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Last week I noted
that CenturyLink had tacked on a new and absurd $1 "Internet Cost Recovery Fee" to user bills starting in July. The fee, like all fees of this kind, allows carriers to jack up prices using below the line fees while keeping the advertised price the same. According to CenturyLink, the fee was to "help cover the costs associated with building and maintaining the internet network," which is, of course, what your full bill should already be contributing to.
Now user linicx
writes in to note that CenturyLink is also informing some users of yet another fee.
"Beginning with your next invoice you will notice an additional item in the Optional Features/Services subsection of the Local Services portion of your bill, referred to as the Non-Telcom Services Surcharge," CenturyLink informs users. The fee appears applied to users who receive Voicemail (a rather telecom-ish "non telecom service") or Lineguard -- a $4.50 per month insurance program CenturyLink often signs users up for without asking
According to the CenturyLink website
, this new $1.55 fee is imposed " to reduce the number of potential increases to customers," which of course also makes absolutely no sense given it's a rate hike either way.
When you multiply the $1 "Internet Cost Recovery Fee" and the $1.55 "Non Telecom Services Surchage" times the millions of CenturyLink DSL and POTS subscribers, you'll understand that CenturyLink's making a pretty penny doing absolutely nothing. Well perhaps not "nothing"; they're engaging in false advertising and using nonsensical fees to jack up the below the line price, something U.S. regulators continue to ignore.
Comcast this week expanded availability of their new X1 set top into Baltimore. The Pace-made device is a QAM/IP hybrid set top that brings a lot of IP-based functionality to users already seen in set tops deployed by telcoTV competitors (widgets ahoy). This thread
in our forums offers some user impressions of the new set top, and while many users like it, there appear to be many bugs that still need ironing out. To lure users to the new platform, Comcast is offering a variety of new 12 month promotional offers
(including this one that expires today
) to new
customers that involve free premium TV channels, the new X1 set top, gift cards, and the company's 20 Mbps broadband tier for $89.
New incoming FCC boss Tom Wheeler is expected to have his confirmation hearing today before the Senate Commerce Committee. Wheeler's ties to wireless and cable companies
aren't expected to be much of an obstacle for his hearing, and in fact are likely why Wheeler was chosen (in order to see as little resistance from an industry-friendly Congress as possible).
If you're a Verizon customer that's having some Netflix performance issues lately, the likely culprit appears to be a peering spat between Verizon and Cogent Communications. GigaOM
has managed to sniff out the dispute, quoting Cogent as saying Verizon is intentionally allowing the ten peering points they share with the company to degrade. Verizon isn't really commenting on the feud outside of issuing some basic quotes about their superior network, so the GigaOM
story lacks any technical detail coming from Verizon's side. Cogent is certainly no stranger to disputes over peering
, which involve companies exchanging equal (or quite often not so equal, resulting in these feuds) amounts of bandwidth for free.
We've now seen two
that have shown that AT&T's LTE network is the fastest, even though Verizon's tends to have broader coverage and be more reliable. That's effectively what PC Magazine's new analysis of the fastest wireless networks found
, the company working with Sensorly to collect data in thirty cities. "In our first truly fair fight between LTE networks, AT&T came through with faster upload and download speeds overall than Verizon Wireless, although Verizon offered better reliability and greater rural coverage than its competitor." Another trend we're seeing in these studies: T-Mobile's LTE (where available) is faster than Verizon, while Sprint's average LTE speeds fail to impress. It will be interesting to see if these numbers change as both AT&T and T-Mobile see greater user loads on their LTE networks.
Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt recently crowed before investors that the company's new and unpopular modem rental fee
had room to grow
. He now appears to have carried through on that promise, with the news that the company's $4 modem fee -- is now a $5 modem fee for new users
. Alongside the new higher modem fee, Time Warner Cable is charging news users a $20 "one-time charge" simply for signing up for certain promotions. Given Comcast charges $7 for modem rentals you can expect Time Warner Cable's charge to continue growing in time (users are strongly recommended to buy their own modem
instead of throwing more money at their cable operator). As for the new $20 charge, it's just one more way these companies jack up your advertised price post sale.
AT&T recently annoyed users by blocking Google Hangouts video chat
, just a year after taking heat for blocking Facetime
. AT&T pretended the move was about network logistics, but they were actually using the blockade to force grandfathered unlimited users on to metered plans (the Facetime block was ultimately removed for metered users).
Earlier this month Sprint tried to scrap Dish's proposed takeover of Clearwire by arguing that the proposal was technically illegal under Delaware law
. Now Sprint has filed a new lawsuit against both Dish and Clearwire
in an effort to prove it and derail the deal once and for all. According to the lawsuit, Dish has "repeatedly attempted to fool Clearwire's shareholders into believing its proposal was actionable in an effort to acquire Clearwire's spectrum and to obstruct Sprint's transaction with Clearwire." The fuss over Clearwire's spectrum has resulted in the Wall Street Journal
calling the historically dismally-performing Clearwire the "darling of telecom" in a report yesterday.
writes in to direct our attention to the fact that Sprint has announced
that they've launched LTE service in another twenty two new markets, including Miami, New Orleans, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Tampa, Florida. As always the usual Sprint launch caveats apply: many users had seen signal in these locations for some time as Sprint brings signals online for testing well before a commercial launch. Said launches aren't always what you'd call comprehensive
either; only around 40% of towers have been LTE approved in the Miami launch market. The launches bring Sprint's LTE market total to 110. The company aims to offer LTE to 200 million people by the end of this year.
