After months of heated battle between T-Mobile and AT&T over roaming costs, this week the FCC issued a declaratory ruling
that could open the door toward T-Mobile having to pay less to connect to incumbent networks. The FCC says they're not technically changing the rules, but says they'll provide guidance on what precisely constitutes a "commercially reasonable" data roaming agreement.
In short, the agency simply opened the door to allowing companies like T-Mobile to have complaints heard regarding the use of artificially-inflated roaming rates to squeeze out competitors. The move makes it clear the FCC could intervene to deflate high roaming prices intended to keep competitors at a disadvantage.
Needless to say, companies like Verizon and AT&T weren't happy.
"It is deeply troubling that the Wireless Bureau has changed a fundamental wireless rule in ways that discourage investment and unfairly advantage one company over others, and has done so without a Commission vote, as required by law," Verizon said in a statement circulated to the media. AT&T said they'd appeal the decision.
Similarly the FCC's two Republican Commissioners were quick to complain
that the move was "antics" aimed at undermining "consensus-based" decision making at the FCC.
Consumer group Public Knowledge, in contrast, applauded the FCC's "clarification" of its 2011 rules.
"When the FCC adopted its data roaming rules in 2011, it used a new legal standard that left many questions unanswered," the group said in a statement. "By clarifying some of these issues, today's action will help ensure that customers of even smaller or regional carriers can use their smartphones freely as they travel."
Several CenturyLink customers have e-mailed me to note that the company is reaching out to users with a not-so-welcome holiday gift: rate hikes in the new year. According to the notification being sent out to users, standalone broadband customers can expect to start paying $2 more per month in the new year, while bundled phone and broadband customers will see a $1 increase. story continues..
AT&T today announced that the company will begin offering 75 Mbps downstream, 8 Mbps upstream U-Verse connections in select areas. According to an AT&T blog post
, AT&T U-verse "High Speed Internet 75" is launching today in "parts of" Monterey and Sacramento, California, Toledo, Ohio; and El Paso, Texas.
A new study
by the Commerce Department confirms something FCC boss Wheeler has been repeating in recent months: competition for faster speeds in the U.S. barely exists because of lagging DSL networks.
Back in January we were the first to report
that Comcast was again doubling speeds on many of its tiers, starting first with the company's Midwest division. As noted then, upgraded Comcast users will see the company's "Performance" tier bumped from 25/5 to 50/5 Mbps, their "Blast" tier from 50/10 to 105/10 Mbps, and their Extreme 105 speeds bumped from 105/20 Mbps to 150/20 Mbps.
Dish Network appears to be the first major pay TV player willing to integrate Netflix into the company's set top box hardware. Reports recently emerged
that Netflix was making a refocused push to get Netflix on the set tops of the biggest cable operators.
Add Tucows' MVNO Ting to the growing list of companies pushing into the 1 Gbps field after being inspired by Google Fiber and community broadband efforts. Ting was one of several companies to try and disrupt wireless industry pricing last year by incorporating a "free" tier of mobile data service, layered with a more civil treatment of its subscribers. story continues..
T-Mobile this morning unveiled their latest "Uncarrier" press salvo, announcing that the company will now be offering customers roll over data. According to a company announcement
, both new and existing T-Mobile customers will be given what T-Mobile's calling a "Data Stash," or a data allotment where they can store unused data at the end of each month.
T-Mobile today announced that the company's faster "wideband" LTE upgrades have gone live in New York City, the upgrades providing speed bumps of 50% and theoretical peak speeds of up to 100 Mbps downstream. According to a T-Mobile announcement
, the wideband upgrades are now available in Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Long Island and Northern NJ.
According to a 2003 class action lawsuit against Comcast, the cable giant's anti-competitive behavior in the Philadelphia area resulted in the company overcharging users to the tune of more than $875 million. The case has stumbled around the courts for several years now, though Comcast recently agreed to pay $50 million to settle the suit. The settlement gives roughly 800,000 current and former Comcast cable-TV subscribers in Pennsylvania $15 in credits, or Comcast services the value of which ranges from $30 to $43.90.
