|Several years back story continues..
Verizon implemented what they call "network optimization" for their 3G network, though their LTE network wasn't impacted. As Verizon explained it to me at the time
, the system de-prioritizes user packets if that user is in the top 5% of the heaviest users and if a local tower (or node) is suffering from congestion. Verizon repeatedly insisted that this wasn't the same as a user being "throttled," even if the end result was indistinguishable from throttling.
Now Droid Life
is the first to learn that Verizon Wireless will begin throttling the connections of unlimited users on the company's LTE network starting October 1:
On October 1, Verizon will expand its existing Network Optimization policy to include unlimited data customers who use 4G LTE devices and “have fulfilled their minimum contract term.” That “optimization” occurs when an unlimited data customer meets specific criteria and hops onto a cell site that is experiencing high demand.
Verizon states that the top 5% of data users were using 4.7 GB or more of data each month. Under the previous system, a user was throttled only temporarily. According to Verizon's freshly updated network optimization practices website
, unlimited LTE users may now find themselves throttled for an entire billing cycle. Again, Verizon's FAQ is quick to proclaim this isn't the same as being throttled:
How is this different than throttling?
The difference between our Network Optimization practices and throttling is network intelligence. With throttling, your wireless data speed is reduced for your entire cycle, 100% of the time, no matter where you are.
AT&T and Verizon have made it very clear by this point that with a few urban exceptions, they've finished with next-gen U-Verse and FiOS upgrades. DSL users that haven't been upgraded will slowly be pushed on to LTE, as both companies' lobbyists are making the rounds gutting regulation requiring the teclos' keep DSL and POTS operational in those markets. story continues..
Last June Comcast announced
that the company's new customer gateways would be configured to start sharing user Wi-Fi with local passers by, noting that the service could be disabled and that other peoples' usage wouldn't count against your usage cap. Still, as Comcast launches this service in a market-by-market basis consumers in each market have responded with more than a little trepidation
at the concept of their router having a public component.
For years we've heard about how usage caps and limits on broadband are necessary because it's expensive to run a network. Until we read earnings reports clearly showing how flat-rate broadband pricing has long been profitable. story continues..
Purportedly in response to public outcry over net neutrality, sources tell the Wall Street Journal
that FCC boss Tom Wheeler is reconfiguring the agency's net neutrality rules so that they "ensure assurances that the agency won't allow companies to segregate Web traffic into fast and slow lanes."
The Journal then proceeds to claim Wheeler will be sticking to the "same basic approach," but will try to add a few provisions aimed at protecting non-paying companies from being discriminated against by new ISP traffic prioritization schemes:
In the new draft, Mr. Wheeler is sticking to the same basic approach but will include language that would make clear that the FCC will scrutinize the deals to make sure that the broadband providers don't unfairly put nonpaying companies' content at a disadvantage, according to an agency official. The official said the draft would also seek comment on whether such agreements, called "paid prioritization," should be banned outright, and look to prohibit the big broadband companies, such as Comcast and AT&T from doing deals with some content companies on terms that they aren't offering to others.
Wheeler's also supposedly going to open public discussion further to the possibility of whether or not ISPs should be re-classified as utilities under Title II of the Communications Act, something the agency has clearly shown they have little stomach for given the likely resulting fight with incumbent ISPs. The agency is scheduled to vote on the reconfigured rules on Thursday, after which they'll enter a public comment period, during which Wheeler insist the rules can be modified further before passage.
Still, former wireless and cable industry lobbyist Wheeler has yet to really show he understands the real, potential consumer threat of some of the recent broadband industry events (like AT&T's sponsored data
or Comcast and Verizon's new interconnection deals with Netflix), so it remains entirely unclear if these latest promises are going to be worth all that much.
The New York Times is the latest to write a love letter to Comcast top lobbyist David Cohen
, who skirts federal lobbying rules by simply pretending not to be a lobbyist
. Cohen's currently in the middle of selling lawmakers on Comcast's $45 billion attempted acquisition of Time Warner Cable, and the Times pays more than a little adoration towards Cohen for his lobbying skill set, while also highlighting his close fundraising ties to many of the politicians reviewing the merger.
Al Franken has been leading a strong charge in opposition of Comcast's $45 billion Time Warner Cable acquisition, being one of the only people to hit the company with hard questions during the recent Congressional hearing on the merger
. Now Franken is looking to get Netflix's help after the company recently vocally complained about the threat new interconnection and peering deals
pose to the health of the greater Internet.
Include Mediacom as yet another cable company pushing the barrier on faster downstream speeds. Responding to customer inquiries, the company recently told users of their official forums
that the company is testing a 305 Mbps down, 10 Mbps upstream tier in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa market that will run users $200 a month. According to the company representative, there's a four terabyte usage cap on the tier before you'll face overage fees (Mediacom has been very busy forcing users on to usage caps over the last few years
). The company has no specifics on when the tier will expand into additional markets.
