Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn, a major recipient of Comcast, AT&T and Verizon campaign contributions, has pushed forth two bills that attack the FCC's recent decisions on municipal broadband and net neutrality. In the case of the former, the FCC voted to pre-empt protectionist state laws (often written by ISPs) that prevented towns and cities from improving or expanding their own broadband infrastructure (even if it's with private help).
quote:"I’m pleased to be working with Senator Tillis on this important issue. As former state legislators, we strongly believe in States’ rights and will fight the FCC’s liberal agenda. Chairman Wheeler’s regulatory appetite appears to know no bounds and is seeping dangerously into the lives of Americans. It is time for Congress to assert itself and protect States once again from unelected Washington bureaucrats."
Meanwhile, Blackburn has also introduced what she's calling the "Internet Freedom Act" (pdf), which aims to overturn the FCC's new Title II based network neutrality rules. Again, while most would argue net neutrality is about protecting consumers and smaller companies from large ISPs with a competitive stranglehold over the last mile, a statement to Blackburn's website insists she's helping mega-ISPs attack the FCC on the behalf of "innovators":
quote:Once the federal government establishes a foothold into managing how Internet service providers run their networks they will essentially be deciding which content goes first, second, third, or not at all," Blackburn said in an announcement yesterday. "My legislation will put the brakes on this FCC overreach and protect our innovators from these job-killing regulations."
Again, in the latest election cycle Blackburn received $15,000 from a Verizon PAC, $25,000 from an AT&T PAC, $20,000 from a Comcast PAC, and $20,000 from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. That money surely has nothing to do with either effort, however.
Verizon just got done selling all of its fixed-line network assets in California, Texas and Florida to Frontier Communications, and the company is giving every indication that more deals may be in the works. Speaking to investors during the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference 2015, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo told attendees the company will consider additional deals if they are at the "right price" and geographically make sense:
quote:"For the right price and right terms, if there's an asset we don't believe is strategic to Verizon and can return shareholder value, we'll dispose of that asset," Shammo said.
As we've explored, one of the broadcaster markets hit particularly hard by Netflix is children's programming, since parents (and kids) find it immeasurably more convenient to watch TV on their own schedule. Kids are also less likely to need to see the "latest and greatest," resulting in what's often been a 15% or greater viewership dip quarter to quarter over the last year.
While Netflix has been an incredibly vocal supporter of net neutrality and a massive opponent of usage caps here in the States, apparently those positions didn't make the ocean voyage to Australia. Janko Roettgers at GigaOM notes that Netflix will be launching in Australia on 24, much to the pleasure of those who've had to use VPNs to access out of market Netflix content.
T-Mobile will be among the first carriers to utilized unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum to help supplement the company's LTE network, the company announced today. According to a press announcement by Alcatel Lucent, T-Mobile will be deploying Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) in 5 GHz spectrum sometime in 2016.
Google Fiber isn't coming to Portland just yet, though Google recently announced the city was one of several options that should be announced later this year. To sweeten the pot, Oregon is push a change in state tax code to help further lure Google Fiber to the Pacific Northwest:
quote:An Oregon Senate committee has proposed an unusual tax break, designed to help lure Google Fiber or other hyperfast Internet services to the Portland area. The language would cap property valuation when it comes to a thorny element of Oregon's tax code, "central assessment," which makes telecom companies liable for the worth of their brand and other intangible assets.
Google Fiber's Milo Medin recently told cities that they can either eliminate barriers to faster deployment, or "enjoy your Time Warner Cable." As Overland Park, Kansas found out, if you don't give Google what it wants -- the company is quick to move on to one of the countless other cities that are begging the company for better service.
Google may want to differentiate itself from the often-loathed traditional broadband and TV industries, but there's one thing it certainly doesn't have control over: the high cost of programming. A Google Fiber customer recently posted to Reddit noting that they were informed that Google will be increasing the price of TV services in Kansas City.
Charter Communications continues to make it clear that the cable provider plans to take another run at Time Warner Cable should Comcast's attempted acquisition be blocked by regulators. Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom conference this week, Charter and Liberty Media execs said that while they'd like the deal to go through (since they'll be acquiring some subscribers through the Greatland Communications spinoff), they're better positioned than ever to make a deal. Execs were quick to point out that Charter’s stock is up 47.5% over the last 12 months while Time Warner Cable stock is up just 11.7%.
Yesterday we noted that Netflix will soon enter the Australian market without their net neutrality principles in tow. Despite being a very vocal opponent to usage caps and zero rated apps (exempting some content from usage caps) here in the States, Netflix is striking deals with Australian ISPs to exempt all Netflix content from usage caps in the country.
After years of complaints that you couldn't just buy a standalone streaming version of HBO Go without also having a traditional cable subscription, HBO last October finally buckled and announced they'd be launching such a service sometime in 2015. The latest leaks on the plan suggest the service will be called "HBO Now," and will run users about $15 a month -- or roughly the same amount it costs users to add the premium channel to their traditional cable lineup.
