For months now Netflix has claimed that the largest ISPs have intentionally let their peering points get congested so that Netflix would be forced to pay them for direct interconnection (an argument companies like Level 3 and Cogent support). So why is Netflix paying AT&T, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and Comcast for these links if they feel they're being railroaded?
quote:“For many [Comcast] subscribers, the bitrate was so poor that Netflix’s streaming video service became unusable,” he writes, then notes that Comcast reps eventually told subscribers to take their beef to Netflix. “Those customers complained to Netflix and some of them canceled their Netflix subscription on the spot, citing the unacceptable quality of Netflix’s video streams and Netflix’s inability to do anything to change the situation."
You'll recall that when Netflix started giving impacted customers warning message blaming ISPs, Verizon rather quickly threatened to file a lawsuit, insisting they were the ones losing customers over the fracas. The FCC launched an investigation into whether incumbent ISPs were acting anti-competitively back in June.
The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article exploring complaints on how Google Fiber (and responding, highly-selective deployments by CenturyLink, AT&T, and others) may fuel a digital divide by only upgrading select residents in certain cities. That said, the article claims that Google Fiber's ability to deploy fiber to just select locations helped save them 20% over traditional builds like Verizon's FiOS. "If Verizon resumes expansion, the company would consider Google's build-to-demand model because it has the potential to be more profitable," Verizon executive Chris Levendos tells the paper.
A TiVo support note first spotted by Dave Zatz is the first to highlight Comcast's looming migration away from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4. According to the note, Comcast is transitioning its systems in Augusta, Georgia, from MPEG-2 format to MPEG-4, meaning "that cable channels in this region will not be viewable on older equipment that is incompatible with the new format." I contacted Comcast who confirmed that they were migrating HD channels from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 in Augusta (SD channels will remain on MPEG-2), which the company notes will provide a "much more efficient use of bandwidth." The company could not offer any information on upgrade timelines for other markets.
The writing has pretty clearly been on the wall as Comcast slowly but surely has expanded their usage-cap trials throughout less competitive Southern markets. In Comcast trial markets, users pay the same price users in unlimited markets pay, except they get a 300 GB cap, and have to pay $10 for every 50 GB beyond that they travel.
TiVO this week expanded their device portfolio with a $50 unit that the company hopes appeals to cord cutters. The new TiVO Roamio OTA DVR features four tuners, a 500 GB hard drive and the ability to record and manage over the air broadcasts. TiVO's obviously not the first to this idea; a company by the name of Simple.TV has been offering a similar product for years, though their current device comes in at nearly $200. "TiVo is devoted to making the best possible cable TV user experience available through our operator partners and in retail, but we recognize some viewers opt not to receive the benefits a subscription with a cable provider offers," states the company.
After several years of delays, Verizon says they're going to be launching higher-audio-quality voice over LTE service (VoLTE) in the "coming weeks." While Verizon's behind other carriers with their launch, company executives state they wanted to wait and launch the service as nationally as possible for a more unified experience. The upgrade will come to an unspecified number of handsets, with users able to turn VoLTE on and off in their phone's settings and utilize only CDMA 1X voice service if LTE coverage is shaky. If your phone supports Verizon LTE, the report claims you'll need to also turn on the feature via your online account.
After months of speculation bordering on the nauseating, we appear to have a somewhat hard date for the release of the new iPhone(s) and Apple's long-awaited iWatch: September 9. ReCode had already discovered that the two different-sized iPhones would be revealed on that date, and now states the iWatch will be unveiled as well at the same media event. The iWatch is expected to have significant integration with Apple’s HealthKit health and fitness platform, as well as with Apple's home device integration platform HomeKit.
Recently the U.S. House Judiciary's Subcommittee on Intellectual Property and the Internet held a hearing on the issue of "digital resales," or the ability for consumers to resell copies of films, games, music or other content they've already purchased.
Reports indicate that DirecTV and the NFL are very close to renewing their controversial NFL Sunday Ticket deal, which gives DirecTV exclusive rights to broadcast out-of-market NFL games (and in turn blocks all manner of potentially more interesting streaming NFL services from ever being born). According to said reports, the annual cost of the deal for DirecTV should be somewhere between $1.3 billion and $1.4 billion. As we've noted previously, AT&T had the right to walk away from their acquisition of DirecTV if DirecTV wasn't able to renew this deal.
