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).
Cablevision raised rates 5.5% last year, twice the rate of inflation, the study notes.
For a while Verizon and Cablevision competed intensely for users in the New York City area, offering a steady stream of bundle promotions in order to lure users to one side of the fence or the other.
The last few years however both companies have rather quietly and unofficially agreed to stop competing quite so seriously, with Verizon raising prices on FiOS services whenever possible, and Cablevision management openly stating they now find promotional offers (and the savvy users who use them) to be a "dead end."
Cable operators justly blame programmers for these hikes, with ESPN a familiar culprit. However, cable operators also continue to hike prices at every possible opportunity as well -- be it for modem rentals, DVR rentals, or even to pay your bill in person or over the phone.
That's before you examine the bevy of below the line fees cable operators use to pad your bill even further. Studies like the one from SNL Kagan (or global broadband and TV price comparisons, which the US generally fares poorly in) aren't even taking those fees into account, and they can drive up consumer bills dramatically.
While broadcasters and cable operators share blame for soaring rates, so do consumers. After all, even after significant grumbling, they keep paying an arm and a leg year after year for hundred of channels they never watch.
Last month Verizon made all FiOS tiers symmetrical at no additional cost to users, taking serious aim at its cable competitors whose upstream speeds have started to look more than a little dated. The company is slowly deploying the upgrade to all users over the next few months, and in the interim have started a new advertising campaign for the speed boost. According to Verizon's new commercials, they're calling the upgrades "SpeedMatch" and declaring that "cable can't touch" upgrades of this type.
A few months ago I noted how Verizon had been claiming that we shouldn't have tough consumer net neutrality protections -- because they could harm deaf people and the disabled. To hear Verizon tell it, banning the creation of "fast lanes" would in turn harm services for the deaf and disabled, though as I noted at the time this was quite the straw man and red herring (straw herring?) that even the disabled didn't agree with.
Now Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica directs your attention to the fact that some additional deaf and disabled groups have responded to Verizon's recent claims, and they're not particularly impressed with Verizon's use of their disability as a revenue-protection tool. In comments filed with the FCC, a number of deaf advocacy groups like the National Association of the Deaf make their positions clear:
quote:"We also take this opportunity to express our concern over the reported contentions of at least one broadband provider that the Commission should facilitate 'fast lanes'—essentially permitting paid prioritization—for the sake of accessibility. While we strongly believe that Internet-based services and applications must be made accessible, we also believe that doing so is possible on an open network and without the need for broadband providers to specifically identify traffic from accessibility applications and separate it out for special treatment."
Not only do the deaf groups disagree with Verizon's bogus contention that Verizon's fighting net neutrality on their behalf, groups ranging from the National Association of the Deaf ranging to the American Association of People with Disabilities also strongly support the reclassification of ISPS as utilities under the Communications Act, something Verizon and other large ISPs have vehemently opposed.
Billing glitches for Verizon's new "free" symmetrical FiOS upgrades are resulting in rate hikes for some users. Verizon recently announced that the company would be bumping FiOS upstream speeds so they match the company's downstream speeds, effectively making all FiOS tiers symmetrical.
While Verizon's legal victory over the FCC did gut the agency's net neutrality rules, it kept some of the FCC's authority over ISPs intact -- specifically the agency's transparency rules -- which require that ISPs be straightforward about the "network management practices, performance, and commercial terms" of their broadband services.
In a statement issued today, the FCC "reminded" wireline and wireless ISPs alike that those rules are still intact and need to be adhered to, lest the agency lightly slap a wrist or two -- maybe.
norm writes in to note that Netflix has offered their latest streaming performance rankings for broadband ISPs. Cablevision, Cox and Suddenlink continue to take the top three spots among the largest ISPs (head here and click on "expand results" to see smaller ISPs like Google Fiber included in the rankings).
In a blog post posted to the company's policy website, Verizon today proclaimed that they've had their engineers conduct a thorough review of every part of their network and have concluded that Netflix congestion issues experienced by customers are in no way the fault of Verizon. Companies like Netflix and Level 3 previously suggested that Verizon was letting peering points saturate in order to force companies to pay last-mile ISPs for direct interconnection.
A consortium of elected officials and consumer advocates have petitioned the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) to investigate why Verizon is raising prices while its wireline infrastructure allegedly deteriorates throughout New York state. To hear Ars Technica tell it, Verizon's neglecting copper customers in particular while it focuses on fiber and wireless -- yet at the same time they neglect DSL users, they're consistently raising rates on them.
Over the years we've seen a wide variety of causes for broadband outages ranging from beavers to gunshots. Network World sends a new one our direction, noting that one of their columnist's Verizon FiOS connection suffered an outage after ants ate through the fiber casing -- two times in five years.