These services include "temporary Internet upgrades, six free pay-per-view movies, or two free months of the Movie Channel," notes the Phiadelphia Inquirer
Comcast Settlement 88281
This week roughly sixty hardware vendors including Cisco, Intel, Pace, Sandvine and Broadcom joined the incumbent broadband providers in opposing tougher Title-II based net neutrality rules. In a letter sent to Congress and FCC Commissioners
(pdf), the companies bring out some familiar arguments against Title II -- namely that it will stall innovation and harm investment (though even ISPs themselves this week admitted that isn't the case
In fact, the vendors up the ante -- insisting that Title II will damage the entire economy:
While many experts have noted the damage Title II could do to network investment, the harm would cascade out far beyond the provision of broadband service because the Internet is now so entwined with our entire economy...Reversing course now by shifting to Title II means that instead of billions of broadband investment driving other sectors of the economy forward, any reduction in this spending will stifle growth across the entire economy.
Except in reality, plenty of folks (including Sonic.net CEO Dane Jasper) have argued that Title II really will only impact ISPs if they engage in bad behavior
(like use the lack of competition to impose arbitrary tolls or prioritization), and other wise any additional regulatory burden would be light.
Of course should the AT&T, Comcast and Verizon's of the world not face meaningful net neutrality rules, one guess who gets paid to build the intelligent devices that will power these brave, new, neutrality-infringing efforts? In that case, why would gear makers want tougher net neutrality rules if it shoots revenue growth right in the foot?
1 Gbps has of course been the marketing buzzword du jour this year, companies offering a smattering of 1 Gbps connections to developments -- then heavily marketing them to give the impression of significantly larger upgrades. Cincinnati Bell is no exception, the company late this year launching their own "FiOptics" 1 Gbps offering
for $90 a month.
Back in October CBS announced
the launch of a new, $6 a month streaming service solely for CBS content, that offers users the option to watch 15 primetime shows the day after they have aired on broadcast and cable. It's currently only available in fourteen metro markets
, a list that hasn't grown since launch.
T-Mobile took the fight more intensely to AT&T and Verizon today with the unveiling of a new $100, two-line family plan with unlimited data. According to the T-Mobile announcement
, the new Simple Choice plan offers unlimited data, talk and text for $100 a month, and up to 10 additional lines can be added for $40 each.
For much of the last year Verizon has stuck close to the company's strategy of fighting price reductions under the premise that a premium network comes with a premium price tag. They've also tried to downplay T-Mobile's market impact wherever possible
, company CEO declaring back in March that T-Mobile's aggressive strategy is "really nothing different than we have seen over the last couple of decades." AT&T's taken a similar approach, doing its best to portray T-Mobile as irrelevant.
But both companies quietly admitted this week that while they won't have to start giving away the store anytime soon, T-Mobile has officially started to make them sweat
Barron’s points out that both AT&T and Verizon have cited increased competition as having an impact on their quarterly churn rates and earnings per share, respectively...Verizon, meanwhile, said that its EPS this quarter could be negatively impacted by a “highly competitive and promotion-filled” market that has forced the carrier to respond in kind.
Again this shouldn't be overstated; most of AT&T and Verizon's promotions continue to be cosmetic in nature, and primarily tend to focus on discounting bigger data allotments to upsell users to costlier plans. It also should be said that while T-Mobile has made great strides on consumer-friendly policies, nobody in the wireless industry (including T-Mobile) actually wants a real price war
Amazon today announced that the company has officially started offering content streamed in 4K (or Ultra HD). According to a company press release
, the content is available to existing Amazon Prime customers at no additional cost (Netflix was earlier to the 4K race, but users need to pay extra to access the content
). You can peruse Amazon's selection of Ultra HD content here
. Note that you'll need to use one of these 33 compatible televisions
with Amazon Instant video embedded to actually view the content. The content will not work
with Amazon's Fire TV set top.
Comcast is facing a new class action over the company's push to turn customer routers into publicly available Xfinity hotspots. In June of last year Comcast announced
that the company was launching a new, Fon-like effort that involved new router firmware that turns your gateway into a publicly-accessible hotspot.
Even though his company likely won't exist six months from now (once digested by Comcast), Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus this week threw his full support behind Internet video -- specifically Internet video's ability to shake up the traditional bloated, pricey TV channel bundles. 2015 looks to be a landmark year for over-the-top video services from the likes of HBO, Showtime, Dish and Verizon -- something Marcus insists is a good thing that should benefit everybody
"We’ve been articulating for quite some time that we thought that delivering video with a greater degree of flexibility would be very customer friendly," Marcus said at the UBS Global Media & Communications conference in New York Monday.
Netflix today released their Netflix streaming ISP performance rankings
for the month of November, which indicates that Verizon FiOS still tops the chart among large ISPs in the States (though Google Fiber tops the list among all ISPs, large and small). There's again only minor movement in the rankings, with Cox Communications dropping two spots and Comcast gaining two spots.
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