T-Mobile continues to tinker with data allotments and pricing in the face of a freshly ambitious Sprint, quadrupling the data allotment on the company's "Simple Starter" plan. According to a T-Mobile announcement, the company's Simple Starter plan will now provide unlimited talk and text and cost $45 ($5 more) but will deliver 2 GB of data as opposed to the previous 500 MB. On Simple Starter, once you've reached the 2 GB your service is suspended and you'll need to buy a one day, 500 MB day pass for $5, or a 7-day, 1 GB pass for $10. This new higher-allotment version of the plan will be available September 3.
A British man has received nearly three years in prison for pirating a copy of Fast and Furious 6. 25-year-old Philip Danks was the first person in the world to seed the file on BitTorrent networks after recording the film from the back of the theater with a hand-held camera. Danks pleaded guilty to three charges of distributing pirate copies of films (he also sold DVD copies of the film), and was sentenced to 33 months in prison. Investigators didn't have to work hard to identify Danks; he'd posted "Seven billion people and I was the first. F*** you Universal Pictures" on his Facebook page.
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.
The New York Post claims that AT&T has struck a deal with the Department of Justice that would allow AT&T's $48.5 billion plan to acquire DirecTV to move forward. The report fails to specify what precise conditions the DOJ will place on the deal, though it does suggest that regulators are leaning toward approval with DOJ approval coming as soon as October.
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).
Over the years we've seen no limit of astroturf and sockpuppet groups defending the status quo while pretending to stand up for consumers. Vice directs our attention to a particularly amusing new one backed by the Koch Brothers by the name of "American Commitment." According to Vice, American Commitment is the Koch Brothers contribution to fighting net neutrality, the group sending emails to individuals insisting net neutrality is the "first step in the fight to destroy American capitalism altogether."
The group, lead by Phil Kerpin, insists that consumer neutrality protections are akin to a "federal Internet takeover," which "sounds more like a story coming out of China or Russia." What's more, Kerpin proclaims, net neutrality is a concept only really supported by a few extremists, who should get out of the way of the sector's amazing level of free-market competition:
quote:"Americans have been getting faster and faster Internet speeds because of competition in the free economy, not because of anything the government has done," the petition reads. "The people calling for government control over the Internet are a tiny minority of far-left political activists, and the FCC knows it."
The group has also rushed to the defense of ALEC, an organization used by AT&T and many others to craft "draft legislation" on behalf of clients that politicians are then paid to support. Of course instead of net neutrality rules you could push the FCC to vehemently support real, open network competition so consumers could vote with their wallets. However, these groups tend to pay lip service to such a concept; real broadband competition where revenues could potentially be harmed is usually the very last thing they want.
Back in June T-Mobile announced the company would be exempting music services from the company's bandwidth caps, though users would need to vote on their favorite music service to get it added to T-Mobile's white list. This week T-Mobile added six more music services to that exemption list: AccuRadio, Black Planet, Grooveshark, Radio Paradise, Rdio and Songza. Google Play Music was the top-voted service, and T-Mobile states they'll be adding that "later this year." While well-intentioned, consumer advocates have criticized T-Mobile's cap exemption for music services (and speed tests), arguing it creates an unlevel playing field for smaller companies trying to gain recognition.
On the heels of yesterday's tweaks to the company's Simple Starter plans, T-Mobile has made a few more changes, including expanding the company's Simple Choice family plan to 10 lines, as well as doubling your allotment of data if you add a tablet. T-Mobile previously capped their Simple Starter plans at 5 lines per account, charging $10 a month for each additional line.
Back in April, Netflix started offering 4K TV streaming of a select catalog, delivered at a bitrate of 15.6 Mbps using the HEVC/h.265 codec. Not to be outdone, Amazon announced their original programming would be shot and eventually streamed in 4K -- though they didn't specify when. A Samsung press release spills the beans, noting they'll start supporting Amazon's Prime Instant Video UHD streaming on most Samsung 4K TVs starting in October. For now 4K content via Amazon appears to be an exclusive to Samsung, though it's unlikely to stay that way as adoption of the standard speeds up (and bandwidth caps everywhere begin to be trampled).
California this week became the first state in the country to pass a law requiring that cell phones include so-called "kill switch" functionality to deter theft, enabled by default (the full law is here, pdf). Minnesota passed a similar law earlier this year, but in that version of the law, the functionality is turned off by default.
