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Sprint-owned Virgin Mobile has launched new wireless plans that have network neutrality supporters up in arms because the plans charge users depending on what kind of content and services they hope to access. The announcement by Sprint
notes that "Virgin Mobile Custom" plans will be exclusively sold at Walmart starting at $6.98 per line per month. Customers then can mix and match, getting unlimited texting for $10 more a month or unlimited voice for $18 more a month.
According to Virgin Mobile, all of the data, voice and text allotments are highly customizable on the fly, during the month (lower your minutes one month, for example, can create a credit on the next month's bill). It's the data packages that make things somewhat interesting.
In addition to customizing your allotments and adding whatever data you need, users can also choose to pay a premium to access just social networking services Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram -- for an additional premium per month. Or, for a set fee, users can have access only to those services. In both instances, access to those websites won't count against your usage cap.
Sprint and SoftBank's plan to acquire T-Mobile just got somewhat more complicated on the news that French telco Iliad has made their own counter-offer to acquire the telco. Iliad today announced the company has made a $15 billion cash offer to purchase 56.6 percent of T-Mobile. story continues..
While most sane people protest Comcast rate hikes by complaining to legislators, switching companies (if they can) or venting at the company, often customers annoyed with the cable giant take things too far (as the "Comcast hammer granny" of 2007 lore can attest
). This week an Albuquerque woman was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after she pulled a gun on a Comcast employee
during a dispute over bill charges. The woman was apparently angered over charges for work on her lines that she had expected to be free, the complaint notes.
Sprint's latest earnings
indicate that fortunes have improved slightly for the company, but there's a lot of work left to do. Sprint posted a net income of $23 million on revenues of $8.8 billion, the best result seen in seven years.
FCC boss Tom Wheeler isn't particularly happy about Verizon's announcement that LTE users will be throttled, but it remains unclear what the Commission leader is going to do about it. As we noted recently
, Verizon has announced the company will begin throttling unlimited LTE customers starting October 1.
Last year Comcast started experimenting with
a prepaid broadband service that, for $70, provided users with an Internet startup kit and thirty days of 3 Mbps downstream and 768 kbps upstream cable broadband service. After that, users have the option of paying either $15 for seven days of access or $45 for another 30 days. Not to be outdone, Frontier says they're now experimenting with a "seasonal" prepaid option of their own
. In Ohio, users can pre-purchase DSL service in increments of one, seven or 30 days, something Frontier insists is perfect for customers "who desire financial flexibility,...students, travelers, (and) low-income and credit-challenged customers."
CenturyLink, formerly Qwest, has spent much of its life suing
community broadband efforts that might spur the company to improve its service offerings. They've also written (via draft legislation) and paid-to-pass legislation in numerous states that restrict or outright ban a community from deploying its own broadband infrastructure -- even in cases when CenturyLink couldn't be bothered to.
With Google Fiber slated to potentially make its way into the Portland market, Frontier is trying to shift attention away from the fact that Frontier has historically offered very sluggish speeds at relatively high prices, courtesy of limited competition. The company tells the Oregonian
that they may offer 1 Gbps speeds someday too (maybe), though Frontier CEO Maggie Wilderotter believes that Google Fiber is "hype" and that Google Fiber is "confusing" customers by offering symmetrical 1 Gbps for $70:
"Today it's about the hype, because Google has hyped the gig," said Wilderotter, in Portland this week for a meeting of her company's board.
Mobeen Khan, AT&T's executive director of M2M product management, says the company's plan to shut down their 2G network by the end of 2016 remains on schedule. AT&T will be refarming that spectrum for eventual use on their 3G and 4G networks. "We have an operational team that is engaged with these customers," Khan tells Fierce Wireless
. "It's a closely watched process." Cell phone users are easier to force-upgrade than M2M (machine to machine, or non-phone devices with embedded cellular chipsets) users. AT&T won't state how many 2G M2M users remain connected to their network.
AT&T has been on a bit of a tear the last week or so, announcing that they're deploying their faster 1 Gbps "Gigapower" service to customers in Dallas
and San Antonio
. Now AT&T is announcing that Charlotte too will be getting the faster service
AT&T today confirmed it will expand its ultra-fast AT&T GigaPower network to the City of Charlotte.
