The Courts

Entire Broadband Industry Will Help FCC Defend Net Neutrality Repeal ( 87

The biggest lobby groups representing broadband providers will help the FCC defend the repeal of net neutrality rules in court. Ars Technica reports: Yesterday, three trade groups that collectively represent every major home Internet and mobile broadband provider in the U.S. filed motions to intervene in the case on behalf of the FCC. The motions for leave to intervene were filed by NCTA--The Internet & Television Association, CTIA--The Wireless Association, and USTelecom--The Broadband Association. NCTA represents cable companies such as Comcast, Charter, Cox, and Altice. CTIA represents the biggest mobile carriers, such as AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and Sprint. USTelecom represents wireline telcos with copper and fiber networks, such as AT&T and Verizon. All three groups also represent a range of smaller ISPs.

As intervenors in the case, the groups will file briefs in support of the net neutrality repeal order and may play a role in oral arguments. NCTA's motion noted that its members would once again be subject to "common-carriage regulation under Title II of the Communications Act" if the FCC were to lose the case. CTIA said that its members "would be adversely affected if the [net neutrality] Order were set aside and the prior Title II Order classification and rules were reinstated."


Verizon Will Fix Broadband Networks, Landlines To Resolve Investigation ( 74

Joel Hruska reports via ExtremeTech: Verizon has reached an agreement with the Communications Workers of America and the New York State Public Service Commission to begin repairing infrastructure and restoring service across New York State. The agreement requires Verizon to extend broadband service to tens of thousands of New York State households and to begin repairing facilities it has previously neglected. As in Pennsylvania, Verizon has been neglecting its fixed wired infrastructure in its bid to first sabotage copper service, then force customers to adopt alternative solutions. It's also been mired in an ongoing lawsuit with the state of New York over its breach of a 2008 contract requiring it to provide fiber service within New York City.

This new agreement appears to settle these issues, provided it's followed. Under its terms, Verizon will extend fiber to 10,000 to 12,000 households not currently served by it in Long Island and Verizon's "Upstate Reporting Region" (these are Verizon-specific regions, not geographical areas, so "Long Island" may mean more than just the island). It will begin immediately replacing copper lines in certain specific NYC buildings with high failure rates and transitioning them to fiber optic cable, repairing operations within 50 upstate wireless centers with high failure rates, allow plant technicians to report plant failures and maintenance needs more accurately, and begin inspecting and replacing the batteries that provide critical connectivity in the event of a power outage when said batteries are deployed for specific customers (hospitals, police stations, and other emergency facilities). It will also begin removing so-called "double poles." A double pole is when an old telephone pole is stapled (metaphorically speaking) to a newer one. Some examples of a double pole from PA are shown below; Verizon has been hauled into court to force it to do its job in more than one state.


Data Breach Victims Can Sue Yahoo in the United States, Federal Judge Rules ( 13

Yahoo has been ordered by a federal judge to face much of a lawsuit in the United States claiming that the personal information of all 3 billion users was compromised in a series of data breaches. From a report: In a decision on Friday night, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California rejected a bid by Verizon Communications, which bought Yahoo's Internet business last June, to dismiss many claims, including for negligence and breach of contract. Koh dismissed some other claims. She had previously denied Yahoo's bid to dismiss some unfair competition claims.

[...] The plaintiffs amended their complaint after Yahoo last October revealed that the 2013 breach affected all 3 billion users, tripling its earlier estimate. Koh said the amended complaint highlighted the importance of security in the plaintiffs' decision to use Yahoo. 'Plaintiffs' allegations are sufficient to show that they would have behaved differently had defendants disclosed the security weaknesses of the Yahoo Mail System," Koh wrote. She also said the plaintiffs could try to show that liability limits in Yahoo's terms of service were "unconscionable," given the allegations that Yahoo knew its security was deficient but did little.


