Go

There are a whole slew of potential buyers for location data: investors looking for intel on market trends or what their competitors are up to, political campaigns, stores keeping tabs on customers, and law enforcement agencies, among others.

Data from location intelligence firm Thasos Group has been used to measure the number of workers pulling extra shifts at Tesla plants. Political campaigns on both sides of the aisle have also used location data from people who were at rallies for targeted advertising.

Fast food restaurants and other businesses have been known to buy location data for advertising purposes down to a person’s steps. For example, in 2018, Burger King ran a promotion in which, if a customer’s phone was within 600 feet of a McDonalds, the Burger King app would let the user buy a Whopper for one cent.

The Wall Street Journal and Motherboard have also written extensively about how federal agencies including the Internal Revenue Service, Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. military bought location data from companies tracking phones.

Of the location data firms The Markup examined, the offerings are diverse.

Advan Research, for instance, uses historical location data to tell its customers, largely retail businesses or their private equity firm owners, where their visitors came from, and makes guesses about their income, race, and interests based on where they’ve been.

“For example, we know that the average income in this neighborhood by census data is $50,000. But then there are two devices—one went to Dollar General, McDonald’s, and Walmart, and the other went to a BMW dealer and Tiffany’s … so they probably make more money,” Advan Research’s Tsiounis said.

Others combine the location data they obtain with other pieces of data gathered from your online activities. Complementics, which boasts data on “more than a billion mobile device IDs,” offers location data in tandem with cross-device data for mobile ad targeting.

The prices can be steep.

Outlogic (formerly known as X-Mode) offers a license for a location dataset titled “Cyber Security Location data” on Datarade for $240,000 per year. The listing says “Outlogic’s accurate and granular location data is collected directly from a mobile device’s GPS.”

At the moment, there are few if any rules limiting who can buy your data.

Sherman, of the Duke Tech Policy Lab, published a report in August finding that data brokers were advertising location information on people based on their political beliefs, as well as data on U.S. government employees and military personnel.

“There is virtually nothing in U.S. law preventing an American company from selling data on two million service members, let’s say, to some Russian company that’s just a front for the Russian government,” Sherman said.

Existing privacy laws in the U.S., like California’s Consumer Privacy Act, do not limit who can purchase data, though California residents can request that their data not be “sold”—which can be a tricky definition. Instead, the law focuses on allowing people to opt out of sharing their location in the first place.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation has stricter requirements for notifying users when their data is being processed or transferred.

But Ashkan Soltani, a privacy expert and former chief technologist for the Federal Trade Commission, said it’s unrealistic to expect customers to hunt down companies and insist they delete their personal data.

“We know in practice that consumers don’t take action,” he said. “It’s incredibly taxing to opt out of hundreds of data brokers you’ve never even heard of.”

Companies like Apple and Google, who control access to the app stores, are in the best position to control the location data market, AppCensus’s Egelman said.

“The real danger is the app gets booted from the Google Play store or the iOS app store,” he said.” As a result, your company loses money.”

Google and Apple both recently banned app developers from using location reporting SDKs from several data companies.

Researchers found, however, that the companies’ SDKs were still making their way into Google’s app store.

Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“The Google Play team is always working to strengthen privacy protections through both product and policy improvements. When we find apps or SDK providers that violate our policies, we take action,” Google spokesperson Scott Westover said in an email.

Digital privacy has been a key policy issue for U.S. senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, who told The Markup that the big app stores needed to do more.

“This is the right move by Google, but they and Apple need to do more than play whack-a-mole with apps that sell Americans’ location information. These companies need a real plan to protect users’ privacy and safety from these malicious apps,” Wyden said in an email.

Click here to view the source article.
Source: The Markup, Jon Keegan and Alfred Ng, 30 Sep 2021

Review of NIER Effects on Flora & Fauna
USA Created: 27 Sep 2021
Runs over 200 Pages and Includes More Than 1,000 References.

A detailed examination —likely the most exhaustive ever attempted— of the environmental effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation has been published in Reviews on Environmental Health.

The review, which is in three parts, is by Blake Levitt, Henry Lai and Albert Manville.

