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News tagged: alternatives


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by Karl Bode 05:16PM Friday Aug 29 2014
For months now Netflix has claimed that the largest ISPs have intentionally let their peering points get congested so that Netflix would be forced to pay them for direct interconnection (an argument companies like Level 3 and Cogent support). So why is Netflix paying AT&T, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and Comcast for these links if they feel they're being railroaded?

According to Netflix filings made with the government (hat tip to Quartz and ReCode), the company was beginning to lose customers who were told by Comcast Netflix was responsible for the problems:
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“For many [Comcast] subscribers, the bitrate was so poor that Netflix’s streaming video service became unusable,” he writes, then notes that Comcast reps eventually told subscribers to take their beef to Netflix. “Those customers complained to Netflix and some of them canceled their Netflix subscription on the spot, citing the unacceptable quality of Netflix’s video streams and Netflix’s inability to do anything to change the situation."
You'll recall that when Netflix started giving impacted customers warning message blaming ISPs, Verizon rather quickly threatened to file a lawsuit, insisting they were the ones losing customers over the fracas. The FCC launched an investigation into whether incumbent ISPs were acting anti-competitively back in June.

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by Karl Bode 03:08PM Friday Aug 29 2014
Speaking recently at the IP Summit in London, Former Senator turned MPAA boss Chris Dodd pronounced his love for forcing ISPs to block and filter websites accused of aiding copyright infringement. Despite the fact filters can be easily bypassed by anyone with a modicum of technical knowledge, often accidentally filter legitimate content, and appear to have done nothing to slow piracy, Dodd believes filters are the "most effective tools anywhere in the world" at fighting piracy.

To prove it, the MPAA released a report this week supporting their own thesis: Internet filters are a really great idea. While their findings run in contrast with previous studies and the MPAA doesn't show their methodology, the group insists that:
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“Recent research of the effectiveness of site blocking orders in the UK found that visits to infringing sites blocked declined by more than 90% in total during the measurement period or by 74.5% when proxy sites are included,” it reads.
Unlike the UK the MPAA has struggled to get laws passed that encourage filters here in the States, though TorrentFreak argues that the MPAA is preparing a new push to have the US voluntary six strikes initiative include them.

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by Karl Bode 01:07PM Friday Aug 29 2014
Over the years we've seen no limit of astroturf and sockpuppet groups defending the status quo while pretending to stand up for consumers. Vice directs our attention to a particularly amusing new one backed by the Koch Brothers by the name of "American Commitment." According to Vice, American Commitment is the Koch Brothers contribution to fighting net neutrality, the group sending emails to individuals insisting net neutrality is the "first step in the fight to destroy American capitalism altogether."

The group, lead by Phil Kerpin, insists that consumer neutrality protections are akin to a "federal Internet takeover," which "sounds more like a story coming out of China or Russia." What's more, Kerpin proclaims, net neutrality is a concept only really supported by a few extremists, who should get out of the way of the sector's amazing level of free-market competition:
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"Americans have been getting faster and faster Internet speeds because of competition in the free economy, not because of anything the government has done," the petition reads. "The people calling for government control over the Internet are a tiny minority of far-left political activists, and the FCC knows it."
The group has also rushed to the defense of ALEC, an organization used by AT&T and many others to craft "draft legislation" on behalf of clients that politicians are then paid to support. Of course instead of net neutrality rules you could push the FCC to vehemently support real, open network competition so consumers could vote with their wallets. However, these groups tend to pay lip service to such a concept; real broadband competition where revenues could potentially be harmed is usually the very last thing they want.

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by Karl Bode 11:00AM Friday Aug 29 2014
A TiVo support note first spotted by Dave Zatz is the first to highlight Comcast's looming migration away from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4. According to the note, Comcast is transitioning its systems in Augusta, Georgia, from MPEG-2 format to MPEG-4, meaning "that cable channels in this region will not be viewable on older equipment that is incompatible with the new format." I contacted Comcast who confirmed that they were migrating HD channels from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 in Augusta (SD channels will remain on MPEG-2), which the company notes will provide a "much more efficient use of bandwidth." The company could not offer any information on upgrade timelines for other markets.

