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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.
That's a move that has serious repercussions in the form of increased broadband coverage gaps, higher prices, stronger cable monopolies and lower-quality service. What happens to these users is part of one of the biggest shifts this industry has ever seen. The FCC this week simply noted that they'd be taking a closer look at this transition
, in the form of "Pilot programs" that can study the transition from the copper PSTN to wireless and/or VoIP.
This modest proposal outraged AT&T, who'd very much like to sever tens of millions of in-use DSL lines nobody wants to buy -- and they don't want to upgrade -- without anyone studying the way this would impact you. In a piece over at CNET
, contributor Larry Downes channels this bogus carrier outrage in a dubious piece that trots out all the industry's usual bogeymen, such as the well-worn yarn that the government simply studying an issue stifles network investment:
The notice was disappointing to advocates who see the IP transition as a potential catalyst in connecting more Americans to the broadband ecosystem, a goal far more likely with the switched network definitively shut off in favor of native IP technology. According to Fred Campbell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a former bureau chief at the FCC, Friday's notice is "more likely to discourage future investment in Internet infrastructure than to accelerate it."
Yes, nothing "connects more Americans to the broadband ecosystem" quite like killing off regulations requiring they keep providing DSL and POTS lines.
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.
A federal judge this week refused to grant class action status to a Comcast customer complaining that Comcast failed to inform him about the fact the company charges a $7 modem rental fee (unless users buy a modem). Most of the complaints about the fee were dismissed back in January
, the Judge insisting that the plaintiff wasn't specific enough about which markets saw misleading Comcast marketing in relation to the fee.
Cablevision's quarterly earnings
this week indicated that the company posted a net loss of $16.1 million for the quarter, while also seeing a drop in video revenues and a quarterly loss of about 4,700 customers. The company did add 23,000 broadband and 23,000 Internet voice subscribers on the quarter, increasing those customer totals to 2.8 million and 2.3 million, respectively. Cablevision insists that a large part of their problems relate to continued Sandy recovery, and that they still haven't been able to contact many of the customers hit hardest by the storm last fall. Cablevision's continued struggles come after a stretch of high profile executive departures from the company
, which have also been accompanied by renewed rumors of a possible sale
It appears that Comcast is killing off its Skype service for set top boxes just a year after unveiling it. In May of last year Comcast launched the product offering
, which for an extra $10 a month allowed users to video chat -- if
users subscribe to the Comcast triple play of Digital Starter TV (or above) with HD service, Performance Internet (or above) and Unlimited Voice service.
The Washington Post
this week offered up a conversation with Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt, who most of you will recall tried to shove metered broadband down customer throats
. In the interview Britt offers up some admiration for what Aereo is trying to do, insisting that his company might
consider offering something similar should Aereo be victorious in their battle against broadcasters. Specifically, he says they could "conceivably use similar technology," which isn't exactly a plan.
Britt places all of the blame for soaring TV rates on the backs of the broadcast industry, insisting he'd be more than interested in a little more flexibility with programming bundles.
Licensing battles have slowly started fracturing the broadband video landscape, making it so if you want a specific
program, you need to sign up for a specific
service. If you want to watch Disney films, you need to use Netflix
Washington Post owned cable operator CableONE is promising a new round of $60 million in network upgrades
to shore up some of the company's network shortcomings. According to CableONE, the investment will "provide Cable ONE customers with enhanced speed, reliability, and quality in their internet, cable, and phone service." "Were committed to delivering the best possible experience to our customers," said Cable ONE President and Chief Executive Officer, Tom Might. That commitment includes some of the most aggressive usage caps in this industry, like a 3 GB daily throttle cap on their base 5 Mbps tier, or a 50 Mbps tier with caps as low as 50 GB. The company also is the only carrier we know of that applies punitive lower usage caps for users who refuse to bundle
Speaking on the company earnings call
this week, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt stated that Time Warner Cable is seeing "de minimis" impact on their business from Google Fiber so far. Granted that's because two of the three Google Fiber locations have yet to connect any customers.
