The Circuit: FCC plan for affordable broadband, mean teens online, net neutrality heats up again

FCC broadband: The Federal Communications Commission will announce an initiative Wednesday to provide low-income homes with cheaper access to broadband service and computers, The Washington Post reported. The plan will offer $10 monthly broadband service and $150 computers, and is aimed those who don’t use high-speed Internet services because of the costs.

This spring, service providers such as Bright House, Comcast, Cox and Time Warner will offer the discounted plan to families eligible for school-lunch programs. Computer refurbishing company Redemtech will offer the laptop computers.

“The cost of not adopting broadband, the cost of exclusion is high and getting higher,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Mean teens: A recent study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that nine in 10 teenagers say they have seen their peers being cruel on social networks, The Washington Post reported. The group that reported the most unkind treatment on social networks was girls ages 12 to 13.

On the flip side, eight in 10 teens said that social networking sites have helped them feel better about themselves.

Net neutrality: The battle around net neutrality is heating up yet again as the Senate moves to consider a legislative push by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Tex.) to overturn the rules set down by the FCC, The Washington Post reported. On Tuesday, the White House said it would veto any attempt to block the FCC rules, which are set to go into effect Nov. 20.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said Tuesday in an editorial at the Huffington Post that net neutrality is “the most important free speech issue of our time.”

Privacy complaints: The Federal Trade Commission settled two privacy complaints Tuesday, with kids’ social networking site operator Skid-e-kids and with online advertiser Scan Scout, The Washington Post reported.

Meanwhile, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) urged that the FTC and the Commerce Department release their final reports on protecting commercial privacy. Both agencies have circulated draft reports on privacy protections. McCain and Kerry introduced comprehensive privacy legislation, the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights, in April.

Supreme Court looks at warrantless tracking: The Supreme Court debated the issue of warrantless tracking Tuesday as they heard arguments for United States v. Jones, and justices were apparently shocked to hear that police were authorized to put trackers into cars without a warrant, the Associated Press reported. Government lawyer Michael Dreeben said that GPS-tracking does not warrant its own rules and is similar to other techniques that do not require a warrant such as going through someone’s trash or tailing them with a team of agents.

But justices were skeptical. Justice Samuel Alito expressed concern that the law was not keeping up with technology that allows for officers to collect “an enormous amount of information,” but justices also had concerns about placing limits on police actions.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.

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