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AT&T today announced that their first "IP transition" trials as the company eyes shutting down its copper networks will occur in West Delray Beach, Florida (Kings Point) and Carbon Hill, Alabama. According to an AT&T announcement
, these locations will be the sites of multi-year trials with FCC oversight aimed at studying the impact of migrating away from copper networks and the PSTN.
A core focus of the trials will be to test how severely moving away from copper POTS and DSL will impact consumer ability to reach 911 services, as well as the impact on a range of technologies including home alarm systems.
The FCC voted unanimously back in January to begin conducting these voluntary trials to ensure a relatively smooth and reasonable transition away from the PSTN. The push for such trials began in earnest after Verizon refused to repair the DSL and copper POTS lines of hurricane Sandy victims, instead forcing them to instead use an inferior wireless-based product
known as VoiceLink, which doesn't work with alarm systems, has numerous glitches, and doesn't provide data connectivity.
Verizon's insistence that this was "good enough," and the immense public backlash to that claim, forced the FCC to admit that this transition might need a regulatory guiding hand.
In an FCC announcement
, the FCC stated the carrier deadline for the voluntary trials was February 20, followed by a public comment period ending March 30. The FCC insists that the process of ensuring a smooth transition away from the PSTN will be guided by four major principles:
•Public safety communications must be available no matter the technology
•All Americans must have access to affordable communications services
•Competition in the marketplace provides choice for consumers and businesses
•Consumer protection is paramount
While the argument that copper networks are outdated and should be updated to modern technologies makes sense on its surface, there's tens of millions of subscribers who are currently still using POTS (and most importantly DSL they'd prefer to keep) and whose phone carrier has no intention of upgrading them anytime soon.
Just days ago, Frontier Communications proudly let everyone know
that they had expanded broadband access to roughly 176,000 households in West Virginia and seen consumer complaints of their service drop by nearly 70 percent. That's slightly-less impressive once you realize that Verizon was doing little to nothing
to support those users, so you'd expect a significant reduction in complaints even if the acquiring company was doing the absolute bare minimum.
Back in January of 2011 Verizon proudly unveiled their creatively-named Home Monitoring and Control
home automation service, launching the service later that same year
with a $10 monthly fee for Verizon customers. Several years later and Verizon has quietly killed off the service
, though they're letting existing customer continue to use the platform.
Numerous people yesterday submitted this blog entry
by iScan developer David Raphael, in which he claims that Verizon is throttling Amazon cloud services and Netflix on residential FiOS connections, but not for business users. Raphael noted that his home FiOS connection to Amazon’s AWS was throttled to 40kB/s, but when he VPN'd in to his work FiOS connection those same files were available at 5000kB/s.
For a long time Verizon was dead silent regarding their cooperation with the NSA, with the only public comment at one point being to mock Yahoo and Google
for demanding greater government transparency. Recently Verizon has been more chatty; issuing their first ever transparency report
, and even blogging about intelligence issues.
As part of their massive Super Bowl sponsorship in New York City this week, Verizon Wireless is showing off the company's new multicast LTE technology in Bryant Park. It's effectively a more efficient way of streaming live video on a major scale, Engadget
noting Verizon's demonstration tent shows 1.8 Mbps and a data feed at 750 Kbps streaming to a Sequans-powered tablet and a Galaxy Note 3. Verizon says the tech should launch sometime in the first-half of this year, but specifics on gear or pricing haven't been revealed yet.
Akamai has released the company's latest State of the Internet Report
, which now tracks everything from average broadband speeds to IPv6 adoption by tracking the millions of users who traverse the Akamai network annually. According to the latest data, there was a global 29 percent speed increase.
As a sort of counter-point to former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps' claim that we should classify ISPs as common carriers to preserve net neutrality
, the EFF has penned a blog post
effectively arguing that the FCC really isn't going to save us from network neutrality violations because they're a broken agency in the pockets of industry. Unlock Copps, the EFF fears that giving the FCC any additional authority opens the door toward even worse rules and regulations:
In light of these threats it is tempting to reach for easy solutions.
, the Obama Administration today outlined
(pdf) a series of NSA surveillance reforms that, while featuring small improvements on very select issues, fall far short of the 47 reforms recommended by his own advisory panel
, or those pushed for by privacy and civil liberty advocates. Among some of the changes Obama stated the government will take moving forward:
• The government will no longer hold on to collected "metadata" (tags on call times, participants) themselves, meaning the phone companies will hold it (raw recordings and data wasn't included in this promise).
is reporting that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled that the FCC does not have the authority to implement the rules prohibiting broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing Web traffic. The FCC passed the net neutrality rules, also called open Internet rules, in December 2010, but Verizon Communications challenged them, saying Congress did not give the agency the authority to regulate broadband providers.