According to a report in the Globe and Mail
, both AT&T and Verizon are contemplating buying a stake in the Canadian wireless market. According to sources speaking to the paper anonymously, both companies have held talks to acquire one or several of the struggling Canadian upstart operators, including Wind Mobile. The source claims Verizon in particular is taking a "hard look" at buying either Wind or Mobilicity, then bidding on spectrum at Canada's upcoming spectrum auction in order to create a stronger fourth wireless carrier. The move wouldn't be a new one for Verizon, who was a major investor in Telus until 2004.
Earlier this month news emerged
that Google was planning on experimenting with broadband by hot air balloon or blimp (affectionately called "blimpband" around these parts). Now Google has come out with more details about the project and given it a name: Google Loon
As we've noted previously
, despite serious advancement in broadband speeds, many ISPs have been having serious problems offering a consistent YouTube streaming experience over the last years -- including faster options like Verizon FiOS. By and large I've noted that given this is a problem across numerous ISPs, it would appear to be an unspecified peering or YouTube issue that causes the problems.
HughesNet has announced
that the company is now offering their satellite broadband customers the ability to bundle in voice services. The company's website
doesn't get specific on pricing, only stating that plans start out at around $20 per month. "HughesNet Voice customers enjoy high Quality of Service (QoS) calling as a result of new technology Hughes developed in its latest HughesNet Gen4 service delivery system, which establishes dedicated bandwidth for voice traffic, eliminating interference with data running over their satellite Internet connection," insists the company. While the company's new Gen-4 broadband service has been well hyped, many customers state HughesNet has struggled to deliver promised performance
with the new service.
As the PRISM story from last week mutates, it has been interesting to see how many of the Internet companies have fought NSA requests, completely unlike what we saw with AT&T and Verizon when it was exposed
that they were allowing the NSA to split network fibers and monitor all traffic in real time. Google for example recently went out of their way to point out they refused NSA attempts to install their own gear on network
, and now the New York Times
reports that both Yahoo and Twitter also tried to fight secretive rubber-stamped FISA court requests.
One of the benefits of having little to no competition in your markets is you can jack up prices and add all the little obnoxious fees you'd like with no repercussions, since most of your customers have no other options. One of the benefits of lobbying and enjoying regulatory capture in uncompetitive markets
is you can engage in this kind of behavior repeatedly and be confident that United States regulators simply won't give a damn.
LTE signal for T-Mobile's shiny new LTE network keeps popping up in numerous cities ahead of official commercial launches. TMONews
points out that users started seeing LTE signal last week in Boston, Dayton/Akron, Ohio, San Diego, Anaheim, Fresno and across San Bernardino county. This week the signals are popping up in Dallas, Denver, Wichita and Indianapolis. T-Mobile has stated they plan to cover 100 million POPs (potential customers) by the end of summer but only officially offers LTE in seven markets, meaning we should be hit by a flood of official launch announcements shortly.
The Justice Department appears poised to take a closer look at the cable industry after their admission this week that they pay or threaten content companies
to keep content away from Internet video competitors. An anonynmous source now tells the New York Times
the Justice Department is "looking into the issue as part of a broad investigation into cable and satellite company practices." After Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt oddly decided to admit such practices at a cable industry trade show
this week, the company then turned around and tried to argue that paying and threatening companies to crush smaller competitors was just good spirited, healthy, competitive fun
. Perhaps Britt's planned retirement at the end of the year may be magically stepped up a few months.
Elaborating on announcements made back in February
, GM says that they'll soon bring AT&T LTE connectivity to most of their 2015 car models
, with the broadband tied to the vehicle's OnStar infotainment and emergency aid services. GM insists that the automobile will be the next great tech evolution platform "and one with far better battery life than an iPhone." Two hurdles will mar GM and AT&T's vision: one, most people now already have a smartphone with mobile hotspot capability and aren't keen on paying more money for another pricey (some would say over-priced) AT&T data connection. Two, automaker infotainment system GUI's traditionally seem like they're designed by teams of drunk orangutans -- a huge, persistent problem when you're technically competing with iOS and Android for the driver's attention.
An anonymous source insists to the Wall Street Journal
that Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile do not "directly" help the NSA due to the potential issues raised by their foreign ownership ties. Presumably, such cooperation would provide T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom and Verizon Wireless co-owner Vodafone with too much data on the NSA's practices:
Legal, practical and political obstacles are all possible reasons why the two firms are excluded from the NSA program.
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Recent news contributorsKarl Bode , Linklist , SrsBsns , linicx