Net Neutrality Repeal Will Get a Senate Vote In the Spring, Democrats Say ( 127

Congressional Democrats today introduced legislation that would prevent the repeal of net neutrality rules, but they still need more support from Republicans in order to pass the measure. According to Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), they will force a vote on the Senate version of the resolution sometime this spring. Ars Technica reports: Democrats have been promising to introduce a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution ever since the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal its net neutrality rules in December. But lawmakers had to wait for the FCC's repeal order to be published in the Federal Register, which only happened last week. The CRA resolution would nullify the FCC's repeal order, allowing net neutrality rules that were passed in 2015 to remain in place. The resolution has public support from 50 out of 100 senators (all Democrats, all Independents, and one Republican), putting it one vote shy of passage in the Senate.

"The grassroots movement to reinstate net neutrality is growing by the day, and we will get that one more vote needed to pass my CRA resolution," Markey said. "I urge my Republican colleagues to join the overwhelming majority of Americans who support a free and open Internet. The Internet is for all -- the students, teachers, innovators, hard-working families, small businesses, and activists, not just Verizon, Charter, AT&T, and Comcast and corporate interests."


Huawei Got People To Write Fake Reviews For An Unreleased Phone ( 39

As spotted by 9to5Google, Huawei has apparently posted fake reviews on Best Buy for its new Mate 10 Pro, which is available for pre-order in the U.S. despite not having any deals with U.S. carriers. "The fake reviews, which are exclusively on the Best Buy website, are likely the result of a contest Huawei ran on Facebook," reports The Verge. From the report: On January 31st, the company posted to a Facebook group with over 60,000 members, asking for people to leave comments on the Best Buy pre-sale page in exchange for a chance to beta test a Mate 10 Pro. The original post has been deleted, but 9to5Google obtained a screenshot before it went down. "Tell us how to why (sic) you WANT to own the Mate 10 Pro in the review section of our pre-sale Best Buy retail page," the post states. On the Best Buy site, there are currently 108 reviews for the phone, 103 of which were written on or after January 31st, the day Huawei posted the contest. Many of the comments directly reference not having any actual hands-on experience with the product itself, but give the phone a five star rating. "I can't wait to get my hands on this phone and demonstrate how amazing it is to people," reads one. "This device looks exciting and beautiful and it would be amazing to have a chance to beta test it," another reads. It seems Huawei is betting that loads of high ratings early on will make people trust the product and lead to higher sales. That's all well and good except that these types of reviews are strictly against Best Buy policy, as 9to5Google points out. "Huawei's first priority is always the consumer and we encourage our customers to share their experiences with our devices in their own voice and through authentic conversation," a Huawei representative told The Verge in a statement. "While there are reviews from beta testers with extensive knowledge of the product, they were in no way given monetary benefits for providing their honest opinions of the product. However, we are working to remove posts by beta testers where it isn't disclosed they participated in the review program."

Verizon is Locking Its Phones Down To Combat Theft ( 130

Verizon is taking an extra step to protect its phones. CNET: The nation's largest wireless carrier said Monday that it would begin locking the phones it sells to consumers, which will prevent them from using a SIM card from another carrier. Initially, the phones will be unlocked as soon as a customer signs up and activates the service. But later in the spring, the company will begin the practice of keeping the phone locked for a period of time after the purchase -- in line with the rest of the industry. Verizon said it is doing this to deter criminals from stealing phones, often on route to retail stores or from the stores themselves.
It's funny.  Laugh.

There Are Ajit Pai 'Verizon Puppet' Jokes That the FCC Doesn't Want You To Read ( 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission is refusing to release the draft versions of jokes told by Chairman Ajit Pai at a recent dinner, claiming that releasing the drafts would "impede the candid exchange of ideas" within the commission. In December, Pai gave a speech at the annual FCC Chairman's Dinner and played a video that attempts to lampoon critics who accuse Pai of doing the bidding of Verizon, his former employer. The video was shown less than a week before the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality rules, a favorable move for the broadband industry requested by Verizon and other ISPs. The satirical skit shows Pai planning his future ascension to the FCC chairmanship with Verizon executive Kathleen Grillo in 2003, the last year Pai worked as a Verizon lawyer. The video shows Pai and the Verizon executive plotting to install a "Verizon puppet" as FCC chair. In response, Gizmodo filed a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request for "any communications records from within the chairman's office referencing the event or the Verizon executive," the news site wrote yesterday. "Nearly a dozen pages worth of emails were located, including draft versions of the video's script and various edits," Gizmodo wrote. "The agency is refusing to release them, however; it is 'reasonably foreseeable,' it said, that doing so would injure the 'quality of agency decisions.'" The FCC searched for the records in response to Gizmodo's request and "returned no communications whatsoever with Kathy Grillo," the article said.

