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by Karl Bode 12:03PM Tuesday Dec 09 2014
Comcast is facing a new class action over the company's push to turn customer routers into publicly available Xfinity hotspots. In June of last year Comcast announced that the company was launching a new, Fon-like effort that involved new router firmware that turns your gateway into a publicly-accessible hotspot. More specifically, updated routers would now offer two signals: one being yours, and the other being a "xfinitywifi" SSID signal providing free Wi-Fi to other Comcast users in your general area.

Click for full size
Fortunately, users can disable this functionality if they don't want to share their bandwidth with strangers, but Comcast says this functionality is enabled by default. The public usage also thankfully doesn't count against your Comcast usage cap (if you have one in your market), and Comcast will push more bandwidth your direction to compensate for additional strain on your line.

However, as we've been noting the program's opt out functionality doesn't always work and appears to reset after firmware updates. Complaints have also popped up over the last year about the fact that Comcast's using your electricity to market their services and sell Wi-Fi. Now Comcast is facing a lawsuit for all of these reasons, and for failing to get user consent before this functionality goes live:
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(The plaintiff) claims that Comcast saw its millions of residential customers as an opportunity to compete with major cellular carriers such as AT&T and Verizon. Though Comcast does not have cellular towers, its customers' households "could be used as infrastructure for a national wi-fi network," the complaint states...In using its customers' home networks to build a national network, Comcast "has externalized the costs of its national wi-fi network onto its customers," Grear says in the complaint.
As it's always worth noting, you can avoid being Comcast's public Wi-Fi guinea pig (and the $10 per month rental charge) by simply buying your own compatible router and modem.

Comcast Complaint

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by Karl Bode 04:24PM Friday Dec 12 2014
At the beginning of the month, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai sent Netflix a curious letter (pdf). In it, Pai politely accused Netflix of being a hypocrite on net neutrality, strongly hinting that because Netflix operates a free CDN (Open Connect, which ISPs can and have refused to use), they're violating net neutrality by advocating for "fast lanes." Both sides of the net neutrality debate have repeatedly used "fast lanes" as a sort of dirty word without functional context, and Pai's letter was no exception.
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by Karl Bode 08:07AM Wednesday Dec 10 2014
The Pirate Bay website was taken offline yesterday after a raid by Swedish police confiscated servers and site hardware from a Mountain-side data center in Nacka (pdf). Two years ago the remaining, un-arrested Pirate Bay members proclaimed that they'd moved the website entirely to the cloud, making it raid proof.
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by Karl Bode 08:34AM Monday Dec 08 2014
The International Telecom Union has put their final stamp of approval on the "G Fast" standard, which may usher the delivery of 1 Gbps speeds over older copper networks. Like many similar fiber to the node (FTTN) efforts before it, G Fast is heavily distance constrained. An ITU announcement declares the standard "combines the best aspects of fibre and DSL" -- assuming you're within 400 meters of a distribution point. In short most users won't have the loop lengths to ever see anything close to 1 Gbps from this product, but like similar FTTN implementations it's cheaper than running fiber all the way to the home.

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by Karl Bode 07:34PM Friday Dec 12 2014
Please carefully and cautiously place something interesting into the comment section provided below.

