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Surprising nobody, the FCC today voted 3-2 along party lines to impose Title II-based net neutrality rules. The decision comes after 4 million public comments, millions of dollars spent on ISP lobbying to derail the effort, and an unprecedented wave of consumer-advocate activism. Note the public still doesn't get to see the rules yet
, and may not get to see them for several weeks.
While neutrality opponents have tried to claim this is an attempt to hide the rules from the American public, releasing rules after
a vote has been standard FCC policy since the 1970s
(pdf). That doesn't make it a good rule, but it's a rule that has impacted both parties equally over the years. In a speech
during the commission's meeting, a visibly-moved Tom Wheeler was quick to debunk the idea that the agency is "secretly planning to regulate the Internet":
This proposal has been described by one opponent as, quote, a secret plan to regulate the Internet. Nonsense. This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech.
You might recall that back in 2013, some DSLReports.com regulars, including University of Manitoba graduate student Ben Klass ( bklass
), filed a complaint against Bell
in Canada. Basically, they were annoyed by the fact that Bell's $5 a month Bell Mobile TV service -- which provides 10 hours of live or recorded TV show access each month -- didn't count against user usage caps, while competing services unfairly did.
Senator John Thune, Rep Greg Walden and Rep Fred Upton, two of which are the largest recipients
of Comcast campaign donations in Congress, had been pushing a net neutrality "compromise" in the hopes of derailing FCC passage of tougher rules
. However, most realized the effort as a ploy to undermine the kind of consumer protections Internet activists have been all-but yelling for, resulting in Thune and Upton admitting this week their effort has failed
And Republicans on Capitol Hill, who once criticized the plan as “Obamacare for the Internet,” now say they are unlikely to pass a legislative response that would undo perhaps the biggest policy shift since the Internet became a reality.
While some ISPs have spent months complaining that Title II net neutrality rules would harm them in numerous and immeasurable ways, they've simultaneously been busy telling investors the rules aren't that big of a deal
. Of course there's a number of ISPs, including Sonic, Sprint, Frontier and Cablevision, that have also publicly stated repeatedly they don't think the new rules change all that much
"If you make it easy, we will come. If you make it hard, enjoy your Time Warner Cable,” Google Fiber's Milo Medin told attendees
of a Comptel Competition and Innovation Summit this week.
Deposit your carefully-crafted thoughts into the repository provided below!
According to a SoftCard blog post
, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have agreed to sell "Softcard technology and capabilities" to Google in order to forge "the next generation of mobile payments." That's a polite way of saying the carriers' attempt to create a mobile payment platform of their own was a failure, and they're selling the scraps of the effort to Google.
The blog post beats around the bush, but it sounds as if SoftCard as a brand will eventually just cease to exist:
For now, Softcard customers can continue to tap and pay with the app.
Earlier this month Frontier Communications announced it would be acquiring all
of Verizon's fixed-line assets in California, Florida and Texas in a deal worth $10.5 billion
. Before that, Frontier acquired all of AT&T's fixed-line assets in Connecticut in a deal worth $2 billion
For about as long this site has existed, we've documented the efforts of local towns and cities to build their own broadband networks -- efforts usually only undertaken because these towns and cities lack access to meaningful broadband competition. Unfortunately, for just as long we've discussed the dirty tricks
incumbent ISP lobbyists have used to derail these efforts, and the more than 20 state laws passed (usually based on ISP/ALEC draft legislation
) to eliminate the local communities' right to make these decisions for themselves.
You'll recall that Google Wallet was blocked by AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile
as those companies focused on their own mobile payment service (first called ISIS, now called SoftCard). Unfortunately SoftCard and to a lesser degree Google Wallet have struggled to see adoption in the face of Apple's new Apple Pay service.
If you stop by our Windstream forum
or the company's reviews
any given month, you'll notice a common refrain: customers say the company's network simply can't handle the load placed upon it, resulting in speeds significantly slower than what the company advertised. Similarly, a series of recent FCC studies
using volunteers with custom firmware-embedded routers has repeatedly found that Windstream's among the very worst U.S.