Details are in our latest short item, available here:
https://microwavenews.com/short-takes-archive/review-emf-and-rf-effects-flora-and-fauna

Louis Slesin, PhD
Editor, Microwave News
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Microwave News, Louis Slesin, 27 Sep 2021

Court Demands FCC Reconsider Its Wireless Safety Standards
USA Created: 15 Sep 2021
After dismissing evidence of potential harm during a public inquiry, FCC must now address the concerns.

Smartphones, and the wireless frequency that runs them, have revolutionized the way we live. But are they as safe as we are told? A federal court ruled that regulators must reconsider the nation’s wireless safety standard due to extensive evidence of harm.

Since 1996—back when cellphones were rare and brick-sized—the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) deemed that exposure to the non-ionizing radiation emitted from wireless devices caused no health issues.

Since then, our daily exposure to wireless radiation has increased considerably. And with 5G just around the corner, more of this invisible pulsed frequency is projected to saturate even more of our environment in the years to come.

Wireless devices generate the same radiation as a microwave oven. But both the wireless industry, and the agency that regulates them, say it’s the threshold of heat that makes microwave exposure dangerous. Since cellphones don’t emit radiation intense enough to cook you, they’re considered safe.

For years, regulators have held firm on this conclusion. In 2012, the Government Accountability Office urged the FCC to take another look. So, the agency opened a public inquiry for evidence of whether its wireless safety guidelines genuinely required an update. Over the course of six years, thousands of studies, personal stories of health problems related to wireless exposure, and comments from doctors, scientists, and medical organizations all sent the agency the same general message: sub-thermal microwave exposure can cause health problems.

At the end of 2019, the FCC wrote a report in response to the comments they received. Despite the evidence, the agency once again concluded that its previous standard was sufficient to ensure public safety, even with 5G.

“After reviewing the extensive record submitted in response to that inquiry, we find no appropriate basis for and thus decline to propose amendments to our existing limits at this time,” states the report. “We take our duty to protect the public from any potential harm due to RF exposure seriously.”

Soon after the report was published, a lawsuit was filed by the Environmental Health Trust (EHT) and Children’s Health Defense (CHD). The goal was to force the agency to take another look.

And it worked. On Aug. 13, the court ordered the FCC “provide a reasoned explanation for its determination that its guidelines adequately protect against harmful effects of exposure to radiofrequency radiation unrelated to cancer, in accordance with the opinion of the court filed herein this date.”

Getting the opportunity to sue a federal agency is rare, and the cases that make it usually don’t end with the changes that petitioners hope for. That’s why Scott McCollough, CHD’s lead attorney for the case against the FCC, called it “an historic win.”

“The FCC will have to re-open the proceeding and for the first time meaningfully and responsibly confront the vast amount of scientific and medical evidence showing that current guidelines do not adequately protect health and the environment,” McCullough said in a statement.

The evidence presented to the court consisted of 11,000 pages showing harm from 5G and other wireless equipment that most people carry with them, or are exposed to in their homes, schools, and workplaces every day.

Petitioners pointed to multiple studies and reports published after 1996 showing that wireless radiation at levels below the FCC’s current limits caused negative health effects, such as reproductive problems, and neurological problems that span from effects on memory to motor abilities. They also showed evidence of human sperm and DNA damage at low levels of RF radiation, and blood-brain barrier permeability with exposure.

Much of the evidence presented in court had previously been sent to the FCC in an attempt to convince the agency that there were flaws in its conclusions about microwave exposure and safety. Attorney Dafna Tachover, CHD’s director of 5G and Wireless Harms Project, says this judgment will force the FCC to recognize the immense suffering millions of people have already suffered due to outdated and unfounded safety standards.

“Finally, the truth is out. I am hopeful that following this decision, the FCC will do the right thing and halt any further deployment of 5G.”

Even with this win, wireless safety standards may still not change, but the FCC has to now explain why. The court concluded that regulators must address the evidence showing harm from sub-thermal microwave exposure.