Since 2012 Sprint prepaid brands Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile have throttled customers who consume more than 2.5 GB of data back to speeds of around 256 kbps for the remaining of their billing cycle. It now appears that both brands will be throttling users even harder, Phone Scoop
pointing out that users who consume more than 2.5 GB will now be throttled back to just 128 kbps for the remainder of their billing cycle.
After Time Warner Cable took a public relations beating for pushing mandatory low caps (as low as 5 GB) and high per byte overages (as high as $5 per additional gigabyte) on consumers back in 2009
, the company has been stepping very carefully in what is quite obviously their relentless desire to charge consumers broadband overages. Early last year their metered billing option returned to a few tiny markets as a voluntary (for now) option
Under Essentials, the company originally promised users a $5 discount off their bill if they sign up for the plan, which features a 5 GB cap and $1 per gigabyte overages.
Oregon's Bend Broadband says the company is increasing their internet usage caps on all of their packages, with a price increase to match. According to this FAQ
, broadband tier prices will be bumped between $1 to $3, and the company's broadband caps now range from 150 GB to 500 GB. The company says they're boosting the caps because of user complaints, and because Internet streaming and gaming have slowly made their older caps unreasonable. There's some additional detail (and the usual bevy of justifications) in this blog post
at the Bend Broadband website.
The other day we noted how Iowa ISP East Buchanan Telephone Cooperative began imposing caps on their 3 Mbps DSL users
, the caps ranging from a lowly 5 GB of usage for 5 GB of usage for $25 a month, all the way up to 30 GB of usage for a whopping $200 a month.
EBTC General Manager Butch Rorabaugh has since defended the pricing to Ars Technica's Jon Brodkin
, claiming the company will die if it's not allowed to charge these kinds of prices, made necessary because of reduced FCC subsidies and highly rural locations:
EBTC General Manager Butch Rorabaugh explained to Ars last night that the company has to offset revenue losses in phone service and federal funding..."The challenge we face is serving a rural area," he said.
Customers of Canadian broadband provider NorthWestel say they're contemplating a lawsuit against the company for faulty usage meters that sometimes incur thousands in erroneous bandwidth bills. According to the CBC
, customers of the ISP often say the meters either don't work or show incorrect usage allotments, often accumulating phantom upstream bandwidth costs overnight.
notes that Sony remains in talks to create a "virtual MSO" TV streaming service that might
be made available sometime this year. The report notes that Sony is in talks with at least two content companies over programming licenses, licenses that broadcasters have traditionally withheld to prevent services exactly like this one from upsetting the very profitable traditional cable industry. As a result, this latest report is essentially a mirror copy of the rumors that we reported on almost exactly one year ago
that so far have resulted in nothing substantive.
AT&T's long-gestating "sponsored data" idea was made official this week, the company's plan involving some companies paying AT&T in exchange for their content not counting against a user's LTE data cap
. Net neutrality advocates and consumer advocate groups like Free Press are none too impressed
, stating that AT&T is effectively using their market power to select winners and losers in the market, with companies able to pay more money to receive preferred status (with you likely just paying more for content as those costs are passed on).
For what it's worth, new FCC boss Tom Wheeler states that the FCC will take a closer look at AT&T's ambitions
, and take action if they feel the plan is being used anti-competitively:
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler used his talk at CES today to put AT&T's controversial new "Sponsored Data" program on notice. "My attitude is: let's take a look at what this is, let's take a look at how it operates," Wheeler said. "And be sure, that if it interferes with the operation of the internet; that if it develops into an anticompetitive practice; that if it does have some kind of preferential treatment given somewhere, then that is cause for us to intervene."
It remains unclear if Wheeler, who was previously a lobbyist for the wireless industry, will have the same personal definition of anti-competitive as the rest of us.
Microsoft is rumored to have considered a disc-drive-free Xbox One game console, but scrapped the idea due to concerns about game size and broadband quality. Microsoft Studios head Phil Spencer tells the UK's Official Xbox Magazine
(via Ars Technica
) that "there was a real discussion about whether we should have an optical disc drive in Xbox One or if we could get away with a purely disc-less console," but "when you start looking at bandwidth and game size, it does create issues." Unmentioned is the fact that as larger, next generation games start pushing toward 50 GB
, broadband caps also start to become a larger issue than ever before.
Comcast has slowly but surely
been expanding their usage cap trials, predominately in less competitive Southern markets. Portions of Maine and Augusta, Georgia appear to be the latest market to face caps and overages.
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