Monthly Archives: September 2019

NY attorney general gets more ISPs to block alt.* newsgroups

admin | 08/09/2019 | COMMENTS:Comments Closed

Last month, the New York state Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, announced that a sting operation had uncovered an indifference on the part of Internet service providers regarding complaints about child porn accessible through their networks. Using a combination of legal threats and public shaming, Cuomo was able to get three ISPs to drop access to the entire alt.* hierarchy of Usenet, a move that encouraged California to request similar measures. Now, in a sign that these efforts against child porn were becoming a movement, Cuomo has announced the launch of a web site, nystopchildporn and agreements with two more ISPs. HangZhou Night Net

AOL is the subject of one of the new agreements, which isn't much of a surprise, given that its corporate sibling, Time Warner Cable, had already signed on with Cuomo. It will apparently require no changes on its part, as CNET reports that the company had already implemented a policy of blocking child porn access. AT&T is the other, and, given that it's apparently the US' largest service provider, it represents a significant accomplishment for the AG. Apparently, AT&T's efforts will be as indiscriminate as those pursued by Verizon, in that they plan on blocking access to the entire alt.binaries.* hierarchy.

Cuomo's new web site signifies that he's clearly not done yet. It includes contact information for 20 ISPs that presumably operate in New York, and text of a letter to send to them to urge that they sign on to the campaign. Its promised link to a printable PDF of the letter, however, is nonfunctional.

Andrew Cuomo

Regardless of how you feel about Cuomo's efforts or the implementation of his agreements by the ISPs, it's difficult to interpret the new site as anything more than an effort in self promotion. Its intent is signaled by the entry page, which is entitled "Press Releases" and contains an animation that rotates through four photos of Cuomo announcing the site's launch. Three of the four sentences in the draft letter to ISPs include Cuomo's name, and the fourth refers to him by his title.

The letter is also notable for the fact that it no longer focuses on the actual accessibility of child porn via the ISP, and instead simply requests they join in Cuomo's campaign. The rapid shift of focus from an identifiable problem to a high-publicity campaign seems as likely to produce cynicism as it is to lead to progress on the underlying issue.

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iPhone Mania in San Francisco

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Line length at the San Francisco Apple Store at 8:00 AM

Approaching the Apple Store, I breathed deeply of the burnt hydrocarbons and fresh urine that is a summer morning in downtown San Francisco. The brushed-metal and glass cube was yet hidden, until I turned the corner at Market Street. A sense of anticipation and fear filled me that I could not put a name to, so I borrowed from a name (William Carlos Williams) that could. HangZhou Night Net

so much depends
upon

a 3G
iPhone

glazed with finger
prints

inside the jeans
pocket.

18 months ago, Steve Jobs put his reputation and possibly the future of Apple on the line, betting the company would sell 10 million iPhones in 2008 and revolutionize mobile computing. So far this year, somewhere between 2 and 3 million iPhones have been sold, and I had to wonder as I passed the guy on the milk crate wearing the hoodie over his head who wanted 43 cents—why? I didn't know then, but Apple did.

She actually took notes with a pen and paper like Lois Lane or something!

A year after lining up around the block in the afternoon heat for a $600 phone and a two-year contract with a carrier of dubious quality, hundreds and hundreds waited to pay $400 less for another two years of more bars in more places, but very few places with four bars. The guy on the left in the above picture wasn't as interested in taking to that reporter, as he had been standing there since 10:00 PM. Wednesday. He had camped in a tent for two days, making friends with both Apple Store employees and urban nomads alike, and starting to smell like the latter by this morning.

At just before 8:00 AM, the cheers and applause started from the inside going out. Maybe it was for the media, but the Apple Store employees looked happy. As for the reporters, plenty of news reporters fronting perfect-teeth-and-hair commented on video. Tech reporters dressed in dark colors snapped pictures. I saw a couple of guys in Wired t-shirts that I have not been given, let alone an office and a personal assistant. Robert Scoble was there doing videos with questionable production values. Then, the first group of elect were ushered into the store to get their new phones.