“The FCC completely failed to acknowledge, let alone respond to, comments concerning the impact of RF radiation on the environment,” the judgment states. “The record contains substantive evidence of potential environmental harms.”
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Entrepreneur Europe, 13 Sep 2021

How 5G rollout became such a long, hard slog
United Kingdom Created: 10 Sep 2021
Traverse the leafy neighborhoods of southwest London and the 5G connection flickers on and off like a faulty streetlight. Thankfully, for the zone's commuters and smartphone zombies, there is still no application that depends on 5G connectivity. And 4G is everywhere.

That technology spread rapidly across the UK after it was first switched on by EE in October 2012. When Ofcom, the UK regulator, got around to publishing its communications market update for June 2014, it celebrated the fact that more than 70% of homes were covered by a 4G network. There have been no such plaudits about 5G.

Launched in mid-2019, the latest generation of mobile technology gave Ofcom nothing to cheer in the latest May report. "We are still in the early stages of 5G rollout, so we will not be reporting on 5G coverage in this update," said Ofcom. "We continue to work with mobile operators to establish how best to evaluate and report on 5G coverage."

The few figures that have been squeezed out of service providers highlight the gap between 4G and 5G. In July, BT, EE's owner, revealed that it covers just 40% of the UK population with 5G more than two years after launch. Its 4G network, at the equivalent stage of rollout, was available to more than 80% of people. Nor can most consumers expect a 5G service to arrive soon. BT's target is to reach only half the population by 2023.

Rivals are even further behind. Vodafone is not disclosing the percentage but says it is "a bit less" than BT's. Three, the smallest of the UK operators, says it has made 5G available to 30% of the "outdoor" population. Virgin Media O2 is not for sharing details.

The stunted development of 5G is not just a UK phenomenon. By April this year, 5G services running over important "mid-band" spectrum were available to fewer than 10% of people living in European Union countries plus the UK, according to Ericsson, a vendor of 5G equipment. And in lower-band airwaves, 5G is no better than 4G.

Heavy lifting

The equipment looks partly to blame. The relatively lightweight network boxes that came with 4G were often easy to hoist into position. Streets did not have to be shut down, nor masts reinforced. EE, which re-farmed 1800MHz spectrum, was able to rely on the same antennas it had deployed for older services, according to an industry source close to the matter. "It was a doddle," he says.

By contrast, the radio units that Vodafone initially bought for its 5G rollout each weighed about 60 kilograms, says Ker Anderson, Vodafone UK's head of radio and performance. "Big, lumpy heavy objects require steel work and quite a lot of plant on site to install in a safe manner," he told reporters at a media roundtable last week. The physical process of upgrading has been "a lot more work than with 4G."

Fortunately, the 5G boxes are getting lighter. The units Vodafone now buys from Ericsson weigh less than 30 kilograms each, says Anderson, and can be installed more easily. Those could speed up the rollout of more advanced 5G networks for all operators. Until now, BT says it has had to fall back on less capable 5G units, incorporating fewer transmitters and receivers, to overcome the city planning obstacles it has occasionally faced with heavier gear.

Harder to fix is a shortage of mobile sites. The grid of European masts is adequate for services that operate in spectrum up to and including the 2.6GHz band, previously awarded for 2G, 3G and 4G technologies. But the distances between sites may be too great for the mid-band frequencies in and around 3.5GHz, licensed for use with 5G. Signals will not travel as far in higher ranges, fading at the cell edge like runners in need of refreshment.

This largely explains why mid-band 5G is far more pervasive in Asian markets that already had a very dense mobile network grid. The outstanding example is South Korea, where mid-band 5G services now cover more than 90% of the population, says Ericsson. For every 10,000 people, South Korea currently has more than 57 sites, while Germany and France have fewer than ten.

Building new sites today would be costly, and hardly any European operators have announced plans for such "densification." To overcome signal propagation challenges, they are relying on a technology called dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS), which splits lower-band spectrum between 4G and 5G. Even Germany's Deutsche Telekom, one of the few European operators constructing hundreds of new sites each year, looks heavily dependent on DSS. Only 2,400 of its 55,000 5G antennas currently use mid-band spectrum, it said last week.

