What does end of US net neutrality mean for world?

The vote to roll back net neutrality rules in the U.S. could have major global implications.

While Thursday’s decision by the Federal Communications Commission could yet be challenged in court or Congress, experts say the U.S. risks surrendering its role as the champion of a free and open internet.

“This will be another instance of the U.S. ceding leadership in a global area,” said Nick Frisch, a resident fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project.

“It is going to set a bad example for other countries, coming from the country that invented the internet,” he said.

Take China, for example, where the notion of an open internet has been effectively killed by the country’s vast censorship apparatus.

Many of the issues that U.S. net neutrality rules were designed to prevent — slowing down internet traffic, fast lanes for certain kinds of content, the blocking of websites — have been happening in China for years.

China’s been there, done that

“They made their choice a long time ago, and it’s the opposite of net neutrality,” said Lokman Tsui, associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and former head of free expression at Google in Asia.

The FCC vote to repeal net neutrality will have little impact on internet users in China.

But it could encourage China to continue with its restrictions, Tsui said.

“Whatever little moral ground the U.S. had speaking and talking about the open internet, I don’t think they have any credibility left at this point,” he added.

For most other countries around the world, especially developed nations, net neutrality is taken for granted, said Andrew Lippman, a senior research scientist at MIT.

“My concern is largely in the emerging world,” where people may have few options for accessing the internet and governments might favor corporations’ interests, Lippman said.

Countries where data plans are too expensive for most of their citizens are especially vulnerable. They have become the battleground for controversial “zero-rating” services.

India offers an alternative

Under such a service, certain applications — often Facebook’s WhatsApp or Messenger apps — are not subject to data caps. If a user burns through her plan’s allotted data, those apps would continue working while others cease to function.

India, which is a staunch defender of net neutrality, decided last year to kick out a high-profile “zero-rating” service, Facebook’s Free Basics.

Broadly speaking, India’s telecommunications regulator has said it doesn’t want any content discrimination.

The country decided it didn’t want a market “where poor people get some sort of diet version of the internet, what the telecommunication companies allow, and the richer people get fuller internet that’s faster,” Tsui said.

With the U.S. no longer the beacon on a hill for internet access, developing Asian countries like Thailand and Indonesia are likely to turn elsewhere for guidance.

Will Canada and Europe stand firm?

If they take their lead from the region’s giants — India and China — they will face a choice between two vastly different approaches. But they could also look further afield.

Canada and certain countries in the European Union offer more reliable role models for net neutrality, according to Graham Webster, China digital economy fellow at New America.

Canadian President Justin Trudeau has expressed his concern about the U.S. plans to roll back net neutrality.

The European Union introduced rules in 2015 that it said would ensure that all content is treated equally and that there are no “fast” or “slow” lanes for certain types of online content. Some specific types of content such as critical healthcare data could be granted special rights to ensure it always operates smoothly.

Critics said the European rules are “weak and unclear” and have loopholes that could create an “uneven playing field.” But the EU may find itself having to defend the cause of net neutrality.

If the U.S. won’t stand up for the free and open internet, “it’s important that other countries do so,” Webster said.

Car fires cause traffic delays on I-95 in Miami-Dade, Pembroke Road in Broward

A car caught fire Friday morning on Interstate 95 in Miami-Dade County.Sky 10 was flying above I-95 about 6:30 a.m. as heavy flames filled the car, which was stopped on the shoulder in the southbound lanes near Miami Gardens Drive.Firefighters eventual…

Stores may be in trouble, but people are spending like mad

Stores are closing at an unprecedented pace. Retailers are going bankrupt. Malls are slowly being abandoned.

But don’t misunderstand what’s happening. Physical stores are struggling — an understatement — but consumers are spending like crazy.

Confidence is the highest in 17 years. Unemployment is low, and shoppers have more cash to buy stuff. Consumers have recovered from the Great Recession, and then some.

The problem for retailers isn’t people’s willingness to spend. It’s where they’re spending.

After the Great Recession, spending shifted online. In a serious case of bad timing, American retailers built thousands of new stores in the decade prior to the recession, when the economy was thriving, according to Richard Feinberg, professor of retail management at Purdue University.

Feinberg says reports of the retail industry’s demise are “way overblown.” Instead, he says the industry is “facing a retrenchment,” because retailers have way too many stores open.

Getting that mix right — keeping the magic number of physical stores open while keeping up with online demand — will be the key to survival.

Hundreds of retailers have suffered from having more stores than they needed.

Sears, which operated nearly 3,800 stores as recently as a decade ago, is down to 1,104. Macy’s closed 68 stores this year, and JCPenney announced it would close 128.

