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News tagged: consumers


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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."

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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
An analysis of monthly cable bills by SNL Kagan found that while all cable TV bills are high (and increasing, sometimes twice a year) Cablevision customers have it the worst in terms of high rates. Cablevision customers on average now pay the company $152.72 a month, significantly higher than the next most expensive cable operators -- Comcast ($137.24 per month on average) and Verizon FiOS ($122.57 per month on average).
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by Karl Bode 08:33AM Friday Aug 29 2014
We've come quite a way from the era of clunky 300 baud modems: Intel this week announced they've built the world's smallest modem. The company's XMM 6255, with an area of just 300 sq mm, is a standalone 3G radio intended to be embedded into all manner of connected devices around the home.

"It's not just about the size of it," Intel insists. "What Intel is really doing is going after a significant stake in the Internet of Things market, where connectivity is most important."

According to the Intel announcement, the penny-sized modem utilizes the Intel SMARTi UE2p dual-band single transceiver delivering 7.2 Mbps downstream and 5.76 Mbps upstream speeds.

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by Karl Bode 05:03PM Thursday Aug 28 2014
Sixty-five consumer, social justice and media reform groups have fired off a letter voicing their opposition to Comcast's planned $45.2 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The letter, sent just as the FCC's open comment period ended earlier this week, complains that the Comcast deal will "inevitably lead to unprecedented gatekeeper control over our nation’s telecommunications and media landscape." Given Comcast's history of failing to meet NBC merger conditions (many of which they themselves recommended) the groups argue that "no amount of promises or conditions would be good enough to assuage concerns about this merger" and that the "deal needs to be rejected outright."

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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 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 10:18AM Wednesday Aug 27 2014
The writing has pretty clearly been on the wall as Comcast slowly but surely has expanded their usage-cap trials throughout less competitive Southern markets. In Comcast trial markets, users pay the same price users in unlimited markets pay, except they get a 300 GB cap, and have to pay $10 for every 50 GB beyond that they travel.
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by Karl Bode 09:16AM Wednesday Aug 27 2014
Stop the Cap amusingly notes that some 52 Mayors have breathlessly thrown their support behind the Comcast merger, despite the fact that a long list of these cities have long suffered from horrible customer service, build issues, high prices and other problems with Comcast. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown's city is held hostage by Verizon's refusal to upgrade the city with FiOS, and Comcast and Time Warner Cable's resulting market dominance, resulting in high prices.
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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 08:32AM Wednesday Aug 27 2014
On the heels of a nationwide Charter DNS outage over the weekend, Time Warner Cable is the latest ISP to suffer a nationwide outage. According to user comments in our forums, the ISP early this morning suffered a routing problem, knocking all of the company's customers offline. "At 430am ET this morning during our routine network maintenance, an issue with our Internet backbone created disruption with our Internet and On Demand services," Time Warner Cable said in a statement. "As of 6am ET services were largely restored as updates continue to bring all customers back online."

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by Karl Bode 06:41PM Tuesday Aug 26 2014
California this week became the first state in the country to pass a law requiring that cell phones include so-called "kill switch" functionality to deter theft, enabled by default (the full law is here, pdf). Minnesota passed a similar law earlier this year, but in that version of the law, the functionality is turned off by default.
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by Karl Bode 10:32AM Tuesday Aug 26 2014
Recently the U.S. House Judiciary's Subcommittee on Intellectual Property and the Internet held a hearing on the issue of "digital resales," or the ability for consumers to resell copies of films, games, music or other content they've already purchased.
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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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by Karl Bode 08:15AM Tuesday Aug 26 2014
Insiders tell Fierce Wireless that a major carrier is considering buying Sprint MVNO FreedomPop. While the major carrier has not been named, the report states that talks are in the "formal" stage and may or may not result in an actual buy. "There is some inbound inquiries there," FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokols tells the website. "We are actually taking it seriously and looking at it." The "freemium" carrier was one of several to launch a few years ago with a focus on offering a base level of free services and highly-customizable service plans (see one of our recent user reviews).

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