DSS has come in for heavy criticism from Nick Read, Vodafone Group's CEO. "Some operators are taking DSS, which is effectively giving you a 5G symbol but 4G performance," he told analysts on a call in November. Yet Vodafone UK appears to have gone down the same path. Gabriel Brown, a London-based Heavy Reading analyst who has been monitoring 5G rollouts, tweeted in June that he rarely encounters a Vodafone service that operates in 3.5GHz spectrum.

"The DSS you are seeing is a precursor," said Anderson last week. "That is just about getting more footprint out there. That is not necessarily the end game for us." But it remains unclear whether operators can provide blanket mid-band coverage without adding sites. France's Orange believes it can avoid much 5G densification by using more efficient technology. Ericsson is unconvinced.

Demand gap

Service providers are in no apparent hurry while there is no compelling reason for consumers to upgrade. "I don't think 5G to consumers, in terms of the magnitude of the step from 3G to 4G that we had, is even close," said Anderson. "You can get 100 Mbit/s, whereas on 4G you got 30 Mbit/s, but – in reality – what does that mean for a consumer?"

He is not the only technology executive who questions 5G's immediate appeal. "3G and HSPA [a high-speed version of 3G] was a poor substitute for 4G and 5G," said Neil McRae, BT's chief network architect, in July. "Moving from 4G to 5G is not that kind of packet-based improvement and we've done that piece of it."

The metrics bear this out. Of Vodafone's roughly 17 million mobile customers, only about 3 million have a 5G SIM card and plan, and not all of those have a 5G-compatible device. BT has stopped providing details of total customer numbers but says only about 4 million are "5G-ready." At about the same stage of its 4G rollout, EE had nearly 8 million customers.

The 5G launch has not provided any revenue uplift, either. Vodafone UK's average revenue per user (ARPU) has fallen from £14.10 per month before the 5G launch to £13.70. For contract customers, BT's ARPU has dropped from £20.70 to £18 over a similar period. Competition has whittled down prices.

No doubt, the coronavirus pandemic and a UK government-mandated swap-out of Huawei kit have also had an impact. In Vodafone's case, the controversial Chinese vendor is making way for new suppliers of open RAN, an immature technology that appears to have slowed Vodafone down. One problem is a lack of open RAN support for 3G, a technology still in widespread use among Vodafone customers. A need to maintain 3G for several years is "holding us back from introducing open RAN," said Anderson last week.

With revenues under pressure, finance departments are reluctant to commit additional funds to 5G rollout. And there is no shortage of other projects consuming attention. Anderson reels off a list that includes mobile edge computing, investment in optical transport and the launch of standalone 5G, a new variant. BT is spending billions on the rollout of full-fiber networks to UK homes. Under pressure from rivals and regulators, it aims to cover 25 million homes by the mid-2020s.

A 5G problem in waiting?

It all explains why cutbacks and efficiency have become telco priorities. Besides selling assets, shutting down older platforms (such as 3G) and automating processes, operators are spinning off towers and sharing infrastructure. BT aims to reduce annual costs by £2 billion ($2.8 billion). Vodafone slashed operating expenses by 7.5% in its last fiscal year.

Few denizens of southwest London and other European cities will care about spotty 5G coverage. Most would not even notice the yoyoing between 4G and 5G that inevitably occurs. Not, that is, unless a mobile application arrives that is simply too advanced to run on any 4G network. If that day comes, the 5G gulf between South Korea and Europe will suddenly be a much bigger deal.

Click here to view the source article.
Source: Light Reading, Iain Morris, 09 Sep 2021

Why pigeons mean peril for satellite broadband
United Kingdom Created: 30 Aug 2021
"It's actually been very good but I noticed a series of outages - some a second, some longer," says Prof Alan Woodward.

The University of Surrey cyber-security expert is talking about his new satellite broadband service from space entrepreneur Elon Musk's Starlink company.

The outages, he thinks, may be caused by a lot of "pesky pigeons", which "have taken a fancy to sitting on the dish".

That small grey dish sits on the kitchen roof. To the curious pigeon, it might conceivably look like a modern bird bath rather short on water.

It is one earthbound end of the Starlink satellite internet system.

Living in a place where he "can only dream" of a fibre broadband connection, Prof Woodward says he's pleased to be one of the beta testers of the low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite broadband system,

Mr Musk recently announced that he has shipped 100,000 of the terminals.