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by Karl Bode 08:59AM Friday Aug 29 2014
While Sprint's acquisition of T-Mobile may not longer be in the cards, Deutsche Telekom is still very much open to an acquisition offer. According to a report at Bloomberg, Deutsche Telekom is open to acquisition offers of at least $35 to $40 per share. French telco Iliad submitted a $33 per month share bid in late July that was effectively laughed off by Deutsche Telekom, though a higher bid is eventually expected. Sprint's attempted acquisition would have been blocked by regulators for killing off one of the four competitors -- a Dish offer still remains possible, though Ergen and company have been quiet about any such ambitions.

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by Karl Bode 06:22PM Thursday Aug 28 2014
On the heels of a recent RootMetrics study that lauded Verizon as having the fastest, largest and most reliable network, the company is again receiving praise from JD Power and Associates. According to a new JD power study (pdf), Verizon ranked highest in wireless network quality in five geographic regions (Northeast, Southeast, North Central, Southwest and West), while AT&T ranked highest in one geographic region (Mid-Atlantic).
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by Karl Bode 02:10PM Thursday Aug 28 2014
The New York Times took ample heat this week after it refused to endorse Democratic candidate for New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, but wouldn't endorse his Democratic challenger and Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout. Gawker had plenty to say about the Times being effectively complicit in Cuomo corruption, complained the Times was arguing that "rather than risk the possibility of failed reform," (by supporting a less experienced Teachout) "voters should resign themselves to the certainty of failed reform."

Fast forward a day however, and the Times came out in support of Teachout's running mate, Tim Wu for Lieutenant Governor.
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by Karl Bode 12:23PM Thursday Aug 28 2014
After months of speculation bordering on the nauseating, we appear to have a somewhat hard date for the release of the new iPhone(s) and Apple's long-awaited iWatch: September 9. ReCode had already discovered that the two different-sized iPhones would be revealed on that date, and now states the iWatch will be unveiled as well at the same media event. The iWatch is expected to have significant integration with Apple’s HealthKit health and fitness platform, as well as with Apple's home device integration platform HomeKit.

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by Karl Bode 10:44AM Thursday Aug 28 2014
In the company's filing with the FCC opposing the Comcast merger (via Ars Technica), CenturyLink accuses the cable giant of making it difficult to obtain franchise agreements and compete with the company across numerous markets. CenturyLink complains that Comcast has been "uniquely and extraordinarily aggressive" in blocking the telco's expansions into new markets, sending letters to the handful of local franchising authorities where CenturyLink is trying to expand its Prism TV services.
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by Karl Bode 09:28AM Thursday Aug 28 2014
Back in April, Netflix started offering 4K TV streaming of a select catalog, delivered at a bitrate of 15.6 Mbps using the HEVC/h.265 codec. Not to be outdone, Amazon announced their original programming would be shot and eventually streamed in 4K -- though they didn't specify when. A Samsung press release spills the beans, noting they'll start supporting Amazon's Prime Instant Video UHD streaming on most Samsung 4K TVs starting in October. For now 4K content via Amazon appears to be an exclusive to Samsung, though it's unlikely to stay that way as adoption of the standard speeds up (and bandwidth caps everywhere begin to be trampled).

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by Karl Bode 09:06AM Thursday Aug 28 2014
Back in June T-Mobile announced the company would be exempting music services from the company's bandwidth caps, though users would need to vote on their favorite music service to get it added to T-Mobile's white list. This week T-Mobile added six more music services to that exemption list: AccuRadio, Black Planet, Grooveshark, Radio Paradise, Rdio and Songza. Google Play Music was the top-voted service, and T-Mobile states they'll be adding that "later this year." While well-intentioned, consumer advocates have criticized T-Mobile's cap exemption for music services (and speed tests), arguing it creates an unlevel playing field for smaller companies trying to gain recognition.

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by Karl Bode 08:19AM Thursday Aug 28 2014
Add NewWave Communications (see our user reviews) to the growing list of ISPs large and small that are promising to soon offer 1 Gbps speeds -- albeit to a tiny portion of their overall subscribers. The company has announced that they're planning to offer 1 Gbps to a handful of rural markets starting next year, and will be utilizing the still unfinished DOCSIS 3.1 standard to make it happen. The company will begin deployments late this year and will offer the speed selectively early next year starting in Poplar Bluff, Missouri and Monroe, Rayville, Delhi and Tallulah, Louisiana. The company has yet to state prices for the speeds, but the CEO believes it should come it at less that $100 a month.