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by Karl Bode 06:21PM Thursday Dec 11 2014
A new report indicates that the MPAA is making a renewed push to try and erode ISP safe harbor provisions, ultimately forcing them to filter and censor access to websites the entertainment industry deems infringing. Sources tell Torrent Freak that the entertainment industry, worried about another SOPA-esque backlash, are working on ways to erode ISP safe harbors using existing law.
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by Karl Bode 11:17AM Monday Dec 08 2014
Despite making a lot of noise about the company's "Network Vision" upgrades a few years back, those upgrades were too little too late, with the company still lagging behind the other three large carriers in most LTE speed and latency tests. Still, too hear Sprint CFO Joe Euteneuer tell it, with the company's Network Vision plan Sprint is headed in the right direction with the worst of the company's problems (caused in part by their Nextel deal and their WiMax detour) now behind it:
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"I think from a network standpoint we have been waiting to get to this point of having a network that is substantially complete," Euteneuer said...Euteneuer acknowledged that Sprint's network has been a weak spot for the carrier, saying that the company had been experiencing subscriber losses "associated with the network."...But much of the pain associated with upgrading the network is behind Sprint, and Euteneuer was upbeat about where things are headed. He cited reducing expenses and churn as the key goals for Sprint going forward.
Sprint's also trying harder to compete on price, unveiling a promotion that promises users defecting from AT&T and Verizon a 50% lower bill if they switch (though Euteneuer then turned around and admitted the savings would be more like 20%). Meanwhile, T-Mobile CEO John Legere had some fun at Sprint's expense after news broke of Sprint's "completed" network:

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by Karl Bode 08:18AM Friday Dec 12 2014
It seems unlikely that Sprint-owner SoftBank will make a second bit for T-Mobile. Though seemingly bull-headed at first, SoftBank management ultimately realized that US regulators weren't buying their argument that eliminating one of the big four wireless carriers would somehow increase competitor (that logic didn't work well for AT&T, either).
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by Karl Bode 02:07PM Monday Dec 08 2014
Back in April, AT&T stated they were in advanced talks with the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN) to offer Gigapower over the region's core fiber ring, which was constructed with the cooperation of numerous companies. By June, AT&T said they had ratified an agreement with the City of Winston-Salem to offer 1 Gbps service in parts of the Triangle and Piedmont Triad regions, with pending ratification looming for Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh.
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by Karl Bode 09:07AM Thursday Dec 11 2014
1 Gbps has of course been the marketing buzzword du jour this year, companies offering a smattering of 1 Gbps connections to developments -- then heavily marketing them to give the impression of significantly larger upgrades. Cincinnati Bell is no exception, the company late this year launching their own "FiOptics" 1 Gbps offering for $90 a month.
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by Karl Bode 11:18AM Wednesday Dec 10 2014
T-Mobile took the fight more intensely to AT&T and Verizon today with the unveiling of a new $100, two-line family plan with unlimited data. According to the T-Mobile announcement, the new Simple Choice plan offers unlimited data, talk and text for $100 a month, and up to 10 additional lines can be added for $40 each.
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by Karl Bode 12:25PM Friday Dec 12 2014
While Suddenlink is busy advertising scattered deployment of 1 Gbps services, some users say the company is busy lowering usage caps on some of the ISP's slower tiers. Users in our Suddenlink forum claim that Suddenlink has quietly reduced the usage allotment on their 300 Mbps tier from 500 GB to 400 GB.
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by Karl Bode 10:17AM Thursday Dec 11 2014
According to the Wall Street Journal (also see this non-paywalled Reuters report), Dish's upcoming Internet video subscription service won't come with traditional broadcast channels. Earlier rumors had already suggested that the base service would cost subscribers $20 to $30 per month, with broadcast channels requiring an additional fee.
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by Karl Bode 08:55AM Wednesday Dec 10 2014
For much of the last year Verizon has stuck close to the company's strategy of fighting price reductions under the premise that a premium network comes with a premium price tag. They've also tried to downplay T-Mobile's market impact wherever possible, company CEO declaring back in March that T-Mobile's aggressive strategy is "really nothing different than we have seen over the last couple of decades." AT&T's taken a similar approach, doing its best to portray T-Mobile as irrelevant.

But both companies quietly admitted this week that while they won't have to start giving away the store anytime soon, T-Mobile has officially started to make them sweat a bit:
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Barron’s points out that both AT&T and Verizon have cited increased competition as having an impact on their quarterly churn rates and earnings per share, respectively...Verizon, meanwhile, said that its EPS this quarter could be negatively impacted by a “highly competitive and promotion-filled” market that has forced the carrier to respond in kind.
Again this shouldn't be overstated; most of AT&T and Verizon's promotions continue to be cosmetic in nature, and primarily tend to focus on discounting bigger data allotments to upsell users to costlier plans. It also should be said that while T-Mobile has made great strides on consumer-friendly policies, nobody in the wireless industry (including T-Mobile) actually wants a real price war.

