Over the last year or so the government has talked a lot about a new ConnectED
(pdf) initiative that would aim to improve school broadband services, with a goal of bringing 100 Mbps broadband to 99% of schools in the next four years. The government has talked a lot about this initiative in general terms, but hasn't much talked about how they'd pay for this
or how specifically they'd build it.
Between the release of an FCC staff report
(pdf), and a new fact sheet for the press
(pdf), the agency has made it clear they intend to raise the current e-rate tax on traditional phone lines -- currently around a dollar a month -- by around 17 cents a month.
That two dollars per year tax will boost FCC annual spending on bringing broadband service to schools and libraries from $1.5 billion to $3.9 billion. The plan, which the FCC will vote on in December, comes on the heels of a bipartisan agreement
to use $2 billion of the fund to deliver Wi-Fi into classrooms. These changes are part of a top down overhaul the FCC insists will modernize the sometimes controversial fund.
The E-Rate program has doled out nearly $30 billion since its inception in 1998. While much of that money went to quality work connecting the nation's schools and libraries, much of it was lost in a wormhole of loose government oversight and fraud, resulting in many libraries lacking the bandwidth to serve visitors
despite the billions spent in endless, often-untracked subsidies to telecom companies.
"Basic connectivity is now inadequate connectivity," FCC boss Tom Wheeler stated today regarding what he's calling a "reboot" of the E-Rate system. "The failure to do so will mean children in some communities will continue to be bypassed by opportunities in the 21st century," added the FCC boss.
The New York Times
recently explored the statewide protectionist bans paid for by incumbent ISPs that hinder or outright prohibit communities from building their own networks. As we've long covered, these bans don't really care if ISPs aren't willing to service these same areas, and some even block public/private partnerships.
In a move that's not at all surprising after the Supreme Court ruling
and the recent slate of layoffs
, Aereo has announced that the streaming operator has filed for bankruptcy. In a blog post
, Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia states that the Supreme Court ruling has "has proven difficult to overcome," and that filing for bankruptcy will allow the company to "maximize the value of its business and assets without the extensive cost and distraction of defending drawn out litigation in several courts":
While we had significant victories in the federal district courts in New York and Boston and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the reversal of the Second Circuit decision in June by the U.S.
It has been interesting to see lately how Apple and Google have effectively started competing on privacy -- both companies announcing recently
that new encryption standards used on their latest OS's and devices mean they'll no longer unlock devices at the behest of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Not too surprisingly this shift has annoyed law enforcement and intelligence agencies, who've been escalating their rhetoric in opposition to the shift.
As part of the company's attempt to shore up lagging customer service (or to at least shore up the perception of lagging customer service) Comcast today unveiled a new app that will let customers track where a technician currently is located. Waiting all day for a technician that never shows up is a large reason for the cable industry's abysmally low customer satisfaction rankings, and Comcast and their new "Customer Experience" VP Charlie Herrin hopes the new app helps to change that. story continues..
Put something below and be quick about it.
As we noted last week
, AT&T's reaction to the President's clear support of Title II was to bluff and claim they were freezing all fiber investment to "up to" 100 cities. However if you've been around here for a while you know that AT&T's plans to deploy fiber to 100 cities was already smoke and mirrors to begin with
, and the company has actually been repeatedly slashing their fixed-line investment projections (they had just cut CAPEX by $3 billion just three days before the President's announcement).
We've discussed at length how AT&T's "IP transition" is being framed as some sort of evolutionary transition toward a "glorious all-IP future," but is really largely about AT&T (and Verizon) gutting regulations in order to hang up on POTS and DSL users they simply don't want to upgrade
. After Verizon used Sandy as an excuse to refuse to upgrade their own unwanted POTS and DSL customers, the FCC stepped in to mandate two small IP transition trials
to help analyze what kind of problems we can expect as users are cut off from the PSTN and pushed on to wireless (or nothing at all).