The little dish receives and sends signals to passing satellites, part of a constellation of 1,700 which are hurtling overhead at a height of about 340 miles (550km). They travel fast enough to orbit the Earth every 90 minutes or so.

Tens of thousands more are planned, but Gwynne Shotwell, president of aerospace company SpaceX which operates Starlink, has admitted new launches are being affected by shortages of chips and liquid oxygen fuel.

Treating Covid-19 patients has increased demand for commercial oxygen - leaving less for fuel.
Major outage

Prof Woodward is still investigating the root cause of the glitches, though an expert told the BBC a "pigeon sitting on a Starlink antenna would certainly degrade its performance".

Pigeons have not been the only problem, however, as this week, a major outage hit Starlink users around the world. The connection, Prof Woodward said, "just completely disappeared".

The service, still officially in beta, seems to have been down for about an hour for many users - and Starlink has not explained why.

Starlink is one of a number of firms hoping to provide satellite internet services.

Amazon's Project Kuiper plans to launch a constellation of 3,236 satellites
Telesat, a Canadian company, says it will put 298 satellites in orbit
The EU has plans for a mega-constellation
China has also announced plans for its own network

And then there's OneWeb, part-owned by the UK taxpayer, which, like Starlink, already has hardware in space.

The firm launched 34 satellites this week, meaning there are now 288 of the 150kg objects in space.

OneWeb's focus is on providing internet to businesses, maritime users and government. However, a deal with BT means it will probably also supply consumer broadband to rural areas, including portable 5G cells which customers could hire "on demand".

Many people in remote areas may end up receiving broadband via satellite, whether or not they realise it.

"The technology may be invisible to the end user," says Mike Thompson, director for technical development for consultants Access Partnership.

"The provider may run a satellite link in a town where fibre is unavailable, for example, and use it to feed the local broadband pipe."
How much?

All of this comes at a cost.

"The price is on the high side. It's about £500 to get the equipment as a beta tester, and then £89 per month," Prof Woodward tells me.

The pain of buying new tech only to see the price fall and new versions emerge will be a familiar one to many early adopters.

Ms Shotwell revealed this week that by the end of the year, new dish models would be half the price.

However, at least Prof Woodward has found Starlink easy to use.

"I popped it on the kitchen roof primarily because it was the only flat roof and easy to get to. Starlink provide an app that shows if there are obstructions so you can choose the best spot, which saved hours of fiddling around."

After connecting it to the router, he said, the dish "juggled around for a minute or so. Then I had fast internet".

The speeds are averaging about 150-200 megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds and 10-20Mbps upload. There were short dropouts, but nothing that would have interrupted, for example, streaming television, Prof Woodward said.

"That knocks anything else I can obtain here into a cocked hat," he said.

In February, Mr Musk tweeted that Starlink hoped to double its offered top speeds to 300Mbps.

But the kind of service that users will experience via LEO satellites will depend on many factors.

One, experts say, will be how many other dishes are nearby. Starlink currently limits the number of users per coverage area.

Prof Michael Fitch, from the University of Surrey says not very many users can have the top speed at the same time in a given area.

"The average bit-rate that individual users experience will reduce as the number of nearby users increases, since the system has a finite capacity that it can provide over any given area"

The amount of reduction will depend on a number of things including "how well the system can move capacity from one area to another", he says.

Regulator Ofcom recently raised concerns about interference between satellite systems potentially causing dropouts, but Prof Fitch says it is "unlikely to be serious".

Others take a different view.

"In general, a slow but reliable internet connection is more useful than a fast but intermittent one," says Mr Thompson. "Interactive applications (like video conferencing) require a continuous connection."

Crowded skies

LEO is an increasingly busy place, and astronomers have already complained about the trails of satellites spoiling their observations.

But others worry about collisions.

"We are already beginning to see a large number of near misses in orbit involving Starlink," says Prof Hugh Lewis of University of Southampton,

He warns that stopping collisions between so many satellite constellations "may soon go beyond what humans or simple algorithms can safely manage".

He says more advanced technological solutions may be needed to keep spacecraft safe.

How many satellites end up orbiting earth will in part depend on demand for their broadband services.