Verizon Drops Plans To Sell Huawei Phones Due To US Government Pressure ( 69

Bloomberg reports that Verizon has dropped all plans to sell phones by Chinese manufacturer Huawei due to pressure from the U.S. government. The decision comes after AT&T walked away from a deal earlier this month to sell Huawei smartphones in the U.S. Bloomberg: Huawei devices still work on both companies' networks, but direct sales would've allowed them to reach more consumers than they can through third parties. The government's renewed concern about Chinese spying is creating a potential roadblock in the race between Verizon and AT&T to offer 5G, the next generation of super-fast mobile service. Huawei is pushing to be among the first to offer 5G-capable phone, but the device may be considered off-limits to U.S. carriers who are beginning to offer the next-generation service this year in a few cities. U.S. security agencies and some lawmakers fear that 5G phones made by companies that may have close ties to the Chinese government could pose a security risk.

FCC Chairman Slams Trump Team's Proposal To Nationalize 5G ( 248

The Federal Communications Commission's Republican chairman on Monday opposed a plan under consideration by the Trump White House to build a 5G mobile network, nationalizing what has long been the role of private wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon. From the report: "I oppose any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network," he said. The FCC's reaction doesn't bode well for the proposal the Trump administration is considering, first reported by Axios on Sunday night, since it's one of the main government agencies when it comes to wireless issues.

Trump Team Considers Nationalizing America's 5G Network ( 383

JoeyRox writes: "Trump national security officials are considering an unprecedented federal takeover of a portion of the nation's mobile network to guard against China, according to sensitive documents obtained by Axios." This is based on a PowerPoint presentation Axios has in their possession. Two options are described -- a national 5G network funded and built by the Federal government, or a mix of 5G networks built by existing wireless providers. A source suggests the first option is preferred and essential to protect against competition from China and "bad actors". The presentation suggests that a government-built network would then be leased out to carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.
The PowerPoint presentation was produced by a senior National Security Council official, and argues that the move is necessary because "China has achieved a dominant position in the manufacture and operation of network infrastructure," and "China is the dominant malicious actor in the Information Domain."

It also suggests America could export its secure 5G technology to protect its allies, and "Eventually this effort could help inoculate developing countries against Chinese neo-colonial behavior."
United States

A 15-Year-Old Convinced Verizon He Was the Head of the CIA ( 143

schwit1 shares an interesting story. Newsweek reports: A British teenager managed to obtain access to sensitive U.S. plans about intelligence operations in different Middle East countries by acting as former CIA Director John Brennan, a court heard on Friday. Kane Gamble, 18, researched Brennan and used the information he gathered to speak to an internet company and persuade call handlers to give him access to the spy chief's email inbox in 2015. He pretended to be both a Verizon employee and Brennan to access Brennan's internet account.

Astonishingly, Gamble managed to gain access to Brennan's emails and his addressbook, as well as his iCloud storage. He even managed to remotely access the iPad of Brennan's wife... Gamble, aged 15 at the time, also persuaded a helpdesk at the FBI that he was the then deputy director Mark Giuliano... In October 2017, Gamble pleaded guilty to 10 charges, including eight charges of "performing a function with intent to secure unauthorized access" to the computers and two of "unauthorized modification of computer material."

The Internet

New York Governor Signs Executive Order To Keep Net Neutrality Rules After FCC's Repeal ( 131

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that he has signed an executive order that would require internet service providers with state contracts to abide by net neutrality rules, even though the FCC recently voted to repeal those rules last month. Cuomo's announcement comes a couple days after Montana's governor signed essentially the same order. The Verge reports: [Both executive orders] require service providers with contracts to abide by the widely agreed upon tenets of net neutrality: no blocking, throttling, or otherwise favoring content. But the more populous New York could now become a key battleground over net neutrality. According to the order, any service provider receiving or renewing a contract after March 1st in New York will be required to sign an agreement saying they will adhere to net neutrality principles. Major companies, including Verizon and AT&T, have signed contracts with the state. That, however, doesn't mean the executive order will stand. When it passed its repeal of net neutrality rules late last year, the FCC specifically included a provision blocking states from passing their own rules. New York, like other states that attempt similar plans, will likely face a legal challenge.