Up Stockton Street and beyond

Walking the line and sampling stories, a minority of those were waiting to upgrade to new phones, but many more were new buyers. If San Francisco is indicative of the other cities—a scary though in most circumstances—the iPhone 3G is bringing in more new people, good for both AT&T and Apple. Reasons for getting an iPhone 3G are in keeping with recent surveys. Buyers of iPhones want 3G, GPS, real web browsing, media playing. Being San Francisco, the demographics of the crowd were ethnically diverse with plenty of piercings and tats, mixed in among the nerds and just people. It was a lot like last year.

If you want your product mentioned, send girls in t-shirts to the event

One thing that was different from the line last year was developers. You had several makers of location-aware social networking applications handing out info. I picked up literature from limbo and goodrec, but being antisocial, they won't do me much good. I also spoke with two girls from vSNAX, the "free mobile video service that will offer news, gossip, weather, sports highlights, short films and more.”

"Hi, I write for Ars Technica, a technology web site recently acquired by Condé Nast for millions and millions of dollars and—you have no idea what I'm talking about—so what are you doing here?"

"We're handing out screen cleaners."

"Okay, then."

All the way down O'Farrell

At the rate the line was moving, it looked like these people were going to be there for awhile. Forget about those promises of 15 minutes per customer. The line only moved once in the 45 minutes I was there. If I wanted an iPhone 3G, it looked like AT&T was the better bet, so I went home.

A line of a hundred or so at the AT&T Store in San Bruno

If you are wondering why AT&T opened a big corporate store in the little town of San Bruno, CA, it couldn't possibly be because San Bruno has municipal cable and AT&T sees that as an easy target for DSL. The truth is, the store has a prime location between a Red Lobster and BevMo! liquor store, having displaced the Blockbuster store that smelled like feet. The new AT&T Store smells much better, very modern look and feel, and they even run Microsoft's Table OS. Sadly, they will likely run out of iPhones today. The line started forming yesterday and went around the store into the parking lot. They have no idea when they will be getting their next shipment, either. No iPhone for Jade, but standing there looking at the line, I at least got a cheap epiphany.

Microsoft Surface White Screen of Death

More than a hundred years before Pat Buchanan talked up a "culture war" over where gay men put their pee-pees, Otto von Bismarck started a real Kulturkampf with the Catholic Church in the new German Empire. In both cases, it was about who got to decide what was cool, and in both cases, it wasn't the people themselves. In the popkulturkampf going on in the coming age of ubiquitous technology, the people are choosing, and they aren't lining up for Windows Mobile phones in San Bruno.

10 million iPhones in 2008 is a done deal today.

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Microsoft: Vista more secure than XP, Leopard, and Linux

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At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2008, Kevin Turner, chief operating officer at Microsoft, gave a keynote that covered a range of topics from the partner ecosystem that the company is so grateful for (and will be investing another $600 million year over year) to what the plan is for the next fiscal year (a bigger push on Software as a Service). Turner talked about almost every major area that Microsoft has invested in, and then uttered something that was PR speak gone too far. He began to talk about Vista's security, and he said something that I simply don't agree with (emphasis mine): HangZhou Night Net

We've talked a lot about compatibility, we don't need to talk as much about compatibility anymore, we need to talk about the fact that, look, what Vista is, its the most secure product in the history of operating systems on a desktop. It is more secure today than Apple Leopard, or XP, or Linux, or open source. We built this product to engineer in security on the front end, not as a service pack. As a result of that, we tightened down things like user account controls. Yes, it required a lot of compatibility upgrades and fixes, but you know what, it's important that you understand the progress, and you're able to articulate that, and fewer patching is what all customers want, and there's a cost savings there. Windows Vista with Service Pack 1 delivers that.

Now, Turner has some data to back this claim up, but he's only looking at it from one perspective. Yes, Vista does have fewer vulnerabilities than XP, and it does not surprise me that Mac OS X and Linux have more than either. However, security should not simply be measured in the number of vulnerabilities found in a given piece of software. There are more people looking over Linux code day in and day out when compared to Microsoft, and there is often fame and money to be won for finding vulnerabilities in Mac OS X.