Back in 2012 Verizon unveiled their "Home Fusion" fixed LTE service, which involved installing a "cantenna" on the side of the house, then offering users the choice of 10, 20 and 30 GB monthly allotments for $60, $90 or $120 respectively, per month. User Pittpharm writes in to note that Verizon for some reason has ditched the Home Fusion brand entirely, and is now calling this service "LTE Internet (Installed)." The somewhat less creative name doesn't appear to be hand in hand with any other changes, and the pricing appears to have remained the same. Verizon aims the product at rural customers usually stuck on satellite, and it will also fill in the gaps where Verizon backs away from offering DSL services.
The FCC this week announced that Time Warner Cable has paid $1.1 million to settle an FCC investigation into Time Warner Cable's network outage reporting practices. According to the FCC statement, Time Warner Cable "failed to file a substantial number of reports with respect to a series of reportable wireline and Voice over Internet Protocol network outages." FCC rules require ISPs file reports on major outages within thirty minutes of the outages, and provide a follow up report dissecting the outage causes. "TWC admits that its failure to timely file the required network outage reports violated the Commission's rules," the FCC said.
Add Canadian cable operators Rogers and Shaw to the latest in a long list of incumbent ISPs who believe they can offer a Netflix killer that will keep cord cutters in house. According to the companies' announcement, the service will be dubbed "shomi" and will emerge as a beta exclusively for Rogers and Shaw customers in November.
In the company's filing with the FCC opposing the Comcast merger (via Ars Technica), CenturyLink accuses the cable giant of making it difficult to obtain franchise agreements and compete with the company across numerous markets. CenturyLink complains that Comcast has been "uniquely and extraordinarily aggressive" in blocking the telco's expansions into new markets, sending letters to the handful of local franchising authorities where CenturyLink is trying to expand its Prism TV services.
On the heels of a recent RootMetrics study that lauded Verizon as having the fastest, largest and most reliable network, the company is again receiving praise from JD Power and Associates. According to a new JD power study (pdf), Verizon ranked highest in wireless network quality in five geographic regions (Northeast, Southeast, North Central, Southwest and West), while AT&T ranked highest in one geographic region (Mid-Atlantic).
Stop the Cap amusingly notes that some 52 Mayors have breathlessly thrown their support behind the Comcast merger, despite the fact that a long list of these cities have long suffered from horrible customer service, build issues, high prices and other problems with Comcast. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown's city is held hostage by Verizon's refusal to upgrade the city with FiOS, and Comcast and Time Warner Cable's resulting market dominance, resulting in high prices.
Add NewWave Communications (see our user reviews) to the growing list of ISPs large and small that are promising to soon offer 1 Gbps speeds -- albeit to a tiny portion of their overall subscribers. The company has announced that they're planning to offer 1 Gbps to a handful of rural markets starting next year, and will be utilizing the still unfinished DOCSIS 3.1 standard to make it happen. The company will begin deployments late this year and will offer the speed selectively early next year starting in Poplar Bluff, Missouri and Monroe, Rayville, Delhi and Tallulah, Louisiana. The company has yet to state prices for the speeds, but the CEO believes it should come it at less that $100 a month.
Sixty-five consumer, social justice and media reform groups have fired off a letter voicing their opposition to Comcast's planned $45.2 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The letter, sent just as the FCC's open comment period ended earlier this week, complains that the Comcast deal will "inevitably lead to unprecedented gatekeeper control over our nation’s telecommunications and media landscape." Given Comcast's history of failing to meet NBC merger conditions (many of which they themselves recommended) the groups argue that "no amount of promises or conditions would be good enough to assuage concerns about this merger" and that the "deal needs to be rejected outright."
Speaking recently at the IP Summit in London, Former Senator turned MPAA boss Chris Dodd pronounced his love for forcing ISPs to block and filter websites accused of aiding copyright infringement. Despite the fact filters can be easily bypassed by anyone with a modicum of technical knowledge, often accidentally filter legitimate content, and appear to have done nothing to slow piracy, Dodd believes filters are the "most effective tools anywhere in the world" at fighting piracy.
To prove it, the MPAA released a report this week supporting their own thesis: Internet filters are a really great idea. While their findings run in contrast with previous studies and the MPAA doesn't show their methodology, the group insists that:
quote:“Recent research of the effectiveness of site blocking orders in the UK found that visits to infringing sites blocked declined by more than 90% in total during the measurement period or by 74.5% when proxy sites are included,” it reads.