Grande Communications has announced the company has started deploying 1 Gbps broadband services in San Antonio. According to a company announcement, the company says they'll first be offering their 1 Gbps "Power 1000" broadband tier in Alamo Heights and Terrell Hills. The company says they'll be offering the service for $65 a month, though the tier will top out at 400 Mbps in areas not yet upgraded to a gig. Grande's also offering 50Mbps at $35, 200Mbps for $45, and 300Mbps for $55 a month. "We understand our customers' needs for more Internet speed options with low and mid-range pricing and we strive to deliver a better value than our competitors," proclaims the company.
Comcast has oddly been blocking Comcast users from enjoying HBO Go on select devices for years now. Since 2011 users complained that the cable giant didn't allow HBO Go to work on Roku if you're a Comcast cable subscriber, and while that was only recently remedied, Comcast's also been blocking its customers from using HBO Go on the Playstation 3 for around a year now.
According to the latest data from the Leichtman Group, the pay TV sector has seen notable subscriber losses for the second consecutive year. According to Leichtman's analysis of the top thirteen pay-TV providers (who in total represent about 95% of the market), those companies lost about 125,000 net video subscribers in 2014.
Time Warner Cable says that the cable company has begun its "Maxx" network upgrades in portions of North Carolina. According to a company blog post, customer in Raleigh are being informed they'll soon be seeing the improvements, and Time Warner Cable says they'll also be reaching out to Charlotte customers in April.
Frontier Communications CEO Maggie Wilderotter will be stepping down. According to a company announcement, Wilderotter will be replaced by Daniel J. McCarthy, currently President and Chief Operating Officer and a member of the Board of Directors. Wilderotter endeared herself to Frontier Communications customers back in 2008 by trying to impose usage caps and overage fees the company then had to walk back from after customer backlash. More recently the CEO declared that speeds of 1 Gbps were little more than "hype" that simply acts to confuse customers (the company then proceeded to offer its own, very limited 1 Gbps deployments shortly thereafter).
FCC boss Tom Wheeler spent some time this week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona defending his agency's new net neutrality plans, while attempting to walk hyperbole-prone neutrality opponents back from the edge. While a lot has been made about how the rules are "heavy handed" and will somehow obliterate the Internet, Wheeler made it clear that the agency actually will not apply most of the heavier-handed utility aspects of Title II:
quote:"There are 48 sections in Title II," Wheeler said.
As we've been discussing, Google is on the cusp of creating a new wireless MVNO that will lean heavily on Wi-Fi, but use the Sprint and T-Mobile networks as backups. Google confirmed the efforts a few days ago, stating that the effort would be conducted on a "small scale" to "show what's possible." Now a new report in the Wall Street Journal indicates that while the service may launch sometime this month, initially availability may be quite small indeed:
quote:The service, designed to switch among Wi-Fi and cellular networks, will initially be available only on the latest Nexus 6 smartphone designed by Google and made by Motorola Mobility, a former Google unit now owned by China’s Lenovo Group Ltd. , two people familiar with the matter said. One of the people said the service won’t work with older Nexus devices, such as LG Electronics Inc. ’s Nexus 5.
The report goes on to state that while the launch could occur in weeks, sources state the launch may be delayed if Google can't get all its ducks in a row.
Dish Network's Sling TV streaming video service just got a littler fatter. According to a company blog post, the company has added AMC Network and IFC to the company's base $20 "Best of Live TV" channel package. On the heels of adding a $5 sports channel pack add on, another blog entry states the company has also added a $5 "Hollywood Extra add-on pack," which includes EPIX, EPIX2, EPIX3, EPIX Drive-In and Sundance TV. We shared our thoughts on Sling TV's cord killing effort back in January; the short version: watching live TV with ads is strange and disappointing if you've been away from cable for a while (or if you love your DVR).
Lafayette Louisiana's LUS Fiber faced very sleazy efforts by Cox and BellSouth years ago when trying to launch; efforts that went so far as the two companies hiring push pollsters to try and tell locals taxpayer money would be used to fund pornography. Some pollsters even tried to tell locals that if they approved the municipal broadband project, the government would restrict their television watching to just a few days a week.
As we noted last month, Dish Network has been taking heat for some creative shenanigans at the recent AWS-3 spectrum auction. One, despite spending $13.3 billion at auction Dish appears to have used a legal "small business" loophole to save themselves around $3 billion.
The release of the third season of Netflix's "House of Cards" has triggered an expected bump in Netflix traffic as users flock to binge watch all thirteen new episodes. A Sandvine blog post has detailed anonymous data from one unnamed ISP.
Confirming numerous rumors from earlier this year, Google has announced that the company will soon formally unveil their foray into wireless services. Speaking at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, Google's Sundar Pichai told attendees that their MVNO would be launched sometime in the "coming months."