We've noted for years how companies like AT&T and Comcast are at the cutting edge of throwing money at minority and other groups
, then having them parrot support for the companies' latest ambitions -- be that getting a merger approved or fighting net neutrality rules. The Comcast merger has been no exception; want funding for a new events center? Comcast will be happy to contribute provided your group issues a statement saying its merger is a massive boon to the minority community.
Interestingly, Comcast's now facing a $20 billion lawsuit
over charges that it has conspired with many minority community leaders -- including Al Sharpton -- to farm artificial support for policies that actually harm minority communities and reduce diversity in programming. That includes farmed support for Comcast's last merger (NBC) and the company's acquisition of Time Warner Cable:
...With slaps at Time Warner Cable throughout also, the far reaching complaint says that these millions and support from Rev. Sharpton and the others greased concerns over the Comcast NBC-Universal merger of 2009 and have allowed Comcast to now broadcast only a single totally African-American owned channel.
Unsurprisingly Comcast denies the charges, calling the lawsuit a "string of inflammatory, inaccurate, and unsupported allegations."
Comcast Al Sharpton Discrimination Suit
Months after Aereo's ambitions fell apart due to the Supreme Court ruling, TiVo appears to have acquired the remnants of Aereo's operations, including the brand name. Jeff John Roberts at GigaOM
notes that TiVo and other bidders were able to pick up these assets for a mere $2 million at auction, a significant distance from the $90 to $100 million invested in the company. It's not a particularly flattering end note for a company that at one point has revolutionary ambitions. "We are very disappointed with the results of the auction. This has been a very difficult sales process and the results reflect that," an Aereo attorney said in a prepared statement.
Since last October, Viacom and Suddenlink have been engaged in one of many retransmission fee disputes, resulting in not only Suddenlink TV customers losing Viacom channels -- but Suddenlink broadband customers being blocked from watching any online Viacom content whatsoever
. Usually after a lot of very public whining the two sides reach a confidential number they can agree on, but in this case it appears that Suddenlink customers may never see this content return.
The mega-ISPs have shared their thoughts on today's FCC net neutrality ruling, and you'll be shocked and surprised to learn that they don't much like it. AT&T, for example, insisted in a blog post
that the FCC's since-overturned 2010 net neutrality rules (which did little and didn't cover wireless) were good enough, and that the unprecedented public-supported effort to pass tougher rules was a horrible example of "rigidity" and a failure on the part of new FCC boss Tom Wheeler:
Every chairman in my memory, including the current one, has faced political stampedes of one sort or another.
According to Dish Network's latest earnings report
, the company lost 63,000 net TV subscribers during the fourth quarter. That was thanks largely to the company's ongoing tough stances against retransmission fee hikes from companies like Turner Network, CBS and Fox News. These feuds at several points resulted in customers losing access to content they pay for -- causing them to switch TV providers (DirecTV appears to have picked up most of Dish's fleeing customers
. Dish did manage to add 141,000 broadband customers on the quarter, and now serves roughly 577,000 broadband subscribers.
Comcast has confirmed reports that the company is working on a Wi-Fi based calling service similar to Cablevision's recently launched
"Freewheel" service. That service offers Cablevision customers unlimited calling over Wi-Fi for $10 a month (it's $30 a month for non customers), but doesn't include cellular backup for when users are out of range of a Wi-Fi hotspot.
A few weeks back Sprint engaged in a clever marketing move by throwing their wholesale support behind Title II net neutrality rules. Sprint doesn't lose all that much if they back away from the rules moving forward (the CTIA is already against the rules, after all), but the announcement put a bright spotlight on the fact that T-Mobile has so far refused to support tougher neutrality rules
, despite benefiting hugely from a reputation as a fierce consumer advocate.
Last month Google officially announced
that the company would be expanding Google Fiber into Charlotte, Raleigh Durham, Atlanta, and Nashville. While it will be some time before users see actual connections in these cities, Charlotte took its first steps toward Google Fiber deployment by striking a 20 year lease with Google
for the placement of 1,400 square foot "fiber huts" (at around $2 per square foot over the life of the deal) to be scattered around the city. The huts will connect some 6,000 miles of fiber optic cables Google intends to deploy in Charlotte over the next two years.