As we noted yesterday Verizon is going to miss the company's deadline for providing FiOS to all of NYC, something that shouldn't surprise you if you actually understood the loophole-filled deal, closed-door deal Verizon and Mayor Bloomberg signed back in 2008. That agreement allowed Verizon to conflate the terms "homes served" with "homes passed," as well as wiggle around certain deployment obligations with some lawyer elbow grease.
Yesterday in a blog post Netflix stated that the ISP-blaming congestion warnings warnings Verizon is threatening to sue over were part of a test Netflix is running that the company already planned to conclude on June 16. "We will evaluate rolling it out more broadly," stated Netflix.
Back in 2008 Verizon negotiated a closed-door agreement with NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg that agreed to wire all five boroughs with FiOS by June of 2014 -- sort of. Fine print in the deal allowed Verizon to back away from that promise if they pay a few small fines and/or aren't seeing the kind of TV subscriber uptake they'd like.
Network gear manufacturer Sandvine apparently isn't a big fan of both Netflix's and YouTube's new ISP streaming performance rankings, insisting that the data collected by both is unreliable and conflicting. In a blog post, Sandvine points out that ISPs deemed "HD Verified" by Google's new ISP ranking (discussed by us here) are sometimes categorized as under-performers in Netflix's rankings, and vice-versa:
quote:Google is essentially saying Rogers’ customers who use YouTube are capable of regularly experiencing HD streams, while Netflix is saying Rogers’ subscribers are experiencing the worst quality of Netflix streaming in the country.
After calling Netflix's new buffering warning that more specifically blames ISPs for poor streaming performance a "misleading PR stunt" yesterday, Verizon has taken their response up another level with a cease and desist letter to Netflix threatening legal action. In the letter, (pdf) Verizon blames everyone but Verizon for the mysterious slowdowns that started plaguing customers of only certain ISPs six months ago -- problems quickly and magically alleviated once Netflix pays those same ISPs for direct interconnection.
This morning, we noted how Netflix's all-too-familiar buffering warning now specifically blames Verizon when Verizon customer Netflix streams start to struggle. That hasn't made Verizon particularly happy, the company this afternoon penning a blog post that claims Netflix is engaged in a "PR stunt" that's "deliberately misleading." In the post, Verizon unsurprisingly blames Netflix for network performance issues:
quote:The source of the problem is almost certainly NOT congestion in Verizon’s network.
Netflix may have struck interconnection deals with Comcast and Verizon, but the company continues to make it very clear they're not happy about it. Netflix executives have already been ranting about being forced to sign the deals, claiming incumbent ISPs are letting transit peering points saturate to force content companies to pay them directly for decent streaming performance.
While Verizon's FiOS service once paved the trail for quality, the last few years have seen the company and service pave new trails when it comes to price hikes and the addition of a wide variety of new fees. The latest, according to users in both our forums and over at the official Verizon support forums, is a "FDV Administrative Charge" that has recently shown up on Verizon FiOS customer bills. The cost, applied to the voice portion of the bill, isn't government mandated and "helps defray account servicing costs associated with providing voice services." Such fees allow companies to raise rates while keeping advertised rates the same.
If you've followed this or any other US business sector for any amount of time, you know that many large companies (and their various PR, think tank and lobbyist voices) all claim to hate government regulation. Unless it's their lawyers and lobbyists writing and passing awful, loop-hole filled and labyrinthine regulations that screw over the other guy, or provide companies with endless tax breaks and subsidies, often for doing nothing.
Verizon recently unveiled their new "Quantum TV" ultra-DVR in select markets, including North Texas, Harrisburg, portions of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The new IPTV DVR hub offers 6-tuners and 1 terabyte or storage for $22/month over the price of your HD service. Users can utilize two VMS boxes to obtain 12 tuners and 2TB of internal storage for $32/month on top of existing HD service. After launching the new DVR in Maryland, Virginia and DC last week, Verizon today noted they're launching Quantum TV in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and portions of California.
On one hand, you have companies like Netflix, Level 3, and countless consumer advocates and analysts, who say that the industry's largest ISPs are letting their peering links to middle men like Cogent and Level 3 saturate intentionally, forcing content companies into increasingly expensive and anti-competitive direct paid interconnection deals with ISPs.
On the other hand, you've got the nation's biggest ISPs and a few analysts proclaiming this is all business as usual and there's "nothing to see here."
What does Google Fiber think about things? In a new Google Fiber team blog post, the company says they don't need to charge content companies for interconnection because they don't need to, and because what Google has found is truly industry "business as usual" involves a little give and take that benefits everyone in the chain:
quote:We give companies like Netflix and Akamai free access to space and power in our facilities and they provide their own content servers.