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by Karl Bode 01:23PM Wednesday Dec 10 2014
Back in October CBS announced the launch of a new, $6 a month streaming service solely for CBS content, that offers users the option to watch 15 primetime shows the day after they have aired on broadcast and cable. It's currently only available in fourteen metro markets, a list that hasn't grown since launch.
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by Karl Bode 02:24PM Tuesday Dec 09 2014
Amazon today announced that the company has officially started offering content streamed in 4K (or Ultra HD). According to a company press release, the content is available to existing Amazon Prime customers at no additional cost (Netflix was earlier to the 4K race, but users need to pay extra to access the content). You can peruse Amazon's selection of Ultra HD content here. Note that you'll need to use one of these 33 compatible televisions with Amazon Instant video embedded to actually view the content. The content will not work with Amazon's Fire TV set top.

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by Karl Bode 02:09PM Friday Dec 12 2014
Comcast says that a recent migration to a new billing system in the Philadelphia and New Jersey areas may have resulted in customers seeing errant charges on their bills. Local Philadelphia news outlets say users were seeing strange charges -- as high as $9.50 -- on their bills.
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by Karl Bode 10:46AM Friday Dec 12 2014
Time and time again we're told that if the broadband gets deregulated, we'll be awash in all manner of low prices, innovation and competition. Of course if you stop and actually look at the data, time and time again it's made clear the exact opposite usually happens, with fewer regulatory checks and balances resulting in the less-regulated company more aggressively taking advantage of consumers stuck in uncompetitive, not-at-all-free markets.
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by Karl Bode 05:23PM Monday Dec 08 2014
Netflix today released their Netflix streaming ISP performance rankings for the month of November, which indicates that Verizon FiOS still tops the chart among large ISPs in the States (though Google Fiber tops the list among all ISPs, large and small). There's again only minor movement in the rankings, with Cox Communications dropping two spots and Comcast gaining two spots.
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by Karl Bode 08:08AM Friday Dec 12 2014
Windstream CEO Jeff Gardner has resigned his leadership post from the telco. "The Board and I agree that a change in perspective is needed in order to accelerate the pace of change within the company and to more effectively respond to the rapidly evolving needs of our customers," Gardner said in a prepared statement. Gardner has been the company's CEO since its spin-off from Alltel back in 2005, to be replaced by former Windstream CFO Tony Thomas "effective immediately." As our user reviews and frequent forum complaints document, Windstream has suffered for several years from poor network performance, with many of the company's users often struggling to get 1 Mbps from the company.

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by Karl Bode 09:13AM Monday Dec 08 2014
After several weeks of public posturing and a Friday night service blackout, Dish and CBS have struck a new retransmission fee arrangement that will keep CBS content in the Dish channel lineup. CBS announced that the deal had been struck on Twitter, after Dish customers lost access to CBS content Friday evening as the previous extension expired.
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by Karl Bode 12:28PM Thursday Dec 11 2014
Verizon, as the company that sued to overturn the FCC's weaker net neutrality rules, has been repeatedly claiming that Title II-based rules will harm investment and innovation. Of course the vocal component of wireless networks are regulated under Title II with nary a hiccup.
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by Karl Bode 06:22PM Tuesday Dec 09 2014
According to the latest data from wireless research firm RootMetrics, Verizon Wireless still takes the speed crown, despite significant improvements in particular by T-Mobile. The firm's latest study broke the country down into eight geographical regions, then studied the maximum upstream and downstream speeds delivered by each of the big four carriers.
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by Karl Bode 05:51PM Wednesday Dec 10 2014
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has long dreamed of getting Netflix on the set top boxes of major cable companies. Though smaller companies like RCN and Suddenlink have struck deals, larger companies in the States have spurned these advances for years, seeing Netflix as a competitor they're not eager to give additional attention to.
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by Karl Bode 08:07AM Tuesday Dec 09 2014
After recently taking a $170 million hit for poor sales of their Fire smartphone, Amazon Senior Vice President of Devices David Limp has acknowledged the company screwed up the pricing of the device -- which initially cost $200 with a new two-year contract. Omitted from that admission is the fact that Amazon also made the device an AT&T exclusive, which only worked to compound lackluster sales.

