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Amtrak has been offering Wi-Fi on board some of their trains for several years
(a full list is here
), though historically the quality of the connections have been ridiculed. Since earlier this year the company has been promising upgrades. Amtrak nowstates in an announcement
(pdf) that the upgrades are complete on the company's 400 mile high-speed Acela route between Washington and Boston, as well as a significant chunk of California.
The upgrades involve updating on-train antennas and hardware so they can obtain LTE speeds from towers (Amtrak uses both Verizon and AT&T networks). Amtrak insists that most of their lines should be upgraded to LTE by the end of the summer.
How reliable that signal is as the train zips in and out of tower range remains to be seen. In the North East, there's plenty of regions along major highway routes where LTE signal simply evaporates for significant stretches. Many Amtrak routes will obviously be worse.
Earlier this week the government came under fire for hoovering up the personal call logs
of more than twenty lines belonging to the Associated Press. Initially Uncle Same claimed the snooping and violation of press rights was due to an immediate and pressing life-risking investigation, but as the week rolled on it became clear the government was simply embarrassed by internal leaks
and annoyed an AP story stole some public relations thunder.
For much of the last year, Verizon Wireless has been blocking Google Wallet
, claiming that its use of a device's "secure element" is what has prohibited them from letting consumers use the app. Numerous people have explained in great detail (including the lawyer that filed the original complaint with the FCC
) that this excuse is simply being used to keep Google Wallet permanently stuck in approval purgatory, while the wireless industry's own, competing Isis
platform sees no such restrictions.
It is very quickly becoming clear that if you want the FCC to avoid enforcing their network neutrality rules, all you have to do is throw some half-assed, vague-sounding technical jargon at the agency to bog them down in inactivity indefinitely. With yesterday's news that AT&T is blocking yet another video chat application
in order to drive users to more expensive data plans, it's rather clear that the FCC lacks the stomach to actually enforce the rules they designed.
In late 2011 after several delays, ViaSat finally launched their new KA-band satellite ViaSat 1, which allowed the company to finally start offering consumers some faster residential bandwidth speeds via the Exede brand. Now the company has announced
that they're hard at work on ViaSat 2, with plans to launch it sometime in the middle of 2016 (in satellite launch parlance, that means probably around 2018). According to ViaSat, the launch of ViaSat 2 will double their existing bandwidth capacity and expand coverage across much of North and Central America. While satellite broadband is still considered the black sheep of the broadband industry because of high prices, high latency and low caps, the faster speeds made availability by this added capacity has clearly been reflected in our user Exede reviews
Canadian wireless operator Telus today announced that the company would be buying smaller wireless competitor Mobilicity for $380 Million, the first of what's expected to be several similar deals. According to the Globe and Mail
, while Telus is looking for quick regulatory approval, the government has suggested they're not entirely thrilled with the erosion of competition and the accumulation of floundering upstart spectrum by incumbents. As for Mobilicity, they insist they looked high and low for other options before sleeping with the enemy. "We beat the bushes as far as they could possibly be beaten and as hard as they could possibly be beaten ... There was not a deal to be found with the other new entrants," said the company.
As part of many announcements at Google's I/O Conference this week, Google announced that they would now be integrating video chat within Google Hangouts
across platforms and devices. Well, unless you use AT&T.
Verizon today announced that they're increasing the usage allotments on the company's prepaid wireless offerings. According to the Verizon statement
, Verizon's $60 prepaid plan will offer users unlimited voice, texting and 2 GB of data per month -- up from the previous cap of 500 MB per month. Verizon's $70 plan will now provide users with unlimited voice, texting and 4 GB of data per month -- up from the previous cap or 2 GB per month. As noted previously, these plans are for EVDO connectivity, not LTE. According to Verizon Wireless this new pricing is available to existing customers now, and to new customers starting on June 6.
While there's absolutely no doubt that Google Fiber has been a positive thing for the industry, critics have singled out two problems with Google's ultra-fast offering. One, the company backed off of open access promises
that would have allowed multiple companies to come in and truly compete over the infrastructure.