Exploited vulnerabilities are something that needs a little bit more emphasis, and so do infection numbers. Vista's infection numbers are lower than XP's, but this is due to two main factors: it's a more secure OS and it also has a smaller market share, making it a smaller target. Vista's infection rates are obviously higher than those of Mac OS X or Linux, and that's what security is about.

Microsoft may not have control over the fact that its operating systems are the most targeted, so it can't exactly change anything there, but if you are going to tout that you've improved security in your product, compare it to the predecessor, or explicitly state that you're talking about vulnerability numbers. Hopefully this will be taken into consideration in the upcoming Vista ads.

Further reading:Microsoft: Press Release

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Friday evening Microsoft links, Foxit edition

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Links for the second Friday of July: HangZhou Night Net

Ever heard of Deep Zoom Obama? You’ll need Silverlight for this one, and a lot of patience if you want to create your own version.If you’ve ever wondered about how Microsoft got around to creating the “ribbon” that is used in the Office 2007 UI, I strongly suggest you download and watch “The Story of the Ribbon” (right click > save target as).Recently, AOL released AIM for Windows Mobile, available for both version 5 and 6. It's not yet feature complete, but if you're interested in checking out the beta, you should go sign up.This one's a bit old but great for those who like using both Apple and Microsoft products. If you're interested in turning your Mac mini into a Windows Home Server computer, this guide is for you.The largest panoramic picture I’ve ever seen is of the Louvre Museum, and it was created thanks to the Windows Live Photo Gallery. This simple but powerful application makes me wish I had the cash for a new digital camera.Microsoft blogger Mary Jo Foley is inviting everyone to her Microsoft 2.0 book launch, hosted at Microsoft's Redmond campus. Unfortunately I can't make it, but I definitely recommend stopping by if you're in the area.Microsoft Outlook users should read this blog post entitled "Making Outlook a little quieter." It's not particularly long and it's worth the hassle if you are someone who likes keeping pings and prompts to a minimum.Speaking of guides, the "Microsoft BizTalk Server Performance Optimization Guide" is available on both MSDN, TechNet, and the Microsoft Download Center.In terms of new Microsoft sites, the company now has a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Wiki and a fresh environmental blog available for your reading pleasure.Up for some Windows Server 2008 propaganda? The "Windows Server 2008 Whitepaper Highlighting Energy Efficiency" is for you. Oh, and the Top 5 things to know about Hyper-V is worth a quick glance.If you want to get a head start on some technical reading about SQL Server 2008 before it's released, here are 7 new articles that should keep you satisfied.The July 2008 issue of the MSDN magazine has been posted online. My personal reading recommendation is "WCF P2P: How To Design State Sharing in a Peer Network."The Microsoft adCenter dev team is requesting users to give feedback on what should be added to the service. This is your chance to tell Microsoft what you want.Want to know more about the WorldWide Telescope? Here’s an interview that’s worth reading over.

Per the title, this week's free, third-party application recommendation is Foxit Reader, the latest version of which is 2.3. This PDF reader is the one I always recommend for those fed up with Adobe Reader. It's smaller and quicker, but if you work with complicated PDF files on a daily basis, I can't say that Foxit is yet up there. Still, I've never had problems with the PDFs I've viewed ever since I started using it a couple of years ago. Enjoy!

Further reading:One Microsoft Way: Last Friday links post

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Japanese Space Agency Awards University Consortium a Free Ride toward Venus

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The Japanese Space Agency, JAXA, solicited plans for a microprobe to be piggybacked on its Venus Climate Orbiter, which will be launched in May 2010 and arrive at Venus in December of the same year. The opportunity will provide a free ride to either a low-Earth orbit or on a trajectory toward Venus, as covered in our previous post. HangZhou Night Net

There are four winning proposals, one of which will be boosted toward Venus; three will stay in low-Earth orbits. The one that will be headed to Venus will be built by a team from the University Space Engineering Consortium (UNISEC), a group of 20 Japanese universities. The probe will measure about 35x35x35 centimeters and weigh approximately 15 kilograms. Once on trajectory toward Venus, it will test several computers built by UNISEC member universities, and hold a competition that will determine which computer survives the longest in the space environment. It will also carry out experiments in deep-space communication technologies using commercially available equipment in collaboration with amateur ham radio operators.

