Starlink and T-Mobile Partner, Workplace Surveillance, Allegations of Unpaid Consultants for FTC

The Starlink partnership is expected to cover the nation’s dead spots.

Starlink and T-Mobile Partner, Workplace Surveillance, Allegations of Unpaid Consultants for FTC
Photo of T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert, via Wikimedia

August 29, 2022 – Starlink and T-Mobile are partnering to expand cell coverage to never-before-covered remote areas across America.

The “Coverage Above and Beyond” project, announced Thursday, will utilize Starlink satellites in conjunction with T-Mobile’s mid-band spectrum, allowing users to send text messages from almost “…anywhere a customer can see the sky.”

The coverage will be accessible from an ordinary smartphone and will be added to many T-Mobile customers’ plans at no additional cost.

The project, which requires not-yet-deployed Gen 2 Starlink satellites, is scheduled to go live late next year. After the project’s initial launch, the companies said they hope to expand its initial, highly limited coverage to allow for the transmission of audio files and mobile data.

“The important thing about this is that it means there are no dead zones anywhere in the world for your cell phone,” said Elon Musk, CEO of Starlink parent SpaceX.

On Thursday, Musk tweeted that eventually – in addition to mobile phones – Telsa cars will be able to make emergency calls and texts by connecting directly to Starlink satellites.

Casey asks Labor Department to investigate workplace surveillance

Employers’ usage of “novel” workplace surveillance technologies is “invasive and exploitative” and must be subject to government scrutiny, said Sen. Bob Casey, D-PA.

In a letter Friday to Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Casey requested an agency inquiry into “The implementation of novel technologies to track, monitor, manage and discipline workers,” a development the senator attributes to an “imbalance of power in the workplace.”

Employers often don’t inform their workers of surveillance methods, Casey said, and algorithms are being handed more decision-making power over employees’ lives.

“Novel and high-risk technologies…should be studied so that we can better understand how these could cause injury or affect workers’ mental health,” the letter said.

Earlier this month, the FTC launched an investigation into “commercial surveillance.” Casey requests that the Labor Department begin a “similar, interagency process.”

Rep alleges FTC is illegally utilizing unpaid experts

The Federal Trade Commission is illegally allowing unpaid consultants and experts to “perform core functions at the agency,” alleges Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, in a letter to the FTC on Thursday.

Earlier this month, the FTC Office of Inspector General released a report that examined the legality of the Commission’s utilization of unpaid expert consultants. In response, Jordan sent a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan outlining ways in which the report demonstrated the agency to be in violation of federal law and requesting the provision of relevant documents.

Federal law prohibits unpaid consultants from engaging in “managerial or supervisory work” or “function in the agency chain of command.” In addition, agencies cannot legally allow such consultants to fill the role of an agency employee or use them as a stopgap for “staff shortages.”

According to the OIG report, writes Jordan, unpaid FTC consultants were nonetheless brought on to “play an integral role in the Commission’s strategic direction,” “serve as…visionary leader[s] on policy and strategic initiatives,” and “provide the Chair advice and analysis to inform FTC policy.”

Citing the OIG’s findings that the FTC failed to properly monitor its contractors’ work, Jordan said: “[The FTC] had neither a system of controls nor guidance on consultants’ and experts’ scope of work – particularly, guidance identifying allowable and prohibited activities.”

Khan has shifted the FTC into a more aggressive stance towards big business, a pivot that has ruffled GOP feathers since she became FTC chair in June 2021.

“The agency’s disregard of the law opens it up to conflicts of interest, and the lack of guardrails will make it easier for [President Joe Biden’s] FTC to continue promoting a radical, far-left orthodoxy,” the congressman writes.

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