For Prof Woodward, Starlink was an expensive but pleasantly surprising new purchase.

After a couple of days of use, he said: "I was dubious about how good it would be considering it's receiving signals from objects hurtling past you in low earth orbit.

"But the whole experience has left me feeling optimistic."

Whether he will continue to feel that way may depend on how the technology develops, and of course pigeons.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: BBC, Chris Vallance, 29 Aug 2021

More on US legal victory against FCC
Australia Created: 28 Aug 2021
Last week, we reported on the community’s legal victory over the USA’s standard-setting agency. The court said that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) failed to provide a satisfactory explanation for deciding that its 1996 radiation guidelines adequately protect against the harmful effects of radiofrequency radiation and that it failed to review the extensive evidence that the agency had received.

This week we’d like to tell you about the important role in achieving this impressive legal victory played by the Children’s Health Defense (CHD), a not-for-profit organisation that aims to eliminate harmful exposures to children.

‘The Children’s Health Defense believes that emissions from wireless-based technology, including cell phones, Wi-Fi, cell towers and now 5G, are a major contributing factor in the epidemic of sickness we see now among adults and children. Many thousands of studies and, unfortunately, ample human evidence leave no doubt regarding the harms,’ said attorney Dafna Tachover, who led the case for the CHD.

The CHD’s case was joined by nine individual petitioners, including Professor David Carpenter MD, a public health expert and co-editor of the BioInitiative Report; physicians concerned about the effects of wireless radiation on their patients; parents of children who developed electrosensitivity and a mother whose son died of a mobile phone-related brain tumour.

They filed over 11,000 pages of evidence that wireless radiation causes harm.

One of the petitioners, Dr Paul Dart, was concerned about the damaging effects of wireless radiation he saw in his practice. He said, ‘by 2010 I was seeing more and more patients coming in who were having problems with microwave sickness. Some of them were completely disabled. Some of them couldn’t handle being in the classroom anymore as Wi-Fi came in. I had one patient who committed suicide, because she could not escape from these exposures.’

Dr Toril Jelter, also a petitioner in the case, has seen dramatic improvements in children whose exposure to wireless radiation was reduced. She said, ‘I have seen children in my practice that can’t walk because of exposure to wireless radiation, and when you decrease the exposure then they’re able to walk again. I had a boy with non-verbal autism that was 10 years old. He had never said a word in his life. And we decreased wireless radiation as a first-line attempt at helping him. He also had extremely aggressive behaviour, and his aggressive behaviour subsided, and within three days he said a full sentence. I have children that have learning difficulties, and by changing the wireless radiation in their home they have improved two grade levels in two months. There are children with ADHD who dramatically improve by modifying their exposure to wireless radiation.’

Robert Kennedy Jr, Chairman of the Children’s Health Defense and an attorney on this case, said that the telecommunications industry has ‘succeeded in turning two federal agencies, the The FDA [Food and Drug Administration] and the FCC into models for agency capture. Those agencies no longer have any interest in protecting public health. They have become sock puppets for the industry that they are supposed to be regulating.’

The court’s historic decision is a result of two separate cases that were consolidated into the same court - the Children's Health Defense's case and the Environmental Health Trust case. To comply with court rules, the organisations shared their work on the case and filed joint briefs. EHT's name appears first due to an arbitrary decision by the court but in no way lessens the contribution by the CHD.

The court ruled that the FCC's 2019 decision that its 1996 standard protect the public's health from 5G and wireless is capricious, arbitrary and not evidence based. The court ordered the FCC to review the evidence in regard to non-thermal harms of non-cancer effects including (1) radiation sickness / electrosensitivity (2) the effects of other elements of harm like pulsation and modulation and long term effects (3) the potential harm of new technologies such as wi-fi and 5G (4) pre-natal effects and effects of children (5) and to address the evidence on mechanisms of harm including oxidative stress and leakage of the blood-brain barrier (6) to respond to evidence of non-thermal harm when addressing cell phone testing and (7) evidence of environmental harms.