As mentioned in the previous post, once the probe is on its way toward Venus, JAXA will not assist with correcting the trajectory and the probe will operate completely on its own. The brief data sheet provided by JAXA suggests the probe does not have the capacity to observe Venus, and the main mission of the UNISEC plan seems be conducting engineering experiments in the deep-space environment, so reaching Venus may actually be optional.

The three other microsatellites that will stick around Earth are all 10x10x10 centimeters, similar to the CubeSat specification, and weigh less than 2 kilograms each. Each of them will be built by a Japanese university team to conduct science and engineering experiments in low-Earth orbit.

JAXA, Japan Aerospace exploration Agency, continues to solicit proposals for microsatellites to be launched into low-Earth orbits. Their application information can be found on their website.

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Careful with that iPhone, or you might end up in Kazakhstan (Updated)

admin | 02/09/2019 | COMMENTS:Comments Closed

As the B-list of reviewers churn out mounds of information about their iPhone 3Gs this weekend, a number of us have discovered a glaring bug in the iPhone's geotagging data. It appears as if Apple's software accidentally pegs some of us (or everyone?) in the wrong hemisphere, and when you apply those coordinates to a map, they end up on the other side of the world. For example, my photos taken in Chicago are showing up in China, near Kazakhstan: HangZhou Night Net

This bug is also being seen by Ars Technica's Clint Ecker (also in China, which looks shockingly like Wicker Park in Chicago), Macworld's Dan Moren (he's in Kyrgyzstan, also known as Boston), and Macworld's Jason Snell (sitting in a boat in China's Yellow Sea, which is nicknamed "San Francisco"). In fact, there's already a thread about the issue on Apple's support discussion boards as it applies to those in the southern hemisphere, like Australia, because Apple stores the data as Latitude North and Longitude West instead of Latitude South and Longitude East. Whoops.

Clint's digging further into the issue as we speak, but for the time being, do some sight-seeing while you're on the other side of the world, would ya?

Update: Further tests show that on occasion, the iPhone tags photos with the right data, and other times, it tags it wrong. We are unable (as of yet) to find any sort of consistent pattern that can correlate when it's right with certain conditions and when it's wrong with other conditions. The problem is reproducible across multiple iPhones on multiple computers, but those same iPhones and same computers will occasionally spit out correct data too. Weird.

Update x2: We have nailed down the problem to an iPhoto -> Finder bug. As it turns out, it's not a problem with the iPhone specifically, but some data that gets lost when you drag photos from iPhoto into the Finder. Apple is already aware of the issue, so hopefully it will be resolved soon!

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Off shore wind farm locations found via satellite

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With oil and energy prices skyrocketing, more people around the world are starting to look at green and renewable energy sources. Wind power, which was found to be a true green alternative to fossil fuels, has gotten a recent boost thanks to a bet by oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens. His company, Mesa Power, is planning a $2 billion investment in what will be the world's largest wind farm ever built, set to be located in west Texas. According to Pickens, if the US were to take advantage of what he calls the wind corridor that runs from western Texas to the Canadian border, the country could have 20 percent of its energy supplied by wind power. HangZhou Night Net

Image credit: NASA/JPL

20 percent is not bad, but where else could large scale wind farms be built? A Publication in the current issue of Geophysical Research Letters by a team of scientists from NASA's JPL uses satellite data to measure the surface stresses over the oceans. Recent technological advances have made floating wind farms possible, but the key is putting them in the right locations. The article examined eight years of data from the QuikSCAT data to determine the energy distribution over the world's ocean. The research identified three causes of regional variations in the power carried by the winds: "land mass deflection of the surface flow, the gap wind channeled by land topography, and surface stress variation produced by atmospheric buoyancy driven by ocean front."