Regardless of which side of the conversation you're on, today may just be the biggest day we've ever seen in the history of the FCC. The agency is of course set to approve not only on historic Title-II based rules governing net neutrality, but will also be taking the very first steps toward dismantling ISP-crafted protectionist state laws
hindering towns and cities from making their own broadband decisions. The FCC open meeting begins at 10:30 this morning (Eastern time), and those eager to experience the hyperbole in real time can watch the meeting here at the FCC website
or over at CSPAN
Sprint continues to lag when it comes to LTE speeds and network coverage, but indications are the company's on the cusp of another major network expansion push. According to a Sprint 4G Rollout Update
blog, the company's on the cusp of a 9,000 LTE cell site expansion, with a source stating 5,000 of those sites will be dedicated to faster Sprint "Spark" upgrades. The project aims to re-open 1,100 of the older Nextel sites the company decommissioned as part of its completed "Network Vision" project. According to Sprint their LTE network now reaches 270 million potential customers, and their tri-band Spark offering (with theoretical top speeds of 50-60Mbps) reaches 125 million potential customers.Update
: It looks like Sprint's cell site expansion plans may be significantly larger
than this report claims.
Last week we examined how
Lenovo was under fire for including "Superfish" malware in the company's consumer-grade laptops. The malware in question encrypted Web sessions and -- because the private encryption key accompanying the Superfish-signed Transport Layer Security certificate appears is the same for every Lenovo machine -- made Lenovo users vulnerable to HTTPS man-in-the-middle attacks that should be relatively easy for attackers to carry out.
report this week indicated that while the company lost 194,000 pay TV customers last year (adding 6,000 in the fourth quarter), the company managed to add 1.3 million new broadband customers during the same period. Comcast made $20.7 billion in 2014 off of pay TV subscribers compared to $11.3 billion from its broadband customers. As pay TV revenues continue to stall Comcast will be looking to make up the difference in that lost revenue -- most likely in the form of Comcast's slowly expanding usage caps
and overage fees. Meanwhile, Comcast says it is "optimistic and feels comfortable" about their merger getting approved sometime early this year.
Qualcomm today unveiled a new wireless standard they claim can utilize unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum alongside traditional LTE wireless technology. According to the Qualcomm press release
, the company's new FSM 99xx chipset for small cells (in addition to new transceivers) will use Licensed Assisted Access -- or LTE-Unlicensed -- to take advantage of unlicensed bands.
1 Gbps has of course been the marketing buzzword du jour for the last 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 last year launching their own "FiOptics" 1 Gbps offering
for $90 a month.
Unlike many companies (who hide deployment totals to give the impression of greater rollouts) Cincinnati Bell is specific about how many homes the service reaches: around 335,000 (or roughly 40%) of homes and businesses in and around greater Cincinnati.
Speaking on the company's recent conference call, Cincinnati Bell CEO Ted Torbeck stated that the company's recent decision to sell their wireless assets to Verizon
has given the company the necessary resources to expand their FiOptics service further this year
"The completion of the wireless transaction and our strategy for monetizing Cyrus One has increased operational and capital flexibility and also provides us with the ability to focus on our fiber investments," Torbeck said. "Our Fioptics suite of products is currently available to 40 percent of greater Cincinnati and we plan to expand that coverage to 70-80 percent over the next few years."
In 2015, the company says it will spend between $80 million and $85 million to pass another 100,000 homes with the speedy service.
NBC is the latest broadcaster to begin offering customers access to online live streaming of the company's broadcasts -- but only if you have a traditional cable connection. NBC has begun offering the streams via new iOS
apps, though much of the content is restricted unless you currently subscribe to cable TV service from an approved list of partners. There's another caveat: you can only watch live NBC streams if your local NBC affiliate is owned by NBC itself. So, despite the "TV Everywhere" name, NBC's still struggling with the whole "everywhere" part of the equation.