While Amazon previously admitted their errors, this week the company made it clear that their experimentation with Fire phones is far from over. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos this week kind of backtracked on those admissions, indicating that the company is cooking up some additional Fire phone versions:
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Bezos said on Tuesday at Business Insider’s conference in New York that “it’s going to take several iterations” before he’ll be able to judge the Fire phone, the device that led to Amazon taking a $170 million write-down. "Ask me in some number of years,” he told interviewer Henry Blodget, CEO of Business Insider, in which Bezos is an investor.
It's certainly possible Amazon could make headway in the smartphone market, but it would certainly be wise if for their next act they ditched the AT&T exclusive and offered a better spec'd phone with less of a heavy reliance on gimmick.

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by Karl Bode 08:33AM Thursday Dec 11 2014
Just about thirteen months ago Charter Communications began their digital transition, company CEO Tom Rutledge also right around that time admitting that the company's TV services were "inferior," leading a lot of people to only buy broadband from the company.

Speaking at the UBS Annual Global Media & Communications Conference this week, Rutledge told attendees Charter's digital transition has been completed on time and on budget, and as for their TV services still being inferior? They're now at least better than most satellite TV offerings, proclaims Rutledge:
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"We now have a product that is inherently superior to satellite," said Rutledge. "Reliability: more superior. Channel capacity: more superior." And, he added, Charter has the advantage over its satellite TV competitors of operating on a two-way interactive TV platform.
Charter's still behind other cable and telcoTV operators in terms of technology, but Rutledge says they hope to have cloud DVR functionality deployed sometime next year.

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by Karl Bode 08:20AM Tuesday Dec 09 2014
Even though his company likely won't exist six months from now (once digested by Comcast), Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus this week threw his full support behind Internet video -- specifically Internet video's ability to shake up the traditional bloated, pricey TV channel bundles. 2015 looks to be a landmark year for over-the-top video services from the likes of HBO, Showtime, Dish and Verizon -- something Marcus insists is a good thing that should benefit everybody:
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"We’ve been articulating for quite some time that we thought that delivering video with a greater degree of flexibility would be very customer friendly," Marcus said at the UBS Global Media & Communications conference in New York Monday.
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by Karl Bode 03:16PM Wednesday Dec 10 2014
Your broadband bill will be free of additional taxes until at least October of 2015. The Internet Tax Freedom Act, which was passed in 1998 and has been extended three times since, was scheduled to expire this week. Your wallet was saved this latest go-round courtesy of an extension of the restriction buried in a soon-to-be-passed 1,603-page government funding bill. Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) co-wrote the original bill, and says he'll push to make the restriction permanent next year.

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by Karl Bode 04:24PM Thursday Dec 11 2014
With net neutrality missing from this week's FCC meeting, and the next FCC meeting not being held until January 29, 2015 -- many are wondering precisely when FCC boss Tom Wheeler will finally offer up his final neutrality rules. "I think I said that I want to do it quickly, I want to do it right, and I want to do it sustainably," Wheeler told reporters at this week's meeting, which focused heavily on USF reform. When pressed a little harder on whether Wheeler was eyeing February or March of next year, Wheeler was only willing to repeat: "quickly, right, sustainable."