From the data, the researchers found that high wind areas over the ocean could be used to harness between 500 and 800 W/m2. That's less than solar power can generate under ideal conditions, which is 1000 W/m2, although ideal solar conditions are rare. Given the higher efficiency of wind power over solar, however, the cost per kWh of electricity produced would be less. The research identified a host of locations where the winds blow continually almost year round due to various combinations of geographical and physical effects. High wind areas highlighted by the JPL were Cape Mendocino off the coast of northern California, the seas around Tasmania and New Zealand, in the south Pacific, and off Tierra del Fuego in South America.

Geophysical Research Letters, 2008. DOI: 10.1029/2008GL034172

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Apple details security fixes in iPhone\/iTouch 2.0 firmware

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Now that the iPhone and iPod touch 2.0 firmware is out, many device owners have probably already downloaded it in order to take advantage of new features. Some folks may have downloaded it because iTunes told them to, but others may be waiting a bit to make sure the new firmware won't turn into the Nokia phone from Transformers. If you're in the latter group and need some encouragement, or if you're just curious about the contents of the firmware, Apple has posted the list of security updates included in the 2.0 update. HangZhou Night Net

There are 13 fixes in all, 11 of which are related to Safari or WebKit. The two non-browser fixes are for the CFNetwork framework and the kernel itself, and correct issues with HTTPS proxy spoofing and a device reset that can be caused by certain types of network packets. One of the WebKit updates removes a cross-site scripting vulnerability related to URL handling, and the two other WebKit fixes take care of JavaScript issues that could cause crashes.

That's five vulnerabilities down and eight to go, all of which are related to Safari. The first of the updates addresses a spoofing vulnerability with Unicode, and the firmware also fixes another cross-site scripting vulnerability related to Unicode and HTML. A certificate bug that could cause information to be disclosed has been tidied up, as have not one but two JavaScript crash issues in Safari. Also corrected are a WebCore problem with style sheets that could crash the browser, a memory consumption issue with XML, and a libxslt crash bug. None of the issues present major threats, but you should still go get the new firmware just to be on the safe side, so hit up iTunes for the goodies.

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Tip: Updating iPhone to 5A347 reduces yellow tinge

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Many of our readers have noted that their new iPhone 3Gs purchased this past Friday had screens that were exhibiting a much yellower hue than their original iPhones, even when updated to the latest firmware using iTunes. Some individuals have even gone so far as to use a professional chroma meter to measure the temperature of each screen (no mention of firmware version). HangZhou Night Net

Jason Snell of Macworld wrote an article on the new warmer screens and managed got the following comment from Apple PR:

“We moved the white point in order to make [the display feel] more natural,” Borchers said, suggesting that consumers are more likely to appreciate warmer images, especially when viewing photos.

Ars Technica forum readers have discovered that the reason is because the iPhones purchased in-store shipped with a slightly older firmware revision—2.0 5A345. Updating your older phone via the built-in mechanism in iTunes will have picked up the newer revision, which resets the screen's color calibration to be a little less yellow and more like the original iPhone. Furthermore, store-purchased iPhones can be set to the 5A347 firmware by attaching the device to your main computer, allowing a backup to be performed, and then clicking the "Restore" button.

This process will take you at least 30 minutes depending on how much content you have on your iPhone, but if that yellow tinge is bothering you, it might be worth it.

Apple's previous comments on this issue makes the situation even more confusing.Did they make the screen too yellow in 5A345 and decide to tone it down in 5A347?

Two iPhone 3Gs running 2.0 firmwares 5A347 (left), and 5A345 (right)

We have confirmed that updating the firmware from 345 to 347 changes the color calibration to be less yellow. We did this by taking an iPhone purchased at an AT&T store on Friday (5A345), restored and updated its firmware, and compared it to other iPhone 3G models running the 5A345 firmware and 5A347.

We synchronized the screen brightness levels and auto brightness features and confirmed that all iPhone hardware running the 5A347 firmware exhibited a less-yellow calibration than their 5A345 brethren. The resulting color temperature change can be seen in the above photograph.