‘The court’s decision has changed the current status quo and has major legal implications’, said Ms Tachover. ‘Essentially, what this decision means is that until the FCC provides a review of the evidence regarding non-cancer wireless harms in a way that complies with the requirements of the law, the FCC guidelines can no longer be presented as an assurance of safety for harms, except for cancer harms.’

You can see more information about:

the CHD v. FCC case page here
https://childrenshealthdefense.org/seeking-justice/legal/chd-v-federal-communication-commission-fcc/

the CHD's Press Conference here
https://childrenshealthdefense.org/transcripts/watch-press-conference-chd-historic-win-against-fcc-on-5g-wireless-health-guidelines/

The court judgement here
https://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/FB976465BF00F8BD85258730004EFDF7/$file/20-1025-1910111.pdf
Source: EMR Australia, via email, 28 Aug 2021

Mobile-phone induced EEG changes similar to those seen in depression: study
Estonia Created: 26 Aug 2021
Abstract: This review aims to estimate the threshold of radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF EMF) effects on human brain based on analyses of published research results.

To clarify the threshold of the RF EMF effects, two approaches have been applied: (1) the analyses of restrictions in sensitivity for different steps of the physical model of low-level RF EMF mechanism and (2) the analyses of experimental data to clarify the dependence of the RF EMF effect on exposure level based on the results of published original neurophysiological and behavioral human studies for 15 years 2007–2021.

Conclusions

The analyses of the physical model of nonthermal mechanisms of RF EMF effect leads to conclusion that no principal threshold of the effect can be determined.

According to the review of experimental data, the rate of detected RF EMF effects is 76.7% in resting EEG studies, 41.7% in sleep EEG and 38.5% in behavioral studies. The changes in EEG probably appear earlier than alterations in behavior become evident.

The lowest level of RF EMF at which the effect in EEG was detected is 2.45 V/m (SAR = 0.003 W/kg).

There is a preliminary indication that the dependence of the effect on the level of exposure follows rather field strength than SAR alterations.

However, no sufficient data are available for clarifying linearity-nonlinearity of the dependence of effect on the level of RF EMF.

The finding that only part of people are sensitive to RF EMF exposure can be related to immunity to radiation or hypersensitivity. The changes in EEG caused by RF EMF appeared similar in the majority of analyzed studies and similar to these in depression.

The possible causal relationship between RF EMF effect and depression among young people is highly important problem.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: International Journal of Radiation Biology, Hinrikus et al., 23 Aug 2021

Court orders FCC to revisit its safety guidelines for RF radiation
USA Created: 19 Aug 2021
The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) must reexamine its health and safety guidelines for 5G and other wireless based technologies.

The case was filed in early 2020 by the Environmental Health Trust. Another petitioner, the Children's Health Defense, which is chaired by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., filed its own lawsuit but decided to file joint briefs with Environmental Health Trust as recommended by the court.*

Last Friday, the court ruled that the FCC’s decision in 2019 that its 1996 radio frequency emission guidelines adequately protect the public was capricious, arbitrary and not evidence based, in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. The court also found that the analysis provided by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration, on which the FCC relied for its decision, was also not evidence based.

The court ordered the FCC to provide a reasoned explanation for its decision to retain its testing procedures for determining whether cell phones and other portable electronic devices comply with its guidelines; address the impacts of RF radiation on children; address the health implications of long-term exposure to RF radiation; and address the impacts of RF radiation on the environment.

“To be clear, we take no position in the scientific debate regarding the health and environmental effects of RF radiation — we merely conclude that the Commission’s cursory analysis of material record evidence was insufficient as a matter of law,” stated the order.

“The court’s decision exposes the FCC and FDA as captive agencies that have abandoned their duty to protect public health in favor of a single-minded crusade to increase telecom industry profits,'' said Kennedy, in a statement.

Kennedy has repeatedly claimed that the FCC is a "captive agency," led and controlled by telecom industry insiders who are not objective about the health effects of RF radiation.

Children’s Health Defense lead attorney Scott McCollough said, “This is an historic win. The FCC will have to re-open the proceeding and for the first time meaningfully and responsibly confront the vast amount of scientific and medical evidence showing that current guidelines do not adequately protect health and the environment.”