The Washington Post
notes that Southern States have among the lowest adoption rates in the nation, thanks in large part to lower incomes and expensive broadband service. Historically, opponents of shaking up the status quo like to argue that these people are disconnected by choice, though the Post notes that data points to income and expensive service (courtesy of limited competition) as the reason Southern adoption rates lag.
Not only was Kansas City the first market to get Google Fiber's symmetrical 1 Gbps service, but a smattering of competitors are responding by offering similar (or better) options. A company by the name of Consolidated Communications this week announced
that they'll soon be offering everyone within range of their fiber footprint symmetrical 1 Gbps connections for $70 a month with no installation or other fees.
As noted yesterday
, consumer advocates are concerned that they'll lose grass roots momentum for Title II if FCC boss Tom Wheeler delays voting on new net neutrality rules too long. The FCC has made clear they're not voting in December, with the next FCC meeting after that not occurring until almost February of next year.
T-Mobile continues to slowly but surely expand market availability for the company's "wideband" 15x15 MHz channel LTE upgrades, which should dramatically improve speeds in launch areas. According to a T-Mobile announcement
, the company's latest launch market is Boston and the surrounding areas, including Springfield, Worcester as well as Providence and Warwick, Rhode Island.
While many argued that the USA Freedom Act didn't go far enough after being watered down in negotiations, as the EFF explores
it was the best chance yet at enacting some meaningful reform in the surveillance community. While it didn't reform the non-transparent FISA court process, and it contained loose language sure to be abused by government lawyers, it did aim to appoint a special advocate to argue for citizen rights before the FISA court and was at least a step in the right direction
Claiming to be the fastest and largest Free Wi-Fi deployment in the world, New York City this week announced LinkNYC
, an initiative the city promises will provide Wi-Fi at speeds of a gigabit. The initiative will replace the city's aging pay phones with Wi-Fi hotspots and device charging stations, with the project funded by bright display ads that will pitch services to passers by.
In yet another retransmission dispute where customers get to pay the same money for less content, CBS and Dish appear stuck in negotiations
ahead of a contract expiration at the end of the month. "Dish has been deliberately dragging its feet for months," CBS is warning customers. "Now, as the deadline nears, Dish appears willing to drop the most popular programming in its entire channel lineup because it won’t negotiate the same sort of deal that other cable, satellite and telco companies have struck with CBS." Dish, meanwhile, insists that "only CBS can force a blackout of its channels."
Verizon has quietly made a change to their wireless plans that will make it much more expensive to cancel your plan during the first eight months of a two-year contract. According to a post at Droid Life
, Verizon's old early termination fee (ETF) model saw your ETF reduced by $10 for each full month of a completed contract term. Under Verizon's new plan, you won't start seeing a reduction in your ETF until after month eight, resulting in users paying significantly more if they leave earlier. It's worth noting that Verizon's new policy
only impacts users who sign a contract after November 14.
The latest analysis of pay TV subscriber trends
by the Leichtman Group indicates that the top pay TV operators collectively lost 150,000 subscribers during the third quarter. While many third quarters statistically see a boost in subscribers as kids return to school, this was the biggest loss in third quarter TV statistic history, notes the firm.
AT&T and Verizon continue to tinker with pricing and promotions on their most expensive tiers as they try to counter T-Mobile disruption without entering into an all out price war. According to AT&T's latest announcement
, the company is bumping the data allotment of their 10 GB Mobile Share plan to 15 GB at no additional cost. The plan currently runs users $100 a month (plus assorted fees and service charges) for 10 GB of data, unlimited voice and unlimited SMS. The promotion is available to new and existing AT&T customers starting today, and is running for an unspecified "limited time."
Netflix streamed roughly 6.5 billion hours of video or 19,500,000 terabytes of data during the first quarter of this year
. At that rate, it's estimated that Netflix will stream 78,000,000 terabytes of data in 2014 alone. That's quite the jump from last year, when Netflix is estimated to have streamed 4 billion hours of video or 12,000,000 total terabytes of data during the first quarter. These numbers are based on consuming around 3 GB per hour for HD programming, so the numbers will jump significantly should Netflix see meaningful consumption of their new (and more expensive
) 4K offerings, which eats around 7 GB every hour.