Outside of the company's pCell trials
and experiments with fixed LTE
, it remains unclear whether or not Dish truly intends to jump into the wireless industry with both feet, or if it's simply acquiring valuable spectrum to warehouse for a very profitable sale down the line. Some of Dish's spectrum holdings do have build out requirements
, though they don't appear to be causing much worry for the company.
Cablevision has joined Frontier, Sprint and Sonic.net in publicly stating they don't believe that new Title-II based net neutrality rules will impact their business one way or the other. Speaking to analysts regarding last quarter's earnings report, Cablevision boss James Dolan stated that
"the idea of more regulation is never great for us, but to be honest, we don't see at least what the Chairman has been discussing as having any real effect on our business."
The comments come after Sprint executives stated the ISP lobbyist meme that Title II neutrality rules would kill network investment
simply isn't true. Sonic.net CEO Dane Jasper has similarly argued that the only ISPs that would be impacted by Title II are those planning to engage in anti-competitive behavior
Dish boss Charlie Ergen this week actually managed to trash talk the company's own new Sling TV Internet video effort. Ergen's basically admitted this week that because Dish was an existing Pay TV provider it was afraid of cannibalizing its own traditional TV customer base, and as a result the company's $20 a month Sling TV service isn't truly disruptive
On the heels of Cablevision's new FreeWheel Wi-Fi calling service
, reports suggest that Comcast may also be eyeballing Wi-Fi powered video and video services. According to the Donahue Report
, Comcast is busy hiring developers to work on a myriad of new services powered by Comcast's network of 8 million national Wi-Fi hotspots. Details are pretty skimpy, and are based solely on a series of Comcast job listings looking for help with iOS and Android app development:
“We're developing new concepts to ‘mobilize’ Comcast's core triple-play business, and we're evaluating potential entries into the wireless ecosystem. These concepts will utilize Comcast's 22 million Internet subscriber relationships, 8 million Wi-Fi hotspots, and pioneering X1 Entertainment Operating System to deliver new, magical mobile experiences,” Comcast wrote in a job listing for Executive Director, Product Design.
The report notes that Comcast has MVNO agreements already in place with Verizon and Sprint that could likely act as cellular backup to the Wi-Fi calling service. So far, Comcast says that while this is a project the company is "spending some time on," they're not quite ready to announce anything just yet.
Artemis Networks has struck a deal in which they'll lease Dish spectrum in San Francisco to deploy a new wireless technology dubbed pCell. According to the Artemis announcement
(pdf), pCell has a leg up on traditional LTE technology in that it's more resilient to traditional urban congestion woes.
Last week, we noted how the NSA had been caught hacking into Gemalto
, the world's largest product of SIM cards for cellular carriers around the world. The report over at The Intercept
went into great detail regarding how NSA hackers managed to compromise numerous PCs at the company, resulting in the theft of billions of encryption keys used by 450 different carriers in 85 countries around the world.
After initially saying they had absolutely no idea an attack occurred, Gemalto has issued a report
on their investigation into the matter, and have concluded that an intrusion "probably happened."
The document is clearly aimed at damage control and keeping Gemalto stock price from plummeting further, concluding that the attacks "could not have resulted in a massive theft of SIM encryption keys." If a large-scale theft of encryption keys happened, claims the company, it was likely the fault of one of the company's many partners, claims Gemalto.
"It is extremely difficult to remotely attack a large number of SIM cards on an individual basis," claims the report. "This fact, combined with the complex architecture of our networks, explains why the intelligence services instead chose to target the data as it was transmitted between suppliers and mobile operators," stated the company.
Complaints have increased of late about GoGo's in-flight broadband service, which mysteriously seems to be getting more expensive in ratio to increasingly poor performance
. To that end, GoGo says it's deploying faster 2ku satellite-based broadband service to Delta's fleet starting sometime next year. According to the announcement
, these upgrades should help provide peak speeds of 70 Mbps downstream per plane (and ultimately 100 Mbps per plane). Delta says the company is also busy upgrading the technology that powers its current air to ground (ATG) service.
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