Apple Is Blocking an App That Detects Net Neutrality Violations ( 259

dmoberhaus writes: Apple isn't allowing a new app developed by a university professor that detects when your internet is being throttled by ISPs from being listed on the app store. The company claimed the app contained "objectionable content" and "has no direct benefits to the user."
The reporter, who tested the app through the beta channel, writes: The app is designed to test download speeds from seven apps: YouTube, Amazon, NBCSports, Netflix, Skype, Spotify, and Vimeo. According to the app, my Verizon LTE service streamed YouTube to my iPhone at 6 Mbps, Amazon Prime video at 8 Mbps, and Netflix at 4 Mbps. It downloaded other data at speeds of up to 25 Mbps. UPDATE: Slashdot reader sl3xd has made us aware of an update to the story. "After this article was published, Apple told Dave Choffnes that his iPhone app, designed to detect net neutrality violations, will be allowed in the iTunes App Store," reports Motherboard. "According to Choffnes, Apple contacted him and explained that the company has to deal with many apps that don't do the things they claim to do. Apple asked Choffnes to provide a technical description of how his app is able to detect if wireless telecom providers throttle certain types of data, and 18 hours after he did, the app was approved." "The conversation was very pleasant, but did not provide any insight into the review process [that] led the app to be rejected in the first place," Choffnes told Motherboard in an email.

The Tech Failings of Hawaii's Missile Alert 232

Over the weekend, Hawaii incorrectly warned citizens of a missile attack via their phones. According to The Washington Post, the error was a result of a staffer picking the wrong option -- missile alert instead of test missile alert -- from a drop down software menu. Hawaiian officials say they have already changed protocols to avoid a repeat of the scenario. The report goes on to add: Part of what worsened the situation Saturday was that there was no system in place at the state emergency agency for correcting the error, HEMA (Hawaii Emergency Management Agency) spokesman Richard Rapoza said. The state agency had standing permission through FEMA to use civil warning systems to send out the missile alert -- but not to send out a subsequent false alarm alert, he said. Though the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency posted a follow-up tweet at 8:20 a.m. saying there was "NO missile threat," it wouldn't be until 8:45 a.m. that a subsequent cellphone alert was sent telling people to stand down. Motherboard notes that new regulations require telecom companies to offer a testing system for local and state alert originators, but because of lobbying by Verizon and CTIA, this specific regulation does not go into effect until March 2019.

In a piece, The Atlantic argues that the 90-character messages sent by the system aren't suited to the way we use our devices.

Microsoft Announces First Mobile Carriers To Support Always Connected PCs ( 109

An anonymous reader shares a report: The push behind the Always Connected PC vision has been ramping up in recent weeks, with manufacturers like HP, ASUS, and Lenovo all joining the fray with their own LTE PCs based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon platform. Now, Microsoft and Qualcomm have announced the first batch of mobile operators that will actively support Always Connected PCs around the world. These initial carriers will help to bring "easy and affordable connectivity plans to consumers on advanced LTE wireless networks," Microsoft and Qualcomm said in a press release. Throughout the first half of 2018 and beyond, the companies say, mobile operators in China, Italy, the UK, and the U.S. will officially support Always Connected PCs. Here's a look at the carriers you can expect to roll out support in each region: China -- China Telecom, Italy -- TIM (Telecom Italia), U.K. -- EE, U.S. -- Sprint, Verizon. In addition to supporting connected PCs on their LTE networks, you can expect each operator to stock Always Connected PCs in their retail store, Qualcomm and Microsoft say.

