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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.
The latest in a long stream of examples of this comes courtesy of CenturyLink, who just got done raising rates for DSL users
and is now tacking a completely nonsensical new fee on to customer broadband bills. Former Qwest users in our CenturyLink forum
say that they're being notified of a new $1 "Internet Cost Recovery Fee" for the first time this month.
Like with other junk fees of this kind (AT&T's AT&T's Administrative Mobility Fee
being just the latest), this is a way to raise rates (further) without increasing the advertised price by tacking on below-the-line fees. It's absolutely predatory and a form of false advertising, yet in the thirteen years I've covered this industry I've never once seen a regulator (state or federal), PSC, Attorney General or watchdog stand up to such behavior. Here's CenturyLink's silly explanation for the fee:
Internet cost recovery is a new monthly recurring charge which is applied to all consumer and business HSI lines in service. It helps cover the costs associated with building and maintaining the internet network.
Customers were probably under the foolish notion that CenturyLink's already-very-high prices more than paid for "building and maintaining the internet network," particularly given how badly the company lags at building and maintaining said network to provide next-generation speeds
. While $1 may not seem
like much, you just have to multiply that times CenturyLink's 5.9 million broadband customers each and every month to see how lucrative these kinds of junk fees are.
Given that regulators refuse to do their job and crack down on such fees, it's rather surprising CenuryLink doesn't take this further. "While they're at it, maybe CenturyLink should add a charge to help cover the cost of advertising, paying their employees, and cleaning the company bathrooms," recommends an annoyed user.
Microsoft has released more details on the DRM embedded in the Xbox One
to stop piracy, and the reality is almost-but-not-quite as bad as most of the worrisome leaks predicted. According to Microsoft, the new Xbox One is a revolution in cloud computing, TV watching and gaming, but the changes will all come at a very steep price tag for consumers (in more than just the literal sense).
by Revcb Friday 31-May-2013
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal
and data plucked from Leichtman Research, many people are "cutting the cord" but it's the broadband cord that's getting cut. According to Leichtman data, just 0.4% cancelled pay TV last year, but around 1% of U.S.
Back in April Time Warner Cable proclaimed that the company would be cutting back on promotions
, in large part because the triple play no longer resonates with customers who are looking to cut their cable VoIP line and go wireless only. As part of that strategy Time Warner Cable appears to have returned to offering users a $20 standalone broadband promotion
-- but only for speeds of around 1 Mbps. Time Warner Cable was forced to offer reasonably-priced standalone broadband back when they were part of Time Warner as an AOL acquisition condition, but this new voluntary embracing of standalone offers in key markets highlights the fact that the cable triple play is slowly starting to go the way of the dodo.
Back in April we noted
that AT&T was imposing a new $0.61 "Mobility Administrative Fee" on all postpaid wireless subscriber bills. According to AT&T's website, the sneaky fee "helps defray certain expenses AT&T incurs," though like AT&T's equally nonsensical "regulatory recovery fee," those expenses should be included in the cost of doing business, and not buried beneath the line.
The latest report
(pdf) from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index highlights that consumer satisfaction with cable TV services remains among the worst in any industry -- and broadband ISP service satisfaction is even worse. While some companies made small strides, they haven't been enough.
Leap Wireless' Cricket brand this week launched what they're calling "Half is More
" pricing, which the company claims offers users "unlimited plans for half the price of the competition." According to a Leap/Cricket press release
, the company's new $45 Offering provides unlimited text, voice and data services. However, the company rather buries the fact that by "unlimited" they mean around 1 GB, after which you're throttled back to dial-up era speeds for the remainder of the month. "Cricket is challenging consumers and asking the question that if you can pay only half and get the same thing, why wouldn't you?" the company asks. Perhaps because you historically abuse the hell out of
the word "unlimited"?
DirecTV is contemplating embedding an antenna into their set top boxes
in order to offer live over the air broadcasts, thereby circumventing retransmission fees. Speaking at the JP Morgan Technology, Media and Telecom conference in Boston, DirecTV chief financial officer Patrick Doyle stated they didn't have a timeline on the project, but that it makes financial sense due to the soaring price of retrans fees and the landscape shift that's occurring courtesy of Aereo. He also stated that whenever it does get deployed, it would only be initially made available to new customers. "Well probably test in some markets an over-the-air integrated tuner set-up and make sure the customer experience is there," insists Doyle.
Verizon today announced that they're increasing the usage allotments on the company's prepaid wireless offerings. According to the Verizon statement
, Verizon's $60 prepaid plan will offer users unlimited voice, texting and 2 GB of data per month -- up from the previous cap of 500 MB per month. Verizon's $70 plan will now provide users with unlimited voice, texting and 4 GB of data per month -- up from the previous cap or 2 GB per month. As noted previously, these plans are for EVDO connectivity, not LTE. According to Verizon Wireless this new pricing is available to existing customers now, and to new customers starting on June 6.
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.
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 few weeks back, in response to Google Fiber, AT&T announced a plan for fiber to the press release in Austin
. That is, the company issued a very weaselly-worded statement claiming they were "prepared to build" an "advanced fiber optic infrastructure" technically capable of 1 Gbps if
they saw the precise perks they wanted from regional regulators.
The FCC this week announced that they're targeting 500 MHz of additional airwaves
that could be opened up to help improve in-flight broadband services. Currently, most in-flight broadband either rely on congested satellite broadband bandwidth, or skyward-pointed ground to air EVDO antenna arrays.
As had been predicted for some time, Google this week announced
their new subscription a la carte video "channels." Under the new pilot program, users can pay anywhere from $1 to $6 a month for individual channels, providing many of these content creators an additional revenue stream to (presumably) fund raising the bar on some of YouTube's inexplicably popular dreck
So far there's about 53 channels for users to choose from, all viewable here
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.
Since around 2004
I've talked about the significant amount of fraud involved in the government's IP Relay service, which is intended to help the hearing impaired communicate with phone users via the Internet with the help of paid transcription workers (I remember talking with my grandfather over TRS versions of the service as a child). Unfortunately, for the better part of a decade the service has been abused by scammers and other assorted technoscumbags, with carriers doing nothing about it because they're paid by the FCC (aka you) about $1.50 per minute to carry this traffic.
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.
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Recent news contributorsKarl Bode , Linklist