Poor customer satisfaction for Comcast, Charter and Time Warner Cable helped place the pay TV industry in last place across all industries
in YouGov's latest BrandIndex survey of consumer satisfaction
. The firm polled 9,000 consumers as to their satisfaction with 1,200 different companies, and found that the cable industry scored the very worst of the worst.
While the firm's website didn't break out individual company scores, YouGov tells the Huffington Post
that other companies in the sector can thank Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Charter for the dismal showing:
Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Charter Communications all received negative scores in the YouGov survey, meaning that more customers reported being dissatisfied with the companies than reported being satisfied. Time Warner Cable and Comcast's scores were "firmly" negative, said Lance Fraenkel, head of client services for BrandIndex. Charter Communications' score was negative, but hovered around neutral territory...The 10 other companies in the "cable and satellite TV" category all received positive rankings, with Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse topping the list, Fraenkel said..
The poor showing of the sector's three worst providers resulted in the pay TV sector faring worse than banks, insurance companies, and the medical industry.
Sandvine's latest Global Internet Phenomenon report
(spotted over at Ars Technica
) offers up some interesting insights into the traffic loads on Sandvine's client networks (aka large ISPs). While the idea that Netflix traffic comprises up to 30 to 35% of global Internet traffic during peak hours, the report also notes that Netflix surprisingly (or not) also utilizes around 9.5% of upstream Internet traffic during peak hours, second only to BitTorrent at 25.49%.
Just a few years ago, Nielsen proclaimed that the idea of TV cord cutting in favor of Internet video alternatives was "purely fiction." Subsequent Nielsen reports have often quite adorably gone out of their way
to downplay cord cutters to make TV executives (who want things to remain precisely as they are) happy. All that time Nielsen, a company tasked with tracking TV viewing habits
didn't see fit to actually track Internet video viewers, making them probably the last organization one should ask regarding television's evolution.
When President Obama issued his surprisingly clear but annoyingly belated support
for Title II reclassification network neutrality advocates clearly felt empowered. Even though the FCC is an independent agency, Obama was clearly calling out FCC boss Tom Wheeler to leave legally dubious Section 706 rules and his hybrid
solution behind and clearly and quickly go the Title II route.
Not to be outdone by Time Warner Cable's recent "Maxx" upgrades, New York-area overbuilder RCN today announced they're going to soon start offering a 330 Mbps tier of their own. According to the company announcement
, the 330 Mbps down, 20 Mbps up tier will be made available to the company's entire New York City footprint starting in December. According to RCN, the service will run new customers $65 per month, with no long-term contracts and a three-year price assurance. "With our new 330Mbps service running across our fiber-rich network, RCN customers will enjoy seamless and smooth Internet connectivity, which is essential for streaming, uploading and downloading without interruptions,” proclaims the company.
After launching on November 13, the auction of AWS-3 spectrum today broke the record for spectrum auction prices and shows no sign of slowing down. Total bids for the spectrum today soared past $18,567,380,500
($2 billion of which covered the NY market alone), and should cross the $20 billion mark with ease. While specific bids of the 70 participants are anonymous, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Dish are all expected to be the top bidders in this auction, all hoping to add to their LTE spectrum holdings. BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk notes
bidding topped $1.04/MHz/POP and reached $2.50/MHz/POP in several large markets. Dish stock was up 9% today
at one point based entirely on the success of the auction.
As expected, DirecTV has slowly dipped a big toe into the 4K TV space, launching a smattering of 4K video on demand content. According to the company announcement
there's a few caveats -- like you have to use DirecTV's Genie HD DVR -- but you'll also need to own a Samsung 4K-capable television set. Company CEO Mike White has recently stated
DirecTV is being cautious after the bomb that was 3D television. Once the company launches their DirecTV-14 satellite in December they'll offer live 4K options once the satellite is commercially functional -- likely February or March.