The CEOs of Payless (which filed for bankruptcy this year) and Urban Outfitters conceded that there are too many stores in America.

Retailers know that having physical stores is no longer enough. They have to have a strong online presence to survive this change in spending habits. Online sales are projected to grow, and physical store sales are expected to continue shrinking.

“You’re not going to be able to out-Amazon Amazon,” says Feinberg. But retailers have to try to keep up.

Amazon is projected to make up half the online marketplace by 2021, according to Wall Street firm Needham.

This holiday season, consumers spent a record amount of money online — $5 billion on Black Friday alone. That’s 17% more than last year, according to data from Adobe Digital Insights.

Don’t expect all sales to be online anytime soon, though. For most retailers, having a physical presence remains important to their business models. Around 88% of all purchases in the U.S. still take place in physical locations, according to Moody’s senior analyst Charlie O’Shea. And these stores are still bringing in major revenue.

This holiday season alone, people are projected to spend $420 billion in brick-and-mortar stores, according to Deloitte.

Experts point to Walmart as the best example of a retailer that seems to be getting the mix right.

Walmart has been on an acquisition spree, recently buying up Jet.com, ModCloth, Bonobos, Moosejaw and several other shopping sites.

It said last quarter that its digital sales rose a stunning 50% in the United States — higher than Amazon’s growth rate for revenue.

The retail sector may only have two major players in the future: Amazon and Walmart.

For now, consumers are benefiting from having so many online and in-store options, which is driving prices down, according to Garrick Brown, vice president of retail research at Cushman & Wakefield.

Brown says it’s unlikely that Amazon would hike its prices except in places where it’s dominant.

However, Amazon has the cash to buy up many struggling retailers. Macy’s and JCPenney combined are worth less than $9 billion, compared with Amazon’s more than $560 billion.

“It’s possible that things could change really quickly for retailers,” Brown says.

Trump will stop spouses of H-1B visa holders from working

The Trump administration plans to make it illegal for the spouses of thousands of immigrant workers to get jobs in the U.S.

Since 2015, the spouses of H-1B visa holders waiting for green cards have been eligible to work in the U.S. on H-4 dependent visas, thanks to a rule introduced by President Obama. Many H-1B visa holders are highly skilled, working in the tech sector.

But in a statement Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security said it intends to do away with that rule.

The department didn’t explain its reasons, saying only it was acting “in light of” the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order that President Trump signed in April.

That order called for the H-1B visa program for skilled workers to be reviewed with the aim of reforming it.

As well as dropping the rule allowing spouses to work, the Department of Homeland Security statement mentioned plans for other changes to the H-1B visa program. They include revising the definition of what occupations are eligible for the program “to increase focus on truly obtaining the best and brightest foreign nationals.”

The Obama-era rule allowing spouses to work already faces a legal challenge. A group called Save Jobs USA filed a lawsuit in April 2015 arguing that it threatens American jobs.

It has continued to press the case following Trump’s election, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said in the past that the H-4 rule “hurts American workers.”

The Trump administration’s plans to overhaul the H-1B program has caused particular alarm in India, which accounts for 70% of all H-1B workers.

The H-1B is a common visa route for highly skilled foreigners to find work at companies in the U.S. It’s valid for three years, and can be renewed for another three years.

It’s a program that’s particularly popular in the tech community, with many talented engineers vying for one of the program’s 85,000 visas each year.

In October, the government said it was toughening up the process for renewing the visa. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services instructed its officers to review requests for renewal as thoroughly as they would initial visa applications.

— Tal Kopan contributed to this report.

US scrambles to find unified message on North Korea

A dispute over North Korea has once again laid bare the apparent rift between the White House and the top US diplomat, leading to behind-the-scenes scrambling this week by aides meant to avoid mixed signals about the world’s tensest standoff.

Even as staff members scurried to clean up what appeared to be diplomatic differences, however, President Donald Trump himself remained unperturbed over the dust-up, according to an official familiar with the situation — an attitude people close to the President say reflects his confidence that foreign leaders and members of his administration understand that he’s in charge.

White House staffers were caught off guard this week by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s offer during a public forum on Tuesday to “sit down” with North Korea “and see each other face-to-face.” His remarks prompted the White House to take the unusual step of releasing a statement to reporters attempting to clarify the administration’s position.

But by the time Trump and Tillerson sat down for lunch Thursday in the small private dining room abutting the Oval Office, Trump did not reprimand Tillerson for his remarks. The two men met privately before sitting down for their meal.