In the ruling
, the court notes that broadband providers are not 'common carriers', and therefore FCC rules do not apply.
In a statement given to MarketWatch
, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said
"We will consider all available options, including those for appeal, to ensure that these networks on which the Internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expression, and operate in the interest of all Americans."
Add Verizon to a long list of companies trying to mirror Apple's success with their Apple stores and genius bars. The telco last month unveiled their first new "destination" store
in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. According to Verizon, the new redesigned stores offer users education, support, and hands-on demonstrations of wireless products and services. The company also says they'll be upgrading their existing 1,700 retail locations so they're effectively miniature versions of these newer retail "experiences." AT&T unveiled their own variation on this concept back in August
. It's unclear if actual consumers believe the new retail outlets make ma bell any sexier.
Verizon and AT&T's silence during the recent NSA Snowden revelations was quite telling, neither telco obviously wanting to risk legal liability (or government contracts) for what numerous whistleblowers have now shown is incredibly deep
and often illegal
(at least until they lobbied to have the laws changed) cooperation with government. In fact, the only time Verizon spoke on the matter at all was to mock Google and Yahoo
for "grandstanding" as the companies fought for the right to disclose FISA court government data requests.
Verizon's FiOS expansion is ended, and the company has switched its current focus toward getting DSL users in upgraded FiOS markets to upgrade to FiOS -- as fiber is more reliable and costs less to maintain. After Sandy one FiOS install tech told us
interestingly that many customers resist these DSL upgrades, instead preferring the reliability of copper POTS (FiOS only has an 8 hour battery backup during power outages).
Verizon is close to nearing a deal that would involve selling the company's lower 700 MHz A Block spectrum to T-Mobile. According to Bloomberg
, the deal, which is expected to be made official sometime this week, will net T-Mobile enough additional spectrum to cover an estimated 150 million people. Verizon paid $2.4 billion for its A Block licenses, and acquiring companies would obviously need to pay that or more for Verizon to part with it. T-Mobile scraped together $3.8 billion in debt and stock sales last month specifically to pay for the acquisition, which will primarily bolster existing LTE markets.
Last month AT&T and Verizon shareholders pressured the two companies into detailing their cooperation with the NSA
, arguing that their relationship with the agency harmed consumer trust, and therefore the companies as a whole. AT&T's response to those investors? It's none of your business. In a letter sent to investors this week
, AT&T stated that its dealings with the NSA were "ordinary business matters" not subject to shareholder approval, and that "protecting customer privacy is a management function" not involving shareholders. As such, AT&T says they'd prefer it if any mention of the NSA was excluded from the ballot for AT&T’s annual shareholder meeting next spring.
Back in April, wireless carriers and the government announced
that they'd be collaborating on building a new nationwide database to track stolen phones (specifically the IMEI number, not just the SIM card ID). The goal is to reduce the time that stolen phones remain useful, thereby drying up the market for stolen phones and reducing the ability of criminals to use the devices to dodge surveillance.
Some years ago Verizon froze FiOS expansion to focus on making more money off of FiOS users (rate hikes), improving uptake rates in existing FiOS areas, and converting stubborn DSL users in those areas to FiOS. Speaking recently at an investor conference, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo estimated that the 300,000 DSL to FiOS migrations Verizon performed this year saved the company about 600,000 truck rolls and $100 million
in repairs and maintenance in 2013 alone.
I've talked a lot about how AT&T and Verizon are going state
gutting regulations that cover copper networks so they can back away from unwanted POTS and DSL customers they refuse to upgrade. Both companies have framed this largely cost-savings decision as an "evolutionary step toward the IP age," even if the real-world impact for many may involve losing DSL as a competitive option
, losing reliable POTS lines, and higher prices and less competition for everyone.
On the heels of companies like Google
rushing to encrypt server to server links after the ever-blooming NSA scandal, Techdirt
directs our attention to a new report card over at the EFF
that grades the Internet's largest companies on their use of encryption.
Just four companies: Dropbox, Google, SpiderOak and Sonic.net get a perfect score on all criteria measured, including encrypting server to server links, https support, https strict support, forward secrecy support, and STARTTLS support.
You'll of course note the dismal ranking of AT&T, Verizon and Comcast who handle traffic for all of these companies -- and then some.
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