Those hoping for Google to jump into the wireless market with both feet may wind up being disappointed.
Anonymous sources tell Peter Kafka at ReCode that Dish Network's Sling TV service has signed up 100,000 subscribers during the product's first month. The sources don't apparently know if those users have stuck around, meaning the total number of current subscribers could be less than that. Either way, the company is apparently "encouraged" by the early showing for the $20 a month streaming service. As noted earlier this week, Dish continues to expand the offering, adding a number of new $5 add on packs for sports and other entertainment options.
While most analysts still think regulators will approve Comcast's $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable, there's been a notable decrease in certainty that the deal will happen. If it does happen, Comcast will likely find itself facing conditions a bit tougher than the flimsy conditions applied to mergers in years past (which in some cases Comcast often still struggled to adhere to).
Even with new, tougher Title II based net neutrality rules, Comcast remains a huge threat to Internet video, argues Dish Networks. "Even if the net neutrality rules are upheld in court, there are innumerable ways that Comcast-Time Warner could sabotage over-the-top," Jeff Blum, senior vice president and deputy general counsel of Dish Network Corp told attendees of a conference call this week. "And over-the-top is a reality. It’s something that is good for consumers." Licensing is the biggest weapon for a larger Comcast, argues Blum. "For example, Comcast-Time Warner [could say], 'OK, Discovery, you want carriage on Comcast-Time Warner -- our 30 million homes -- we'll give it to you, but you can’t grant the following over-the-top rights to Netflix or Sony or Dish,' " Blum said.
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs' Communacopia conference last year, AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega stated that (assuming their merger gets approved), AT&T would offer a wireless broadband, DirecTV bundle sometime late in 2015. AT&T has technology "ready to go" to deliver speeds of 15 Mbps or faster delivered over a dedicated swath of spectrum, said the CEO.
Netflix has been taking heat for leaving its net neutrality principles behind for its Australian launch this month, though the company has defended the move by pointing out that cap-exemption is standard practice in Australia due to higher transit costs. But now the company is taking some additional flack for comments made by CFO David Wells, who at an investor conference this week proclaimed that Netflix wasn't actually happy about the FCC's decision to push Title II-based rules.
In June of 2013 Google unveiled Google Loon, the latest in a long line of similar projects that will use hot air balloons to deliver broadband and wireless services to under-served or emergency prone areas. Project Loon will use hot air balloons 49 feet wide stationed 12 miles above the planet, well above the range of commercial aircraft.
Frontier Communications and TiVO have struck a new deal that may give Frontier customers access to TiVO hardware and service. According to a company announcement, Frontier will begin to market and deploy co-branded versions of TiVo's suite of whole-home products and services -- including an industry-first deployment of the TiVo Roamio DVR with over-the-air (OTA) support -- starting sometime in the middle of this year. Frontier's going to target cord cutters with these services; the company never particularly bullish on offering TV services -- even though they just acquired Verizon's DSL and FiOS assets in CA, FL and TX.
NBC is considering a new streaming video service that will focus on comedy content. According to the Wall Street Journal, the service will heavily feature "The Tonight Show" starring Jimmy Fallon, "Saturday Night Live," and other NBC mainstays, but will also incorporate some other outside comedy content. There's no official word on pricing, but the Journal's sources say NBC is considering a price point somewhere between $2.50 and $3.50 per month. The company has also discussed other genre-driven streaming services, with focuses on faith, family and horror. The service should launch sometime later this year.
Since the FCC passed its new net neutrality rules we've seen no limit of entertaining claims when it comes to what the rules purport to do, whether that's outright destroying the Internet to killing startups. Speaking at Mobile World Congress Nokia joined the fun, CEO Rajeev Suri proclaiming that net neutrality isn't a good idea because intelligent, automated cars might not work properly:
quote:"There are some services that simply require a different level of connectivity," says Suri.
According to the latest wireless carrier network rankings by JD Power and Associates, Verizon Wireless once again took top honors in all geographic regions. According to a JD Power statement, the study ranks carriers based on ten criteria: dropped calls; calls not connected; audio issues; failed/late voicemails; lost calls; text transmission failures; late text message notifications; Web connection errors; slow downloads; and email connection errors.
Google today announced that the company has expanded Google Fiber business-class service into Provo, Utah and additional markets in Kansas City. According to a Google Fiber blog post, customers in available markets can now head here to sign up for the $100 per month service. Google Fiber launched business class service in November of last year, after taking a little heat from startups running into the residential Google Fiber terms of service regarding server operation.
DSLReports reader lordpuffer writes in to point out that Cable One has announced another speed bump for the company's broadband customers. According to an e-mail being sent to subscribers, Cable One is bumping the upload and download speeds for the company's Premier and Ultra service plans starting in April.
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