Last week reports emerged
that ESPN has at least been in talks to take AT&T up on their idea of cap-exempt content contracts. In short, AT&T has been pitching content companies on the idea of paying AT&T a toll that would allow users of their specific content to bypass user caps.
Canipre is a Canadian company that helps runs anti-piracy campaigns, and is helping Voltage Pictures in their efforts to extort money out of pirates using settlement-o-matic mass lawsuits. They've most recently been helping Voltage target easier marks like Canadian ISP TekSavvy
. As such, it's interesting to note that this week a company so concerned about propriety has been accused of using other people's photos on their website without proper attribution
. "Our collective goal is not to sue everybody...but to change the sense of entitlement that people have, regarding Internet-based theft of property," Canipre Director Barry Logan stated in a recent interview.
Time Warner today announced that the company's TBS and TNT channels would offer subscribers the option to stream live television on their tablets and iPads
-- but only if you subscribe to traditional cable TV. The news comes on the heels of a similar announcement from ABC
that they'd be trialing live streaming in New York City and Philadelphia. All of these announcements are of course in response to Aereo, who the broadcasters are trying to sue into oblivion. By offering their own streaming options -- even if tying them to existing cable subscriptions makes them immensely less appealing -- the studios can claim they're giving consumers what they want, even if with the other hand they're suing innovators out of existence.
Back in February, after more than a year of delays, the entertainment and most major ISPs launched their "six strikes" anti-piracy initiative
. The program integrates warning letters with graduated response punishments that range from being temporarily blocked off from the Internet to having your connection throttled.
Google today announced a flurry of news at their I/O Conference
, and while the company did not unveil a new Nexus phone, they did announce a new "Google edition" of the Galaxy S4 that will be sold unlocked and comes running a stock version of Android 4.2. According to Google, the phone will feature the "Nexus Google experience" and benefit from quicker Android updates than you traditionally see from the major carriers (which wouldn't be hard).
As we've noted previously
, Obama and intelligence/law enforcement agencies are working on a new domestic surveillance expansion plan that would fine ISPs and companies who don't cooperate with wiretap requests. The FBI and DOJ have spent the last year or so whining about the fact that despite all their immense (and often legally dubious) wiretapping powers, they're having a hard time accessing encrypted services.
Samsung this week turned heads by announcing that the company had discovered the "world's first 5G mmWave mobile technology." The new technology is capable of transmiting data in the millimeter-wave band at a frequency of 28 GHz at a speed of up to 1.056 Gbps to a distance of up to 2 kilometers. story continues..
The shorter wavelengths being used traditionally weren't thought to be useful for wireless transmissions -- but Samsung is overcoming those problems using array transceiver technology with 64 antenna elements to tackle the weaker propagation characteristics of millimeter-wave bands.
Google this week announced over at the Google Fiber blog
that Google Fiber will be expanding further into Missouri. According to Google, the Gladstone, Missouri City Council has voted to let Google bring their symmetrical 1 Gbps broadband service and IPTV platform to the city. "As weve said before, it takes awhile to plan, engineer, and start building our network in new communities, so it will still be some time before we can hook up our Gladstone customers," says the company. The news comes on the heels of expansion announcements for Shawnee, Kansas, Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah. The Google Fiber website
tracks which locations currently have Google Fiber, and which locations have expansions looming.
As I've been discussing a lot lately
(because it's the most important issue facing the broadband sector right now), both AT&T and Verizon are in the process of gutting regulations that require they continue offering copper landlines -- and by proxy DSL -- to tens of millions of Americans. Both companies insist that they're simply interested in "modernizing regulations" and ushering us into an "all IP age." In reality, both companies simply want to exit the fixed-line market in areas they're unwilling to upgrade.
Earlier this month John McCain put forth a new bill
that would tie a la carte to the compulsory license, and eliminate the sports blackout rule. Most interesting however is a provision that would require the FCC to auction the spectrum of a broadcaster who tried to move its must-have programming to cable.
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Recent news contributorsKarl Bode , telcodad