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by Karl Bode 08:04AM Monday Dec 08 2014
After a brief weather delay, DirecTV says that the company's seven-ton DirecTV 14 satellite was successfully launched in Kourou, French Guiana aboard an Ariane 5 launch vehicle by Arianespace. According to the company announcement, the satellite is functioning perfectly and will enter tests ahead of broader commercial use. The satellite is the cornerstone of DirecTV's 4K TV ambitions, which involve launching live 4K broadcasts by February or March. "In addition to 4K Ultra HD services, the satellite expands DIRECTV’s capacity for future growth for advanced services via the reverse band spectrum along with spot beam coverage for more local HD," notes the company.

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by Karl Bode 04:10PM Tuesday Dec 09 2014
Fortune notes that HBO has scrapped plans to build their expanded, standalone HBO streaming service in house, after some significant internal strife and a series of missteps. You'll recall that HBO GO has had some large outages at inopportune times, most notably during the season finale of "True Detective." The report claims that those outages were courtesy of a memory leak HBO CTO Otto Berkes knew about but ignored -- possibly intentionally:
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According to sources, Berkes had known about a “memory leak” for nine months but decided it was a “non-issue.” That leak eventually led to the HBO Go outages. Internally, some accused Berkes of using the outages as a way to ask for more money to invest in his Seattle engineering team. He got the investment, but HBO executives have not been pleased with what he’s delivered.
Instead, it appears that HBO intends to hire MLB Advanced to design and build next year's standalone HBO Go option, which the report claims should premiere sometime around the same time as next Spring's "Game of Thrones" new episodes.

Update: Berkes has resigned from his post at HBO.

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by Revcb 07:02AM Thursday Dec 11 2014

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by Revcb 07:05AM Monday Dec 08 2014

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by Karl Bode 09:03AM Friday Dec 12 2014
This week roughly sixty hardware vendors including Cisco, Intel, Pace, Sandvine and Broadcom joined the incumbent broadband providers in opposing tougher Title-II based net neutrality rules. In a letter sent to Congress and FCC Commissioners (pdf), the companies bring out some familiar arguments against Title II -- namely that it will stall innovation and harm investment (though even ISPs themselves this week admitted that isn't the case).

In fact, the vendors up the ante -- insisting that Title II will damage the entire economy:
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While many experts have noted the damage Title II could do to network investment, the harm would cascade out far beyond the provision of broadband service because the Internet is now so entwined with our entire economy...Reversing course now by shifting to Title II means that instead of billions of broadband investment driving other sectors of the economy forward, any reduction in this spending will stifle growth across the entire economy.
Except in reality, plenty of folks (including Sonic.net CEO Dane Jasper) have argued that Title II really will only impact ISPs if they engage in bad behavior (like use the lack of competition to impose arbitrary tolls or prioritization), and other wise any additional regulatory burden would be light.

Of course should the AT&T, Comcast and Verizon's of the world not face meaningful net neutrality rules, one guess who gets paid to build the intelligent devices that will power these brave, new, neutrality-infringing efforts? In that case, why would gear makers want tougher net neutrality rules if it shoots revenue growth right in the foot?

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by Karl Bode 09:03AM Tuesday Dec 09 2014
Back in May Cox Communications announced that the company would be launching faster 1 Gbps services. While the company said the majority of the company's footprint wouldn't even begin to see 1 Gbps until sometime in 2016 (when DOCSIS 3.1 sees broader deployment), Cox will start delivering 1 Gbps speeds to some new housing developments in a number of scattered markets this year.
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by Karl Bode 07:35AM Wednesday Dec 10 2014
Back in October we noted that thirty-two cities had joined forces to form the "Next Century Cities" coalition, tasked with improving local broadband services. "The leaders whose communities participate in Next Century Cities know that reliable, affordable, and fast Internet is no longer a luxury," states the organization. "Like electricity and plumbing, it is now essential infrastructure." The Washington Post notes that the coalition topped 50 members this week, and has been funded by numerous foundations -- and Google.

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by Revcb 07:12AM Wednesday Dec 10 2014

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