German coal mine may be prime for pumped storage

In the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, a coal mine will close in 2018. Aging coal infrastructure, low wholesale power prices, and a move away from the highly polluting power source all make renewable energy the political darling of the day.

But that doesn’t mean the Prosper-Haniel coal mine will be shutting down completely. According to Bloomberg, North Rhine-Westphalia State Governor Hannelore Kraft recently confirmed that a project to turn the coal mine into pumped storage will move forward after mining activities have stopped.

Pumped storage has been used for decades, but placing a pumped storage scheme at a retired mine is somewhat new. Here’s how it works: when electricity is plentiful and cheap—say, on a windy day when the Sun is shining and solar panels and wind turbines are working at their maximum—a pumped storage facility pumps water from a lower reservoir up to an upper reservoir. When electricity is scarce, the facility can release the water back down to the lower reservoir through a turbine, creating renewable hydroelectric power.

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Charter promises Trump a broadband push, but no extra Internet connections

Charter CEO Tom Rutledge met with President Donald Trump today, and he made a splashy promise to “invest $25 billion in broadband infrastructure and technology in the next four years.”

But Charter, the second biggest US cable company after Comcast, was already planning broadband expansions during the Obama administration. When Charter purchased Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks 10 months ago, it agreed to a merger condition requiring it to bring 60Mbps download speeds to an additional two million customer locations.

The spending Charter promised Trump today won’t guarantee broadband access for any additional customers beyond what the company already committed to during the Obama years.

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AT&T/DirecTV give in to government demands in collusion lawsuit settlement

DirecTV and its owner, AT&T, have promised the US Department of Justice that they will not illegally share information with rival pay-TV providers in order to keep the price of TV channels down.

The DOJ sued DirecTV and AT&T in November 2016, saying the satellite-TV company colluded with competitors during contentious negotiations to broadcast Los Angeles Dodgers games. AT&T initially said that it looked forward to defending itself in court. But yesterday, the company agreed to a settlement “without trial or adjudication of any issue of fact or law.”

The proposed settlement, pending court approval, “will obtain all of the relief sought by the department in its lawsuit,” the DOJ said in its announcement.

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How ISPs can sell your Web history—and how to stop them

The US Senate yesterday voted to eliminate privacy rules that would have forced ISPs to get your consent before selling Web browsing history and app usage history to advertisers. Within a week, the House of Representatives could follow suit, and the rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission last year would be eliminated by Congress.

So what has changed for Internet users? In one sense, nothing changed this week, because the requirement to obtain customer consent before sharing or selling data is not scheduled to take effect until at least December 4, 2017. ISPs didn’t have to follow the rules yesterday or the day before, and they won’t ever have to follow them if the rules are eliminated.

But the Senate vote is nonetheless one big step toward a major victory for ISPs, one that would give them legal certainty if they continue to make aggressive moves into the advertising market. The Senate vote invoked the Congressional Review Act, which lets Congress eliminate regulations it doesn’t like and prevent the agency from issuing similar regulations in the future. For ISPs, this is better than the FCC undoing its own rules, because it means a future FCC won’t be able to reinstate them.

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Google reportedly removing SMS texting from Hangouts on May 22

Google continues to shake up its messaging tools with the upcoming removal of a popular feature from Hangouts. According to an email sent to GSuite administrators and subsequently posted to Reddit, Google will remove the SMS messaging feature from Hangouts on May 22. Anyone using Hangouts as both a Google messaging app and their primary text messaging app won’t be able to send SMS texts after that date.

Hangouts users will be notified of this change via an in-app message starting March 27. You’ll be prompted to select a new default messaging app from your list of downloaded apps. If you don’t have anything other than Hangouts, you’ll be directed to the Google Play Store to download another messaging app. All of your existing SMS messages will not be affected and they will be available in your new default messaging app.

Google Voice users will also be affected, but not as much as Hangouts-only users. The rule only applies to messages sent and received with your carrier phone number—all SMS messages sent with your Google Voice number will remain unaffected. “For SMS users using Google Voice on Hangouts on Android Google Voice users who also send carrier SMS messages will need to choose another default messaging app. Their Google Voice messages will be unaffected and will still be available in Google Hangouts,” the email states. “For Google Voice users on Hangouts on Android Google Voice users who do not use carrier SMS text messaging will not be affected and no notification will be shown.”

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Senate votes to let ISPs sell your Web browsing history to advertisers

The US Senate today voted to eliminate broadband privacy rules that would have required ISPs to get consumers’ explicit consent before selling or sharing Web browsing data and other private information with advertisers and other companies.

The rules were approved in October 2016 by the Federal Communications Commission’s then-Democratic leadership, but are opposed by the FCC’s new Republican majority and Republicans in Congress. The Senate today used its power under the Congressional Review Act to ensure that the FCC rulemaking “shall have no force or effect” and to prevent the FCC from issuing similar regulations in the future.

The House, also controlled by Republicans, would need to vote on the measure before the privacy rules are officially eliminated. President Trump could also preserve the privacy rules by issuing a veto.

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Big US companies pull YouTube ads after extremist content sparks uncertainty

The controversy surrounding Google and YouTube advertising and extremist content has spread across the pond. According to a Bloomberg report, some of YouTube’s biggest advertising customers, including Verizon and AT&T, have halted spending on display and other non-search advertising on the platform. The news comes days after a stream of UK companies pulled their ads from YouTube and Google’s display ad network in response to a report from The Times that cited instances of UK government advertising running over extremist content.

Bloomberg reports AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc. have stopped all non-search advertising spending with Google, while Johnson & Johnson stopped all its global advertising on YouTube. AT&T said in a statement that it is concerned that its advertising may have appeared over “YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate,” and it will not resume advertising “until Google can ensure this won’t happen again.” Verizon has launched an investigation, presumably to find out if any of its ads appeared over extremist content.

The original report from The Times cited specific instances in which UK taxpayer-funded advertising ran over hateful, offensive videos, including those by American white nationalist David Duke. That revelation sparked many companies in the UK to remove their ads from Google platforms, forcing Google to examine its ad policies and implement new tools to give advertisers more control over where their ads go. However, there have been no other reports detailing instances in which ads from the companies named above ran over offensive content on YouTube or Google’s Display Network.

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17,000 AT&T technicians and call center workers go on strike

About 17,000 AT&T wireline technicians and call center employees went on strike in California and Nevada today while filing an unfair labor charge to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging that AT&T violated federal law.

“The company has shown disrespect to the bargaining process by changing the work assignments of workers without bargaining as required by federal law,” the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union said in its strike announcement. “Further, AT&T reneged on an agreement to resolve the dispute without any explanation.”

The CWA said that AT&T “is asking its workers to do more for less—keeping them from their families with unpredictable overtime, undercutting pay and advancement, offshoring good jobs, and pushing more health care costs onto employees.”

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