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Cable operators have made their dislike of broadcast industry retransmission fee hikes very clear, and as you'd expect those price hikes are being passed on to you. Curiously though, instead of just raising the price of services (which they do anyway), cable operators have taken to placing these fees below the line, where they can jack up customer prices further -- but keep the advertised rate the same.
AT&T recently jacked up the price of their "Broadcast TV Surcharge" to an additional $2.50 per month
for U-Verse TV users.
"While broadcast stations distribute their signals over the air using free spectrum granted to them by the federal government, they charge Charter significant amounts to carry their TV signals," Charter's website
informs customers. Charter was one of the first cable companies to start charging the fee
"These signals were historically made available to Charter at no cost, or low cost. However, the prices now demanded by broadcast stations have necessitated that we pass these costs on to customers," states the company. Why this cost can't simply be reflected in your overall bill instead of being hidden below the line isn't made clear.
AT&T is shelving their new AIO Wireless prepaid brand despite the fact the brand is less than six months old
. "After the transaction's close, AT&T intends to combine the nascent operations of Aio with Leap's existing operations under the Cricket brand name," AT&T stated in a series
with the FCC
(via Fierce Wireless
). AIO provided no-contract prepaid plans ranging from $35 to $70 for unlimited talk, text, and set allotments of data (LTE topping out at around 4 Mbps downstream), and AT&T had only just started offering the brand nationwide starting last month.
AT&T has repeatedly suggested they're seriously considering an expansion into the European wireless market, the company rumored to have explored acquiring the wireless portions of Vodafone, European carrier EE, as well as part of Spain's Telefonica SA. "I continue to be fascinated and impressed by how slow mobile broadband is moving in Europe," AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told attendees
of a industry conference in Europe this week. "So I think of this as a huge opportunity for somebody." Opportunities, Stephen insists, AT&T is only interested in taking advantage of if Europe is willing to "overhaul its regulatory policies," which have been traditionally tougher and more pro-consumer
than he's used to in the States.
While the improved audio fidelity benefits of voice over LTE (VoLTE) aren't expected to be seen in any real volume until well into 2014, AT&T says they hope to launch their first VoLTE-supported phone before the end of the year. "I do believe there might be a VoLTE-compliant device for the holidays this year," AT&T Labs President Krish Prabhu said today
at an industry conference.
Whether you'll be able to actually use VoLTE is another question entirely, since interoperability issues will plague the technology for some time, and while VoLTE handsets may be available this fall, the VoLTE infrastructure won't yet be fully baked. Prabhu also reiterated AT&T's intent to cover 270 million POPs (potential customers) with LTE by year-end, up from 240 million now.
AT&T today announced that the telco is now offering U-Verse TV subscribers the ability to stream live television programming to smartphones and tablets. According to the AT&T statement
, users who subscribe to a U-family or higher U-verse TV package can now stream more than 100 channels inside the home. AT&T notes around 20 channels can be watched live outside of the home, reflecting the slow loosening of broadcaster content licensing restrictions. U-Verse users can find a full line up of available live streaming content here
After Google announced their launch of Google Fiber into the Austin market, AT&T played a game of "me too," announcing a rather vague plan to deploy 1 Gbps
to a small portion of the city. AT&T today issued a little more detail on their plan
, stating they've begun construction on what they're calling "AT&T U-verse with GigaPower."
According to AT&T, a select group of Austinites will be able to order the faster service starting in December, though initially the company will "only" be offering symmetrical speeds of 300 Mbps.
The MPAA, RIAA, AT&T and Verizon have joined forces to "educate" California school children on the details of copyright, ignoring things like "fair use" -- lest it confuse the toddlers. Wired
has a report on the curriculum the coalition is pushing on California schools for grade one
, grade two
, grade five
and grade six
(pdfs), all of which is about as nuanced as you might imagine.
We were the first to report on AT&T's new 45 Mbps U-Verse speeds before they officially arrived back in August
. First made available in California and Nevada, AT&T has since expanded the offering into 17 states, and today announced five more.
AT&T has yet to offer a single customer 1 Gbps service, but that didn't stop AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson today from hinting at additional
1 Gbps market launches that may or may not happen. To counter media excitement created by Google Fiber's move into Austin last April, AT&T issued an ambiguous announcement
one day later proclaiming they were "prepared to build" networks with "advanced fiber optic infrastructure" under select circumstances.