Bright House networks tells users in our forums
the company is preparing to offer a new, faster 90 Mbps tier in portions of Florida. The new "Lightning 90" tier will soon be available in portions of Tampa and Central Florida, and users in those markets can head here
to sign up for more details. The tier offers users 90 Mbps downstream and 10 Mbps upstream for $15 more if you're already signed up for the company's Lightning 60 tier. "Turbo customers can add Lightning 90 for as little as $30 more per month, plus tax and equipment," says the company. Base prices for those standard tiers vary on region, promotion and bundle, and are borderline impossible to find on the company website
It has been interesting to watch the responses of the two companies impacted most by Google Fiber's deployments: AT&T and Time Warner Cable. Both companies have fought competition tooth and nail over the years, and now that they're finally staring a little bit of it in the face, their responses have very much matched their corporate character. story continues..
Over the years the broadcast and cable industries have fought tooth and nail against not only offering a la carte (buying individual channels instead of bundles) pricing, but any variation from the current tactic of bundling a massive number of channels. You might recall that the industry offered two primary excuses for why it was simply impossible to offer a la carte pricing: story continues..
1: Smaller, more niche channels won't survive!
2: Offering consumer channel choice will raise everybody's TV rates!
Those justifications effectively stopped what at one point was a pretty deafening clamor for more channel pricing options.
Microsoft has apparently fired the Microsoft employee who used Twitter to mock consumer concerns about upcoming DRM for the new Xbox. Several leaks
have suggested that the next Xbox will require a constantly-functioning broadband connection as a DRM and used-game sales countermeasure, though Microsoft has yet to officially comment.
Some additional early details of the next Xbox
indicate that the device will tie very closely with existing cable subscriptions, allowing users to essentially use the device as a cable box. That's not terribly surprising, given Microsoft's existing relationships with Comcast, Verizon and others -- which allow users to view a limited amount of cable content via the Xbox 360 (provided you have a cable connection
As a private company, Cox Communications is one of the few companies that refused to participate in the entertainment industry's "six strikes" anti-piracy initiative. However, the company has taken things into their own hands, telling Torrent Freak
that they're running an anti-piracy program of their own.
With streaming OTA TV provider Aereo having so far beaten back broadcasters suing to stop the service
, at least one broadcaster has decided that their best course of action going forward is -- pouting. News Corporation COO Chase Carey today threatened that if Aereo wins their battle against broadcasters, News Corporation will pull Fox content off of the airwaves and simply move everything to cable.
AT&T's video streaming services have been decidedly "me too" affairs, ranging from a video portal that was effectively a Hulu clone
to the U-Verse Screen Pack
, which was touted as a "Netflix killer" but suffers from a limited catalog and is only available to U-Verse users for an additional $5 a month. However, a new survey being sent to U-Verse customers indicates AT&T is pondering expanding these options. Variety
notes that the survey hints that the service might not be directly run by AT&T:
A customer survey sent out March 14 to AT&Ts U-verse subscribers asked whether they would be interested in signing up for, or even inquiring about, a new video and Internet service that would: Stream to customers own devices without a receiver box; include local broadcast channels and popular sports and entertainment cable channels; the option to bundle one streaming service such as Netflix or Amazon Prime; and better picture quality and shorter wait times for streaming, All this would be offered at a significantly lower price than traditional pay TV services and without usage charges for streaming.
As we noted recently
, U-Verse users currently aren't being charged for overages but AT&T DSL users are. AT&T's curiosity in such a project comes after Verizon recently launched a streaming video service in conjunction with RedBox
The FCC still has around $185 million out of the $300 million broadband funds available from phase one of their Connect America Fund, dedicated to shoring up broadband coverage gaps. While companies like Frontier took $71.9 million to wire some 92,000 homes
, other companies like Windstream balked at taking full funding, saying that getting $775 per install wasn't enough for their liking
Time Warner Cable hasn't been exactly what you'd call a hero
when it comes to furthering national broadband deployment. The company was behind bills in both North and South Carolina
banning or hindering towns and cities from deploying their own broadband, even when nobody else will.
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Recent news contributorsKarl Bode , telcodad