Update: 2.0 firmware is prefixed with 5A, not 3A.

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NFL throws flag on Comcast for NFL Network discrimination

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The NFL Network (NFLN) is sticking with its claim that Comcast discriminates against the sportscaster. Its 100-page statement, filed with the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday, says yet again that the cable giant harms the NFL by putting its programming on a higher-priced tier while broadcasting Comcast's own sports channels on a basic tier. HangZhou Night Net

The statement comes in response to a June 20 filing by Comcast answering NFLN's original complaint. Comcast insists that the NFL Network agreed to the current arrangement. "The NFL's complaint is a blatant example of regulatory gamesmanship," Comcast wrote to the FCC in its own defense. "It is an attempt to repudiate agreements that were freely entered into by two sophisticated parties, one of which is the most lucrative and powerful sports enterprises in the world."

NFLN calls this bunk: "The act of discrimination about which the NFL Network complains is not that contract," the entertainment group writes, "but rather Comcast's subsequent action: moving the NFL Network to a digital tier for which subscribers have to pay a premium, while at the same time leaving its own national sports channels on the basic analog tier."

NFL Network wants the FCC to fix the problem by ordering Comcast to run the service alongside its own basic tier sports channels, prominent among them Versus and the Golf Channel. And NFLN wants that parity to start right away with the upcoming season.

In 1992 Congress added Section 616 to the Communications Act, which forbids a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) from discriminating against content providers "on the basis of affiliation or nonaffiliation" with the MVPD. NFLN invokes this law on its behalf. It charges that Comcast's "discriminatory" tiering practices have caused a "dramatic" drop in NFL Network subscribers, more selling and operating costs, and have harmed the programmer's ability to compete for advertising revenue.

Comcast's June 20 filing argues that NFL Network does not need its services and can bargain for broadcast access elsewhere. "The NFL is a sophisticated party," Comcast wrote on June 20, "with abundant expertise in bargaining, experienced counsel, and all of the other resources needed to negotiate business arrangements concerning programming that it monopolizes."

But NFLN insists that Comcast represents the monopoly in this relationship, dominating a third of all cable programming: "Comcast's unparalleled size and market reach as the nation's largest MVPD put it in a unique position to determine the success or failure of an independent programming service [italics are NFLN's]."

It's not discrimination if you suck

Comcast defends its segregation of the NFL Network in a more expensive sports tier by comparing it unfavorably to its own Golf Channel and Versus networks. Its June statement highlights what Comcast calls "just a few inconvenient truths"—that NFL Network carries an insufficient number of live, regular season games and charges a high per-subscriber license fee to MVPDs, that Cox also carries NFLN on a sports tier, that when Comcast and NFL Network cut their carriage deal, NFLN did not feature any live regular-season games (and now offers only eight each season).

"Despite its vastly smaller slate of live-event programming, NFLN charges cable operators license fees that are more than twice the fees charged by either the Golf Channel or Versus," Comcast says. "Comcast's decision not to saddle most of its customers with the high costs of the limited-appeal NFLN is eminently reasonable, and the decisions of other MVPDs further validate that choice."

NFLN's latest filing concedes that some of these assertions are true. But they don't really matter, the sportscaster asserts, because what really matters are ratings, and the NFL Network's ratings are much higher than Comcast's sports channels. "Comcast's justification for its discriminatory conduct is therefore empty and unavailing," NFLN concludes.

There's also a he said/she said going on here about whether Comcast committed the no-no of demanding a financial interest in NFL programming and made it a condition for getting access to any tier at all. NFLN says that happened. Comcast says it was the opposite: the indie sports programmer sought "equity interest" in Versus, because, according to Comcast, NFL team owners wouldn't have to share that kind of profit with NFL players in a union contract.

"The NFL is the richest and most powerful of all sports leagues with immense market power," Comcast exec Sena Fitzmaurice told reporters after NFLN submitted its filing on Thursday. "The NFL has received precisely what it bargained for and needs no government assistance." Ars suspects that this fight could go on for a while.

Further reading
The NFL Network's latest filingComcast's June 20 statement

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