AT&T is the latest wireless carrier exploring the option of using creative accounting to sell their wireless towers to other companies, then lease those towers back for a significant reduction in taxes. According to a report by Bloomberg
, AT&T is exploring the option of selling around 10,000 of the company's towers for an estimated $5 billion. Sprint did something similar in 2008 to pay down debt
, as did T-Mobile in 2012
. AT&T's 10,000 towers generate around $326 million in annual revenue from leases to other carriers.
Over the years several communities have gotten upset
about the AT&T VRAD cabinets required to deliver the company's U-Verse FTTN/VDSL service. In some areas, complaints involved anger of AT&T ignoring easement rights or childhood traffic dangers, while in other markets the complaints have been aesthetic or property-value driven.
As Verizon eyes expanding into the Canadian wireless market, AT&T has their eyes set on expanding into Europe. Bloomberg
notes that AT&T has explored possibly acquiring portions of Vodafone, European carrier EE, as well as part of Spain's Telefonica SA. Rumors that Verizon would be buying out Vodafone's 45% ownership stake in Verizon Wireless re-emerged this week
; AT&T's interested in buying some of what's left of Vodafone, but wireless only -- not any of the company's fixed line ambitions. AT&T could pay about 80 billion pounds ($124 billion) for what's left of Vodafone, according to Wall Street analysts.
Back in May AT&T launched AIO Wireless
, a new prepaid brand that tries to distance itself from AT&T's more traditional (and for some, disliked) corporate image. Part of the brand overhaul includes a website
that features adorable fonts, cozy wood grained backdrops, and occasionally the color magenta.
Outraged over this purportedly diabolical transgression, T-Mobile has filed a lawsuit against AT&T
, claiming that AT&T is intentionally trying to confuse customers by using T-Mobile's familiar hue:
"AT&T’s subsidiary’s use of magenta to attract T-Mobile customers is likely to dilute T-Mobile’s famous magenta color trademark, and to create initial interest [and] confusion as to the source or affiliation of AT&T’s subsidiary’s business..."
This isn't the first time T-Mobile has gotten sue happy over what they believe is their
color, having threatened to sue Engadget back in 2008
for daring to use the color in a mobile website font.
As a follow up to my post this morning
, AT&T has officially announced that they're now offering the company's faster 45 Mbps down, 6 Mbps up U-Verse tier in forty additional markets. An AT&T press release
breaks down all the freshly-available markets, which include Atlanta, Orlando, Chicago, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville, and many more. The tier is currently being offered at around $76 per month, or as low as $50 with bundles and promotions. AT&T again repeated that they plan to offer U-Verse speeds up to 100 Mbps "in the future."
AT&T has previously stated that they're well ahead in terms of their LTE deployment schedule, the company currently offering LTE in around 370 markets with the launch of five new but relatively uninteresting markets this week: Ruston, La.; New Bern, N.C.; State College, Pa.; Georgetown, S.C. and Jayuya, Puerto Rico. AT&T has also announced that they're changing their end of year LTE deployment goal as well, now aiming for 420 LTE markets by the end of the year. AT&T's press announcement
lists fifty mostly smaller LTE markets AT&T plans to launch before the end of the year, including Fairbanks, Amarillo and Fargo.
Al Jazeera this week launched their Al Jazeera America channel in the United States
, promising to offer more hard hitting journalism than Fox News and CNN viewers have grown accostomed to (the Washington Post insists they're "mostly
" succeeding). However, many US cable subscribers won't be seeing the new channel, as it has been yanked from the lineups of numerous cable operators including Time Warner Cable and AT&T.
AT&T has announced
a new deal with Camden Property Trust to deploy U-Verse fiber to the home to select "high-end" apartment developments in Atlanta, Austin and Orlando starting later this year. While the announcement cites fiber to the home (aka fiber to the premises), it doesn't mention any specific speeds -- and AT&T has a long history of capping fiber to the home customers at the same speeds offered to slower fiber to the node
customers. For most of those customers, U-verse speeds top out at 24 Mbps, but AT&T did recently start offering 45 Mbps down, 5 Mbps up tiers in California and Nevada
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