Anxieties exist

The situation underscores the anxieties within the administration at maintaining a united front against North Korea, even as Trump’s advisers continue to hold differing viewpoints on how best to confront the rogue regime. Some analysts and experts have written off Trump’s team as demonstrating a muddled message. But administration officials insist they all share the same goal of a denuclearized North Korea.

West Wing staffers were surprised at Tillerson’s remarks since they believed Trump has been explicit in his insistence the time is not right for talks with Pyongyang, particularly after an apparent dispute earlier this year between the President and Tillerson on the matter.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful secretary of state, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump wrote at the beginning of October after Tillerson raised the prospects of talks with North Korea. Trump uses “little rocket man” as an insult to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

On Tuesday, some of Trump’s aides found it odd that Tillerson would continue reiterating a conciliatory position on talks, even after the dispute with Trump earlier this year.

“We are ready to have the first meeting without precondition,” Tillerson said at the Atlantic Council in Washington, in what seemed to amount to a direct public invitation for North Korea to put aside an escalating cycle of tests and taunts to engage in diplomacy.

“Let’s just meet, and we can talk about the weather if you want. Talk about whether it’s going to be a square table or a round table, if that’s what you are excited about. But can we at least sit down and see each other face to face, and then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map of what we might be willing to work towards,” he said.

Concern about confusion

Some aides were concerned that Tillerson’s comments on Tuesday would confuse allies, many of whom are pressing the US to agree to talks with North Korea. Trump has been insistent on maintaining pressure on the regime through sanctions and joint military exercises and does not want to show any cracks in that pressure.

Aides to Tillerson, however, disputed the notion that the diplomat was trying to make new policy on North Korea in his comments. And they pointed to his planned remarks Friday at the United Nations Security Council as evidence of his attempts to maintain pressure on North Korea, keeping with the President’s objectives.

“There is never full agreement on any one approach,” said one aide. “But the secretary knows that he has the full support of the President. He has a very close relationship with the President. They speak often and they speak candidly with each other.”

“That is the joke of it,” the aide continued. “It is the opposite of what people think.”

A State Department official reiterated this week that there is no daylight between the State Department and White House on North Korea, acknowledging it is Trump and his circle of advisers at the White House that are ultimately driving the policy.

Indeed, Tillerson is viewed by some White House aides to have been marginalized in the policy-making process on North Korea, and some advisers to Trump have begun openly speculating about a replacement plan for Tillerson that involves moving CIA Director Mike Pompeo to the State Department post.

Not leaving

Tillerson, however, has insisted both in public and private that he’s not leaving, even as some White House aides grow frustrated at his diplomatic efforts that seem to be at odds with Trump’s. And Trump, at least for now, does not appear to be pushing him to the exits.

On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Trump and Tillerson “spent two hours together.”

“They met together then had lunch with (Defense) Secretary Mattis,” Nauert said.

And even as White House staffers expressed concern about Tillerson’s remarks, few believed Trump himself to be disturbed. Trump, one official said, isn’t bothered by Tillerson expressing his own views, even if they appear contradictory to his own.

Trump has said that he makes the final decisions on foreign policy, and believes foreign leaders and his members of his own administration know that. He conveyed as much on Twitter earlier this month, at the same time refuting reports that he was preparing to replace Tillerson.

“He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!” Trump wrote.

Some former US officials have raised doubts over whether Tillerson and the White House are on the same page.

“It is somewhere between confusing and worrisome,” according to Evan Medeiros, a former National Security Council senior director for Asia.

“The State Department and White House should be in lockstep when it comes to issues like negotiating with North Korea,” he added. “So if the White House is not backing up Tillerson, it suggests that Tillerson himself is trying to push the White House in the direction of just getting talks started, and perhaps Tillerson doesn’t fully appreciate all the downside risks associated with talks without any kind of presteps or preconditions.”

Middle Rio Grande Pueblo Tribal Consortium Broadband Connectivity Fiber Optic Groundbreaking Set for Monday 12/18

Published December 15, 2017 Tribally-Owned Fiber Optic Network to Serve Tribal Libraries: Pueblos of Cochiti, San Felipe, Santa Ana and Santo Domingo  SANTA ANA PUEBLO, NEW MEXICO – The Middle Rio Grande Pueblo Tribal Consortium (MRGPTC or “Consortium”) is excited to announce its fiber optic network groundbreaking on Monday, December 18, 2017, at San Felipe […]

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Legislation Introduced to Restore Tribal Jurisdiction over Domestic Violence Incidents on Tribal Land to Children and Law Enforcement

Published December 15, 2017 WASHINGTON — On Thursday, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) introduced the bipartisan Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act (NYTOPA) to build on the Tribal jurisdiction provisions in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013) by extending protections […]

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