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by Karl Bode 06:28PM Wednesday Aug 27 2014
Add Canadian cable operators Rogers and Shaw to the latest in a long list of incumbent ISPs who believe they can offer a Netflix killer that will keep cord cutters in house. According to the companies' announcement, the service will be dubbed "shomi" and will emerge as a beta exclusively for Rogers and Shaw customers in November.
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by Karl Bode 02:40PM Wednesday Aug 27 2014
On the heels of yesterday's tweaks to the company's Simple Starter plans, T-Mobile has made a few more changes, including expanding the company's Simple Choice family plan to 10 lines, as well as doubling your allotment of data if you add a tablet. T-Mobile previously capped their Simple Starter plans at 5 lines per account, charging $10 a month for each additional line.
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by Karl Bode 08:38AM Wednesday Aug 27 2014
Netflix became the latest company to formally object to Comcast's $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. In their hand delivered filing with the FCC yesterday (pdf), Netflix argues that a larger Comcast would result in the company turning the "consumer’s Internet experience into something that more closely resembles cable television." Netflix proceeds to argue that "through access fees charged at the interconnection points and by other means" Comcast and Time Warner Cable have incentive and capability "to harm Internet companies, such as online video distributors (“OVDs”), which Applicants view as competitors."

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by Karl Bode 04:26PM Tuesday Aug 26 2014
TiVO this week expanded their device portfolio with a $50 unit that the company hopes appeals to cord cutters. The new TiVO Roamio OTA DVR features four tuners, a 500 GB hard drive and the ability to record and manage over the air broadcasts. TiVO's obviously not the first to this idea; a company by the name of Simple.TV has been offering a similar product for years, though their current device comes in at nearly $200. "TiVo is devoted to making the best possible cable TV user experience available through our operator partners and in retail, but we recognize some viewers opt not to receive the benefits a subscription with a cable provider offers," states the company.

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by Karl Bode 03:03PM Tuesday Aug 26 2014
After several years of delays, Verizon says they're going to be launching higher-audio-quality voice over LTE service (VoLTE) in the "coming weeks." While Verizon's behind other carriers with their launch, company executives state they wanted to wait and launch the service as nationally as possible for a more unified experience. The upgrade will come to an unspecified number of handsets, with users able to turn VoLTE on and off in their phone's settings and utilize only CDMA 1X voice service if LTE coverage is shaky. If your phone supports Verizon LTE, the report claims you'll need to also turn on the feature via your online account.

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by Karl Bode 12:30PM Tuesday Aug 26 2014
T-Mobile continues to tinker with data allotments and pricing in the face of a freshly ambitious Sprint, quadrupling the data allotment on the company's "Simple Starter" plan. According to a T-Mobile announcement, the company's Simple Starter plan will now provide unlimited talk and text and cost $45 ($5 more) but will deliver 2 GB of data as opposed to the previous 500 MB. On Simple Starter, once you've reached the 2 GB your service is suspended and you'll need to buy a one day, 500 MB day pass for $5, or a 7-day, 1 GB pass for $10. This new higher-allotment version of the plan will be available September 3.

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by Karl Bode 09:57AM Tuesday Aug 26 2014
While the company lead the speed race a few years ago, a certain complacency has fallen over Cablevision in recent years. The company has stopped competing as fiercely on price against Verizon FiOS (which has stopped competing on price in turn), with executives recently stating they weren't going to get caught up in "speed contests."

However, users in our forums notice that Cablevision is up to something with their speed tiers, even if it's nowhere as interesting as Verizon's recently decision to make all FiOS tiers symmetrical.
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by Karl Bode 08:21AM Tuesday Aug 26 2014
The New York Post claims that AT&T has struck a deal with the Department of Justice that would allow AT&T's $48.5 billion plan to acquire DirecTV to move forward. The report fails to specify what precise conditions the DOJ will place on the deal, though it does suggest that regulators are leaning toward approval with DOJ approval coming as soon as October.
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