*The story was updated on 8/16/21 to specify that there are two separate lawsuits.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Fierce Wireless, Linda Hardesty, 16 Aug 2021

MSP blasts telecoms giant for "ridiculous" behaviour as phone mast row rumbles on
Scotland Created: 17 Aug 2021
A telecoms giant seeking to build a controversial mobile phone mast in the heart of a Cambuslang community have been accused of "ridiculous" behaviour by only giving locals just over a week to respond to their plans.

H3G, better known as Three, are looking to install a 65ft mast on Hallside Boulevard in Drumsagard, much to the concern of some residents, who fear it will become a blight on the landscape.

However H3G's contractor for the masts, WHP Telecoms Ltd, wrote to local councillors on July 18 asking for views on the proposal “prior to the submission of a formal planning application” and promptly made a formal application eight days later.

The company insist they have followed proper procedures with their application.

It is understood they had not received any replies from councillors to their letter, which was sent during the summer recess.

Rutherglen MSP Clare Haughey told Lanarkshire Live she was incensed over the way the proposal has been handled.

She said: "I hear from constituents frequently that they want improved coverage in their area and, as we know, there is already established telecommunications infrastructure in local neighbourhoods.

“However, fundamentally, any new installation like this must be sited properly and companies must work with local communities.

"To give only an eight-day period for a pre-application engagement with residents, particularly at a time when many people are on holiday, is ridiculous and they are showing no courtesy to the people of Drumsagard."

Cambuslang East councillor Katy Loudon was also furious with the company.

She added: "Many residents have deep concerns about the plans for a mast – particularly as it is 20 metres tall, in a residential area.

"There are legitimate objections about the location of the proposal and the effect it would have on its surroundings.

"Clare and I would have been happy to work with the company to find a more suitable site. Instead, they’ve gone ahead with the formal application.

"All things considered, I oppose these plans."

It is understood the company believe the Hallside Boulevard site is the best choice to ensure the widest breadth of coverage.

A Three spokesperson said: "5G rollout is vital for residents and businesses of Cambuslang. We want to offer the community a reliable network experience and this site will be critical to making that happen.

“We followed best practice throughout the consultation process including contacting the local councillors and local planning authority. We did not receive any objections here and therefore submitted a formal application.

"The local planning authority now has 56 days to decide, considering any objections it receives."
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Daily Record, Jonathan Geddes, 17 Aug 2021

Proposed Eir mast in Balla refused planning permission
Ireland Created: 15 Aug 2021
PLANS by Eir to erect a telecommunications mast in Balla have been rejected by Mayo County Council.

The company sought permission to erect a 21m high monopole telecommunications support structure together with antennas, dishes and associated equipment at the eir exchange, at the rear of Balla Garda Station, on Main Street.

Council planners found that the development would have a negative visual impact on the setting associated with St. Cronan's Catholic Church, which is listed on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

It would interfere with the character of the landscape, which it is necessary to preserve, and would be contrary to the proper planning and development of the area.

A number of observations were submitted to the council raising concerns relating to health, visual impact and the proposed location being in close proximity of houses, schools, the church and playgrounds.

Another observation questioned the lack of fibre optic cable in Balla and whether this proposal would supersede the need for the roll-out of faster broadband infrastructure.

In its submissions to the council, Eir said the greater Balla area is a known coverage weak spot.

Unlike most towns and villages there is no sizeable existing telecommunications structure and identifiable garda station mast, Eir mast or other operator mast in Balla which would have historically attracted mobile phone operators.

An existing timber pole infrastructure at the rear of the garda station was outdated, one dimensional and limited in functionality and could not support Eir in achieving its coverage objectives in Balla.

Eir doesn't currently transmit from its exchange at the rear of the station and its coverage is deficient.

The new structure they proposed would significantly improve its next generation services for the benefit of local residents.

Coverage, they noted, has long been a source of complaint among local businesses and residents.

Ballyglass appeal

Meanwhile, a grant of permission for a mast in the village of Ballyglass has been appealed to An Bord Pleanála.

The council gave the green light to Eircom for a 21-metre high structure.

However, three parties have lodged an appeal with An Bord Pleanála against that decision, including the local community council.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Connaught Telegraph, 14 Aug 2021

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