Some Smartphone Salesmen Aren't Sold on the iPhone X ( 230

A CNET reporter visited four carrier stores to ask their salesmen if they'd recommend an iPhone X. But after visiting stores for Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon, "I couldn't even find a salesperson to tell me it was the best iPhone I could buy." So he finally tried asking three salesmen at Apple Stores -- and still got equivocal answers. An anonymous reader quotes CNET's report: "Well, it depends on what you like," the salesman said, somewhat coyly. "The biggest problem I have with it is using Face ID for Apple Pay. You really have to put the phone at a certain angle or it doesn't work." He started with a problem. I was already suspicious. I was in something of a hurry, but I asked him: "So are you selling a lot more of these than other phones?"

He turned into a high-ranking member of a political party. "All our phones sell well," he said. Which sounded not entirely reassuring. Indeed, it sounded like a "no."

Chatting next with an Apple store "Genius" (who was testing his iPhone 6), CNET's reporter was told that "The X and the 8 are the same phone... Inside, I mean. With the X, you're just paying the extra money for the design." Unfortunately, that salesman's $999 iPhone X was wrapped in an ugly pink case, because after four weeks he'd already cracked it. And a third Apple salesman -- who touted the glories of an OLED screen -- also kept his iPhone X in a case at all times "It's glass," he explained. "You'll definitely need a case."

"But what about not being able to see the lovely phone?"

"Get a see-through case," he replied with a smile.

What Happens When States Have Their Own Net Neutrality Rules? ( 179

Last month FCC Chairman Ajit Pai dismantled Obama-era rules on net neutrality. A handful of lawmakers in liberal-leaning U.S. states plan to spend this year building them back up. FCC anticipated the move -- the commission's rules include language forbidding states from doing this, warning against an unwieldy patchwork of regulations. But lawmakers in New York and California aren't aiming to be exceptions to the national rules; they're looking to, in effect, create their own. From a report: In New York, Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy introduced a bill that would make it a requirement for internet providers to adhere to the principles of net neutrality as a requirement for landing state contracts. This would mean they couldn't block or slow down certain web traffic, and couldn't offer faster speeds to companies who pay them directly. Fahy said the restrictions on contractors would apply even if the behaviors in question took place outside New York. She acknowledged that the approach could run afoul of limits on states attempting to regulate interstate commerce, but thought the bill could "thread the needle." Even supporters of state legislation on net neutrality think this may go too far. California State Senator Scott Wiener introduced a bill this week that would only apply to behavior within the state, saying any other approach would be too vulnerable to legal challenge.

But this wouldn't be the first time a large state threw around its weight in ways that reverberate beyond its borders. The texbook industry, for instance, has long accommodated the standards of California and Texas. [...] The internet doesn't lend itself cleanly to state lines. It could be difficult for Comcast or Verizon to accept money from services seeking preferential treatment in one state, then make sure that its network didn't reflect those relationships in places where state lawmakers forbade them, said Geoffrey Manne, executive director of the International Center for Law & Economics, a research group.


The FCC Is Preparing To Weaken the Definition of Broadband ( 217

An anonymous reader quotes a report from DSLReports: Under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, the FCC is required to consistently measure whether broadband is being deployed to all Americans uniformly and "in a reasonable and timely fashion." If the FCC finds that broadband isn't being deployed quickly enough to the public, the agency is required by law to "take immediate action to accelerate deployment of such capability by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and by promoting competition in the telecommunications market." Unfortunately whenever the FCC is stocked by revolving door regulators all-too-focused on pleasing the likes of AT&T, Verizon and Comcast -- this dedication to expanding coverage and competition often tends to waver.

What's more, regulators beholden to regional duopolies often take things one-step further -- by trying to manipulate data to suggest that broadband is faster, cheaper, and more evenly deployed than it actually is. We saw this under former FCC boss Michael Powell (now the top lobbyist for the cable industry), and more recently when the industry cried incessantly when the base definition of broadband was bumped to 25 Mbps downstream, 4 Mbps upstream. We're about to see this effort take shape once again as the FCC prepares to vote in February for a new proposal that would dramatically weaken the definition of broadband. How? Under this new proposal, any area able to obtain wireless speeds of at least 10 Mbps down, 1 Mbps would be deemed good enough for American consumers, pre-empting any need to prod industry to speed up or expand broadband coverage.