Midcontinent Communications is the latest ISP to throw their hat in to the 1 Gbps ring, unveiling a plan to bring gigabit Internet access to homes and businesses in hundreds of communities in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota. Unlike many such release MidContinent's announcement
is specific in terms of deployment scope, noting the deployments will make 1 Gbps speeds available to 600,000 homes and 55,000 businesses through a fiber network that will span roughly 7,600 miles.
According to the company, the first cities with access to gigabit service will be the metro areas of Sioux Falls and Rapid City in South Dakota -- and Fargo, Bismarck and Grand Forks in North Dakota.
"We won't cherry-pick the communities or neighborhoods we will access with our gigabit services," president and CEO Pat McAdaragh said in a statement. "We won't limit it to a few neighborhoods in the largest cities."
Prices have yet to be announced by the company, which states the 1 Gbps deployment should be completed by the end of 2017.
Charter board member and minority stake holder John Malone says that he'd push to have Charter Communications make another pass at Time Warner Cable if regulators block Comcast's attempted acquisition. "Oh yes," Malone said
when asked if a Charter buy would still be on the table in such a scenaior. "That said, we're happy with the deal that was negotiated. In many ways it's a better deal than going after 100% of Time Warner Cable." To get regulatory approval, Comcast's current deal involves spinning off 2.5 million subscribers
to create a company named Greatland Communications that's co-owned by Comcast and Charter.
In June of last year 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.
Rob Pegoraro writing for USAToday
notes that Comcast is slowly but surely getting away with a fee that the company charged any time a user made a change to their service plans. The company's $3 change of service fee isn't unique, and is something done by other companies including Comcast's acquisition target -- Time Warner Cable. But Comcast states the fee has been such a sore point for so many customers, they've finally decided to get rid of it, even if it appears they're taking their time doing so:
Having seen that the fee annoyed customers (go figure!), the Philadelphia company is now removing it, one market at a time. So far, it's gone from Comcast's Portland, Ore., Houston and Colorado regions and should vanish soon from the rest — but until that happens, subscribers who get that surcharge on their bills after calling to edit their service remain stuck.
Of course what Comcast taketh away Comcast also giveth -- the company recently started charging users a several dollar "Broadcast TV fee"
, which is basically just additional programming costs buried below the line to keep advertised prices the same.
Last month we noted
how Verizon had started using a "super cookie" that modifies user traffic to uniquely identify users. This Unique Identifier Header, or UIDH, broadcasts your identity across the web -- and remains -- and can be abused -- even if you opt-out of Verizon's programs.
by Revcb 07:03AM Tuesday Nov 18 2014
On the heels of the company's recent launch of 1 Gbps service in Phoenix
, Cox Communications is also ramping up the deployment of Wi-Fi
to complement the service. According to a company announcement
, Cox now offers around 500 new hotspots around the Phoenix region, and plans to offer 1,200 hotspots before the end of this year, and 2,500 throughout the area before the end of 2015. Nationwide, Cox now offers subscribers access to 25,000 hotspots free with their broadband and cable TV subscriptions. The company also offers access to more than 300,000 Wi-Fi hotspots around the country through a partnership with other cable providers.
Dish and CBS have announced a temporary extension
to avoid Dish customers losing access to CBS content as the two sides hash out a new carriage contract. According to Variety
, the biggest sticking point isn't retrans fees (as is usually the case) but Dish's plans to launch an over the top streaming TV service, planned before the end of the year.
While Seattle residents wait for Comcast and CenturyLink to follow through on promises of eventual 1 Gbps speeds, Wave Broadband appears to be the first in line to light up portions of Seattle with ultra-fast service. The Seattle Times
notes that Wave has started offering 1 Gbps service in several select neighborhoods for $80 per month.
by Revcb 07:18AM Friday Nov 21 2014
by Revcb 06:59AM Monday Nov 17 2014
by Revcb 07:02AM Thursday Nov 20 2014