On the heels of a nationwide Charter DNS outage over the weekend, Time Warner Cable is the latest ISP to suffer a nationwide outage. According to user comments in our forums, the ISP early this morning suffered a routing problem, knocking all of the company's customers offline. "At 430am ET this morning during our routine network maintenance, an issue with our Internet backbone created disruption with our Internet and On Demand services," Time Warner Cable said in a statement. "As of 6am ET services were largely restored as updates continue to bring all customers back online."
AT&T and DirecTV have told the FCC that Public Knowledge and the Community Broadband Networks Initiative should not be given extra time to file comments and petitions on the proposed merger because the FCC has an obligation to review the deal "as expeditiously as possible." AT&T and DirecTV claim that these groups would offer no "meaningful input" to justify a 30-day extension and therefore would result in a "significant and unjustified" delay.
In reality, AT&T and DirecTV simply don’t want to deal with anymore criticism of the merger and want to get it pushed through as fast as possible.
While the company lead the speed race a few years ago, a certain complacency has fallen over Cablevision in recent years. The company has stopped competing as fiercely on price against Verizon FiOS (which has stopped competing on price in turn), with executives recently stating they weren't going to get caught up in "speed contests."
Insiders tell Fierce Wireless that a major carrier is considering buying Sprint MVNO FreedomPop. While the major carrier has not been named, the report states that talks are in the "formal" stage and may or may not result in an actual buy. "There is some inbound inquiries there," FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokols tells the website. "We are actually taking it seriously and looking at it." The "freemium" carrier was one of several to launch a few years ago with a focus on offering a base level of free services and highly-customizable service plans (see one of our recent user reviews).
While Sprint's acquisition of T-Mobile may not longer be in the cards, Deutsche Telekom is still very much open to an acquisition offer. According to a report at Bloomberg, Deutsche Telekom is open to acquisition offers of at least $35 to $40 per share. French telco Iliad submitted a $33 per month share bid in late July that was effectively laughed off by Deutsche Telekom, though a higher bid is eventually expected. Sprint's attempted acquisition would have been blocked by regulators for killing off one of the four competitors -- a Dish offer still remains possible, though Ergen and company have been quiet about any such ambitions.
The New York Times took ample heat this week after it refused to endorse Democratic candidate for New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, but wouldn't endorse his Democratic challenger and Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout. Gawker had plenty to say about the Times being effectively complicit in Cuomo corruption, complained the Times was arguing that "rather than risk the possibility of failed reform," (by supporting a less experienced Teachout) "voters should resign themselves to the certainty of failed reform."
We've come quite a way from the era of clunky 300 baud modems: Intel this week announced they've built the world's smallest modem. The company's XMM 6255, with an area of just 300 sq mm, is a standalone 3G radio intended to be embedded into all manner of connected devices around the home.
"It's not just about the size of it," Intel insists. "What Intel is really doing is going after a significant stake in the Internet of Things market, where connectivity is most important."
According to the Intel announcement, the penny-sized modem utilizes the Intel SMARTi UE2p dual-band single transceiver delivering 7.2 Mbps downstream and 5.76 Mbps upstream speeds.
AT&T has been very interested in overseas expansion, investigating possible acquisitions of Vodafone (at least the wireless assets), European carrier EE, as well as part of Spain's Telefonica SA. Unfortunately for AT&T, it's believed that their coziness with the NSA ruffled political feathers during election season, forcing AT&T to step back earlier this year and wait. With those worries settled down, rumors have again emerged of an AT&T Vodafone bid, though the report notes AT&T's ambitions could be challenged by a counter offer from China Mobile.
Netflix became the latest company to formally object to Comcast's $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. In their hand delivered filing with the FCC yesterday (pdf), Netflix argues that a larger Comcast would result in the company turning the "consumer’s Internet experience into something that more closely resembles cable television." Netflix proceeds to argue that "through access fees charged at the interconnection points and by other means" Comcast and Time Warner Cable have incentive and capability "to harm Internet companies, such as online video distributors (“OVDs”), which Applicants view as competitors."
This weekend, the UK's largest broadband provider and former incumbent, BT, is expected to raise prices for millions of households. A hike at BT usually immediately precedes price rises at the other big providers but if that happens this time it'll mean a double whammy for internet and calls customers: the other members of the UK's big four – Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media – have all increased prices or announced upcoming increases for at least some customers over the past few weeks.