Ars Technica Puts Twitter, Uber On '2018 Deathwatch' ( 152

The editors of Ars Technica have compiled their annual list of "Companies, tech, and trends least likely to succeed in 2018... Let's grab a Juicero and take a moment to reflect on the utter dumpster fires that we've witnessed over the past 12 months." Some of its highlights: Uber. "The company is losing billions of dollars a year, with no clear strategy for getting to profitability. Uber lost $2.8 billion in 2016 and will lose even more than that in 2017. Uber had $6.6 billion cash on hand in mid-2017 -- money that might not last much beyond the end of 2018... The company needs to find a way to stem its losses and get on the path to profitability before investors get frustrated and close their checkbooks..."

Twitter. "Still a money-losing concern. In 2016, it lost a mere $456.9 million, and its losses have continued in 2017 (though at a slightly less hemorrhagic pace). Still, on paper, the company is burning through the equivalent of a third of its cash on hand per year. And profitability (or an acquisition) is nowhere in sight..."

Net Neutrality. "It's not a company, but it's on deathwatch anyway..."

They also advise readers to "Pour out one for Radio Shack, which died even faster the second time around after what looked like a brave reboot" (though it's now getting another reboot). And they're bragging about their successful picks last year for the companies least likely to succeed in 2017.

"Yahoo has now been officially digested by Oath, a Verizon Company, its bits commingling with AOL's in a new, bizarrely named beast that for now bears the same logos... Yik Yak, the anonymous gossiping-messaging app that got banned by various universities for hate speech, is dead -- selling its intellectual property to Square, of all companies... Theranos is busy sending out thousands of refunds to Arizona residents, and the company has rented out its Palo Alto headquarters in an attempt to stay solvent until it can legally test blood again... BlackBerry doesn't make phones any more, having licensed its trademark and some of its tech to TCL. It is now a 'cybersecurity software and services company dedicated to securing the Enterprise of Things.'"
United States

Can the FCC's 'Net Neutrality' Decision Be Overturned in Congress? ( 186

"Cancel the funeral and get ready to fight: Net neutrality is far from dead," argues Evan Greer, the campaign director for the pro-net neutrality group Fight for the Future in Newsweek: Our elected officials in Congress have the power to reverse what is swiftly becoming one of the U.S. government's most unpopular decisions ever. And if they don't, they'll pay for it come election season... 26 senators have already signed on to a Resolution of Disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), a vehicle to overturn the FCC's net neutrality repeal with a simple majority vote in both the Senate and House. [UPDATE: 28 Senators have now co-sponsored the resolution]. It's not going to be easy, but it's increasingly within reach with Democrats in lock step against the FCC rollback and half a dozen Republicans already publicly criticizing the move.

Outside of Washington, DC, net neutrality is not a partisan issue. Voters from across the political spectrum overwhelmingly agree that they don't want their cable companies controlling where they get news, how they stream music and videos, or which apps they use to pay for things, get directions, or communicate with friends and family. Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T poured money into misleading advertisements, ghost written op-eds, and astroturf campaigns, to fool customers into thinking that they would voluntarily abide by the principles of net neutrality... But after all of that, they've completely failed to build any real grassroots support for their attack on net neutrality, from the left or the right. And every member of Congress knows that. 75 percent of Republican voters support the net neutrality protections the FCC just slashed... No matter how hard they try, telecom lobbyists will just never convince a meaningful number of Republican voters that killing net neutrality, and ending the internet as a free market of ideas, is a good thing. And that's what gives us a unique chance to get our normally gridlocked Congress to take action and overrule the FCC's politically toxic order.

Lawmakers in every state have been getting hammered for months with millions of phone calls, emails, protests, constituent meetings, media requests, and pressure from small businesses at volumes that just never happen. Net neutrality is becoming one of the most talked about political issues in recent human history... The FCC did something that a supermajority of people in this country oppose. Our elected officials have to decide whether to rubber stamp that betrayal or overturn it. The internet makes the impossible possible. If we harness our anger and direct it strategically, we can get the votes we need to restore the net neutrality protections that should never have been taken away in the first place. Any lawmaker who refuses to listen to their constituents will have to go on the record right before an election as having voted against the free and open web. They would be wise not to underestimate the internet's power to hold them accountable.

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