Windstream has announced that the company will be spinning off a significant portion of the company's fixed-line network assets into into an independent, publicly traded real estate investment trust (REIT). The IRS granted the company's request to reclassify most of Windstream's copper and fiber-optic lines as real estate, allowing it to reduce its tax bill by millions of dollars annually. story continues..
Senator Patrick Leahy introduced legislation this week
that would dramatically restrict the NSA's unfettered access to bulk-collected Internet and phone data. "If enacted, this bill would represent the most significant reform of government surveillance authorities since Congress passed the USA Patriot Act 13 years ago," Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on the Senate floor.
For months T-Mobile CEO John Legere has stated that the company's LTE network upgrades would soon have it beating LTE speed leader AT&T in network speed tests, courtesy of the move to 2x10MHz channels. That didn't appear to be the case in a March RootMetrics study
, which pegged T-Mobile in third place for LTE speeds, well behind AT&T and Verizon.
AT&T is the latest ISP to strike a direct interconnection deal with Netflix that should improve buffering for Netflix users on AT&T's network. While no official announcement has been made by either company, anonymous insiders tell Mashable
that the deal took effect today.
In a leaked memo to employees
by Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus, Marcus worries that the FCC is so busy with other issues (DirecTV AT&T merger, looming Sprint T-Mobile merger, net neutrality, municipal broadband) that the company's merger with Comcast will very likely see delays. "At a minimum, these other deals in the telecom space may put a strain on the resources of the FCC, which is already busy with its proceedings on 'net neutrality' and the auction of additional wireless spectrum," notes Marcus. "In the meantime, recent speculation about mergers and acquisitions in the content world are adding more fuel to the public debate about whether consolidation is good or bad for consumers."
Add San Antonio to the list of cities where some select users will have access to 1 Gbps speeds courtesy of AT&T. Like with the announcements on their planned Dallas
deployments, this latest announcement
offers absolutely no detail on overall deployment numbers, pricing, or timeframe for deployment. As noted previously, these deployments will only target a limited number of higher-end developments, MDUs and college campuses, though the announcements omit that fact (something I affectionately refer to as "fiber to the press release").
Even though in some instances consumers may wind up paying more, recent wireless earnings reports indicates that many users are happily signing up for early upgrade handset programs
. Such programs allow users to spread the cost of a device out over numerous payments, in some instances in exchange for a lower monthly rate (programs, of course, vary).
These programs are about to get another boost on the news that Apple will soon start pushing AT&T's Next, T-Mobile's JUMP, and Verizon's Edge upgrade programs in stores
Apple is preparing a significant expansion of its iPhone sales capabilities in its official retail stores, according to sources. Late in August, many Apple Stores in the United States will kick off a pilot program for customers to be able to purchase a new iPhone via the latest carrier upgrade programs: AT&T Next, T-Mobile JUMP, and Verizon Edge.
As it currently stands, iPhones purchased at an Apple store must either be bought subsidized with a new two-year contract, or unlocked at full retail price. Apple employees are to be trained on the new programs during August ahead of a presumed new iPhone(s) launch announcement late summer, early fall.
Add Major League Baseball to the list of organizations that isn't particularly impressed with Tom Wheeler and the FCC's latest neutrality rules in their current form. "Fast lanes would serve only one purpose: for Broadband ISPs to receive an economic windfall," MLB’s Advanced Media unit wrote in a filing
). “American consumers would be worse off as the costs of fast lanes are passed along to them in new fees or charges where there were none, or higher fees or charges where they existed.”
As we noted last week
, two different cities with their own broadband networks (Wilson, NC and Chattanooga, Tennessee) have formally asked the FCC to declare that laws in their states hindering community broadband aren't enforceable, giving FCC boss Tom Wheeler the perfect opportunity to back up claims that he'd take action. Such bills are written and lobbied for by companies like Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner Cable, and often restrict local citizen rights to determine for themselves what the best course of action for their community is.
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